Experiencing the Sublime at Whitney Lakes

On July 2nd, just a little stiff & sore from our 16 km hike at Elk Island the previous day, we headed out to visit Brian’s Mom & Dad who were camping at Ross Lake, part of Whitney Lakes Provincial Park. This was my first visit to the park so, of course, I had to conduct a little bit of research. Whitney Lakes includes Ross, Borden, Laurier, & Whitney lakes & some beautiful back country trails wind around each of them. Once I found there was a glacial esker to go explore, we planned an ~11 km route, parked the truck at the start, & headed out into a beautiful afternoon.

"Eskers are long narrow ridges of sand & gravel left behind my melting glacial ice." -Alberta Parks
“Eskers are long narrow ridges of sand & gravel left behind my melting glacial ice.”
-Alberta Parks

The esker snakes out into the water & is an elevated ridge above the surrounding landscape. We debated whether or not to walk its full length, & I’m so glad that we did. The sun was shining, the wildflowers were blooming, & we were walking on a landform created nearly 100 000 years ago.

Warning: I’m going to slip into my high school English teacher persona for a moment, bear with me.

In my second year of university, I took a class on romanticism where we endlessly studied Blake, Keats, Wordsworth & the gang. There, I was introduced to an idea the romantics were obsessively interested in: the sublime. When something is sublime, it impresses you because of its sense of power & immensity &, as a result, it inspires a feeling of awe. The romantics rejected the rational, scientific lens Enlightenment thinkers used to view nature, & concentrated on experiencing awe in nature by intuition rather than deduction instead. While much of what I studied in that class on romanticism has been forgthesublimewhitneylakesotten, this concept has always stuck with me because it named & explained, much more eloquently than I could ever hope to, my long-standing belief that a connection to God can be found in nature.

Thank you for your patience. We now return to the regularly scheduled post. 

Walking on an esker that is 100 000 years old, watching a meteor shower, paddling across a lake where the water is as smooth as glass, and being in the mountains are all experiences that are, for me, sublime. They inspire a sense of awe that can be challenging to put into words. They make me marvel at the beauty that exists all around us, beauty that we should slow down to appreciate more often.

beartrackAfter exploring the esker, we continued with our hike, passing through wetlands & forests. There were signs posted at the campsite warning about active bears in the area, so when we found this fresh track in the mud, we high-tailed it out of there. After that, I was nervous about encountering one of the animals, & we hadn’t brought the bear bell, so I decided it was a good time to teach Brian every campfire sing-along song I could remember from attending camp as an eight-year-old. I think I scared any nearby bears far away with my voice, so it was an effective tactic.

We found a cute backcountry campsite, complete with its own dock. It’d be neat to access it by canoe, & I almost suggested to Brian that we try it out later this summer, but I quickly changed my mind upon realizing how many mosquitos were near the water!

Couples who hike together, stay together.
Still smiling, 11 km later.

We picked up the pace & continued along, moving out of the backcountry and along the shore of one of the larger lakes where people were waterskiing & tubing. We passed several children’s camps that were quiet & even a little spooky, & headed for the home stretch. This final push was thwarted when we realized that trail had been flooded by the unusually high water levels, so we found ourselves buskwacking to the highway where we called Brian’s Dad to come pick us up & drive us back to the truck.

We finished my first visit to Whitney Lakes off perfectly with BBQ steaks & well-earned Nestle drumsticks. It was one of those days where I returned home with sore feet, mosquito bitten legs, & a burnt nose, utterly exhausted & completely happy.

 

 

 

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Running Reads: The Best of Adharanand Finn

If you know me at all, you know I drive A LOT. Last summer I moved 700 kilometres away from where I grew up, & I make it a priority to visit friends & family at home regularly.

If you know me at all, you also know that when I’m training for a half marathon, I run A LOT. Usually I hit the gym after work at least 4 days a week to stick to my training schedule.

Cue my discovery of audiobooks (I also listen to a ton of podcasts, but those are a subject in themselves!). I’ve had a subscription to audible for a while now, where I pay a flat fee & get any audiobook of my choosing each month. They do wonders to help fill the long hours of driving & really help me to control my mind when I’m running; if my mind is busy & entertained, it’s not so worried about trying to convince my body that it should stop.

