The Unsung Alberta Park

When people think of Alberta parks, they often list Banff and Jasper, in that order. Maybe Waterton, but it is sort of unsung in its own right.

Source

It’s not often that people recommend an area called Kananaskis, which is not at all far from Banff – a half an hour SE of Canmore. But after two summers of visiting Alberta parks, I must say that my favorite (so hard to choose) is Kananaskis.

For starters, K-Country, as it is known, is not the tourist trap that you encounter when you arrive in Banff and it has a unique, almost spooky feel to it when you drive over Highwood Pass, through the looming mountains.

In the winter, this place is great for skiing and people invade one of this large land-use area’s provincial parks – staying at the Delta Ski Resort (which once housed both 1988 Calgary Olympic events and a G8 summit) and head out on Mount Nakiska. I have only been in the summer, of course, for bear watching!

Kananaskis is fantastic for biking. There is an extensive cycle trail set up that covers much of the front-country wilderness, showcasing its numerous, beautiful campsites in the process. Watch out for chipmunks!

That all said, what makes Kananaskis truly special for me is the mountain range that just seems so eerie and peaceful at night. When I was staying at the Interlakes camp site, between Upper and Lower Lakes (absolutely gorgeous!), my favorite time of day was dusk. So quiet, so few people: just the smooth, calm lake and the sound of the loon….oh so very Canadian 🙂

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Sign Language

My quest continues as I search far and wide for random signs. These ones, on my road trip to the Rockies, did not disappoint me!

The town of Oshkosh!

A bear and her 3 cubs had just walked by this sign 2 seconds before...

Like so....

"Danger, thermal area" Prepare to burn your hiking stick!

Theeee're CRAZY!

What do I choose??

It was actually a great hotel, y'all!

Creepy....

Isn't that how you dress when hiking in a national park?! Of course you wouldn't bring your briefcase though.

I'm confused!

Welcome to the town of Welcome!

 

Bear ‘mauling’ in Yellowstone?

Such a sad event happened when we were in Yellowstone about a month ago, and I am very sorry for the family of this man who was killed when he encountered a bear.

Here is the first article from MSNBC and the second from Reuters…both with different interpretations of the event, may I add.

But attack? Mauling? I read these two articles on this tragic event when I returned from Yellowstone. They did not mesh with the official accounts we heard from friends that worked in the park and were on the scene of the tragic event. I will not get into details, but I just want to give some advice for people who hike in areas where bears are bound to be nearby.

And, please, if you are hiking in a national park, such as Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Waterton, Jasper or Kananaskis, PREPARE for a bear encounter. It was shocking how many people we came across in our hikes that were totally oblivious to hiking in bear country.

Aside from all the information the park rangers give you upon entering the park, the countless signs as you walk and drive by, the warnings at the beginning of ALL trail heads….use some common sense when walking in bear country. Bears and humans can interact quite peacefully, and according to the Reuters article, the “odds of such an attack were “1 in 3 million”.

Here’s how to be one with the bears while hiking in their backyard:

Me and my bear spray, best friends!

1. Bear Spray – you can get it at any outdoor/camping store ($35-50). Carry it on you, take it in your tent when camping. People that carry spray have never been fatally attacked by a bear.

2. Talk to a park ranger about where bears have recently been seen and ask them how to deal with them when they are encountered. Every bear is different and some might be more inclined to get closer to you, while others will pack up and leave as soon as they smell humans.

3. Read the signs at the beginning of trail heads. They give you advice as well on what to do when you run into a bear.

4. Do NOT run from a bear. Their predator/prey mode will kick in and they will catch up to you. Worst thing to do!

5. Make a lot of noise when you are in their territory. Announce your arrival to ensure that they are not startled. Clap your hands, talk loudly, sing a song…I think they were scared off by my singing voice anyway! There is a myth that “bear bells” will deter them from approaching. It in fact does not, it has even been suggested that it might attract them since it sounds similar to a bird or small animal.

6. Hike with at least three people, or make sure the trail has many hikers traveling on it. There has never been a documented attack on 3+ hikers.

7. Don’t climb a tree or try to swim away from them. They can do that too, I’ve seen it! Black bears love tree climbing and grizzlies love splashing around in the water!

8. If a bear does charge you, keep making a lot of noise and wave your hands around. Bears usually false charge you first and then stop when they get closer. Their eye sight is terrible, so if you wave your arms around, you will look much bigger than you actually are.

9. Track bear feces, footprints, hair and know if you might encounter one ahead, or that they have been in the area recently and keep your eyes open!

10. Ok – say a bear will not stop and it is about to attack. Drop to the ground, play dead if it’s a grizzly bear. Black bear, fight back! They are for the most part scavengers and do not want to fight too hard for their meal.

I went on countless hikes in my 7 weeks in grizzly and black bear areas this summer and encountered four different bears while hiking. No problemo! Please note though, I am not an expert, but I have researched this quite a bit.

Be smart and safe please people!

Un-bear-ably Cute

On my adventures this summer (US and Canada National Parks), I came across some amazing animals. Check out the extremely adorable and enamouring wildlife I stumbled upon. This is just a beginning, I am currently in the editing process with the over 3,000 photos I took on my trip.

Alpha female wolf in Yellowstone (Hayden Valley)

Bison drinking in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone

Beaver in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone

"Sedgehog" in Sedge Bay, Yellowstone

Marmot in Sedge Bay, Yellowstone

Elk...I think this one was in Yellowstone. Better one in Jasper to come!

A black bear we call 'Scruffy', Yellowstone

Grizzly bear #610 and her 2 cubs in Grand Teton

I have way more pictures to add in the future. This is really just a beginning. Shooting pictures in RAW format takes a lot of time to sort, as I have discovered! Stay tuned for more bears and their cubs, wolves, proghorn, river otter, coyotes…way more!

Here I Go!

It’s officially summer holidays for me as of today. So why not pack up and head out on the open road to nowhere and everywhere?

Here’s the plan, which is still in the works and will inevitably change as soon as my boyfriend and I set foot in my car.

Day 1: Leaving this morning and driving to Chicago. (8-9 hours)

Day 2: From Chicago, heading hopefully to either Sioux Falls or even Rapid City (10-12 hours) in South Dakota.

Day 3: South Dakota to Yellowstone or Grand Teton (8-9 hours)

Day 4 – ??: Bear watching, wolf watching, taking a billion photographs around Yellowstone

Then it gets fuzzy from there. Somehow we will end up in Vancouver and hopefully meet up with one of my co-workers who is visiting the city in mid-July.

Back to Toronto by early/mid-August for a wedding and similar events.

Please consider me for a hero award since I will be the only driver. My boyfriend does not possess a license!

Ok, I am getting excited! This summer is shaping into a plan, and will almost certainly guarantee some exciting stories and photographs. My apologies that my blog posts will be a bit delayed, since internet is not in the program for a week or 2. Stay tuned!!!