Wednesday, November 9, 2011

There and back again.

   It was a sad farewell to San Pancho.  We patted Mats on the head, took one last dip in the warm pacific waves, and caught a bus to Puerto Vallarta.  We touched down in rainy, dark, chilly Seattle late that night.  It was a bit of climate shock!  We stayed a week with my family on Bainbridge, helping my folks move furniture around, while they repaid us with good company and delicious food.  

Keep Boise Cool, I say.  
We headed to SLC, stopping for the night in Boise on the way.   We climbed at the Front Boise in the evening, and the next morning shopped at the Farmer's Market, took in some art, and were on our way.   

Standard Overhang, V3.  
It felt wonderful to be back in SLC for the fall season.   We headed up to Little Cottonwood Canyon the first afternoon there, and had a good time pulling on the familiar granite holds.  We weren't the only ones taking advantage of the beautiful day and fall colors in the canyon.  While we were there, we saw a couple taking  engagement photos, a troupe of girls with a chandelier and a bag overflowing with clothes (presumably conducting a photo shoot), and we saw another couple sneak away into the boulder field with a bottle of Martinelli's Cider (this is Utah, after all).  

What a cutie!  
We stayed with our dear friends PJ and Sarah Mannion, and their darling little girl, Fisher Bell.   It was so nice of them to have us, and such a treat to play with Fisher, who is 5 months old, and can now hold her own head up, eat pureed apples, bananas, and rice cereal, and, most fun of all, smile!  We celebrated Halloween with them, and helped to hand out candy to all the trick-or-treaters.  Halloween is easy to forget about when you grow up, but it is a fun holiday when you have kids around!  

Morning light on the Grand Canyon
We drove South, headed for Tucson after a week in Salt Lake.  We had been offered jobs with Vertical Solutions, the climbing wall company there, and decided it would be nice to make a bit of money before the holiday season began.  It was a beautiful and eventful drive through Southern Utah and Arizona.  We stopped at the Meadow Hot Spring, one of our favorite spots between Salt Lake and many destinations to the south.  Usually we share the spring with a group of boy scouts, but this time, we met Leif, the steward of the Spring.  He loves to scuba dive, and the spring, so in his spare time, he dives to the bottom of the spring- about thirty feet down, and filters out the silt and trash that collects there.  He offered us a scuba lesson- which I eagerly accepted.  Cody would have as well, but we had to go one at a time,  and with a long drive ahead of us, he declined.  It was a wonderful and surreal experience- breathing underwater, in a dimly blue cavern, watching the bubbles collect in the dimples of the rocks above.  Very cool.  We thanked Leif with a jar of our homemade blackberry jam, and reluctantly got back in the van.  

Such lovely views from the top windows of this rimside tower.
We made it to Page, Arizona that night, which is just across the border from Utah.  We heard on the radio while we were driving in that the local community college was celebrating it's 20th birthday with free pizza and cake, and were racing to get there in time for dinner, but alas, when we arrived, we could see a sad, half-eaten cake through the window of an empty room, and found the door locked.   But, it was for the best.  We stumbled into a great little BBQ restaurant and had a great meal, accompanied by music from a cute old couple playing Willie Nelson hits.  We camped out in the Wal-Mart parking lot, surrounded by other camper vans and RV's, and the next morning, pointed the van towards the Grand Canyon.  

The Grandeur of the Grand Canyon!
I had never been to the Grand Canyon before.  Everyone always says it, but photos cannot capture the scale, the presence of the place.  The flat, beige desert plateau drops away, sheerly and suddenly, into blushing sandstone, then again, into a verdant river bed.   The clouds cast shadows that roll into the abyss and back up the other side.   It had snowed that morning, and the rim was dusted in white.  Our breath came in clouds and my fingers numbly fumbled on the shutter button.   Once again, I was sad to get back in the Van.   

