On a beautiful spring day a few years ago, we ventured out early and headed to Ya Ha Tinda. After parking on the Forestry Trunk Road, we headed off for a full day of hiking on some familiar trails. The sun was shining, and recent rains had started to bring a vibrant green to the forest and the small meadow that was our planned destination. The morning was a leisurely stroll with lots of stops to take in the awe-inspiring magic that comes every spring. Northern flickers darted through the trees, and gray jays teased us with aerobatics and blue jays shrieked their impersonation of Swainson’s hawks to apparently keep the real thing away from their nests.
There was evidence that a large cat, likely a cougar, had been through the area just after the rain stopped but we were enjoying each other’s company too much to have an unplanned encounter with whitetail deer and foxes that we have seen on the trail in the past. Laughter is uplifting, but it seems to scare off even the bravest of wild creatures.
We did reach the meadow, although not precisely the way that we had remembered. Our way was blocked by a newly formed slough, and discretion resolved that we take a detour. When we worked our way back towards the original trail, we took an even longer detour. Just after 1 pm, we made it to a fallen tree that had been where we had eaten lunch on the last trip. Everything felt familiar yet new. Our conversation ceased, and we sat munching on sandwiches and apples while contemplating the vista laid out in front of us. Of course, we didn’t take any pictures, but like many of my experiences in our parks and wild places, I stored a memory that I can bring back if I close my eyes and relax.
An hour or so in silence and we realized that we had 9 or 10 kilometers back to our vehicle and another hour of driving to get back to our base. The hike back was uneventful mostly because it was head down, one foot after another. Taking the majesty for granted is easy to do if we let our agenda dictate the speed and focus.
We popped out of the trees onto the road about 400 meters west of where we had pulled off and parked. The sun was on our back, the final leg was downhill, and we relaxed into appreciative and slower pace. A recognition that we would soon be caught up in the day to day routine of the city, we both began reflecting on the gift we had received that day. And then the unexpected happened, and it seemed to happen in slow motion.
In the south ditch, a female moose came wading out of a pool of water and profiled herself at the edge of the road. She gave a mighty shake and water sprayed in every direction. I don’t know if she responded to my gasp as we took in this special moment or if she knew we were there all along. She turned her head towards us, swiveled her ears and then crossed the road to the north ditch and disappeared into the forest.
We didn’t talk about the moment until we got back to Sundre. We were both trying to hold it purely and without comment. That night we both shed a tear or two of gratitude and added the moment to our album of memories.
We don’t always notice the magnificence of what we are surrounded by, but when I am open and curious, I have never been disappointed.
CPAWS Southern Alberta