What's Your Story

I left my family ranch for the first time at 12 — and fell in love with Canada

In 1989, Jodi Stiehl when on her first Canadian road trip. 'For a 12-year-old fresh off the prairie, this was all so spectacular.'

'For a 12-year-old fresh off the prairie, this was all so spectacular.'

In 1989, Jodi Stiehl's family went on a road trip to Ontario, including visits with family like her aunt and cousin pictured here. It was the first time she'd stepped foot out of Alberta. (Jodi Stiehl)

In 1989, Jodi Stiehl when on her first road trip outside of Alberta, it changed her view of Canada. Throughout 2017, we're asking Canadians, "What's your story?" Stiehl of Hanna, Atla., shares hers. 

I was raised a prairie girl on a cattle ranch in southeastern Alberta.

Skies large, space so peaceful, nature abundant, and flat, oh so flat.

From my second story bedroom window with the aid of "bino's," I watched my dog run east for two days towards the neighbouring village of Youngstown 50 kilometres away (while this may sound like an exaggeration, anyone from the Prairie knows this is not an overstatement).

Leaving Alberta soil

I began to realize the true vastness of Canada's wilderness in 1989 — I was 12. My family took our one and only summer-long road trip back to my dad's roots of Ontario. This was the first time I saw my dad leave his beloved cattle ranch, and it was the first time my mom, brother and I would step foot off Alberta soil.

Road-trip ready with the family van — Stiehl's family trekked from Steerness, Alta., to Ontario and back. (Jodi Stiehl)

Saskatchewan felt like home with its wide open spaces and sky as far as the eye can see.

Manitoba intrigued me as landscapes began to roll and forests appear.

Nothing prepared me for what I would see as we came to the Great Canadian Shield.

Trees seemed to stretch on forever, water everywhere, and those rocks. How can one put into words driving two straight days through cuts in ancient Archean rock — the exposed foundation of the entire continent.

Stiehl's view of Rogers Pass, B.C., for the first time. (Jodi Stiehl)

The very day we returned home from Londesborough, Ont., I joined my neighbours on their road trip to Port Hardy, B.C

There is so much of Canada to love.- Jodi Stiehl

My mind exploded as we drove through the Rogers Pass for my first time. I fell in love with the mountains, the island, the ocean. My unworldly little eyes opened to Canada that summer as I swallowed the sites along the Trans-Canada and beyond, from British Columbia to Ontario.

For a 12-year-old fresh off the prairie, this was all so spectacular. There is so much of Canada to love, to protect and to want to call home.

Stiehl fishing in Port Hardy, B.C. (Jodi Stiehl)

Always home

On this grand 150th celebration of Canada, my parents prepare for retirement and are in process of parting from the ranch they worked so hard to build. The Prairie panorama of Sheerness, Alta., sowed in me a great love and appreciation for our natural resources, our wide open spaces. It shaped me into the person I am today.

Stiehl (left) and her parents (right), today. (Jodi Stiehl)

I have been fortunate to roam in my life, and migrating home to my roots in the middle of nowhere Canada is something I will forever cherish.

My parents' ranch will always be my home, my Canada story.  

What's your story? What defines Canada for you? Is there a time that you were proud to be Canadian, or perhaps a time you felt disappointed? Is there a place, person, or event in your life that sums up what being Canadian is to you? Tell us at cbc.ca/ whatsyourstory.


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