Cross Country Skiing

A couple weekends ago, we all drove out to Bolton Creek in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park to go for a morning ski. Tyson also joined us for the day. He was clearly the king of ski snacks – with hot chocolate, lifesavers and moonshine! Our trail mix, granola bars and water didn’t stand a chance. The conditions couldn’t have been better. We had nice tracks, a little fresh snow and at a balmy -8 C, no one was too cold. We also had the trails to ourselves for the majority of the trip.

While skiing cross country wasn’t everyone’s favorite winter activity (some of us prefer the adrenaline and speed of downhill…), I think we all had a nice day out and are even more pumped for our upcoming weekend getaway to Kananaskis!   
    
   Tyson!!    Chuck and Christine playing in the snow!

  
       

Ski Alberta

So far, 2016 seems to be the year of winter sports – specifically cross country skiing. For those that know me (Heather), you know that I am thrilled about the weekly ski trips! When I was younger, I was part of an adventure group through the Girl Guides of Canada and they introduced me to countless sports, cross country skiing being one of them. I’d say it was an ‘acquired taste’ – while I really enjoyed the social aspect of the sport, it was hard work and I found I didn’t love it until I was a little better and more efficient at skiing. Throughout high school I stopped skiing and then picked it up, off and on, throughout University and beyond. We tried to do a little more skiing last year, but it was a warm winter and the snow wasn’t great. We even had a weekend where we went to go skiing, only to find it raining in Canmore. Needless to say, I am pretty excited to be getting back out into the mountains more often this year! 

Why I love cross country skiing:

  • It is fun to go out on an adventure with friends!
  • It is cheap – if you have your own equipment, it is basically a free day out. Even with rentals, it is still a pretty inexpensive hobby
  • It is incredibly relaxing
  • It’s a great workout – but you don’t feel like you’re working out….
  • It gets you outside to enjoy the beauty that the Canadian winters offer
  • Sometimes you see awesome wildlife, like moose! 
  • There are countless different places to visit

Pocaterra, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park

I love Pocaterra…there are tons of trail options, it is all nicely track set and the people are generally really friendly families out to enjoy the mountains. Also, on two separate occasions, we have come across moose here! How cool is that?! If you get here early, the trails are pretty quiet, however they start getting busy after lunch. The heated lodge is also really nice when you’re skiing on particularly cold days. 

 
Jeff and I out for the first ski of 2016 

   
  

We saw a moose when skiing with Chuck and Christine!

    

West Bragg Creek Recreational Area, Kananaskis

We found West Bragg Creek to be a little busier than Pocaterra. However, once you get a bit of distance between you and the parking lot, it gets considerably less busy. The area is dog friendly, which is a nice difference from Pocaterra – it is kind of nice to see the dogs having an awesome time running in the snow. The smaller trails further away from the parking lot are not always track set – be prepared to work extra hard if you’re skiing in fresh snow. They also offer trails for other winter sports (hiking, snow shoeing, fat biking…) which we’d love to explore one day.      

Oysters anyone?

On Friday the Cheynes generously decided to share their gift certificate to Raw Bar, with the Six Best Friends! We all dressed up and made our way to the Hotel Arts for some happy hour drinks and oysters.  

Raw Bar is one of a couple restaurants in Calgary’s trendy Hotel Arts. It is described as ‘Vietmodern’ cuisine, but all we were really interested in was their $1 Oyster and $5 drink specials. We all really enjoyed the oysters, they were incredibly fresh and, at a dollar a piece, how could we go wrong? In fact, we enjoyed them so much that by the end of the night we had eaten 100 between the six of us. The restaurant ended up running out of oysters that night! We also tried a few seafood and vegetable dishes that were all amazing.  We had such a nice time that we vowed to plan fancy dinners out more often, so if you have any suggestions for places that we should try – leave us a note in the comments section!    

   

Seattle Day 3

Everyone was feeling energetic this morning and we kicked things off with a jog- we ended up seeing some nice waterfront pathway and stumbled across an amazing Cafe on our way back for coffees and muffins.

Next was another stroll around Pike Place Market since none of us had gotten quite enough of that yet. We also opted for the famous chowder lunch at Pike Place Chowder in Post Alley. Adam and Gloria were brave and possibly tried every flavour available, while Chuck and Christine were happy to find big bowls of vegan chowder. Everyone was happy and very full, it was delicious!

We then took a stroll around China town which was a bit of a ways from Pike Place, and the novelty of it was cool but it wasn’t the most tourist friendly neighbourhood namely because there wasn’t much in the way of street or window displays, or English signs. It was very authentic feeling, but also a small area. So we walked all around then headed back into the downtown core where we found a nice blown glass studio (very common artwork in Seattle) and eventually made our way all the way back to the Space Needle area. We didn’t the remainder of the afternoon playing in the Science Centre, had a fantastic sushi dinner and then said farewell to Seattle.

