Tag Archives: wildlife

It’s Not Just About the Destination

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“It’s not just about the destination” sums up my thoughts while traveling to escape the noise and fast pace of the city and my work-business life. It is not to escape who I am or what I love to do… my passion and commitment are firm, although, at times, I doubt the strength I have to continue on certain paths. Plagued by self-assessment, as anyone might be while trying to navigate the rough roads of every day, I often wonder if I should just run off on some other trail–change my direction–change my destination. Then, I remind myself… it’s not just about the destination because, in fact, we all end up the same place anyway. It is all about how you see your journey there and I am constantly reminding myself to stay in the moment without worry about what happens in the end. Therefore, I do realize that I see things somewhat differently depending upon my situation and location. This trip was about certain goals, but everything in between, before, and after is up to fate and fortune. What you make of a day is really what thought you put into it and the effort afforded to enjoy every moment. It will all be there when you return, so to worry about “what to do” or “what about” or “what if” is a waste of such a beautiful surrounding.

I am happy I am able to reflect on the time I take away–this time we were really tired at the end of the day and barely had supper and did a few mundane tasks before sleep claimed us. There is something about the mountain air and being out in the beauty of nature that fills you with enough that you are pleasantly exhausted. My knees couldn’t help but remind me that I did more than usual even though I try to do it on purpose, whenever I can, in order to claim every minute of the day in action. To bed early–one would think we’d stay up late writing… however, a tired body won out over a determined mind this week.

Day One arrival was nice and early and we could even check into our hotel room and then go exploring on Wednesday. We took a trip to the Beaver Boardwalk–my daughter recommended it last trip, but we didn’t make it there. Going this time was a treat. What a beautiful nature spot in Hinton! Yes, we have our ponds and walkways here at home, but sorry, Sherwood Park, the most obvious thing missing is setting… I sometimes (well, often) wonder why I still live here with so much soul/spirit connection to the mountains. This park was the perfect way to spend a couple of hours, wandering the boardwalk through the marshes and beaver habitat, traipsing some closer-in trails, and taking a look-out post in the tower to admire the view. I say closer-in because I am not one to wander onto the forest trails–hiking was a younger days sport for me due to my limitations, ones I have accepted, and am able to push to some extent enjoyment of the activities. Also, there’s the fact that we are in wildlife territory and bears and cougars just don’t excite me up close and personal. From the truck window, I am a brave soul – not on foot, however.

Trips away with my dear friend, Mandy, make me appreciate her even more because of the similarities we have –I don’t have to try to keep up and do things I feel out of my comfort zone with… we match in many ways–our appreciation for nature and its fragility to human invasion; yet, the strength and majesty and power of it awes us in the same breath. I could travel the same roads and see the same sights each day or weekend or whatever, and still be in wonder at the amazing embrace of nature–the bold colors of plants, the cuteness of a baby animal, the calming peace of water and wind, the warmth of sun–even if it only peaked through clouds throughout most of our mid-week trip.

We never lost sight of the reason for our trip, although it was in the back of our minds as we connected with the precious moments of each opportunity. The Beaver Boardwalk was more than just walking through a nature setting–it was about stopping and appreciating the finer details of plants, trees, the view, the colors, the sounds, smells, and feel of it all on your soul. Nature caresses one’s spirit with renewing qualities to create a mood of relaxation and connection. There was no sign of any wildlife–other than a couple of birds and fish in the ponds. I wondered about the lack of waterfowl on the ponds… Mr. and Mrs. Beaver must have been relaxing in the shade of their studious home–we saw signs of them being around, of course, but no chance sighting of the animals.

Impressions of the place are best in point form, because that is how they hit you when you are in the moment:

  • The song of the red-wing blackbird
  • The amazing arrangement of wooden walkways over water
  • The variety of flora with bursts of color that stand out so vivid against the greenery
  • The sound and tempo of the wind through the trees as it rises and falls
  • Sun peeking through the overhead canopy in an otherwise dull cloudy sky
  • The man who looked at me funny for taking an overhead picture… yes, look up, too!
  • Wire mesh protecting perimeter trees from industrious beaver clearing crews
  • Signs giving information about the place: make less noise to see more wildlife or be aware and cautious and informed of bears, cougars, wolves… :O
  • Picking up a couple of interesting stones from the rock pathway to commemorate
  • The lookout tower and amazing view of the nearby mountains through the trees
  • Patterns in nature–ripples on the water, long grass blowing in the wind, piles of drift-water-worn limbs

My thoughts may not match anyone else except for those who have the same appreciation for the beauty and magnificence of nature. But, even in that similarity, there are personal differences. The photos I take are not ones that another may take as I look for the shot that appeals to me; I don’t take people pictures; I don’t do selfies. I want the essence of the place where I am–what attracts me, what speaks to me. To each their own.

