It seems almost silly now to mention a trip that I took months ago, but it was the kind of trip that's not easily forgotten. I've found myself, even in the hectic pace of life in the last two months, thinking back to the time I spent in the true north and what a spectacular time it was--every now and then I catch myself thinking, was the water really that blue? Was the trail really that steep? That's the mark of a good trip if as I've always known them, the kind that lingers in your imagination as if it were a dream.
My cousin and I, who I don't get to spend enough time with, both had a window of time come up in our lives where we were beholden to no job and had few responsibilities. So naturally we decided that it was high time we take a trip. After tossing a few ideas around, we decided to head north to Canada--a place neither of us, though we're both daughters of the northwest, had been before.
We're well-suited to traveling together, for many of the reasons people are: we like to do activities at the same pace, we like to get away from other people, we like to be outside more than almost anything else. We also both tend to be quiet, introspective people and so it was easy to spend so much time together because we didn't fray each other's nerves with too much talking. And, in the end, you can't overestimate the power of being family. Our lives have been intertwined since birth. Our mothers are sisters, so we have always shared a place of commonality, tied together by a Coleman sensibility, our friendship one of necessity--forged through hundreds of hours playing in backyards together and spent on the dock by the lake, through family trips to everywhere from Ecuador to the Grand Canyon. You share exactly the right amount of history with your cousins to choose them as friends, I think. My sisters and my brother are beholden to me for the rest of my life, whether they like it or not: we will always revolve around each other because we have no other choice. It would be like cutting off one of my own limbs to cut one of them off. But cousins are another thing entirely, a sort of hybrid sibling. You share much of the same things in your life, but as you get older, you decide whether or not to continue on as closely as you began. The relationships I've developed with my cousins have been some of the most gratifying of my adult life, simply because I had to choose them.
All this to say that I love my cousin, and we had a great trip. We both exclaimed at how it seemed so impossible that all of this--the mountains and the bay, the incredible coast, the granite jutting out into the sea, the dense forests and turquoise water, the glacier-fed lakes and late-August flowers--had been up here this whole time. What have we been doing, we both wondered, that we couldn't have found time to visit before??
We started in Vancouver, where we hiked a punishingly steep trail right off the bat and swam in turquoise green waters at a secret spot we discovered in a park later that day, and then headed up to Squamish. We got lucky with a campsite there with the climbers, we both vowed to come back someday when we could really take advantage of the granite, but made do with a spectacular hike up the Stawamus Chief--an enormous half-dome of sheer rock that led us to stunning views of the Sea-to-Sky highway and out into the mountains of Whistler. Then we headed further north to Whistler, a kind of adult Disneyland for outdoor folks, where we did a few short day-hikes across rivers that could take your breath away and then one long, endless hike to a lake so startling blue we could hardly believe our eyes. In between, we camped and ate great food, and wrapped up in blankets in our chairs at night while drinking tea and watching dark fall, we swam in every single body of water we could find, we drank Tim Horton's and decided our coffee was better (sorry, Canadians). It was a magic trip, really.
I think about it often because it was just the kind of trip I like best: exploring with someone who likes to say YES as much as you do, who's just the right amount of fearless, who can go to bed late and get up early, and not complain about too many hours in the car. It's a good thing to find to stretch the wings now and then, to see somewhere new in the world, feed your mind new sights and sounds and smells. I already can't wait to go back.