Busy trip but completely achievable to see all the big sites in a long weekend, Seattle has a fairly small footprint and it was easy to get around!

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Science Centre

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Downtown- Blown glass studio


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Union Station


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The backdrop for our morning jog


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The chowder sampler tray


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China town


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Downtown- stairway to old street level below


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Downtown


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Downtown


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Pike Place- wall covered in chewing gum


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Science Centre


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Downtown

Seattle Day 2

Today we started off our Independence Day celebrations with a bit of a history lesson. The four of us walked the short distance to Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, which I think we would all highly recommend to other travellers.

First things first, the bartender at the tour company makes the best Bloody Mary you’ve ever had. Next, tour time.

We took a walk down Yesler Way, which originally had the name Mill Street since the lumber mills were along this street. Henry Yesler was an important economic force in Sesttle at the time so the street is now named after him. Here we learned about how Seattle even has an underground tour- current day Seattle is approximately 10 feet above the original street level. The whole city was built of lumber and in 1889 most of downtown burned down. This was a blessing in disguise because city was afforded the opportunity to grade the street level so it wasn’t so hilly, construct better water and sewer lines, new wharves, etc. But rather than clearing out the remnants of the ruined downtown, they built right on top (levelling out the streets by hauling in fill to raise most of it up made that logical). We walked around below and found that old storefronts and sidewalks exist, and some current buildings use these as basements. Very cool tour, check it out if you’re in the area.

Next on good recommendation from our concierge, we took the ferry over to Bainbridge Island to catch the relaxed Independence Day vibe- they had a cute parade and it was a really nice day of sunshine and pub food.

Finally what would July 4th be without fireworks – so we headed down to trendy Lake Union area where the best show in the city was to take place. Dinner of appetizers at re:public, and off to the lake. People had staked out spots along the shore but we trekked a little ways out of the way to find a quiet spot and got a great view- some pretty incredible fireworks for sure.

After a dessert and cocktails at a restaurant Gloria had heard of, sorry cannot remember the name, we finally called it a night!

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The old Pike Place market stalls now below ground

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Glass ceiling of the underground to let in light from street level

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Rock sculpture at Bainbridge Island

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Pub for lunch on Bainbridge Island

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The ferry ride between Seattle and Bainbridge Island

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View of the Seattle shoreline from the ferry

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

HO HO HO!!

Okay, we’re a little late … but we still want to say Merry Christmas!  The holiday season is always super busy and filled with delicious food, great friends and lots of wine.  Christmas 2015 was no exception.

Our “Friends’ Christmas” was a huge success.  We all converged at the Cheyne’s house where we had a spectacular meal (aka stuffed our faces), opened some creative presents at the gift exchange and played some awesome games while enjoying some festive beverages.  We also had a special guest appearance from Santa (!) and were able to convince a few new faces to join us for our annual shenanigans.    

We ended the year with a mysterious murder mystery, which was a great way to meet some new people and practice our ‘spying’ skills.  We then went to a small house party at Leanne (Jeff’s sister) and Darren’s new house to play fooseball, beerio-kart and a little beer pong.  

  

2015 was a pretty awesome year and we are looking forward to even more fun in 2016.  

  

Halloween!!

We have been saying that we should celebrate Halloween in Banff one year and do a pub crawl. Well this year, we finally made that happen! We booked a suite at the Fox hotel, piled into the Land Rover (thanks Mum!) and left Calgary early on Saturday morning. We were pleasantly surprised when we arrived at the Fox. Our usual accommodation in Banff (the cheapest hotel room for 6 people – the Rocky Mountain Resort) does not compare to the Fox… Our room was beautiful! We had a nice corner suite with a nice living space and two large bedrooms with a king and two queens! We were thrilled.   

After we unpacked, we walked into town for some lunch. We opted for the delicious Nourish – an amazing vegetarian restaurant located just off Banff Avenue. The boys all had 420 Burgers and the girls all had Mac and Squeeze. It was spectacular. SO GOOD! We then meandered through town, stopped in a couple shops, picked up some chocolate and then walked back to the hotel.

  

We spent the afternoon and early evening playing Avalon (our most recent favorite card game), eating a lot of chocolate and enjoying a few beverages. We ordered Thai dinner from Bamboo Garden – it was just okay…not nearly as good as Thai Patio in AZ! After dinner, we all got dressed for our pub crawl. Chuck and Christine dressed up as Obi Wan and Michelangelo from TMNT, Spencer and Michelle were Ash and Pikachu from Pokémon and Jeff and Heather were Google Maps. We then made our way into Banff.

