Epic quests and stolen moments

If you wanted to reclaim your childhood, where would you go? Follow our weary travellers as they journey deep into the Kootenays for a weekend of youthful bliss, boundless freedom, and timeless memories, courtesy the Shambhala Music Festival. A land above time and beyond space…

There was a time in everyone’s childhood when summer was simply a string of continuous playtime and endless days. It was sunshine, sprinklers, sleepovers and Slip ‘n’ Slides. There were no jobs, no responsibilities and the rent was never due. These were the heavenly conditions we awoke to every morning, unaware of the blissful simplicity we were blessed with. It is precisely that unawareness, the inability to differentiate Tuesday from Friday, that made these times so beautiful.

Now, awash in a world of time and schedules, we try every chance we get to escape, to recapture that long lost sublimity of youth. Every camping trip, every book read in a hammock, every beer-soaked, patio-dwelling afternoon is our inner child made manifest, simultaneously lamenting our temporal awareness and longing for the glory of youthful ignorance. The sad truth is that we grow up and leave it all behind; childhood is a place to which we can never permanently return. However, there are places on this planet, even places in this country, where time stands mercifully still, giving way to that much sought after euphoric state.

Hidden in the lush valleys of the Kootenay Mountains are song birds, sunshine and summer nights found only in poetry and childhood memories. Clear skies, peppered with more stars than the city could ever hint at, coupled with horizons broken only by surrounding peaks, made the Kootenays a stunning landscape that leaves one awestruck and elevated. It is truly the kind of environment to lose oneself in, a place so removed from the world that everything slows to the point of stopping, making it the ideal location to recapture stolen moments.

The Journey to Shambhala

With the towers and fumes of a concrete reality bearing heavy on the hearts and minds of four would-be travellers, it was decided that summer–and indeed childhood–needed to be reclaimed one last time before committing once again to schooling, shift work and the sleepless eternity that accompanies them. They were heading to the aforementioned valleys of southern British Columbia to hide from alarm clocks and appointments for a rendezvous with a haphazard collective of roughly 5,000 like-minded individuals from across the continent.

It began with four young men, a battered old Toyota Corolla and the daunting prospect of a cramped eight-hour drive. As the mercury rose well past 30 C and the sun beat down from high overhead, the sprawling suburbs gave way to picturesque Southern Alberta prairie landscapes. With windows down and music playing, the foursome began recalling summers past. Previous trips down Highway 2 were revisited, and thoughts turned to camping with friends now long departed and visiting relatives since deceased. The excitement of a brand new journey began to ferment.

Through the foothills and into the mountains, the Corolla rolled on. Pit stops, brief strolls down alpine streams and Main Streets, stretched their near-atrophied limbs before setting off yet again. With weariness setting in, the back seat journeyers fell victim to the pull of silent slumber, only to be jolted awake by flashing lights, power-crazed authority figures, illegal searches and a 30-minute delay.

The now disgruntled travellers then returned on their way, spouting obscenities and contemplating their next move. Before long, the gentle hum of B.C.’s oh-so-smooth socialist highways lulled them back to a peaceful state of mind. The majestic roads led through the Kootenay Pass and descended upon the Salmo River valley while twilight, and then night, crept in.

Just Being There

As the Corolla rolled through the gateway to Shambhala, a three-day outdoor music festival, the travellers’ faces lit up. An ocean of tents stretched as far as the eye could see, while to the left, in the trees, lasers and flashing lights danced across the night sky. The Corolla slowed, then stopped. The cramped, weary and awestruck journeyers piled out and stretched their aching limbs. The task at hand was to find their campsite, set up the day before by friends more eager than themselves.

After a stumbling half-hour search across unknown terrain, their quest came to a close as the subtle glow of a camouflage-draped geodesic dome appeared on the horizon. “Dome sweet Dome,” as it would come to be known, was the defining landmark of their temporary weekend home.

No time was wasted setting up as the group, now six in number, felt the evening should begin in earnest. Time was already meaningless. All that remained was an indeterminate stay in the mountains known as Shambhala. Night number one was the time for exploration.

The sextet headed out, not wandering aimlessly as it seemed, but guided by the dancing lights. Their only mission was to find the source of “the laser.” The nearer they got, the louder the music was. Finally they stood, eyes wide and jaws slack, before a towering edifice of walls of sound and arrays of light. Though the noise thundered forth was near deafening, all six stood in collective silence.

From then on, Shambhala was a continuum of individual experiences. Travellers parted ways and reconverged time and time again. The Dome became the starting point for every excursion and the place to return to when in search of entertainment, relaxation or a good story from a fellow traveller. Quite often, journeys-entire evenings in fact-were spent in duos. With forests to navigate, music to dance to, and mountains to contemplate climbing, this wasn’t something to experience alone.

From the small corner of the hidden valley that housed the Dome, the tents and the sparse belongings of all concerned, every journey seemed epic and every plan, no matter how simple, seemed elaborate and delicately orchestrated. This new world was so big, so daunting, so absolutely amazing. Regardless of how immense and overwhelming things seemed, the enthusiasm with which all six excursionists threw themselves into the

entire experience was complete. Caught up in a place where only day and night existed and the sun was the only way of differentiating between the two, the blissful oblivion of childhood was enjoyed by all. But this childhood was inverted, as the fun and games were all had by moonlight while the days, with their sweltering heat, were the times to kick back and refresh.

Looking Back

It is fitting that the rule of time is undermined in a land where time no longer exists.

While the journey may bring memories, the shared witnessing of a spectacle is what made the whole experience so euphoric. There will always be the stories of friends falling from bridges, Ewok villages and peaceful serenity walks, but only those present could fully understand the brilliance of it all. Like a pack of school children jetting about their neighbourhood on a humid July afternoon, the stories may return and disseminate. But the memories-the archived emotions of time spent adventuring with others-are the heart of it all, untouched and unseen by those who weren’t there.

That, it would seem, is the lesson taken from this and every summer adventure. Whether you find yourself in Europe, the Kootenays or your own backyard, the beauty of the moment, the beauty of the memory, doesn’t lie in recounting it. It isn’t the stories told or articles written. The beauty is just beneath the surface of every nostalgic daydream and every knowing look between companions. The beauty is simply the fact that it happened and that you were there. It exists forever now, independent of time and outside of space, and while you can tell the world how glorious it is, you can never truly impart on them the beauty of the moment.

Perhaps that is the trick to childhood, the fact that it has already happened. We sit back and recollect all our adventures and missteps knowing that we are the only ones who know it all; we are the only ones that were always there.”

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