Summer of 2016: My life needed a change and I needed to make that change in a big way. After my incredible trip to South America, I found myself in some of the same patterns of problems that plagued my life before that trip: too much drinking, unhealthy relationships, and lack of fulfillment in other weekly activities. It seemed like the only time of year when I felt truly happy was when I’d travel and go hiking. I told people for a long time that one day I’d move to the Pacific Northwest. I was all of a sudden in a position to do so. I had no career, no girlfriend and the regular weekend drinking activities with my good friends felt more like I was on a downward spiral. Personally, there is no worse feeling than knowing you’re subjecting those you care about to your own crappy behaviors. Though I tried to get away from drinking as much or as often, that’s what most of the activities with others centered around. Over time I was gaining weight, losing self-esteem and just not acting like a person I knew I should be. So I decided to finally make a big change to my life.
I told some family & friends that I’d be going on a regular routine ‘Tony trip’ but I knew this trip was most likely for good. I didn’t want to make a spectacle out of moving or going away. I wasn’t doing this for attention. I needed to take control of my life and start with a clean slate. So I started off by driving up to Jasper National Park, a good 1800 mile drive to start. I had no idea where I would end up but if I learned anything from my one way trip to South America, it’s that everything will always turn out fine no matter where you go. I was letting my life go where my heart wanted it to and figured that somewhere along the way I’d know when & where to stop. In classic Canadian fashion I found myself sleeping out of my car in a Hockey rink parking lot along the way.
This was one of the longest drives of my life. Pretty much all of it was through the plains of the Midwest & Canada. When I finally made it to Jasper and could see the mountains I felt a sense of accomplishment & wonder fall over me. I wasn’t too far south of the Arctic Circle. In fact I was so far north that I was now on the same latitude as parts of Alaska and the days were longer than I ever experienced before. Most incredible though were the lake & mountain views. Hiking between here, Banff & Glacier national parks was exactly what I needed to cleanse my soul.
Starting out in Jasper I was awe struck by one of the most beautiful reflective lakes I had ever seen. It was like a mirror, I could just sit & stare at it in awe. This was medicine lake my friends.
The moments in my travels that stop me dead in my tracks is something that I will never take for granted. This was one of them. Heck, this adventure had quite a few of these moments. Even the cover image for this blog was another moment while in Jasper where I could just sit and marvel at some glaciers. By the way that was another crazy thought. I drove my car so far from Wisconsin that I could see glaciers!
As I drove south from Jasper I entered straight into Banff. I remember being so in awe of the mountains that I was thinking that the views looked like there were mountains on top of mountains! It really looked that spectacular. Also, remember how I said Medicine lake was one of the most beautiful lakes that I had ever seen? Well, in Banff I got to see a few more ‘most beautiful lakes’ I had ever seen too.
Moraine lake is really the one that sticks out to me the most. That’s the one where I have two pictures, one where the water is reflective and another where it’s glacier blue. A word of advice for anyone reading this looking at visiting here, get to these lakes early. Banff suffers or benefits (depends on your perspective) from the fact that anyone can easily view these lakes by practically driving up to them so the crowds get insane by mid day and parking is worse. Do yourself a favor and get to these lakes as early as possible. You won’t regret it.
After Banff, I finally made my way to Glacier, a national park I had wanted to explore for quite some time. These 3 parks have so much to offer, however hiking wise I’ll say that there’s nothing that topped the highline trail in Glacier for me. Not only were there constant incredible views but I gained more than one lifetime memory here as well. To start this trail has incredible views of the mountains & valleys pretty much the entire time. You honestly are hiking on the sides & tops of mountains the entire way. There is one spot where you can do a 0.6 mile hike up to the top of the continental divide and though it’s a steep incline it is quite worth it. It was here I ran into a beautiful lady named Summer and not too much later a grizzly bear mom and her cub nearly ran into us. It’s one of those moments where I still question how it really happened, but Summer will attest to the fact that this grizzly mom & cub came out of the bushes what seems like not even 10 feet away from us. I remember feeling calm about it all and yet almost like it was surreal at the same time. Was a giant grizzly mom and I really starring at each other for a few seconds there while I went to pick up our water bottles? Yes, yes we were. Go figure this was the only part of the trip where I didn’t have my bear mace or giant knife on me. Still, I never felt threatened by the bear. I believe we could sense each others energy and just sort of knew that there was no threat from either of us in that moment.
Meeting Summer was a real blessing as I look back. We connected quickly and finding those connections are what helps one feel like they’re in the right place & not so far away from home. Even now as I write this blog I sincerely miss my friends & family back home. I still struggle sometimes wondering if I’m doing the right thing being away from them and missing out on memories that could happen. However, I go back to where I started with this adventure. I needed to get away and grow in my own way, a healthier way. As I finished my adventure by spending a year in Idaho I got to experience so many great new memories by experiencing the life of an Uncle & a father. I got to spend some unforgettable time with my niece & nephew as well as get a puppy. These were things I longed to have more of in my life. It’s not easy being a proud & happy uncle with the kiddos living so far away. I finally got to spend some valuable time with two of these lovable yahoos. And getting a dog, well all these experiences I must say has really helped me settle down and enjoy the more simple and meaningful parts of life. There has been less drinking, less depression, & more mindful happy moments.
And now after a fun & memorable year in Idaho, I finally get to complete the dream and move to the coast of Oregon. Just typing that makes me feel in disbelief. I’ve wanted this life for a while and now I get to experience it and make it happen. I think this year in Idaho was necessary before I finally reached my Oregon coast destination. Over the last year I got to learn a lot about the work it takes to be happy & healthy on my own with a whole new environment and set of people in my life. Now, I get to start living the dream I’ve long sought after. Home is where the heart is. Now I also believe that home is where the heart finds peace.
“Peace begins from within and extends from there to your family, friends, community & eventually the world.” – Sensei Reshel
Such words have never resonated more.
Thanks for reading.