“These mountains. . they are not beautiful.” stated my dad to my mom as our mini van cruised along the Icefields Parkway. They are oppressive he said. What?? I exclaimed. “These mountains. . they are spectacular and wonderful! Millions of people come here from all over the world, use up all their money and vacation time to see these mountains!” I said in defence of the Alberta Canadian Rocky Mountains. “Yes” he said, “but they are not beautiful.” In the ensuing conversation he talked about how the sheer size and numbers of mountains in the area was daunting. They towered over everything and imposed themselves over everything. In the end we agreed that they were spectacular. I was of the opinion they were spectacularly beautiful and he was of the thought that they were spectacularly oppressive. Fair. That was 15 years ago and probably the last time I saw my dad run. My dad had been taking glucosamine for his knees and was so sure it was helping. As we were headed to a restaurant from the parking lot in Lake Louise, he bent down in a ready position and did a sprint towards the door. I admit it was a pretty good sprint.
That was a long time ago and like so many things that came to pass, memories like these seem to be from another lifetime. My dad now mostly lies quietly in bed dealing with the effects of a long-term illness. The memories of the mountains, the drive up the Ice Field Parkway, and images of my dad running mixed in my mind, as I rode the same road and gazed upon the same mountains. I appreciated the immense difference in time scales between the mountain range I rode through and us fragile humans. In comparison the mountain seem unmoving, almost timeless, even though in millions of years the Rockies too will be worn down and reduced to sediment to lie in layers.
I felt lucky to be riding my motorcycle and to again see the sheer beauty of the mountains, old, oppressive or otherwise.