To heaven and back…

So, we just got back from a vacation. This is our, the partner and my, first vacation together. We’ve done weekend outings all these years, we’ve taken a couple of days here and there to do Fall trips the past few years, but we’d never actually gone on a long vacation before. Every year until now it’s been either him planning a trip to India or me saving my vacation time for this and that. This time though, with everything else taken care of, both of us had plenty of time we could use towards planning a vacation or two together. Thus, an afternoon was spent looking at our schedules and buying tickets (which were canceled and rebooked eventually).

Time went by. A rough plan was made merely a week before our set departure. Calls were made and campsites were booked a day before our departure. Bags were packed the day of departure. And off we went.

While most of the initial travel was tiring and unexciting, with us dreaming about the upcoming days and all the fun that was in store, here’s something that jolted us right back into reality – we rented a car as soon as we got off the plane and started our drive to our first destination. Within half an hour into that drive, we were pulled over for speeding. And the cop ended up giving us a big fat ticket. What a way to start a vacation, right? Blah. The rest of the 2+ hour drive was spent reassuring each other that it was ok, that we should forget about it and not let this incident ruin the fun that’s to follow. So forget and let go we did.

Day 1 – The first of our destinations was the city of Vancouver. We took a train from our hotel into the city and spent the entire day walking around. We saw pretty much all there was to see, and realized, towards the end of the day, that we are not the vacation-in-a-city kind of people. As the partner aptly put it, it takes a long time to build a bond with a city and fall in love with it. Being there and sightseeing around for a day or two does nothing for us; it just leaves us with a ‘this is just another city, what’s the big deal?’ feeling, which may or may not be fair. It tired us to no end to see building after building, to walk the streets that didn’t seem to have any power to pull us any closer. So, by the end of that evening, we decided that going forward we won’t plan to stay in any city for more than a day because it would surely be a waste of time for us. We’re happier if we are able to spend even a handful of extra hours in the mountains or beaches instead.

Day 2 – With that, we dropped the plan to come back to the city on the next day and headed right out to experience a suspension bridge nearby. This was my first time walking on a suspension bridge and what fun that was! I was afraid the first couple of times I crossed the bridge. I held on to the railings every second of the walk. But after having done that a few times, I got a little brave, let go of the railing and strutted along the dancing bridge. There was so much excitement that we crossed the bridge probably six or seven times, by the end of which the partner was still in a temporary still-walking-on-the-suspension-bridge mode as we strode towards our car.

Next, we were headed towards Whistler. We made numerous stops on the way – to soak in the ocean view along the highway, to see a gorgeous waterfall, to bask along green lakes, to absorb the sight of beautiful mountains, to take in the scene of a glacier upon a mountain top. The usual 1.5 hour drive took us about 4 hours that afternoon. By the time we were done with all our breaks and reached our destination, I was famished.  We quickly stopped by at our campground to put up our tent and left to the town immediately after. Oh wait, we only left after we had taken a lot of time to enjoy the sight of where our campsite sat. From our site we could see and hear the gushing turquoise river below. Every cell in my body that was crying for food relaxed a bit at this sight. Of course I couldn’t take advantage of this temporary state of mine for long, so we headed out for dinner only with the single super excited thought that after the meal we are to head back to the campsite and spend the night sleeping under the stars while listening to the whitewater melody.

In town that evening, we had a chance to witness a few people complete the triathlon that had started earlier during the day. Inspiring, that’s what it was – people training so much to take part in such events and successfully completing them. The pride in their and their family’s/friends’ faces as they crossed the finish line was priceless. So, after dinner and a short walk around the town watching the last batch of runners finishing their triathlon, we headed right back to the campground and called it a night.

Day 3 – Camping rejuvenates me so much more than the nights spent on my own bed, really. Even though the weather was a bit chilly, it didn’t affect my sleep as much – I woke the next morning extremely refreshed.  We chugged a few cereal bars for breakfast and started the day off with a hike to see a waterfall and followed that up with another hike to and around a nearby lake. And let me not forget to note that during those hikes we saw a few people who had participated in the previous day’s triathlon. I couldn’t help but wonder how they had the energy to complete go hiking merely hours after they had completed such an event.

