Writing In The Mountains (West Coast Girl, Pt 2)

Alberta 2013

The moment I set my luggage down in my room, I put on my snow pants and hiking boots and walked outside. At the outskirts of the lodge’s property, I stood in awe at the mountains all around me. They were so beautiful. The lodge was situated on a foothill and below it was a winding river. Seeing that the hill wasn’t too steep, I hiked down to the river and walked along it. I was so thirsty for adventure, I didn’t stop to consider if it was safe or not. I was just so used to walking wherever I wanted in Ontario that I forgot how wild Kananaskis, AB really is. Once I returned to the little village for my meal, I told someone in the café that I’d hiked down and she said I shouldn’t ever go alone again.

“You’re crazy,” she said, shaking her head. “There’s bears in this area and they go there often to drink water.”

She’d been a local there for years. She was a couple of years younger than me and seemed to know her way around the wilderness, but she never hiked alone. That was a common theme around the lodge – it’s not a national park, it’s the wilderness so never hike alone. I should have been more careful, but I admittedly hiked down a few more times after that. A nature walk isn’t really a true nature walk for me if it isn’t alone. I’ve always been like that, even as a kid. Normally, I’d sit on a ledge overlooking the river and sing as the snow fell. As I got used to my daily routine, I started bringing a notebook out on my walks and I’d write in the fresh air or listen to music. Sometimes at night, I’d walk down an evergreen path and admire how many stars there were in the sky. It was the best kind of sensory overload.

(In the photo above, it shows the ledge I loved sitting on. I took a picture knowing I would want to look back and remember it. Ten years later, I still get a big wave of nostalgia looking at it. It was an unforgettably magical experience! Nothing compares to the first time you’ve experienced being in the mountains.)

This is the place where I wrote the first draft of Eve & Adam, my novella about two young free thinkers who meet at the top of a hill. I couldn’t have chosen a better place to write another book. The first draft was rather hot-blooded, but I softened it out into a full story as the weeks passed. I also worked on The Red Coat & The Redhead, a historical fiction novella. In such a setting as Kananaskis, all I could think about were open roads and journeys – I was on an adventure of a lifetime myself.

(The photos above are from my wanderings outside of Kananaskis Village! In this last one, the snow suddenly became very deep. I had a good laugh at myself.

My job at the spa was chill for the most part, but it wasn’t a position that I could thrive and grow in. Because of the anxiety I had at the time, I made a lot of mistakes when booking appointments. I think it was more the environment – they were looking for a certain personality type that I didn’t have. While the managers were kind and reasonable, sometimes I felt like I was thrown in the deep end and was always trying to play catch up when it came to completing my tasks. It would either be so dead that there was nothing to do, or so busy that you couldn’t keep up with everything. Because we lived in the same place that we worked, rumours spread about me pushing people away. In truth, I was just trying to balance alone time with social time. I’m not an all or nothing person, but some people don’t understand what balance is. You were either a part of them or you weren’t. No in-betweens. I felt a little stifled at the residence, as people can be needy when they’re in a remote area like that. Later on, I joined a little fitness group with some girls and that was a lot of fun. They were the sweet type of people I could get along with and they tended to be more on the introvert side, but as the weather warmed up the workout nights ended.

My vision was to write a lot and go on nature walks with a like-minded person or two, but it seemed that most people just wanted to party or be around huge groups of people when they weren’t working. Many of them went skiing/snowboarding, but I was eager to hike. While I hit it off with a few people, some still felt that my solitary writing routine was meant to push people away. I went to a party once and got so hungover that I didn’t drink for the rest of my time there.

I remember my roommate’s boyfriend pouring more vodka into my drink, thinking he was being sneaky about it. He sat down in the couch next to me and told me I’d be too afraid to hike to the top of a mountain with him. Being tipsy, my annoyance at his arrogance intensified.

“I could do it!” I cried. “This is what I came here to do.”

He grinned. “Yeah? Well, we’ll have to see then.”

The rest of the night was a bit of a blur, but I made it back to my room without any of the drunken guys in tow. I remember one of my coworkers was trying to push me toward her guy friend. He said he wanted to hookup, but I wasn’t there for that. I was offended he thought I’d just say yes to that. I remember being scolded for being “rude”. I was learning that the words “nice” and “rude” aren’t always accurately applied in party situations.

One evening when I was sleeping, I woke up to a guy sitting on my bed. It was my roommate’s boyfriend. We didn’t have the kind of friendship where it would warrant him sitting on my bed, even as a joke. I’d interacted with him maybe twice – once at the party and once in the room when we were both using the kitchen. It was late at night; the kitchen light highlighted the grin on his face; it was wide and menacing. Being tired and aware of how much bigger he was, I put the blanket over my head. I know people think women should fight and claw and scream when they’re about to be attacked, but that can do more harm than good. Why would I try to fight off a guy who could hold me down with one hand? Sometimes staying quiet is the thing that saves your life – or at least it saves you from getting a black eye. His hand gripped the back of my neck and I passed out. I don’t know if it was because he touched a pressure point, if he had a topical drug in his hand, or if I fainted, but I didn’t wake up until I heard yelling in the room. It was my roommate.

