“You live in these mountains so you must get bored of looking at them sometimes?” the big American asked.
The bartender did not hesitate; “No, actually every time I look at them they are different.”
Now I am not one to eavesdrop but this conversation unfolded before me at a lounge in a high end hotel in Banff National Park and it had my attention. Without even thinking I waded in, thankfully the two were not offended as I blurted my question; “How so? How are they different?”
This young lad was here on a student working Visa from England, not even a local resident. What he said next made me aware of something I just had not been able to put my finger on in all my years living near these majestic Rockies. He continued; “In the morning they look different than midday as the sun moves. Sunset they change once more. A cloud can come and change their appearance at any time. Summer is different than winter and spring and fall have their own look. I’ve seen them in all kinds of weather and they have always seemed magnificent in a new way.”
I was almost ashamed to be an Albertan as this person from another country described and explained perfectly why the mountains are so captivating. It also made me think of how this applies to my motorcycle riding. Why do so many of us ride some of the same highways so many times yet not get bored? Its because on a bike you feel and sense more changes with each visit. With climate control in a car a sunny day looks like a sunny day but on a bike you can feel and smell the temperature and seasonal differences.
This past riding season I was fortunate to ride Highway 40 over the Highwood Pass, the highest paved road in Canada, located in the Kananaskis area of Alberta. I rode it twice this year. I did it on a fantastic, hot summer day but also on a nice, warm fall one as well. The summer skies were so blue, the peaks on the mountains a stark contrast as the 2 reached out to meet each other. The plant life burst with greens of many shades.
The fall ride had a haze from forest fire smoke that had drifted in from Oregon giving the skies a diffused look that seemed to go with the changing leaves. Same highway, different experience. The words of that British bartender rang in my head “…every time I look at them they are different.”
The mountains I rode thru on that hot summer day now had a softness to them as though they were an older range (The Rockies are the youngest non-volcanic mountains in the world by the way). Gone were the stunning blue skies and the almost blazing heat of the sun. In their place was a subdued grandeur that still awed but with a canvas of new, warm experience.
As I took in the view at a familiar rest area not only did the autumn have the change of colour on many of the trees there was also that smell of a fall forest, that fragrance of changes on their way. The same spot in the summer had a look and aroma of things to be lived and enjoyed at the moment. Perhaps it is the Canadian way. After being holed up most of the winter waiting, the summer months scream for us to get as much in as we can because it won’t last for long. That summer day I stopped many times to drink it all in. I stopped on my fall ride too but the urgency to get moving again seemed less. Nature seemed to say- take this in now and reflect.
Mountain tops once ringed with snow stood barren awaiting their new topping that would be here soon. The hazy sky gave it a surreal look. It was a whole new world but one that corresponded to the map in my hand. I said a silent thanks to the bartender who had opened my eyes.
You don’t have to ride a motorcycle to get this experience but it helps. I encourage you to ride/drive your favourite areas in more than one season. Be sure to stop, get out and really feel the scenery to see what I mean and say a little thanks to a British bartender you’ve never met as you take in your “new” experience.
Daryl Makk and The Planet Tour