Ohhh, Canadaaa! Picking up where Part 1 of my Canadian sesquicentennial tribute left off, here are reasons 9 through 17 (still in no special order) why this American loves you:
9. The Wild Wild Life
While wandering through Canada’s breathtaking natural scenery, I’ve gotten some equally breathtaking reminders that when it comes to the great outdoors, we humans should be prepared to share!
Elk were everywhere in and around the city of Banff in Alberta (Seriously. Everywhere.):
I hardly needed a zoom to catch this guy by the side of the road near Whistler, BC (although I did keep the car between us…):
10. Dinner of Champions
Not being any kind of a foodie, afraid I’m completely unqualified to discuss Canadian cuisine. I just know that whether I won or lost any recreational hockey game I played up north, a meal that included Wunderbars, Timbits and all dressed chips always made my night!
11. Just a Splash
Part 1 included looks at waterways I’ve admired (like the Bow River and Niagara Falls) – and while the views alone were transporting, I’ve been transported on Canadian waters as well! Like I’ve drifted down the Ottawa River on a tour boat. I’ve ferried from Port aux Basque, Newfoundland to Sydney, Nova Scotia. And I’ve glided alongside splendid Stanley Park while departing Vancouver, BC on a cruise ship:
12. On the Rocks
Okay, so I’m familiar with the concept that water does that freezing thing when it’s below, like, 32 degrees. Having lived along the California coast all my life, though, my only day-to-day contact with ice is pretty much just what I get out of the fridge to chill a beverage.
But then there’s ice in Canada! Of course, not all of the Frozen North is frozen – but the parts I’ve seen that are, just amaze!
It was cool in every sense to wander out onto Athabasca Glacier – a massive frozen “toe” of the Columbia Ice Field in the Canadian Rockies:
And I’ve twice enjoyed hiking in Alberta’s Johnston Canyon. Once in the summertime when its waterfalls were in full flight (well – full descent):
And once in the chill of winter.
Wish I had pictures from my wintry visit, but I only have the memories. I had to put on ice cleats to tackle the railed path that winds up the side of the canyon. And though it was the dead of winter, the place was alive in ways I’d never seen!
As if transformed by magic, the once crashing waterfalls were now serenely solid curtains of ice. And in a canyon pool that hadn’t completely succumbed to the cold, a gentle current – like the slow-motion swirl of water in a drain – was crafting this huge, snow-sprinkled frozen disc into just the most perfect circle!
Whatever spells of temperature and time created these wonders, I was completely enchanted too…
13. Seeking Out the Seekers
Something I’ve enjoyed in exploring Canada is making “discoveries” about those who’ve explored before me!
One of my favorite expeditions began with three flights through the night from LA to Newfoundland where Mum and Dad were supposed to pick me up. They’d agreed to drive all the way across the continent from Oregon to meet me, but as I stood waiting outside the airport in Deer Lake – stiff and sleepy in the morning cold, and neither knowing nor even seeing another soul – I did wonder for a moment if I should have packed a Plan B…
But my single aim had been to find a place called L’Anse aux Meadows where remnants of a Viking settlement were found that way predated Columbus’s celebrated arrival in America. I didn’t want to take his holiday off the calendar or anything – but I did want to “discover” the truth.
So there I was, kind of feeling like Anne in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. Only I was “Amy”. “Amy” spelled with a “y” – which was not romantic at all, but there it was. Just like Anne (spelled with an “e”), I was standing alone outside a station, full of anticipation and excitement that people who loved me were coming for me soon.
They did, of course! And so began a wonderful journey up the western coast of Newfoundland to check out L’Anse aux Meadows (here’s my post about the trip).
We spent the first night in Plum Point where Mum discovered that her favorite explorer, Captain James Cook, had already scoped out the area back in the 18th century (where didn’t that fella get to?!):
And the next day, it was on to the spot where all the way back in the 12th century, Vikings landed and, for a time, set up shop (and a forge and other stuff). It was a fascinating place to see – and fascinating too to think how there must be other sites like it that might come to light one day!
14. Picture Perfection
There are so many spectacular photo opportunities in Canada! One of my favorites is the whole of Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia, where the scenery is so pristinely pretty that you can’t miss no matter which direction you look:
15. “Je Me Souviens”
Hope I don’t spend too much time at it, but one place I sure treasure looking is (as you might guess) – back. And I love the examples I’ve seen of Canada’s reverence for its past.
When in Vancouver, I always wave “hello” to the giant inukshuk that keeps watch over English Bay. He’s a towering reminder that before the cargo vessels and cruise ships, native Inuits used to ply Canadian waters.
I love that each year, the city of Boston receives a Christmas tree from Nova Scotia for display on the Common. It’s a gesture of continued appreciation for the aid the city gave back in 1917 after the devastating explosion of a munitions ship in Halifax Harbor.
And I love how every November, Canadian hockey broadcasters sport red poppies on their lapels in honor of Remembrance Day, their veterans and their fallen.
I noticed license plates in Quebec that bore the phrase “Je Me Souviens” (“I remember”). I wouldn’t presume to know the full extent of the feeling behind this provincial motto – but I do appreciate the idea that it’s important to recall the path that led to where we are, so we might better choose the road ahead.
16. “Come Find Your Island”
When I look back on trips I’ve taken with the folks, I have especially fond memories of the three days we spent on beautiful Prince Edward Island (that’s its latest marketing slogan above).
If pressed to choose a favorite memory, it would be tough. I could pick our pleasant and informative tours of Province House and Founders Hall. Or the spirited program put on by the College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada. Or our delightful immersion in all things LM Montgomery:
Or our good old-fashioned carriage ride along PEI’s red earth roads:
But through the intervening years, one memory does stand out.
It’s of an afternoon whiled away at our place in Cavendish where, after a busy day of touring (a welcome change in itself from busy months of working), we took some time out. Dad and I went for a dip in the pool. I strolled the grounds barefoot (having left my pointy-toed office shoes at home), smelled the grass and felt it scrunch between my toes. And I sat with Dad on the porch, chatting and logging the day’s adventures in our respective journals as the late summer sunshine slowly gave way to twilight.
Among days full of extraordinary pleasures, this was an afternoon of simple ones – but just maybe the sweetest ones of all.
17. The Greatest Adventure
And the final thing I love about Canada? Why, what I haven’t seen of it yet!
Hm – I don’t think I’ve been in the provinces of Saskatchewan or Manitoba, or the Northwest Territories, Nunavut or the Yukon yet. And I’ve been tantalized by some places of which I’ve already gotten a glimpse but didn’t have time to explore, like the inviting city of Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario – and Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park:
I’d also love to know the story of several 19th century ancestors who lived in Nova Scotia and Ontario – to see if I can find out what their experiences were and what they loved.
Yes, the list is long! But I’ll start taking a run at it over the country’s next 150 years.
In the meantime, cheers to you, Canada – and best wishes from a humble fan on your marvelous milestone year!