Road Trips

The Great Canadian Road Trip: Day 6 of 20

Day 6 of 20 on my great Canadian road trip is full of snowstorms, sweethearts, and cedar trees

By Laurie Izzy Wheels.ca

Sep 18, 2015 9 min. read

Article was updated 8 years ago

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Snowstorms, sweethearts and cedar trees

Banff-Lake Louise-Calgary-Salmon Arm

Day 1: Barrie to Lake Superior Provincial Park

Day 2: Agawa Bay to Kakabeka Falls

Day 3: Thunder Bay to Winnipeg

Day 4:   Winnipeg to Moose Jaw

Day 5: Moose Jaw to Banff

Banff to Lake Louise

After a sleepless, rainy night of camping in Banff National Park, I headed in to town for a cup of hot coffee. It was 9am, a chilly 4 degrees, and I had 9 hours to to go before my dinner date in Calgary. As I drove into the town of Banff I was excited to spend the day outside, especially since the rain had finally taken a break.   My first stop was Bow Falls by the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, where I walked the path along the river with my camera in one hand and my coffee in the other.

The place was deserted except for a lovely couple who asked me to take a picture of them. They were from the U.S. and told me they were sweethearts on their honeymoon. She snuggled up under his arm as I said "1, 2, 3, go" and snapped their photo.  As I continued on my way, I thought about how nice it would be to walk the streets of Banff with "T" like we did so many years ago. There's something great about returning to a spot that holds amazing memories, and there's something not-so great about it. My father used to say that my head was placed on my shoulders facing forward, as opposed to backward, for a reason. He would also remind me that memories are ok to visit, but it's best not to live there. Perhaps I should have listened to Dad's comforting voice in my head, but, I pressed on anyway, determined to re-walk the footsteps from my past.

After a walk along the Bow Falls Trail, I jumped in the car and drove a short 40 minutes to Lake Louise.   It started to rain again and the temperature was down to 2 degrees, so I added another layer under my rain clothes and went for a long walk. I had been to Lake Louise several times before and whether in snow, sunshine or sleet, the scenery was always magnificent. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site for a reason.

The Tea House Trail was beckoning, but considering the weather and my time limit, I chose to walk the lake trail instead. "T" and I had done that trail on Valentine's day 2005, in the snow, and it was as tough as it was romantic. I didn't have the energy or the mindset to tackle it alone so I skipped it. I met another pair of sweethearts along the trail who had just relocated to Alberta a few months before. As they told me how great life was out west, I began to think about what it might be like to move there too.  By the time early afternoon rolled around I was hungry, tired and cold, so I walked to the hotel to see if I could find a warm bowl of soup and a cozy place to dry out.

As I ate my lunch in a quaint cafe at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, I felt proud of myself. I'd never sat alone in a restaurant before and it wasn't as awkward as I thought it would be. The crowd of tourists were much less concerned about my obvious aloneness than they were about getting out of the freezing cold rain. I had walked for several hours and it was nearing 3pm. The last text I'd received from "T" said he hoped to be in Calgary by 6pm, and although I had no idea where I was supposed to meet him, I took a leap of faith and left the beauty of Lake Louise behind. I pulled out of the parking lot as the rain turned to snow and the temperature on my car read 0 C. The mountain roads became icy, the visibility grew poorer with each mile, and the light snow flurries turned into a full blown blizzard by the time I drove through Banff again.  I arrived in the City of Calgary at rush hour, the snow was still coming down and I had no idea which part of the city I was supposed to be in. I pulled into a gas station on the west side of town and prayed for a snow brush and a sign that I was doing the right thing by being there.

As I put gas in my car, I looked up and saw a tall, bald, impeccably dressed man who was filling his Mercedes SUV. His back was facing me, but I swore it was Mark Messier standing there (Canadians will appreciate my excitement). I was staring at the mirage of a living hockey legend when the gas station attendant tried to get my attention, "Miss, this is a full serve gas station, let me do that for you." I thanked him for his kindness, and as I grabbed my purse to go find a snow brush sans ice pick and pay for the fuel, the man I'd been staring at was holding the door open for me. "You're not Mark Messier!", I exclaimed in my not-so-inside voice. To which he apologetically smiled and said, "I wish."   A snow brush, a tank of gas, and one mistaken identity later, I received a text; "Let's meet for dinner at 7pm." After getting directions, I pulled into the Earl's Restaurant in NW Calgary, took a deep breath and made my way to the front door on wobbly legs. When I opened the door he was sitting on the couch in the lobby, waiting. He was older, as handsome as ever, and I hoped he thought the years had been as kind to me as I thought they had been to him.

