Trapped on Vacation
Contributor
It’s never fun when vacation plans are derailed, but it’s especially unsettling to take a long-awaited trip, only to wind up in the middle of a disaster area. I’d carefully planned our two-pronged retreat, first to a lovely, well-appointed condo in Canmore (near Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada); then—the highpoint of our trip—a secluded cabin in Jasper National Park, about a five-hour drive to the Northwest.

It rained off and on the first few days, but we were still able to enjoy Canmore and Banff. No problem, I thought. We’d expected some rain; it can be wet in western Canada this time of year, and it always rains whenever I take a vacation (including on my honeymoon). But then it started to storm. And storm some more. Then, the red-and-white emergency warnings flashed on the TV screen, along with ominous tornado warnings, images of flash floods, and finally a declared state of emergency as the rivers and creeks overflowed.

People in Canmore and nearby Calgary were evacuated to shelters. The power in the condo went out (but, thankfully, came back on); the parking garage flooded three feet deep; the elevator permanently shut down; and we had no hot water. All minor inconveniences, I realize. But the kicker was that all roads in and out of Canmore had flooded and closed. We were literally sequestered North of the border not knowing when or if we’d be able to return home. It amazed me that I could feel so claustrophobic in the midst of such a quaint town surrounded by the natural beauty of the Canadian Rockies. It was as if my brain were constricting as the reality of our situation sank in. We couldn’t get out of Canada; the roads weren’t reopening any time soon; and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it.

So I did what I could to ward off panic: I exercised; I went for walks and talked to people; and I stocked up on groceries I hoped we wouldn’t need. The supermarket was packed, and there was a desperate, electrical charge in the air as people picked through what was left on the dwindling shelves. Through my mounting anxiety, I tried to focus on the fact that we were holed up in a dry, third-floor condo with a beautiful view of the Three Sisters mountains (at least when when it wasn’t pouring outside), even if the much-anticipated second leg of our trip had been obliterated by floodwaters just as surely as the TransCanada highway. Although the experience was truly a test in patience and perspective, we had much to be grateful for.

Still, I will always think of Canmore as “Can’t-more” (as in, "Can’t take this so-called 'vacation' anymore"). I’m told by those who’ve seen it that Jasper is stunning. Maybe we’ll give it another try next year.

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