I made it to Canada! And more importantly, Banff! The park here is gorgeous and the north has lived up to its reputation of hospitality. I’ve met tons of people in Canada but one in particular stands out.
I met Kelsey while camping at a free spot, Peaches Point recreation area on Lake Abraham. I saw him riding his bike early on Tuesday morning.
We said hello and he continued riding around camp.
Later I went on a hike and walked by his campsite. Again we said hello.
That afternoon, while I was sitting under the awning reading, he came by again on his bike.
Kelsey is probably 65 years old. Tanned as if he spent a lot of time outside. A polite, soft spoken guy, all 5’7″ of him seemed to be hunched over as if he didn’t want to take up too much space under my awning.
He mentioned that he had been there for 7 days and I was the first person in a well populated campsite that had been friendly. This really got me. I had also been feeling a bit lonely in the Canadian wilderness — the wild seemed to continue forever and it felt as if I had been the first person out there in weeks. The great white north has a way of making you feel small. I guess my point is that the universe has a strange way of connecting people in need of connection.
Kelsey and I started talking and he ended up telling me that he had lost his wife 5 years earlier. He said that they had come out to this site every summer before she passed and that he continued the tradition alone now.
He told me about how when they first got married they tent camped. As the years went on he built them a truck bed camper so that they’d be off of ground. He told me that eventually he got them a hard shell trailer with a generator. He admired the handiwork in the van and seemed like he was remembering early days of truck camping with his wife — he smiled but seemed like he was in a far off place.
He snapped back into focus, and a bit embarrassed said “I don’t want to bother you, I just thought I would stop by and say hi.” I told him that he was no bother at all and said “hey you know what, I was just about to make some coffee. Would you like some?” He said, in true Canadian fashion, “as long as it’s no bother to you.” I looked at him, out at the mountains and then back at him and said “what the hell else are we doing?” He laughed and said “I guess you’re right! Not like we’re punching a time card out here eh?!” Yes. He really did say “eh.”
As we waited for coffee to brew we joked that neither of us knew how to measure coffee for other people anymore since we traveled alone — as I poured the hot water over the grounds I told him that I would “not at all be offended if he thought it tasted like garbage because I don’t measure the grounds anymore!” He took a sip and his face said “this tastes like absolute garbage” but he paused and said “tastes just fine, thank you!” Living up to the over-polite Canadian stereotype he finished his entire cup.
We talked about his job. He has been there for a long time so they gave him 6 weeks of paid time off. He told me that he spent most of those vacation days in the trailer, driving around Alberta. Sounds like he and his wife used to go to BC quite a bit but since she passed he stayed near by his home in Edmonton.
After we finished our (garbage) coffee, he said he was leaving the next day but wanted to give me some leftover firewood. “How nice, I’d love that!” I said.
We agreed to both retire to our respective camps and he would come back in about an hour or two.
Kelsey came back and gave me more firewood than I needed and then hugged me before he left. Seemed like Kelsey and I both needed a pal in the wilderness and as he drove away I said “hey, maybe I’ll see you next summer!” And I really hope I do.
Again and again, I have been humbled and delighted by the kindness of strangers. Traveling solo in a van has been one of the best things I’ve ever done and I feel so lucky to be on the road!