8.13.2017

AZ Appreciation Post

I know she's incomprehensibly hot and that right now, slapped on top of that blistering heat, she's humid and monsooning, but if Arizona has anything she's really excelling at: she knows how to couche that soleil.  The sunsets here are unparalleled, #nofilter needed.  Phoenix is especially flat as well, so from all over the valley, around dusk, the sky is a 360-degree panorama of ephemeral artistry.

The palm trees don't hurt either.


That's all.  I dare Illinois to try and compete.  

6.28.2017

Oh Canada

Cana we just?? Because it was unreal.


Well, we didn’t play hockey or see any moose or eat poutine or meet Justin Trudeau. 

But we did hike in the mountains and see some gigantic elk and struggle with the metric system and eat Nanaimo bars at a Tim Horton’s and celebrate that the exchange rate worked in our favor.  So all in all, it was a win. 
Mid-June, just as Arizona was unapologetically turning into a sticky sweaty death furnace of heat and melted dreams, four friends and I popped north of the border into Alberta for a fun outdoorsy weekend of camping and hiking and wearing jackets. 
First off, Calgary was fantastic – so beautiful, calm, clean, and quiet.  Everywhere we went on this trip, the five of us were the loudest people in a 10 km radius.  We stumbled upon the Calgary temple and then kicked off our trip with some bomb Indian food before driving west to our hotel in Canmore for the night. 

Leaving Calgary, the scenery was unreal, like it had been painted.  Through we drove through all sorts of sumptuous rolling hills, the horizon itself was flat, almost perfectly bifurcating our car windows with half blue, half vibrant green, as if we were inside a child’s crayon drawing.  After living for years in a dusty desert where the most pervasive color is a sandy earthy brown, I felt invigorated by so much green and so many stoic pine trees.  On the road before us lay Banff National Park, our ultimate destination, charcoal gray snow-capped mountains rising in the distance, so craggy that I felt I might cut my finger if I were to run it along the silhouette of their peaks. 

Our first night, we stayed in a cute little lodge in Canmore, a sweet mountain town that was giving me maaajor Park City vibes.  Because we were so far north and nearing the longest day of the year, it didn’t get dark until nearly 11:30, so right after checking in, we immediately hopped in the hot tub until it closed at 10, despite how light it still was outside. 

Our first full day in Canada, we began by hitting up Lake Louise, a beautifully serene little lake nestled between two large mountains, which turned out to also be quite the tourist destination.  The foggy clouds were hanging low over the lake, so we decided to do a couple more activities before coming back later in the afternoon to explore. 

We found a little mountain lodge that offered an extremely sub-par breakfast buffet before letting us take a ski lift up their mountain, at the top of which we were afforded a spectacular panorama of Banff’s mountain range, with little Lake Louise in the distance, a bright speck of aqua in the brooding gray vista.  Because we were so high up, it was spectacularly windy and positively frigid! So even though the views were fantastic, we didn’t stay for too long with all of our thin desert blood. 
UNFAIR: on the ski lift up, we had to split into two groups, and Hudson and I missed seeing a mama grizzly bear with her little cub because I was too busy making him listen to me talk about grad school.  Lame. 
But on the way down, Erika and I took an enclosed gondola so we could warm up and dance.