One of the Tucson Locals.
Now, we're in Tucson, building the new Rocks and Ropes climbing gym.  Well, Cody and the boys are. They're not quite as far along as projected, so there's no work for me as of yet.  But, I'm having a nice time hanging out with Chilly Pepper, our boss's dog, cooking for the guys, taking walks through the neighborhoods nearby, and admiring the local flora.   The plan is to head to Star Valley to spend Thanksgiving with the Harrises, and then it's a big question mark.  But I can tell you one thing...  

We'll be living the dream!  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Al Final: Adios, Amigos.

Our trip down here seemed to conveniently section itself for blog posts.  We had about a 10 days to get to know the town.  Then San Pancho days started and we had guests come to visit.  Now the Fiesta is over and we have had about 2 weeks to enjoy our quiet little town.   We can’t believe that we’ll be back to the States so soon.  My internal calendar is all messed up.  Here we are, in July-like heat, enjoying the beach and using up a big bottle of sunscreen, yet, tomorrow, we’ll land in Seattle, nearing the end of October.  Cold weather and crunchy leaves?  Pumpkins?  Early evenings and dark mornings? I know, I know. Woe is me.  I don’t expect any pity from my Wyoming amigos.  How’s the snow out there, guys?   

A few days after the Fiesta we decided to take a day trip into Puerto Vallarta.  We had been told not to miss the Malecón; an ocean side walk through the old town.  Some of it was under construction, which we were sad to see initially, but when we happened to see men carefully selecting each black pebble to make a mosaic in the new walkway, decided it wasn’t so bad.  It was nice to walk around town, and see the art pieces throughout the city.   We really liked this one, and only a few days earlier we had seen dancers just like this perform in San Pancho.

Catholicism is big part to the culture here; in fact, on the last day of the fiesta the Church served a free lunch to everyone.  Sunday mornings are always sleepy and slow, and families dine together out on the sidewalks in front of their homes in the evenings.  In Puerto Vallarta there are two beautiful cathedrals within a few blocks of each other.  Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside, out of respect for the dress code- my tank top and Cody’s shorts wouldn’t fly.  

La Corona

We had a fun time in Puerto Vallarta, but ran out of patience for the salesmen, who prey on anyone blonde, and decided to take the bus to Marina Vallarta.  The bus system is very easy to use and very affordable.  Busses run often and their destinations are written on the windshields. 

We like to walk the docks in places we go, and the dock in Marina Vallarta was a far cry from the Winslow Warf Marina.   Rather than sailboats and small runabout powerboats, it is full of large power yachts and surrounded by ritzy hotels and restaurants.  We had a nice lunch of Pozole (soup) and Chicken Molé.  The air-conditioned bus ride home felt great, after spending all day in the heat. 

Cody has been out on the “dawn patrol” most mornings this week, trying to avoid the crowd of surfers that congregate on the waves later in the day.  He’s been learning to navigate the etiquette system of sharing the surf, which reads something like: “Whomsoever stands up first shall obtain the right-of-way, brah.” A hurricane warning was issued for San Pancho last week, and the predicted 9-15 foot swell had surfers coming from all over to catch the waves.  But the hurricane brought only heavy rain, no giant swell, no strong wind, and no power-outages.  The river swelled, carrying silt from the mountains into the sea, so it looked like Cody was surfing Willy Wonka’s Chocolate River. 

Oompa Loompa doopitie doo...  
When we heard a new vendor blaring ads from their truck, we headed out to see what they had to sell.  A cooler full of glistening shrimp sat beside another full of Mahi Mahi fillets, beside another of sea scallops.  The shrimp were the biggest we had seen, and we both name scallops as our favorite seafood.  We bought too much of both, unable to resist the cheap prices and beautiful, fresh goods.  The fishermen were from San Blas, a town three hours north of us. 

