Welcome to hell ladies,” he says in an Eastern European accent. I grimace as he presses down on my stiff upper back attempting to coax out an extra millimetre of flexibility. I’m finally ticking ballet class off my bucket list, but now I’m wondering what possessed me to do this.
This piece about my foray into adult ballet is a slightly edited version of the one published in the Canadian newspaper The Globe & Mail(Aug.19,2020). It’s a departure from my usual topics in this blog, but what’s usual these days? Hope you enjoy it.
No, it’s not an oxymoron. While hiking the Frosty Mountain trail in E.C. Manning Provincial Park, I was introduced to the alpine larch, a deciduous conifer that sheds its needles every fall and grows them back in spring. For a few weeks, in late September/early October, the Frosty Mountain larches become a blaze of golden colour. My hiking buddy Eva and I timed our October 2 hike perfectly for this stunning fall display and learned some cool things about British Columbia’s toughest and oldest tree.
I’ve hiked in British Columbia’s Garibaldi Provincial Park many times, but this trip was extra special: I did it with my son Alex. My body is still recovering from trying to keep up with his blistering 23-year-old pace, but I’m thrilled that we got to share this short backpacking trip. Garibaldi Park, located only a couple of hours north of Vancouver, contains a treasure trove of hiking trails that provide access to high peaks, glaciers, and alpine lakes and meadows. Panorama Ridge has some of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen, and the peaceful route via Helm Creek is my favourite approach.
It’s the end of another glorious day on the water in British Columbia’s Discovery Islands. I’m first in line for dinner. “Did you wash your hands?” There’s a smile in his eyes but his voice is serious. Our mask-covered, rubber-gloved kayaking guide has caught me dirty-handed. I slink back to the wilderness hand-washing station feeling like a naughty kid, but grateful for the precautions. Back in January, my friend Trish and I had booked a summer 2020 kayaking trip with Spirit of the West Adventures, before COVID-19 was on our radar. Miraculously, the trip went ahead, albeit a very different one from what we had signed up for.
It was epic! For seven days, our group backpacked through the untrammelled wilderness of British Columbia’s South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park. This park has an incredible diversity of landscapes—snowy peaks, glacial lakes and flower-filled meadows all connected by over 200 km of wilderness trails. No need to worry about social distancing. We met only two other hiking groups during our week’s stay. It was rough going at times, but the scenic rewards and sense of accomplishment far outweighed the discomforts.
Something large, white and moving catches my eye high up on a rocky ridge on a hiking trail near Canmore, Alberta. My first thought is that it’s a mountain goat, but it’s not the right shape and doesn’t have a goat-like gait. We’re about 100 m (330 ft) away but our telephoto lens confirms that it’s a bear—a creamy white one. It turns out to be a rare, white-phase black bear. We’ve just witnessed something that is only spotted about once a year in the Alberta Rockies. I’m over the moon.
Some of you may remember a major European news story from September 26, 2019. An explosion at a chemical plant in Rouen, France spewed massive quantities of smoke and soot over the capital city of Normandy and beyond. We just happened to be there at the time. Our short visit to Rouen— the last stop on our Brittany and Normandy cycle trip—was made even shorter by this catastrophe. This post is a collection of photos taken over a couple of hours before we came to our senses and hightailed it to the train bound for Paris.