Tag Archives: mountains

Winter Trip to the Canadian Rockies

We originally had made plans to go to Lake Placid in mid-December for a little Winter ski vacation. We had plans later in the Winter to head to Arizona for a week, so we needed to get a little Winter-fix before going to some warmer climate. Planning a ski vacation to the Adirondacks in December can be a little questionable as to whether they have snow or not. Last year they had a lot of snow then, this year practically none.

So, with only a few weeks to go, we decided to change things up. Denise checked around with her friends living out West and there was not much snow to be had there either. She then came across Banff & Lake Louise in Western Alberta, Canada. They had a good November snowfall and conditions were perfect for some early season skiing. We had always wanted to go there too, so no time like the present. We quickly changed our plans and locked in our flights to Calgary.

Our departure out of Newark was an early one. We were up at 3:30 AM and on our way to

Early Morning Wake-up at 3:34 AM

Early Morning Wake-up at 3:34 AM

the airport. We dropped the car off at the usual parking place, ABC Airport Parking, who quickly whisked us away to the terminal. The airport check-in and security checks went pretty smoothly and we were on our flight just in time to see the sunrise before take-off.

 

Sunrise Take-Off from EWR

Sunrise Take-Off from EWR

Houston…We Have A Problem…

Our flight to Calgary went fairly well until we tried to land in Calgary. There was a low-lying, dense fog that we had to go through to land. We could not see anything as we entered into it at the very last part of our landing. All of a sudden the runway appeared out of nowhere within feet of touching  down. Before the wheels were about to touch the pilot “hit the gas” and we were ascending at a steep and fast pace. Denise and I looked at each other saying WTH??!

Before long the pilot got on and said that the visibility was too low to land and they were going to give it another try. I believe we were possibly too far down the runway when we were about to touch-down. We then made a long sweeping turn and got back in line to land again. Fortunately, the 2nd time was much more successful. I usually don’t have an issue with flying, but I was a little uneasy after that episode.

We picked up our bags and rental car and made our way to West from Calgary to Banff. Calgary had a fresh inch or two of snow on the ground, which was a welcome sight after the warm start to Winter we had back home. The outskirts of Calgary are filled with these large walled communities of very tightly clustered housing. It seemed a bit strange to me. After flanking the city we started heading West over large open plains with the Candian Rocky Mountains looming in the distance.

Canadian Rockies in Sight

Canadian Rockies in Sight

We reached the town of Canmore after about an hour and turned in to get some lunch at CrazyWeed restaurant. Denise had found this place as being one of the best ones in Canmore. She did not let us down with her research either. We had a nice lunch there and then drive through the downtown area and up to the Nordic Center to check that out. It is a pretty lively little place with lots of shops and restaurants. I think it is a more reasonable option as compared to Banff which gets a little more upper-class folks and everything is a bit more pricey.

I pre-booked the first few nights of the trip at the Juniper Hotel in Banff, which is located across  Highway 1(Trans-Canada Highway) from Banff. It sits up and above the highway and overlooks the town with a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. Our room had a big window that allowed you to take it all in from your bed. The rates here were quite reasonable too. They have a nice restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We wish we would have dined there more cause food was really good! They also have a hot tub which was not far from our room.

Canada, banff, lake louise, mountain, rockies

Juniper Inn Room-Banff, Alberta, CA
pp

We also dined at the Banff Brewpub(twice) and the Bison Restaurant. I really like the brewpub since they had a wide selection of food and the beers were really good. The Bison was a bit more upscale, but I didn’t find the food all that great relative to the price. There wasn’t much choice for vegan/vegetarian, so maybe carnivores would have a better luck here. Melissa’s was our go-to place for breakfast.

Skiing at Lake Louise

On Sunday, we headed about 40 minutes up Highway 1 to Lake Louise to ski. We didn’t have high expectations for the mountain, so we were pleasantly surprised by the terrain. The snow conditions were also very good for early in the season. We headed over to the Larch area in the morning which seemed to have the best conditions according to some people we talked to. There were some gnarly areas, but we found a few good runs there. After lunch, we made our way to the back bowls which contained a good amount of fluffy snow. Although with overcast sky it was impossible to see anything. It was like white-out conditions. At times I had no idea what the pitch was or if it was bumped up or not. I just pointed my skis down and hoped for the best.

