Nature calling

Carys Richards in Waterton, AB (Photo by Carys Richards)

Carys Richards in Waterton, AB (Photo by Carys Richards)

December 11, 2018 | by Carys Richards

I grew up in the mountains, and it was this landscape that shaped my love and appreciation for nature.

I was born in Banff and grew up in Canmore, Alberta — in the heart of the Rockies. My parents were the kind of people who decided when my sister and I were young that they didn’t want us to grow up in front of a screen. So they disconnected our family television from any channels and monitored how much time we spent on the family computer. Instead, we camped, hiked and cross-country skied. As a teenager, I spent most of my hours outside of school riding horses through the backcountry. The mountains were literally my backyard. The edge of town was a matter of blocks from my house and, instead of playing video games, my friends and I would venture out into the woods and make forts in the forest or pretend to be wild animals.

Now, when I tell people I meet that I grew up in Canmore, they usually respond with “Wow! You’re so lucky.” This is 100 per cent true, but when you grow up surrounded by something and think that’s normal, you don’t always appreciate it. This was my relationship with the mountains, and it wasn’t until I turned 18 and moved to Calgary that I really started to realize how lucky I was.

I spent a couple of years bouncing back and forth between Calgary and Edmonton before moving back to Banff in my early 20s.

The years living and working in Banff were undoubtedly some of the best of my life. During the summer, I camped at Castle Mountain and hiked around Lake O’Hara. In the winter, I would toss my skis in my car and be on the chairlift at Mount Norquay 15 minutes after I walked out my front door.

Carys and her dog, Kahlua, at Nigel Pass, AB (Photo by Jesse Knowlden)

Carys and her dog, Kahlua, at Nigel Pass, AB (Photo by Jesse Knowlden)

But living in Banff was like living in Never Never Land: I had to leave if I wanted to grow up. Although I was happy with my life, I was bartending at a local pub and knew I didn’t want to keep serving drinks forever. The day inevitably came when I decided to return to school, and so I left my beloved mountains once again.

When I moved to Calgary to go back to school, I met people my own age who had grown up in the city. They talked about TV shows I’d never seen and video games I’d never played. On weekends they would hang out at a mall, and some of them had never been on a real hike in their life. This was when I began to realize that not everybody grows up connected to the outdoors the way I had.

One summer I was lucky enough to land an internship at the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC). I was studying journalism at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and was hired by NCC as a national communications intern. This was my first experience with the world of conservation. Working at NCC, I met people who cared about our natural world the same way I did, and this time, I knew not to take things for granted.

Upon graduating from post-secondary, I was offered a full time position at NCC. I still look back on my days living in Banff and want to go back to that life, and maybe someday I will. But I’ve built a career around my love for the outdoors, and I get to work with a group of people who understand and appreciate that passion.

I live in Edmonton now, which is even farther from my hometown, but I now have an entirely new landscape to explore. Edmontonians are lucky, as there are plenty of opportunities to get out of the city and spend time in nature. Places like Bunchberry Meadows and Beaver Hills are right outside the city limits, and when the mountains call me back, Jasper National Park is just a couple of hours’ away.


Carys Richards (Photo courtesy of Carys Richards)

About the Author

Carys Richards is the communications manager for NCC’s Alberta Region.

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