As the truck entered the base of the Rockies at 1st light, I remember thinking of how feminine the mountain looked to me. It was just a feeling, but it has always there when I go through that way. At 1st all you can see is the great walls of rock on either side of you as you wind your way closer to Banff National Park. I made the crossing in late spring as a passenger in a moving truck with a driver who had crossed over a 100 times and who made a wonderful tour guide. I looked up as we got deeper into the pass and was awe-struck at the distant snow-covered peaks that I could see the top of and the ones that you could not see the top of, but seemed to be jutting into heaven itself. The driver laughed and told me that this was nothing and before the trip was over I would be emotionally drained and would have used every sense I had. He explained that the Rockies had a way of making a man humble again. In the Rockies a man was just a man. He was not superior in fact he was the least equiped to be here.
Going through the park we saw few animals, but they were being fenced away from traffic and I was told by the driver that they had actually built tunnels to bring them under the road or over it. It was not the wild life that kept me on the edge of my seat or the drive, it was the scenery. From the time we entered the mouth of the Rocky Mountains and began our long twisting climb only to descend into valleys and start all over again it was beautiful. Waterfalls seem to just shoot straight out of the mountain walls dropping thousands of feet into a lake or river below. Then there were the fast-moving rivers where you could see the fast water. There was the beach front too, large enough to bring the tractor and trailer and go for a quick dip before moving on. It was all just so spectacular and truly one of the all time great adventures of my life.
At some points you could only see out of the driver’s side and it was scary indeed. It appeared that you were just barely fitting on the road and I knew if you lost it out on this road and went over the side you were going to fall thousands of feet. Directly below there were the train tracks as they cut their way through the mountain went through tunnels not to be seen again for some miles. Below them you could see the highway going the other way. At every level you could see the tops of the trees which indicated just how high up you were. I am afraid of heights and have always been, so this trip played heavy on my nerves, but I was thrilled and I would not have missed this experience for anything.
When the driver noticed how nervous I was he could not resist telling me how if the truck went over they would take out the bodies, but everything else would be left there for nature to deal with. I kept seeing what looked to me like roads that did not seem to go any where and thought that it was some sort of unfinished road. These roads went up an incline about 100 feet and just stopped. After seeing about 10 of them I asked what they were. The driver said they were run offs built for out of control vehicles to use to keep from going over the edge. They could speed into one of these run offs on the left hand side of the road and slow down or crash, but anything was better than falling thousands of feet straight down if you went over the side on the right.
The trip through the Rockies took the better part of 12 – 13 hours with stops for fuel and nourishment and a quick swim. We stopped in Golden, Kamloops and Hope as well as in a couple of the lookout spots. I did see a moose and her calf in the water in a valley way off in the distance. They were so big even from far away. There were lynx as well and big horn sheep on the cliffs overlooking Golden. Further on we did see a mother black bear and her three cubs in the ditch by the side of the road. Groups of Chinese tourists had gotten out of their cars and were taking pictures and I thought were getting dangerously close to the cubs. We watched the scene from the safety and comfort of our truck. The mother bear didn’t seem to give the tourists a second thought as she led her cubs deeper into the woods and out of sight and reach. How sad I thought the bears were so used to humans that they had lost the natural instinct to stay clear of them.
The animals were great and the ride definitely kept me on edge but the trees were the biggest I had ever seen. The smallest of them seem to make Quebec’s biggest trees look like toothpicks. The driver told me that he had seen a tree that had a hole cut into big enough that a semi could drive through it and it still lived. We circled and climbed; descended and climbed sometimes the slope was so steep we were ordered to check our brakes before descending into the valley below.
On our last decent I somehow knew that it was over and I was deeply saddened. The driver was right I was emotionally exhausted. I had used every emotion I had and was now in a state of indecision. I was glad to be off those narrow roads with the twisting and turning and the constant fear of us going over the side to our deaths. I was sad because I knew that no matter how many mountains I crossed that this was my first and no other mountain could take her place. I have crossed her in every season, but nothing compared to our first time together,this mountain and I.