All-in-all it was a good ski day. The temps were around 25F which was perfect. We had lunch at the sushi restaurant in the lodge which was quite good. We sat next to a couple of guys who pretty much ran the mountain so they gave us the scoop on the hill. We rented equipment at Wilson Sports just down the road in the Village of Lake Louise. Equipment was nice, but our skis were wider and more powder skis, so they weren’t the best match for conditions.

White Knuckles on the Icefields Parkway

On Monday, we decided to take a break from skiing and take a drive up the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper, Alberta. The parkway starts at Lake Louise and heads Northwest through the heart of the most beautiful sections of the Canadian Rockies. It is supposed to be one of the most scenic drives in the world and takes about 3 hours to get Jasper in good weather. The only problem is that it was now the middle of the Winter and they don’t maintain the road very well during that time. Another factor was that my wife decided she wanted to drive that day. Since I can be a little bit of a control freak where driving is concerned it left me a little grumpy for the start. When we hit the start of the Parkway there was a flashing sign indicating that the roads not in great shape and to proceed at your own risk. The start of the road was covered in very bumpy ice which appeared to be several inches thick. I was not having a warm-and-fuzzy feeling for this 3 hour+ drive. My grumpiness ended rather quickly though once we got into the mountains. It was amazing! The mountain scenery with all the snow was one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.

The road eventually mellowed out but was still covered with snow most of the way. Locals flew passed us in large 4-wheel drive trucks like we were standing still. We ended up stopping pretty often so I could take pictures, so the trip took even longer than expected. We knew we would not get to Jasper in time to come back again before night, so we ended up turning around just past halfway where Route 11 intersects. We stopped at Peyto Lake and did a little hike through woods to a lookout overlooking the lake.

When we reached Lake Louise we decided to continue our scenic journey and head down the Bow Valley Parkway instead of taking the highway back to Banff. We were rewarded with more magnificent views and even had an Elk sighting along the way.

Skiing at Sunshine Village

On Tuesday, we headed over to Sunshine Village  after a nice breakfast at the Juniper Hotels’ restaurant. Sunshine Village is only about 6 miles up Highway 1 from Banff. It is actually behind Banff, nestled in a narrow valley between the mountains that open up to a wide bowl at the top. A 20-minute gondola ride takes you from the parking area just to the base of the mountain. You can stop off part of the way up to hit the Goat’s Eye section.

When we arrived at the base we were greeted by a very friendly staff “greeter” that gave us the whole low-down on the mountain. It was a beautiful morning with the sun shining away before the snow clouds filled in later in the morning. We played around in the Wawa Bowl and Birdcage area for a bit in the morning and then eventually wound around to the Mount Standish area.

We had lunch at the Chimney Corner restaurant in the lodge, which ended up being a rather unpleasant experience. Our wait for our food took an exceptionally long time and when it finally did arrive the waitress indicated that my wife’s meal was accidentally served to another table. When my wife’s meal finally arrived, it was overdone and she asked to send it back. She also asked to get something else instead, like poutine, that would be quicker since she was hungry and we had wasted enough time in the place. When we got the bill, we noticed they had obviously comp’d us for my wife’s burger which she didn’t eat, but they still charged us for the Poutine. Given the poor experience, we were kind of surprised they didn’t just comp her meal all together as most places would typically do. We said something to our waitress who said she would talk to her manager.

Not soon after we were greeted by a slightly nervous looking younger guy who said he was the manager. We explained the situation to him and he then proceeded to tell us that we were basically wrong about our observation of how my wife’s burger was done. Really? Growing up in the restaurant business, I can tell that you that the customer is never wrong and that if they are not satisfied with their dining experience, you do whatever it takes to make it a good one. This kid was obviously a little puppet for someone else and was just following orders, but I was amazed at this. Especially in a country where everyone was so nice, this really stood out. And really, comp-ing a $10 entree to “make things right” would be no skin off their back. We are obviously not going there again, not that would have anyway. We were planning to hit one of the other bars there for Apres ski that day, but decided to bag it because I didn’t want to be paying them any more money.

Skiing at Sunshine Village pretty nice. We found a good bump run with a little tree section leading up to it.  We spent most of the afternoon on that before making our way down the Gondola back to the parking lot. We headed back into town to return our ski rentals and then grabbed another dinner at the Banff Brewpub before heading to our next destination.

