I’ve been coming to some of Canada’s National Parks since I was a little baby. That’s a long time ago now. This year is quite different around here for obvious reasons. It appears that no one or nothing can escape COVID19; even the majestic atmosphere of the mountains whose rocks are over a billion years old and whose peak-like appearance is some 55 to 80 million years old.
While we are ecstatic (and lucky) to be here in the serene setting of the pine-smelling goodness that we have come to know and love so much, there is a different energy compared to usual. It is a lot quieter, there is less activity and activities to do, and many hiking trails, pools and the like are flat out closed. Yet, as I sit here writing, five or six of our familiar squirrel friends have scurried on by my feet in the last few minutes, all headed the same direction, leaving me to joke to my husband that it is nearing five o’clock, so there must be a Margaritaville meeting somewhere close by for them. I also kidded that because I afforded myself some Hula Daddy coffee this morning, the real deal caffeine, I might legitimately be going squirrelly; hence, my rapid squirrel sightings or squirrel to squirrel attraction or whatever it is that just happened. But, I digress… My point is that so many things are just as we left them two summers ago (the wildlife, the trees, the paths, the camping stalls, the mountains themselves) yet in other ways, so much has changed if that makes sense. There are no swimsuits hanging up, no pool/lake toys adorning stalls, playgrounds are barricaded off, many campsites house closed signs, and shower facilities are off-limits to name a few. It’s quite different from what we are used to which is the sounds of vehicles coming and going as fellow campers revel in: visiting neighbouring places; checking out popular hiking and pool spots; congregating in large groups sharing food and drinks; attending local Wilderness sessions, etc. Really, I guess it boils down to the fact that the natural environment is the same, but the people enjoying that environment has changed and it’s kind of sad. While the extra quiet ambience is actually nice in some ways, the reasons behind it aren’t. In other words, I don’t miss the frequent start-up of engines, but I do miss the goings-on and the positive energy that typically accompanies them. The virus’s essence is present.
While going on our daily walks in our campground, we usually observe people from varying provinces, even territories, many folks from the Unites States and even overseas countries. For me personally, the variety of visitors is one of the allures of coming here. Being amongst nature is a love clearly shared by many folks from all parts of the world and it’s neat to be a part of the Parks’ normally interwoven culture. After all, we nature lovers are like-minded folk who may speak different languages but understand a common one in that of Mother Nature. Similar to those of us who are joined by our love of writing and such here on WordPress. A community of sorts, if you will. This year, it feels like our community has been split apart. People and pieces of it are missing, obviously missing. Again, while we feel fortunate to be able to partake in our love of being here, I feel sadness for those whose plans to also come were shattered by the pandemic.
For some folks, I’m sure that the effects of the past few months go beyond just the inconvenience of not being able to visit their favourite or perhaps newly discovered National Park. Yes, unfortunately some of the people who were due to be here for the first time or twentieth time or even sixtieth time might be reeling from loved ones who became ill or worse yet passed because of the coronavirus. Or, maybe they themselves were affected personally or they lost their job and can no longer afford a vacation or their reservations were cancelled due to limited capacity. Yet, I have the privilege and good fortune of sitting in my favourite red lawn chair soaking up the mountain air noting details about our trip which are ‘different’. It doesn’t really seem fair when you compare one circumstance to the other, does it? I kind of feel guilty if you want the truth. Well, guilty on one hand, but thankful on the other. Very thankful!
So, even though the vibe is different, I will choose not to dwell on what isn’t and be grateful for what is. I will also silently hope that next summer, our community of campers will all be together again in their full glory enjoying everything that the Parks have to offer as is meant to be. One thing I do know for sure is that the mountains in all of their glorious beauty will be here waiting no matter what challenges lie before us in the coming days, weeks, months and years. Solace can and will be found here again. And maybe, just maybe, if we do our part to look after each other and the planet, COVID19 will wash away with the rest of the spring silt of 2020.