After an ascent of roughly 1,500 feet, the trail leveled out into a meadow. No longer sheltered by the forest, a wind that smelled like snow blew across the grassy expanse, shifting the slate-colored clouds across the mountains. As we set up our tents, a drizzle began to fall, which quickly hardened into sleet. Fingers frozen and stiff, we joined the three other campers by the communal fire pit. When our wood supply grew low, the guys disappeared only to return with small trees slung across their shoulders. I huddled as close as I dared to the smoky flames as the wind increased and sleet pelted my jacket. That night, Jacob so sweetly filled a Nalgene with hot water and put it in my sleeping bag to ward off the chill. I focused on staying warm instead of worrying about the bears roaming the forest. I must have eventually drifted to sleep, but once the warmth wore off and I could evade wakefulness no longer, we unzipped the tent to an early-morning world blanketed softly in snow. As I tried to rub warmth back into my hands, I couldn't believe that, at home, just a few hundred miles south, the temperatures were sweltering.
When we hiked back down into the valley, the wind abated and the skies began to clear. We drove along the Icefields Parkway and my breath was caught in my throat the entire time: lakes bluer than you could imagine, framed by glaciers towering jaggedly above; wispy fog hanging gently over the evergreen forests; windy roads that reveal sights more beautiful with each curve. What do you do with yourself when you are faced with scenes more wondrous than you could ever conjure up in your head?
I am back in Oklahoma now, and though it all seems like a dream, the smell of smoke still lingers in my clothes and in my hair. My confused state of mind is certainly no surprise: Banff National Park is the sort of place that feels like a dreamland. I can only hope this is not my last visit.
Checking out the view at Bow Lake
Morning view at aforementioned campsite
The clouds cleared just enough in the morning to see the tips of the mountains.
It was still green back in the valley.
With my love at beautiful Moraine Lake
Jacob, Hilary, and Chad admiring Athabasca Glacier
Yours truly cheesin' on a glacier
Overlooking the Icefields Parkway
Where do memories go to rest, to take on their golden tint of nostalgia? It's a quick process for me; a few hours in the car or plane after a trip and I'm already reminiscing. This time yesterday we were here or a week ago today we were there. Coming home, it feels like fall already, and the hot dusty days of the southwest seem like a long-ago dream. You get into a rhythm during nearly three weeks on the road and upon returning, you must learn the simplicity of living in one place again.
As a last hurrah of summer--a reprieve from a full time office job (me) and the long dog days of summer (my siblings)--we followed in the footsteps of Americans past and headed west on Route 66. Los Angeles was our destination before heading back east via Las Vegas, Zion National Park, and the Grand Canyon. I'm happy to report that everyone was an infinitely better camper than during our last infamous family roadtrip in 2011--I know how to get sleep that rivals nights spent in my own bed and I've even perfected the three minute shower routine. I can think of nothing better than crawling out of the tent in the chill of the early morning for a mug of camp coffee, or realizing you've been outside for 72 (or more!) straight hours, cooling off in a fast-flowing river after a morning hike, or whiling the afternoon in a hammock strung up in a grove of Ponderosa pine trees.
The gift of this summer is not lost on me. On Monday it's back to the classroom, which will be an adjustment but not an entirely unwelcome one. In the midst of it all, I keep wondering: what will be life be like a year from now? In the meantime, I'll be content to sit back and watch it all unfold.
My dreamy sister in equally dreamy Santa Fe light
Making our way through the Black Mountains of Arizona, and incredibly hostile but no-less-beautiful environment.
Passing through Kingman, Arizona
My cute parents in Santa Barbara
The California coast was a welcome change of pace from the desert
Sunset at Point Mugu
Fishermen at Santa Monica Pier
We hiked up the Angels Landing trail in Zion National Park--the last half-mile involved clinging to a chain bolted into the rock.
We picked up a straggler during our stop in Las Vegas ;)
A morning hike in Zion. This place lives up to its name.
My first glimpse of the Grand Canyon
I never have to worry about being without a map when this one is around!
Our very own minion/Junior Ranger
It was worth the hot, dusty trek to Horseshoe Canyon
With my love at the Grand Canyon at dusk