Molly and I returned from our holiday in Canada last summer; we were visiting my sister Christine has lived across the pond for over 50 years. In 1969 I had flown with my mother to Montreal from Heathrow, and this time I flew with my wife to Calgary from Amsterdam. The Rocky Mountains are normally plainly visible from Calgary, but on our arrival there were forest fires raging a hundred miles south in the US, and the smoke obscured the view. You could smell it too, and the smoky air was keeping everybody indoors. Luckily this dispersed within a few days.
My sister, Molly and I were driven to the Rockies by my nephew James. We passed the Great Divide into British Columbia and visited Emerald Lake. It really looks bright green, the colour caused by glacial silt made of small particles of feldspar and quartz from the mountains. The effect is stunning. Emerald Lake was discovered by an explorer in 1882. Today there are kayaks for hire and the lodge is a pleasant hotel where you can stay all year round. We had a very enjoyable lunch there, by a log fire.
Next we saw Lake Louise, which is in Alberta, but not far from B.C. It was discovered shortly before Emerald Lake, and being of a similar turquoise colour it was originally given the name Emerald Lake, before it was renamed Lake Louise in honour of one of Queen Victoria’s daughters. It has an impressive hotel with a fine view of the lake. It is busy in the summer and in the skiing season, and it has a range of shops selling all kinds of gifts. The first lodge was built in the 1890s, by when the CPR had a station there, and a subsequent larger building was destroyed by fire in the early 20th century. The current even larger hotel was built to replace the burnt one. The staff are dressed in Tyrolean clothes, to reflect the Alpine nature of the scenery.
Our visit to the Rockies ended with a drive round Banff. The weather was mostly bright with a few showers. It was of course quite chilly in the mountains. Later in the week it rained all day in Calgary, and the precipitation fell as snow on the peaks. This made for a great spectacle from the city, some thirty miles away.
The one disappointment of our trip to the mountains was the lack of any wild animals. Of course we were on busy roads which discouraged wildlife. There were numerous bridges built across the highway in the National Park, to enable animals to cross the road, but these were all devoid of wildlife, as far as our fleeting gaze revealed. This shortcoming was remedied by a trip to Calgary Zoo. There we were able to see all the mountain beasts we had missed earlier in the week. A buffalo (more correctly known as a bison) was grazing near the stout fence; we had dined on minced bison steaks a day or two before. Also on view were otters, elk, caribou, moose and deer. Mountain sheep and mountain goats had not faded into the background as they do in the wild, but the star of the show was undoubtedly the grizzly bear. Grizzlies are very big, and despite their apparently lumbering gait, they can move very fast. He came very close to us and lay contentedly in the pool eating fish. I am glad there was a substantial barrier between us and the bear. That is one animal that I am quite glad I did not encounter in the wild!