After hiking, we sat down at the campsite to snack a little and then left to go eat and sightsee around the town. We had food, walked around for a bit, went to the visitor center to get ideas about how to plan the day ahead, and then finally spent a little time at a café discussing our options. This was followed by another chilly night in the tent. This night though, things got a little more adventurous. It rained a bit during the day, I suppose, and our tent started leaking. So we found ourselves with slightly wet tent floor and damp sleeping bags. We made some rearrangements inside to make sure we stayed away from where the leak was happening and dozed off to another blissful night (Well, the partner might disagree. Apparently, I pushed him off his sleeping mat and occupied the whole space while he had to spend the night in shivers owing to the cold floor.)

Day 4 – The next morning, we had our breakfast, packed up, checked out of the campground and headed towards the town. Our plan for the day was to get a Gondola ride up to Whistler Mountain, do a hike or two there, and then go to the Blackcomb Mountain to do a couple of hikes there before heading off to our next destination. While we also hoped to go to the peak of Whistler and do a hike there, but the day was so cloudy that visibility was extremely poor to make way for a safe hike. The other ones we did were wonderful that we wished we had more time to spend there to explore more. Next time, perhaps.

After our adventure on the top of the mountains, we headed down, had our dinner, shopped around for propane tank and cooking pot (we had packed bunch of noodle packets with us, but forgot to take utensils to cook it in), and started the drive. Again, within half an hour of the drive we were pulled over. This time though, more than carelessness, there were factors that contributed to the speeding. As the partner was driving, he was also trying to show me the lake that we walked around a day ago.  While he was busy diverting my attention to that beautiful lake, he failed to keep a tab on the speedometer as the car went downhill. And unfortunately for us, the cop was right there, riding up towards us. As soon as he saw our car descending that fast, he turned around and stopped us. The partner tried explaining to the officer exactly what happened and asked if he could be let go with a warning. The cop got all the information, told the partner that he would give it a thought and came back to tell us know that he would indeed give us the benefit of the doubt this time around, that he was not after our hard earned money, and let us go with a warning. What a nice man he was! Relieved would be an understatement to use for what we felt then.

While the rest of the drive was picturesque, it got a late and dark by the time we reached the hotel that we were going to be staying for the night. All we did that night was take a hot shower, lay out the tent and sleeping bags in the room to let them dry so they could be ready to go for the next night, and slept.

Day 5 – And the next day, for the most part, was spent driving to the Canadian Rockies.

By the time we reached the campground, the partner started feeling a little feverish. We stopped by at the nearby town to grad some meds. Once we reached the campground, we found that someone else had taken the site we had reserved. The girl explained that they had taken it because there was no one in the campground when they arrived. We were told that their site was the adjacent one and asked if we would mind setting up our tent there instead. Since there was no real difference as far as views (again, by the riverside with mountains in the background) were concerned, we agreed and set our site (only to figure out then that this site was so uneven with root and rocky surface making it a unsuitable place to set up tent in. Oh well). We then had a sumptuous dinner of maggi, sat under the starlit sky for a while (until I started to whine that it’s getting really cold), and went to bed.

Day 6 – The next morning we had our breakfast (soup for breakfast on a wintery morning is as good as it gets!) and went on a nearby hike. After completing that beautiful trek around five different lakes, our plan was to drive to a natural hot springs close by and do one of the trails there before soaking in the hot springs. But by the time we got there, the partner was feeling a little restless due to his fever (and I, too, probably was a bit tired), that we decided to just soak in the hot springs without any further ado.

This experience, again, was one of my firsts – I had never been to a natural hot springs before, and to be in one on a chilly afternoon felt just right. The temperature they said was about 40C. There were other pools around where the water was cold, so people could cool off if they got too warm soaking in the hot springs. After a while, I cooled off by having some ice cream. The partner, in spite of his fever, came out to share the ice cream with me. And while we were enjoying our cold treat, the partner got into a conversation with another patron. He mentioned that he was a regular here and that this was one of the best hot springs around. And he also happened to tell the partner that getting into the really cold pool to cool off was an experience in itself. So now, the partner, not caring about the fever, alternated between the cold pool and the hot spring pool who knows how many times. I tried the cold pool once, got off and swore never to go in there again. Yupe, that’s all how daring I am.

After we got enough of the hot water, we left and were extremely hungry. We decided to make maggi at the picnic area near the parking lot, had our lunch/dinner and off we went to the town for an evening stroll and then to campground for another good night’s sleep.

Day 7 – Another day, another adventure. The morning started off with breakfast of soup and toast. With that taken care of, we packed and were on our way to drive through the Icefields Parkway. Before embarking on the drive though, we stopped to see another waterfall. The drive through the Parkway was so scenic in every which direction one turned. We stopped at the Columbia Icefield to take a bus that goes to a glacier. Although we had plans to complete a hike before taking that tour, due to time constraints the hike was dropped and we hopped on to the bus at the first chance. And what a wonderful experience that turned out to be – we got to walk on a glacier for about twenty minutes. I was beyond myself, out of the world during that time. How exhilarating it was, I can’t put in words.