He was quiet at first, but his serious, shy demeanour slowly became lighter and more relaxed as we shared blizzard driving stories. As our reunion progressed, it wasn't long before the small talk turned to more personal topics.   We chatted about our lives over the last few years, exchanged smiles, laughs, friendly philosophical debates, and I thought I saw a few lingering glances. Eventually, I brought up the topic of relationships but I should have applied the "if you don't want to know, don't ask" rule. He talked about a complicated relationship that he thought was nearing its due date, but declined to share any details because he was still in it. I shared the fact I'd been single for over 3 years and then I changed the subject. Next, I apologized for not coming to visit, as we'd planned, two years earlier, and I tried to explain why I got scared and ran.   At that point, I didn't know what else to say except to joke about meeting again in another 10 years to see if our relationship timing was any better than it had been. You see, we both believed that somewhere down the line, we would be together, some day, some way. I thought all the signs pointed to now, that day, because I was finally ready. It didn't occur to me that maybe he wasn't. He hugged me a long time when we said goodbye 3 hours later, and he told me to let him know when I passed through town on my way back to Ontario in another few weeks.

I drove towards the hotel he located for me on his Smartphone, in a daze. By the time I realized I had gone to the wrong one it was 11pm and, although the snow had stopped, I felt like I was in a fog of a not so great dream. What was I expecting? A night on his couch and an all night conversation to reminisce about old times? Yep. I had even gone so far as to imagine re-arranging my entire Canadian road trip to spend several days in Calgary with him, either on the way through or on the way back to see if the connection was still there. To be completely honest, I even looked at jobs and rental houses on the internet the night before. When he was ready, I wasn't. When I was ready, he wasn't. That's the story in a nutshell: A ten year, ill-timed, love story.

A half an hour later I wished I was anywhere but pulling up to a cold, lonely hotel. When I couldn't get a room, I texted him to say the night wasn't ending as good as it had began, and then added a bit about how great it was to see him, how handsome he still was, and that I sincerely hoped things worked out for him. Then I started to cry while I wondered what the hell to do next.

I pulled a u-turn and went back on the highway to look for another hotel that would grant me an easy escape route the following morning. However, thanks to the snowstorm, the next three hotels were booked solid too. Finally, sometime after midnight on attempt number 4, the clerk at the Sandman Inn offered a suite for $250.00 a night. Miffed at the price tag and the clerk's lack of sympathy for my growing state of impatience and exhaustion, I grabbed all of my wet clothes and camping gear, and proceeded to hang it up throughout the 2 room suite to dry. Before I turned out the lights in the wee hours of the morning, I checked my phone for the hundredth time. Nothing. "T" never responded. Not that night, not the following day, or the day after that.

I was not in a great frame of mind when I pulled out of Calgary the next morning, yet I was thankful for snow-less roads and the opportunity for a do-over through Banff. I was glad I saw him but mad at myself for letting my imagination get carried away. By the time I retreated into the safe haven of the mountains, and as I waited in line at Banff National Park's Toll Booth for the second time in two days, I took this picture because it looked like the middle of January, not September 9th.

After passing several vehicles in the snowy ditches along Highway 1, I left the turbulent weather and emotions of Alberta behind and breathed a sigh of relief as I crossed into the serene beauty of British Columbia. I don't remember much of the drive prior to Revelstoke, which was 400km and 4 hours west of Calgary. When I saw the sign for the Ancient Cedars Boardwalk Trail in Mount Revelstoke National Park, I pulled over for a much needed break and an opportunity to stretch my legs. Trees have a way of making me feel better and by then, the sun was out and it was 15 degrees.

I was on my way to a lakeside campsite at Herald Provincial Park just outside of Salmon Arm, B.C., where I hoped the natural beauty of the Monashee Mountains would dull the growing ache in my heart.




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