Category Archives: Adventures in YYC

Mountain Magic at Twin Falls Chalet

Twin Falls from a distance

When my daughters were young, I imagined sharing mountain time together. Of hiking and skiing in the backcountry. Of getting away together to places far from the maddening crowd, where Internet and cell phones did not interrupt being present in the presence of being together.

This weekend my youngest daughter and I created magic together on a trip into the backcountry to Twin Falls Chalet, a remote mountain lodge run by the irrepressible Fran Drummond.

It was a weekend of pure bliss. Of time to kick-back, relax, spend time with my daughter, and to push myself physically. It was also an unexpected gift to fall in love all over again with being in the mountains.

I had forgotten. Forgotten how mountain time, especially in the backcountry, is restorative and rejuvenating. And in this time of my rejuvenation post leaving the formal workforce, it was a welcome and much appreciated respite.

Beginning of our hike into the Chalet

The hike into Twin Falls Chalet is not a cakewalk, but it is beautiful. It’s just over 8 kilometers with about a 300 metre elevation gain to the Chalet. Lots of switchbacks and lots of views that take your breath away. (Our second day we hiked the 10km trail – up to the top of the falls (another 350 metres elevation gain) and then hiked along the Whaleback down to Marpole Lake and back to the Chalet — exquisite!)

Arriving at the Chalet Friday evening felt like finding Hansel and Gretels cabin in the woods, without the mean old witch stoking the fire.

Instead, you stumble into the Chalet to be greeted with a warm welcome and offer of coffee by its proprietor, Fran Drummond, a tiny speck of a woman with 82 years of life under her belt and an attitude that goes on into forever.

As my daughter and I were hiking out yesterday we talked about Fran and her incredible attitude. There’s no ‘end game’ for Fran. There’s just ‘the game of life’, and one she sees herself playing with every bit of her being until her last breath in some distant future. Fran sees herself going and going and going, continuing to run the lodge, which she’s overseen for the past 57 years, with the same passion and vigor she does now. She’s feisty, determined, stubborn and did I mention opinionated?

Sitting down to an incrediblely hearty and delcious meal at the large family style table includes Fran’s recounting of stories of her years spent hosting dinners and guests at the Chalet as well as her work in the oil patch as a librarian for a major oil company and a trainer. It also comes spiced up with her commentary of Parks Canada, how Canada is working (or not) and what the government, on every level is doing wrong (with a few rights tossed in with the same elan as the Amaretto she’d liberally sprinkled over the fresh peaches she’d hiked in earlier in the week that she served for dessert on Saturday night along with fresh baked Butter Tarts straight out of the wood burning oven). Fran is that unique ingredient that makes the stay at Twin Falls so enchanting, invigorating and fascinating.

At one point Fran told us that she was considering running as an MP for the PC party but she wasn’t sure she could take 4 years of living in Ottawa. “Why would you want to?” I asked.

“Because Canada’s not working,” she replied, nodding her head and giving us her mischievious grin and laugh. “Everybody’s got a responsibility to make it right and I can’t just give up.”

Giving up is not in Fran’s books. And, even though Parks Canada is looking to shut the chalet down at the end of this year for a major overhaul next spring that will see it out of operations for 2020, Fran is determined to fight them to the bitter end.

Having spent the weekend amidst the rustic and magical environment of Twin Falls Chalet listening to Fran share the history and lore of the area, I believe her. She will not give up.

I spent a weekend in the backcountry with my youngest daughter. It was a beautiful time spent connecting and communing with nature.

It was pure Love in action.

I forgot my reading glasses — which made reading and writing challenging. I also didn’t take in any paints and only had a ball point pen to work with.  it was kind of fun and challenging!

It’s Stampede time in the city! Yahoo!

 

I laughed yesterday as I stood on the street corner waiting for to cross. It’s Stampede time in the city and there are daily parades everywhere. The parade that was holding me up from crossing the street yesterday had horses and First Nation’s chiefs and a big Stampede float with a bunch of people sitting on it, laughing and waving at everyone standing by waiting for it to pass.

They waved and called out, “Yahoo!” and I waved back.

I did not yell out, “Yahoo!” That felt silly.

Which is what struck me most. How concerned I was with the opinion of strangers.

The desire to not look silly, to not make a scene, is buried deep in my psyche.  Perhaps it stems from childhood when I was always spinning and laughing and chattering about this and that and continually calling out for the attention of the adults around me.

