No matter how crowded the parking lot or busy the trail head, more times than not Naomi and I find ourselves alone on the hiking trail. At any given point, filled with high spirits, I will suddenly stop, say “Listen” and we’ll enjoy the silence and appreciate the fact that both ahead and behind us there is absolutely no one on the path. Just us.
This happens time and again, creating a special appreciation of the moment. It becomes a theme: “Oh, look, Naomi…” I say, “We’re alone again.”
I joke that I’ve made a pact with the gods and that when we return to Montreal I’ll be turning into a satyr (it sounded funny at the time; I’m not even sure what a satyr is, and I think I was confusing it with a centaur).
Still, the bottom line is that the hiking trail stretches out the hikers and you very often have the trail to yourself for long exquisite moments.
Most hikers look up when others pass them on the trail and say, “Hi” but not all. Naomi and I start developing ideas and biases based on what we experience, particularly in the Rockies where there are more non-Canadians hiking than Canadians.
For example, we start believing that Germans and Japanese are the least “friendly” and less likely to greet you when you meet them on the trail. When we mention this to others, they are usually in agreement. Why this is so we’re not sure. Is it shyness, arrogance, a belief that hiking is solely a spiritual and not a social experience?
The above is a generalization. Sometimes Germans nod hello and occasionally a group of Japanese hikers smile a hello back to us.
On one particular hike, before Naomi reminds me how rude I’m being, I start calling out “Hello” more aggressively to those absorbed in the walk or talking among themselves.
Elks, Bears & Goats
You’ve all seen the photo of people gaping at the animals at Jasper National Park. In the middle of the highway. Stopping traffic.
Well, it’s true. Naomi and I even saw cars not pulling over, just stopping in the middle of their lane because a mountain goat or elk was spied on the side of the road or up a mountainside.
In Quebec, when deer cross the road, they often run across at full speed, or very timidly – they don’t wish to linger. In Jasper, like royalty, the animals take their time; the elk obviously are not afraid of getting hit. Au contraire, cars will stop in both directions, expensive cameras with long zoom lenses or the ubiquitous cellphone are pulled out, and instant entertainment guaranteed.
We did stop once ourselves to see what the fuss was about, but honestly it’s much ado about nothing, except the annoying and potentially dangerous experience of having traffic blocked up in both directions on a busy highway.