Last week I was in Alberta with my parents for seven days of hiking the Rockies. It was spectacular. We all had an amazing time. Pictures and words can't do it justice (though I'm going to try).
A few impressions: I stood on a glacier and watched a piece of ice break off a mountain and fall down with a thundering noise. The rivers are teal coloured, unbelievably blue. The magpies are pesky but also very pretty, with white shoulders and black heads, black wingtips and iridescent long green and blue tails. The mountain sheep, mountain goats, and elk don't seem afraid of people at all. Herds of them crossed the road right in front of us. In Calgary I met up with a friend and also my cousin. I saw a police officer in Calgary wearing a cowboy hat. I asked him about his hat and he said it was part of the police-issued uniform and he wears it all year around. Then I tried on red cowboy boots.
There are patches of juniper bushes all over the mountains. When the sun warms the berry patch you can smell the scent of the berries, which kind of smells like a mix between gin and Christmas and freshness. The poplar leaves were dropping and rotting and I'm told you can taste it in the tapwater in the spring. Speaking of taste, I put my hand in the Sunwapta River, right below the Athabasca Glacier where it flows out of Lake Sunwapta. It was so clear and cold, like putting my hand in an aquarium of ice water. There was a tiny bit of moss on the stones in the river and a few small insects on the surface but not much else. No life, too cold. The round smooth rocks were all covered in a white calcified tacky looking stuff. I dipped up a little sip of the water and drank it. It tasted like rocks. It was good water.
There were wonderful rocks in the mountains. I wanted to climb the dry tunnel carved out of the rock by the Athabasca River. Too bad we didn't have climbing gear. In Lake Louise we climbed as far as we could go up the Plain of Six Glaciers. There's a very high, steep, windy ridge there that runs along the edge of a moraine. You can walk along it in single file and look way down to the glacier, which is all pitted and covered in ice crevasses hundreds of feet deep. You can also look up and see the snow on the steep rock face of Mount Victoria. Being up there was just wild. Here are a few pictures, and a thought from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, my friend on the road. Sometimes when you read a book on the road you start to see parallels between what you're reading and what you're seeing, and I thought this one was apt.
"This is the hardest stuff in the world to photograph. You need a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree lens, or something. You see it, and then you look down in the ground glass and it's just nothing. As soon as you put a border on it, it's gone."