“Welcome to Canada it’s the maple leaf state, Canada, oh Canada, it’s great! The people are nice and they speak French too…”
Summer 2006 – the eve of my introduction to high school. I was 15, full of nervous excitement, but also of confidence. I had made it through middle school, and I had the best friends in the world. Erika Barker was – and still is – one of those amazing friends. That summer before we embarked upon our high school adventure, we partook in one last voyage together. Along with her family, we trekked to Calgary, Alberta.
Three days in a cramped car. Over-nighting in motels. Arguing over directions. Broken windshield wipers as the car is swathed in mud. It could have been a period of grumpiness and low patience, but I remember the best parts: Silly pictures, discovering great little eateries, the excitement of seeing the sign with arrows pointing towards Canada, breathtaking mountain roads, and much more.
We stayed with Erika’s parents’ friend in Calgary. I was overwhelmed with everything new and different. This trip was my first time out of the United States. Canada may not have been extremely different, but everything from the road signs in kilometers to the lower sales tax caught my attention. This vacation truly was a time for trying new things – something I believe came at the opportune moment as I transitioned to the next chapter of my life. New foods awaited me every day, and I enthusiastically sampled veal, duck, bubble tea, and had my very first sushi. This last experience was a true conversion for me. I had previously been staunchly against “disgusting uncooked fish,” but I now thoroughly enjoy sushi, and encourage everyone to try it who has not.
While I had many great experiences in Canada, the most incredible and memorable were the hiking trips in the second part of our vacation. We drove up to Jasper, Alberta, where we stayed for several days in a cabin. Jasper is a wonderful area. We went on hiking trails in both Glacier National Park and Banff National Park. I have never felt as immersed in nature and as real as I felt where I was there. The air was incredibly fresh and full of trees, flowers, imminent rainfall, and the scantiness that accompanies high altitude. As we hiked, every turn presented itself as a new, postcard-worth view. While I panted up steep hills and clambered over rocks, I thought about the pristine quality of this part of the world. It was so ineffably beautiful, and I was saddened to think how little of the world remained as this special corner did. I resolved to do more for the Earth then – to recycle and to think about how my actions would affect nature.
One of my favorite spots was the view from a lookout reachable after only a ten-minute hike from a picnic area. This view was of spectacularly light blue water, made such by the presence of sediment, as the lake was a run-off from a glacier. The lake had the shape of a dog’s head, and I have thus often referred to my picture of it as “Glacier Dog.” Another great locale was from atop a mountain in that hike, where I took a picture of the misty purple mountains as the rain steadily approached. Finally, along a 4-hour hike at 7200 feet in Banff, I looked down on a central lake area and the mountains beyond, I snapped two of my “postcard” shots of which I am very proud.
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