Beauty and Bliss in the Rocky Mountains – Banff Retreat

“Be patient and present.” Athwal sounds just like one of my meditation podcasts. “The most difficult thing we need to give nature is time. Nature will not show you everything at once. But she will give you enough.”

BACK TO WHERE I STARTED. I am standing along the Canada Day parade route in the town of Banff with Hernan Argana, his wife, and their two daughters, some of the 2,000 immigrants from countries such as the Philippines (where the Arganas —and my parents—hail from) who make up the bedrock of this resort town’s economy.

“I love Canada,” says Hernan. “The people here have been so good to us. The teacher saw my children walking to school in the cold and organized a visit to the thrift shop where we could have anything we needed for free.”

The family’s immigrant journey was difficult. He worked in Banff alone for seven long years to get his permanent residency, wiring most of his income to pay for his youngest daughter’s heart surgery in the Philippines. The Banff Western Union staff witnessed his weekly visits and took up a secret collection for his daughter’s medical costs. His family reunited with him in Canada four years ago.

We watch the parade. The mayor, civic groups, and marching bands file past, followed by floats celebrating the ethnic groups that form the tapestry of Banff, and Canada—Filipinos, Japanese, Poles, Indians, Chinese, Scottish, Irish. About 20 percent of Canada’s population is foreign-born (compared with 13.2 percent in the U.S. in 2014). I think of my own family’s immigrant story. In the 1960s my parents traveled to the U.S. to study and later raised their three children in Washington, D.C. My sisters and I, their husbands, and our blended-race offspring represent a thoroughly American melting pot.

This land around me isn’t my land, but it is a product of the same ideals. In its large tracts of wilderness and small acts of kindness, Canada turns out to be the perfect place to escape to without losing myself. To ask questions that I discover I already know the answers to. To give my better self room to grow. And to wait for the bear.

 Banff Bests

Banff Legacy Trail

This 14-mile paved route for cyclists, walkers, and in-line skaters runs from the town of Banff to the town of Canmore. Created for the 125th anniversary of Banff National Park, in 2010, it passes peaks, lakes, and forests.

Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies

Learn about the area’s culture and history at this museum founded by a descendant of a pioneering Banff family and his Boston-born wife. Exhibits include snow goggles made by Bill Peyto and beaded Stoney Nakoda moccasins.

Banff Gondola

An eight-minute gondola ride up Sulphur Mountain yields panoramic views of six moun-tain ranges. Keep your eyes peeled for marmots, bighorn sheep, and other wildlife.

Timberline Tours

Timberline is one of three outfitters specializing in Banff horseback tours; trips range from 1.5-hour excursions to 10-day backcountry expeditions.

Bow Valley Parkway

A scenic alternative to the Trans-Canada Highway, Bow Valley Parkway engages drive-through visitors with its viewpoints, informational signs, and picnic spots. Adapted from the National Geographic Traveler Guide to the National Parks of Canada.

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