I was thinking back on my 2013 road trip, and realized that of the stories that have been told, the people I interacted with hardly come up. I do tend to be a bit of a hermit, and you’d think travelling alone would encourage that, but in reality, I interacted with a lot more people on that trip than on any other. So here are the scattered stories of the community that I experienced while on a month long trip across Canada.
For the most part, normal hiking etiquette means that I say hi to people on trails and every now and then talk about what is ahead or behind depending on the direction one is headed. Other than that I don’t tend to converse deeply with other people on the trails. While on the Crypt Lake trail in Waterton, I made trail friends with a younger couple who were also into photography. We had stopped at the same viewpoint along the trail to take some pictures. The conversation started with comparing camera setups and eventually talking about where we were from. He was originally from Quebec, but met his wife in Utah and was now living there. We talked a lot about the various places we had travelled, and the highlight experiences that we’d had. We never really hiked together, but we were going in the same direction and kept running into each other at various viewpoints, where the conversation would resume…often with comparing camera settings and technique. As the trail got higher and harder, I fell behind and never actually made it to the end.(it was a one way trail) But we met again while waiting for the boat to take us back to camp. They told me about what I had missed at the end of the trail, and were quite understanding that I hadn’t made it all the way. Then we boarded the boat, and said farewell at the campground. I never saw them again.
Since I turned around early on the Crypt Lake trail, I was the first one back at the dock to wait for the boat.(the trail is accessed by boat) The next person to arrive was a girl that I learned was on holiday from Europe. We talked for a bit about our travels before the boat arrived. Days later I saw her again at Lake Louise in Banff. We were going different directions but stopped and talked for a short bit before she had to move on.
For some reason I just kept getting into social situations in Waterton. In the evening, after hiking Crypt Lake, it started to rain. I wasn’t ready to go to bed and didn’t want to sit in the tent, so I walked to the public shelter. It wasn’t long before a Boy Scout group came to use the shelter as well. They had a cookstove and were setting up to make hot chocolate. It was dark and they were having trouble with their limited flashlights, so I went and got my Coleman Lantern to light up the place. They offered me some hot chocolate and I got talking with one of the group leaders about my road trip. He had been up to Yukon before and he shared some places that he thought I should visit. We stayed up late talking. I ran into the group a few times the next day before leaving for Banff.
Banff. So many people. So few social interactions. My time at the Presbyterian Church in Banff was nice. They were very friendly and I stayed for a while and talked about mountains, road trips, and differences/similarities in what we believed. The only other real interaction I had in Banff was with a girl running the gas station, who asked where I was headed….and didn’t know where Yukon was! I suppose she had an excuse because she was from Britain and was just in Banff for the summer….but still, that was surprising.
There was a bit of a lull in social interactions, until I made it to Kitwanga, BC, which is on the Yellowhead Highway, west of Smithers. I was walking through the village taking pictures of the totem poles when I met an older lady from Texas. She was on her way back down from Alaska. I was headed the way she had come, so I asked her about it and she showed me some pictures and highly praised Telegraph Creek, which I was to visit later.
The next day I made it to Stewart, BC. On my way up to the Salmon Glacier, I was behind a pickup truck with 2 four wheelers on it. At one point there was road construction and it wasn’t obvious where to go, so they had stopped. I pulled up beside, lowered my window and asked what was up. Apparently, one of them had gone ahead to ask the workers where to go. I followed them through, which was nice because it made the whole thing less confusing. At the viewpoint, one of the guys looked at my little sports car and commented that I had made it and still had four tires after the rough gravel road there.
While in Stewart, I stayed in a hotel for the first time on the trip. After getting a room, I talked with the girl at the front desk for a bit. It was interesting to find out that some people in Stewart would never venture any further north than their own town, and that getting supplies was a big deal as it involved a 3 hour drive back to Smithers.
The following day I stayed at the Waters Edge Campground on Dease Lake. At this point I was far enough north that the campgrounds were never very full, but there was an older couple staying in the site next to mine. There wasn’t many trees between the sites and it was easy to hear their conversation. I heard them trying to decide if they should go to Stewart. I then chimed in and shared about my own experiences in Stewart. We talked about various places we had seen and were headed. They highly recommended Top of the World Highway in Yukon. I had never heard of it before and didn’t make it there on this trip, but it is now on my list of roads to drive someday. He also eased my fears about how rough the roads were in Yukon. Other campers came and left and without any interactions…so this is still pretty hit and miss, but more interaction than a normal camping trip.
Upon reaching Yukon, I camped in the Squanga Lake campground, this side of Whitehorse. In keeping with the remoteness of Yukon, there were only two other sites occupied. I said hi to one of the couples and a short conversation ensued about where I was from.(this was to become a common question in the Yukon) It turned out, they were originally from Ontario as well, but had moved up to Yukon after retiring.(this was also quite common) They suggested a few sights to stop at for my next day of road tripping.
The next day I arrived at Kluane National Park and stopped at the Cottonwood RV Park to stay the night. I got talking with the owners who were from Ontario and lived in Yukon during the summer. I stayed in a cabin at the RV park for the next 3 nights. I ran into the owners from time to time and we would talk for a bit. I remember talking about how different Yukon was from the Rockies, the northern lights, 24 hour days, and about the Grizzly Bear that would wander the grounds.(although I never saw him)
On my last full day in Yukon I decided I might as well go see how much it would cost to go on an air flight to see Mount Logan. The airport at Silver City was quiet and I didn’t see any people around. After I wandered around for a bit, a man came out of one of the buildings. He was the pilot, and we went inside to look at possible flights. It was a bit expensive and due to the cloudy weather, he figured I wouldn’t likely be able to see Mount Logan or the icefields…so I didn’t go on a flight. The pilot was a nice guy and we talked for a while about travelling and the Yukon.
My last two memorable interactions were kind of a fitting end to the journey. My last night in Yukon, I went out for dinner at the hotel in Destruction Bay. As I was paying, another customer walked in, and asked if that was my car out there and if I had really come all the way from Ontario. I said it was, and she asked why. I remember being kind of surprised…and saying something about wanting to see the country. At this point I had seen such amazing sights that the idea of driving here just to see them was the most natural thing in the world. While driving back to Ontario I had less interactions, but in Saskatchewan, near Loydminster, I stopped at a golf course that advertised camping sites. While paying for the site, I was asked where I was from. Upon hearing Ontario, they exclaimed that I was a long way from home…to which I replied that I was on my way back from Yukon. They were surprised…and thought I was crazy.
There were other little interactions here and there, but these are the ones that stick with me and are worth writing down. It’s kind of sad to realize that although I can sort of picture faces to most of these people, but I can’t remember a single name. There is something about the more remote areas that makes conversation easier, as other travellers that you meet are almost certainly on a similar adventure, and are more than just selfie snapping tourists.(they don’t tend to make it to Yukon…) In some senses, I travel for the solitude. I specifically want to go to places that aren’t tourist traps. Yet, in the end, I do appreciate a small amount of social interaction with like minded travellers.
There isn’t a deep purpose to writing this aside from the story of it all. The idea came when I was reading old journal entries and realizing how many interactions I did have. Lately when I get into these sorts of conversations there is a small part of me that wants to somehow bring God into the conversation. There’s just something about standing amongst creation and talking about it, that makes me want to glorify God. Yet, I struggle with doing this when talking with strangers….even though I’m sure it would be pretty easy to do in this context. It’s something I need to work on.