Selfie: Icefields Parkway, Alberta Hwy 93, Canada

"To make light of philosophy is to be a true philosopher." Pascal, Pensees, Sect.1

Another of Pascal's remarks, written only a few paragraphs after the one quoted above, states, "People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others."

To engage in the act of discovery, I say, one must travel -- either literally or in the imagination.

Travelling "literally" can be expensive and time-consuming. On the other hand, observing from afar, using the tools of picture or words or thoughts, can cost almost nothing and may even suspend time. The Internet and all the resources available to our senses (phones, watches, pads, computers, even cushioned toilet seats) make the "virtual" effort of discovery easier than ever. So we are likely to stay in one place and tend to get fatter.

Now if I could persuade everyone to get up and go to the national parks of Canada and the U.S., those places today, in good weather, would be even more overcrowded than they already are, with vehicles and humans jostling for choice spaces to park themselves. The aggravations do accumulate merit points to the health of gawkers like me but scare away the animals and stain the pathways through nature. It is a trade-off and the future does not bode well for the aesthetic experience supposed to be associated with the endeavor.

There is no real solution to resolving nature's survival dilemma as the world's populations expand and become more capable of moving from place to place both literally and virtually. Bikers use the hiking trails, tourists are more focussed on their "selfies" than tasting the blackberries, and now drones lurk in the sky and woods (so far without evil intent maybe).

Practically, from my own experience, the best moments (time) for discovery in nature's cathedrals are the so-called offseason seasons -- early autumn, winter, spring. Mornings and nighttime are also good opportunities to commune with the passing flavors of public places, with the best chance of not being interrupted.

Travelling along Canada's Highway 93 between Jasper and Banff in early October 2016 I was relieved to find very few instances of a need to hunt for privacy. There were plenty of people for sure (especially at the Columbia icefield), but I learned from the locals that the summer crowds are exponentially larger and more restless. Busloads of travellers empty for short stopovers all along the Icefields Parkway route, but their presence in the Fall were a manageable distraction. There was the occasional incident; one woman locked herself and companions out of her rented car while taking photos at a roadside lookout. I and fellow traveller Rick failed to find a way in, stood by, and puzzled with her what to do. Then sprinting across the lot I persuaded a tour bus driver to ferry the unfortunates to the parkway's Tourist Center. My own vehicle's right rear tire shortly after that began to slowly leak air (8 to 10 psi/d - it took days and two trips to a Range Rover dealer in Calgary to resolve that situation). Frustration, lost time, uncertainty.

In short, the actual search for and enjoyment of nature's gifts demand patience, flexibility and attention to one's neighbors seeking the same pleasures and challenges. Gone are the days of the solitary trapper and homesteader (although in the U.S. the person you are sharing the path with may still be "packing heat.")

Afterward, now, I find myself philosophizing about what once was and what is going to be. Take my musings lightly (and don't shoot).

Gallery of Images Made Between Jasper and Banff on Icefields Parkway (Athabasca Glacier, Athabasca Falls, Weeping Falls, Saskatchewan River Crossing, Moraine Lake (Banff))

#glacier #photography #Alberta #mountains #women #scenery #travel

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