On the drive home from our last urban family vacation at the coveside cabins of Orcas Island we began hatching a plan for another trek, this time to the snowy foreign land of Canada. Despite having only a striking minority in our group having an interest in sliding down mountains, we nevertheless set out for a condo in Whistler. It had beds and a kitchen and a hot tub, was near a little skiing village, and included the distinct possibility of snowy adventures.
Carinna and I met our goal of reaching the highway before sunset, trunk filled with provisions (of the furry hat, snowshoe, breathable waterproof synthetics, and traction variety) for icy apocalypse, small bottles of coke zero, sweet and salty carsnacks, and a stack of freshly-burned compact discs. We crossed the truck route border (inadvertently), navigated around the exurban streets of vancouver, and wound along the twisty mountain roads well after nightfall. After many dark curves and glimpses of water, we were happy to stop at the first sign of civilization in what we imagined to be a roadhouse for dinner. Instead of the rough-edged driver destination, we instead found an upscale dining destination. Having no idea what might be ahead of us (a lot of chain restaurants, it turned out), we decided to stay.
Refreshed and refilled, we were back on the trek to meet up with our early-departing compatriots. We successfully located the condo village, found the hill, and spent about ten minutes driving in circles trying to uncover our designated parking spot. Around and around the roundabout we drove, attempting and reattempting to interpret, reinterpret, and decipher the innkeeper's instructions! In and out of various poorly market places we went, finally giving up to solicit advice from our pals. We unloaded our things, secured the car for the evening, donned our fur hats to lift our road weary spirits and snacked and chatted and generally debriefed. Some of us [them] piled into the deck hot tub and stayed up late watching DVDs about mammals late into the night. Others of us built sleeping piles for ourselves in the kid bedroom closet and tucked into sleeping bags for the night.
The next morning, the air was thick with bacon. Matt & Joy fortified us with brunchly delights and we eventually started to think about what exactly it was that we would be up to now that we were in this place. We wrapped ourselves in warm clothing, exchanged some currency, and caught a bus into the big city at the base of Blackcomb mountain. There, we sought advice from a person whose main job seemed to be selling vacation experiences. Our group divided itself among town crawlers, zipliners, and snowshoers. My party, the snowshoe delegation, found a rental shoppe, studied some maps, and crossed the field of car parks to find an easy cross-country trail to discover Lost Lake. Most people that we encountered on this trail made the walk without the benefit of noisy clawed footwear, but not us. We were adventurers, inventing new ways of walking over the crunchy ice! We saw dogs on the path and chipmunks in the forest, ice covered rivers and fish breeding grounds, but no bear. And then there was maybe the most idyllic lake scene of all time: magic hour light over the mountains, covered in ice and populated by skaters (almost always on the distant shore, despite our circumnavigation). That lake! It made me wish deeply for a pair of skates to fully take in its pleasures. Instead, though, we clomped across the snowy beach, and slid around in our boots. The ice kept cracking in its deep layers, setting off timpanic reverberations across the lake and around the trail.
With the sun falling, we returned to sip warm alcoholic beverages at the Amsterdam Pub. Soon, we were met by Andy, Ingo, and Megan who had taken in the charms of the village and the creek of diving birds. We shared our tales of adventure and caught a bus back to our homebase, picking up groceries and drinking supplies before suffering our way up the steep hill to our palace. After a while the treetop ecotourists returned and the Pixels prepared a feast for us. We all played a game of cranium [some abstaining more than others] and people talked about all of the toys and games of their childhood until it was time to sleep. [one of the hazards of lateblogging is not remembering everything and the order that it happened.]
The next day was the day of the mountain. After a Pixel brunch, I set off with Andy and Matt to see about some snowboarding [more of slowboarding, in my own rusty case, though my companions were nice enough to tolerate it]. We gondolaed up one mountain and across to another and went to top. On the back side we found a suitably intermediate zone and proceeded not to break anything. A couple hours, a few runs, and an eternal catwalk satisfied my outdoor needs; so I rode a chairlift back to the base and returned my rented gear while the others squeezed more fun out of the slopes.
We all reconvened in the village, the others having also taken the tourist trip across the mountains by gondola, and hopped around some bars, drinking from jugs, playing in the vicinity of the snow machines, and listening to a mismatched cover band playing by the light of a disco ball in a hilarious bar filled with Australians [just like all of the other establishments]. Back at home, Carinna prepared a mexican fiesta [group meal lessons well learned from the table 15 plan] and I chopped vegetables with the occasional break fordance parties in the kitchen. Later, we brewed up a pot of cabin juice and some people played high-stakes poker for puzzle pieces and small oranges, and we were treated to dramatic re-enactments of particular dancing styles. Some people sat in the hot tub and revealed secrets. At some point, we watched Heathers, which is a movie of one-liners, and a documentary about bug eating mammals.
The next day, it was time to say goodbye to our little house. Before going, we took a walk to (almost) the other side of the tracks. We bought tea and coffee from a very confused young man in a hotel cafe (where they also had Coke Zero in GLASS BOTTLES). We pulled down our earflaps and walked in the wind, back up the hill, and returned to finalize our departure by distributing foodstuffs and packing our bags.
On the way back to our homeland of liberty, we stopped at the duty free store to spend our last Canadian dollars and take in the majestic sights of the wraparound murals. This purchasing of tax free scotch, though, is what gets us into trouble. The exit from the parking lot takes us into something mysterious called the nexus line and it's separated from the rest of the lanes by four foot tall plastic poles. Does this line have something to do with having purchased something at the store? It does not. It is in fact for people with special cards who have everything about them known by the border guards. We do not have one of these cards. We can't turn around. So we get a sticker from the ornery guy at the booth and are hauled into the customs house to get a stern talking to and a slap on the wrist [via my passport] and a speech about how we could be fined $500 and if ever we are in a lane we should get out of it immediately because the poles are plastic and are meant to be driven over. Many people try our "excuse", it seems. It does not seem, at least to the border guards, that the signage is awful. He invokes the "diamond lane" and we don't know what he means until the third time he mentions it. But without too much trouble we are back on our way to meet our friends at a brewery in Bellingham and then back to Seattle to our apartments to fall asleep early and face the week ahead.