West of the Mountains

This week we celebrated our 18th anniversary and the birthday of our first flat-coated retriever, Jasper, who died in 2011. We also remembered the early passing of my sister-in-law, Theresa, back in 2006. These kinds of events are a time to think about everything that’s happened since then, and whether things are going as planned for the future.

We got married at Hilda Glacier, a small glacier in the Canadian Rockies, just at the northern border of Banff National Park. We had a small (family only) wedding party, hiking the 30 minutes into the glacier where we had the ceremony. It was trying to snow when we hiked in, but the sun came out for the ceremony which was nice. My sister even came out with her son, who was only one year old at the time so had to be carried around in a kid backpack. To add to the adventure, I carried him in and our photographer and family friend carried him out. We were living in Alberta at the time, and you could make someone a Justice of the Peace for the day. So we enlisted a friend (partner to our photographer) to be our JP and officiate the ceremony. Our wedding rings are engraved with the sun, moon, two people, trees, and mountains.

Our wedding rings.
Hilda Glacier, Banff National Park.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the day – I remember my dad saying after the ceremony that if this was a traditional wedding we’d be going to some fancy restaurant in fancy cars. He was quite pleased to be walking in the mountains to head back to our cabins for a feast we’d prepared ourselves.

From the description of our wedding, you probably guessed that we were outdoors people who loved the mountains and sharing them with others. That we spent a lot of time travelling well-loved trails. That we fully expected our lives to continue in that vein – always enjoying being outdoors.

Hilda Glacier with Cedar and Cosmo.

And things did go that way for a while. Arctic fieldwork when we lived in Edmonton, plus mountain vacations on weekends during our graduate degrees. Winter fieldwork trips when we lived in Prince George, including trips to the northern Rockies. Trips to the southern Rockies – and a few to the Icefields Parkway – when we lived in Lethbridge.

Dome Glacier, Jasper National Park

And then we moved back to the Island. The first ten months were great, as we had access to walking trails on which we rarely saw another person, and the dogs could roam free.

But once we moved to the south Island, our outdoor life came to a halt. Now we rarely do outdoor activities except chores around our property. Last year I did the Lake-to-Lake half-marathon, which required that I do a lot of walking training, but I mostly walked on the rails-to-trails path a ten-minute drive from my house. We feel hemmed in by too many people and overpopulated trails, as there’s nowhere close by where there’s no one around, where we can enjoy a hike without running into a lot of people (and off-leash dogs). There are hikes like Mount Tzouhalem and Maple Mountain, but they’re all quite popular and busy.

We miss the mountains terribly, something we hadn’t accounted for when we first moved back here. And with my difficulties with travel, it’s hard to make plans to get back there.

Northern Rocky Mountains (Mt. Robson)

There’s also the likelihood that the mountains have changed significantly in the seven years since we were last there. There are probably many more visitors, which means the campgrounds are more crowded and our quiet hikes might be more popular than they have been in the past.

Still, we hope for one last visit to the mountains to do the six or seven hikes we love the most, to take our German Shepherd cross for her first trip there and our flat-coat Cedar for one last trip there, and to make new memories. Hopefully next fall, for our 19th anniversary.

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