My last few days have been spent lazing around, watching Netflix and enjoying summer wines and beers by the lake. My summers are usually spent in this manner with friends and family and laughs as we watch the time fly by without a care in the world.
There are lots of stories I could tell, and lots of memories I’ll keep, but today I would like to share with you my favourite road trip in the world.
The drive from Western Calgary to the USA Border.
As I live just west of Calgary, I gratefully don’t have any reason to stray into the city too often. The constant rush, and hustle and bustle, has become something of an exotic taste that I don’t much care for any more. To visit busy cities with cramped streets and skylines I can barely see above my head is one thing, but to have to rush around when I’m at home is something I just don’t enjoy.
So start in Cochrane. Or Bears Paw. Or even just inside the city in Valley Ridge or Tuscany (not Italy, unfortunately). No matter where you start, separate your story from the city – start a new chapter at least, because they are completely different. From the middle of the city, at the top of the Calgary Tower, the plains and the mountains look like a backdrop to a rather delicious scene with blocks of underground cafes and sushi joints to discover.
But once you leave the city, you leave everything you thought you knew and enter the foothills of Alberta with the Rocky Mountains before you. Leave as early as you possibly can to catch the sun rising behind you and I swear you won’t regret it.
You watch as the sun shines all shades of pink and red and orange and with a paintbrush, as wild as the wind, paints the mountains in purple and pinks it splatters the dark blue clouds in bright colours. The green of the plains glow florescent against the dark horizon beyond the Rockies and the farm houses dotting the hills sleep peacefully as your little car passes through with the silent murmer of bass from within (I prefer pounding rock or metal music, but the choice is yours).
With a few turns and a few rolling hills, the mountains continue to grow closer.
Suddenly without you realizing it, the hills tower above you with snow covered rocky peaks that arch down at an impossible angle to crash into tall ever green trees, sturdy in their ancient years. The wind meets its match against the rocks and the greens, instead taking to slithering through the valleys and pulling at the little moving boxes, singing like sirens with strong hands pulling away from the paved rock.
After your neck tires from craning against your back to wonder at the pale tips that never tan, the valley opens below a large mountain reaching across the quaint town of Canmore. Sheltered in snow half the year and sprinkled in green the other half, the town shimmers in the morning dew and the local trees wave gently as you pass. Walls of gentle lulling brown on cabins and the pale glimmer of glass entice travelers on the highway to turn off and spend a moment or two with a cup of coffee or a cold beer. The town that captures hearts ends quickly and fades in the mirror with midnight blue holiday cabins trailing close behind.
Just as fast as you arrived, you have passed Canmore into Banff National Park.
No photo I take is justice for the welcome you receive.
Every bend you turn only strikes another match against the fire that is your soul. The trees watch silently as you pass, their heigh only shadowed by the mountains that appeared as specks on the horizon before who now tower as the giants they truly are. Around bends you continue to go, watching as the glittering diamond river winds its way along the valley, jogging to the left and right of the highway teasingly. The blues and greens compliment each other only by the impossibility of glow and sheer magnitude the sun displays them. Despite being described as crystal clear, the rivers show both the rocky bottom and the fishy residents along with the aquamarine oceanic blue only the purest water should glow; the green of the trees only rivalled by the grass and bushes bordering the rivers climbing along mountain tops, hiding secret springs and oasis screaming to be discovered.
Oh yes, the Rocky Mountains are everything you have heard and more, I promise.
Growing up with these beauties outside my windows, watching over the city like big brother, walking beside me as my little silver car zooms across the prairies, I took them for granted. They were just mountains – large piles of rock – that happened to be close to where I was born and grew up.
As I travel more and more, though, my awe and appreciation and love only continues to grow for the Rocky Mountains. Every time I drive through them or by them my heart swells with pride and adoration and I ache to turn onto the highway and head for the hills.. er, mountains. The disdain I once had for Calgary is slowly turning to pride as I realize that the city isn’t so bad. All those moments I had wishing for more events and things to do was me being a spoiled, antisocial brat. Luckily I’m growing out of those cramped shoes and learning to open my eyes and appreciate walking through communities and parks and reading with coffee and a cake and talking with strangers. It’s the most amazing feeling to realize all those things I realized I could do everywhere else I can still do at home.
Anyways, If you haven’t been to Banff yet, you need to go. If you’re going, let me know and we should grab beer. And coffee. In that order. Twice.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-w2m-TeLi6I]