August 22, 2011

The Marmot Who Cried Wolf

A wise sage once said, “Listen to the marmot, and you will see everything.”  Well, maybe I just made that up, but I have learned that the alarm call of the marmot is a great way of finding animals like hawks, eagles or bears.  And last week, it helped me (Joel) find a pack of wolves.

I was hiking down from Packer's Pass in the Skoki district, when I heard a marmot whistling on the far side of Ptarmigan Lake.  The whistling was insistent, so after about a minute I plunked myself down on the trail and got out the binoculars.  At first I thought it was a false alarm, but then I spied an adult black wolf.  Was it alone?  No, a little further away, having a break, was the rest of the pack, including six wolves born this spring.  What luck!

They were a long way away, but my timing was good, because the whole gang serenaded the wilderness with a big group howl, and then all nine wolves began travelling east towards Baker Lake.  I'd heard they were efficient travellers, and they proved it by covering almost 1 km in very short order.  I took some footage with the zoom on maximum, so even though they are in the distance, you can get a taste of what travelling wolves look like.  Enjoy.

PS: I saw another two wolves later in the week, right on the Lake O'Hara Fire Road.

August 4, 2011

Taking a Walk on the Wild Side

It's rare for Nadine and me to get a day off  together in the summer, but two days ago the stars aligned, and we went for a walk on the wild side, going beyond the end of the formal trail into one of the many great valleys in the Lake Louise area.  It was a very memorable day.  The wildflowers were great, we got to walk along the top of a long and serpentine moraine crest, and we enjoyed a close-up view of one our favourite hanging glaciers.

But what we'll probably remember most is our turnaround point at the top of the valley.  We were planning to right to treeline, but our forward momentum was halted by a close encounter with grizzly #72 and her two cubs.  We'd been making plenty of noise, but we came over a little rise and there they were, feeding on the lush grasses and plants in the meadow.  I snapped a couple of quick shots on my maximum telephoto, and then we retreated.  From 150 metres away, we enjoyed about five minutes of binocular time watching three of the most famous citizens in all  the Lake Louise area.

They were beautiful.  It would have been great to have Harry Potter's invisibility cloak, so we could watch them some more, but we felt these bears needed to be on their own, so we quietly slipped away.  It was a day to remember.