Sunday, 29 June 2014

Canadian wilderness

Waterton Lakes NP, Alberta Canada

All that fuss over nothing about taking food over the border. You don’t need to declare any food going into Alberta, only British Columbia and some other place. They didn’t even ask us about our alcohol. Did we have firearms, bear spray or any other personal security device. Did we own our truck and trailer and where were they registered and why?, Did we have flights booked to leave the US? Now that we don’t have the i94 visa stapled into our passport, I’m not sure what the procedure will be if we want to officially leave the USA at the end of a six month period driving across a international border.

When we arrived at our campground just outside of Waterton, there was a sign on the office window to say the campground was closed due to flooding, but the Fraser’s are to go to site 47 and just follow the map! Good thing we booked last week. They had 11”/28cm of rain in two days! Older Canadians still talk in inches. Dave told us that the campground in town can get quite noisy and winds of up to 120kph are not unusual. So I was quite pleased we couldn’t get in.

The first day here we saw a fox den with three foxes. The following day we saw a black (cinnamon) bear with three cubs, but I only managed to photograph one cub. The forest here is quite thick and you can only photograph them when they are walking by the road.

The June equinox – winter at home, summer here, is my birthday and Lindsay had booked a table at the Prince of Wales Hotel which sits on the hill just outside of town. We heard it got blown off it’s foundations twice while they were building it! We had a drink in the bar beforehand which has a stunning view of Waterton Lake and the surrounding mountains. While we were there one of the parent foxes ran passed the window, only to return again about half an hour later with a chipmunk in it’s mouth. The people photographing the lake were totally oblivious to the fox behind them. As we left later that night, there were four out, two of them playing with each other – it was pretty special.

Waterton Lake
what you looking at?
We had booked dinner a week beforehand and were given a lovely window table, which has a similar view of the lake. Dinner itself was a bit of a disaster as they cooked the wrong meal for me. I didn’t want to have to wait for another one, so I accepted it, only to find that some of the vegetables were inedible, they were so undercooked. They were obviously having a bad night as they did it to the lady next to us too, but she sent hers back. I probably should have.

Our favourite viewing road is the Akamina Parkway and we start each day by going up here. While waiting for the black sow to come out of the bushes with her three cubs one morning, we started photographing a cinnamon boar who had climbed a tree to eat the seeds. It was quite a sight as he slid down the tree breaking branches while trying to tear off smaller limbs. Shortly after he was on the ground and Lindsay was telling me to back away. I couldn’t see where the bear was as Cathy and Jim’s car was between us. Lindsay’s camera and tripod were next to me, but I could only carry my own, I couldn’t take his as well. I moved back a few car lengths to the rear and the bear came around the front of the car, looking at the camera with curiosity. Lindsay knew instantly what the bear was going to do and started running towards him to shoo him off (huh, not supposed to do that!). Next thing the bear is up on his hind legs with his front paws going directly for the camera! Of course the weight ratio was a bit much and the whole thing fell over into soft ground. Luckily the smaller lens was on the camera and except for a scratch on the lens hood, no damage was done. Unfortunately even though Lindsay had the camcorder in his hand, he didn’t get any video as he was too worried about his camera.

I'm the blonde cub

Cameron Lake
About half an hour later the sow crossed the road with her three cubs. They only stayed about 10 minutes before they headed back into the forest.

I'm the chocolate cub
There may be quite a few trips or even days when we don’t see the sow and cubs and on one particular day as we were driving up, I said to Lindsay: “why are we coming up here, she’s never out this early”. It turned out to be our best day ever. We rolled back the tarp over the tray of our truck and I got in which gave me a really good viewing point. It was a lot of fun and even if none of my photos come out, I wouldn’t care as the experience was amazing. Once we heard these horrible screams that were blood curdling, we thought something was attacking the cubs. After seeing some battle scars, we think it was them fighting with each other!

Black bear Sow and three cubs

There is another den of foxes up on Chief Mountain highway. For a number of days we went out there between four and six and didn’t see a thing or just one for a fleeting moment. With perseverance comes reward. One night all four kits were out and one of the parents brought back three mice and let them go just outside the den. The kits all scrambled for their dinner, it was wonderful to watch. The mice were then taken into the den. Sometime later, one of the kits must have stolen a mouse from it’s siblings and buried it outside, for ‘later’! We try and stay on the opposite side of the road to give them space, but last night Lindsay and Kyle were on the same side as the den. One of the kits came up to the road and walked towards them to about 1.5 metres; they didn’t dare touch their cameras in case the click of the shutter scared him away.

I'm not allowed to cross the road yet

A ranger told us about a disused trail just down from the fox den that was in ‘grizzly’ country. We walked about a kilometre up the track while Kyle (who is Canadian) explained how to look for animal trails where there was a slight change in the way the grass looked overall, how the tips of the grass were broken off as this is the sweetest most nutritional part of the grass. We found some cougar tracks along side a small stream and bear scat. Always look around you! The track was quite muddy and was starting to go higher. We had left the meadow with the long grass and wildflowers behind. Kyle’s wife and children were back in the car, so we couldn’t keep going too long.

Waterton is having it's wildflower festival

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