While my international travels have been halted for the time-being, I can't help but feel the same rush of excitement that I get boarding a plane, when I get behind the wheel of my car.
With the summer barely started, I've already driven over 10,000 km. So much for being eco-friendly.
This weekend it was a camping trip with Alex Dodd. The destination was chosen as though I had pointed my finger at a provincial map and asked myself, "What's the furthest possible location from Cold Lake?"
The answer was simple: Waterton National Park, which lies tucked neatly in the southwestern corner of Alberta, bordered by British Columbia and stretching into Montana (where it becomes Glacier National Park).
We stopped in Red Deer for snacks, but it soon became clear that Gasoline Alley was not the place to be for self-proclaimed vegetarian foodies.
Although, I have to admit, I was mighty tempted by their high-class beef jerky. (Really, though, what gas station needs two displays devoted solely to beef jerky? I love beef jerky as much as the next person, but isn't that just a little unneccessary?!)
The excitement when I'm driving wears off after 6 hours of this scenery, much in the same way that all airline attendants begin to look exactly the same after 3 hours in the air and you get excited by the brief interludes of peanuts and water. In southern Alberta, the pretzel breaks are when you see hilarious road signs like "Alcohol is part of our culture-- please don't drink and drive," interspersed by the occasional deer, turkey farms and huge feedlots.
After 5 hours of driving south of Edmonton, we finally arrived at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. Alex was thoroughly amused that whomever designed this sign definitely had no qualms about getting to the point.
The buffalo jump was used for an estimated 5, 700 years.
They refer to this as the "kill site." Neat.
We also learned that buffalo fetus bags were all the rage back in the day. It's a fashion trend that's just dying to make a comeback.
We laughed as the film at the Interpretive Centre depicted natives channeling buffalo spirits in order to herd them.
Little did we know that Alex Dodd has been channeling spirits, too.
"That's just ominous," said Alex. "A big, ominous bird."
We settled into a campsite on the edge of Waterton, with the Prairie bush for our shelter and the mountains as our backdrop. With his fast complete, Alex was all about the eating and cooking over the fire.
I was all about the whining and rocking the awesome camping fashion trends (all I was missing was my buffalo fetus purse.)
Right beside our campsite was a massive bison paddock. Southern Alberta was full of dangers, though. We were warned that deer may attack dogs, bison may attack people, and that you can fall over the edge of cliffs. Who knew?
On Saturday, after a Swiss Army Knife shopping excursion (I'm ridiculously jealous of Alex's new "the Camper" knife), it started to pour rain, but we braved the weather and went for a mini-hike up beside Cameron Falls.
I imagine this is how Alex posed in vacation pictures when he was 12.
Haha. Another great sign. Thanks, southern Alberta!
Not knowing what else to do in the rain, we decided to drove up the mountain to Cameron Lake. The rain stopped just in time to rent a canoe.
Since the weather was so sketchy, we were almost the only ones on the water. We canoed all the way across the lake, close enough to see deer grazing silently on the shores, close enough to see a huge waterfall and close enough to nearly touch the ice caps that had formed on the mountain by the lake.
The view from our campsite was amazing. "I wonder why we like mountains so much?" Alex thought aloud.
For me it's because they remind me of how insigficant I am, and that like Head-Smashed-In, there are thousands of years of history before me. All it takes is a bunch of big rocks to put me in my place.
On Sunday morning, we woke up to blowing wind and dark clouds that threatened to wreck havoc on our flimsy tent and dry blankets. After breakfast we packed up, just as the rain started again, deciding to head north. On the way I decided that despite my intense hatred of wind, I'd really like to become a wind farmer.
Alex woke up bleary-eyed from his car-ride nap to discover that we'd driven a little more north than he had anticipated.
Just joking. We drove up on the Kananaskis road, where the heavy, wet snow was at least a foot deep.
Finally, after a six hour drive that included a harrowing 35 km adventure on an unpaved cliffside forestry road, we ended up in Banff, where Alex renounced his veganism and ate some cow inards.*
*That was a lie. We actually went to Magpie & Stump's for a vegan friendly dinner, went to the hot springs and ended up driving back to Edmonton in the middle of the night since even the hostel in Banff cost $140/night.