Baker Creek Mountain Resort

We drove back up Highway 1 towards Lake Louise again and then about 10 minutes back down the Bow Valley Parkway to our accommodations for the next couple nights at Baker Creek Mountain Resort. Baker Creek is a somewhat remote little outpost consisting of really nice little log cabins and deluxe rooms. We got there late and they left a note on the office door indicating which room we were in. The room had a little kitchen, a gas fireplace, and big hot tub. The perfect little retreat for a couple days of rest and relaxation. The temperature was also dropping to below zero(C and F)  for the next couple days, so skiing was out of the question anyway.

We were a little disappointed to find out that the restaurant at Baker Creek was closed for everything but dinner, so we would have to drive up to Lake Louise Village next day for breakfast and get groceries for any meals we wanted to eat there. I was kind of looking forward to just hanging out there, but was not meant to be. They had also just sold the place to new owners, who had taken over only a few days before, so they were in a bit of a transition period. Despite that, the place was very nice and we had a very relaxing time there.

On our jaunt up to the Lake Louise Village, we enjoyed a great breakfast at The Post Hotel and then equally good lunch at the Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise. I also got out on the lake for some photography, but it was so cold there I could not stay out there for very long.

We also managed to get out for a little snowshoeing around Baker Creek and I was able to get a few images along the river at sunset.

Last Stop…Canmore

For the last couple nights we headed back to Canmore, Alberta to stay at the Falcon Crest Lodge. The room at Falcon Crest was more like an apartment than a room. It was very spacious, clean and new. The only bad thing was we had no view of the mountains from our room. Instead, we looked out on a walking path and another building which looked similar to it. It did have an underground parking lot which was kind of nice.

On our fist full day in Canmore, I was able to get out to the Nordic Center for some skate-skiing. Their nordic center is pretty elaborate and I was looking forward to checking it out. The only bad thing was there was a bunch of signs warning of bears still on the prowl and mountain lions which are always around. I was a little uneasy at first, but there were enough other skiers out that it didn’t appear to be an issue. I ended up getting about 10 miles in which was sufficient.

Dining out in Canmore was not a problem. We headed back to Crazyweed again which was very good, but there wine prices were outrageous.  We also tried Rocky Mountain Flatbread Pizza Co. which was also very good. Our Favorite though was CommuniTea Cafe which we ended up eating at 3 times in 2 days! They had really healthy food and it was much needed at the end of a vacation where we were eating a lot of less healthy stuff.

After dinner at the Pizza place, we headed over to the Canmore Curling Club to check that out. The bartender there was really nice and sat down and explained it all to us. Super-nice guy! There was recreational leagues going on and it was pretty funny to watch them. Looks like a very fun social thing.

On our last, full day of the trip we did a little hike up to Grassi Lakes. It was a pretty well-established trail, but it was a constant ascent on a snow covered path which made it a little tricky. I only brought one pair of YakTrax, so we had to share them by each putting one on one foot. We were quickly rewarded at the top with some beautiful little crystal-clear lakes and cascading brooks linking them together. The walk back seemed to be a little more tricky with the traction since gravity was coming into play.

We then talk a more leisurely walk along the footpath that runs along both sides of the Bow River in Canmore. Still snow-covered, but a nice little path to view the river and surrounding mountains.

This trip ended up being one of my favorites. It is surprising such a last-minute decision. We didn’t have a bad meal the whole time other than the Chimney Corner at Sunshine Village. The exchange was also a nice surprise after getting my credit card bill when I got home. I would definitely like to head back here again in the warmer months. I know it will probably be much more crowded, but if we spend more time in the backcountry we may be able to escape some of that.

Thanks for reading!

 

Ironman Pocono Mountains 70.3…My First Half Ironman?

I sat anxiously by my laptop on October 1st, 2010 while on vacation in Lake Placid, NY awaiting the 10AM start of online registration for the inaugural Ironman Pocono Mountains 70.3 Triathlon. I submitted my $275 which would then commit the next year to training for my first “Ironman”-branded event. I had been tossing the the half-iron distance around since it would be the next logical progression in my pursuit of a full iron distance. When I saw the ad in Triathlete Magazine, I thought that this was a sign that this was the race for me since it was so close to home. The eventual outcome was one I never expected.