Our first stop was the Beaver…it was an interesting experience – the bar was literally a tiny room and it was PACKED and incredibly hot. After a quick visit we decided to move on. Our waitress from lunch was performing at the Irish Pub so that was our next stop. In preparation for our next adventure, we have been practicing our Irish beer drinking so this was an appropriate stop #2. Our third stop was a new place on Banff Avenue. Park Distillery opened in the spring of 2015. We ordered some fancy cocktails, delicious GF calamari and fresh French fries. It was really nice and I imagine that we will be back there again one day soon. We finished the night at Toque where we met a liquor company rep. who ensured we enjoyed free drinks all night (people love the Six Best Friends… 😉). 

Ash from Pokemon!

  

Pikachu!

  

Jedi

  

A sexy Ninja Turtle-aka ‘a slurrtle’

 

Google Maps

    

After a fun night out we thought it would be nice to relax at the Spa. This was probably one of the best decisions ever…it was SO nice to relax in the hot tubs all day! When we woke up it was snowing like crazy in Banff. You know, the HUGE snowflakes that fall slowly, but are in such abundance that it is nearly white out conditions. Exactly what you picture for winter in Banff! We had a quick breakfast and then arrived at the Banff Springs Hotel Spa. The spa was surprisingly busy but we still greatly enjoyed the mineral pools, massages and the fancy spa lunches. Before driving home we stopped for a sushi dinner at Sushi House Banff – a favourite for the Six Best Friends. It was a spectacular weekend and we all reluctantly returned to Calgary feeling happy and relaxed.

Breakfast at the Spa

A little sightseeing 

There isn’t much to do in Hereford so we did a little sightseeing while we were away. On Saturday we went into Wales for a day trip and visited the Brecon Mountain Railway. The railway has a small passenger steam train that takes visitors on a short ride through the countryside. It’s a pretty low key event, but the scenery was nice and it was great to get out of the city and into the country. We also enjoyed a delicious Welsh meal at a small roadside pub. It was a perfect day to go for a drive.  

 On Monday we left Hereford and drove to Stone Henge. Surprisingly, neither Emily nor I had every visited this world famous monument and we were both looking forward to seeing the ‘circle of rocks.’ We were really lucky to have a beautiful sunny, warm day for our visit and were able to snap some awesome photos. We then made our way to Hampton Court Palace to take a look around. 

        We were incredibly lucky to have awesome fall weather while we were in England and it was great to do a little sightseeing. Most of all, we were very excited to meet Teddy and visit our family. I can’t wait to be back in the UK, hopefully next time will be with the other Six Best Friends! 

England for the Weekend…

I know it sounds a little crazy…but Emily (my sister) and I (Heather) decided to fly to England for a long weekend visit with our brother, sister-in-law and new nephew.  We met up with my parents in London and then drove to Hereford.  We had a wonderful time visiting with the family, enjoying some great food and meeting Teddy.  

Teddy with his favourite Auntie 😉

 

Welcome to the world Edward ‘Teddy’ Harrison Turner!

Salt River Tubing 

After several recommendations, we decided to check out Salt River Tubing. As it turns out, it is really close to the house and a great way to spend the day. The company rents inner tubes and then offers drop off and pick up from the river. We each rented a tube, plus an extra for our cooler, and then jumped on an old yellow school bus to head up the river. We decided to do the 2 hour float (there were also 3 hour and 5 hour options) as it was our first time and we were not sure if we were going to be properly prepared. It was really peaceful, surrounded by the beautiful Arizona mountains, and the water was pleasantly warm – it was quite a lot of fun and we plan on coming again. Next time we will bring more to drink and some snacks and spend more time on the river.

This floating experience was vastly different from our last river floating experience (on the Bow River in Calgary). Obviously, the warm water and 35°C temperature was a welcomed change, however we experienced some different obstacles on the Salt River… We encountered some rather prickly underwater pine trees, unexpected rapids, reed hazards that nearly caught a few of us and of course some horses. I have no idea if the horses were wild or just out for an ‘off-leash’ swim, but we were fairly confident that we were going to float directly into one of them and it was rather terrifying!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HizqVmJb9O0

Overall, it was an awesome experience and we are looking forward to doing it again! If you end up visiting Salt River Tubing, here are some pro tips:

  1. Bring LOTS of water/coconut water/beer
  2. Bring some snacks or lunch
  3. One word: Sunscreen.
  4. Having something to cover the tube with is a great idea (ie a towel or sheet), they get really hot in the sun…
  5. Music might be fun!
  6. Avoid the horses at all costs
  7. Go to the bathroom before you get there, outhouses in the Arizona summer heat is probably the worst smell known to mankind
  8. You need to have cash to pay, plus a driver’s license to leave for a deposit (1 license / 5 tubes)
  9. Sit back, relax and enjoy yourself!