Friday, August 30, 2013

My August with Jane Austen

I signed up for the "Austen in August" challenge hosted by roofbeamreader. The object was to read books connected with Jane Austen in the month of August.  Since I have already read Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility, I opted to explore new territory this month. I read three books, and loved every minute of it!  Here is a bit about my month with Jane.

My journey began with Mansfield Park. I had attempted this novel once before, and I confess I got stuck when the characters are rehearsing a play.  This time around, however, I was determined.  The play rehearsals are a pretty important part of the novel in that during this time the reader sees the character traits of the participants.  Henry Crawford is an outrageous flirt (and a bit of a cad), Edmund doesn't have the strength of character to resist Mary Crawford's charms, and Fanny Price, the steady heroine of the novel, is working very hard to avoid participating in this folly.  I thoroughly enjoyed Mansfield Park and am now a fan of Fanny Price.  Fanny is in the position of being the poor relation reliant on the goodness of others, and accepts her position in the family with a good deal of grace.  She ingratiates herself to her aunt and uncle, and becomes an integral part of their lives, particularly as their own offspring make questionable choices.  I enjoyed my time at Mansfield Park, and will definitely read this one again!

Next, I visited Northanger Abbey.  Catherine Morland's overactive imagination gets the best of her in Northanger Abbey, despite the fact that the actual home is not nearly as dark and dangerous as she anticipates.  This book had me laughing, and is the simplest and most light-hearted Austen novel I have read.  Jane Austen must have had a wonderful time writing this novel poking fun of the Gothic literature of her day, and she crafts her own story with a steady hand and a good deal of humor. I quite enjoyed Henry Tilney and his complete understanding of the workings of the mind of seventeen year old Catherine.  I especially appreciated when Henry says "The person, be it gentlemen or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel must be intolerably stupid."  

Sprinkled into my month were a couple of detours for Jane Austen in film.  I watched versions of Persuasion, Emma, and the movie, The Lake House (with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves). The novel, Persuasion, has a role in The Lake House, so I justified throwing it in to my August experience. 

Lastly, I took A Rambling Fancy with Caroline Sanderson through England, looking for locations and events in the life of Jane Austen.  Sanderson sprinkles her well-written book with interesting insights into the life of Jane and the Austen family, and also includes quotes from Austen's novels.  This was my first encounter with little poems written by Jane for family, and with excerpts from her few remaining letters.  Sanderson has woven all of this into chapters about Bath, Lyme Regis, and other locations Austen lived and visited in her lifetime.  It is a wonderful read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The title, by the way, is taken from Mansfield Park.  After her journey through Austen's England, Caroline Sanderson sums up her experience this way:
"Jane Austen tea towels and the like are all very well (I have a key ring myself), but her words are the only souvenirs from the journey really worth having."

As I (sadly) leave August and Jane Austen, I heartily agree that her words are wonderful souvenirs from my journey!

I enjoyed the following blog posts from Lark Writes while I was doing my own Austen in August reading. Check them out!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hiking Johnston Canyon - Banff National Park

The river along the trail.

Johnston Canyon is a popular hike in Banff National Park.  The trail leads to several waterfalls in the canyon.  The hike to the lower falls is mostly paved and has little elevation gain.  It is an easy hike, although being right along the river, it tends to be damp.  You may want a sweatshirt or light jacket.  I hiked this trail in early June, and the weather was cool, but comfortable.

Beginning of the Johnston Canyon trail

This scenic little hike starts from the parking lot of the Johnston Canyon Lodge.  It is a 30 minute drive from Banff on the Trans Canada Highway heading toward Lake Louise.  Water and toilets are available at the trail head.  The hike to the Lower Falls takes about 30-40 minutes, depending on your pace.  This hike is very accessible, and has stunning views along the way.

Trail sign.

Because I had been very ill the day before, I was not up to completing the hike to the Upper Falls.  However, the Lower Falls hike was truly a gem.  I am glad I was able to fit this in during my short stay in Banff.

Map near the beginning of the hike shows Upper and Lower Falls.

This trail has walkways right along the river, and sometimes you find yourself walking over the water.  It is beautiful, and a unique experience.  The treacherous parts of the trail have railings.  You will want to keep an eye on young children on this hike, however.  The water is cold and moving fast.

The paved trail continues most of the way to Lower Falls.

Along the way I had wonderful views of the rushing water.

Banff National Park is at a higher elevation.  Carrying water and staying hydrated is important to your comfort level on this hike, even though it is an easy walk.

Walkways pass through shady forest and follow the river.

There are benches along the way, and we were entertained by a fearless chipmunk at one point on the trail.  Please do not feed these animals. They are already too comfortable approaching people.

Chipmunk strikes a pose.

The walkways on this trail are engineering feats.  They hover over the rushing water and hug the slick rock walls.  The moist air encourages growth of green mosses and plants.  The trail is also known for bird watching.  Although we did not see many birds, we did see dippers on this hike.

Walkways extend out over the water.

Moss growing on rocks.

The trails to Lower and Upper Falls are clearly marked by a sign.  There are seven falls along this trail, so for those who have the time and energy to continue on up the trail, more beautiful views await.

Sign for Upper and Lower Falls

When you reach Lower Falls, there is a bridge over the river from which you have a nice view of the waterfall.  If you don't mind getting a little wet, at the top of the trail you can make your way through a short tunnel in the rock and view the waterfall up close.  I chose to do this, and did get sprayed!  Other hikers coming out recommended I put up the hood of my sweatshirt to keep off some of the water.  It was good advice.

Me by Lower Falls

The tunnel to a waterfall viewing spot...very wet!

This is a wonderful little hike in Banff.  An easy trail, and a short walk with a beautiful pay-off at the end of the trail.  I understand it can be quite crowded during peak season, so it is recommended that you hike either early in the morning or later in the day during late summer.  I hit the trail in early June, and although there were other hikers along the way, it never felt too crowded and there were times when we had the trail to ourselves.  We returned to the parking lot just as it began to rain, so we settled into our van for a picnic lunch out of the cooler, and then drove back into Banff.  I am so glad I found this hike!

Lower Falls - Johnston Canyon trail, Banff National Park