Paid in Full!

We officially paid off our line of credit from the trip this morning.

I’m excited we’ll be starting 2017 debt free and will now be ready for new adventures. Like saving for retirement, supplementing post-secondary savings for the kids and starting a new savings account for more trips!

Our pre- and post- trip expenses were higher than we originally budgeted because we did some home renos before leaving including: new windows, a new front door, new eavestroughs, attic insulation, electrical improvements and squirrel removal. When we came home we had some more big expenses including property taxes, a new sofa and a full year of home and car insurance.

Fortunately we also had some big lump sums to offset these expenses including our tax returns and our child tax benefit which we received once we filed.

I’m including these expense details because they are part of the ‘how much does it cost to go away for a year’ discussion. And I hope to offer anyone who is planning to fund their own dream adventure a realistic idea of how to do it and what it costs. Because making stuff happen is a lot easier when you know how much it costs.


Here we are with Jasper’s new selfie stick, enjoying our cozy kitchen.

We have been having a great time connecting with friends and family and colleagues and classmates and neighbours.

Over the holidays we are excited about visiting with our beautiful family and playing in the snow.

Wishing all of you the most wonderful 2017,

Kathleen

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Arriving home, 12,800 kilometres later

After a fabulous ride from Buffalo, NY, to Brampton, ON, with stops to visit family in St. Catherine’s, Cambridge, Guelph and Toronto, we rented a minivan and drove home to Ottawa on July 28 in time for Grandma Barbara’s 73 birthday.

We live a ten minute walk from Grandma B’s condo and love dropping by and seeing each other often. A year apart (even with a fabulous visit in Utah half way through) was a long time for all of us.


These are all the boxes of random things we sent home to my mom along the way. We gave away more things at thrift stores, campground book exchanges and to folks we met along the way. One of the big things we learned was how little we needed – just one change of clothes, a few pairs of socks and underware and stuff to keep us warm and dry.

It was so fun and special to ride through Southern Ontario (where Derek and I are both from) and see our relatives. We have met so many amazing people on the trip and I really wanted to conclude by connecting with our family.

Some of the highlights include the kids demonstrating their cannonballs for my cousin Andrea and her partner Josh, Jasper calling Grandpa Wayne for a pick up at kilometre 95 on our way into Cambridge, Anna and I riding on (with all our panniers, of course) for the full 120km, our longest day of the whole trip. 

Jasper didn’t waste any time and hopped right on his Grandpa’s computer. Anna Sierra also didn’t waste any time and was baking with her Grandma, biking off to play tennis with her and generally catching up on all her favourite activities with one of her very favourite people.

Grandma Pat rode with us on the hottest day from Cambridge to visit two of her sisters in Guelph. Grandpa met us at Aunt Yvonne’s house with a huge picnic lunch. After a swim and a visit, we rode over to Aunt Adele and Uncle Peter’s and settled right in for a few days of long chats, big breakfasts, visiting with our cousin Heather and relaxing in Adele’s gorgeous garden. Usually we just share afternoon visits at big family gatherings, so we really soaked up our special time together and feel so much closer for it.

I felt really blessed that we were able to see both of my brothers and their beautiful families. These wonderful men were my first biking companions – my little brother and I even went on a couple of bike trips together in our early 20s – and I thought of them often throughout the trip.

And then we rode to Brampton, through the countryside by Georgetown where we saw fields of sunflowers and the most beautiful coyote bounding by and parked our bikes at Elaine and Johnny’s – Derek’s sister and our brother-in-law. They were on their way home from a cycling weekend away in Niagara. So we were able to have a moment of quiet reflection at the end of our ride with just the four of us. I cried. It is overwhelming to think of how far we’ve gone, how many incredible people we met and became friends with and that all four of us got along so well almost all the time. Derek and I exchanged high fives. We did it. We had a fabulous adventure and brought the kids home safe and sound and happy and strong too.

