When I was younger, looking at the mountains had always been a pasttime; wondering what was up there, what kind of things were laying among the trails, and the fallen trees. I always wanted to know what silence felt like. I always wanted to be above the clouds and above the city and inches away from touching the clouds. I dreamt of climbing the North Shore peaks and seeking out waterfalls and friendly chipmunks.
Flash forward a few years, and here I am sitting in front of the mountains with a little bit more insight and one heck of a story. I got into hiking in recent months and was inspired by a tragic loss in my life, unfortunately including these elegant, majestic mountain peaks. On September 12th 2015, my Dad went up the Lions Binkert Trail and never came down. He unfortunately, went unprepared, unpacked and unready for what was before him. We got text message proof from Rogers that my dad indeed made it to the top of the trail, reached the summit and sat between the East and West Lion peaks that we all see glowing from the North Shore. He headed back down, and was somehow left wandering forever as he has yet to be recovered. Yes, a very sad, tragic and difficult thing for me to reflect on, but talking and writing about my experiences has always been a positive and reflective tool for me.
Flash forward, one year, one month and 12 days, I sit happily as a changes person, more humbled and more calm with life. Since the loss of my father upon the peaks that I ever so wanted to understand, I definitely went through an angry phase. I played situations over and over in my head, the what ifs, the what could I have done, the moments with him that I am going to have to savor forever as September 12th was the last day he could create new memories. It has been acceptance, a huge sense of finding myself again and the one way that I can constantly do this, is climbing mountains.
In August I climbed Mount Brunswick with a group of strangers from Chasing Sunrise Vancouver. Every step of the way, was for him. It was to get up to the peak so I could see the Lions; my dad’s final resting spot. Over the months since he disappeared, I have grown to love this final resting spot. I have grown to love where he is, I have grown to love the mountains more because there is comfort and a sense of peace knowing he is in a majestic place, knowing that he is amongst the silence and the peacefulness of the trees, knowing he can reach out and touch the clouds, knowing that he is high above the city and knowing no matter where I am, he is watching me. A nightmare turned into a comforting sense of dreamland; what a situation.
Every time I climb a mountain, more recently Crown with another bunch of strangers, I can feel his presence. Even when I am nowhere near the Lions, I have a sense of comfort. I feel like the fog or the sunshine or the raindrops are tiny pieces of him, of his laugh, of his smile, of his stories, hugging me and pushing me to get to the top, because the summit is always worth the view. The summit is where I too can touch the clouds and reach the sunshine, where we can match up and meet again and be together for the brief time I stand on top of the world.
Mountains, in some senses, have saved my life. They bring me closer to something I always dreamt about when I was younger and now where I can connect as I am older. No, I know I cannot ever physically hold my dad’s hand, or hug him goodnight or sit and have a beer with him, but when I am up those mountains and standing on top of Vancouver, I can feel him there, I can see his smile, I can feel his hand on my shoulder and the fog wrapped around me in a hug. I can cheers a beer for him with the beautiful people I have met along the way, I can tell them a story, we can share a laugh and from way up there, my dad and I can have a moment in the one place that I cherish the most.