Don’t be so ridiculous. Stop making a fool of yourself. Stop it! People are looking. Calm down…

My monkey-mind critter knows these phrases well. He likes to repeat them in the most inopportune times and while I know he’s only trying to protect me, his concern is grating. His caution limiting.

Like when I want to feel part of the excitement going on all around me, and he reminds me not to do it because he fears I’ll look foolish.

Seriously?

How silly is that?

A bunch of people are riding by on a float doing exactly what I’m afraid to do because I’m worried others will look at me and say, “Look at that silly person!”  People in all likelihood whom I will never see again, I might add!

How often does that happen to you? You want to leap in but hold yourself back from taking the plunge because you might look too enthusiastic. Too excited. Too different. Too… silly?

Let it go.

Let laughter be your answer. Let your enthusiasm carry you away from holding back and leap in!

It’s okay. People may not think you’re silly. They may actually think, I wish I was courageous enough to do that too!

It’s stampede time in the city. There’s all sorts of yahooing! goin’ on!  Think I’ll saddle up and ride me a cowboy!  No! Wait! That’s rude. That’s not appropriate!  Real women don’t talk like that!  At least that’s what the critter says.

But it is kinda funny that ole’ expression. Sort of a ‘turn the tables on the cowmen kind of talk.

Nevertheless, let sanity and good taste reign. What I meant to say was… Think I’ll saddle up and join the parade!

Yahoo!

The Road Less Travelled: Adventures in YYC

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The city core is filled with quiet spaces that invite walkers by to pause, catch their breath and sit awhile. In the west end of downtown there’s Poetic Corner, a tiny oasis of zen-like space designed to give passers-by pause to contemplate the giant arachnid sculptures perched on the stone steps.

On 7th Avenue, there’s the park by the NOVA building, complete with meandering streams and streaming waterfalls.

Yesterday, while walking to a meeting in the late afternoon, I passed the park at the MacDougall Centre, the southern offices of the Premier and found myself entranced by the sounds of the tumbling waterfalls, the firs whispering in the breeze and the birds chirping in their branches. I’ve passed this park many times and never taken the time to discover it. I’ve always been on my way to somewhere, a meeting, a lunch date, back to the office. I’ve always had a reason to hurry by.

It is the nature of being at home in the city.

While sitting with a couple of girlfriends on Monday sharing lunch at a local pub, I glanced out the window beside us and spied a Magpie hopping along the roof of an SUV parked beside the building.

“Isn’t that interesting,” I commented to my friends. “I see that Magpie and my mind immediately started to discount its presence.”

Magpies are everywhere in Calgary. They squawk and taunt from tree tops and where ever else they’re perched. They hop along lawns, willing errant squirrels and other rodents to chase them. In the sunlight, their feathers glimmer with pearlescent hues of green and blue and aqua. But mostly they’re considered a nuisance.
What struck me as interesting though was how watching that bird on the rooftop immediately took me back in time to a vacation in New Zealand. We’d gone for a month’s ski trip only to discover the snow was awful. So instead, we toured about the south island. One day, sitting in a pub chatting with my then husband and some other friends we’d met along the way, I spied a Kia hopping along the roof of a vehicle parked outside.

I thought the bird was cute. His antics amusing.

He’s a nuisance, our friends said.

I laughed and went outside to take his photo.

It’s all in our perspective.

Sitting in that pub in New Zealand, everything looked fresh and new. Everything was interesting. Nothing looked like a nuisance.

Sitting in a pub in Calgary, I see the world through my eyes accustomed to the everyday. Magpies are nuisances. Parks I pass everyday are just that. Everyday spaces I don’t have time to explore.

ThIMG_7316anks to the awareness gained through my observations of that Magpie, I took the time yesterday to stay awhile in the park at MacDougall Centre. I walked beneath the firs, skipped across the blocks of concrete that cross the stream at the top of the waterfall and sat on a bench in the late afternoon sun soaking in the tranquility of my surroundings, even as the city traffic scurried by on the avenues bordering either side of the park.

I didn’t hear them.

I was immersed in the beauty and wonder of the space that surrounded and embraced me. The space I was inhabiting in that moment.

I still made my meeting on time. The difference was, I carried with me the tranquility of that moment in time, when I stopped to take the road less travelled and savoured the world around me.

Or, in the words that end Robert Frost’s iconic poem, The Road Not Taken,
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.