“She’s asleep! What the hell is wrong with you?” she cried.

It wasn’t just a dream. It really happened. I don’t think it went very far, because my clothes were still on. Perhaps he just meant to intimidate me for arguing with him at the party. I confided in my coworker about what happened and she said he’s always been a weird guy and she wasn’t too surprised.

“He’d always say such strange things about girls when I’d be around him at parties. He’s a weirdo,” she said. “If you want to sleep at my place temporarily, you’re welcome to until they move out.”

Her offer was kind, but I toughed it out since they’d be gone in a couple of days. Luckily, he got a new job at Sunshine Village and she was going with him, so I’d never see them again once they left. I remember wandering down a path and seeing him with a few buddies on his last day – I wondered what it would be like to be physically stronger than him. I imagined throwing him off the bed and showing him why he should never intimidate a woman again. Memories of that big grin on his face haunted me for a while. When you read about gleeful smiles on villains in any of my stories, just trust that it’s not based on some pulp fiction stereotype. There are some men who smile like this at women.

When he was gone, I was able to breathe normally again. I had the room to myself and I started jogging after work since the days were getting longer. It was on the road where cars would drive by semi-frequently, so I felt safe enough.

As beautiful as Kananaskis was, I realized I’d received everything I needed from the little haven of mountains, rivers, and evergreens. One early morning, I took a cab from the lodge and went to Canmore, Alberta, which was about an hour away. Canmore was a small mountain town nestled in the mountains and there were a lot more things to do – it was a place I could see spending my summer with there being more cafes, safer trails, and restaurants. It would give me the nature I craved with a little more convenience.

(A photo of me dangling my feet over the edge of the hill. I was sitting on that ledge I mentioned earlier. I was genuinely happy every time I sat here.)

It’s something else living in the middle of an adventure where you’re surrounded by natural beauty everywhere. The journey from Kananaskis to Canmore was a gorgeous one. While Canmore was more up to my speed, I will never forget how amazing that first month in Kananaskis felt. It was the first place I lived in my journey out west. It was like living in a waking dream – and my writing blossomed there. My parents even commented that one month spent there resulted in a new book. They could see how much I was enjoying myself despite a few challenges. Nature and freedom do wonders for the inspiration.

A New World (A Poem)

Only hours before I was saying good-bye to my dad at the airport

I’d outgrown my home city and needed a change of sorts

For so long I dreamed of setting foot on Canada’s west coast

My first stop was in Kananaskis with so much natural beauty to boast

The moment I arrived, I put my hiking boots on and hiked down the foothill

I walked along the river and as I took in the majestic world around me, I stood still

Nothing can compare to the first time you’ve set foot in the Rocky Mountains

The Bow Valley feels like a magical world, a perfect setting to pick up my pen

I was able to write two new stories while living in this wonderful place

It’s amazing how your creativity soars when you have a little space

My favourite spot was a green ledge overlooking the stream

There is no greater feeling than living out your dreams



  1. Those mountains are really beautiful. I love mountains. Where I grew up, the high-coast in northern Sweden there are mountains down by the coast but they are not as tall and have softer/eroded tops because they are older mountains. The first time I saw mountains like in your photo was on a ski trip to Germany. Later I would visit the Rocky Mountains in the US. Yes the bears are scary and dangerous. We are getting more bears in the areas I grew up in and it is both a good thing and scary. There’s been accidents. You can’t outrun or fight a brown bear. What a creep your friend’s boyfriend was. That is horrible. I am so sorry to hear that happened to you. It was certainly very interesting reading.

    • I love that you got to have a few mountain experiences yourself. 🙂 Yes bears are so cool but if they do decide to attack you’re pretty much done for.
      Thanks yeah i wasn’t sure if I wanted to add some of the bad things that happened, but maybe if I write about them it’ll show how often it can happen. Not just when you’re away from home but anytime you’re around people or sharing a home with others.

      • Several women close to me or that I know well have been sexually assaulted. It is a huge problem that nobody wants to talk about. It is rarely reported and hardly ever lead to prosecution and it leaves big psychological scars. I don’t know about others but I will not die from the shock if you talk about it. Again I am so sorry it happened to you.

      • Thank you so much for understanding and I appreciate that you realize how common it is. The crazy thing is even if it was to be reported, they’d only get 2 years max. Some women don’t want that on their plate if the guy comes back to wreak vengeance on them. Thanks for your care. It’s okay. 😊 I’ve had a good life despite that. Who knows where he ended up.

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