The next four days were one big party. My sister-in-law has become a big biker – she even switched teaching jobs within the Peel board so she could ride to work along the Etobicoke Creek pathway that is right behind their house. She commutes by bike year round now and is always adding new biking destinations to her routine. We rode all over the place with her and our niece Marlee – including to a thrift store for back to school shopping and to Brampton’s town square where there was a teen DJ session/karate demo on – after a quick lesson on correct tire pressure- they had been working extra hard on uninflated tires. In the evenings we’d stay up late catching up and learning about our niece Sophie’s job interviews and getting lessons on Snapchat from Marlee. Johnny even made Derek breakfast in bed one morning. It was awesome!




On August 1 we moved back home. Our tenants took very good care of it, cleaning the whole place and even planting us a welcome home tomato plant! It was a lovely feeling to be back home, in our own beds, on our own street, surrounded by friends and neighbours.

On August 2 I went back to work at EnviroCentre where I work on promoting sustainable transportation. It was great to catch up with colleagues – many who have been following along on our adventures via the blog – and find out about new and exciting projects on the go. 

While I was at work, Derek and the kids alternated between sorting out the house, going for big bike rides – no, 12,800 km clearly wasn’t enough! – and visiting friends. It’s taking me longer than I expected to reach out to all our near ones and dear ones. 

Getting used to being back at work takes energy and I’ve been coming home pretty tired. After a year of our little 4 person, 4 lb tent, I’ve been finding great joy and satisfaction is setting up our home – washing windows, painting, trimming the cedars, deep cleaning and organizing shelves and cupboards.


We are all happy to be home. The kids have been having a blast with their friends and are loving the freedom of wandering around the neighbourhood – something they didn’t do a lot of while we were travelling and always in new places.

Registering the kids for school couldn’t have been easier. Derek took them to the Board office and they were asked what grade they were going into. Anna Sierra answered 8 and Jasper answered 5. They filled out a little paperwork, gave their updated emergency contact info and were registered. That’s it! 

We were asked so many questions about homeschooling and if the kids would need to write a test to qualify them for the next grade or if they would be eligible to continue in French immersion. Derek and I had been told by the children’s teachers that the return would be straightforward, but it was still a relief to have it be so simple and welcoming.

A few days ago we had the pleasure of sharing a few stories about the trip with CBC’s Giacomo Panico, a fellow bike traveller who knows how magical exploring the world on two wheels can be. It was a lovely interview that you can listen to here. If you want to hear it on the radio, it will air again tomorrow (August 29) at 5:40am!

If we haven’t reached out yet, we will soon! I’m relishing taking time to properly reconnect with friends one at a time so we have a chance to really catch up.

Thanks for following along and for cheering us on. All your love and support and kind words and good vibes were wind at our back, making big climbs and long days (almost) effortless.

Sending all of you our warmest wishes,

Kathleen 

Homeward Bound – riding the rails from Whitefish, Montana to Buffalo, New York

We had a fabulous train trip from Whitefish to Buffalo. As these things are with three bikes and all our stuff, the logistics were a bit complicated but we pulled it off.

Our train left at 7:20am on July 17. Initially I thought we’d check our bikes, panniers and camping equipment in the night before, stay at a motel close to the train station and have an easy pack up on the morning we were to leave. But we found out that everything was booked solid or out of our price range. We decided to camp on our last night, check the bikes in and walk to the campsite. We booked a taxi to pick us up at the campsite.

Anna Sierra planned our menu for the two days we would be on the train – cereal, soy milk, oatmeal, sandwiches, cold pizza and pasta salad. She and I rode to the grocery store to pick everything up and drop it back at the campsite while Jasper and Derek packed the tandem.

I’m not going to get into the details, but Derek and I were pretty scrappy with each other over packing the bikes. Of course we resolved everything. 

But I’m mentioning it here because people often ask us how we get along so well as a family travelling together on such a big journey. I think we all try hard to work together, to accommodate each other and to let stuff go, but sometimes some of us are just scrappy and we need to give each other a little space and a lot of compassion.

Check out the awesome suitcase Derek and Anna Sierra found for just $3 at a thrift store – a great way to store panniers and meet the baggage limit.

We loved riding through Montana. It’s the fourth largest state, but with a population just over 900,000, it is very rural.



We all gravitated to the observation car with its big windows and chatty atmosphere. Through a partnership between the National Parks and Amtrak, Rails to Trails volunteers provided historical, geographic and cultural commentary as we travelled through the landscape. 

