It is a moment I dreamed about for nearly five years: visiting Banff National Park.
I snapped a photo 5249 feet atop the Big Bee Hive Trail along the Rocky Mountains in Alberta, with Lake Louise tucked below it, and as unapologetically stunning as a picture may be, it doesn’t do the moment justice. The hue of the water in Canada’s first national park is a blue is so vibrant that, unless seen by the naked eye, one would assume it’s super saturated with color from a filter on some sort of app.
It was the most difficult, and highest, ascension I have completed to date — making it as rewarding as it was exhausting. It was more than 25,000 steps — over eight miles —at an elevation that reached 7448 feet.
The trail zigzags alongside the mountainside, with glaciers in the distance, before coming to man-made steps that lead to the Lake Agnes Tea House. From there, I took a walk over some rocks alongside Lake Agnes and up the mountainous equivalence of Lombardi Street in San Francisco — a steep climb, which was positively petrifying, to the top.
Standing there, the rest of the world became silent, aside from my heavy breathing to adjust to the new altitude. The wind whistled through the evergreens, and, for a moment, I envisioned a time before tourists. When it was just the mountains. Did the trees know I was there? Did they mind? How was I going to make it back down? Oh look, a chipmunk . . . it was time to go.
Once at the bottom, I enjoyed a 30-minute canoe experience. The next day, I made my way to back to the Moraine Lake, just a 20-minute drive from Lake Louise. Both lakes attribute their brilliant blues to the glacier runoff waters. Moraine sits at 6183 feet. I opted for an easier hike with no uphill gain, and only a 45-minute round-trip walk, with shoreline views the entire way before venturing further into the woods, off the designated path, and closer to the waters. Temperatures were positively chilling.
The following morning, I took part in white-water rafting with Hydra River Guides at Kicking Horse River, the wildest ride in the Rockies. It was a two-and-a-half-hour journey downstream, hitting class two, three, and four rapids over 13 miles. I had never rafted before, so going from zero to four in that time span was exhilarating.
As far as the rest of trip goes, the drive alone to and from these destinations from the town of Banff, where I stayed, was a wondrous, scenic tour. The mountains seem to grow — a true marvel coming from the flat shoreline of the East End. My entire experience brought me closer to nature in a way I’d only dreamed about until then, and, as a deeply spiritual person, brought me closer to God.