The Long Weekenders

You can feel it on the Wednesday, but only if you’’re really paying attention. The air sits a little heavier on your skin, and if you listen very, very carefully, you can make yourself believe you hear it… a soft buzz in the air.

It’s a sign. A sign that the long weekend is approaching. And with it comes the city people.

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They come in droves of shiny, black F-150’s and white Escalades with so much chrome you worry the reflection might start a fire. They come to camp or hike and to take pictures to post on Facebook. These city dwellers aren’t the same weekend warriors that drive out every Friday night to enjoy Canada’s greatest playground. These are city dwellers of the long weekend variety. A completely different species altogether. I call them mountainius flockana.

If you want to observe them in their native element you need look no further than 17th Ave. in Calgary. They gather outside coffee shops and clothing stores, flaunting white sunglasses or chanel purses, chattering and squawking about the NFL or TMZ. In their habitat they strut and snarl, confident in their knowledge of the nearest good cocktail spot.

Out in the Rockies it’s a different story. Like their cell phone reception, their swagger fades as they leave the city. When they reach the point where the only tweeting comes from the birds and there’s no option to “check in” at 2000 metres, they’re usually as meek and mild as a fawn. It can be a pleasant change if you’re used to getting measured up every time you walk past a guy wearing Affliction gear on Stephen Avenue.

It’s the ability of the mountains to strip away the absurdity of urban life that make them so wonderful. It’s as if their magnificent expanse overwhelms any ego and quiets it down so that the murmur of a creek can be heard. On a mountain trail there’s no need to peacock; the performance Mother Nature puts on nullifies any display of chest-thumping or snobbery.

The mountains are the great equalizer, even for the Long Weekenders. Photo by Meghan J. Ward.

Really, it’s a wonderful thing. Everyone, regardless of where they live, or how often they come to the mountains, is equal on the trail. There’s a camaraderie that doesn’t exist between the cracks on the sidewalk in the Beltline. You can see it when strangers encourage each other up a steep part of the trail. It’s in the proud, goofy smiles shared at the top of a peak. You can hear it in the tips given to those just leaving the trail head.

That is what getting back to nature is all about. No bravado, no self-affected nonsense. Just mountains. If life is a play and all the world a stage, then the mountains are your chance for intermission. Your chance to dispense with the acting, forgo the hustle and just be.

The next long weekend will attract the city folk again. But instead of spending the week dreading the crowds and the cars, you can approach it as an opportunity to appreciate the humanity that nature reveals, the kindness and consideration you don’t see as often in the shadow of a skyscraper. You can leave the trail and walk to your car satisfied in knowing that nature has the power to ground us and rip us out of our ivory towers.

Just try to remember to also keep that smile on your face when a black F-150 inevitably peels out of the trail head parking lot, showering you with gravel.

John Reid

John Reid

John Reid is a University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology graduate and Precision Nutrition Certified Sports Nutritionist. When he’s not rowing for the Calgary Row Club you’ll find him enjoying every possible second in the mountains hiking, trail running and road cycling.

Outside of sports, John is involved with the Branch Out Neurological Foundation, a local non-profit charitable organization dedicated to fundraising for new and alternative forms of treatment for neurological disorders.

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