After a sleep, lots of delicious food and visits with other travellers, we arrived in Chicago for a 5 hour layover.

We checked our bags into the lockers and were ready to stretch our legs and explore the city.

Our favourite spot was Milenium Park, an incredible public space with outdoor concerts, rock climbing, walking, lovely gardens, an inviting wading pool and endless people watching opportunities.


After a good walk we were ready to get back on the train for another sleep. By 9:30 the next morning we would be in Buffalo, putting our bikes together and getting ready to ride to my cousin’s home in St. Catherine’s.

 

Cheers!

Kathleen

Crazy Times in Glacier National Park! A Journal Entry

This was a little delayed in publishing, but well worth a read!

Journal entry of July 9 and 10, 2016 — in Glacier National Park, Montana

 

Saturday July 9, 56 kilometres, Rising Sun Campground to Sprague Creek Campground, over Logan Pass (6647 feet)

Today was an incredible ride, a highlight of the whole trip. We got up for an “alpine start,” meaning you get up really really early to depart. We woke up at 5 but then snuggled for 10 minutes. Then everyone jumped into gear. I got breakfast ready while Anna, Kathleen and Jasper packed the tent and bikes. We ate a quick breakfast — although I probably ate for half an hour straight. Glacier and its environs are decidedly a “food desert,” especially for vegetarian no-milk no-peanut people like us. So the night before we had pasta and sauce with some raw carrots. I woke up at 4 AM with a grumbling stomach and a feeling of excitement for our early departure. I love mornings. 


Why the early departure?  We were going to climb the last mountain pass of our trip, the very Logan Pass we had briefly visited the day before, a pass of over 6600 feet, on the world famous Going To The Sun Road. The lack of shoulders, heavy traffic, and no bike regulations that limited where bikes could ride between 11 AM and 4 p.m. meant the earlier the start the better. So we had our earliest camping start ever, on the road at 6:02 am. The only time we left earlier was in Cuba when we weren’t camping and skipped breakfast — we left at 5:58.

The road was empty, the light on the mountains was stunning, and the weather was cool and dry. We rode up and up and up, the kilometres ticking by at a comfortable pace. We savoured this pass, appreciating how much sweeter the experience was on a bicycle versus in the shuttle bus.

It was also slightly sad as it was our last pass.

We reached the top before we knew it, climbing through a tunnel and zigzagging around the mountains. At the top we paused to snap a photo, chat with some admiring Americans, go to the bathroom and then down we went.

We didn’t want to push our luck with the weather and their were grey clouds approaching. So down we went, flying gleefully down a road carved out of the cliff, going the same speed as the other vehicles. Stunning views and more mountains flew by and I couldn’t keep the smile from my face. When we got to the bottom we biked alongside a rocky river, the Flathead River, with turquoise water rushing between purple cliffs and over ledges. We stopped in at Lake MacDonald Lodge to try and find some food and found very expensive limited options. We camped at Sprague Creek and then jumped the shuttle to Apgar Village. Still no decent food. So we headed back to camp with more pasta and sauce  and some other random food items, such as cheese, individually wrapped bagels a tiny 6 dollar jar of huckleberry jam and some greasy nacho chips that no-one liked but me.

 

We made a haphazard dinner and head off to bed, when the story usually ends, but not tonight. After the kids fall asleep, while Kathleen and I are reading in the tent around 9:30, we suddenly hear a loud sharp bang followed by panic and commotion from the campsite beside me. Kathleen and I pause and look at each other in surprise and bewilderment. Then we hear something about a gunshot and I leap out of the tent, scrambling to find the first aid kit, thinking someone has been shot. Kathleen stays in the tent with the kids.  When I emerge I see three women from the neighbouring campsite frantically getting into their car and driving erratically away. There path was blocked by an incoming SUV. The women looked at me and said “tell them it is an emergency!” and so I motioned to the SUV to pull into our parking spot and let the car,a blue Ford Probe, leave. The car goes another 200 feet and parks by the camp hosts’ site. Meanwhile other campers converge on the road trying to piece together what happened. One woman is dead certain it was a gun. The man driving the SUV mentions a woman in black walking away from the site where the noise came from. After trying to comprehend the situation, I head over to the blue Ford Probe, thinking they may have accidentally discharged a firearm and someone may be hurt. The three women are talking to the camp host and quickly let me know they are all fine before they jump back in their car and screech out of the campground. There is an unsettling quiet. No police, no sirens, nothing. So,as the situation seems to have calmed down I crawl back into the tent and go to sleep.  

