As the second largest country in the world, it’s no surprise that much of Canada’s diverse landscape remains untouched. Growing up in the country’s most populated cities, I’ve always found myself retreating to nature when I need to recharge; whether it be the spacious coastal beaches, the clear still waters of the Great Lakes or the open skies of the prairies. Yet, if there is one region that truly embodies Canada’s natural grandeur, it’s the Rocky Mountains (known by Canadians as the Rockies); a 900-mile stretch of jagged peaks, pine forests and glacial waters that divide British Columbia and Alberta.
While a few years of my childhood were spent in the nearby city of Calgary, I had never visited the infamous natural wonders of the region nor had I ever camped on my country’s own soil. So, when given the opportunity to spend a week exploring the area with a group of creatives at Socality Camp, I eagerly accepted. For many of my fellow campers this would be their first time to Canada; allowing me to rediscover my own country from an outsider’s perspective, perhaps revealing all that I’ve come to take for granted. A typical morning was watching the sunrise over Moraine Lake; turquoise waters that people travel from around the world to see. Chilly evenings were spent roasting s’mores over the fire.
Every moment of the journey was a quintessential Canadian experience. In a country marked by space, naturally we spent many hours on long drives. It was these in-between-moments that I treasured the most, as I found myself discovering awe in the understated. The gentleness of the rolling foothills or the subtle muted yellows of autumn in Alberta. I’ve always been drawn to the Canadian prairies for its big blue open skies and crisp, clean air. For someone used to a visual landscape filled with obstructions, whether it be tall trees or buildings, the simplicity of the plains presents itself a blank canvas. Stretching as far as the eye can see, the open land and sky offer endless opportunities. The security of seeing what the distance holds instills a sense of certainty and purpose.
A trip to the Rocky Mountains wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Lake Louise and the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel; a luxury mountain resort situated in the heart of Banff National Park. Opportunities for pristine views of the lake were available from inside the Fairmont over their indulgent afternoon tea service. We chose instead to take a leisurely stroll around the crystal blue lake and savour the warm sun on our skin, anticipating the chilly evening that would follow. Yearning for a more private lake experience, we took a freezing dip in Window Mountain Lake before returning to camp.
We awoke early to take advantage of the many hiking trails around the Kananaskis Lakes; a series of untouched reservoirs surrounded by snow-capped peaks and thick woods. It was a cool, damp morning and it even began to lightly snow as we ascended from the Lower to the Upper Kananaskis Lake. Our hiking trail climbed so high that eventually we needed crampons to continue safely. Inadequately equipped for glacial hiking, we stopped to revel in the lush forest and mountains that engulfed us. The sheer size and rugged features of the Rockies are a truly humbling sight. It is in this moment that I realized why I always return to the mountains for rejuvenation; they remind me to stay grounded and balanced.
Equally soul-fulfilling to the natural sights of the day, were the peaceful evenings at the ranch where we camped. On our final night, Canadian country artist, Paul Brandt flew in by helicopter to play music for us under an intimate tent strung with tiny lights. Without cellular reception and surrounded by nothing but darkness and the frigid night air, we warmed up by the fire and reveled in the simple pleasure of live music in good company. Somewhere between the campfire and our sleeping bags, we paused to admire the countless stars that stretched from one horizon to the other. Upon returning to the city, a final stop was made at my most cherished Calgary restaurant specializing in ethical vegetarian cuisine; The Coup.