Dreaming of the Rocky Mountains
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
I am dreaming of anywhere that isn't the inside of my one bedroom inner city apartment to be honest with you, but the place I would most like to be is the Canadian Rockies.
Even before the Covid-19 lockdown, I found myself revisiting my trip to Banff in April 2019. It was the first time I had ever been West of Ontario in Canada and I had heard it would blow me away. It didn't. It drew me in. It took a little piece of me and kept me there in the mountains and lakes forever.
When it comes to vacations (or "holidays"...I've lived in North America so long I forget my mother tongue!) I am not really a frequenter of places. In my "real life" in Toronto (the life I lead when not "away") I have favourite places I will visit over and over again; certain spots by the lake, my favourite restaurants, a handful of beautiful cocktail bars and one or two dive pubs. They have become my home and I love them for it, but when I am going on a trip away from my life I like to explore somewhere new. Sometimes, though, on very rare occasions, a place will imprint on me and I will feel it calling me to come back. No really. I know I sound legit crazy, but I actually do feel it. These places are the Yorkshire Dales in England, Manhattan in New York City, anywhere playing live music and pouring old whisky in Scotland and now Banff National Park. When I describe these places I really mean it when I say they are magic. Literal magic. There is something in the landscapes, the way the world sounds and the feeling of the air when it touches my skin that I can't explain. A fine balance of chemistry, maybe, but to me it is just "magic."
Banff. On my first glimpse of the mountains I was in awe, but I didn't fall in love until I woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning. Banff is two hours behind Toronto, so I found myself wide awake at 6am. I decided to go for a walk.
April in Banff. It is all I know, but it was perfect. The seasons were changing; still chilly, still frosty, but the sun was shining and the lakes were slowly thawing. I walked along the Bow River and was thankful that a place this far flung still exists in a world connected by 5G. Log cabins, mountains, trees sheltering a castle (okay, not actually a castle, but the Fairmont Banff Springs is as good as). Do you know the water is jade green? Like, what the actual fuck?
Sometimes the city is so loud I don't hear myself. I am not even trying to listen. In Banff all I heard was the river, the trees, the birds and the sound of my boots crunching on snow and stones. And myself. I heard me too. I heard myself remembering that I am only one little part of it all.
I liked the way that mountains make me feel small. Not only are they, you know, literal mountains compared to my insignificant 5ft 3 stature, the Canadian Rockies are also 400 million years old. They have withstood all of human history and the rest. You can't fuck with a mountain. They don't have time for our shit, because it is nothing to them, just a beat in a long history of standing very tall. In their presence I stood a little taller too.
I climbed Tunnel mountain and my body thanked me for it. I took the gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain and stood in the middle of a snowstorm that soon gave way for bright golden sunshine. I watched an eagle fly overhead and I felt the calmest I had in years. I love all mountains, but the ones in Banff were something else.
I've always been two people; a city girl who wants to sip a gimlet at the bar of a speak easy, and a human who wants to be lost in nature. I don't know how to reconcile my selves.
I was supposed to see the Rocky Mountains again. I was supposed to have caught a train that would take me through them slowly for a whole day. I would have sat looking out of the window drinking a glass of nameless red wine. I was going to wave at them on my way to new mountains that perhaps I would have fallen in love with too. Whistler, I bet you're filled with magic too. But the train never left the station. Everybody's plans were cancelled, not just mine. We're all a little bit stuck. I love Toronto, but the beauty of this city is the way it moves. It isn't much on pause. But I know I can stand still in the Rocky Mountains.