Grizzlies....please?

Trip Start Apr 20, 2012
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Trip End Sep 01, 2012


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Electric Fence

Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Friday, July 6, 2012

We rose earlier today and were up and out of the tent by 7:15, a much better effort than yesterday although it was appreciably colder at this time of the morning. It was chilly enough that everyone except Tim complained of being cold in the night and Lily wore her down jacket in the car and didn't properly de-layer to shorts and a t-shirt until lunchtime at Bow Lake. We were loaded and on the road down to Banff National Park and our campground at Lake Louise by 9:00. Today, Tim just putted along slower than the speed limit while we desperately scanned the side of the road for any sort of movement that might indicate wildlife. The traffic steadily got thicker the closer we got to Banff, but it was a simply glorious drive. We ran out of superlatives and descriptors to use for this part of the world a couple of days ago. It was a sunny day with clear blue skies and the snow capped mountain tops were all around us and the Canadian Rockies were strikingly and stunningly emerald green as all of the plants, trees and grasses were in full swing while they attempted to maximize the growing season. We read on one of the many information boards that summer here lasts only about 8 weeks and the transition between summer and winter and back to summer again is quite short and sharp. Some animals are even hunkered down and ready to hibernate in August. Small wonder then, that last night's Pika was working so hard to harvest grasses. 
The drive south to Lake Louise lasted only a couple of hours and a half hour out from our campground, we stopped and had lunch at Bow Lake. Little did we know it at the time, but to us, this was the most glorious and stunning of all the alpine lakes that we visited today. We sat on the beachfront of the lake in the blue sun, Jess wriggled her naked toes and feet in the sun again, we all had lunch and the kids played on the small pebble beach for a glorious and relaxing hour.  Docks and islands were created with the small stones and we all relaxed and warmed up in the sunshine, the cold morning start was but a distant memory at this point. As the crowds once more showed up, we got back in Odie and drove to our campground inside the electric fence. Yes, our campground is surrounded by a 7,000 volt electric fence in order to keep the bears out. Even the cattle guard that you drive over as you enter the campground is electrified and when riding a bike or on foot, you need to use the specially grounded pedestrian entrance. Apparently this area is one of three concentrations for mother grizzlies and forms an important habitat as they raise their cubs. We saw nothing, pitched our tent and headed back into the Village of Lake Louise in order to stop at the information centre, look for some badges and procure an afternoon treat for us all. All things were accomplished and we decided to head a little further up the road to the Lake Louise Ski-field and their scenic gondola ride. Jess had suggested this as an outing earlier in the day, but Tim pooh-poohed the idea until we saw a bus in the village with pictures of grizzly bears underneath the gondola. Then, all of a sudden, Jess had come up with the best idea in the world. Off we went.
When we got to the fancy lodge we ignored all of the good food and drink on offer, bought our tickets to the gondola and lined up to ride to the top of the skifield. The gondola was actually a four person chair lift and after watching our safety video, we lined up to catch a chair to the top. Just then, we heard some shrieking and shrilling from two ladies as they arrived down at the bottom of the chairlift. "We have seen a grizzly", they hooted!!!! Well, imagine our excitement as we rode the lift up and scanned both sides of the hillside in eager anticipation……nothing. nada, zilch, zero, hakuna mutata, we saw nothing but green grass and a hillside in summer flush. After arriving at the top we walked around the corner to the viewing station and there, were three people pointing excitedly to their right just underneath the chair lift we had ridden to the top and excitedly saying, "bear, bear, there, bear." We turned and looked and saw nothing, then, just from beneath the trees we got our first glimpse…there were two big grizzly bears on the hillside. We could see them and even at 200 metres away, their size was quite impressive. They slowly grazed from one gap in the trees to another and we got pretty good views and even a couple of pictures. We couldn't believe it, grizzly bears at last. We were so happy that we practically skipped our way back to the gondola to ride it back to the bottom. Along the way we hoped to get one more glimpse of the bears as they had disappeared up the hillside and out of sight into the trees. We were rewarded with one more view of one of the bears as it browsed at the top of a small remaining patch of snow on the hillside. Woohoo! Tim was patted on the back and asked how he felt by both Lily and Jess as they knew how keen he had been on seeing one of these magnificent animals. It was simply stunning and was the first time any of us had seen a grizzly in the wild. What is also quite cool about how they manage these animals is that no longer do they move bears away from humans, instead they move humans away from bears by closing roads and trails in areas where the bears have been recently seen. Maybe another successful conservation story?????
After this viewing, we were all on a high and decided to head up to the iconic, famous and long photographed Lake Louise. Tim's Dad, Mark, remembers camping at the lake and in the area when he had been a boy. We got to the Lake and while a lot of the tourist crowds and hordes had moved on, there were still way too many people at the lake to make spending much time at it rewarding. We saw, we photographed and we headed back down the hill and took the detour up to see Lake Moraine, supposedly the less visited and more hidden topaz blue lake in the area. This too was very tourist infested so we saw, we photographed and we left. Back to camp for showers and dinner and then early to bed for all of us as today had been another superlative day and we were going to set the alarms and get up early in order to head to the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede tomorrow.  
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