It’s Saturday morning in Yoho National Park and outside of our tent I can hear Tak Falls getting hammered by rain. I turn over in my sleeping bag, damp on the sides from the water that seeped into our tent overnight, pull my toque over my eyes and fall back asleep.
Jon and I found ourselves in a rare and precious weekend where neither of us was racing, neither of us was working, and neither of us was committed to something else. To make the best of the opportunity we selected a camping trip we’d had on the radar for a while, packed up and headed out of town on Friday. I switched off my phone on the way out of town, racking my brain to recall the last time I had totally unplugged from my life. Sadly, I couldn’t remember.
We spent the weekend in Tak Falls, camping in the record rainfall and strategically positioning our tarps to avoid a full flood inside of our tent. We ate crouched under a tarp, propped up by bungee cords and toasting each other with coffee from the Moka Pot – and later wine in our plastic wine glasses – while attempting to remain as dry as possible.
Three days of not showering, three days of brilliant hiking. Three days of camp dishes and camp dinners, three days of quiet time just for us. Three days where my greatest joys were a dry pair of wool socks, a hot coffee to wrap my hands around in the morning, and the standing in front of a great glacial lake deep in the backcountry.
I love camping because it distills life down to the simplest actions. You can feel like you have a new lease on life by brushing your teeth or washing your camp bowl. You are surrounded by beauty at every angle, like the universe challenging you to stop and be bowled over by its incredible wonder. Life while camping is unfolding in each small moment, unencumbered by the distractions of everyday life.
While hiking Iceline Trail on Saturday we stumbled across an older couple in the middle of our hike. We initially exchanged pleasantries when they stopped to ask about our dog, and I found myself in a full conversation with the female of the couple.
We had the rare and beautiful exchange that happens when two human lives intersect at an unexpected moment. Within a few moments I find myself sharing with her what they should do in Jasper when they arrive in a few days time, and why that set of mountains is so special. Suddenly she is telling me about how she left her career as a psychotherapist to work at an outdoor goods store. She explained to me that the way she saw it, her life work was to help people find their happy. I was so compelled by this beautiful creature, her bright blue eyes webbed with long lines from living and laughing. I am moved by the short story she shared with me. At the end of our exchange as we were preparing to walk on, she grabbed my hand and turned me around, bowing deeply. Without thought I did the same, remembering what my father taught me about bowing in Judo: bow to your training partner, bow to your training ground. Bow to you opponent, bow to your master. To bow is respect. We walked on but the story of this woman has stubbornly stuck with me, how sure she was exactly of her life work.
We drove the mountain highway home from the rain and landed back in Calgary Sunday night. I begrudgingly turned my phone back on. Life resumed. But Yoho remains on my mind.