We were talking with a nice couple from Calgary last weekend when the husband asked, “Do you really like Canada or are you just saying that to be polite?”
Awww. That’s so Canadian.
We don’t say things to be polite. We’re Americans.
So for me, at least, the answer is yes, I really do like Canada. And I am particularly enamored of that entire country right now, having just returned from a trip to Cranbrook, Fernie and Waterton Lakes National Park (the park that sits atop Glacier National Park like a tuque).
So here are a few of the reasons I love visiting our neighbors to the north:
Tim Horton’s: Yeah, it’s probably no more exciting than Jack-In-The-Box if you’re used to it, but I had never before had a Bagel BELT. A BELT is like a BLT with an E added. At least I’m fairly certain that was an egg. Knowing Canada, it could have been an escargot.
The two-dollar coin: Admit it. It really does make sense at a time when one dollar (Canadian or American) seems so insubstantial.
Kilometers: I don’t think the U.S. should do anything rash, like convert to metric along with the rest of the world. But I love it when Canada shows distances in kilometers instead of miles. It makes me feel like I’m getting places extra fast.
Yet these are all superficial reasons for loving Canada. On this trip, I realized the true, overwhelming, essential reason for loving Canada: There’s so darn much of it.
And so few people to mess it up.
For instance, on this trip we decided to go on a cutthroat trout fishing expedition. We had our pick of four outstanding, world-class rivers to choose from, all within about 20 miles of each other. We picked one – which will remain nameless – and drove up it for about 30 or 40 miles on an excellent gravel road.
Monoliths loomed overhead. Sawtooth ridges surrounded us. The river made a turquoise slash through dizzying canyons.
The river was absolutely loaded with hungry, substantial and cooperative cutthroat trout. And the amazing thing was, we didn’t see a single other fisherperson the entire day, along the entire river.
Are you kidding? Back here on the St. Joe River (a U.S. river that compares with it, fish-wise) there would have been dozens of people on the river, in campgrounds and with guides on rafts. No, it’s not exactly crowded, but you certainly don’t feel as if you have the place to yourself.
In Canada, this was just another heartstoppingly beautiful river. Dime a dozen.
And then I looked at a map. Here I was, in the middle of nowhere, alone except for the occasional logging truck, yet I was in the very southernmost 5 percent of British Columbia.
Head north, and there is range after range, lake after lake, river after river, gorgeous lonely place after gorgeous lonely place. I realized that, in my excursions into British Columbia, I have barely touched the surface. The amount of British Columbia left to explore is hard for the mind to comprehend, a little like contemplating the size of the galaxy.
And that’s just one province. Above that, you have the Yukon. And the Northwest Territories. And Nunavut. And about a thousand islands.
So maybe now you can understand why I love Canada so much. We all need to hold a vision in our minds of a place we can call paradise.
It’s even better to know that there’s so much paradise, you could never possibly see it all.