Light crept in through fluttering eyelids as our bus pursued the rugged landscape ahead; blinking, astounded by the framed wilderness, I sat up in awe of the vast expanse passing by my seat. Eager to explore this unknown terrain, I searched my bag for a guide book and removed my outstretched legs from the cooler they had been resting on. In doing so I startled my tour guide, our eyes locked in the rear-view mirror and I was met with a handsome smile. Quickly looking away, I proceeded to immerse myself in thoughts of our remaining exploration.
We leisurely exited the bus, searching our packs for extra layers as we began to hike to Moraine Lake. Minutes later, coniferous trees of all sizes framed a cerulean valley crowned by ten distinguished peaks. I wandered to the farthest ledge and hunkered down with both my feet and jaw dangling. I was joined by a certain handsome onlooker; we sat in awe of how small the Canadian Rockies made us feel, and how truly incredible mother nature can be. The feeling of insignificance that scanning the extensive panorama provided was liberating. I felt free.
A bellowing call for our group to return to our bus brought me to my senses. I hadn’t even realized I was alone on the ledge. Feeling a new sense of enlightenment, I slid into my seat and with the turn of a key we were back on the road. We toured the roads of BANFF National Park, leaving the bus for short expeditions through winding trails to the mountaintop nook of Lake Agnes Tea House, or clinging to the catwalks of Johnston’s Canyon, until we came to a beautiful Alpine Centre nestled into towering pines and robust larch trees.
The crisp night air rolled in while we roasted mallows and enjoyed casual conversation around the fire pit. The azure sky grew dark and clear while our thoughts became hazy; as time passed, company began to dwindle. I found myself sitting cross legged, doubled over in laughter trying not to spill into the crackling embers below. The wit, convincing smile, crinkle nosed laugh, intelligence and chivalrous mannerisms accompanying me had my every sense responsive. With each new topic we found ourselves closer to one another, in both sentiment and proximity. His olive gaze seemed to delve into my energy, my inspiration; my longing for happiness seemed fulfilled and my dreams began to grow. This genuine connection amidst the colossal Canadian Rockies, the calm coniferous surroundings and crisp, clear night sky ended my search for self-acceptance and began a journey of self-appreciation.