“Arh-woooooo…” I howl, echoing a call from deep within the forest on the other side of Maligne Lake. In return, a chorus of ‘Arh-wooo … arh-wooOO…’ shatters any possibility of the signal being human. It’s a pack of wolves, calling to each other as the light begins to fade under the waxing gibbous moon above Jasper National Park.
I’m certain I’m safe in the middle of the lake, but I pick up the wooden paddle and continue my return to the launch point. The rhythm of the paddle on the lake calms my nerves, and I spend the next two hours reminding myself not to underestimate the forces of nature that rule the Canadian wilderness. Earlier in the evening, I bought a wolf-pattern blanket when I rented the canoe. Maybe that’s working in my favor now.
These are the wild spaces that shape who we are. Here, you may be short of breath, but never short on your sense of awe.
After my encounter with the wilder side of Canada, I returned to my friends to eat, laugh, and roam the streets of Jasper. Just before four in the morning, I loaded up the car for the drive back to Maligne Lake to see the sunrise.
Getting back on the road after a sleepless night, the last thing you want to do is to hit something in the darkness. And it gets dark in the Canadian wilderness, dark enough to conceal a monstrous wild moose until it was well into the reach of headlights. Luckily, my reaction was swift enough to bring the car to a screeching halt before hitting the giant. The moose wandered off, and I scanned the surroundings for further signs of wildlife. I resumed driving and soon reached my destination, ready to witness what I was sure was to be a breathtaking sunrise across the mountain ranges of Jasper.
As the first light touched the peaks of Queen Elizabeth mountain range, the cold white snow turned into fire. The clouds overhead rolled over in orange, pink and purple. The nearly still water of Maligne Lake reflected it all and made the grandeur of the moment twice as magical.
In these moments, you realize that travel matters. Adventure matters. These wild places matter. We, as humans, are stewards of these spaces and have a responsibility to protect them. Tomorrow, I’ll return to the world of meetings, to-do lists and phones. But for this moment, I stand quietly in awe of an awakening sun and the company of birds.
Although it’s been said a lot — the colors of Canadian lakes look unreal, and the scenery here will make you feel like that you’re on a different planet. It’s one of the most remarkable places on the earth, prodigious and diversified in both landscape and experiences.
In Canada, I roamed forests, paddled lakes, and hiked to the peaks of mountains, all as a guest in places that have stood there for aeons. The deeper I went into nature, the more disconnected I felt from the contemporary reality that’s been constructed around me.
Today, we look to nature to escape our grinding reality, and these are the moments that make our hearts swell.
There are always choices to make, and each decision shapes us in unique ways. We choose to wake up at 4am or 9am. We choose to climb a mountain or swim in the lake. We choose to stay and stagnate or move forward. I’m striving to become more aware that my choices, whether small or big, each make a difference.
After six days of wandering, I reach the Calgary airport to catch my flight back to Seattle — and miss it by just three minutes. Normally, I would have felt frustrated, but not this time. Instead, I happily accept the situation. I find a café in the city and begin writing this post.
The raw mountain air of Canada is still flowing through me. Everything feels fresh — the faces, the earth, the space around me, and me. Maybe this is the reason we all travel — to see the normal from a new perspective. To bring novelty into our soul, so that we can brighten the world and spread the positive energy.
This article originally appeared on Medium and is republished here with permission.