The Canadian Rockies
“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” – John Muir
My husband Michael and I live in the action-packed city of Miami, Florida. Over the past two years, he has dutifully (and at times, painfully) worked to complete his medical residency, while I have spent my days conducting clinical trials. When we relocated here for his residency in the summer of 2017, I am not sure that either of us knew how hard it would be. There were, of course, the general obstacles associated with relocating to a place one thousand miles away from your home and family, but residency training has demanded an entirely new breed of devotion and respect for one another. For those who don’t know, the sad reality of most medical residency programs is that you spend most of your time at the hospital. We found that the months went by in a blur as we spent most of our time apart (despite sharing a home address), and by the end of Michael’s second year we were both burned out, exhausted, and in major need of a vacation that centered us and brought us back to nature – and to each other.
We craved silence, as strange as that sounds. Miami suffers from all the things that most urban environments do, including a baseline level of omnipresent background noise. Cars and trucks roar down the streets, tourists and locals alike chatter among themselves, and construction is always coming from somewhere. We also pined for the mountains. South Florida is at sadly at sea level, and when we lived in Maryland, we had the luxury of many parks and trails within a couple hours’ distance. After many months deliberating on a summer vacation destination, a patient of mine told me about the Canadian Rockies. Ignorant to Canadian geography, I asked if this included Banff (and the famous Lake Louise), and she and her husband informed me that the Rockies were actually comprised of several parks, all equal in splendor.
After listening to their suggestions and poring over pictures of various hikes, my husband and I decided to set out and explore a few of the parks on a road trip. We ended up spending time in three parks (although technically you could say four, as one night was spent in Banff sleeping on the side of the road since all the per-diem campgrounds were full), including Kootenay, Jasper, and Mount Robson. We saw six bears, including a little cinnamon cub that was so adorable I cried, a moose, many elk, and a couple of mountain goats. Seeing these creatures thrive in their natural habitats filled my soul in a way that only untouched wildlife can.
Over seven days, we hiked about sixty miles and kayaked seventeen, relishing the open air, mountain vistas, and evergreens. We endured all kinds of conditions, including sun, torrential rain, thunderstorms, and at the end of the week – snow. Despite the blisters, back pain (proof that we are, indeed, getting older), and enormous Canadian bugs, the trip was therapeutic – a much needed respite from our busy lives. Uninterrupted and unplugged time together is a memory that we will both cherish in the coming months, as we fall back into the many obligations that our lives require.
Life, and marriage, are never easy. It is in our most trying moments that we need reminders of how beautiful togetherness is. For us, reflecting on the places we’ve been always brings us back together, no matter how bleak the present moment. We take a breath in unison, and are reminded of glacial lakes, crisp mountain air, and the sound of complete silence – and that is enough, even if it isn’t, until the next time our feet meet the soil.