Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Million Lifetimes

The deed is done. Our goals are accomplished. That summer of 2005 we drive from southern Utah and hike to the Burgess Shale sites of Walcott Quarry and Mt. Stephen fossil beds, high in the Canadian Rockies of Yoho National Park. We turn for home eventually – but we are not quite ready to drive off into the sunset yet. 

An easy day at Emerald Lake

The next few days after our epic hikes are a little bit of this and a little bit of that. JC, CO and I spend an afternoon at Emerald Lake near Field BC, drinking expensive wine and eating dessert on the patio of the lodge. We relax, and enjoy the doing nothing that is our Saturday. We read, and write field notes, and dream. I drop my 35mm camera in the parking lot, so that lens and polarizer are toast for the rest of this trip.

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A spot of tea at Twin Falls Chalet

Sunday we move into Kicking Horse campground for two nights. Monday is our “no moving day,” so we hit the trail like a herd of turtles at the civilized hour of nearly noon to hike to Twin Falls. There is tea and home baked cookies at the historic Chalet, a rustic outback accommodation at the base of the falls. We have become so spoiled!!!  I chat with a woman on the trail – she is from Seattle, and we can’t help but comment on the civility of the Canadian trail system. Tea, of all things! 

Twin Falls Chalet

JC leaves his camera case on the porch of the chalet and has to go back – he runs at double speed, while CO waits for him on the trail and I go on ahead. Soon I think “Well, that was really stupid – all three of us alone, in bear country.” But we manage to not get mauled, although CO tells of a notice posted at Takkakaw Falls of a grizzly bear recently seen in the area. I was jingling my keys the entire way back to the car (do grizzly bears know how to drive a manual transmission?). 

Tuesday is our last night in Field, and the three of us share a lovely suite in the Mt. Stephens Guesthouse. The executive director of the Burgess Shale Geoscience Foundation swings by for a scotch and regales us with stories of his days as a parks warden, of bears, and moose, and encounters with the critters of the back woods. 

Wednesday we head off to Banff Hot Springs Resort for an early brunch, and then on to Drumheller, Alberta to the Royal Tyrell Museum and its Burgess Shale exhibit. We are spellbound at the exhibit and do not mind in the least that we have gone 200 miles out of our way. 

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Banff Hot Springs Resort

Too soon we must turn south towards the desert and home. We plan on hiking Mt. Nebo in central Utah but we arrive on the first day of bow–hunting season so we abandon that idea. Still, the mid–summer drive in the high country of the Mt. Nebo Scenic Byway is worth another detour. The air–conditioning in my car worked sporadically since I left home, and now it has quit for good, these last few hundred miles to home. 

We merrily toast ourselves when we arrive at JC and CO’s condo; we laugh together, and wonder once again at the mystery of it all. The driving is finished but our memories will last forever. We have traveled 2,976 miles in 16 days. We have been on a journey through time and space, through half a billion years of our own Earth’s history. We have been the best of traveling companions with not a cross word between us. We have accomplished what we set out to accomplish, and we are all the richer for having experienced this journey of a million lifetimes. 

A toast to good friends!

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