Author’s note: Okay, this is seriously weird. I (Stacy) am about to get on a plane to Seattle to spend the next three weeks with my family, while Rene stays back in Luperon with Tux and Pipe. We haven’t spent more than a few hours apart in nearly three years, and now this??? As much as we would’ve loved for Rene to come with me, we couldn’t make it work this time. There’s no such thing as a kennel for Tux in Luperon, and our boat generator has been on the fritz. We would’ve been hard-pressed to inconvenience a friend to run the gen 2-3 hours a day under normal circumstances; to do so when it was overheating every other day was a no-go. Sooo…here we are, separated by 4,000 miles with spotty internet for Skype-ing. We’ve both got busy schedules planned, with me going RV-ing in Canada and Rene exploring the Dominican countryside on his motorcycle. I’ll post a blog about my Seattle trip, and hopefully Rene will post something about his adventures soon. Enjoy!
There’s something special about seeing a familiar face as you step off the jetway…especially in today’s world of “ticketed passengers only” beyond airport security. Mom flew in from Spokane an hour before I arrived, so she was able to get out to the United terminal to meet me at my gate. After a huge hug, we gabbed all the way to the taxi stand where we got a taxi out to Grandpa’s place. After lunch and a bit of down time, we drove out to my aunt and uncle’s to pick up Grandpa. He’d gotten a bad burn (3rd degree…skin grafts and all) in a kitchen accident two months before, and had been alternating between staying with them and staying at his home when Mom was in town. I knew he was in good hands, but was anxious to see him in person to see his progress for myself. We spent the first three days in Seattle with Grandpa, catching up and playing cribbage when we weren’t out shopping. It’s surprisingly difficult to find simple things like shorts and swimsuits in the Bahamas and the DR!
Mom and I left for Spokane on Sunday, where I was greeted by a monster stack of boxes in the guest room. Talk about Christmas in July! Rene’d had a dozen things sent to Spokane – hooray for Amazon! – and I spent an hour opening boxes filled with new hammocks, shoes, DVDs, cameras, a heat exchanger to cure our sick generator, air and water filters, foreign-language books, etc. I began to wonder how I would ever fit everything in my suitcase, but that was a problem for another day. Tuesday morning we packed up Mom and Ken’s RV – complete with their 55-pound basset hound, Mini Moo – for the 200-mile drive to Kimberly, located just across the Idaho-Canadian border in British Columbia. We stayed in a lovely spot, and had our first wildlife experience thanks to a doe nibbling grass in the campsite next to us.
Wednesday morning, we continued on to Banff, Alberta, where we would stay for next week along with Ken’s daughter and her family. Banff is such a beautiful town, surrounded by the massive peaks of the Canadian Rockies. There’s a little bit of everything – from shopping, pub crawling, and dining in town to sightseeing and hiking on one of twenty different trails around Banff. If you go a little further out of town, you can find hundreds more trails of differing lengths and difficulties. After settling into the Tunnel Mountain RV Park, Mom and I stretched our legs with a dog-walk down a nearby trail to the Hoodoos. We enjoyed beautiful views of the valley and the Banff Springs Hotel in the distance before coaxing a very stubborn Mini Moo back to the campsite. Lazy dog!
Friday morning we decided to take the “Minnewanka Loop”, which circled past Lake Minnewanka, Two Jack Lake, Johnson Lake, and the Cascade Ponds. Lake Minnewanka, aka “Lake of the Water Spirit”, is the largest body of water in Banff National Park. There was once a village in the basin of the lake, but it was flooded in 1941 when the dam was built. If you’re willing to brave the 35-degree water, you can SCUBA down to see the remnants of the town. We wandered along the lakeshore, but decided to spare Moo (yeah, right) from having to make the 3-mile hike around the entire lake.