 

 

Sunday July 10, The Highline Trail starting at The Loop and ending at Logan Pass. 3000 ‘ elevation gain approximately

 

The next morning I chat with the newlyweds from South Dakota camping near us. It turns out they were evacuated in the night, as the whole campground was.  A man fired a gun on the beach maybe 200 metres away from where we slept. 8 rangers descended on the campground shortly after I fell asleep.  After a brief negotiation, the man surrendered and was taken into custody for a psychiatric evaluation –he was talking of suicide.  Apparently he had gotten into a fight with his girlfriend, who was the woman in black who ran away from the gunshot initially. I confirmed the story when I read about it in the local newspaper two days later. What a crazy night. But not the end of craziness in Glacier National Park though.

Here’s a link to a news article about this incident: Standoff in Glacier Park ends peacefully

Kathleen here: You might be wondering what we were doing sleeping in our tent after a gunshot went off in the campground. When I heard the shot and saw a woman running down the path, I assumed a bear was in camp and someone had shot a warning shot to scare it away. (It is legal to carry a loaded gun in Montana, but not to discharge it in a National Park). After Derek found out no one was hurt, I thought it was safe to go back to sleep. Later in the night, I woke up and needed to go pee. When I peeked out of the tent, there were lots of people walking around in twos, with flashlights. We later learned this was the rangers evacuating anyone who wasn’t in their tent, but I thought it was still about the ‘bear’ – lots of people also needed to go to the bathroom and were going in twos. Our neighbours told us the next morning they let the rangers know we were sleeping in our tent during the campground evacuation and the ranger had said as long as we were in our tent it was fine, they just didn’t want a lot of campers milling about while they were negotiating with the person on the beach who had a gun. Eventually it was quiet and I went pee and then fell asleep. Which just goes to show that your experiences can be heavily shaped by your assumptions. The kids slept through everything.

 

That morning we pack up and jump on the early morning shuttle heading back up to Logan Pass.  Keeping in mind that we love a challenge, and that it is best to get on the shuttle at the beginning of the route, we decide to go UP the Highline Trail instead of descending it as the majority of hikers do. This added about 2200 feet of elevation gain to our hike. This time we are fully prepared for mountain hiking with full rain gear,a complete change of clothes,cold weather gear, bear spray, food,water and iodine pills to purify more water if necessary. We headed off in bright warm sunshine,with 360 degree mountain views of deep valleys and snowy Rocky mountains. As we ascended, 2 different groups of hikers mentioned a bear on the trail ahead of us. Fortunately it was a black bear, not a grizzly. We started to sing songs, make up poetry, and recount Vinyl Cafe stories to make sure the bear knew we were there. We never did we a bear, but we really enjoyed Anna,’s retelling of “Christmas at the Turlingtons” and jaspers’ rendition of “My dad is dying.”  We ascended 6.4 kilometres to a beautiful mountain top chalet where we picked up some chocolate bars and snacks,took a brief stop,and continued on to complete the remaining 12 kilometres of rolling traverse to Logan Pass. The views continued to be mindblowing. The weather turned darker,cooler,and soon a light rain was falling. We headed on and saw a rescue copter swoop down to a group of hikers who had waved to them. As the helicopter ascended again we could see a look of irritation on the face of the paramedic. Lesson learned–never wave or signal a rescue helicopter unless you have reason to!

 

At this point the kids were hiking ahead of us–there were dozens of people hiking the opposite direction on the trail and the trail was open with clear sightlines in every direction, so we felt they were safe. We rounded a valley and saw the rescue copter still,stationary on a piece of snow on the trail. A pilot was standing nearby so I asked him what had happened as we passed. He mentioned a hiker was sick and needed to be airlifted off the trail. We hiked on and can across 2 paramedics and a ranger accompanying a woman down the trail back to the helicopter. A few minutes later we came across 2 more rangers huddled with a woman with her leg in a makeshift splint. She was also waiting for an airlift as she had dislocated her knee.

