[Writer Laura Trethewey recently travelled across Canada by train, and sent us five postcards on the way, from B.C. to Northern Ontario. The “Prairie Postcard Project” chronicles that leg of her trip and the people she met along the way. Visit her blog for the whole story. Click the postcard images to enlarge.]
The Canadian Rockies, our great wilderness, and tourists show up with their shirts pressed and their hair permed. On the bus from Banff to Jasper, Dave, the peak hopper, gets on looking like he hasn’t seen the inside of a house in months: hair matted into a ponytail, muddy sunworn skin, yellow nails chiseled into talons. He sits down two rows ahead of me and stares at his lap.
I lean forward and ask, “you’ve been climbing those peaks?” It takes a minute for him to jerk out of his reverie and realize I’m talking to him. When he does, he doesn’t make eye contact, just cranes his neck slightly in my direction and scoffs back, “Yeah, I been climbing those peaks.” As if it’s only natural to scale the 10,000 foot peaks of the Columbia Icefield right outside our window. His voice is just a croak from 25 days of silence and climbing alone. This time, Wilcox Peak, just over 9,000 feet, was his prize. I asked him why he climbed and he described a perfectly turquoise glacial lake he saw, hidden from the highway deep in a mountain range, only visible to those who climbled that perch. “Why do I do it,” he repeated. “I love it.”
More correspondence coming soon…