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Recently, I stumbled onto a title by Adharanand Finn called The Way of the the Runner: A Journey into the Obsessive World of Japanese Running, which I voraciously devoured. In the book, Finn chronicles his families six-month adventure in Japan, where he goes to seek the secrets of Japanese long-distance running, especially the secrets of the extremely popular sport of ekiden (long-distance relay) running. What makes this story so fascinating is that Finn himself is an avid runner, & is always game to place himself into the story, making local connections & even running with the professional athletes whenever he has the chance. I also really enjoyed how the author goes beyond running, describing the challenges his daughters face as they attend a Japanese school & the families amusing miscalculations as they muddle, at first, their way through each day in a completely foreign society. One part travelogue, one part inspirational sports narrative, this story is woven together honestly & skillfully, & is the best of everything I enjoy about first-person writing. After reading (errr, I mean listening), I’m determined to visit Japan in the future & would love to take part in a recreational ekiden.

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When I realized Adharanand Finn had wrote another book before The Way of the Runner, I downloaded it right away. In Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, he relates his incredible journey, again with his wife & three young children in tow, to Kenya, where he explores what it is the really makes the Kenyans SO darn fast. If you’re looking for a magic formula, you won’t find it, but the real magic in this book is Finn’s story of training for a marathon in Lewa with a group of Kenyans, & his experience getting to know them & immersing himself in the Kenyan running culture. Again, with his wonderful sense of humour, Finn shares what the trip is like for his family. I have a feeling that this book will give me a much greater appreciation for the long-distance athletes in this summer’s upcoming Olympic Games.

If you love running, travelling, & reading, then I can’t recommend these books enough. Give them a read, or a listen, & let me know what you think!

 

 

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#7DayYogaChallenge with Sarah Beth Yoga

I’ve been considering trying some sort of yoga challenge for over a year now, but every time I go looking for one, they’re thirty days long! & to be honest, that seems really daunting. What if I’m tired one morning & want to sleep in? What if I’m on holidays & don’t have access to a computer or a quiet spot? Also, most are 30-60 minutes in length. I can usually make time for something like that once a week, but fitting that additional time in around running, teaching aquafit, keeping up with marking, & generally living seems so tough. I know myself well enough to realize I’m not quite ready for one of those yet.

Luckily, I came across a #7dayyogachallenge from SarahBethYoga. She has a playlist on her YouTube channel with 7, 15-minute long videos: one for each day of the week. They’re laid out from Monday-Sunday, but since I’m starting on a Friday, I’ll be starting with the Monday video. My day goes 100 x better (I deal with stress more effectively, am more thankful, & make healthier food choices) when I take the time for morning yoga, so I’m dedicated to crawling out of bed early for the next week.

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Here goes! 

Day 1: Friday, June 10th

Today’s practice was a gentle vinyasa flow where each breathe was linked to a movement. I find that this pattern of breathing & moving gives me a different feeling of calm than hatha yoga does. I felt really connected to my body, energized, & ready to tackle the day. When I encountered a potentially stressful situation at work, I dealt with it right away without worrying too much, then was able to let it go & move on. I have a bad habit of dwelling on those sorts of things, so this was a major victory!


Day 2: Saturday, June 11th

Today’s practice was a heart-opening hatha yoga sequence focusing on opening up the shoulders, chest, and upper back. I slept in a little, so did the video a bit later than usual, around 9 a.m. I would definitely return to this video! Sarah Beth has included some amazing shoulder stretches that showed me I’m tight in places I didn’t even know existed!


Day 3: Sunday, June 12th

I started my Sunday bright & early with this power yoga session at 6 a.m. This had me sweating! It was incredibly fast-paced (almost too much so) & I often felt like my breathe was being rushed as Sarah Beth asked us to flow from pose-to-pose so quickly! I really like the feeling of matching one breathe to one movement, but I also like yoga because it usually makes me slow down & deepen my breathing. I had some trouble with balancing in airplane pose & warrior three and was falling down all over the place, but I did hold boat pose, & I came out feeling energetic.


Day 4: Monday, June 13th

Today, I did not want to get out of bed! Some parts of this practice were very challenging. But here’s the most important thing . . . I did it anyway!


