Getting Away From it All

Glacier National ParkThere’s nothing like getting away to clear the mind.  And even though we were traveling by car, we really got away from it all on our recent road-trip, our second annual family camping extravaganza.  This year we drove east to Glacier National Park in Montana, then north into Canada and Banff, then back west through Canada, hitting Harrison Hot Springs.  It was an amazing vacation, and I love this new tradition of ours.

I love it because it’s just the four of us for an entire week.  It is such a treat for the four of us to have so much fun together.  We play frisbee and monkey-in-the-middle, hike, fish, tent wrestle, and just hang out 24/7.  And we are so happy.

Hike Lake Louise

I also love the driving.  It’s a lot of scenic driving and winding hills, but best of all Todd and I get to talk to each other – as much as we want.  Or not talk and listen to the music we love, like in the old days.  In fact it’s really like the old days since our “new” car, that replaced our “old” car, is a 1997 Subaru with just a tape player in it.  We’ve hung onto old cassette tapes that are 20-30 years old now but they still crank out the tunes for us, like the Police’s Zenyatta Mondatta and Cracker’s first couple of albums.

The Back SeatThe kids set up their cozy little spaces in the back seat with their pillows, piles of books, drawing stuff, and the DVD player.  Like last year they watched the movie Airplane back there, and even though we couldn’t watch it from the front seat, Todd and I know that movie so well that we could visualize every scene and laugh along with the kids.  On the way home Nadine sat in the front seat for a bit so Todd could sit with Miles in the back and watch Star Wars.

Then there’s the camping.  This year we really had it down.  We had a new 6-person tent that Nadine and Todd always set up and took down together, and it was luxurious to have all the extra room.  We had a borrowed “X-Cargo” box on top of the car, and it held all of the camping gear.  Then in the way back we had just a cooler, food, water, and our bags.  Easy peasy.

Firing up Pancakes and CoffeeOur camping stove broke on the second day of the trip and we thought we were going to have to buy a new one somewhere, but it turned out that cooking over fire works just as well.  It’s funny to think of how well we lived and ate, living outside for a week with just the stuff packed into our car.  Nadine thought it was so much stuff but I kept telling her, “You know we’re pretty much packing up our clothes, our kitchen, our beds, our furniture, and our house for a week.”  (Although I could have packed a lot less for Miles, who wore the same thing almost every single day.)

Campsite in BanffEach campsite we stayed at cost around $20 per night, and was beautifully situated in the woods, surrounded by mountains.  I’m pretty sure a hotel room would cost a heck of lot more and the scenery wouldn’t be nearly as good.  Although the mosquitoes might not be as bad, and you wouldn’t have to worry about bears.

And, of course, the national parks we go to are so beautiful it’s mind-blowing.  The snow-topped mountains that jet out of the lush valleys, the rivers, waterfalls, and glacier lakes, the wild-flowers and wild-life are practically impossible to capture with a camera.  Of course I tried, and got some great shots, but I almost wished I didn’t take a single photo and just took it all in 100%, without stopping to take pictures all of the time.  But I do love taking pictures and want to look back on these trips later on, and the photos will help the kids remember them too.  Plus I think that maybe the act of carrying around my camera and looking for shots might make me more observant, noticing more.  Like the wild-flowers.  They are just tiny little things that grow in crazy places, but when you look at them close up they are incredible.

Glacier Wildflower

Todd and I kept saying to the kids, “Look out the window!  Look how beautiful this is!” but the kids weren’t that impressed with the scenery.  I guess that will come when they’re older.  Right now what they want are animal sightings and fun things to do.  And we got those a-plenty.  We saw three bears, lots of mountain goats, a moose swimming across a lake, deer, all kinds of birds, ground squirrels and chipmunks.  We got sprayed by waterfalls, climbed on rocks to cross rivers, played in the snow, and crossed ice bridges.  They also love gift shops, and while they browsed the gift-shops at some of the lodges Todd and I could enjoy a pint of Moose Drool on the deck.

Leaving St. Mary Campground

Swimming Moose

BearBig Horn Sheep

Lake LouiseThen on the very last day of our trip, which we spent at Harrison Hot Springs in British Columbia, we walked over to Harrison Lake and saw this:

Harrison Hot Springs Water ParkEven though the water was ice cold and the weather was gloomy, once the kids got a glimpse of that thing it was all over.  There was no way they were not going to get their butts onto that water park. It was all they talked about it and even though it cost $35 per person, we all knew we were going.  Fortunately we were given wet suits.  Then we climbed aboard the floating banana and got towed out to this island of dreams.  Even though I think it was way more dreamy for the under-40 set, I still had a blast.

Todd and Nadine were the bravest, jumping off the tallest structures and sliding down the steepest slides.  Miles was all over the rope swing and jumping off the trampoline into the water.  And I was a big chicken.  What happen to me?  I think I’ve watched so much AFV with the kids that I couldn’t get over visions of me tumbling down the giant pyramid or doing a face plant off the rope swing.  It didn’t help that I was very aware of being four times as old as most of the people at the water park.  But I must say, I jumped and slid and rolled around and did the seesaw thing like crazy, and it was so totally fun and probably the best workout I’ve had in a long time.  I think my muscles are going to be sore for weeks.

One of the best things about getting away is coming home.  We pulled into the alley behind our house at around 7pm on Sunday night, and when I stepped out of the car, I was immediately overcome by the feeling of the air.  Granted the air in the car wasn’t the freshest, but I do love Seattle air.  I always notice it when we fly home from somewhere far away, but today I was surprised to notice it so much when I stepped out of the car.  I guess it’s because we live so close to Puget Sound, that the salt water permeates the air, and feels so fresh and smells incredible.  And then there was my vegetable garden, which must have tripled in size while we were away.  (Thanks neighbors for all of the watering you did!)  The kids went immediately to find the cat.  And then there were our delicious beds that night.

When I woke up the next morning there was nothing in the fridge and so I made pancakes with what was left of the mix I’d made for the trip.  How luxurious to turn on a stove, throw the dishes the dishwasher, and eat while watching cartoons.  But for some reason they just didn’t taste quite as good.  And I’m going to miss running into these guys on the road:

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