 

And then ,maybe 10 minutes later,we heard a piercing scream from ahead of us on the trail. Kathleen and I broke into a run, fearing the worst.  When we emerged from some trees we saw Anna Sierra on the ground surrounded by 2 rangers,and Jasper standing nearby. Anna had been hit in the shoulder by a falling rock about the size of a cantaloupe. The ranger thought it weighed about 8 pounds. Initially we feared the worst,but a physical exam revealed that she only had scrapes on her arm, and she had no significant pain when moving her arm or hand. Jasper too was spooked by the event,as the rock had also glanced off his bum.  We continued on hiking as we still had at least 2 kilometres of rough hiking to get to Logan Pass, and the rain was off and on. The hike was beautiful but we were very glad to finish it!
At the end there were about 45 people waiting for the shuttle that seats 14, but I was able to convince the volunteer to let us on so we could get Anna down the mountain quickly. On the bus we met a kind family from Chicago who really lifted the spirits of the kids. Were we ever relieved when we finally reached our campsite again!

Here’s a hyperlink to a news article about THIS incident:  Two Hikers Rescued from Glacier’s Highline Trail

 

Looking back I think these were two of the strangest days of the whole trip!

 

Derek

Whitefish Lake State Park LOVES Cyclists

During our stay the park has been busy improving Hiker/Biker facilities.

First came the giant covered picnic area:


Then all the bike racks:


I was wondering what the concrete ‘stepping stones’ were.

Yesterday electricity was hooked up to the shelter so folks using phones for navigation can get everything charged:


Those concrete slabs are where new bear-proof food lockers will go. There already are a few but they are a short walk away.

Thanks Whitefish! And at $12 a night per tent and with a no bike or hike camper turned away policy, you really feel welcome here.

We’ve checked out bikes into the train and will head off for Buffalo bright and early tomorrow morning. 

Cheers!

Kathleen

New blog post segment: Journals!

Hello everyone, after reading a great book called Let Them Paddle, about a family that does a lot of wilderness canoe tripping, Anna Sierra and I decided to write a journal of our trip.  So, as we are starting it late in the game, we are going backwards and writing journal entries.  Kathleen likes the journal entries so much she insisted that we post them on the blog as soon as we can.  So we will be posting them in an unusual order, as we finish them and as we get computer access.  I hope you enjoy them!

Derek

Cuban Connections and Epic Hikes

Cycling in Cuba was amazing. We had 2.5 glorious months of cycling, learning Spanish and meeting amazing people – both from Cuba and around the world.
We’ve had a chance to visit with three of the couples we met while cycling in Cuba. Reconnecting has been incredible because we share a love for Cuba and now we have been able to share our friends’ lives back home. I’ve already shared our awesome adventures with Thom and Karen on Bainbridge Island. And we’ll dedicate another post to Lise and John, our good friends in Invermere. 

In Banff we were able to go for an epic hike with Linda and Ralph, our friends from Calgary. When they last saw Jasper we were still treating his foot for what we thought was shingles but what turned out to be a beach parasite. They were so happy to see him all better and full of energy. 

Linda and Jasper had lovely chats on the shaded rocking swing in the rooftop garden of the Casa Particular we shared in Cuba and were particularly thrilled to catch up with each other.
Being tourists, we invited Linda and Ralph to hike up to the gondola with us. They politely but firmly told us there were much more spectacular and less busy hikes and would pick us up from our campground and take us to a trailhead with a hike we’d all love. 


The next morning, they arrived in their minivan with Mike and Jocelyn, a father-daughter dream team of world travelling cyclists from Florida who would be staying at their AirBnB. We picked a hike from Lake Annette – close to Lake Louise – with an option of a connection with Sentinel Pass. 


