Well, after three previous photo posts of our Banff (Canada) trip you knew the big finale was coming -- a grizzly bear shot! I mean, a shot of a grizzly bear, not a photo of a grizzly bear that's been shot.
Laurel had been hoping to see a grizzly bear the six days we'd been in the Banff area prior to heading to the Lake Louise gondola on our last full vacation day. The gondola folks claim they offer the best grizzly bear viewing in the Canadian Rockies.
Bingo! Or rather, Bearo! However, this creature was a freaking long ways from the chair lift, uphill and on a slope to our right. It's a testimony to the powerful zoom on my Sony camera and its image stabilization feature that the bear looks as close as it does. But hey, it's a grizzly bear! If we hadn't been dozens of feet in the air and hundreds of feet away, we could have been eaten alive!
After descending on the gondola, without another bear sighting, we headed to Moraine Lake -- a short distance from Lake Louise. This being an August weekend, more than a few other people had the same idea. We were lucky to find a parking spot on the side of the road not too far from the official parking area.
The several mile long trail to Consolation Lakes started off with a grizzly bear alert. You're supposed to hike in groups of four or more. Note the bear spray on my right hip. Laurel was carrying a bear bell. We were prepared. It took us a couple of days after arriving in Banff to decide that bear spray was a wise purchase. After all, it only cost about $35, about the same as a meal. And it promised to lessen our chances of becoming a meal. Plus, I thought it looked cool on my belt.
At the start of the Consolation Lakes trail, at first there's no sign of water. Just a healthy rock fall. But there's snow melt running under the rocks, which we could hear as soon as we started making our way across.
Getting close to the lakes requires a lot of rock hopping. Our sixty-something bodies did pretty darn good at it. I only hit a few tippy rocks that made me think oops, bad stepping choice when I landed on them.
I encountered my own close-at-hand wildlife. This is a rare sighting of a chipmunk which, bizarrely, had specks on its head that looked exactly like the granola bar crumbs that I dumped from the wrapper onto a rock. Amazing coincidence.
I love wilderness hikes that end in a civilized fashion. We enjoyed some coffee and pastries before driving back to Lake Louise, where I left my bear spray, gratis, with the front desk folks at the hostel. I told them this was an act of random kindness from an Oregon guy, and that anyone who uses the canister can keep the giving going. Maybe someday I'll read about a Banff area hiker saved from a grizzly attack by donated bear spray.
(Bear spray can't be mailed and it can't be taken on an airplane, so leaving the spray was our only choice -- which I guess takes away a bit from the good karma of this act of kindness.)