Waterton Lakes National Park is so much more than a national park. Waterton is a feeling, Waterton is home. There is a sense of serenity, belonging, excitement, and relaxation all at once. The greenery, both that which preceded the fire, and that which followed it, represents growth and life, freedom and strength. The mountains, now speckled with dark, leaf/needle-less trees fought through the terror that the Kenow fire brought, and came out stronger and healthier on the other side. The deadfall, and dead underbrush was wiped away, allowing for brand new growth and more opportunity for smaller plants in lower levels of the forest.
In the store in which I work we have had multiple customers come in and let us know that they want to support us. We often hear “so sorry for the fires and the damage that they caused” and “we knew that you guys would be less busy because of the minimal hiking but we wanted to come anyways to support businesses, etc.” My heart, along with the owners hearts have been thoroughly warmed by the support that has been shown even in this very early season. The park has opened quite a few more trails than were opened at the beginning of the spring/summer seasons, allowing many more hiking opportunities for both tourists and locals.
The hikes surprise and amaze you with every twist of the trail and incline of the path.
Whether you’re climbing to the peak of Mount Vimy or just strolling along the lakeshore, friendly smiles, beautiful flowers, and breathtaking views are all there is to behold. Everyone seems to have everyone else’s best interests in mind, as they are always willing to help out and support each other. Hello’s and conversations between complete strangers can spark discussions and mind blowing connections from across the world.
The snow in the winter is more than one could ever imagine, piling up so that walking from a snow drift directly onto the roofs of houses is possible. The snow capped mountains become snow covered, and the entire park becomes a winter wonderland. The wind never fails to almost literally sweep you off your feet. Sometimes accompanied by rain and storms, the wind can gust up over 100km an hour, causing crashing waves on the lake and waving leaves in the trees. However, a calm, windless day with nothing but sunshine can literally take your breath away; the smooth glass surface that overcomes the otherwise busy lake creates a stunning reflection, doubling the majesty of the views.
Even in the mere months that I have lived in this beautiful place, I have felt incredibly rejuvenated and motivated. Living here has pushed me to better myself in more ways than I would have imagined. I have a strong desire to exercise and eat healthier. I want to hike and see all of the stunning views and waterfalls and lakes. I want to be confident and outgoing and meet new people and be friendly and kind to each person that I meet. I want to work extra hard in my job and have knowledge about products and Waterton in general and help everyone that I can. I want to save money and prepare for the fall by planning and learning. I want to love my friends and family and spend all of the time that I can with them. I want to challenge myself and take on projects to improve my talents and change for the better. I want to be honest and upfront with people. I want to do what makes me happy.
I want to mirror the wildflowers and the tiny green shoots, pushing and persevering through any trial or tribulation, coming up stronger and more beautiful on the other side. I want to allow challenges and set backs to strengthen me and push me to do more and be better.
My friend and coworker, Ashtyn and I decided a few weeks ago to take on the climb up to Sofa Mountain Peak. With little to no knowledge, and absolutely no experience, we undertook the climb. Through sarcastic remarks, dry humour, and lots of water, we were able to continue with each difficult step of the way. Step after step of shale, boulder, and root alike, we eventually made it to what we thought was the top. Along the way, we had been constantly commenting that if over the next hill, we didn’t find the peak, we would turn around and give up. However, through positive self talk and perseverance, we took our mental and physical selves to what we thought was an unreachable goal. By telling ourselves that we would peak it for so long, we eventually did. After false peaks and boots full of shale, shaking hands and scraped up knees, we eventually found the actual top of the mountain and the feeling was unbeatable. Success, freedom, ability, strength, and pride in ourselves. We thoroughly enjoyed the hike, but only if you asked us the next day. That push is what defines so much of Waterton to me.
The mountains portray an immovable strength and boldness, willing and able to stand strong and proud. They have the ability to make me feel so small, reminding me of my singularity in a world of billions of people. However, by climbing to the top, I instead feel like one in a million, like an unconquerable being.
I love this place and so many of the people here. My parents spent their honeymoon here, celebrating their love and reunion in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I feel that that has given me a special connection to this wonderful National Park that I will never lose. Growing up, this was our destination of almost every single summer day; whether we were hiking or swimming or licking ice cream cones, this was our place. My dog, whom I love more than words can express, spent countless happy hours in the lake before he passed on. I remember clearly hearing his barking begin as we drove through the park gates: just seeing the water and knowing that he would get to play made him too excited to contain. Throwing his ball and sticks may have seemed like an annoyance then, but I will never forget how happy my pup was in the water. This national park will always have a special place in my heart. I hope one day to be able to bring my own family back here to enjoy summers on the mountains and in the lake.