The take-away for this activity–always invest in the time to enjoy “every precious moment,” as a friend posted. The emotions that grab me in the mountains are awe-inspiring, captivating, yet overwhelming, at the same time. The thought that this glorious world we live in surrounds us for so short a time in comparison to its own life span is one for self-contemplation. No matter what you believe, it’s what adds to a beautiful life–it’s not just about the destination.

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Introspective Perspective

Random thoughts while driving…

The meeting was set for 1:00 pm on Saturday in the quaint coffee house, Pebble Ridge, in Rocky Mountain House. My new author is from Red Deer and it would be a short drive west for him to finally meet to discuss his book project.

I started out from home at 8:00 am, filled the tank, and got a cold drink to go. I couldn’t understand why I was so thirsty so early, but realized it might have been the consumption of wine the evening before… Rested and raring to go, it was easy to rise and pack and hit the road early. Although another route was more direct, I chose the longer way to enjoy the journey. It’s not always about the destination – although that can be important – how you get there, too, makes all the difference sometimes. For one – heading west always feels right and, for two, taking the Cowboy Trail is a good choice because it feels right, too. I’ve been this way before a few times lately (highway 16 west to highway 22 south), but I love the drive – the feel of it relaxes me and sets my mind free of city encumbrances. Driving alone, however, is open game for thinking – good and bad. If I don’t want to think, I play music to drown out the persistent voices, the constant thoughts, the never ending discussion between the realist and the dreamer. The radio station fades away and I play the soundtrack from Cavalia or Maroon 5.

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A robin poses for a close up shot.

A bumblebee buzzes around the windows looking for in or through or whatever. Sunshine sits in the Miette Hot Springs parking lot looking like a big yellow flower in a meadow of concrete – tasty temptation for the timid little bee. I roll my driver’s side window up and two seconds later it attempts to say a closer hello. A robin hops nearby on the pathway along the trees, and I mega zoom in on it – magnifying its feathers and bright eyed curiosity. I sit contemplating my move. I remain there for about an hour, reading, calming frazzled nerves that poke in and out of the relaxing peace. I cannot explain the diametrically opposed pieces of my mind. Happy. Sad. Inspired. Depressed. Peaceful. Anxious. The parking lot fills up – it’s time to move on.

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I could see the same view day after day and it would still humble me, overwhelm me with its magnificence.

When I drive the mountain roads I cannot believe the feelings that wash over me. I often wonder if those people who speed by in fast cars, neglecting the stop at look outs, ignoring points of interest, not even slowing down to enjoy the wildlife – I wonder, if they ever feel the emotion I do in the mountains. Perhaps, they did the trip before and it’s no big thing. Perhaps, they are too focused on the end point to notice the points of interest along the way. My emotions run the gamut – my mind stops, starts, and suspends itself in the magnificence of my surroundings. I am soothed by its beauty, overwhelmed and humbled by its magnitude. I cry at the thought of leaving this world and never seeing such beauty again. Then, I admonish myself for silliness and return to revel in the moment.

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Distant waterfall cascades down the mountain.

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An eagle flies o’er mountain high…

At a roadside turnout, high above the river below, I stop along the guardrail to take in the vast panorama. Mountains with snow covered peaks, shimmering shale rocks, greenery of all shades. A distant waterfall cascades down the mountainside. The telephoto lens brings the river from the valley floor and the highest shimmering rock face to me as if in reach. Out of the corner of my eye I see it – circling, circling, circling… Soaring on upper air currents, the large bird covers the sky in wide spread wings, so high it is even a speck in my lens. I am not sure of the species of raptor, but the bird is magnificent. The words to the sound about love lifting us up, come to mind and ring in my head, prompting tears to spring to my eyes, again.

