Michelle Parry is a participant in Group 5 of the Canadian Conservation Corps.

My CCC wilderness journey is a memory I will hold close to my heart for a long time. I am oddly fond of each section of our trip, from the grimy details of how much dirty foot water I wrung out from my socks each evening, to the surreal expanse of mist and sunshine in the valley far below our goat trail. The hardships were made not only bearable but a cherished badge of honour because it was shared with such a resilient and wonderful group.

As the brutal cold assault continued the snack crazy began. We had a full bartering system going on. We started to see the cliffs and towering crags as a glorious bakery. There were varieties from layered chiffon mountain cake to Mt. Galatea, a lightly dusted back forest gateau. I am certain that, as we scaled the sides of those rocky “gateau” and traversed the hefty layers of icing, we pushed through many personal challenges and finally solidified as a team.

The second to last day will always stick in my mind, a testament to the groups’ fortitude, our guide’s wisdom/trust and the hardships and rewards that being in nature can give us. It was on this day that we broke trail through knee deep snow until the light began to fade (remember it was mid-September and 28 degrees in Montreal). What was supposed to be a moderate two-hour hike turned into a full day affair, but ah, the reward! As we trudged into the clearing there was a break in the clouds, enough to see the setting sun nestled in the far pass above the lake. I’m sure all of us relaxed just a little bit at the sight, even with our wet feet and broken hiking poles. The small valley of Lost Lake was the perfect place to do our solos and spend the last day building forts and looking at bear tracks.

That day I hiked up to the far pass with Madeleine (one of our guides) and we just sat and stared at the giants around us. The Kananaskis Mountains are a class unto themselves, they are wide, wide and tall enough to convey the expansiveness of history and time on their surface. We are insignificant blips of life to the bedrock of nature yet we have the potential to cause so much change. A sobering thought. It was comforting to be able to let go of city life and to know that nature provides solace even after the storms of yesterday.

There are no regrets to the trails we walked. I feel like our group was forged in snow and rain. We not only persevered but prospered during and from the experience. Much like our hike, the fight to preserve these spaces is not easy but I feel that it is worth it, for many, many reasons.

The opinions expressed are those of the participant and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Canadian Wildlife Federation.