Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I've got a lovely bunch of.... stuff to write on here.

There have been things going on, and I haven't been writing about them. Slack. So here we go...

Lina and I guided a group of 6 fantastic folks from the UK on a trip for Great Explorations. The schedule was frantic. On the first day we drove to Squamish, did a mountain bike ride around Alice Lake, then hiked up and down the Chief and back in time for tea (just about). The following day Lina and I had the challenge of getting (luxurious) food for 8 people, for 3 days up to Garabaldi Lake... a 3 hour uphill hike from Squamish. We loaded ourselves up like packhorses and got on with the job. After hauling all that gear up the hill we were greeted by a view that made it all worth it.

I set about using the beautiful (and cold) lake as a fridge for our food. All the perishables were stuffed into a mesh bag that sank and buried under rocks at the bottom of the lake. Just be sure, I made a rope leash to prevent the food drifting away if it made a break for freedom. Maybe not the most convenient, but you can't argue with a swim-in fridge.

Our first culinary adventure was sweet and sour chicken with cashew nuts. The MSR rocket-engine plus little propane stove combination worked great for boiling lots of water to keep the cups of tea flowing. Seven Brits in one group means a lot of boiling water.

The next day we guided the group on Mt Price... a slightly vague trail followed by scree and a little snow patch crossing got us to the summit. It was fun to look out at the Sphynx glacier and the start of the Garabaldi Neve ski tour that I was on only a few months ago. Now I know what's buried under all that snow!

Day 2 dinner was chili with hand-made (with our own hands) guacamole. The fridge was working well... and my evening swims to catch dinner from the lake were very refreshing.

Day 3 had us hike up Black Tusk, a local landmark. Ken and I braved the sketchy, loose scramble up the volcanic plug. If I ever do that again, I'm taking a helmet! Dinner was I think our greatest triumph. Fresh lake-caught red pepper, mushroom, and chorizo in cheese sauce on pasta. Good stuff.

After some changes of plan, and frantic logistics, Day 4 worked out well. Lina guided the group out to the north where our van had been dropped, and I hiked back out to the south to my car with all the tents, the kitchen stuff, and spare food. My pack was pretty hefty, but I made it down fast and drove back to Vancouver to work.

While I was back at home getting along with the business of earning a living, Lina took the group up to Whistler for a couple of days of fine-dining, scenic biking, and a bit of whitewater rafting. I think I got the short end of the stick there. I met up with them all back in Vancouver and it looked as though everyone had a fine time. Ken wrote about the trip here, though something peculiar has happened to that page (on my computer at least) so the text is the same colour as the background. If you select it all, you can read it. Just like disappearing ink... without the lemons.

Please pause here for a cup of tea

Now, onto last week. I was lucky enough to visit all of Lina's family in Ontario. It was a bit of a last-minute decision to go, but turned into a really fantastic trip. Straight from the airport we set off for Lina's family's farm on Crow Lake in "Cottage country". On the way I started getting to know Lina's sisters Rasa and Asta and 2 year old nephew. Kiefer loves anything with an engine... truck, digger, motorboat, truck, truck, digger... etc. That's pretty handy when you're on the road for a few hours! We stopped off in Kingston, the town where Lina and both her sisters went to university. It was a good feeling to be surrounded by some attractive stone buildings. I've got used to Vancouver's wood and concrete architecture, but you can't take the Britishness out of a Brit. I like the odd bit of history.

We made it to the cottage in the dark, and I was struck by the clear sky full or stars and racket of crickets chirping in the bushes. The farm is a fantastic old building, surrounded by mysterious barns. The next day I was given the tour and thought how much of an adventure this place must be for children. Kiefer definitely loves the place.

We swam across the lake, paddled and rowed boats, had a campfire, ran, and jumped off rocks into the water. I even caught my first fish... with quite a lot of instruction from Lina's Dad.

Our next stop was Toronto to stay with Rasa and Mike. I've heard a lot of things about Toronto... and not all of them good, but I really liked the place. It's a big city, but full of interesting little neighbourhoods, it's right on Lake Ontario, and pretty bike-friendly. Thanks for the bike-tour Rasa! We made it out to the pub to meet some university friends of Lina's. The pub was in an old brick house, complete with sofas and piano. It was like a British pub from a parallel universe, which I suppose is almost exactly what it is.

Before heading over to London (Ontario, that is) for me to meet my final member of the family (Grandma) we visited Asta and Mike's place in Port Credit, just along the lake from Toronto. We were trusted to look after Kiefer for the night and did a pretty good job! Then we all (minus Kiefer) headed to Wasaga Beach... another bit of "cottage country". The event was the annual Lithuanian baseball weekend. It's been a while since I had a night out as strange as this, but we had fun and finished the night off with some sketchy camping on the beach in a storm. Good times.

Our last days in Ontario were filled with a Lithuanian cultural education for me (from Grandma), eating lots of food (from Grandma), eating lots of cake (from Grandma), and then a return to Port Credit. Keifer took to the slackline like a pro... though I think swinging on it and bouncing were more his thing than Lina's slackline yoga.

It was a really fun trip, and great to finally meet the people I've heard so much about. We'll be back for Christmas!