We don’t appreciate what is on our doorstep. My father has driven through the Canadian Rockies countless times. We grew up only a few hours from the mountains, and he would drive through Banff a few times a year as a traveling salesman.
He's passed the glacial peaks, driven in the valleys beside the dense forests, and meandered past the ice blue rivers.
But on those trips, he never really stopped. Maybe for petrol, maybe for coffee, but never for enjoyment. Stops take too much time when you are traveling 12 hours from one city to the next.
That is, until we went on a micro-adventure earlier this year.
I convinced my parents to take a weekend away in the Rockies. We drove from Kelowna to Jasper. It’s a 7-hour trip; nine hours if you add in our coffee breaks. Close, in Canadian standards.
During our drive, I went over "the rules" with my dad. Don’t throw your apple core out of the window. Don’t feed the birds. Don’t feed the chipmunks. My Dad rolled his eyes as these exchanges took place through the rear-view mirror. He didn’t think these rules applied to him. Mom thought our banter was amusing.
Really, we were just getting stir-crazy. There is no radio or cell reception for most the drive. The towns we passed had only a thousand or less people.
The mountains were a welcomed sight.
Jasper came into view as a humble town in a valley surrounded by a sprawling mountain chain with rocky crests and peaks. Caribou herds grazed in the tall grass beside the road. Here, they outnumber the residents.
We continued past alpine-style houses with A-line roofs and brightly colored exteriors into the hemlock groves north of the town. Our day of exploring ended on a dock at the edge of Pyramid Lake, where an aptly named pyramid-shaped mountain dominates the lake's western shores. The sun set quickly behind its rocky reach. The water was a deep blue, with white caps blowing in our direction.
We sat bundled in layers of clothing on a dock for hours, chatting about the world, until ours started to slow down. We waited until we saw the Milky Way and then escaped the cold in our cabin, planning the next day's drive.
The Icefields Parkway is my favorite road. I’ve yet to surpass its beauty on a drive. Tucked between two mountain ranges, my neck twisted in each direction in attempts to take it all in. The road took us from Jasper to Banff. Despite living only a few hours away from this road for almost 30 years, it was the first time my Dad actually drove it.
We stopped at waterfalls that spilled over limestone cliffs that brought a wind down the current that chilled us to our core. We paused to admire Peyto Lake, a body of water so blindingly blue that we debated if the color was natural or if it was some sort of optical illusion. We stood beneath a towering glacier, eyeing the kaleidoscope of grey, white, and blue ice crystals only to realize how small we were.
By the end of the day, we exchanged smiles through the rear-view mirror on our way to Lake Louise. It is hard believe that the green-blue lake, with a backdrop of a glacial plain hanging between the forests, was not even the highlight.
Some people have waited their whole lives to see this place and for us it was just a pit stop on a weekend trip. We watched the sunset from the lake trail and when the alpine cold became too much, escaped to the chateau.
The night was cold and the morning colder. I pleaded for a few more stops; our road trip wasn’t complete in my eyes. We navigated the dense fog of the Emerald Basin before heading back in the direction of home. It was a 5-hour drive and I had one simple question.
“So, what did you think of the Rockies?”
I gave my Dad time to reflect. Later, he came back to me with his thoughts.
He’d seen things that weekend in which he’d never seen before. Things that were almost on his doorstep, but he didn’t know existed. We all need to appreciate what we have so close more often. We have to take the time to stop and enjoy.