It’s been two months since I moved into my new home. Time flies!

Although I sold the previous condo on March 25, and then took possession of the new one on June 5, it wasn’t until the August long weekend that I could actually move.

In between I worked a lot of overtime, had a mishap getting the new place painted (yike$), and tried not to go crazy while living with my parents.

Now that I’m in my new place I’m almost (but not quite) settled in. Still a “few” boxes to take care of! But it’s been good. Very good, in fact. Much better than the previous place. It’s quiet, and appreciably soundproof. I don’t feel anxious anymore about having the TV or stereo on, or having a conversation. I can’t hear my neighbors except for the most obvious bumps and bangs, and then only from the neighbor upstairs, but not anything like what I experienced before. I no longer have to use earplugs to get any sleep! I still have some furniture to buy (shelving mostly), things to organize, and art to hang, but coming home isn’t a stressful endeavor that I’d rather avoid. What a relief.

My job has been overwhelming lately so getting back into my routine hasn’t been easy. A lot of overtime, and combine that with some family emergencies, well… Life has still been a bit of a challenge and I’ve struggled. I haven’t done as much creative work as I wanted, and feel like I basically missed most of the summer.

Thankfully, it hasn’t been all work and no play. Photo dump ahead!

Road Trip

In May, my friend Mat came for a visit. It had been three years since I’d last seen him in Iceland, and four since he’d last visited Canada, and we both needed a bit of a vacation. Very awesome to have a buddy come to see me simply because he could!

The last time he was here I treated him to Waterton, so this time we did something a bit different.

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The path travelled.

This road trip was spread over three days. We left for Lake Louise early in the morning and had breakfast at the Chateau, then headed up Highway 93 toward the Columbia Icefield.

The joke that Mat and I have shared for the last few years is that there must not be any animals in Alberta, because while I swore to him on his last visit that he was guaranteed to see bears and other wildlife while we were in Waterton, it was so bloody hot (36°C/96.8°F) that no self-respecting animal was going to be caught dead out and about where they could be seen. The best he saw on that trip was a curious ground squirrel in our campsite.

But this trip? We were barely a few hours out of Lake Louise when…

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Pretty bear!

We pulled out at a viewpoint at the side of the highway, intending to take a photo of the valley when this young female grizzly stood up directly in front of the car. Until then she had been hidden below the lip of the mountainside where she was busy eating fresh sprouts of grass. This shot was taken as she walked by the car, just 15-20 feet away. She was a pretty cool customer but we didn’t stay… A grizzly can open a car like a tin can if it wants!

It was a gorgeous spring day, and the highway didn’t disappoint for sights as we made our way toward the icefield.

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Peyto Lake

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The mountain pass was full of snow… Click for larger. (1830x315px)

When we finally arrived at the Columbia Icefield it was shocking (to me) to see how far up the valley the Athabasca glacier has receded. I can remember, as a girl (we’re talking mid-1980s), arriving at the parking lot just off the highway with my parents and more or less being able to step onto the glacier from there. Now? The only way to get onto it is to pay to take the crawler from the visitor center. Mat and I did this and on the way up the guide told us that at the rate the ice is melting (more than five meters of ice per year), the glacier will be gone within our lifetime. :(

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The Athabasca glacier has receded.

After riding the cat up and walking out on the 300m thick ice, we went to the new Glacier Skywalk. I have a small thing about heights but it was a pretty awesome experience (bratty Japanese tourists jumping up and down to make the thing sway more notwithstanding).

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The view from the Glacier Skywalk.

Let me tell you, you do feel that thousand feet of air when standing on a bridge of glass…

We were both lucky enough to see a mountain goat while on the Skywalk. Very rare!

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Goat!

After that came the long road to Edmonton. The drive was gorgeous and we drank in the sun and tunes. Mat is good company. :) Along the way there were signs to watch for caribou crossing the highway but unfortunately we didn’t get to see any. (That would have been a treat for both of us. I have never seen wild caribou before either.)

As we were leaving the park we were treated one last time:

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Snoozing in the afternoon sun.

A large herd of bighorn sheep had parked themselves right by the highway to have an afternoon snooze. There were multiple males like these ones, a dozen or more ewes and kids, including this happy bugger:

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All smiles.

Seriously, pretty sure there never was a happier sheep than this!

After that we drove on to Edmonton with the sun sinking behind the Rockies. Highway 16 is also a lovely drive but after the views along 93, it’s also pretty boring (hey look, more trees!) and we were both getting fairly tired. We made it almost all the way to the city limits on just one tank of gas—about 800km in all.

The next day was spent recuperating at West Edmonton Mall, where we watched the sea lion presentation, visited the sea caverns, saw Age of Ultron, ate a whole lot of delicious food, and walked our feet off while shopping. The day after that we headed out to Drumheller and the Royal Tyrrell Museum.

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An ancient tree.

Mat had never seen real dinosaur bones in person before, and it’s one of my favorite destinations. They had a lot of art on display by Julius Csotonyi which I enjoyed.

I think we read every single display blurb in the museum. :)

The garden has also been recently renovated and it was pretty cool to see the Metasequoia growing there. This tree is from the Cretaceous Period and has supposedly been extinct for 2.5 million years, but one was found still growing in China in 1941. These days its seeds have been spread around the world. It’s a conifer that loses its leaves in winter. Neat!

One area we lingered over the most had to do with the mass extinction 65 million years ago, including detailed information about the “K/T Boundary”. There were several very interesting placards about this including photos showing where it is visible in the Drumheller area. The most distinctive feature of the K/T Boundary of course is that non-avian dinosaur fossils are only found below it.

We drove back to Cochrane after that, and spent the balance of Mat’s visit sitting around the fire, playing games, and taking day trips to places like Longview for very delicious jerky. :D

We also had our own, um, pig roast.

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Oink!

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I’m burning! Burning!

Before arriving, Mat had joked about how he wanted to roast a pig while in Canada, so my mother scoured the dollar stores until she found this pinata. We had a good laugh as it went up in flames in the yard. :) Of course there was lots of BBQing of real meat too.

After all that, Mat went home. :( But he loved it here so much that he’s decided to try to immigrate! This is pretty exciting for me, since many of my friends live outside Canada. If all goes well it will be nice to have another local face.

Hopefully now that I’m getting settled, other things can start to get back to normal. I want to continue my Myst series entries and actually sit down to work on Heart of the Empire like I planned. More content for Solitary Pilot would be great too. We’ll see how it goes!