I had to get out of the city. For the last six months almost everything I had seen, heard, smelled or touched was made by humans or altered or managed by us. I needed to reconnect with the planet, to regain perspective on my existence. What better way than to immerse myself in geologic time? I headed for the nearest mountains, in this case the Canadian Rockies, Purcells and Bugaboos.
In a tiny high valley just west of the Continental Divide lies Mistaya Lodge.
Accessible mainly by helicopter, this little piece of paradise is one of my favourite places.
I try to come here at least once a year, and as soon as I arrive I can feel the noise and stench of the city fade from memory. It takes a little longer to let go of my defences and open my eyes to every sight, my ears to every sound, my nose to the scent of the conifers. One can spend hours simply enjoying the view from the lodge or walking around the lake.
Of course, in summer I come for the hiking. Being slow and having bad knees, I usually hike alone. In solitude I can stop to marvel at the beauty of a single flower, pause to track a bird that keeps disappearing in the branches, sit and watch a ptarmigan fuss over her chicks, or wait for the ground squirrels to get over their alarm at my presence and return to stuffing their cheeks ridiculously full of grass to carry back to their burrows.
Trails lead through forests and meadows, sooner or later turning into more or less well-marked routes or free wandering. In this circular valley one cannot get lost, but the easiest way to one’s destination is not always clear. At one point during the week I was frustrated by impenetrable brush and resorted to following a series of grizzly bear diggings (I correctly assumed that bruin was a better route-finder than I was).
There are flowering meadows.
Occasional cairns to show the way
And alpine lakes.
After a day of hiking I return to savoury snacks and a cold beer at the lodge. No, I haven’t given up backpacking, but the older I get, the more I appreciate the luxury of food that I don’t have to carry, cooked to perfection by someone else, and served in a comfortable lodge. Weather, mosquitoes and horse flies permitting, we sit on the porch in the late afternoon, eating, drinking and watching a flock of rufous hummingbirds fight over who gets to use the feeders.
After eight days in this glorious wilderness I feel refreshed, alive and full of anticipation for the next adventure. Some of my best memories of this sojourn will be the flowers.
Glacier lilies in August? Only in the Alpine! And that little anemone should have gone to seed weeks ago.
The mountain avens are also early bloomers, but the snows were deep this year and lingered long. The moss campion, at least, is blooming on schedule.
I always hate to leave Mistaya, but I will be back in March to enjoy a week of snowshoeing or skiing.