Bento Box Bits of everything

20Sep/062

Seattle: 1 year and fifty-two days

Cliche, but it really seems like only yesterday that I was still living in San Francisco and Millbrae. I barely got to taste what it was like to be a real San Franciscan, be close to my friends, and do random shit on a whim. Either way, I think I would have grown as a person, just in a different direction.

If I stayed in San Francisco, I probably would have become more social and meet new friends through others. However by becoming a Seattlite (or Issaquahian), I've completely turned into an active, outdoorsy person. Not to say that I wasn't active in the Bay Area, but that was mainly just indoor sports and being a gym rat. Since moving here, I've been snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking, biking, playing tennis and in general, just being in the sun more.

Maybe its the friends I've made here, or maybe it's the easy accessibility of all these activities, but I'm surprised I never did this kind of stuff back in the Bay Area.

Now that it's starting to cool down and rain again, I've reverting back into the same wintertime activites of last year: going to the gym, playing videogames, and learning guitar. Maybe I'll try to play some badminton or racquetball; but it's really hard finding a partner for that kind of stuff. I'm leaning toward doing anything that's free though; I'm trying to pinch and many pennies as I can in preparation for maybe/kinda/sorta becoming a homeowner. But I'll save that for a blog entry some other time.

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10Sep/066

LABOR* Day weekend in Banff

It's been a long and busy week and I finally got the chance to sit down and write a blog entry. This past week I've been stressed out with work and other important life decisions. I decided not to buy a car but instead try to get something more significant. With the barrage of life stress and work stress, I noticed that I tend to pig out in these kind of situations. I'm pretty sure I am a stress induced binge-eater. Back in college I would gorge myself on junk food to get myself through finals and here now I find myself working late at the office, ordering pizza, and devouring all of it.

Or maybe the binge eating has carried-over from my past weekend trip to Banff with Pat and Heather. I took Thursday and Friday off from work and we started the 12-hour roadtrip from Seattle to Banff Thursday morning. Everything was planned last minute since Heather had only returned one day prior from a month-long backpacking trip in Europe. I had originally planned to go to Bumbershoot and see tons of bands, but Pat convinced me that I wouldn't have many chances in my life to go to Banff. Plus, he was driving, so I couldn't pass up that opportunity.

For those that don't know, Banff is a National Park in Alberta, Canada. Banff is a small town in the Canadian Rockies and in the winter time, it becomes a ski resort similar to Whistler, BC. Think of it as the "Yosemite," of Canada.

The 12-hour drive wasn't nearly as bad I was expecting. Having good company definitely helped pass the time. We all brought plenty of music to listen to, so it was fun discovering the different music we all like. We each took turns playing DJ; Pat and Heather had stacks of CDs and I plugged in my new Sansa Mp3 player through Pat's tape adapter.
Notable things on the drive there: saw two overturned semis, and stopped at an A&W for some poutine. I was making a big hubbub about poutine since I've been wanting to try it ever since I read internet threads about it. This Eastern Canadian snack was on my to-eat for a long time and I finally had a chance to try it. Poutine is french fries, gravy and cheese curds; what makes this dish unique is that it is only available in select regions, mostly Eastern Canada in fast food places. Cheese curds aren't readily available everywhere since it is pretty much "pre-cheese," which isn't very popular with the masses.


Poutine was everything I believed it to be: addictive delicious junk food.

We got into Banff at night around 9 and immediately looked for a place to eat. We decided on Earl's since it was a relatively safe choice and we hadn't yet done any research on restaurants in the area. It was a less an average Earl's experience since the steak I ordered was a bit tough and the half litre wine I ordered was not to my liking. I ordered a Chilean Shiraz and made the mistake of not asking for a taste before I ordered it. The wine came and it was much too tart and sharp to my liking, unlike any other Shiraz I've had before. I drank only a little bit and felt so guilty about asking Heather to share it that I ended up footing the bill for the wine so I would feel better about not making someone pay for shitty wine that I ordered.


Banff Ave at night - very similar to Whistler village

We stayed at the Ptarmigan Inn which is right on Banff Ave- the main artery of the town. It was only a very short walk to downtown Banff, so we commended ourselves on choosing a decent hotel with a great location.

We ordered breakfast in bed the night before to get ready for our early morning start on Lake Minnewanka, which according to the mountain biking forums was a "must-do" for the area.

Lake Minnewanka was a short drive Northeast of Banff and turned out to be a very scenic area as well as a fun, challenging trail. It was a good idea for us to start early before most of the sight-seeing hikers got on the trail; we didn't see anyone on the trail as we were biking up the mountain. We only started encountering droves of hikers as we were heading back around lunch time.


Lake Minnewanka

The climb up

Shakey picture of the trail

All of us taking a break from the exhausting hike-a-bike-a-thon

The spectacular views - well worth the biking
Danger was our middle name


Heather and I needed many breaks to keep up with "Iron-man" Pat

We returned to get some lunch and then hit up the visitor center to see what else we could check out with the rest of our day. We decided to check out some interesting rock formations left over by the receding river water. The Hoodoos (rock formations) were located near Bow River which yielded some great landscapes.


Hoodoos

Taken from along the Hoodoo Trail

HDR picture of Bow River (my first HDR!)

We then made our way to Johnson Canyon to see the waterfalls there. It was a 4km hike one-way but at least we got to hear Heather's embarassing tales of drunkenness.


HDR pic of the lower falls

Tired and hungry, we made our way back to the hotel and got ready for dinner. We planned to go to the hot springs after dinner but it turned out to just be a crowded tiny swimming pool. We were hoping for an outdoor "natural" hot springs setting, so we decided to pass on paying to soak in an infested tub of strangers and just hit the whirlpool back at the hotel. And so ended day 1; I announced that we were going to sleep in the next morning since there was no way I could wake up early after the biking and hiking. My legs were like jello at the end of the day.

Day 2 we opted for the luncheon buffet at the Fairmont at Lake Louise. I figured that since we were on vacation to enjoy ourselves that we shouldn't skimp on food and maybe even indulge ourselves one time. The Fairmont was set on the edge of Lake Louise and yielded beautiful views of the lake while we gorged ourselves.


The Fairmont at Lake Louise

After lunch we took a hike around the Lake - which by the way, was SPECTACULAR. It had a beautiful emerald color, which according to wiki: The unique emerald colour of the lake comes from rock flour carried into the lake by melt-water from the glaciers that overlook the lake.


The three of us at Lake Louise


We then made our way up to Lake Agnes, which was about a 4km one-way hike from Lake Louise. I haven't done uphill hiking/walking like that in a while. Hiking is harder than I thought!


Yes, the Lake really IS that color.

A panorama shot of Lake Agnes

Lake Moraine

We took a quick stop at Lake Moraine on our way back and then decided to some more biking since we already had our bikes along in the car. We stopped near the Fairmont in Banff to bike along the Spray River. The biking was easy and was pretty much like biking on a gravel fireroad. We ended our day with dinner at a hotel restaurant and then with some Poutine from a pizza shop.

The biking, hiking, and sightseeing was amazing, but most of all - it was the poutine that topped off the spectacular weekend.


Farewell, my love.

As always, check my flickr for more pictures and for hi-res shots.
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