The trip wasn’t totally about doing everything I love, but it encompassed some of the ‘musts’. I already mentioned the Highway 22 South route – well, 11 West is a dream and being in Rocky Mountain House with a free night ahead of me meant I couldn’t pass up the chance to see things I love and traverse the route with such beauty. My travels now include limits, however. Due to health issues, there are limits I never had to consider before, but there they are, forefront in planning and executing events. Accepting I have limitations both angers and frustrates me. In moments of appreciation, I think of all the things I’ve done and all the things I still can do. I digress and say thanks – at peace with the body’s changes. With those thoughts, I decided I would explore some different things/places amongst the wonderfully familiar, while taking time to clear my head and rest my back and knees.

For the most part, driving is easy until I log too many hours in the Sunshine saddle – then the back begins to remind me of its chronic pain. I need to stretch and walk a bit to loosen up the muscles and work the knees. Refreshing road weary eyes is always a good thing, too. My stops are frequent because of the awe I feel – lots of pictures return home with me – but, I temper my attempt at each stop depending upon my ability. Many times, I am the best darned truck window photographer! Since I stopped at Athabasca Falls last year on the reverse trip, I decided I would stop at Sunwapta Falls this time. However, I couldn’t proceed past the parking lot because, although only a .1 km hike to the vantage points overlooking the water, all of the pathway is a downhill grade and that is a no-no for the knees. Acceptance of limitation. I listened to the roar of the water rushing below, thankful for my sense of hearing and sight.

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A decision to stop for the day to rest weary bones offered me opportunity to stay in a place I never stayed before… another new experience.

The need to keep in motion produces undesirable effects. The conundrum being more movement = activity = weight loss, but more movement = pain = exasperation! The pills I am on to manage pain help with numbing it so I can sleep and I don’t get overtired, sometimes. Depending on the activity (and the weather) my pain is what it is – constant. At times, it is excruciating, forcing me to just take things easy. Doctor’s orders are movement, keep active, but my body’s response is anything but accommodating. I most likely will need double knee replacement surgery, but the weight loss is a must in order to proceed in that direction. The weekend needed to be modified with extended rest to recover bothersome knee pain. The prior long weekend retreat tired me out – 2nd floor rooms in a lodge meant stairs multiple times per day. I mentioned this concern to my doctor on a previous visit. I took it very slow. Writing, yes. Stair master, no.

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6th Bridge – the sounds of birds and rushing water soothed. When the small parking filled, I escaped with pictures to remember it by.

It was exciting to travel familiar roads, but also intriguing to discover new ones. I took some time to discover 6th Bridge where I sat for some time reading. I took some pictures of the water and the bridge, then vacated when it started to get busy. Bikers, hikers, and other sightseers. The road to Miette Hot Springs was awesome – winding, curving, bordered by cliffs, rises, and lots of trees. It took me deeper into the back country. Again, I parked and listened to the birds, did some reading, and took pictures. As before, I backtracked and headed to the highway and proceeded east on 16. East is not good. It means leaving behind something as profound as the images of the Rockies in my mirror that soon fade from sight. My mood soured despite respite in the glorious mountains. How can one feel so inflated, yet depressed? So inspired, yet so empty? So determined to do better with renewed vigor – all the while, feeling overwhelmed with all that lays ahead… Prospects and potential paralyze – how can that be?

The comfort I take in all of this is my ability to see the beauty, appreciate the wonder, realize the potential for danger or recognize opportunity, and even laugh at myself with good humor, as necessary. The feelings described above hit me every time I leave the mountains to return home, leaving me to wonder why I never moved there if such a connection rips my very soul by their separation from my view. I concede – I was fearless in my youth and have become jaded in my aging even though I would certainly consider the move – looking around the little cabin I rented I surmised – “I could live here.”

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Amazing colors… there’s probably shiny things and a squirrel in there, too 😉

So to end this blog about perspective and its inward retrospection while getting away – I leave you with a tip while driving throughout the Alberta countryside. Be aware that if Main Street is blocked off in Small Town, Alberta – and there are people pulling lawn chairs to the curb side – it could mean there is a celebration you are not privy to. I wondered why that little girl waved to me… All I could think was how lucky I was I had such a beautiful, bright truck! Sunshine was in her glory parading by the locals… oh, look, what a beautiful tree!

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