Lake Louise, Alberta

 Posted by on March 12, 2014
Mar 122014
 

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When you look back on the travel experiences over your lifetime, there are always a few that stand out. On my list is the West coast road trip through Canada and the US that my parents and I took when I was two years old.  

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I actually don’t remember much. Photos in our family album were my ad hoc memories. The ones with the grand mountains with the lake in the background always intrigued me. Growing up, I had a feeling I’d be back to visit those mountains again.

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Flash forward thirty years later to last November, and I’m off to Alberta for a work trip. But I make sure to build in time to see those mountains and that lake again. It’s Lake Louise, one of the pit stops on the road trip from many years ago. This time I’m solo, on a mini-group sightseeing tour, and taking in the view on my own.

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It was slow season in the Rockies; there were maybe 10-15 tourists at the Lake. You could probably have heard a pin drop. There weather was crisp, and everything looked like it had a dusting of sugar on it. Just like my trek up Sulphur Mountain, I had the whole lake to myself.

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Even when you’re travelling solo, you can conquer the mountains on your own.

Little Voices

 Posted by on March 5, 2014
Mar 052014
 

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Last January, local graphic designer Mark Taylor, asked me to screenprint text written by his wife, writer Lesley Buxton, on a silky purple negligee and a crisp white apron. When I asked them what they were for, he casually mentioned they would be pieces in a show that was opening that month at City Hall and invited me to attend.

That show was Little Voices, a collaboration of Lesley’s writings and the dioramas of sculptor Patti Normand. The show definitely ranks as one of my faves I’ve seen in the last few years. It celebrates three things I love: dioramas, print, and stories about possible worlds. By combining their work, Lesley and Patti are able to tell powerful narratives that are unsettling and fresh and familiar all at the same time.

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The show revolves around the fictional place Silent Falls. I was reminded of the many sleepy towns we’ve encountered on our road trips through Canada and the U.S. At first glance, the town seems picturesque. But it seems almost too perfect, and you wonder what will happen if you take a wrong turn, or whether you should keeping driving to the next largest city, or stay the night at the only motel across the way.

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Lesley’s words draw you in and she uses a range of mediums  to communicate her stories (diaries, newspapers, letters, a telephone, a postcard, clothing). Patti’s dioramas (featuring empty houses, waterfalls and main street)  could fit in the palms of your hands, but they are complex and intricate, and you could spend hours exploring them.

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There’s still time to check out the show until Sunday March 9. It’s at Karsh Masson Gallery in Ottawa City Hall. Plus you’ll get to see what happened to that negligee and apron.

Banff Snapshots

 Posted by on March 3, 2014
Mar 032014
 

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Some snapshots heading to and from around Banff. Where streets are named after animals. Where street art looks like hieroglyphics. Where elk roam freely around campus. Where nature meet art. Where beavers tell you where to go.  Where the tips of white-capped mountains touch the open purple skies.

Sulphur Mountain, Banff National Park

 Posted by on February 28, 2014
Feb 282014
 

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I travelled to Banff last November for a work trip at The Banff Centre. My time to sightsee was short but when you’re surrounded by mountains, you feel like you need to do something magical. It was still too early in the season to dog-sled, so I decided on a solo trip up Sulphur Mountain.

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I’m a city girl all the way, so there was no hiking up. There’s a gondola option! I bought a ticket, and then boarded the four-person gondola at the base of the mountain.

The Sulphur Mountain tourist centre was suprisingly empty, but the cab driver had told me earlier it was low tourist season.

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It takes about 8 minutes to get to the top. I watched the trees disappear and the mountain tops come into focus. I juggled my DSLR and my iPhone, snapping equal parts mountain ranges, equal parts selfies. Yes, wiFi works, even at this high altitude!

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And then I reached the summit ridge. It was a beautiful, sunny, winter day and you could see for miles. I saw more mountains in a 5-second, 360 degree turn than I have in my lifetime.  For just one moment, those mountains and those unforgettable views belonged to me.

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There was no one around, just me and the howling wind.

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Mountain love letters (I might have left my own).

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I took the snow-covered path which leads to Sanson’s Peak and the Cosmic Ray Station, stopping to take in the view or to collect pine cones along the way. Looks like a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep had been there before me.

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On one side you can see Bow Valley, on another you can see the town of Banff, on another you can see the famous Fairmont Banff Springs hotel, one of Canada’s grand railway hotels. It’s supposedly haunted.

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Spot the inukshuk (or inuksuit).

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Being surrounded by majestic mountains can inspire you to dream big, but also the opposite effect of making you feel small. You realize just how much we are at the mercy of nature. And I was alone. It was like arriving at the Eiffel Tower and the hoardes of tourists you expect are nowhere in sight.

If a person climbs a mountain and no one is at the top to hear about it, does it still count?

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Being so high up might in the Rockies was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The vistas will be etched into your brain forever.

Winterlife Part 2

 Posted by on January 8, 2014
Jan 082014
 

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It feels like I have been pretty much walking in a winter wonderland since November. Right now we’re in a polar vortex, a term that seemed to pop out of nowhere (but apparently does exist). It makes it super scary to think about what is going on with our environment, especially thinking about catastrophic events like Typhoon Haiyan.

I spent the holidays with my family in the suburbs of Toronto, in the home I grew up. I took the train from Ottawa to Toronto, arriving a day after the huge ice storm hit.

The last few years have been pretty green Christmases, so it was exciting to finally have one that was storybook white and cozy (our house fortunately wasn’t affected by any power outages). Rooftops and trees were coated in blankets of snow. Icicles literally glistened from the tips of evergreen pine needles. My parents’ backyard felt like we were somewhere in a cabin up north instead of the burbs.

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On the other hand, driving through neighbourhoods and streets, you could see what a huge negative impact the storm had on the trees. Tons of branches and limbs, weighed down by the ice and split from trees, were now debris down on the side of the road. In my parents’ backyard, half of our neighbour’s tree – one of the oldest on the block – split and fell over the fence and into our backyard. It makes for pretty photos, but the clean up doesn’t look likes it’s going to be something else.