A Slow Embrace

I remember reading somewhere once that time actually moves faster in the mountains. The seconds tick at a quicker rate the further you are from the centre of the Earth's gravity.

But as I sit quietly enjoying a second cup of coffee and watching the unchanging beauty of the Kananaskis mountains, I find that hard to believe.

These monumental giants, bathed in freshly fallen snow, make me feel like time is standing still.

Photo: Jeff Bartlett

Photo: Jeff Bartlett

We are tucked into cozy, heated canvas tents at the Mount Engadine Lodge, which has everything I could wish for in a mountain retreat (good food, epic scenery) with none of the frills. There is no gym, no television, and no distractions from the unfiltered wilderness that surrounds us.

Even the spotty WiFi has a cheeky password that instructs one to go outside and play.

It would be a shame not to when you're standing in a cathedral of mountains.

Photo: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Photo: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Photo: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Photo: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Photo: Matthew Clark

Photo: Matthew Clark

Photo: K Bialous

Photo: K Bialous

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Photo: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Photo: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Photo: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Photo: Tourism Canmore Kananaskis

Photo: Matthew Clark

Photo: Matthew Clark

Photo: K Bialous

Photo: K Bialous

Kananaskis Country, or K-Country as the locals call it, is located on the front ranges of the Canadian Rockies. The region is not nearly as busy as its more popular neighbours but equally as scenic.

While Banff and Lake Louise see hundreds of tour buses and more than 4.5 million visitors per year, Kananaskis remains blissfully and unapologetically wild. It is the playground of the locals, who come to ski, hike, and mountain bike away from the crowds.

Photo: Travel Alberta / North Grove Creative

Photo: Travel Alberta / North Grove Creative

Photo: Chris Amat

Photo: Chris Amat

Photo: Chris Amat

Photo: Chris Amat

This blissful slice of alpine paradise is the perfect spot to find what we came here for: a pause, a moment of quiet, a stillness.

So much of travel is wrapped up in wanting to see it all. We pack our itineraries to get as much out of our vacations as possible but we end up exhausted at the end.

In the stillness of these mountains, we read, we chat and we eat chef-prepared foods that nourish the body and soul.

Time inches forward as we contemplate a walk through the forest, so perfectly dusted in white from the previous night's snowfall.

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We return in time for the lodge's famous afternoon tea, which is served not as little crustless sandwiches but as a massive charcuterie board filled with slices of smoked duck breast and salami, cheeses, nuts, and olives.

There is no rush, so we take our time in assembling perfect bites from the Alberta-shaped boards.

Night arrives quickly in the winter and soon we are surrounded by the hallowed quiet of the dark.

Photo: Travel Alberta/Phil Copithorne

Photo: Travel Alberta/Phil Copithorne

The next morning, as it is time to leave, Jessie, a staffer at the lodge, helps me identify the peaks in front of me.

"That one there is Birdwood and next to it is Commonwealth, I believe."

"Mount Engadine is behind us," she adds, pointing away from the big bank of windows that overlooks a snowy meadow. Earlier that morning, we had seen a moose frolicking at the point where meadow meets forest.

Even though she's lived in the mountains for several years, Jessie seems just as enamoured with them as I am. Like so many others we have met on our trip to Canmore and Kananaskis, Jessie is a transplant from Ontario. She left behind the skyscrapers and traffic jams for the mountains and hasn't looked back.

It's a common theme.

On my first morning in the Rockies, on a walk along the creek outside our Canmore hotel, I passed a woman sporting a Toronto Maple Leafs tuque.

“I’ve never seen such a beautiful sunrise,” she said cheerfully. Indeed the sky was ablaze in orange, and the tops of the mountains were bathed in its light.

Assuming she was a traveller like me, I asked her how long she was staying.

“Oh, I’ve been here six years. I came for a vacation and never left.”

I can't blame her. I'm contemplating the same.

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