I am passionate about spending time in nature because I find it one of the easiest ways to live in the moment and savour my life in the now. I’m all-absorbed by the natural beauty of my province Alberta. Every where I look there is something magnificent.
This week I fulfilled a life-long dream of going to Mt. Assiniboine. This is a mountain which sits on the continental divide and the border of British Columbia and Alberta. There are no roads. It is only accessible via a 27 kilometer hike (which was closed due to a recent massive flood in Alberta) or a seven minute helicopter flight. I got to fly in. What a thrill.
In this post I’ll talk a bit about why Assiniboine is such a special place and then I’ll focus on some of the area’s more subtle beauty – the wildflowers of this undisturbed part of Canadian wilderness – and the power they have to help us savour our lives.
In Alberta it is easy to focus on our big-ticket – the Rocky Mountains. One simple reason for that is you really can’t miss them, especially if you are lucky enough to live in the South West corner of the province like I do. The Rockies here are in your face. They are big, bold and beautiful. Mt. Assiniboine is especially so.
Assiniboine is known as “Canada’s Matterhorn” because of its pyramid shape and the fact that is 11,870 feet tall. Much like my handsome young son, it is head and shoulders taller than its peers and stands out on the horizon for miles. It was 30 years ago when I first saw Mt. Assiniboine. I was visiting Alberta and skiing at Sunshine on a bluebird day and there it was – a giant white Toblerone bar standing guard a respectful distance away. I’ve had many friends who’ve made the trip in and raved about the experience. This week my dream of doing this came true.
I stayed at Mt. Assiniboine Lodge for two glorious nights. I got to meet Sepp Brenner who has devoted over 30 years of his life to guiding and hosting people at this back country lodge. He told me that he has reached the summit of Assiniboine 50 times. It is his favourite mountain in the whole world and he has been to most of the world’s great peaks. I did not attempt such a feat myself. I will never have any desire to do so.
I admire Brenner very much. He has lived well because he has lived his dream life. I find I can appreciate Mt. Assiniboine’s beauty far better from down below or from the ridges and tops of other more gentle inclines. I’ll hike quite far to do so. While I like to pick a great hike, I’ve learned that if you only focus on the destination you might miss the joy of the journey. Brenner seems to have helped many people leave worry and cares behind so that they might enjoy the part of their journey that has brought them to Assiniboine. What a beautiful legacy.
Part of my joy in the journey that is hiking is leaving only my footprints and taking lots of photos – especially of wildflowers.
I’m not a nature photographer. I use a camera more like a memory aid. I’ve found that if I stop to photograph the wildflowers, I will have a much easier time identifying them back at base camp with a pile of books at hand. I’ve learned dragging the extra weight of books while hiking has the potential to make me as grumpy as a hungry grizzly. My camera is much lighter and the pictures it provides really are worth a 1000 mentally descriptive words. If I tried to remember the individual characteristics of a dozen flowers, those facts would likely leak from my brain and be left behind on the trail like Hanzel and Grettel’s bread crumbs.
If I’m totally honest, stopping to take photos also covers up the fact that I occasionally need to dial back my heart which finds itself pumping like a Mexican jumping bean in my chest. I need to catch my breath because those magnificent mountains are also really steep sometimes. It turns out that the old cliché “stop and smell the roses” is an important metaphor for life and serves is a powerful endurance strategy for hiking. The camera and wildflower appreciation are really a lovely sort of reminder to pace myself.
Maybe someday I’ll have the photographic skills to capture everything I saw. Can you imagine the whole side of a mountain cloked in a carpet of blue forget-me-nots and yellow buttercups? I think that image has been imprinted on my brain’s palette of memories for as long as I live and I wish I could have captured it to share with others. It will definitely motivate me to drag my sorry carcass on another high alpine adventure for July’s brief burst of wild flower life. Maybe the fact that I could not capture it and share it will motivate one of you to go and hopefully see these wondrous sights for yourself. Sometimes going into the wild is what keeps us sane. I know spending a few days at Mt. Assiniboine Lodge this week did that for me.
Time in nature – it helps my brain become a little fresher or maybe my brain is just reflecting the pristine surroundings I placed myself in. Appreciating the beauty of the mountains and their flowery summer sun dresses – that’s the stuff that feeds my soul and helps me savour life.
I hope you enjoy these photos and by all means if you can identify any of the plants that I could not PLEASE leave a comment. Thanks for coming on this walk on the wildflower side with me.