The rest of the afternoon comprised of eating lunch, completing the leftover stretch of drive, setting up our campsite at the new location and then cooking/having dinner. After which, I think, we headed out to the town and spent a little time wandering around there. This night also we spent a little time gazing at the stars from our campsite for a while – this time around, the weather permitted me sit out for a little longer than the previous attempt and the sky was also much clearer than the nights before.

Day 8 – Morning sunshine brought a lot of delight with it. After the usual waking up, having breakfast routine later, we planned to head to for another hike in the mountains. We decided to keep things on the easier side for the day because we hoped to do a harder trail the day after. We chose one of the low key hikes and went through it in our own relaxed pace. The sun was burning hot that afternoon, I remember. Since everywhere we had been the past week the weather was anything but warm, I had worn layers on this day. And so there I was, sweating profusely and feeling grateful that this campground had shower facilities.

After finishing the walk, we headed into the town to have lunch, get ice cream / milkshake (which was so so yummy!) and then stopped by at the visitor center to get some info on other hikes around the area. We then spent a little time in the town and around six in the evening, headed off to climb to yet another waterfall.  We were glad we started this trail so late in the afternoon since it was so crowded even then; had we started it early during the day, I am not sure we would have had the chance to stop and enjoy it as much as we would have liked. We spent quite some time sitting at the base of the fall and taking in the rushing sound of the water. That evening we headed back into the town, strolled for a bit and then settled down at a coffee shop for some time sipping on hot chocolate. The night was warm and nice, letting us jump into a deep slumber.

Day 9 – This day was pretty stimulating yet again. The original plan was to wake up early and get a head start on one of the hikes we had chosen. But knowing me, the “wake up early” plan didn’t really happen. Hence, we had to settle for a different hike for the day. Which turned out to be a hard one, after all. We climbed a mountain, with me huffing and puffing all along the way. Had it not been for the partner’s constant push, I would’ve given up half way for sure. I whined and whined more as we ascended. The number of breaks I took and the amount of time I took to catch my breath put me to shame, considering all those people running up the mountain as if it was nothing. We even walked past a couple of really old people (definitely 65+) along the way. I guess that, their determination and energy, motivated me a bit along the way. And finally when we arrived on the top, I was extremely shocked to find myself standing there because I really didn’t I was going to make it. A big thanks to the partner, again, for putting up with my constant complaining and for being so positive that even I could do it only if I tried.

Once up, we relaxed there for a bit. I remember eating and then even napping for a few minutes. The partner meanwhile went around and soaked in all the good views – the valleys around, the distant glaciers, the other Rocky Mountains around, the little town beneath. One of the old women, whom we passed as we came up, arrived. Partner gave her two thumbs up and she spent some time talking to us, sharing with us anecdotes from her past. It was so enlightening for me to see how enthusiastic she was about these energy consuming activities even at her age. As the saying goes, age is but a number, I guess… it’s all in one’s heart and mind.

We spent more time up there, walking on the boardwalk to get to an old Cosmic Ray station. As we were making our way up, we saw a guy in suit with two others trying to hide his presence on that bench. The partner guessed that he was waiting to propose to someone and he was right. We waited to see the scene unfold and it sure was sweet. The girl was on a weekend out with her friends (which was planned by him, as we learned later), and he showed up there on the top of the mountain to ask her to marry him. He proposed, she accepted, they celebrated. And that’s how that went.

After the strenuous climb to the top, the descend was easy. The partner twisted his ankle going down, though. Once we were down, we stopped to get some lunch and then spent some time people watching near a lake (watching people pose for photos is amusing every now and then). What we had in mind for the rest of the evening was to go to the nearby hot springs and soak for a few hours, while watching the starlit sky. And so we went.

Here we chanced upon one of the couples we had met days earlier during few of our hikes. It was very surprising because we were hundreds of miles away from where we had seen them first. And once we got to talking, it seemed like they were also visiting almost the same places as we were. Even though our roads met along the way, we were actually following different paths. It was nice to chat with them and learn a little bit about them.

After three or four hours at the hot springs, we left to get late dinner. Only a couple of places were open that late and it was good that we had gotten information about those places from the visitor center earlier during the day. Finishing dinner, we headed to our campground and spent another blissful night under the stars.