Lovely Mahi Mahi Fillets

A simple dinner, and cheap too!  
We had been interested in going farther north to explore another town, and San Blas sounded interesting.  The three-hour bus ride, however, didn’t sound so great.  We considered looking for a room in San Blas, so we could spend a whole day up there, but eventually settled for going to a small town close by with a mouthful of a name: La Peñita de Jaltemba, known locally simply as La Peñita.  The 20 minute bus ride was vastly preferable, and passed quickly as we watched the jungle slide by the window. 

A colorful and bustling La Penita. 

The Playa La Penita.
 Deserted but for the Pelicans, who you can just barely make out dotting the waves.   
We spent a pleasant afternoon wandering the cobblestone streets of La Peñita, stumbling upon a market that took over a side street for several blocks.  The first few stalls were all tourist goods, silver and beaded jewelry, painted pottery and tablecloths, but as we wandered further, we saw more household goods, clothing, shoes, and, consequently, more Mexicans.   We bought a sweet roll from a nice lady with a Mayan face.  The top of her glossy black head was no higher than my nose. (Beth’s nose, that is, not Cody’s.)    We tore the fragrant bread in half and continued meandering along, enjoying the shade. Our favorite stall sold cleaning products in bulk, with a BYO jug policy.   The market ended right outside of an arena, presumably used for rodeos. 

Fabuloso, or Pine Sol?
Last night we had a fire on the beach with some new friends- Anna, who was born and raised here in San Pancho, and her boyfriend Jesse, an American from Hawaii.  Anna speaks perfect English, almost better than Jesse, who has a thick Hawaiian accent.  We sat out on the beach late into the night, watching the stars, waves, and embers flicker, talking about travel and life in general.  We were interested to hear that Jesse has done a fair bit of sailing, aboard a 50 foot trimaran, making passages with his brother-in-law from Hawaii to California, down Baja, even to the South Pacific.  We’ll be sad to leave our new friends, but we always seem to meet the most interesting people at the end of our trips.   It can be a bummer, but also an excuse to come back, and soon! 

The Happiest Dog in the World.
I will be sad to leave him, but, I couldn't take him away from San Pancho, even if we could have a dog.  It's kind of a doggy paradise- lots of trash to dig into, no rules to follow, a beach to play on, full of fish heads to roll in...  Not to mention that San Francisco de Assis, the local Saint, is supposed to look out for animals.  He's healthy, well fed, insanely loyal and friendly.  In fact, as I write, he has snuck into the library and is laying on the floor behind me.   Oh, Matthew Mcstinky.  We will miss you.  
Our days spent here are slow and comfortable, with plenty of time for reading, multiple visits to the beach, sun bathing, exploring the side streets, snacking, and playing music on the electric guitar and ukulele.  We like to watch the sunsets.  I’m starting to relate to Jimmy Buffett more and more every day.  

Life is good.  See you stateside!

Oh, yeah, PS.  

Guess who's back?

I wish I could bring them home with me.
There is nothing in the world like a fresh, hot crispy churro.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Amigos and Rodeos

We headed down to Puerto Vallarta to meet Brian and Hannah on the 28th.  We left early so we would have time to buy some groceries at the massive Wal-Mart, which happens to be located right across the street from the cruise ship dock.  It was disconcerting to see so many Americans disembarking their Disney cruise liner to lumber across the street to Wal-Mart for aloe lotion.  Also disconcerting is that the Mexican version of Wal-Mart smells exactly like the American version.  Anyway, we loaded up another bottle of sunscreen, a few toiletries that are very expensive in San Pancho, and a box or two of cereal, then took a cab to the airport for Brian and Hannah. 

A simple lunch of quesadillas, burritos, and iced cokes followed our return to San Pancho.   We spent the rest of the day playing on the beach.   Cody impressed us all with his wave-catching ability.  

Catch a wave and you're sittin' on top of the world... 
As the sun sank into the pacific horizon, we strolled down the beach toward the fenced-off area that protects the nests of sea turtles.  They release hatchlings every night around 8pm, and it was a thrill to see those tiny creatures inch their way toward the pounding surf.  They’re only as big as your palm!  