After our visit to Lake Minnewanka, we continued on along the rest of the loop. The loop had been a favorite spot when Rene and I visited Banff years ago, thanks to a huge cluster of bighorn sheep who were often seen lounging on the side of the road. The guide books said they were still frequent visitors to the area, but apparently they weren’t in the mood to play. A drive up to Mount Norquay also failed to deliver so much as a chipmunk (although the lookout’s view of downtown Banff was as gorgeous as ever), and we began to wonder if our big wildlife adventure would be a bust.
Saturday we headed to Sunshine Meadows, which straddled the Continental Divide and the Alberta-British Columbia border 7,300 feet above sea level. The meadows could only be accessed via a shuttle bus from the Sunshine Ski Resort’s parking lot, and seemed well worth the trip with their promise of 300+ species of wild flowers on display in the summertime. We rose 300 feet over a mile-long hike to a lake, and spotted perhaps ten different species of flowers (not to mention a family of mountain goats on the road to the ski resort). Unfortunately, our forecast of “partly cloudy” turned into “showers”, and we were pelted by raindrops once we reached the lake. We managed to spend a little over an hour hiking through the meadows before we took shelter in the cafeteria with some much-needed hot chocolate.
Sunday we welcomed our first beautiful, sunny day in Banff. We headed north to Lake Louise via the Bow Valley Parkway, a road that paralleled the main highway and was known as a good spot for seeing wildlife. The road lived up to its reputation, as we saw a herd of bighorn sheep and three velvet-horned elk in the first 10 miles. En route to Lake Louise, we stopped off at Johnston Canyon for a brief (20-minute) walk to the Lower Falls, where we took in breathtaking views of the towering trees and the river below. Dogs were even allowed on the trails, and Moo was quite popular as people admired (okay, giggled at) her short little legs. She was a trooper, and had a great time sniffing out the chipmunks along the trail.
We reached Lake Louise around 2pm, and were blown away by the sheer number of people in the area. We’d been anxious to take advantage of the good weather, and apparently everyone else had the same idea. What a mob! There were families everywhere, all vying for a spot along the shoreline for that perfect photo op. Cars were parked up to a mile away from the lake, so Ken dropped us off before finding a paid spot in the hotel’s garage. We wandered along the lake, walked through the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and people-watched on a bench near the canoe rentals. We finally got tired of the crowds, and took a leisurely drive back to Banff – again via the Bow Valley Parkway. There were more elk feeding along the roadside, and we even had the good fortune to see a black bear running across the road a quarter-mile in front of us! I couldn’t get a good picture before he ran into the woods, but it was an incredible sight.
Monday started with another gorgeous sunny morning, and Carrie, Morgan, and Emily invited us to their campsite for a Dutch-oven breakfast. Morgan has become quite adept at cooking in the Dutch oven, and his bacon-egg-potato casserole was terrific. Later we wandered into town, where I spent some quality time at Starbucks on the internet while Mom and Ken visited the local Laundromat. Morgan cooked ribs in the Dutch oven for dinner, and Kenny grilled steaks. What a feast!
Tuesday we left Banff and overnighted in Kimberly before returning to Spokane on Wednesday. We did some clean-up and shopping on Thursday before making the five-hour drive over the mountain pass to Seattle on Friday. The rest of the Seattle trip was filled with family dinners, a shopping and lunch extravaganza with my sis, Andie, and her two daughters, and lots and lots of packing. As much as I loved spending time with my family, I was more than ready to get back to Rene, Tux, and the boat. There was just one problem…Tropical Storm Emily had formed near Martinique and was making her way towards the Dominican Republic! Having been mostly offline in Banff and Spokane, I had no idea that Emily was out there until Rene mentioned it on Monday. By Tuesday, Emily had the DR directly in her sights, and even threatened to pass fairly closely to Luperon. After a few stressful hours on Tuesday and Wednesday, it began to appear that Emily would pass along the southern edge of the island. Other than a few clouds and some showers, we hardly knew she was there. My flight landed safely (and even early!), and Rene came to the airport with a couple of our friends to meet me. It was good to be home!
Please enjoy more pictures here.