The mountains are one of my happy places to recharge and to gain a sense of myself again because, to be honest, there is nothing like being surrounded by the majestic breathtaking natural beauty that reminds me, everything is going to be okay.
For me, the last several months have been an emotional rollercoaster ride I didn’t buy a ticket for. I, like you, have been impacted by the constant onslaught of the news; the stories, the number of deaths, media overload, isolation, financial burden, fear, conspiracy theories and the list goes on, all due to Covid-19.
I’d like to show some vulnerability here because it’s been challenging and having this time has taught me a lot about myself and the people in my life. To say I needed hope is an understatement. I needed to feel the sun on my face and the wind blowing through my 3-day unwashed hair. I wanted something else besides another long walk to the fridge or to stare at my ‘to do’ list that wasn’t getting done. I needed to rid myself of the heaviness of an existence I no longer wanted to carry and I am not talking about the mysterious 10 pounds I had gained during isolation. It was taking a toll on me and I needed an outlet. I needed freedom. There had been so many obstacles to overcome and I had no other choice to get stronger and grow from all of this.
Once we were given the go-ahead Canmore was accepting visitors, I grabbed my traveling soul sister, Tracey, and we hit the road for a 4-hour drive. To say I was excited was an understatement but the feelings I had were mixed. I felt so happy to get away but guilty because it felt like I was doing something wrong. Was I deserving of this, when so many people were still suffering?
When we arrived, I got out of the car and stretched my weary body. I reached my hands to the sky and took the biggest breath I had taken in a long time and let it out while my gaze greedily took everything in. Home is not a place; it’s a feeling and It was then I realized the heaviness I brought along with me. I slowly removed my imaginary backpack of life that I had been carrying and I set it down. I decided then and there that day, was going to be about feeling present in the moment and grateful instead of allowing fear to be my compass.
I was hungry for nature and all it provided and if you are a nature lover yourself, you know the feelings I write about. Grassy Lakes trail was our first stop as there are two options to choose from. An easy and steady route that is very popular for families with small children. The hike is an uphill climb with a wide gravel path and rewards the hiker with views of two spectacular lakes at the top. The other path is deemed ‘difficult’ and is through a narrow-wooded trail with nature’s unpredictable obstacles along the way. This trail offers breathtaking views of Canmore and Bow Valley. After a brief discussion, Tracey and I decided ‘difficult’ was the way to go and we set off with my camera, peace in our hearts and of course, bear bells.
With the sun on our faces and a gentle breeze on our backs, we walked along the trail listening to the orchestra of birds singing their favorite songs. I took a deep breath in and was hit with the most incredible smell. I truly wish I could bottle it up and carry it with me back to the city. It was fresh yet crisp with hints of balsam fir and pine along with all the sweetness of the wildflowers. My senses were on high alert, the smells, sights and sounds. I had a newfound appreciation because I was making a choice to be present instead of thinking of my ‘to do’ list. When you have been isolated for a while, life has a tendency to look a little different and what a spectacular view we had. Everything out on the trail seemed different, intensified and new again and I saw and heard nature in a different way and to be honest, it was just what I needed.
Due to the popularity of Grassy lakes trails, there were other hikers who had the same need for nature as we did and it was so wonderful to see other people. While we had been basically living in fear of strangers for the last few months, and staying away, I had a smile on my face from ear to ear and said hi to everyone I saw. I was beyond excited to see them, and their eyes crinkled above their masks mirroring the same smile I had.
As we rounded the bend the sounds of the flowing river could be heard before our eyes feasted on the breathtaking beauty. I looked up to take in the view while I adjusted my camera settings and I noticed a black bear lazily sauntering up the embankment towards the river. With a sudden elevation in my heartbeat, I may or may not have screamed a little to get Tracey’s attention. We stood watching him, slightly in awe while he swam across the river and walked back up the other side of the embankment to the trail we were on. What, wait? The bear was headed in the same direction as we were and it dawned on us, if we didn’t look up at that very moment, we absolutely would have met up with him at around the very same time. After we discussed the very real but somewhat exaggerated “what if” bear scenarios, we turned around and decided to depart the ‘difficult’ trail. The only sound of nature we were thankful for at that moment, was the sound of our footsteps as we made our way out of there.
If you think about it, life is sometimes like this isn’t it? There are some pretty obvious obstacles in the way that absolutely prevent you from walking into a direction you thought was right for you. This has happened to me so many times with what I thought should have been and I fought so hard to make it happen and, in the end, it wasn’t. I just couldn’t see It until I changed directions and afforded myself some time to look back and reflect. Some things are not meant to be and at times, when we lack the ability to recognize those obstacles, the universe has a way of setting down some pretty tough barriers to prevent you from making some mistakes. Not always, but sometimes. Thanks, Universe.
After our almost near bear encounter, we stayed a few more days and took our time hiking the other trails and browsing a few shops. Visiting Canmore was a much-needed trip away and I am so thankful we did. It was exactly what I needed to change my ‘lens’ and the way I was looking at life. I decided to start being more present in my days, not only exist, but to live in the moment and be grateful. Don’t let fear be your compass, unless there is a bear on your path, then turn around and create your own path.
As we made our way back home to Edmonton, I looked in the rear-view mirror with a smile on my face
realizing I had left a piece of my heart tucked away among the mountains and the moon. I know I will be back again because when the mountains call, you listen…
The Heart of Canmore
There is no shortage of adventurous things to see and do in and around the town of Canmore. It is a hidden gem nestled among the Canadian Rockies approximately 390 kilometers outside of Edmonton and can be enjoyed all year round. Whether you’re into summer or winter activities of rock/ice climbing, hiking, nature walks, wildlife, fishing, golf, shopping, food, Canmore is a place you will not want to miss out on.