Diana’s Best of 2016

2016 was a rough year. I think we can all pretty much agree on that. Nasty politics, violence, and the deaths of our favorite celebrities ruled the news. But rather than focus on the bad, I thought I’d finish off the year with a list of my favorite 2016 adventures. Here are this year’s top five:

1. Seeing the most adorable pandas ever at the San Diego Zoo

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Rocky Mountain High – Banff National Park, Alberta (part I)

After departing Waterton Lakes, we stopped for the afternoon in Calgary to catch up on the real world. The final installment of the Harry Potter movies had just been released and a little vacation wasn’t going to get in our way of seeing it. We had purchased tickets in advance for a theatre at a mall in Calgary, so we parked, ate some delicious Greek food for lunch, and then shed some tears as the lives of our beloved characters played out on screen.

This was the extent of our time in the city, as we had campground reservations in Banff National Park that evening. As we headed west out of Calgary on Canada Highway 1, one thing became readily apparent: the further north you go, the more rugged and spectacular the Rocky Mountains become. The peaks are taller, the glaciers larger, and the angles sharper.

In short, the Canadian Rockies are incredible! Continue reading

Handstands Around the World turns 1!

Holy cow, I can’t believe it’s been a year since I started this blog! There have been some handstand photos, but not much of the whole “around the world” thing. I guess I was a bit ambitious when I chose the name. My travels don’t extend past the US and Canada at this point in my life. But someday, hopefully in the not-so-distant future, I’ll be able to do a handstand somewhere that’s not in North America. I guess Handstands Across America would have been a more accurate name. Oh well.

In the meantime, I’ve only made it as far as 2011 in recounting my travel adventures. I’ve got a loooooong way to go!

But that’s okay, because I’m enjoying this so much! I’ve always loved writing and I love traveling (obviously) so it’s been fun to combine the two. Sometimes I think I should have tried to get a job for National Geographic instead of spending my life in school. I sat down and figured it out once – I’m currently in 21st grade. How depressing is that?

Sorry, that got a bit off topic. As I was saying, I’ve enjoyed this foray into the blogosphere. And it’s been fun for me to take a trip down memory lane.

It hasn’t all been easy and fun, though. Finding time to write is a constant challenge. And I want this blog to be something I enjoy, not a job or a burden, so I’ve had to be careful to keep it so I enjoy writing the next post rather than feeling like I should sit down and write it. I’ve also never been the greatest at sharing – feelings, emotions, personal info, etc. – so it’s been a good challenge for me to try to incorporate some personal information into the posts here and there as well. You’re probably laughing as you read this. Don’t worry, I’m laughing as I write it, too. I really haven’t shared that much. It’s still a constant struggle for me, but I think I’m getting better. I’m trying to, at least. That’s the goal I’m setting for myself for year #2. Continue reading

An old man and a waterfall – Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta (part II)

We had only one full day in Waterton, and our plan was to take the boat across Upper Waterton Lake to the Crypt Lake trailhead and attempt to survive the 11-mile strenuous hike to Crypt Lake. The hike is 5.5 miles in each direction with 2,300 feet of elevation gain, and involves a lot of switchbacks, a ladder, a tunnel, and a very narrow section of trail with chains drilled into the mountainside. And also incredible views, waterfalls, and Crypt Lake, located way up in the mountains on the border of Alberta and Montana. Sounds like an amazing hike, right? It’s been rated as one of Canada’s best, and we were really excited.

But it was not to be. We’d gone to purchase our boat tickets the previous afternoon only to be told that though the trail was technically open, the previous week a woman had slipped on the ice and fallen and was still in the ICU. So we had to put that particular dream on hold. (I have since completed the Crypt Lake hike and it’s every bit as amazing as it’s cracked up to be; but more on that later.)

The Red Rock Parkway was closed due to recent bear activity, leaving that portion of the park inaccessible to us as well. So that left us with heading up the Akamina Parkway for the day, which turned out to be a pretty good third choice. We even saw a bear along the side of the highway! Continue reading

Roadtrippin’ – Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta (part I)

I don’t know about you, but half of the places on my Ultimate Travel List are there because I saw a picture online and said to myself “wow, that’s pretty, I wanna go there.” In fact, I’ve stumbled across a number of incredible on- and off-the-beaten-path destinations thanks to random travel blogs. It’s part of what motivated me to start my own blog.

This particular place was not actually one of them, but hopefully it will be for someone else. Because the beauty of the Canadian Rockies is something that cannot be fully captured with a camera. You have to be there to truly understand the immensity of the mountains and the power of a glacier. You have to be there to look into a lake and see straight to the bottom because the water is perfectly clear. You have to be there to hike back into the mountains and encounter fields of wildflowers and tumbling waterfalls. I was there once, when I was 10 or 11. I didn’t remember much from that trip, except that it was a beautiful place that I wanted to go back to.

And so, in July 2011, three of my friends and I – fresh out of college and still unsure what we wanted to do with our lives – headed off on a three-and-a-half week road trip. We began in Glacier National Park, then headed across the border to the Canadian Rockies, specifically Waterton Lakes, Banff, and Jasper National Parks before heading west to Vancouver, BC, down to Seattle, WA, and finally looping back to Montana. It was the first road trip we ever went on without our families and all of our parents were incessantly worried the entire time. Which I suppose I understand. But aside from an unplanned trip to the hospital in Jasper (which is a story for another time), everything went well and we arrived back home in one piece. Continue reading