I flew to L.A. for a short changeover (strange, to have been away from Los Angeles for four months, only to see it through the blurry window of a jet) and then to Vancouver. I’d been to Vancouver twice before, but that was years and years ago. Standing at the harbor and looking out at the water, up at the downtown towers, I walked in a sort of daze, of wonder, marveling at the diversity, the coolness, the beauty of the city, which reminded me of Sydney, San Francisco, and Seattle all rolled into one.
From there, we packed onto the Rocky Mountaineer train and headed eastward, soon rolling through dense forests, miles and miles and miles of spruces and firs and aspens and pines, though it was a little sobering, as pine beetles of the region have infested and destroyed most of the pine trees, those beautiful evergreen needles either turned red or fallen.
We spent the first night in the town of Kamloops (forgettable) and then entered the high Canadian Rockies, soaring mountains and waterfalls, sedimentary staircases leading up to the plunging waters. That night, we stayed in the town of Jasper.
The weather had been warm, to the point that I’d been uncomfortably warm. So the next morning, I decided to go bold—shorts and Tevas (no socks, of course) and only a sweatshirt, no jacket. The attendants loaded my bag into the shuttle and I joined my family in the hotel lobby.
“I can’t believe you’re wearing shorts!” they gasped. “We’re going on the glacier today”
We hopped onto the bus for an all-day tour, which included several waterfalls, lakes, and, yes, the glacier ride. Arriving at the Columbia ice field, home to several glaciers, I realized quickly the mistake I’d made. The wind was biting and a light rain had begun. My brother lent me a jacket; my dad lent me Spalding sweatpants and white athletic socks. My mind recoiled at the fashion disaster I’d become.
The tour group memers packed into an Ice Explorer, which crawled across the Athabasca glacier, the largest glacier of the Columbia ice field. We passed deep crevasses and moulins, giant holes in the glacier that can go down 900 feet.
The driver parked on the glacier and opened the Explorer’s doors. As I stepped out of the truck and onto the ice, my mind forgot fashion and went instantly to the bitter cold I was feeling, as the rain lashed my cheeks. Must have been single digits outside.
My feet slid like falling marbles across the ice, my lips frosted over, my eyes narrowed to escape the rain. But it was awesome.
Seeing those massive slabs of ice that had lain there for gobs and gobs of millenia—or longer—considering how powerful they must be, the patience of nature, the might of it, filled me with reverance and awe and humility and wonder.
As we left the glacier, again passing the deep hole in the ice, I started plotting an action movie in which the hero nearly falls down the moulin.
Then we arrived in Lake Louise, named for the lake, its water a bright turquoise, surrounded by curtains of evergreens. This is the most photographed spot in Canada, and for a good reason.
My brother-in-law and I took a 4.5 mile hike that afternoon in the rain then a 9 mile hike the next morning, early, before anyone was on the trail. It was exhausting, as each step across the crumbling stones felt like a grind, but the view was worth it, as we looked up at the six glaciers dominating the horizon, their massive ice stretched like mittens across the mountain peaks.
And finally, we arrived at Banff National Park, the last stop before the train ride home, and the Fairmont Hotel, a former castle, with steep stoned turrets and archways wide enough to allow a parade to pass.
I want to stay here forever, says one voice.
It’s time to go home, reminds the other.
Then you start thinking of all that awaits you at home, the joys and the stresses. When I get back, I’ll pack up, spend the final day with my family, and drive back to L.A., where my life is filled with as much uncertainty as I’ve ever had, though it’s filled with incredible hope and expectancy. Most can relate, I imagine.
But still, we have to go home.
I was thinking about this. And that it relates to the Hero’s Journey. Not saying that people that travel are heroes. But … in the hero’s journey, the hero goes on a grand adventure. But then she or he must go home. Often, the heroes carries with them an elixir, a treasure, or knowledge.
With travel, maybe we carry knowledge back with us. We meet people or different cultures and traditions. We hopefully gain understanding and acceptance of others, and this seems like always a good thing