From there, we visited Moraine Lake, which was absolutely breathtaking.  The weather had become even cloudier with the occasional drizzle of rain, but the gloomy setting only made the turquoise lake appear more spectacular in contrast.  We hiked up a little ways in order to achieve a more ideal view of the lake from above, and I had difficulty wrapping my mind around the fact that this place was real and I was actually looking at it. 
But it was damp and chilly, and all I wanted was hot chocolate and some chili which !! I managed to find in a little bakery for lunch nearby.  After eating, we headed back to Lake Louise to walk around some more.  Well, first we briefly napped in a lush meadow of yellow flowering dandelions (yes, a meadow) before walking halfway around the perimeter of the lake, pausing often to snap more pictures of the surreal setting or to fill our water bottles with crystal clear glacial water.  On the opposite side of the lake from whence we’d begun our hike was a large, sandy, beachy expanse that led back between the two mountains that so magnificently framed the water. 
After all of this outdoorsy excitement and walking, we decided to locate our camping site for the night and, well, set up camp.  I had NUMEROUS reservations about camping on this trip, even though it was just for one night, which manifested themselves in a fear of 1. Bears and 2. The cold.  Okay, so maybe just two reservations.  But both bears and the cold can kill you, so I feel my fears were justified. 
For dinner, we ended up at a part bowling alley/part pizza joint that appeared really cute but then charged us $SEVENTY-TWO DOLLARS$ for two crappy pizzas.  $72!!!! I was IRATE.  The pizza wasn’t even good! Okay, so $72 minus a $9 tip and two sodas for $4.25 each is still $54.5, or $27.25 per pizza, or $20.43 USD taking the exchange rate into account, but still.  I was so flabbergasted, though my friends didn’t seem to mind a ton because it was a touristy town and Canada was more expensive in general.  I was assuaged considerably after dinner when we perused through a cute candy store that reminded me of Honeydukes and then ended our nightly eating exploits with some ice cream. 

But that wasn’t all we did that day.  Erika wanted to visit the Banff Hot Springs, so we headed over after dinner.  I was expecting sulfuric hot pots, Yellowstone style, but rather it was essentially an extra-extra-large hot tub or a small community pool that was filled with filtered but naturally heated water from the hot springs.  Less exciting but okay. 
But you know what was exciting? The hot springs rented out towels to all of their guests, but they also rented: historic swimsuits.  The swimming costumes were navy one-piece garments that appeared to be a long tank top over boy shorts, with a white stripe across the middle.  Though Cody and I had both brought our own suits to wear, we thought it would be funnier if we rented and wore the historic suits.  
Fact: it was.
Granted, we were the only people in the entire pool wearing these matching one-pieces, which garnered quite a few stares, but we both thought it was super funny and didn’t care.  Also, I just supremely loved seeing Cody walking around and looking like he lived in 1912. 

But there’s nothing to bring down your swimming high like the reality check of trying to put garments back on while you’re still slightly damp and getting dressed in a tiny stall within a public bathroom.  Cool. 
We got back to our campsite after 10, just as it was pretending to start to get dark.  We hadn’t brought anything to make a fire and we didn’t want to smell like smoke and we were all pretty tired, so we just got ready for bed fairly quickly and buckled down for the night.  
In all of my preparations for this trip, the thing I’d been most worried about was being too cold while camping.  Fortunately, my fears were unfounded because I ended up taking off my second sweater and then sleeping with my bag unzipped because it was more comfortable.  Also: no one got eaten by any bears!

The second day of our trip wasn’t quite as busy.  We headed up to Borgeau Lake for an invigorating hike through the forest?? I don’t know what else to call it, but it was lush and green and mossy and we were surrounded by trees, and I felt like we might run into a mountain troll at any given time.  Also, I pride myself on being fairly fit, but I was such a baby on this hike because I was completely unaccustomed to the altitude change and the slight humidity, and then I wore shoes that gave me pretty intense blisters, so I was hanging back, being the slowpoke of the group.  We hiked about 4.5 miles up to a rushing waterfall and were planning to find this elusive lake, but none of us were entirely certain where it was actually located and I was having a hard time walking on account of the blisties, so we stopped for lunch at the waterfall and then turned around and headed back. 

After our hike, we drove back into Calgary to take it easy the rest of the day.  After checking into our hotel and showering off, we went out for burgers at a cute little restaurant that served not only beef, but boar, venison, bison, and elk burgers.  Canada, am I right? And then we bought more ice cream and walked around downtown, disappointed that the Olympic park had closed too early for us to visit. 
And then on Sunday morning we bought flaky buttery French pastries for breakfast and successfully flew home. 

Canada was beautiful and peaceful and serene and otherworldly.  10/10, would recommend. 
Oh, and the Canadian men there are very burly and bearded and attractive, fyi.