So long, Summer

summer04Soooo, running and I seem to have had a bit of a falling out.

It’s been a while. Actually, wow, more than a while since my July 2nd Forest Gump moment in the middle of Powderface where I just stopped and went home. I’ve now ditched my run club, I stopped jogging or even training on my own, and pretty much have taken up with bad boys Netflix and Pokemon Go.

I’m basically turning into mush.

Of course, I’d signed up for a million road races and trail runs this summer, and instead of being inspirational, it’s all just fizzled. I’ve sent my regrets to most of them.

SeaWheeze, however, WAS just around the corner and was still on the ticket for August. SeaWheeze is special; and it’s not because I’m a LuluLemon fan. It’s about the slick organization, the #westcoastbestcoast location and the general happiness, camaraderie and well-being surrounding the entire event. AND I was going with a FRIEND. Totally makes ALL the difference. It became a holiday. A holiday with a few fun detours. I just had to run 21km at some point during said holiday.

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However, my state of mind was slightly scrambled prior to this getaway. I’d been bingeing on the The Good Wife via Netflix when (spoiler alert!) I found myself in a panic Google-ing “Is Will Gardiner REALLY DEAD???” before that fateful 5th season episode was even over. Devastation.

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Now, Will & Alicia are no Fitz & Olivia, not even close to Carrie & Mr. Big, nor Derek & Meredith… but it was still WRONG. He was TAKEN TOO SOON. (Totally channeling Annie Wilkes here. I may even have called the producers “dirty birdies.”). I was so mad. I couldn’t believe it. I stopped watching.

No heart-wrenching ER saving of a life, no prolonged illness, no moving to Seattle, no extended coma with a joyful awakening, no Bobby Ewing reappearing (“it was just a dream!”) = nothing. Art imitating life. He’s dead, Jim. Everything…hanging. Unresolved. Gone.

I guess that’s how death works.

But I was MAD. Will and Alicia, my imaginary friends, had a chance! Hope! Potential! Even if they weren’t my favourite TV people in the world (and c’mon, it’s far from being the most spectacular show in the world), I only wanted the best for them. I was tuning in to see it all work out in the end.

OMG – this is just TV, right?? But I’m still mad.

Now I don’t have running OR Netflix.

Maybe I have issues. Well, ya. I also kind of lost a month of summer to Netflix – whoops!

So, I packed my bag and decided to grieve the (virtual) dead by (actually) living. I prepped for a weekend away with the possibility of extending with a few extra days in the mountains if I decided to change it up a bit.  Needless to say, I had a full backpack with a crazy assortment of stuff. Ready for anything. Like a county fair, a winery lunch, a rock concert, a half marathon, a sushi dinner, a 16-hour Greyhound ride, backcountry camping, etc.

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Flying (or busing) at ridiculous hours, I had little to no sleep at all the whole weekend, which made everything all that more hilarious through sheer exhaustion.  Despite my typical “I vant to be alone”-ness I spent three days in the back pockets of friends, and it was good.

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The experiences would have been nothing without them, and for their friendship and general all-round-awesomesauce, I am grateful. How else could mimosas and trout seem right for breakfast in Seattle?  Or buttering myself into a pair of LuluLemon SeaWheeze-exclusive running crops (yes – the goodies might be showing) in Vancouver? Or hanging out like a groupie after our latest Cheap Trick concert to chat with the band in middle-of-nowhere Oregon?

The latter half of my holiday – because I did decide to hop off the Greyhound 16.5 hours after leaving Vancouver – was an act of decompression in the mountains, in the woods, knee-deep in buffalo berries everywhere I went.

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No, I didn’t bring bear spray; yes, I encountered a grizzly. But LOOK, I’m STILL HERE. I’m okay! The grizz is okay! I promise to bring some next time, just to make my family feel better.  Absolutely knackered from lack of sleep, too much heat (Oregon was 36C) and running silly distances, my hiking was slow and methodical, and my bedtimes were backcountry appropriate: 8:30 pm = nite! nite!

Sometimes you just need a little crazy, some ageing rockers, underwear shopping, and maybe some beer with breakfast.

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And after a time away from home, with way too much thought and contemplation, I decided to continue watching The Good Wife.  Hope and potential can come in other ways. Everything’s gonna be alright.

Cotton, Cirque, Chateau: today’s hike is brought to you by the letter “C”

Let me just say, if you feel like going on a little day hike, but you only happen to have, like, the first edition (circa 1971), of your Canadian Rockies trail guide, chances are things have changed. Important things. Like trailhead locations.

Sounds improbable, right? Ha. Well, I won’t bore you with the gory details, but my dear friend, Miz T., her faithful sidekick, Cotton the dog, and I ended up wandering along the Trans Canada highway near Banff in the blazing sun looking for a trailhead that had since moved due to a road extension and fencing off of a drainage underpass.

We gave up – wisely – after about 40 minutes and thumbed through the outdated guidebook from our Chateau Lake Louise staffer days to pick another hike. We wanted something that wouldn’t kill us, with a nice view or destination, and relatively short so we could do a few camping chores that afternoon in Canmore.

We settled on the C-Level Cirque up on the east flank of Cascade Mountain that was easily accessible from the Upper Bankhead parking lot off the Lake Minnewanka Road near Banff.  This trail promised a bit of Bow Valley coal mining history and a pretty cirque to boot. The hike was ~7.8 km return and we figured we could knock that off no problem.

