The Fog has Lifted



During the COVID 19 pandemic, we have all had to scramble to find joy in different ways and in different places.  Today I am sitting in a campsite spot number 137 located at Lake Louise Alberta Canada, next to the CPR train track.  The sign at the check-in station posted a clear warning to expect train noise day and night. My eyes roll as I try to find the silver lining. Not sure there is one at this point but maybe I will eventually find it. 


We embarked on this camping adventure five days ago starting in a northern British Columbia town called Fort Saint John. We were there to attend my nephew’s wedding.  By all standards it was a different kind of wedding but let's just blame it on COVID.  


The following day we ventured south east to a town in the province of Alberta called Grande Prairie.  There we camped in Grande Prairie's Rotary Club campsite located along a busy highway on one side and a calm easy flowing river on the other,  and walking distance to handy stores to replenish our food and drink supplies. The temperature was comfortable but very windy. 


Arrangements have been made to meet up with an elementary school friend I hadn't seen in 51 years. She arrived just on time; looked exactly how I remembered her, and just as sweet and pleasant to be around. It was a delightful visit, as we spoke about our memories of our days of living in the same hamlets or at least side-by-side hamlets named North Bend and Boston Bar in the province of British Columbia, when we were in our early teenage years. It was a really wonderful visit and I know we will keep in touch.


The next morning we packed up, and headed Southwest to Jasper National Park for camping nights number three and number four. It was located a fair distance from the main village but we had plans in place for guests to join us at the campsite for an outdoor Italian dinner. The guests were my niece Kendra who recently got married and was on her altered honeymoon with her husband Matt. It was a pleasant evening of social time and delicious food. When they left we did the routine cleaning up and enjoyed a few rounds of cards before heading to bed. The temperature had dipped significantly from the daytime so I was in my nightgown plus leggings plus plush housecoat, and neatly snuggled into sleeping bag on the lower bunk bed of our travelling home.  I lay awake for a couple of hours listening to the loudest and longest thunderstorm and lightning experience I've ever witnessed. It's at times like that that I have a hard time imagining the next day being pleasant but, alas, I looked out the window in the mid morning, the sky was blue and the sun was shining.


As arranged the night before, following breakfast in the fifth wheel trailer, we met my niece and her husband Matt where the road forms the Y en route to the Jasper Park Lodge, and together we drove in our respective vehicles, to Maligne Canyon to pursue a mountain hike from bridge one to bridge four, following the most awesome canyon enjoying a variety of the majestic and wild waterfalls which eventually led us to Maligne Lake. We stood on each of the various bridges along the trail. The view down and across was mind-boggling and amazing — absolutely stunning in fact.


Two hours later we were back in the parking lot and said our farewells to Kendra and Matt.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch before heading to the town of Jasper. It is a cute little village with several interesting shops along the main road and on some of the side streets. It was also market day so we were able to enjoy seeing what some of the locals are selling. It was also great to get free Wi-Fi at a number of the locations. It was interesting to see that everyone was complying with the expectation of wearing masks and respecting social distancing regulations.


For dinner we enjoyed seven layer dip with cut up vegetables on our picnic bench back at the campsite. The night was calm and we all slept well before enjoying breakfast and packing up for the next destination — the world famous Columbia Icefields.  We did do a pitstop along the way for a bathroom break (my second experience with an outhouse) and some exciting incredibly breathtaking views of another waterfall area known as the Athabaskan Falls.  They were truly amazing.


We then continued south through the majestic Rocky Mountains to the town of Lake Louise. Lake Louise is located in Banff National Park. It is small and quaint, has an amazing bakery and coffee shop where I enjoyed another fabulous cappuccino and bought some delicious lemon tarts for us to enjoy after dinner at the campsite. This was camping night number five and I was still going strong. I say this because camping is not a normal thing for me to do however I do tag along with seasoned campers like my sister and brother-in-law who manage to teach me some of the basics. 


This beautiful night I am sitting at the picnic table along side our camper and writing this story for you to enjoy. I am actually sitting at the edge of my seat because just prior to our arriving here from our walk to the village, my brother-in-law had an encounter with a big black bear; he took the picture to prove it to us. I need to be able to jump up quickly should such an encounter occur while I am composing!  We are actually in the midst of a bear habitat and that big black bear was proof! My nerves were at the forefront of my thoughts and my knees were at the brink of shaking.  I decided to stay outside because I do not want to be a whus on this beautiful sunny day.  So in your imagination you can see me sitting in this chair writing one sentence then looking up and around writing another sentence then looking up and around, and that's how the story is unfolding. Thankfully there have been no further incidents.


Tonight will be a delicious mixed salad with roasted chicken followed by the delicious lemon tarts that were bought at the bakery earlier today.


As a side note, during the course of my writing the story, three rather long and loud CPR trains have passed by and the sound of the whistles have been deafening. Each time I heard myself say “this too will pass” {tongue in cheek} as sleeping will likely be significantly choppy, definitely not soundly, and perhaps I'll catch up during tomorrow's trip to Canmore and then Calgary — our end destination.


As luck would have it, the train noise actually did not have much of a negative impact on our sleep. We did hear trains go by but, for some reason, I guess our brains were pre-programmed to not let that keep us from sleeping more or less soundly throughout the night. 


All in all, it's been a great family adventure with lots of fun and memories to talk about and smile about in the days and weeks and months and years ahead. I'm not a seasoned camper but my hosts definitely are. I caught on to the set up and the cleanup routine, got used to daytime public washrooms including two occasions when I needed to use an outhouse. This experience was one I used to have a great deal of difficulty with; however, I guess over the years I have been able to accept that current outhouses are not like those old outhouses I experienced when I was much younger. That is not to say that I like outhouses, but they are adequate in times of emergencies. Wearing a mask or requiring to wear a mask actually worked in our favour because then the smell aspect about outhouses was not quite as extreme. 


Another adjustment to be made during camping trips in the wilderness is getting used to not having Wi-Fi. This requires some imagination in order to fill the time so we did this by conversing with one another, playing cards, reading magazines or books, or just having some quiet sitting time relaxing, meditating, writing stories and making plans for the future.


The weather was mostly pleasant, the views magnificent, the company great. Because of COVID-19, I realized my passion for shopping has died. I don't care to be around too many people and some of my masks need a firmer wire insert to press around my nose bridge and under my eyes, so my breath doesn't make me feel I'm walking through fog. There is a metaphor in that last sentence because life over the past 2 1/2 years seems to have been in a cloud of fog. This outdoor experience has brought to light many things and given me a refreshed look at how life has unfolded since retiring, and I now feel a refreshed determination to get rid of some of the fog that has accumulated.


My eyes are once again wide open. A lot of the fog has lifted. My options are wide open or at least as wide open as they can be during this COVID-19 pandemic. I won't let the pandemic strip me from all options because there are many options out there. I call them adventures, safe adventures, and I am determined to experience them as suitable or superior alternatives to the way things used to be.