Good luck little guy!  
The Fiesta was just ramping up when Brian and Hannah arrived.  We saw traditional Mexican dancing and huge brass mariachi bands.  We drank fantastic pina coladas and margaritas served in terra-cotta cups, and watched as the locals danced salsa to the music.   We tried to dance the salsa, but it’s harder than it looks and most Mexicans don’t suffer from an 11in. difference in height! 

The San Pancho Band!  These guys practice across the street from our place.
It was fun to see them in action! 
The fiesta is thrown in honor of San Francisco de Assis, the patron saint of San Pancho.  It’s an interesting mix of a festival- religious, but more like a county fair.  There were several games set up for kids and adults, one involving bb guns and little plastic toys, our favorite featuring a pile of rocks on a folding table and racks of bottles.  Break three bottles in a row, and you get an 8pack of Corona or Modelo.  Cody didn’t break any, but Brian broke one and walked away with an ice cold Modelo. 

The Church all decked out for the fiesta.  

A highly evolved game of skill.  
We had a lot of fun with Brian and Hannah.  We visited the beach at Sayulita, had a fabulous lunch and boogie boarded all afternoon.  We took a long, hot hike through the jungle to a new hidden beach, recommended to us by the girl at the internet café/ tea shop.  The Playa de Lydia was spectacular- edged by rocky outcroppings and palm trees, and completely deserted.

The incredible Playa Lydia
We took a tour boat out to the Marietas Islands, a national park off a few miles off the coast.  The food was great, (breakfast, lunch and open bar), the staff gave informative and interesting talks about the islands, and cracked jokes, but best of all was the people watching. 

Isn't this a great picture of Cody?
(Click to enlarge for a better view.)
Actually, the snorkeling was by far the best part.  The water was bath-temperature, turquoise and clear, the fish were abundant, and the coral reef and rock formations were  beautiful.  It was easy to forget to look not only below the water, but above, where blue-footed boobies waddled around the rocks, joined by pelicans, cormorants, and their lesser known cousins, the yellow-footed boobies, and plain-jane brown boobies.  I would highly recommend a visit to the Marietas to anyone planning to visit Puerto Vallarta. 

The week flew by, and suddenly, we were hugging Brian and Hannah goodbye as they hopped on a bus to Puerto Vallarta to catch their flight back home.  So glad you guys could come! 

The day after Hannah and Brian left was October 4th- San Pancho Day.  We were lazing around in the midmorning and heard drums just down the street.  We headed out to see what all the commotion was about, and caught the parade half way through.  There were native Mexican Indians (Mayans?) dancing with enormous feathered headdresses, marching bands, a statue of San Francisco, another of the Virgin Mary, and bringing up the rear were horses.  There must have been 30 or 40 of them, their riders decked out in their finest sombreros, neckerchiefs and tall boots.  They pranced along, some horses quickstepping to the beat of the drums.   

Note the huge saddle horn that seems typical of Mexican Saddles,
 as well as the shiny handle of the Machete under his leg.  

Senor Ortega-  One of the best horse dancers of the bunch.  
They all joined up at the park after the parade to show off their incredible horsemanship.  Those horses really can dance!  And back up into a slot between two other horses (which doesn’t really look that impressive to the uninitiated, but Cody, with his Wyoming upbringing, assured me that it was truly a difficult feat.)   It was quite a show, and as it wound down, everyone was well lubricated with Modelo and Corona.  

After siesta time, we headed to the Rodeo going on in the little corral just outside of town.  Everyone had told us, oh yeah, rodeo starts at 5.  So we showed up around 5:30, everyone else showed up at 7,  and the rodeo actually began at 7:30.   Bull riding was the only event, and in between bulls, the clowns, joined by a cross-dressed man in a yellow tube top and mini-skirt, put on a comedy routine.  He/she made his/her way around the stands, flirting and dancing with various men, and of course, she stops in front of Cody and plops down on his lap, shimmying away.  I only wish I had been close enough to get a good picture!

