Gentle Giants of Canada – part 3

Part 3 – Day 2
a.k.a. ‘Two grandma’s rolling down a hill in the Rocky Mountains’.

How many stars do you think there are? 

Some days, it gets real dark. The world moves in the kind of slow motion that makes you stop caring it’s spinning in the first place. There is a perpetual fog, just thick enough you still see shadows, just sticky enough to cling onto your limbs, but never enough to shake off. 

Some days, I don’t want to think about tomorrow. There is no tomorrow. Other days, I buy a new planner well in time before the new year. Some days, it’s hard to grasp at what’s happening because it’s all going so fast and you’re flying and it feels like you’re in a race car but you’re not the one driving. Some days you’ll find yourself in a car again, in good, warm company, and you’re driving down the dwindling road that has sharp turns as if the road has teeth and you can almost taste what ‘danger’ really tastes like and you’re again not the one driving but you’re okay with that because, really,
everything is okay. 

Some days, perhaps, possibly, if you permit yourself that luck, you find yourself in some otherworldly wonder on the other side of the world (possibly called ‘Canada’) and it’s not that late at night but it’s still pitch dark, the kind of dark you know too well, and you’re outside and your breath is like a premature, sharp ghost of the fog you know too well too but you gaze up and you see a million stars and they’re so bright and it’s like you’ve never seen them before and you wonder

how many stars do you think there are? 

Catching the morning light at Patricia Lake.

I don’t really keep a bucket list, but there are a few things that I’d like to do in my life. Go on tour with a band. Or climb a proper mountain. Do a multi-day hike that requires proper sleepovers at Mother Nature’s place. Visit a place – a country, a city, a town – where war or conflict has left a still visible mark. Complete a humanitarian photo project. Learn Italian. Live on a boat for a while (a week counts too). 

Go on a road trip. Check

Sleep in a car……. 

Anyone in Jasper that night, or the morning after, who has seen us must have considered us (rather: me) particularly mad. I don’t remember if I’ve shown, but I was heaps excited. I felt like I was at a party and carefree, dancing to disco or funk, having the time of my life. I was dead excited about sleeping in the car, even though it was freezing. When we woke up the next morning, stiff and sore, my ankle still semi-bad and Ashy’s knee acting up, both grandma’s were still excited. I was even more excited about the ice on the inside of the windows. I did a happy dance when Ashy wasn’t looking in the heated restroom where we conducted our soon-to-be morning ritual of brushing teeth, peeling off layers of sleepwear to put on layers of anything-we-had that passed the low bar of appropriate enough to keep us warm but still allowed us to move because oh boy, we were moving

This, this was adventure. This was adventure and I felt so very much alive. 

Breakfast at Pyramid Lake.

Nothing here seems to know an end. The roads seem to keep going. The mountains keep rising – falling – rising, like Mother Nature’s steady breath. The fields stretch on endlessly, the lakes keep spilling around the corners and the bends, the rivers equally never running out. The views don’t end; for each that disappears into the rearview mirror, a new one rises. The music knows no end either – we have Sam Fender on repeat, listen to our favourites from July Talk and Ashy’s newfound love for Amber Run is endless too. This Will Destroy You did sort of destroy us and provided us with the most perfect soundtrack for our trip – the trip that seems to know no end. 

Maligne Canyon, where we hiked five out of the six bridges and the beauty, the horizon, cliffs, waterfalls, stable bridges for unstable feet like mine over steep drops, height of the trees and length of the trails did not end. 

Lunch at Medicine Lake almost knew no end, procuring the table that overlooked the lake with that view that just did not seem to know an end. One moment we’re hiking through the woods in a peaceful silence that blankets us, the next we’re surrounded by the blatant noise of tourists and we must avoid eye contact in order to remain calm. Medicine Lake, away from the tourist looking point, was much quieter than Maligne Canyon and we roamed around for a while until we decided to follow the lake by car, running into bighorn sheep around the corner. 

Adventure seems to know no end in a country that seems to know no end. ‘Two grandma’s rolling down a hill’ became our mantra of the day and then the rest of the week because that’s what we were and that’s what we kept doing. We kept rolling; rolling headfirst & smiling into whatever was thrown at us, devouring whatever adventure we were fed. 

What is the end, anyway? The end is where things stop, but nothing ever really stops. Sound doesn’t die, so even a heartbeat, albeit it the last, won’t die. The echo lasts forever. Light can travel for millions of years, allowing stars to continue a state of what they used to be, even though they have abandoned that state. As humans, we all eventually return to dust, from which new things grow. Nothing ever really stops. Memories never really die, we just lose the way to them from time to time. 

What I know now is this: our road trip has ended, but in my mind and in part of my heart, we are still there, still on the road, still laughing driving hiking shooting admiring loving, so you see? Nothing ever really ends; it just changes from time to time to make room for something new. 

We make it to Icefield with barely any daylight left. The changing of the sky is spectacular, but we know that with nightfall the cold will come too. We bless ourselves lucky with Pursuit hotel right on the doorstep of our home for the night (read: an absurdly large parking lot that we have nearly to ourselves) so we can prepare for an expected cold night. Dinner is an adventure too – the last of the day – with a vegan and gluten-free mac ‘n cheese that takes ten minutes to boil in the growing darkness where we stand around the fire with a blanket around our shoulders and is served semi-warm in the car so that Polly still smells of cheese the next day. 

As we walk back from Pursuit, ready to face the cold and the night, it’s a little after nine but pitch dark. We use flashlights to find our way over the slippery ice back to the car. Before we do, I see how dark it is. The stars hang above us, like tiny lighthouses on a sea of vast blackness. Naturally, there are too many to count, but I am struck gobsmacked and breathless. 

I ask myself: How many stars do you think there are? 

Did you know
we live in the Milky Way galaxy that has over 10 billion stars? 
there are about 10 billion galaxies in space?
that that means there are about 1 billion trillion stars?

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