Well – I was sweating like a madman in the first kilometre, wondering why on earth this felt so hard. Ha.  But seriously, this is a graded, well-maintained trail – it was just a little steeper than I expected.  There were lots of people on the trail so I had to stand up straighter and look casual while trying not to pant heavily as they – fresh, perky, etc – passed by.  Let’s blame the altitude, shall we?

We happily immersed ourselves in history – aka catching our breath – as we checked out the remnants of an old building dating back to the mining days in Banff National Park shortly after the 1 km mark.Bankhead

The Canadian Pacific Railway thought it would be more cost effective to supply CPR locomotives by opening its own mine at Bankhead in ~1905.  The coal mining operation included a coal mine and town on the lower slopes of Cascade, and it produced half a million tonnes of coal a year. In Bankhead’s heyday, the mine employed 300 men and the town’s population peaked at 1,500 people with taverns, a pool hall, a hotel and a school.  The Bankhead mines closed in ~1922, and slowly the town began to disappear.  Not long after, in 1930, all mining activity within the National Parks ceased.

Along C-Level Cirque hiking trail, there is plenty of evidence of coal mining in the area from days gone by starting with our rest stop.  The graffiti added to the feeling of an abandoned world.C Level graffiti

Follow a faint trail through the woods behind this building to a large coal slag heap, which is the perfect viewpoint for a distant look at Lake Minnewanka and the valley below.C Level Minnewanka

Rested after our little diversion, we got back on the trail and almost immediately discovered several ventilation shafts from the C-Level coal beds.  It was part eerie and part Goonies for me.  The shafts were fenced off, but you could see the tops of that chain link were bent as people had climbed over to explore.  Although unsafe, I can totally understand the lure of those vents.C Level mine vent

We kept on with our altitude battle, Cotton giving us the occasional disdainful glance as she pulled us onward and upward.  The best part was passing folks on the way down who told us we were barely halfway there…lol.  But all in good company, Miz T. and I got caught up on so many things.  I can hardly believe we worked together for Canadian Pacific Hotels & Resorts more than 20 years ago!!

Our youthful adventures back in the day took us on a crazy ski road trip to Montana in search of Whitefish but somehow we ended up in Great Falls delivering newspapers with some kid at 0500 hrs; hitchhiking through the mountain parks to the Lodge at Kananaskis where we stayed in an executive suite for the staffer rate of $30, and ate room service in the hot tub; hiking up Castle Mountain and sleeping under the stars at Rockbound Lake, watching a silent storm pass by, sheet lightning illuminating the massive rock walls; taking my little boys – 2 and 1 years of age – on their first backcountry camping trip to Ribbon Creek and watching them giggle as we hung Huey’s diapers from the bear pole… and so much more.  Isn’t life amazing?

Soon enough the trees began to thin out along the trail to the cirque, and we caught glimpses of Cascade Moutain high above us.  The whole grand rock bowl appeared as we emerged from the trees at the base of the formation.  Cirques are typically carved out of the side of a mountain by glaciers or erosion. This was a lovely example of a cirque, with a tumbling rock garden down the centre.  On the left is a faint trail down to a wee tarn, and on the right the trail continues steeply up along the treeline for even better views.C Level Cirque

Miz T. and I hung out at the tarn, throwing sticks in the water for Cotton to help her cool off on this stinky hot day.  C Level Cotton

We ate our lunches and lounged for a bit in the sun, watching Cotton play.  Afterwards, we made good time returning to the car and on to Canmore for a browse through the second-hand store, shopping for dinner stuff and a water fill up at the Canmore Nordic Centre… and then back to the Bow River campground for some R&R.

Accountability knocks

I’ve always been a bit of a loner.  That might work against me in terms of weight loss.  It’s easier not to push myself if nobody knows what I’m up to.

I came clean and told my family.  My youngest son is on board (“throw out all the crap food in the house!”).  My husband is super supportive. My oldest son is also pretty cool about it.  (Wait until I start upping the veggies & salads in every meal…)

For the January snowshoe challenge, I asked my life-long adventure buddy, Jill, if she’d like to give it a go.  Jill is game for pretty much anything, so we’re on!  She’s got a schedule and a training chart and a really big “we’re not going to die in the wilderness” mantra for this adventure.*  For Jill, it’s about being prepared and strong for the trip.  Weight loss is a nice plus if it happens along the journey, but her focus is staying alive. I can respect that.

She’s been awesome in keeping me accountable to working out, getting out on my new snowshoes and not losing interest.  And it’s not even that she has to say anything at all.  I just know I don’t want to disappoint her by keeling over and forcing her to drag me by my hair through the snow for a rescue.

I also joined a fun Facebook group with a bunch of ladies who are all at various levels of fitness who are looking to shape up.  One lady threw down a 45 day challenge starting January 1st of three miles per day: walk, jog, run, step.  I have to consciously make time in the day to specifically hit the gym (or street) for almost five kilometres of dedicated movement – yikes. Trickier than it sounds. But checking in each night to share what I accomplished is pretty awesome.

Now that I’ve fessed up, joined up and committed myself on so many different levels, it’s on for reals.

*You see, about 10 years ago we went hiking in the Adamants, got lost, slept under a Glad garbage bag in the rain and got stalked by a grizzly. But that’s another story.