Gentle Giants of Canada – part 2

Part 2 – Day 1
a.k.a. ‘Look, don’t hike’.

I have no idea what Ashie’s house looks like. I haven’t seen it in daylight yet. When I arrived at her home the night before, it was well into the night. By the time we are ready to set off – onward to an adventure of epic proportion – we’re still in the early hours of the winter morning. October is soft this year, but dark nonetheless. I have barely seen her parents. I only know the way from her room to the bathroom, which goes through the kitchen. It’s odd, arriving this way; coming, going, it’s all so fleeting. 

I have not yet seen Ashie’s house, but I am seeing the space around me, the space that invites me to breathe, to move, to grow, to do something and I am left semi-claustrophobic, frozen and indecisive in a way that I just let everything happen. There is space everywhere

Everything seems to radiate the feeling that there is room even if the mountains are looming on the horizon, pretty much wherever I look. 

I struggle to grasp what’s happening and before I know it, we’re watching the sky change colours as the day breaks through dawn and there are mountains everywhere. 

We take the (in)famous Coquihalla highway – a 186km stretch of open freeway – so named because it goes through the Coquihalla Pass. The Coquihalla summit reaches a whopping 1,244 metres. The highway takes us through Hope and Kamloops until we finally, after an eight-hour drive, would reach our destination: Jasper, National Park, Rocky Friggin  Mountains.

But to say we drove on endlessly, would be a lie. 

Our first stop is barely an hour into our journey. Truth is true travellers (that drink too much coffee) are wired to spot restrooms and go for the first good one they find because you’ll never know when the next decent one will cross your path. But it’s also this: the treetops wore snow crowns on a golden horizon. Snow

We jump out and I run to touch the snow. It’s cold, the kind of ice-cold that is gentle like it comes with a reminder that you will, soon, be frozen cold. The air is crisp, that kind of bone-dry that comes with freezing temperatures, and clear. Clean and clear. I swear I could feel snowflakes on the tips of my fingers.

I come to a mental standstill when I’m gazing at the trees, stretched out before me, the taunt of a mountain covered underneath a blank of mist. The sky is grey but the trees are a painter’s palette of saturated colours that stand so beautifully against the vast, moody clouds. At that moment, I wish I could stay there forever. 

We make it to Mount Robson. We have just a few hours of sunlight left and – if I remember correctly – have a little over an hour left to Jasper. Ashie had marked the stop at Mount Robson on our itinerary, with the accompanying text: LOOK, DON’T HIKE. There wasn’t time to hike, Jasper, a few more miles on the motorway and dusk was waiting for us. Nevertheless, we check out the visitor’s centre where I’m looking at pictures of Kinney Lake and Ashie doesn’t want to know. I overhear the woman talk about how she’s blown away by the exceptional conditions that day and how it’s looking mighty fine. I turn to Ashie to tell her ‘We’re hiking, we’re going’ when Ashie’s asking ‘What do you think, you wanna go, I kinda wanna go’.

So we go. 

It’s a 4.2km hike to Kinney Lake. It feels like it lasts forever, in that kind of way that time just escapes you. You phase through it. Time doesn’t matter here; only the quiet, the stillness, the softness of the colours and the rustling of leaves that dance with the sound of the river next to us. There’s only our quick pace in between bouts of coming to an abrupt stop and taking our time to shoot pictures. When finally we come to a clearing – the river bellying out as if taking a deep breath – there is a small pebbled shore with large rocks for both of us to have fun with. There’s a bridge in the near distance. We take our sweet time, trying to capture everything as if we could ever capture that stillness or the beauty in such a way we do it justice. Crossing the bridge, the colours change but the reflection catches my eye. I literally grab Ash. I say something along the lines of ‘We have to go, come with me, come’. 

Come meet Robbie.

My friend would say: listen. Listen, for a thinker like me, it’s highly unusual to find myself not thinking and analysing everything. It’s highly unusual not to catch me planning the coming hours, calculating the probability of worst case scenarios and then not acting accordingly. Listen, this is the best advice she could give me. Listen. Stop and listen, to be here, to gaze up at trees taller than you could ever be in your dreams and the mountain tops rising well above that. Listen. This is the might of Mother Nature, this is quiet, this is stillness, this is appreciative cold that your body is capable of guarding you against as long as you keep moving. This is the colour of changing colours that proves that no matter what happens, the world will keep spinning. 

– ode to the friend that gave me good advice without her knowing

Final journal entry:
Caught the sunset, rolled my ankle. Dark drive to Jasper, went for a cup of tea at Timmy’s, parked the car at the train station for the night. 

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