And so ends another great summer vacation.
This one involved hiking in Glacier National Park, B.C. as well as the Rocky Mountains, a family reunion at Sylvan Lake, Alta. and, well heck, why not throw in a rodeo at the Calgary Stampede.
I can’t say enough about hiking in the Columbia and Rocky Mountain ranges. Granted, weather is always unpredictable. Some days we enjoyed a balmy +6, along with the odd torrential downpour, but all was forgiven the minute those clouds parted.
Ridge top views and alpine meadows full of wild flowers...well... adjectives just can’t do them justice. And despite shivering while making my morning tea over a Coleman stove, it was rather satisfying to hear my partner say, “Well, I guess you were right. I should have brought gloves.”
You see, it’s been a long time since I’ve hiked in the Rockies, but there are some things you never forget — like freezing in a wet sleeping bag under a leaky tarpaulin.
I grew up in Calgary and summers were either camping with the family or going to the Y camp in the Kananaskis area. At the risk of sounding like one of Monty Python’s four Yorkshiremen, when I was a kid we didn’t even get pup tents for our five-day backpacking treks — just a sheet of plastic and some twine. Point being, you learn quickly about packing gloves, a hat and never, ever leaving your boots out in the rain.
Of course, you also learn that there is nothing more satisfying than adapting to, and surviving, the challenges of nature or that anything is quite as exhilarating as a Rocky Mountain High.
But this trip wasn’t only about reliving memories of the great outdoors, it was also about a family reunion and connecting with some folks I haven’t seen in more than 20 years. It was amazing to see how everything’s changed, yet even more remains the same.
Politics, for example, remains if not divisive, at least disputed. There was a beautiful moment when my cousin was lighting a bonfire with a huge blowtorch and yelled out to my partner (with whom he had just been debating pipelines and fossil fuels):
“Hey B.C., hydrocarbons — YAAAA!” he shouted with two thumbs up.
Equally consistent was the sense of belonging and the sharing of stories, like the time Grandpa gave my cousin (different cousin) a cup of gasoline to sniff because the kid liked the smell— rather less was known about chemicals and brain development in the 1950s. Don’t worry, the guy turned out fine.
But about that belonging, it’s a powerful feeling knowing that any of these people would take in either of my kids if they showed up at their door.
The cherry on top was the last morning. As we were all preparing to head off in our very different directions, my mom (92, and the last of her generation of family) was absolutely beaming having just seen her kids, nieces and nephews, their kids and grandkids all gathered.
It was truly a bucket list moment.