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Great Divide’s Spring Newsletter, 2021

Happy May from Lake Louise, where the snow is melting and the birds are singing. For those who were out with me on snowshoes this winter, a huge thank you. I am really happy that you came to the mountains for an escape from Covid.

We are now only four weeks from the start of the 2021 summer hiking season – May 31 – and I’ve traded in the skis and snowshoes for hiking boots and bikes. Also, I’ve been lucky enough to see my first grizzly bears of the year (see the video below).  I’m up to five different bears in the last week, and that’s my benchmark that spring has finally arrived!

COVID-19 Update

Alberta is currently really struggling to contain the third wave of Covid-19, but the vaccine rollout is accelerating, and by the summer, we should have a significant percentage of the population vaccinated. Banff is being targeted for a big immunization blitz in the next two weeks. I received my first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 30, and am expecting my second shot in July or August.

I can’t predict the future, but based on successfully running my guiding program last winter and in the summer of 2020, I’m taking reservations for this summer’s hiking season, which starts on May 31. All of my Covid-19 safety measures are laid out on my website. There will be no penalties for reservations cancelled due to COVID-19, so feel free to plan your trip. I will post updates on Great Divide’s website as rules and restrictions change.

Joel getting his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 30. A happy moment, even though the mask hides a big smile!


Lake O’Hara Guided Hikes

Lake McArthur and Mount Biddle, just one of many beauty spots at Lake O’Hara.

Lake O’Hara is a celebrated hiking district west of Lake Louise, and last summer, for the first time since WW II, access to the area was closed. This year, O’Hara has re-opened, and hiking guides have access to a special daily quota. With three month’s notice, I can reserve spaces on the 8:30 bus for up to five guests. If you’d like to experience this sublime hiking destination, contact me and I’ll do my best to reserve your trip. If you want to pick a date with a guaranteed departure, there’s even a few O’Hara outings currently listed on my availability calendar. Hurry – they won’t last long!

Great Divide is now on Instagram

I launched my new Instagram account in March, and invite you to follow me. Every week I post a wildlife pic and a scenery shot. And in season, I’ll have snowshoeing and hiking photos to share as well. And although it’s said that a pictures tells a thousand words, I’ll make sure to add compelling stories to go with the images. These stories should give you flavour of what it’s like to be out on a hike with Great Divide.

Here’s a sneak preview of this week’s wildlife feature. If you’re wondering what a walking bearskin rug is doing in the frame, check in on Wednesday for the details.

Who’s this, and what’s the story? Check my Instagram account to find out.


Back by Popular Demand – Free Hikes for Frontline & Healthcare Workers

Last summer, as a way to say “thank you” to all the workers who have laid it on the line over the past year, I offered free hikes for essential frontline workers. I took out doctors, nurses, surgeons, firefighters, and hospital volunteers.

I’ve decided to do it again this summer, and am hoping that people outside of healthcare also feel welcome to come on a hike. That means bus drivers, grocery store workers, restaurant servers – anybody whose job it is to work directly with the public. If you are a healthcare or frontline worker, Great Divide is offering one free hike per week to you and your family or friends, on a first come, first serve basis. To see if hikes are still available, go to my availability calendar.

#142 and her Three-year-old Cub

I consider myself a Lake Louise local, but even with almost 30 years of calling this place home, I don’t have anywhere near the recognition of our local female grizzly bear: #142. She arrived on the scene as a young-of-year cub in 2010, and I’ve seen her numerous times since then. You might have met her virtually, as she’s been featured in this blog a couple of times, too, like way back in 2011, when she was just a one year old cub. #142 became a mom for the first time in 2018, and although one of her cubs was killed by another grizzly bear last year, she and her remaining youngster are doing well.

Some different views of grizzly bear #142 (and that’s junior, just behind her in the corner)

Last week, I got lucky enough to see both of them while I was out on a bike ride. Thankfully, they were on the other side of the wildlife fencing that runs along the highway. Phew!

It was really interesting to watch their behaviour. Pickings are slim in the spring, but mom was working hard to find food, digging for edible Hedysarum roots (Junior didn’t seem quite so enthusiastic). It was a great opportunity to watch bears foraging, and to see how food focussed they are. Amazingly, no matter how much they eat in May and June, they won’t gain much weight until berry season, which starts in late July. It’s only then that they start packing on the pounds for hibernation.

I hope you didn’t pack on too many pounds over the winter, and can get into the mountains this summer. Wherever you are, I wish for you to be safe and healthy. See you on the trail!