Canmore, Alberta

Didn’t like to leave Waterford yesterday, where the mountains were not quite so high but the tourists were few.

Well, one more morning to go. It is a truly beautiful morning. I write this from Canmore – a tourist trap if there ever was one. Yet not nearly so bad as Banff where I’m told one can spend $8000 on a purse. As most people know, both these places are nestled in some of the most breathtaking scenery in Canada. But I had to see it, so here I am and frankly, I only stayed here because I managed to get a cheap rate. The room is not a room per say, but a series of rooms; including two bedrooms, kitchen, dining and living room – ski chalet actually, that I got for sweet $68.

Two days ago while hiking around Waterford I came across an eagle’s nest. I watched quietly as the mother and father swooped in and out of the nest with fresh kills of small animals. I was alone and wished I had a much longer lens in order to catch them closer. Speaking of lenses, while in that same area I came across a photographer who specializes in grizzlies. He was hauling a 400mm f/4 Nikon and on his way to seek out bears deep into an adjacent area’s creek bed. He is called Rod and somewhere I have a link to his web site. The guy is unarmed, wearing camouflage and he stays quiet so that he can come across grizzlies without warning.
He has seen and photographed seven different grizzlies in the last three weeks and knows of another half dozen. Now I love the outdoors but I am not quite so adventurous as this.

The drive up here along a quiet road in the foothills was a slow one which suits me just fine. It was somewhat surreal at the same time: Big skies, ranches and a great deal of open space while listening to the Pogues. Yet this crazy juxtaposition of Shane McGowan and the Canadian west worked for cowboy fences, Dirty Old Town and me.

I made a slight detour to visit a very spiritual place called Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. Archaeological evidence shows that for thousands of years Plains Aboriginals forced buffalo off the sides of cliffs here, where they would fall to their death. Many died on impact, but those that survived were killed with spears and later butchered for their precious meat. Spear and arrowheads are still occasionally found at the bottom of cliffs in this area (although it is illegal to remove anything).

Finally saw Lake Louise, which is all it is said to be, with the exception of a huge (yuge to hockey analysts) luxury hotel behind the camera of seemingly every photo taken here. It is nevertheless a beautiful place.

Between Banff and Lake Louise was a young moose in a creek. I saw it, as I was driving and decided to stop and watch. It was only when I looked through my 200mm that I noticed both its hindquarters and one leg were torn and big chunks of flesh ripped away. I met a Canadian wildlife guy who explained that wolves had attacked the young moose and that if I stayed hidden I could wait and perhaps view the wolves bring it down once more. I respect nature being what it is, but decided that I didn’t really wish to see this so off I went.

So today I am off to Calgary for my last night in the west.
Fly out tomorrow.

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