We snuck off early to cook up a pot of shrimp for dinner, purchased from another truck vendor.  We cannot believe the prices of fresh seafood down here!  One kilo of fresh, still wiggling shrimp costs 75 pesos, which boils down to less than $3.50 a pound!  We’ve been eating shrimp for weeks now. 

Oh, yes, and the Terrible News.  The churro truck has gone AWOL.  It hasn’t shown up in a week and a half.  We’re facing serious withdrawal issues.  Not really.  But we are bummed Brian and Hannah never got to taste one! 

Until next time….

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gringos en San Pancho

As we touched down in Puerto Vallerta, the flight attentant came on the loudspeaker and told everyone to “Give it up for Mexico!”  He let out a whoop and the whole plane joined in.  We quickly and easily passed through Customs and exited the air conditioned airport into the thick, hot air of Puerto Vallerta.  Once we made it past all the taxi drivers, who get out of their cabs and follow you, claiming to “have a good rate for you, amigo!”  We hopped on what we guessed was the right bus.  We got off a few blocks away at a bus depot, and after a while, were on a (thankfully air condidioned) bus to San Pancho.  

San Pancho is a small town just north of Sayulita, to the north of Puerto Vallerta. 

There are only 1600 permanent residents, and no large hotels.  We’re renting the ground floor unit of a large home owned by a Canadian couple, who spend the winters down here.   The town is wonderful for it’s small, sleepy feel.  The main street is lined with little shops; mini-supers that sell food, little clothing shops, a paint store, carnercerias selling meat.
We thought this was yogurt- "Cream of cow acidified," but it is actually sour cream!   
 The food has been fantastic so far.  (And we’re both feeling fine and healthy.)  We had some really excellent shrimp empanadas for dinner one night, at a cute little place off the main drag.  We also have come to look forward to Wednesday and Sunday evenings, when the churro truck is in town.  They’re hot and fresh and served on a sheet of brown paper after being dredged in cinnamon sugar, and are a complete steal at 5 pesos each.  My mouth is watering right now.  Yum. 

A fantastic dinner beneath a palapa roof.  
A churro fresh from the fryer.  
The produce is also excellent.  We buy it occasionally at a little shop up the street, but more often from a truck that drives around town with a loud speaker blaring, “lechuga, cebollas, tomates, manzanas, cebollas, bananas, cebollas.”  (He always seems especially proud of his cebollas, the onions.)  We always scramble for shoes and money when we hear him coming. 

Our purchases from the fruit truck only added up to 42 pesos, or about $3.80.  
 There are three schools, and in the mornings and early afternoons the streets are full of children in uniforms, running and calling to one another.  I especially love seeing the littlest girls in the afternoons, with one knee sock hanging down over their mary-janes, their oversized backpacks limply strapped to their shoulders, happily crunching on a bag of cheetos that vendors sell only when school gets out. 

A peanut vendor on the beach.

We’ve been spending a lot of time on the beach, both here in San Pancho, and at Sayulita, which is a 10 minute, 80 peso cab ride down the highway.
Beach time in San Pancho
Actually, the first day we went there, we were heading down the road to the highway, looking for a cab, when a little red car with a young couple in the front seats stopped.  “Going to Sayulita?” the pretty girl in the front seat asked, in Spanish, of course.    We  nodded, and she motioned us to hop in.  So we did.  Unfortunately they only spoke really rapid Spanish to one another, and we didn’t really get to meet them before we were dropped on a street corner in Sayulita.  But we’ve seen that little red car around town, and they always wave at us… Maybe we’ll get another chance.  