From October 2010 until May 2011, I focused on building a solid base of endurance which ultimately ended totaling 2x the distance of each discipline in the half-iron distance per week : Swim 2.4 miles, Bike 112, and run 26. My wife and I were heading to Peru for 2 weeks at the end of May to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and then spend 4 days in the Peruvian Amazon exploring the jungle. Hiking at high altitude would be the perfect recovery before kicking training into high gear. Upon returning from Peru I turned my training over to my coach Scott at TriYourLimits . Scott would prescribe weekly workouts for me via Workoutlog.com and I log on each day complete the workout and upload my Garmin with my results. The training was very gradual with a recovery week thrown in every 4th week. Things went very smoothly and I did not incur any injuries as I had the previous season coaching myself. I knew I needed a coach to guide me because I would easily overtrain doing it myself.

The season flew by. I competed in the Patriot Sprint Triathlon in Bath, PA by Piranha Sports in July. That turned out to be a bit of a mess. The bike leg was cancelled due to last minute oil and chipping of the roads thanks to the idiots at PennDOT. The swim was really bad for me personally. I tried to get in the mix and got kind of freaked out. Water was VERY warm too. Never got into any real rhythm. Run was equally bad with concrete quads the whole time. Good wake up call though.

In September I competed in the Steelman Olympic Triathlon at Lake Nockamixon. This was a much better performance. Had a great swim, 0.9mil in 29 min, and I felt really comfortable. Probably was my best swim(33:04min/mi pace) so far and it was the longest(0.9mi) too. Bike leg was 18.8mph avg speed, which is ok for a pretty hilly course. I was trying to hold back a bit to save my legs for the run. The run was another story. The sun popped out and, with all the rain we had, it going very humid. I don’t fare well in hot humid conditions. a 58min 10k is nothing to write home about. Even had to walk a couple times.

The rest of the season was all training for Ironman Pocono. I followed my training plan pretty much to a T. 2 weeks prior I started into my taper and things really started feeling good then. I felt really fast(relatively) and had to hold myself back a bit sometimes. I was feeling like this could be a good race. I had a little bit of anxiety the week before, but when the rains started coming down that began to dwindle a bit. I was watching the current-level forecasts on the NOAA website for the Delaware River and it wasn’t looking swimmable. On Friday before the race they announced that the swim leg would be cancelled. Strike 1!

With the swim cancelled, my anxiety all but disappeared. I still wanted to have a good bike and run, but without the swim it just isn’t a triathlon. We headed up to the Fernwood Resort in Stroudsburg, PA on IMG_0675.PNGSaturday and checked in at the expo. I attended the athlete meeting and got the details. There would be a time trial start for the bike and they would just run down the rows in T1 telling each athlete to go every couple seconds. They had changed the bike course multiple times due to roads washing out. Forecast was for rain all night into the morning and cold. Fortunately the winds were supposed to be light. We ran my bike over to T1 and then dropped my run bag over at T2 at Stroudsburg HS. It was crazy with everyone driving all over the place to drop their gear everywhere. Logicstically it was not well thought out.

We stopped at Thai Thani on Rt. 611 for some lunch. Yeah Thai food for a pre-race meal…probably not a great idea. I had Masaman curry which is not very spicy, so it should not be an issue. We then checked into our room at the Fernwood. I had reserved a suite so I thought we would have a decent room atleast. The room stunk and was very musty. There was a heart-shaped tub and a sauna in the room. The tub was probably why the smell was so bad and the sauna didn’t even work. Place overall was kind of old and rundown. A bit disappointing. We stopped over to see some friends that also were competing and shot the breeze with them for a bit. I hit the pasta dinner later and there was no one there. It was pretty basic, but fine.

I woke up around 4AM on Sunday and had bagels & peanut butter and coffee. Deciding how many layers to put on was a bit of a decision. I took extra stuff with me and figured I could hash that out while waiting around in T1. I met our friends in the lobby and we jumped on the yellow school bus shuttle and headed over to T1 at Smithfield Beach in Delaware Water Gap. It was interesting listening to the conversations on the bus. I chatted with a couple guys who were next to me in T1 most of the morning in between taking a half-dozen piss breaks in the woods. The clouds actually broke for a few minutes while we waited but did not last too long. Finally they started calling people off to start and after over an hour we were on our way. River Road through DWG was very smooth and slick feeling. It had a major camber and made you feel like you were going to slide right into the woods. I hesitated to get in the aerobars. We hit the first big hill after a few miles and there was people walking their bikes all over the place. I dropped down to an easy gear and spun my way up. I told myself I was not going to take any chances and just wanted to finish in piece.

