Sunday, July 13, 2014

The South End of North: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

On our last day in the park, we wanted to go on a hike, so we drove up to Red Rock Canyon with some water bottles and beef jerky, and headed up the Snowshoe Trail, listed as one of the easier treks.


SnowshoeTrail is actually a former fire road, and as such, was designed with practicality in kind, as opposed to scenery. We were afforded the occasional view of the creek below, but starting out close to noon meant that the trees did not provide much shade, and we were under constant attack by particularly aggressive horseflies the size of bumblebees. We tend to be a fairly stubborn group, and we normally like to finish what we start, but in this instance, no one was having a good enough time to push on, so after about an hour of a sweaty, swatty, forced march, we recognized the foolishness of continuing, and decided to turn back.


Once we were back at the Canyon and re-hydrated, the girls headed down into the creek to get their feet wet. Red Rock Canyon is a tremendously scenic site for something so accessible; there are steps down into the canyon itself mere steps from the parking lot, and a bridge going across it that provides an excellent view, as well as access to the various trailheads on the far side.


I was content to watch the girls wade about, fearing that if I took my boots off, I'd never get them back on again. Leaning against the side of the bridge and seeing the girls scramble about the colourful rocks while snapping the occasional picture with my iPad (Glory was crushed to learn that her camera had failed to charge the night before) was a wonderful way to cool down from the hike, shortened as it was.


Despite being fairly shallow, the water was quite brisk, as one might reasonably anticipate from a mountain stream. Still, the girls gamely waded about, helping each other across the slippery rocks as they cooled off.


As we finished up at Red Rock Canyon, the girls both begged to splash about at another feature a little ways down the parkway: Lost Horse Creek. Naturally, I obliged them, and a short while later, all of us were wading about in a frigid, fast-moving stream.


I made my way across the point shown in the picture above, and even that brief immersion was sufficient to cut off ost of the feeling below my knees. The rocks of the creek bed, though smooth enough to spare even my dainty feet, were also slick enough to raise the concern of slipping, falling, bashing my head, and being washed downstream while unconscious, so after making my way across and back, I sat on the bank to let my feet dry.


Glory, meanwhile, decided to up the ante by changing into her swimsuit and wading into a depression that came up to her chest.


Once she had emerged unscathed, I made my admiration clear for her cautious approach, her lack of fear and her willingness to brave the cold waters that I deemed unfit for human exploration.


Once we had dried off,we returned to the Flex and headed back down the Red Rock Parkway towards the townsite and our camp. It was mid afternoon on a bright and sunny day, so we were pretty surprised to see a dark quadruped loping across the road near an upcoming corner. "Is that a..." I started to say, but Fenya, riding shotgun, blurted out, "It's a bear."


By the time we got to where it had been, it had scampered back around the corner and into the bush, but we weren't dismayed; after all, this was our sixth bear sighting in three days!


On our way back from Going-to-the-Sun Road two days prior, the sun was beginning to set, and knowing this to be a good time for spotting wildlife, I had asked Audrey if she would mind driving up the Red Rock Parkway before returning to camp. She kindly agreed, and on our return journey from the canyon we had found ourselves parked alongside the road next to a bench and a roadside information sign about glacial movement, watching a small black or brown bear stripping caterpillars off of a tree to eat. He continued, uncaring of our observation for 10-15 minutes before retreating into the bush, presumably having either eaten enough or become disinterested, but we were mesmerized the entire time.


Just a few minutes after driving away from the meadow, Audrey spotted a dark shape midway up the side of a hill, and sure enough, it was another bear. This one was digging in the dirt, audibly scratching and grunting as it tried to excavate some sort of rodent from its den. It was too dark for any sort of snapshot, but Glory did her best to catch some of the digging with her camera's video mode.


The following night,we took the same route, at about the same time, and this time we came across two bears in the clearing eating caterpillars. This pair were more animated than the solo ursine we had seen the evening before, pulling an 8 foot tree down to snacking level, and climbing up an even larger one to feast on the caterpillars at the 10-12 foot level, before stretching its legs to a neighbouring tree and crossing to dine there as well.


We probably sat there for 20 minutes before moving on, hoping there would be a similar encore at the hillside, but alas, there was not. However, on the drive home, as we exited the parkway and crossed the bridge leading towards the townsite, Audrey spotted our 5th bear, calmly making his way across the river, seemingly oblivious to the multitudes gathering in the picnic area directly behind him to snap his picture. We saw him clearly silhouetted against the dappled light reflected in the river, but by the time I had reversed back to the parkway to get a closer look, he had vanished.


Still, seeing six bears in addition to the badger, bighorns, bald eagles and mountain sheep we had already spotted made our time in Waterton a real high water mark in terms of wildlife spotting, and I am certain we will camp there again before too long.


No comments:

Post a Comment