Day 5: Tuesday, June 14th

I woke up feeling a bit sore & sluggish (I didn’t eat well yesterday)but made it onto the mat just the same. Today’s practice was a hip-opening hatha yoga routine. I’ve been looking forward to a video that focused on hip-opening, & was excited to give this one a try. Some of the hip openers (& chest openers) were pretty intense, but they worked well. The level of these videos continues to be a bit above my comfort level, but I make a few modifications & push on, listening to my body. After all, if you don’t challenge yourself, you’ll never get any better!


Day 6: Wednesday, June 15th

I’m starting to get into a routine now. Today’s practice was a strong & balanced power yoga routine. It felt good!


Day 7: Thursday, June 16th

I was very happy this morning to see that today’s video was for a slow s& restorative stretch. Sarah Beth’s videos have been great at pushing me out of my comfort zone, but I really love yoga because it connects me to me body & helps me to destress.


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It feel great to have completed something I’ve though about doing for a long time! I definitely could see the positive benefits of this yoga challenge in my mental & physical well-being. While I’ve been practicing yoga here & there for a while now, this challenge has given me the kick in the butt to hit the matt at my local yoga studio come fall.

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Canada Day at Elk Island National Park

Part of being a Canadian, at least according to the likes of Mowat & Atwood, is connecting with the great outdoors; the wilderness that often lies just outside our front doors, but continues to remain elusive. Sometimes, as Canadians, we are awfully quick to be self-congratulatory (mountains! multiculturalism! moose!) but I think it is for good reason. For me, that’s what this Canada Day weekend was all about; experiencing the pieces of our beautiful country that are easy to pass by, but are worthy of appreciation, & celebration.

laurenwithmaptourguideOn Friday, Brian & I visited Elk Island National Park. We started with a Bison Backstage Tour, where our guide, Lauren, took us behind the scenes to learn about the management side of bison conservation in the park. For those of you not familiar with central Alberta, one of the great ironies of Elk Island is that it is not famous for elk at all, but rather for being a leader in bison conservation efforts! It is also the only completely fenced national park in Canada. On the south side of Highway 16, approximately 200 Woods Bison make their home, while the larger, north side of the park boasts over 800 Plains Bison!

Lauren filled us in on some of the historical forces that caused bison to reach the brink of extinction just over 100 years ago.

Then, we were able to explore the handling facility where the bison are captured, carefully managed & tested, then sent to auction or to other conservation sites around the world. Because the Plains Bison herd grows by 40% each year, & has no natural predators in the park, this is a necessary practice. I found it especially cool that last year the park donated two bison to the Enoch Elder’s Food Bank.

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I drive through Elk Island quite frequently, & even stopped twice last fall to hike, but it had never occurred to be that there must be a handling facility on site, & I hadn’t given much thought to the care & effort that goes into managing animals as enormous & important as bison. If you are at all interested in the history & management of bison, I highly recommend this tour. They run all summer on Saturdays & Sundays.

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This is what happens when you try to transport bison in a stock trailer!


After the tour, we headed across Highway 16 to the south side of the park, where there is one of the park’s 11 hiking trials; the Wood Bison Trail. One of my goals is to hike or snowshoe every trail at Elk Island, so I was pleased that Brian had agreed to come along on one of these adventures. The Wood Bison Trail is ~16 kilometres long & loops along Flying Shot Lake.

woodbisontrail

We set out around 2 o’clock & it took us just over three hours of hiking, plus a few breaks for geocachinggeocachewoodbisontrail to complete the trail. It was a beautiful day, & we combated the mosquitos with a few healthy doses of bug spray. tigerlilyyesTiger lilies, my favourite wild flower, were blooming all along the trail, & I couldn’t stop exclaiming over their beauty. The orange was incredible!
About 4 km in, we stopped so I could snap a few photos of them, grab some water, & take a bathroom break . . . just as a trail runner rounded the corner. I’ve never got my shorts up so quickly! It suffices to say he had a story to tell that night when he got home!

After some serious stretching, we drove back through the north side of the park hoping to spot a bison (we did!) & to kick back for a few minutes at the iconic Park’s Canada red chairs.

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Happy 149th birthday you beautiful country!

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