In terms of a vacation to celebrate summer break, one immediately thinks of a Hawaii-style beach, complete with swaying palm trees and bikinis. So, one can imagine my surprise when my family planned a two-week vacation in the not-so-tropical areas of Canada.
The areas we visited weren’t even major tourist destinations, like those of Toronto, Montreal, and Ontario. We headed towards Banff and Jasper, in the Alberta province.
But this is not a critique of hotels and restaurants, nor a guide to must-see attractions. This is an introspective reflection on how said remote places have had their lasting impacts on this teenage traveler.
The first most impressionable site was the Athabasca Glacier. The sheer power of this slow-moving field of solid ice, rumbling with mini avalanches, stopped us all in our tracks. As we sipped the refreshing glacial water, it was as though Nature had already finalized its grip upon all of us.
Broadening the idea, all such places were stunningly beautiful. It got me thinking that even when civilization has exploited Nature, pushing parts of it into extinction, Nature always finds a way to reawaken our sense of awe and respect. Nature is a jewel, tarnished beyond repair, but a jewel nonetheless. And when it, we cannot help but be enchanted by its enduring glitter.
However, one cannot presume to understand the idea without knowledge of the animals that have a nasty habit of appearing on the sides of (or in the middle of) the roads. Hopefully, the situations outlined below will provide a clearer perspective on why the wilderness has such impact.
The squirrel perched on a bench overlooking Peyto Lake: though your average squirrel, it managed to attract enough paparazzi by standing on its hind legs. It was Nature at its wittiest.
The flock of Bighorn Sheep that managed to create a road blockade near Medicine Lake: since making road kill of them was obviously not an option, cars had to pass one by one at a snail’s pace (so the sheep wouldn’t be startled and decide to charge at the bumpers). Some driver had the smart idea to reach out of his open window and smack an approaching sheep square on the forehead. The sheep immediately acted offended and proceeded to appear threatening. It was Nature at its most dramatic.
The black bear family near the road leading to Miette Hot Springs: in the night, meeting up with a trio of black bears is not exactly the most ideal situation. But that night, they were just furry, bumbling bears. It was Nature at its cuddliest.
The Banff Springs snails found at Cave and Basin: an endangered species found nowhere else in the world, these one-centimeter long snails live only in thermal, mineral pools and feed on algae mats. They live in an underwater world in which every factor must be in a perfect balance. It was Nature at its most delicate.
The wild has a certain timeless appeal. We all have lived the city life and the suburban paradise. But in these sheltered lives, we have forgotten the mountains and forests. Some people say it’s the call of the wild. I say it’s a yearning for a more simple and down-to-earth lifestyle, in which the freedom of our souls is not oppressed by industrial routine. When life is lived in tune with nature, it is simpler, fuller, and fresher. Life moves at a different pace.
Canada turned out very differently from the preconceived country of inhospitable weather. Instead, Canada turned out to be all that the famous Spirit Island epitomizes: harmony, untamed beauty, and wonder.
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