Banff, bears, boyfriend, oh my!

October 22, 2017

(Originally posted on my old personal blog, Adventures with KHill!)

Also bears, beets, battlestar galactica. The Office, anyone? Hello world! I’m writing this in the notepad on my phone to put in a blog post whenever I have internet again. Currently enveloped in my sleeping bag in our tent at one of only two campgrounds still open for the season in Yellowstone National Park. “Huh, isn’t it a little worrisome that only two campgrounds are still open?” I wondered as we looked at our lodging options online a few nights ago. “Like maybe it’s way too cold or something?” To my dearest boyfriend, though, the situation was more like, “Wow, we’re so lucky! Two campgrounds to choose from!” So here we are. It is, in fact, absolutely frigid at 6000+ elevation with insane winds and more than a little snow. Not too cold for bears and bison and other wildlife that could kill me, though. I’m actually just writing to distract myself from my toes feeling like they’ll fall off at any second and the vigorous rustling outside my tent that could be a strong gust but could also be a hungry grizzly. At least I’m not melodramatic or extremely paranoid or anything. Really though, this has been the most challenging camping night so far and I’ve still been having a wonderful time! So much has happened since I last wrote about our travels. It’s like I’ve lived a hundred lives since then, and almost all of them have been in this two-person tent that gets smelly when Stephen takes his shoes off.

When we left Victoria (where I last updated this blog during a three-hour Starbucks squat), we took the ferry from Sidney, BC, back to Anacortes, Washington, and drove on down to a campground in a state park called Cape Disappointment. Yes, really. We got there late at night after a long travel day, so we saw the cape the next morning and it was totally not disappointing! It was actually really beautiful — ocean, cliffs, a lighthouse, lots of hiking trails — and I met two perfect basset hounds on the beach. It’s apparently called Cape Disappointment because of some fur trader who was looking for trade along the northwest coast and couldn’t find any, so he turned around at this cape, feeling disappointed. Unfortunately for him, if he had sailed the teensiest bit further, he would have hit the jackpot by finding the mouth of the Columbia River. This is why we shouldn’t let old white guys name things (see also: Grand Tetons). But really, why wouldn’t they have changed the name by now? Does it not hurt tourism? So many questions, but no one asked my thoughts.

Sorry about the wiener who named you, Cape
Sorry about the wiener who named you, Cape

From Cape Not Disappointing, we went on to Portland, which was cool but which we had also not done our research on. We stayed at an Airbnb with a super friendly host who was also from the south! He probably thought we were lame, though, because we were so sleepy and had so little idea of what to do in Portland that we hardly left the apartment. We did get donuts at Voodoo Doughnuts before we left, though, (#doitfortheinsta) and they left me with a good taste in my mouth about the city (taste! Kaitlyn! You’re so funny!).

*cue Nick Jonas’s underrated song, ‘Voodoo’*
*cue Nick Jonas’s underrated song, ‘Voodoo’*

Then we headed on to the purpose of our venture into Oregon, which was Crater Lake National Park. My friend Laura had been working there since May and was leaving when the lodge closed this week, so we caught up with her and met other friends of hers there. It was so much fun! Laura took us on a beautiful hike on our first full day, which gave us an incredible view of the lake. It is so huge, which I did not realize. It really is like a giant mountain caved in and filled up with water. The name is quite literal, go figure. It was also cold and windy, which seems to be a trend at high elevation, and the next couple of days were very smoky due to a controlled burn nearby. You couldn’t see a lot through the smoke, but we were happy to drive to see the things we could see and hang out in the lodge or elsewhere indoors with Laura and her friends. We also had a cool campsite just outside the park that didn’t get quite as cold and never got smoky. 

Thanks for showing us your park, Rolla!
Thanks for showing us your park, Rolla!

