Summer Hike #3 – Canmore Trails and Nordic Center, Canada

Visiting Canada is, in many ways, like coming home. It’s full of familiarity – just as familiar as pulling up to your front curb and walking down the path to your own front door. Everything is just where it should be. Until you reach up to turn the knob on the front door and find that someone has replaced your round knob with a lever (this happened to me once). From then on, everything makes you feel slightly out of balance. In Canada, it’s the plastic feel of the money and the very interesting accent of your waiter that keep you grounded in the fact that you’re not in Kansas anymore (or, in my case, Colorado).

But, really, what is there not to love about Canada? From spectacular landscapes to wide-open, uncongested freeways, free health care, maple candies and ice wine. Canadians might complain about the low value of their dollar compared to the US dollar, or about long winters…but, hey, wanna trade – our president for your prime minister?

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Bike trail across the Bow River in Canmore.

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Planes, trains and … well, it’s really all about the bicycles

A little story in honor of an old friend…

This place is called Inch. It’s a long white strand of sand, bordered on one side by a wide strip of tall grass, and other other, by the wild Atlantic. When we arrive, the ocean is discharging a fury that grew over a thousand blue miles of wind and waves. The beach is completely deserted. We are tired from cycling into the damp wind, but exhilarated by the ride. We lock our bikes to a chainlink fence and knock on the door of the dilapidated, rusty trailer home at the edge of the beach. There are a few other farm homes scattered down the road, but it’s not really a beach day, and there’s no one in sight.

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Beach at Inch along the Dingle Peninsula – much more populated than I remember it. My own photos are much too faded to share here. [Photo by Pedelecs (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons]

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Galapagos Part 3: Every shade of blue

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A juvenile sea lion awaits us on the dock of South Plaza’s Island, a small islet near the larger Isla Santa Cruz.

The Galapagos will always appear in shades of blue in my mind. While the drier island landscapes are painted in red and orange, or draped by lush, low forest canopies of green and yellow, those are simply accents against a pale blue sky, and deeper blue ocean. As the world here in the Northern Hemisphere gradually turns gold and red with autumn and a new school year is ramping up (well, ok, it’s been ramping up, and at this point, is going full speed ahead), I wanted to share one last set of Galapagos photos – shades of blue, some lush green forests, and quirky animals. Warm thoughts  and images to carry us through frigid days ahead (those of us who are winter-bound, anyway!) Continue reading

Galapagos Part 2: Bartolomé and North Seymour Islands

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The colorful volcanic landscape of Isla Bartolomé in the Galapagos. The tall spire at the other end of the bay is ‘Pinnacle Rock’.

Imagine cruising into a tiny, protected bay, where the water laps gently on the rocks. Your vision is saturated with shades of blue, from the sky and the water, and shades of red, brown, grey and purple of volcanic cinder cone – you begin to feel like you’re on another planet. This is the small islet of Bartolomé in the Galapagos.

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Pilgrimage to the Galapagos – First impressions

I felt as though I had walked into an episode of National Geographic. There it was, the famous blue-footed booby, less than 5 feet away, contentedly situated atop a small rock, and staring at us with alien eyes. He didn’t even blink as cameras shuttered and beeped. I’m guessing that this particular booby – and every booby on North Seymour Island – is already featured in thousands of photo albums and Facebook pages.

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The blue-footed booby, along with the giant tortoise, are the iconic creatures of the Galapagos. Although, iguanas and sea lions are prominently featured. And if you’ve ever studied biology, you’ve heard of Darwin’s finches. Yes – that’s right – the Galapagos Islands is the place that inspired Charles Darwin to formulate his theory of evolution. I’ve met enough people who don’t quite know where the Galapagos are, that this warrants a short geography lesson before I go much further. Continue reading

Venturing into the Enchanted Forest of Podocarpus

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Sunrise over the Bombuscaro River in Southern Ecuador. Situated on the eastern foothills of the Andes, this is one of Ecuador’s biodiversity hotspots.

The clouds here hang in thick patches on the sides of the hills. Sometimes they seem to rise right out of the trees, forming only a few feet above the canopy as water vapor from this steamy forest becomes too much for the air to handle. If my trip to Alausí gave me the impression of going back in time, my visit to the Bombuscaro River valley on the northern border of Parque Nacional Podocarpus took me even further back. Let’s just say that it wouldn’t have been much of a surprise to see a dinosaur come crashing through the underbrush.

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