Canada: Where the Wild Things Are


Exploring Parks Canada By Road - Bugaboos


This injury has me at 47 days without walking, without my car, without snow and ice. I'm one person in over a million strung along mountains I cannot access but that are crucial to my well-being. There's been one too many "Keep Calm and _(fill in this blank)_" and "The mountains are calling and I must go," quotes thrown at me. I've kept calm. Cheerful even. But the mountains are calling and I can't go. Instead, I'm holed up under a covering of yellow smog and rain. Don't talk to me about John Muir.

The other morning, instead of waking up early for a powder day, I woke up early for hockey. The Canadian men were making their push for gold at precisely 5 a.m. MT and I was ecstatic. It would have happened anyway, regardless of my being hurt; I have a crush on hockey and am in love with my second country up north. But never once before have I set my alarm to watch something on television.

What was happening to me?

Exploring-Parks-Canada-By-Road-Banff
My road trip partner on my first trip north.
The journey began a few years ago while I was carrying out life from a tent in the high Uintas. That entire summer, I shivered through alpine nights (it snowed in early July), but craved the cold air on my face as I unzipped from my bag each morning. Daytime temperatures were incredible — so different than what I was accustomed to in the asphalt-charred city a couple of thousand feet below. Green surrounded me, made alive by braided rivers and summer showers. I needed more.

On all sides of Utah stand desert tracts, but only in one direction on this continent, if you push just a little further, do you find mountains erupting out of deep forests, ripping apart the sky. Only in one direction do milky blue rivers, electric in color, smooth glacial rocks in passing. And if you so choose, only in one direction is there a land that stretches, beyond comprehension, into not one single other city.

North. The word alone made me feel wild and unbound.

There were only 4.5 days.

Glacier. Waterton. Banff. The quiet wonder of Jasper. Eyes grew increasingly wide as the stunning view unfolded inside the windshield; the further north my tires rolled, the more surrealistically beautiful the scene grew.

My heart capsized in Jasper. As an American, I grew up singing "sweet mountain majesty" but didn't fully comprehend the impact of these words until I experienced the profound allure of this national park. Arriving 365 miles north of the U.S. border, I was surrounded by land that undulated through glacier-strewn summits and valley lakes. It was a land owned by wildlife and covered in a lush carpet of chlorophyll.  If it hadn't been for a travel partner who needed to return for her job, our road trip would have concluded instantly.

I've since traveled well over 50,000 miles (possibly twice that) of lower 48 roadways in a search to find the same verdant intensity as our northern neighbor so easily displays. There were hints of it in Washington and Montana, but they were bookended beauties — capped by cities or dehydrated land.

Limitations have never been a favorite of mine.

Exploring-Parks-Canada-By-Road-Yoho

So I returned north. Each year, my car transported me to a country that felt more like home. Visits extended from 4.5 days to weeks, then months. I explored coves, skied isolated backcountry, waited for caribou to cross, and enjoyed the ready smiles and playful accents of the Canadian people. Nothing in my cross-continent travels brought me greater happiness than the days spent in this friendly country.

Exploring-Parks-Canada-By-Road-JasperThe charm of this wild northland wove its way into so many of my thoughts that action was taken to make it legitimately part of my identity. Blazed with a red maple leaf and inscribed in French and English, my Canadian citizenship papers filled me with humble pride: the most beautiful country in the hemisphere had accepted me as one of its own.

So I watch hockey. Not to pose as a born-and-raised Canadian, but because I'm finding that certain things that were already a part of me before I stepped foot on Canadian soil — enjoying poutine, loving hockey, superfluous amounts of saying sorry [er, soorry], etc. — mean that I have found kinship in that country. Maybe these things were inherent, passed through my father's French Canadian side. Maybe I was just born in the wrong place. The game point comes only from rectifying the situation.

Not being able to walk will only temporarily hold me back from the place where my soul finds life's purity — much further north than this Salt Lake valley — across a border, in a wild land. It calls, John Muir, so I must go.

Exploring-Parks-Canada-By-Road
Game point: The Move to Canada. Coming Summer 2014.






4 comments:

  1. I love this all but my favourite part is the end. I am so happy you are moving here :)!

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    1. So excited to at least be in the same latitude as you, Michelle. We'll have to road trip quite a bit! :)

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  2. I hope you enjoy Canada. Being an American myself who has moved here - be prepared for some cultural shock and many an American slam.

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    1. I enjoy the American slams; have to dish 'em back out! ;)

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