Like a treasure hunt, travel is all about puzzle solving. What is the best way to get to that castle? How do I ask for a napkin in French? Who do I talk to about replacing my lost international driver’s license?
But there are some puzzles that defy explanation or solution. Like the whistling squirrels.
My wife and I are hiking one of the most beautiful trails in the world: the Plain of Six Glaciers in Canada’s Banff National Park. You start from the azure-green Lake Louise, climb up to the Lake Agnes Tea House, then aim yourself several hours towards a valley of glaciers, complete with avalanches tumbling down the slopes in the distance. It’s a stunning and peaceful hike from start to finish: mirrored lakes, pine-dotted hill sides, snow-capped peaks.
At a certain point along the trail, however, we hear this very unusual sound.
“What do you think that is, Hon?”
“I don’t know. It sounds like whistling.”
At first, we only hear it locally. But as we listen more closely, we start to hear a faint emanation coming from across the valley as well. And that’s when we see the squirrels. Or marmots. Or whatever they are. Let’s just call them whistling rodents, peeking their heads out from behind nearby rocks. The cute little critters are whistling back and forth to their brethren ACROSS THE VALLEY!
Why are they doing it? How is this possible? Are we in a dream?
It’s a moment of sheer wonder, sitting there on a high trail in the Canadian Rockies, soaking up the scenery, and listening to a natural communication system as old as time.
Imagine if we could all retune ourselves to notice the subtle wonders (and puzzles) all around us, at work and at home! All it takes is slowing down, opening our ears and our hearts, and listening.