After Crater Lake, we actually returned to Seattle for a few days to see one of our best friends who was in town for work. We got to sneakily stay in his swanky hotel room, eat a lot of good food, and sleeeep in warm beds. It was awesome. We also celebrated our 5th anniversary there, sort of, but saved the real celebration for… going back to Canada! We left Seattle for Vancouver, stopping along the way to see an abandoned mining town in the North Cascades called Monte Cristo. It was really cool to see, but also an 8 mile hike, so my lil legs were exhausted and Stephen rewarded me afterward with McDonald’s biscuits. We stayed the night with Stephen’s grandpa in Vancouver again before heading on to Alberta and Banff National Park! This park was a top priority for both of us and we were so happy that we could make it there. We actually stayed in a hostel, which was a great choice because — you guessed it — cold, and spent a couple of days exploring Banff and the surrounding area. It. Was. BEAUTIFUL. We were surrounded by massive, snow-covered mountains, saw the insanely stunning Lake Louise, and spent time in a couple of cute alpine villages. We also explored the most beautiful hotel that we could never afford and mooched off their free wifi. Uncharacteristically, I let Stephen talk me into going to a hot springs pool, which was like a giant hot tub with a bunch of other tourists with pool noodles. It was funny and weird but nice. At our hostel, we shared a room with some Canadians and Germans, which was cool even though they seemed unimpressed by my meager attempts at rusty German-speaking, and one girl who must have been unimpressed with us in general because she moved out of our room to a different one down the hall after the first night. Haters everywhere, I tell ya. It was probably Stephen’s smelly feet. Anyway, Banff was every bit as breathtaking as I hoped it would be and I’m so glad we went. We ate some good food like poutine and my favorite German chocolate that was randomly sold in rural Alberta, saw some wildlife (mostly elk but one large ram), and enjoyed cool views in every direction. 

My new summer home
My new summer home
The unbelievable Lake Louise. Even bluer in person!
The unbelievable Lake Louise. Even bluer in person!

We left Canada yesterday for Montana, where we planned on seeing Glacier National Park. Technically we made it inside the park, but everything cool (aka everything on the Going to the Sun Road) was closed for the season, so we didn’t spend much time there. Fortunately, both of us have been to Glacier before, so we weren’t disappointed as we went on to enjoy a rare, blissful hotel stay in Kalispell. I will never take my flush toilets or warm showers for granted again.

This morning we savored our complimentary breakfast and drove down to our current locale, Yellowstone. For the parts when I was awake, the drive through Montana was beautiful. This is a good time to give a shout-out to my main man, Steph Parsley. He is always the one to drive first. This is partly because he is an automobile control freak/passenger seat driver, partly because he usually insists that we leave a place at the earliest hour that I’ll agree to, but mostly because he is more of a morning person and lets me sleep a little extra. It’s wonderful, and he’s amazing, and his feet don’t even smell that bad.

We are both having so much fun and feel so lucky to be able to do this road trip. Life has been super crazy and largely not fun this year. It’s really, really nice that we can have this time together with minimal stress, very few obligations, and a more or less totally open schedule. While I get really worried and anxious thinking about what the mother F I’ll do when I get back to Kentucky, I am trying not to let myself think about it. Living in the moment is one of the hardest things for me but if there’s any time to do it, it would be this trip. Sure, I gripe about things like temperatures too cold for my three layers to suffice, but I also have a wonderful guy sleeping beside me in the sleeping bags he brilliantly zipped together, allowing us to share what little heat we have. And I am surrounded by some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world, seeing and doing things that who knows if I’ll ever see or do again. I also know that I have a warm bed, a loving family, plenty of food, and so much more waiting for me when I get home. Yeah, my bank account is dwindling to a sad amount, but I am wealthy in ~experiences~ and ~relationships~ and ~life skills like peeing in the woods without getting it on my shoes~… and you can’t get those things out of an ATM, my friends! Can I get an AMEN?

I mean, look at that handsome face
I mean, look at that handsome face

Alright getting a little loopy now so it may be time to call it a night aka lie here like unconscious bear bait and hope that I see the morning. No, YOU’RE being irrational.

As always, thank you for reading and caring, and I probably love you and miss you (unless you’re Stephen, who I love but do not miss because we are together constantly seriously some personal space please jk you’re awesome).

Also, I have a book blog now so if you enjoyed my recommendations here, or if you didn’t, go give this blog a follow!

UPDATE - this morning, after writing all this last night, I woke up to Stephen saying, “Now may be a good time to tell you that our tent is surrounded by elk.” LOL remember when I was worried about bears? Next time on Adventures with KHill…

XOXO,

Kaitlyn

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