Alone In The Woods

By the time we arrived in Montreal there was a foot and a half of snow on the ground. It was so much snow! It was a bit of a workout getting around the city but we appreciated it. We were far away from home in a city where we didn't speak the language, and it was covered in 18 inches of insulation. And it really was insulation.

It insulated us from worries at home, from phone calls and lots of other… stuff…I didn't miss.

It was easiest to feel insulated on New Year’s eve day when we took a cab to the top of the most scenic point in the city, Mont Royal. It's a mountain that juts into the city and overlooks the wonder that surrounds it. And when covered in snow, it is absolutely magical.

Because we were pressed for time as well as not totally positive we could hike up the mountain without collapsing from exhaustion in the snow, we took a cab up to the scenic point.

Or what we thought was the scenic point.

Our cab driver, seemed to think we were doing everything wrong. In addition to being surprised that we were both older than 18 and telling us we ate at the wrong restaurant for lunch, dropped us off at the wrong scenic point.

It seemed like he was the one who didn’t know what he was doing.

It was a nice scenic point I'll say that much, but it wasn't really the kind of beauty you hike up to see. Certainly, not the kind you take a taxi to see.

So after consulting with some friendly Canadians (read: all Canadians are friendly Canadians) whom we saw walking up the area we had already arrived at, we decided to hike up into the woods a little bit farther to get to the really amazing viewpoint.

We trekked up into the snow that was over a foot deep. My girlfriend walked ahead of me. She took two steps up a frozen staircase before slipping and nearly landing on her face.

This was my first inclination that this might be the wrong decision.

We managed to climb our way to the top of the staircase where a branch had fallen across the path. I took that as sign number two.

Maneuvering around that branch we saw sign number three... literally. It was hanging in the middle of a chain, which blocked the entrance to the stairs. It was written in French so I didn't know what it said. But I was pretty sure it didn't say, "Hey! Keep Going! This path is definitely open!"

I turned back to seek counsel from our Canadian compatriots. They encouraged us to keep going.

"Oh that's just because the stairs freeze. But it's ok, nobody pays attention to that” they said in a very friendly manner.

Turning back to view the path beyond the sign I realized he was right. There was a well-trodden path leading away from us. So we stepped over the chain and kept going. The Canadians forked and went in a different direction.

And then we were alone. In the woods. In the snow.

It was absolutely beautiful. But my appreciation of that beauty was slightly mitigated by the fact that I was very much aware that we were completely alone in the woods of Montreal.

If you looked at a map of where we were in relation to the rest of the city you probably would have laughed and thought even if we had tried we probably couldn't have gotten stranded in the woods and died.

But ya know what? When you are in a country you don't know, in a city where you don't speak the language, and you are in a snowy wood... the thought crosses your mind.

It distinctly reminded me of another time back in college when I had found myself in a similar scenario albeit with more people. I was just glad that this time, I didn't have to go to the bathroom.

We hiked on and minutes later found ourselves on a wide snowy path, which might have been a road, or just a really wide trail. Either way the existence of signs was welcomed.

There was a sign that pointed to the left and said "Lodge .04 kilometers." And there was a sign that said "Lodge .06 kilometers." 

I didn't really know how far a kilometer was but I knew if I was going to a place, less kilometers was better.

We trekked on, well, not really trekked as much as just... walked.

We also saw people. Not a ton but a two or three every couple of minutes. People our age, older individuals, and most comforting, parents with a toddler and stroller in tow.

I figured parents wouldn't be schlepping their children out into the woods if they were going to be more than 9 minutes from hot chocolate.

I was finally able to really relax and cease my thoughts of, "Man, what a beautiful place to get lost and freeze to death."

We walked slow. We were more interested in reveling in the moment than reaching our destination.

Living in the city, you get to witness snowstorms that turn even the bleakest looking streets into wonderlands. But those streets quickly become gritty and dirty with the natural evolution of a city day.

The opportunity to see something so wonderfully perfectly pristine, which was still technically in the middle of the city, was marvelous.

We eventually made it to the lodge with the scenic point, which was even more beautiful than the first. 

We took pictures and marveled and reveled in it.

However I was very aware that had we not been dropped off at the first scenic point, if we had not run into those friendly Canadians (redundant), we might not have ever found ourselves hiking through such a peaceful place.

Maybe our cab driver knew what he was doing after all.