This weekend was my father’s birthday, so off we went to Cochrane to celebrate with him. In efforts to help him ring in his 70th year in style, we took him out to the mountains, one of his most favourite places. I won’t lie, they’re also one of my favourite places. Banff and its surrounding area has always held a special place in my heart, and it occurred to me this weekend that somehow I let myself go a year and a half without stepping foot within park boundaries. I didn’t know just how much I missed it, just how much a part of me it is, until I found myself there again this weekend, standing on the banks of the Bow River staring up at the mighty Mt. Rundle.
Without a doubt, this is the longest I’ve gone without visiting Banff since I was a child. When I was a kid, we camped around Banff every single year. It captured my heart so much so that I moved there as an adult. I spent almost four years in Banff, and they were truly some of my best years. I had hiking at my doorstep. In fact, it’s the place responsible for my true love of trails and the birthplace of my trail running adventures. For the first time in my life, I was part of a small community, the kind where you couldn’t go anywhere without running into someone you knew. I was part of a quirky, delightful, challenging and absolutely fascinating team within an organization that helped me carve out a path for myself that I never would have considered otherwise. Many of those quirky and wonderful teammates became friends, friends I still see to this day, though not as often as I’d like. It was a life-altering experience in many ways.
So this weekend, as we visited Banff and surrounding areas I found myself lost in my old haunts: browsing through the Christmas store even though it was nowhere near Christmas, agonizing over what type of fudge to choose from the Fudgery, cutting down back alleys to avoid the hordes of tourists, thinking of nights out at virtually every restaurant and bar in town, remembering the smell unique to the Rockies in winter (a mix of snow and trees), staring in awe at the grandeur of the scenery in all directions, and reveling in the familiar motion of winter hiking and the feel of dry, rocky mountain snow (so much better than west coast snow, by the way) beneath my feet.
It was a feast for my soul in so many ways. It reminded me of times when I was at my most active, invigorated by fresh air and the constant presence of epic mountain scenery. It felt like coming home again. I always hear that expression ‘you can’t go home again’ and, to be honest, I’ve never felt it to be true. Of course places change and evolve. Even in Banff, so many storefronts and restaurants and neighborhoods are different than they were when I lived there. That’s not the point. Home is nothing more than a feeling. Being able to step foot into a place and have it feel familiar, even when the sights and sounds around you are not exactly the same, to have it instantly transport you back to a wonderful time in your life, that is what home is. And I can tell you that any time I find myself in and around Banff,whether in town on on the trails, I am home.