Two weeks ago, I blogged about my magical fantasy dream castle retreat, where I wished I was instead of plowing through a difficult month at work.
Last week, I got to spend some time in a place that happened to resemble it more than a little.
I spent the week in the Canadian Rockies, reconnecting with my siblings while hiking. (But not camping. Beds, showers, and easy meals are too much of a draw when you’ve spent the day walking.) I didn’t grow up there, but I did spend at least a week in the Rockies every summer, and they’re still one of my favourite places on the planet.
Here, then, are just some of the things I want to remember, like talismans against the sometimes-grind of daily life…
The way my siblings and I can still communicate with a look or half a sentence, or all acquire identical facial expressions at the same time, even though we are very different people and haven’t lived in the same house or even the same city for years now.
The Technicolor wildflowers all over the mountainsides. Kananaskis Country, where we were, is famous for them. Some of the meadows are sloped 30 degrees or more, making for a very unpleasant climb, but the flowers don’t mind at all. They’re busy making the most of the short mountain summer. So are the butterflies. I’m no lepidopterist, but we kept seeing orange ones with wings that looked like lace, and I even spotted a lavender one.
The evergreen forests, which to me still signify proper forests. If combined with mossy ground, old rocks, or winding trails, they do a very good impression of Peter Jackson’s version of Middle-Earth.
The waterfall we found, high in a valley accessed by an (at times hair-raising) unofficial trail. It’s actually two waterfalls with a pool between them, icy-cold and perfect for numbing your feet after a long climb. We didn’t manage to reach the lakes above the waterfall, but it certainly made for a satisfying end to that day’s hike. (Well, not quite an end, because then we had to hike out again, and got thoroughly rained on while doing it. But you know what I mean.)
The feeling you get when you’re sitting in a high place, above the treeline, surrounded by stunted bushes and lichen and the occasional pika or marmot and a lot of grey shale, and just past where you’re sitting is nothing but air. You’re on a high rocky ridge that you climbed up to with your own two feet. Maybe you’re on the very top of something, maybe not, but you can see way down into the valley where you started, the route you came up, the mountains on each side of the ridge (and the air between you and them), and parts of the ones behind those (because you’re that high). Other times, it’s not a ridge but a high mountain pass, and you can look back down the trail or turn and look down the other side of the pass, where there is an alluring valley that you won’t get to investigate because you’re going back the way you came.* If the day is at all chilly, the air tastes like wine, and you sip it like wine, and wish for the moment to last forever.
* With a very few exceptions, at least for day hikers in the Canadian Rockies. The trail that goes through Cory and Edith Passes is one of them…which is why I’ve hiked it twice even though it’s brutal. I mean, you get to hike up a very steep forest, go through a dry rocky valley, and come out through a completely different kind of forest, and you end up going all the way around a mountain. How cool is that?