This dog, who is called Mats by everyone in town, has adopted us.  Whenever he sees us leaving the house, he trots alongside on our way to the beach, or the plaza, or wherever we're headed.  He's showing us the back way to the beach in this photo.   (It's a good thing we didn't drive here...  He may have snuck into the van on our way home!)
Sayulita has a much better beach for beginner surfers.  I had more success there than I have here in San Pancho.  Cody has been killin’ it, both here and in Sayulita.  I have been, well, more like getting killed than killin’ it I suppose.  I don’t enjoy getting my sinuses filled with salt water, but I really enjoy being out on the water, and paddling is great exercise.  Good thing we’ve got lots of time to practice!

Trying to catch a wave... 
Where'd that surfboard go? 
The other evening when we were out on the beach, Cody was surfing with a couple of Mexican kids.  Edgar and Armandro are locals here, and Edgar especially had been just shredding the waves all afternoon.  We talked to another gringo on the beach, and he had nicknamed Edgar “Rocket Man” because he just flies through the waves.  Anyway, Cody made friends with these kids, and just as he was leaving they asked him if they could come over and see the house sometime.  Cody of course, agreed.  On our way home, I made sure to buy a few cokes to have in the fridge for our new amigos! 
Edgar in action.
Tonight is supposed to be the first night of the San Pancho Fiesta.  In fact, as I write, the brass band that has been practicing in our neighbor’s backyard is hard at it, presumably preparing for the eight days of food, music, and partying that are upcoming.  We were chatting with Juan, the man who waters the garden at our house, and he told us there will be a rodeo, and all sorts of festivities. 

A bull in someone's back yard.  
In the mean time, we’re loving San Pancho, and looking forward to next Wednesday when our friends Brian and Hannah come down!  (And it’s also churro night.  They’re in for a treat!)  

¡Vive los suenos! 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Its aboot time!

There is a perfectly good explanation for our lack of blogging.  We left the charger to our computer in Salt Lake about a month ago.  It is pretty much customary for us to forget a least one thing at every place we stop.  So we have been bumming charges any chance we get.  Right now however, I am writing from a computer in the Squamish Library, because we havn't found a charge in a while.

The last month or so has been busy.  My brother Dylan and good friend Tim asked us if we wanted to climb the Grand Teton with them, we just finished working in Salt Lake so we said we would see them the next day.  Luckily we left with some extra time because the van proceeded to have a severe coolant leak and we had to return to Salt Lake so I could fix it.

With perfect timing we arrived in Jackson at almost the same time as Dylan and Tim.  We climbed a little at a local sport crag and then went up to the campground to prep for tomorrow's accent.  We scanned over topos and read route descriptions with all the confidence in the world.  Then after checking over our packs we went to sleep early.

What I didn't realize until morning was that I was the only one who went to sleep early.  Turns out that Beth, Dylan, and Tim couldn't fall asleep, so they all got only an hour or two of sleep, the perfect way to start an alpine adventure.  We all got up at 3:00 am like we planned and drove to the trailhead.  Spirits were high and we hiked quickly up the switchbacks, watching an incredible sunrise over the valley below.  We reached the meadows and were encouraged by the mountain we saw, it looked different than from the valley floor, it looked much less intimidating.  So we hiked along a trail straight for it, and soon realized that rising up to our right was the actual mountain we came to climb.  Moral was breifly stunted, this mountain looked HUGE and far away,  but we kept pushing forward.  We got a little off route, reached the moraine and climbed the fixed lines to the lower saddle.

Decision time on the Lower Saddle

This is where things went downhill.  The wind at the lower saddle was 40 gusting to 60, and the mountain still looked huge.  Beth decided she didn't want to go any further, so she stayed and waited at the lower saddle while Tim Dylan and myself headed for the upper saddle.  After a few hundred yards Dyland and Tim decided the were done.  Dyland was haveing trouble with the altitude, maybe having spent too much time at sea level, and Tim's knee was giving him problems.  I kept going on my own, thinking the climbing was of an easy grade and maybe I could climb it solo.  I made it to the upper saddle and looked at what I thought was the route, but the wind, exposure and not knowing the route convinced me to turn back.

The hike out was pretty uneventful, we did some glissading down the snowfields, and a few hours later we were at the car. Totally exahsted we went into town for dinner and went to bed early.

