24 December 2008

Toronto Canadia, Eh?

In October, Ryan and I traveled to beautiful Toronto, Canada. We stayed with friends in Gwelph, about 40 miles away from downtown Toronto. Alexandra, Mike, and baby Jack were the BEST hosts a visitor could ever ask for. They had a lovely home, lots of delicious food (mmm....Cheesewiz!) and of course, Jack to entertain us with his hilarity! HA! Seriously, how cute is HE! And yes, those are baby wipies in his mouth. No judgement.

Our flight into Toronto was lovely and upon arrival at the airport we picked up our Toyota Yaris. What a WEIRD car!

Check out that dash board! Ryan could barely even see the speedometer. They've done this design to make it easier to be an international car...but I'm going on the record to say it doesn't work, not for me at least.

The Yaris did get us from place to place though, so it served it's purpose. On our second day we drove to Niagara Falls. I was so excited to finally be going, since I love waterfalls! Our weather wasn't ideal, but we would have been rained on anyway with the water backsplash. Here are some photos from the day:

Looking up at the river before the falls.

What can I say? I like GREEEEEN! The horseshoe falls. Right next to the horseshoe. We had to push through a bunch of people to get this picture. This was the last day to take the Maid of the Mist boat tours for the season. You can see that boat is not exactly packed. Probably because it was October 24th and FRIGID! Instead of joining the freezing people on the boat, we decided to go "Under the Falls". There is a tunnel system behind/under the horseshoe that offers some pretty cool (read: wet) views of the falls.

Tunnels Getting soaked! The sky looks so pretty in this picture! I just wish those other yellow poncho people weren't in the shot! The Tunnel had little lookout points. Here are Ryan and I peeking out. Again, we had to push through people to even see out the window. I'm glad we didn't go during the busy summer season! After our underground escapades, we took a walk towards the NY side of the falls. I believe this is called Bridal Veil Falls, or at least the smaller single waterfall off to the right. I made a few new friends.

Here are some parting shots from Niagara Falls. Pretty Fall colors! This is the "Vortex" further up north. I was unimpressed, but the Autumn colors were really on display! For most of our trip, we just lazed around Mike and Alex's house enjoying their amazing hospitality. One night we were all able to go out together sans Jack and we took an outing to Canada's Wonderland. Here's what their website has to say: Canada's Wonderland is Canada's premier amusement park and features over 200 attractions, more than 65 thrilling rides, North America's greatest variety of roller coasters, and Splash Works, a 20-acre water park.
We went about 6pm to enjoy the Halloween Haunt. Similar to what Wild Waves near Seattle does just before Halloween, Canada's Wonderland stays open late in the month leading up to the haunted holiday. They decorated everything completely creepily and hired a bunch of actors to run around scaring everyone. It was VERY entertaining!

This is the ONLY picture I have of Mike and Alex. You can tell they love each other very much!

We started with a buffet dinner, and good thing we signed up first! The Halloween Haunt was supposed to be for people aged 16 and up, but I haven't seen so many Middle Schoolers since Titanic! They were running around flirting with each other in their annoying way - we were basically playing "dodge-the-12-year-old" on our way to the rides.

First on our list was the Behemoth, a roller coaster that definitely lives up to it's name: At over 5,300 feet (1,616m) in length, Behemoth sets the stage for thrills with a climb to a height of 230 feet (70.1m), followed by an adrenaline pumping 75 degree drop with speeds reaching 125 kilometers per hour in 3.9 seconds. The coaster will then take riders through the ultimate coaster experience with high speed twists and turns, including double banked flat loops (horizontal loops) and eight extreme drops. Intensifying the action packed adventure, the ride will feature prototype open-air seating that will allow all riders to experience an unobstructed view of all the thrills and excitement on one of North America's best coasters. Now imagine that at night, in the dark, with a bunch of SCREAMING adolescents. Ryan and I chose to wait to be in the front too, so our spot was extra scary! This was definitely our favorite ride of the many more we hit before heading home.

On our last day, we finally went into town to visit Toronto! We started at the CN Tower, which according to Wikipedia stands "553.33 metres (1,815.4 ft) tall.[1] It surpassed the height of the Ostankino Tower in 1975, becoming the tallest free-standing structure on land in the world. On September 12, 2007, after holding the record for 31 years, the CN Tower was surpassed in height by the still-under-construction Burj Dubai. It remains the tallest free-standing structure in the Americas and the signature icon of Toronto's skyline, attracting more than two million international visitors annually."

There's a spot in the glass floor where you can look straight down 1800 ft. You don't want to stand there if you suffer from Vertigo! The views were spectacular! We also ventured further up to see the observation deck. Totally worth it! Overall, our 5 days in Toronto were great and relaxing! Thanks for reading.....see you next time I have some BREAKING NEWS!

14 September 2008

Camp Muir, Mt. Rainier

On August 24, 2008, I, Kristina Ciari, made it all the way to Camp Muir at 10,000 feet without dying. I'm going to call that an accomplishment!!! Ryan and I had been talking about heading up to Rainier for some time and we completely lucked out with the best weather you could ask for!
We got up bright and early and arrived in Paradise about 9am. Paradise serves as the starting point for most of the summit attempts on Rainier, and sits at about 5400 feet above sea level. The first part of the hike has a LOT of stairs. In this picture, you can see the stairs on the lower right hand side of the first picture. As you can imagine, the scenery was really pretty, and we had great views of Washington's and Oregon's great mountains. Pictured here is Mt. Adams. Almost to Panorama Point just before you get to Pebble Creek. This is 2.3 miles up. After Pebble Creek you get to the Muir Snowfield. The next 2.2 miles involve an ascent of 2800 ft. up the snowfield - sounds simple. In practice, not so much. Here I am at the beginning.
Looking UP! Miserable much? The air is just so THIN!! Distances are also tricky when you're on the snow. For example, those people closest behind me are probably 5-10 minutes back.
Stopping for some food! What a pretty day! There we a lot of people hiking with us! Check out all the ants on the right hand side. Alas! You can see Camp Muir in the very center! Probalby a little under an hour away. Here's me struggling along with Mt. Adams in the background. Did I mention that the snowfield was steep? Finally! Just over 5 hours later! We made it! Smile for the camera :) I was in desperate need of a nap! No for some scenic shots. Here are the tents of people who will be summiting the next day. Generally Rainier needs two days to be climbed if you have a good weather window. On day 1 you climb to Muir, camp overnight, and leave around midnight to be on the summit by 8am. After summiting you'll head down, pack up camp, and continue to the bottom of the mountain. We saw a number of summiters on our way up. Mt. Saint Helens from Muir (below). Mt. Adams from Muir. It was windy and cold at Muir. Good thing we have so many GREEN jackets to keep me warm! We suited up in our sexy "glissading" outfits. Time for some sliding on your butt! Here we are the way down, check out that Lenticular Cloud! Rainier is so tall that is creates it's own weather! We're lucky that this day nothing came of this unusual weather pattern. Nice Hair! NOw it's time for some Glissading, the fancy term for sliding down the mountain on your butt. Here's a picture. And for the real experience, here's video of Ryan sliding down.

Here I am sliding down. For the record, this is not the correct way to do an "arrest".
It got warmer as we descended. Here, at the bottom of the snowfield, you can see the ruts carved into the snow from all of the glissaders. The flowers were very pretty, although apparently we were just a bit early to see the real wildflower action.
And we're done! Tired and sweaty, but happy and acoomplished.