Driving through the gates of Jasper National Park last weekend, I knew immediately that this getaway would be one of the best yet. Right inside those gates were herds of mountain goats and bighorn sheep the likes of which I haven’t seen in years. There were lots of elk, too. The females grazed together while the young males dined alone on the roadside grasses.
Hear me read this post:
We drove to our accommodations, a one room log cabin surrounded by towering pines and containing a well vented wood burning fireplace. Across the quiet road rushed the wide Athabasca River on whose far bank still sat two feet of mid-May snow. Red squirrels ran chittering up and down the trees around the cabins, fighting or playing. It was hard to tell which.
The weather was cool and even a little misty at times. Low clouds hugged the mountaintops, and I was glad for the warm clothing I’d brought. I was doubly glad for the opportunity to savour an excellently-prepared Spanish coffee while admiring the mountain views. There was also blueberry-vanilla beer and wood-fired pizza to ward off the chill.
I’d often heard the bear warnings when visiting the mountain parks, and so was cognizant that these omnivores could be around looking for food. I did what I could while walking in the woods to ensure that their spring diet would not include me. For years, though, I was disappointed to not see many bears, especially not recently.
Then on a beautiful evening drive during one of the sun’s infrequent appearances, I saw what at first my brain interpreted to be a furry Volkswagon lumbering slowly around some metal corrals set back from the road on the other side of a stand of poplar trees. I’d never seen a grizzly before, and its sheer size left me trembling. The bear was a good safe distance from me and using my zoom lens, I tried to get a steady capture of it. Unfortunately, I was way too excited to hold the camera still enough to do my furry friend’s image justice.
During our next day’s walk along a mountain trail, I was hyper-wary of the presence bears. It’s one thing to be warned that bears might be around and quite another to see bears around. So we talked loudly as we walked and I stayed present, not letting my mind drift off. All I saw were astonishing vistas and brightly blooming wild flowers, and I am grateful for that.
What makes a fire so mesmerizing? Typically, I’m kind of busy. Doing this and doing that, I dart between activities and projects with little space in between. The fire stopped me completely at the stone hearth. My thoughts and heartbeat slowed as I held a mug of cooling green tea and stared into the flames. Occasionally I’d notice the dryness of my eyes and remember to blink. Hours passed without time seeming to move at all.
Finally, the firewood was gone leaving only a few glowing embers. It was time to stroll over to the property’s hot pool and watch the water steam around us in the plus five degree Celsius evening. The best time to enjoy an outdoor hot tub or mineral springs is when the weather’s cold. The cool temperatures just improve the warm water.
If this story has a point at all, it’s just that I am very fortunate to live in this time and this place where all these natural wonders are available to me. I’m grateful for my health that allows me to wander the woods and for my job that allows me to stay in a little log cabin. I’m thankful for my eyes that soak in the sights and thankful for my taste buds that allow me to experience sweet potatoes, beer, and coffee.
I’m thankful for the sun and for the rain, for the holidays and for the workdays which make the holidays possible and more delicious. I am surrounded by beauty and opportunity, and that’s the life that I get to live. Wow.