Next we found ourselves back in Lander climbing the amazing pocketed limestone of the Wild Iris.  When I hurt my finger climbing in July I noticed a route that looked good, but hadn't been bolted.  Someone put the top anchors in but never finished the route.  Beth, Tim and I decided to bolt it.  We rappeled down the route, cleaned it and looked for crucial holds. We both climbed it on toprope and marked out where we thought the bolts should go.  The next day we tag teamed the route, Tim would drill the holes and clean them out and I would be right behind him hammering in and tightening the bolts.  Tim did the first ascent that morning followed by me and our freind Mike.  Later that day Beth completed the route, her third 12a this summer.  It was the first route any of us had bolted and we think it turned out great.  Technical, sustained climbing moving in and out from slabby to vertical to just overhanging at the top.  We named it Rooster Cogburn.

We needed to be in Seattle in late September to go to Mexico,  but we didn't want to take the standard route on I-90.  So that is what we have been doing for the last week or so.  We visited our friends Kitty and Eric in Missoula, Montana.  Missoula is a city full of hipsters and hippies, and because of that they have the best farmers market I have ever seen.  we had lots of fun floating the river and playing music late into the night.  Eric is a really good musician, and turns out the ukulele and banjo go really well together.

After Missoula we went through Glacier National Park, which was a little underwelming to be honest.  I mean it was pretty cool, but not high on my list of amazing places to see.  We only stayed one day and went on 13 mile hike, called the Highline Trail.  It was a great hike and it left us tired for a while.  We drove across the border and slept in a small town in Alberta for the night.
A Glacier in Glacier Naitonal Park

Saint Mary Lake

We got to Calgary at around 10:00am and spent a few hours exploring the city.  Calgary is really cool, some cities just feel good, and this was one of them.   The downtown is probably about the size of Seattle's downtown, but much easier to walk.  We headed out for Canmore that afternoon and ended up drinking homebrewed gingerbeer and a rootbeer float at a cool local brewery called the Grizzly Paw.

We tried to climb at a crag near Canmore in the morning but it started to rain and there was booming lighning, so we left.  The hot springs in Banff was our next stop, they were developed to look like a pool, which is too bad, but they felt great.  We took in the sights of Banff, which are amazing, shopped around the downtown and treated ourselves to a nice lunch.

Downtown Banff

Not far from Banff is what I thought to be the coolest place we saw on the trip.  Lake Louise and Lake Moraine.   Lake Louise is set beneath towering mountains with glaciers perched on cliffs above.  The Fairmont Hotel is incredible, it is right at the end of the lake.  You can see the lake, the mountains, and the glaciers, from the rooms.  It's the best view from a Hotel that I have ever seen.

Lake Louise

The Dining Hall in the Fairmont Chateau

Lake Moraine, doesn't have quite the star power that Louisa has but is just as great.  The water is much darker, a super rich blue color, it looks like it belongs in some tropical Island destination.  It gets its name from the moraine that was being pushed down by the glacier, that is now holding the water back.
Moraine Lake
This is a chipmunk.  

Atop the Moraine

Not wanting to pay for camping in Banff so we went to Golden.  We found this campsite up by Cedar Lake.  We got in late but in the morning realized we had stumbled upon a nest of bike trails through the forest and around the lakes.  We took our old beat up bikes out and had a lot of fun, only a few crashes.  We walked through Golden and waited for the farmers market to start.   An old lumber baron had told us that there was timber-framed bridge in town, so we had to check that out too.  It is quite the structure, and was built with the help of over one hundred timber-framers from around the world.

The Timber Framer's Guild Bridge

 We left Golden and drove most of the day to get to a small campsite near Ashcroft BC, and today we drove one of the most gnarly highways ever, between Cache Creek and Pemberton.  Full of hairpin turns while going down, and, I quote, "Extreme Grades".  Anyway we are now in Squamish and ready to climb.