The next hour on the bike went pretty smoothly. I didn’t look at my time until after an hour and was surprised that I was averaging over 18MPH. I didn’t feel like I was going that fast. Hmmm….I could finish in under 3 hours?…Which was what my original goal was. They had a figure-8 configuration in the course and while cutting across the middle road I heard something metal against the road. I thought hopefully I just ran over something? Then a guy passed me and said “man you are dropping metal all over the road.” I looked down at my bottom bracket and my left crank arm was totally loose. I could see the teeth from the inside shaft that runs through the middle. Bottom Bracket“This cannot be happening” I thought to myself. I pulled over to the side and through my bike down. I walked back to try to find the pieces I was missing but no avail. About 20 people went by me asking if I was ok or needed anything. Yeah right! You are wizzing by me at 20MPH in a race…are you really going to stop? They were out of ear shot before they finished getting the words out. Save your breath people!

The walk back to my bike was a tough one. I was mad and disappointed. I could not believe it was going to end this way. All the hours of training I put in and it all comes down to my bike falling apart. I got back to my bike and tried to ride it some more, but it eventually would not even turn the chain anymore. I ended up walking a mile and a half until the SAG van at the cutoff crew was coming down the road I had covered earlier in the ride. He stopped to ask what was wrong and said he could not do anything about that. They loaded my bike in the van and the driver asked for my number. He then got on the race radio and called in the words that made it all sink in….”1769 DNF!!!” I could feel my stomach drop instantly. I felt close to breaking down.

There was another guy and girl in the van already. The girl sat in the passenger seat and seemed pretty upset. The guy was quite jovial and helped lighten up the mood a bit. We had to retrace much of the course I had already ridden following the last rider. He was stopping every few minutes and it was pure torture. It started getting late in the morning and I figured my wife was getting worried since I hadn’t been seen yet. The guy in the van had a phone so I left her a message. We picked up more riders as we went and eventually we filled up the van and had to head back to T2 early…thank god! The van became somewhat of a support group for DNF-ers. My wife eventually got the message and called me back. We eventually got back to T2 and there was major traffic jams in Stroudsburg due to the race and telephone pole being down. I grabbed my running stuff in T2, called my wife and headed towards downtown where she was waiting with one of our friends on Main St.

IMG_1111.JPGWhile walking towards town, athletes were coming past me with their finishers medals around their necks and the silver foil blankets on. That didn’t help! My wife came around the corner and things really hit home then. We collected ourselves and heard that we had to go back to T2 to get my clothes from the morning. We picked that stuff up and skirted downtown to get to our car. It was an early Bonefish Grill night. Finally I thought there is no way I am going to waste all this training I have done. I jumped on my iPhone and looked to see if there were any more Ironman 70.3’s this season…Miami on Oct 30th! Bingo!

My wife was all for it too and I began making arrangements that night. I had never expected to be going to Miami, but hey you never know what adventure lies around the corner. So the training will continue for another month. It should be a good race with a swim and a flat bike and run course. We are spending a little more than I had planned, but it should be a great experience. It could end up being the greatest thing to happen when you look back on it. Stay tuned for more on that in future posts.

Lake Placid Winter Vacation 2011–Day 2

To start off our week we headed to our favorite breakfast spot, Chair 6. The food there is just great and the breakfasts are just fabulous. I do miss the more casual atmosphere that the place used to have, but hey the food is still good so I will just have suck it up.

We headed over to Placid Planet to get our skate skis waxed. We are staying away from High Peaks Cyclery after the fiasco we encountered last winter. We lost 2 days of skate skiing because they were so disorganized there. Then they still ended up charging us full price!  Screw you buddy! I had just bought brand new skate ski’s from them too. Anyway, Placid Planet was very reasonably priced and they were ready on time. The owner is a really nice, honest guy, so I would much rather give him the business.

Later in the afternoon I cruised around Wilimington and Jay taking some pictures of the mountains and scenery.

Whiteface from the road from Jay to WilmingtonLakePlacid2011-3300

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Glades of WhitefaceLakePlacid2011-3303

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Shed on Connery PondLakePlacid2011-3329

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TundraLakePlacid2011-3333

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We stopped over at Placid Planet before dinner and picked up our skate skiis which were ready on time. We had dinner at Generations which was very good as usual. I had the Grilled Chicken Rigatoni and my wife had Salmon with the Lemon Butter sauce that typically comes on the Sole.

After Dinner, we decided to saunter down to the Movie Theater to check the movie “No Strings Attached”. It was only two other couples in the theater besides us. Movie was pretty funny and entertaining. If you are one of those close-minded, self-righteous people I would not recommend this movie for you.