I recall that Rick Mercer once said something like “You haven’t seen Canada until you stand on top of a mountain and look at it from an alpine meadow.” I wondered what he meant until I finally stood on top of an alpine meadow myself.
McKirdy Meadows is located roughly 120km west of Jasper, Alberta. It sits above the small community of Valemount, British Columbia in the Canadian Rockies. A 7km-logging road, followed by a 5km hike, takes you to the top. With a total elevation gain of 1500m, the trip can be done in a day.
Once on top of McKirdy Meadows, the views are endless. Mountains as far as the eye can see. Drainages – the valleys between mountains. Glaciers in the northern reaches. Avalanche paths on the steeper slopes. Spruce and pine trees at the lower levels. The scars of wildfires. A sheep camp passed down from generation to generation. In July: red, yellow and blue alpine flowers in full bloom.
To the east: Mount Robson, the largest mountain in the Canadian Rockies. To the north: Mount Terry Fox, a clear view of the Fraser River and the longest salmon run in the world. To the west: the Caribou Mountain Range, where the giants of Mount Diefenbaker and mount Trudeau stand. To the south: the start of the Columbia headwaters.
And from on top, you see Canada as a nation. You see the Yellowhead Highway, linking the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. You see Tete Jaune Cache, where as a nation we crossed the Rockies with a railway. You see Kinbasket Reservoir, a result of the Columbia Basin Treaty and cooperation between Canada and the USA.
And if you look closely, you see the unique contribution that each person makes to building a thriving society. You see the dedication of volunteers and employees of Valemount’s many societies. You see the commitment of the staff at the Clinic, the Secondary School, the Elementary School, and the Village Office, the RCMP and BC Ambulance. You see a community full of people, each contributing to a better society through their varied roles – people with leadership, vision, kindness, compassion, ingenuity, and entrepreneurial spirit. You see the importance of each and every person because it is hard to imagine Valemount without them.
When you stand on top of McKirdy Meadows, you stand on the divide between two great watersheds. The small alpine stream on the northern slopes finds its way to the Fraser River, while the small alpine stream on the southern slopes finds its way to the Columbia River. When you stand on top of McKirdy Meadows, you see both the history and potential of Canada as a nation. And when you stand on top of McKirdy Meadows, if you look closely, you catch a glimpse of one thousand people each playing a vital role in building and maintaining the wonderful community of Valemount.