The hike was incredible. Anna Sierra and Jasper scampered along at the front of the pack telling Linda all their stories and quizzing her with their collection of homemade riddles – the kind where you’re stuck in a room and need to escape by doing things like breaking a mirror into three pieces, using those pieces to make a whole puzzle, then climbing through the (w)hole and using a whisk to whisk yourself home. They are quite clever, but require a lot of mental power and sometimes a lot of hints to solve. 
Linda remembered encouraging her sons along on hiking trails when they were younger and was game for hours of riddles.
Soon we were crossing a glacial river and arriving at a quiet, stunning lake lined by larch trees. I loved chatting with Jocelyn and hearing about her many long distance bike trips with her dad. She started bike tripping when she was in 5th grade by training for a 15 mile ride with a series of Saturday morning 5 mile rides! Her dad came along as a chaperone and got hooked on bike travel. Now they’re well on their way to circling the planet. So inspiring! 
While we hiked past evergreens and through ferns, I asked Jocelyn about saddle sores. I’d been having some issues for the last couple of months and wondered if there was some magical trick to eliminating them besides hygiene, dry bike shorts and rest. It’s a discussion I’ve wanted to have with another woman who rides a whole lot, but you need to get to know each other before you can launch into saddle sores! She assured me that I wasn’t missing anything. Although she uses a Brooks saddle and doesn’t wear padded shorts as they get pretty sweaty. 
As our trip leader, Linda mediated the decision making discussions at each point as we were choosing to continue on the trail or turn back. The trickiest decision came when we were looking up at Sentinel Pass and seeing snow on the trail. There was some loose rock at the top of the path and the snow looked like it would definitely be cold and possibly slippery for those of us hiking in sandals. 


While we waited to ask a couple we spotted hiking down the pass towards us about the trail conditions, we got to watch sun warmed snow on the mountains far on the other side of the valley turn into mini avalanches. Jocelyn (from Florida), Anna and Jasper and I had never seen (or heard) anything like it and could have sat all afternoon watching the snow fall in waterfalls and listening to its delayed thunder. Derek’s hiked in Nepal and so had already seen avalanches.
After some discussion (and consultation with the hikers), we decided to split into two groups. Linda and Mike would circle back to the trailhead, fetch the van and meet us at Renald Lake. The rest of us would climb up and over the pass, led by Ralph the Intrepid.


All was well until the last 500 metres when the trail disappeared beneath the snow and we were climbing up loose rock, trying to find the trail and reach the top. At first the kids were eager trail blazers, but after dislodging several loose rocks that seemed like that might tumble down on me, Jocelyn and Ralph, they lost some of their nerve. 


Gingerly, with lots of communication about safer and more unstable routes and any small rocks that actually fell, we all made it up to the top safely.
The view from the top was spectacular. We shared a few handfuls of granola and some maple cookies and were soon ready to descend into a valley bordered by ten gorgeous peaks – Ralph told us it was a view featured on the $10 bill. The hike down to meet Linda and Mike was lovely and we celebrated an amazing day together with a big dinner at the hostel.
It was a glorious day in a beautiful place with incredibly beautiful people. A real memory maker!
Love,

Kathleen 

12 years old and 12,465 kilometres

In just a few days (on July 15), Anna Sierra will turn 13. 
We’ll be in Whitefish, Montana, a hub of bike touring, with several of the Adventure Cycling Associations cross country trips passing through, so we’ll be in fine company with lots of other bike travellers at the Whitefish Lake State Park and in town. 

We’ll go for a big hike on her special day and plan to take her white water rafting when we’re back in Ottawa and the Rapids are fun but the rivers aren’t glacial!


We feel so lucky that we were able to spend her whole 12th year with this incredible young lady, our amazing daughter, Jasper’s amazing sister. 


Together we’ve ridden 12,460 kilometres – more than 1000 kilometres for each year of her life! For a kid who loves riding her bike as much as this one does, it’s been a great way to spend her 12th year.

Thoughtful, kind, generous and funny, she is wonderful company. I feel so grateful that we’ve ridden close together almost all year. It is such a privilege to be with her, sharing stories and experiences and just watching the world go by as we pedal along each day. 

Both kids now officially know all the funny and interesting part time jobs Derek and I have ever had – from my tree planting, book store and day camps to his pizza delivery, house painting and golf course watering. 

We’ve told these stories to pass the time or when the landscape we’re riding through brings back a memory. I’m glad we’ve had all the time in the world for these stories, for the kids to learn our histories. 


