August 26, 2012

The Lofty and the Lowly

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks. First, there were all the tasks we set out for ourselves for the first week of our summer break.  Then, having dealt with them all, we did, in the end, make a short escape from routine.  We left the house and parent responsibilities to Nora and the meal prep people and took five days to camp our way up to Banff.  The last time either of us had been up that way was when we were kids so we figured it was time to revisit.  And of course it was wonderful.  We both love road trips so to be on the road again, just driving and watching the scenery roll by, coffee in hand and music on the radio, was just the balm we needed.

Years ago, when we were working out at Wood’s Lodge in Mammoth Lakes, we met an older guy on a hike one afternoon. There we were, surrounded by the singular splendour of the High Sierras yet when he asked where we were from and we told him British Columbia, Canada, he nodded his head reverently and said:  “Ah, now that’s God’s country!”.  I’d say he was right.  Driving through chunks of the province as we did this time (although we did stick our toes into Alberta for half a day or so), we realized how varied BC really is.  And how beautiful.  There’s so much here: ocean and mists and whales, rolling hills sweeping into desert grass country, the orchard and wine country of the Okanagan, dense evergreen forests surrounded by jutting incredible mountains...

Ok, I realize I’m sounding like a spokesperson for Tourism BC here and no, they're not paying me to sing these praises (though really, if there was a job to be had, who knows…) but that's because I also realize this province we live in is spectacular and we’re lucky to be here. It’s way too easy to dream of places far away and ignore what’s right here just because it’s exactly that, right here. God knows, I’m guilty of that too often. But taking the time to look around and breathe in the air of the near-at-hand was pretty much the best thing we could have done this time around and it was a wonderful trip.  

In as much as we could, given we were headed to a major tourist draw, we tried to stay away from tourist hot spots.  And for good reason. We had to squelch feelings of anger and annoyance after we arrived at a place called Natural Bridge, in Yoho National Park. The Kicking Horse river has cut it's way through solid rock there, to leave a limestone bridge from one bank to the other while the river still pounds its way underneath in full force and power. The spray and storm of rapid water crashing over rocks is fantastic. It's the kind of place where you can remember how insignificant you are. Given the chance, that is.

Sadly, we got there at the very minute three tour buses spewed forth dozens of Nikon-toting foreigners who burst onto the scene in wild herd fashion and a cacophony of chatter and began snapping pictures. And no, not of the actual natural awesomeness of the place as much as of each other. We stood by waiting for two solid minutes as one woman posed, model-style, at the tip of the main look-out point while three other women, each with an identical looking camera, took her picture over and over and over. When she left and we finally had our chance just to stand there and breathe in the spray, some other guy asked Roland to move because he was inside his photo frame and the guy didn't want him there.  Seriously, did these people even see how magnificent the place was or did they just see it as backdrop for their camera-smiles?  Anyway, deep breath...

We also spent one hellish half hour looking for parking at Lake Louise because we really couldn't not go see it, but it was definitely one of the low points of the trip. The place was swarming with people. There was, in case anyone got bored just trying to absorb the scenery, even a guy slapping at a guitar and bleating out some dreadful song, guitar case open for donations. Gads! Don't get me wrong, as the wife of someone who used to busk on occasion once upon a time, I'm partial to street musicians.  But the operative word is musician.  This guy was far from being that.  Possibly, the busloads of picture-snapping visitors saw the guy as an enhancement of their experience there, maybe even as a photo opportunity, a sort of only in Canada moment. We sure didn't and got the hell out of there fast.

Other than this, the trip was beyond reproach. The campsites we found were all great, we were lucky enough to sit on an empty beach and watch the meteor shower on the first night, and we met enough good people along the way to restore our faith in travellers. And, not least by any means, the scenery was pure soul-food.  Here is a very inadequate sampling of some of the sights.  But there's really no way to do full justice:

This is (I think) around Boston Bar, BC and at the start of our trip.  We both took pictures here because there was a certain mood...