The unofficial end of vacation was upon us. We packed up, prepared quick breakfast, headed to town to get milkshake and then started our drive back. The next couple of days had a lot of driving in and around the mountains, as we headed to catch our flight. We stopped when and where we liked. We spent a lot of time reminiscing how amazing the last nine days were. We ate more ice cream. We started feeling post vacation blues. By the time we reached the airport to catch our flight we were already discussing upcoming holidays and do/don’ts while planning any vacation going ahead.

Etc. –

  • The color of the water in every one of the lakes/ponds/rivers we visited during the whole trip deserves a special mention – we saw an array of the shades of green. Due to my lack of knowledge about the names of any of these shades, I started making up my own as we went.
  • Hot springs is healing water (fever, the first time and the twisted ankle, the second time) says the partner.
  • Of all the wildlife that we were told would possibly be around, we only spotted bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elks and very many deer. I was really hoping to see a bear and the partner was expecting to catch a glimpse of cougars or wolves. But none of that happened. Maybe next time?
  • Canada is expensive.
  • An extremely stressful and crappy August had dampened my spirits (and the partner’s too because of me). So I am super glad this trip happened and the month ended with a very positive note.
  • We really think that the car we rented was cursed. Something or the other happened the first 4 days we used it. The first day we got a ticket. The second time we used it we got a parking violation warning. The third time, we were given yet another speeding warning. And the fourth was when the front of the car got a little dented. Only after a bighorn sheep kissed the side of the car the next day did the jinx fade.
  • Milk and ice cream there tasted amazing, compared to what we get here.
  • The partner noted that even though the vacation was relaxing, there was not even one day where we didn’t do anything. So next time we go somewhere, we surely will plan to have a laid back day with absolutely nothing to do.
  • The entire trip we did without any proper plans. No extensive research on where to go or what to do. All we had when we started from here was the list of places of that we were going to stay. Everything else, we learned as we went and we did as we pleased. And that spontaneity is something I treasure.

I miss the endless views of glaciers, green lakes/rivers, the gushing waterfalls, the magnificent mountains in every direction… all of it. Why do vacations end?

I didn’t take many pictures. That the partner does exceptionally well, so I simply carry my camera and soon forget where it is. The problem though is that the partner hardly ever sorts / uploads the photos that he clicks. I’ll update the photoblog with snaps by the partner if he ever gets around to handing them to me.

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  1. #1 by Psych Babbler on September 10, 2013 - 3:04 pm

    Sounds like an incredible holiday!! I could totally picture everything you said. You guys should plan your next trip Down Under. There are several places you can hike nd camp here. I find ascending mountains so much easier than descending them!

    Would love to see pictures some time.

    Good to see you back!! 🙂

    it was incredible! will send you the link to pictures if/when they are uploaded, PB. 🙂

    Like

  2. #2 by Tharani on September 11, 2013 - 11:06 am

    Wow that sounds like an awesome vacation. I don’t know if I will get to visit these places ever but your description took me on a virtual tour. Lovely.can’t wait to see the pictures.

    thanks! hopefully, i will upload some snaps on the photoblog 🙂

    Like

  3. #3 by Comfy on September 11, 2013 - 6:21 pm

    T, as I read what you have written, I nodded along. Vancouver, not my kind of city at all. In fact I have to agree with you about there is nothing exciting about visiting a city. Give me a lake, a river, a mountain, a beach and I am so happy.
    The rest of your trip, can I say I love love love that place. The color of the water is the first thing that hits you right? 🙂 And the icefield and the mountains and how green it all is. Canadian Rocky is the most scenic place I have ever visited.
    I am glad you had a good trip 🙂

    I also fell in love love love with that place, Comfy. Someday we will plan another trip to go there and explore more 🙂

    Like

  4. #4 by Little Fingers on September 12, 2013 - 4:43 pm

    Sounds like an amazing vacation, Growing up I wanted to escape to some cities and now I look towards getting to some pristine place like this.Canadian Rockies is on my list for over 2 years. I don’t know when we will go there.

    🙂

    Like

  5. #5 by kismitoffeebar on September 26, 2013 - 9:20 pm

    I am so craving for one now Titaxy! 🙂 I felt like as you wrote a small account everyday and then shared it with us. So lively and beautiful! Thanks for sharing.
    I totally agree about spending time in the mountains/beaches. Mountains more 😛 Hope i get to do this trip sometime 🙂

    🙂

    Like

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