Like the mountains she is named for, Anna Sierra is strong, solid, fierce, beautiful and loyal. We call her our mountain goat because she’s first up every pass, dancing on her pedals. 

The only real conflicts we’ve had on the trip is over how much weight she’s allowed to carry – she always wants to take more than her share of the heavy stuff. This is really helpful when we’re fully loaded after a grocery store stop, but even though she’s powerful, her young body is still growing and we want her to be able to enjoy it pain free for her whole life. There’s always a balance.


And for capable, ambitious, hard working young women, learning how much is actually your part or your responsibility and learning to be happy with good enough are some of the most valuable lessons for living a happy, less stressed life.


These may be lessons she’ll need to learn herself – most important life lessons are. But we’ve had lots of time to talk about them and to demonstrate them this year. And along with our celebration of good enough, Derek is always up for going with his girl right to the top of a peak or to squeeze in a lap around a lake. Because sometimes you do want to push yourself and do it all.


Anna Sierra loves hiking and picks the most challenging and breath-taking hikes for the whole family to enjoy. We’ve seen some of the most stunning views in Jasper, Banff, Waterton Lakes and Glacier Park because of her. I love her deep appreciation for wild places and the way her soul soars when she’s moving outside.


This girl loves animals. I’m so happy we’ve been able to ride to a seal sanctuary in the Netherlands, a crocodile hatchery in Cuba, a beach full of farty elephant seal pups on the California coast, to campgrounds frequented by harbour seals on Salt Spring Island and to endless gorgeous hills and mountains in Washington, BC and Alberta where we saw so many bald eagles, ground squirrels, mountain goats, big horn sheep and black bears. So far our black bear count is 8 and every sighting has been safe. It is an honour to see these beautiful creatures in the wild.


And of course our repertoire of “Why did the chicken cross the road?” jokes is extensive after passing by all the free range hens and roosters in France, Colombia, Cuba and parts of the States.
Unlike the rest of us professional chatters, Anna Sierra would mostly rather ride than stand around getting to know random people – even if they are interesting. Lately when she’s felt impatient with the rest of us standing around chatting while the open road is calling, she bikes off and waits for us at the top of a hill or the first fork in the road. We get the hint and wrap things up. I can tell she’s going to relish more freedom to go at her own pace when we’re back home instead of always travelling together. 


But whenever we have a chance to stay with old friends or new friends and especially whenever there’s a chance to get to know a little one, Anna Sierra forms a deep bond. I love this playful, creative side of her. She has endless patience for imaginary trips and tea parties and rereading favourite books. Those are her favourite visits.


A gifted storyteller, Anna Sierra keeps us all rivited when she makes up tales while we’re riding or hiking. She and Jasper love nothing more than scampering off on a hiking trail ahead of us, telling each other stories. 

It’s awesome how these two monkeys get along and look out for each other and love sharing adventures. 

It has been magical watching both kids learn and grow. During our time in France it was fun to see them using their French so fluently and in Cuba they quickly picked up Spanish. These languages they’ll be able to draw on and grow all their lives to connect with and understand folks all over the world. 

While we were in Jasper, Anna Sierra noticed all the businesses were hiring and plans to return someday for a summer to this glorious land of mountains she has just started exploring. 

She loves delicious, healthy food. After several days in Glacier National Park where what we had marked on our map as grocery stores turned out to be gift shops with a few convenience items – way too many individually packaged bagels and jam, chips, eggs and even Mr. Noodle – she was over the moon to find a real grocery store with yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, beans and crunchy veggies here in Columbia Falls. Tonight she picked out pasta salad (cooked by Jasper to perfection) with colourful peppers, three different beans, celery and fresh dressing – so delicious! 
The world is wide open for this amazing girl. She’s really looking forward to catching up with her dear friends, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. 

Exploring the magnificent rocks of Utah with Grandma Barbara and biking around Portland with Grandma Pat and Grandpa Wayne were two big trip highlights for this adoring grandkid. 

But I know she’s just started exploring and I’m so happy we all got to be such a big part of her adventures during her 12th year as she moves gracefully from childhood towards adolescence. But no matter how big she gets, she’ll always be our girl!
We wish her the happiest of birthdays and look forward to all the magic 13 will bring. 

Happy birthday darling!

We love you so very much!