Monday, 7 July 2008

Long weekend in Waterton

This weekend we took the RV up to Waterton National Park. Regular blog readers may remember our last visit at the beginning of May when we unexpectedly encountered sub zero temperatures and our last big snow dump of the year.

This time the 8 month long Waterton winter had retreated and we found a very different landscape to the one we had left only weeks before. The photos on the right were taken at the same spot on Red Rock Canyon. The one on the left was on May 9th, on the right is July 7th!

On this trip we hoped that the better weather might mean we had more luck with our first bear sighting, but despite following everyone's tips (different times of day, different locations) we were out of luck. Just to rub salt into the wound, some friends of ours who were also in Waterton this weekend, popped down the main road on Sunday afternoon on an unrelated errand run and saw a mother and her cub at the side of the road. So, perhaps we are just looking too hard?

On the plus side, the non-appearance of bears has helped me to put my fear of them in perspective!

When we first arrived I was convinced they were waiting behind every bush ready to jump out and that walking in the open countryside during summer was suicidal. I now see they are quite reclusive and try to avoid human contact. Nonetheless, if you click through to our friends Mark & Kirsty's blog, you'll see that they have had a couple of close encounters on the road trip they are on at the moment!

We also saw more of the Waterton deer, which are tame enough to be petted (and the tourists frequently do!) but they also have a rather dark side and are extremely aggressive towards dogs and have been known to attack and kill without provocation!

One bit of wildlife that didn't disappoint this trip were the bison! (see photo above) A few hundred years ago these beasts would have roamed across the prairie where we now live, but nowadays they are mostly confined to managed herds, like these ones in Waterton. They are rather nice as a lasagna ingredient too, we like to cook it for visitors, just to see their surprised expressions!

We also visited Cameron Lake, a 16km drive up a mountain. It is a smaller, much less spoiled version of the famous Lake Louise in Banff. The lake sits between two mountain ranges, one which brings weather from the Pacific, the other which brings weather from the Atlantic. They merge over the lake, often with unpredictable results. The weather seemed to change every 5 minutes while we were there!

In addition to our activities on Saturday and Sunday, I had Monday off work and Jim's squadron are in Waterton this week doing some team building exercises, so this morning I joined them for a spectacular two and a half hour western style trail ride across the countryside close to Waterton park.

It's really hard to capture in photos quite how impressive the scenery was, but I did have to pinch myself a few times and remind myself of all the Monday mornings when I commuted to London and sat in an office!

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