The three pictures above are from a hike we took at the Illecillewaet campground at Glacier National Park.  The middle picture shows the meeting of the Illecillewaet River and the Asulkan Brook. I love the visible distinction of colour in the water.

 These three are from the Johnson Canyon area in the Banff National Park.  The first two are from a hike up to two waterfalls and the third is a mountain meadow further up in the same area.

 And about 25 kilometres outside of Banff.  First, a lookout onto the Bow river and then Castle Mountain.  Apt name.

We got back to home sweet home with our heads screwed on a bit differently and still carrying, inside us, some of the inner peace we found along the way. Just as well because it didn't take long for reality to slap us awake. On the first day back the fridge broke down. It's not a very old one but it's been grumbling a bit lately and on Saturday the capacitor relay blew. Of course I haven't got a clue what that is but Roland did, and he also knew how to fix it and I was, yet again, immensely grateful I chose a man who is not only a thinker but a handyman. Except the replacement part place wasn’t open until Monday so, after I’d already washed and put away the cooler, we had to haul it out,  fill it with ice again, and hope the milk didn't turn. And, as if that wasn't enough excitement for our homecoming, the dog got sick.

I took him for a walk on Saturday and, instead of his usual solid "offering" there was a stream of what looked like crimson paint.  No scooping the poop when it runs out and seeps into the ground. I can joke about it now because after a visit to the vet and some expensive medication he's now back to normal but, at the time, it was beyond alarming. For the first couple of days of his sickness he didn't eat, not even his favourite things, yet we got up for a couple of mornings to puddles of bloody goo on the kitchen floor tile.  

To add to the angst, the vet wouldn't look us in the eye when he saw us. That seemed like a bad sign. He prodded and poked, took a temperature, asked a bunch of questions, said something about a tumour or "mass" and gave us some antibiotics to try, warning us he didn't think they'd do much because it didn't look like an infection. He suggested we need to consider our next step. Thankfully, it didn't come to that.  

We spent a sorrowful couple of days in memories of all the happy times we had with Frodo (three guesses on who chose that name and it wasn't me) while he slowly got better. Now, a mere week later, he's back to being the grumpy, food-obsessed, anti-social nasty little dog with a huge Napoleon complex which is his normal self. And, although we've done our share of complaining about him in the past eleven years and wistfully imagined how it might be to have a dog with a sweeter temperament, we've come through this episode to realize that although he is an evil little dog, he's our evil little dog. He's part of the family and we'd miss him. 

See, I wasn't kidding when I said the last couple of weeks were eventful. But, now that the fridge is fixed, and the dog is back to begging for treats, and I've got a folder-full of potential new print material to work with, it doesn't look so bad.  And, if anything, the lesson is that we (or maybe I) need to learn to appreciate what I've got, rather than wasting time in longing for what's on the other side of the fence.  


Libby Fife said...

That scenery is so gorgeous! Thank you for showing those pics. It's a place I would not normally get to see and it is beautiful. You know, I got turned on to the Group of Seven painters and Canadian art in general and I can see what got them all excited.

And isn't it the way? Your description of the tourists made me think you might be in CA! I don't know what it is about being in nature but it makes people want to hoot and holler, and be generally insensitive to the beauty and wonder of it all. Really, I just don't know.

Quite a dose of reality too when you got back. I am glad the dog recovered. I sure know what you mean when you say they are a problem but that they are your problem and you wouldn't want to be without them:)

Glad you two were able to get away:)

Katka said...

Hey Libby,

I'm glad you like the scenery. Maybe one day you and your husband can come up this way. And yeah, I love much of the work of the Group of Seven.

Yes, I do remember people being crazy in nature even in California. In Mammoth, we watched a woman chasing after a black bear with a plate of spaghetti. No sense!

Elizabeth Busey said...

I have such fond memories of camping in BC! I vividly remember the difference between the Lake Louise side and the Yoho/Lake O'Hara side.

Glad your restorative time came before the fridge-breaking and pet-illness time. Glad to hear Frodo has recovered!