Mike Rainone / Hammertime
One of my fondest memories after becoming a young Canadian so many years ago, is of visiting Banff and the national parks. I remember being totally in awe when I first saw those massive mountains, with their jagged peaks, capped with patches of ice and snow that mingle among thousands of stately green spruce trees that wander down the slopes and into the pristine valleys. Even more thrilling was my first glimpse of a bear and a big horn sheep, trying to catch a trout in an ice-cold stream, picking wild flowers and berries, and enjoying all the rest of nature’s beauty and creatures.
Over the years we always made every effort to take our own children camping and sightseeing in those parks, and now more than five decades later, my wife and I still have that same passion for the splendour of our mountains and their vast surroundings. Like many of you, whether it is skiing in the winter or hiking in the summer, it will always be a treat to explore the peaceful settings and treasures that these parks, recreation areas, and all the rest that our province has to offer. Although we don’t do any of the tough hikes and climbs anymore, we still love to wander along mostly flat trails that go in a circle around a lake, and eventually come back to where they started. You meet so many friendly folks along the way, mostly equipped with a backpack full of goodies and water, a trusty walking stick, camera, binoculars, and a bear bell, just in case.
During our last trip to the always-busy Banff area on a weekend, you couldn’t help but notice that many sections of their trail system have been closed to allow the precious environment and wildlife population to revitalize in those areas. Along the Trans Canada Highway they have erected many miles of high fences to keep the animals off the road and safe from vehicles and humans. Several more of those fancy stone bridges have been erected to allow the bear, deer, elk and wolves to cross the highway and freely explore lush new regions.
While on these casual hikes you can witness so many amazing things — rock climbers challenging sheer walls of rock, marmots and chipmunks scampering about the landscape, mountain goats tip-toeing across rugged slopes, and those ominous mountains mirrored in the crystal clear and unpolluted lakes. Unfortunately you will also see garbage dumped along the trail, pop cans floating down the river, and a total disrespect of nature’s delicate environment.
Wildlife officials claim that many species in and outside of the parks have experienced a drastic population decline over the past few years. Bears especially are coming to close to populated areas, falling victim to trains and vehicles, and are getting into trouble because they eat the scraps that have been carelessly left out to tempt them. Contact with humans is becoming much more evident for many of these supposedly free-living creatures, and the results have often been a disastrous lose-lose situation for both sides of the confrontation. Watching from a distance and taking photos is a great treat, but feeding them or getting between the young ones and their mammas can be serious — bear bells or not! A 71-year-old lady picking berries in British Columbia was unfortunately mauled to death by a bear, and after killing five grizzlies in the area, wildlife officials finally found the guilty critter.
There is no doubt that all of us have the right to enjoy our vast recreation areas and parks to the fullest, but please respect and protect our environment and its inhabitants, most of which were there a long time before we were. This natural beauty, which took so many centuries to form, needs to be preserved for the pleasure of many generations to come.
Only from the mouths of children
• Four-year-old Marc was totally engrossed with a young couple who were hugging and kissing in a restaurant. Without taking his eyes off them, he quietly asked his father, ‘Why is he whispering in her mouth?’
• Brittany, 4, had a terrible earache and wanted a pill to stop the pain. The youngster tried in vain to take off the lid of the bottle, and seeing her frustration, her mother explained that it was a childproof cap, and she would have to open it for her. Eyes now wide with wonder, the little girl asked, ‘How does it know it’s me?’
Here comes the sun, so slap on the bug-off and no-burn spray and have a great week, all of you!