We have been preached to for millennia that the "straight and narrow" path is the assured way to heaven. But in Alberta and the Rocky Mountains the trails are seldom straight. And they can be damp and muddy (soggy) to boot. Yet the result is about the same -- "almost heaven."
"Adventures don't begin until you get into the forest. That first step is an act of faith." Purported words of the Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart.
At boot, there is the walker's labor on uncertain ground and wet mush to avoid in order to spare one's legs excess and unnecessary discomfort. Distant goals and an image of mountains and cloud suddenly are right in front at my feet -- a reflection in standing water. The projection isn't real but the beauty is. Color and form is framed by brown and shadowy underbrush comprised of grasses and leaves wilted and weighed down by thin layers of October frost in the Kananaskis wilderness.
I am warmly dressed in layers of cloth but shivering in anticipation of the sun more than reacting to morning cold. A bracing breeze introduces the whole landscape to a new day, as bright flashes of sunlight find holes in the scenery and sort it. The path is set.
Theodore Huebner Roethke, a 20th century poet, said "I learn by going where I have to go." He had a troubled mental history (died in early 60's) but his work is reported to be full of introspection, rhythm and natural imagery. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1954 for his book The Waking, and he won the annual National Book Award for Poetry in 1959 for Words for the Wind and posthumously in 1965 for The Far Field. I am not a close reader of poetry, so I cannot translate easily his vision of nature and life, but certainly travellers like us share his experience of order and contradiction from time to time. Part of the thrill of hiking the woods is the awe at the order of things while always expecting the appearance of contradiction and unforeseen danger.
Kananaskis Country, as it is called by the locals, is a mixed use playground frequented by Calgary and Canmore inhabitants in the know. It is a good thing because there isn't much room to roam left when the tourists arrive in mid-summer. The focal point is the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park but it isn't necessary to reach the park's boundary to appreciate the natural ambiance of the Rocky Mountain foothills.
One reviewer on a travel website wrote: "What a journey to get to !! It's a rough and I mean a rough road not really suitable for cars; saw quite a few cars turning back. But boy was it worth it, it was so peaceful and vast and I didn't want to leave." (edited)
Spray Lake, undisturbed except by the weather from time to time, is a reservoir hidden from the main travel routes in central Alberta.