We arrived here in Lake Louise, Alberta (pop. 500), one of Canada’s smallest but most popular, stunning and romantic locations, on Wednesday afternoon. Our campsite is in what we euphemistically call “A Hateful Place”… out the front window is a beautiful mountain river, blue-green with rock powder, and roaring along at about 6-7 mph just 40 yards from our front door. Out the side window is Mt. Temple, 10,401 ft., with a hanging glacier to admire over dinner. Just before dinner, in fact, we had walked the river trail, admiring the stream, the forest and the mountains, and wishing that we had seen some wildlife before going inside The Coach for dinner.
I was just washing up after another delicious Chicken Marsala, and glancing out at the river, only a few seconds walk away, two naked blondes ran by – that’s right, they had absolutely no clothes on. As you might guess, this caught my attention… Normally I might say to My Lovely Bride, “Excuse me, Sweetheart, I‘ll be back in a few minutes. I need to go interview some subjects for the blog and capture some photos while the light’s still good. You stay here and work on your computer.” But these were not two “normal naked blondes” – they were 250 pounders! I shouted, “Grizzlies! Two just ran right to left down the river trail!” Suzanne grabbed her camera, and I grabbed our can of bear spray, and the hunt began. It wasn’t long before the rangers arrived to use their truck and horn to keep the bears out of the campground itself where campers were dining on their picnic tables, blissfully unaware of the two Ursus ursus wandering through the woods a few yards from their hamburgers. Suzanne was able to get a few decent distant photos, a couple of bear butts but one really good one of a grizzly looking right at her through the brush. Fortunately, he wasn’t aggressive, probably due to the rangers’ truck horn blasting.
When the local SWAT Team arrived, I knew we were perfectly safe. You would feel safe, too, when an armed Predator drone arrived overhead, followed by a military armored car with eight fully armed, 300 lb., 6’ 8”, muscle-bound hulks in cammies, body armor, machine guns, bayonets, ammo bandoliers, gas masks, stun grenades, and steel helmets, who then put themselves between you and imminent danger from two raging wild grizzlies.
Wait… that might not have been an accurate description of our Canadian protectors. The SWAT Team, arriving in a small pick-up truck, was comprised of one part-time, summer park ranger, Jessica, who stood only 5’4”, weighed maybe 110 lbs, had on khaki shorts, blouse and hiking boots, and was carrying a radio, a traffic ticket pad, one can of bear spray, and this evil-looking rifle that fired compressed air bubble blanks (no projectiles or bullets at all) that made the noise of a .22 cal. but couldn’t injure anything or anyone unless she stuck the barrel in its eye. After asking all the turistasto please stand back, she marched confidently toward the two grizzlies and shouted at them to go away, occasionally firing her air rifle skyward for emphasis. The two hairy beasts took her meaning and ambled off deeper into the woods. (This is the woman with whom you want to go backpacking and tent camping in an African game park when the lions are hungry!)
After dinner, we took the puppies for a drive to Lake Louise itself. From studying the map, we had imagined a relatively small hotel and a huge lake… but reality was just the opposite. A medium-size but beautiful blue-green lake and an enormous hotel complex at one end, with one canoe rental pier and a mile long lakeside trail leading to several other dirt and rock backcountry trails. The base rate for rooms here is $600 per night.
But what was most stunning were the mountains, arêtes, and glaciers surrounding the lake on all sides. It was crowded at the hotel area, but once you walked a few hundred yards along the lake path, the crowd (and their obnoxious noise) thinned out by 90%. Here are Suzanne, Rudy and Gretchen enjoying a moment of solitude with the lake and mountains in the background. We were so taken by the area that we immediately extended our stay until Monday. We also decided on a 10-12 mile hike up one of these mountains for the next day, Thursday… I had laid out most of the hiking gear we would need: bear spray, first aid kit, bear spray, food, water, bear spray, rain jackets and bear spray… but it’s funny how two tiny mistakes can have drastic consequences.
On Thursday morning, Hiker Chick held early reveille so we could beat the crowds to the trailhead. I was leaning down to put on my running shoes, and snap, for My First Mistake, I felt a flash of severe pain and knew my lower back muscles had gone out. The last time this had happened was a year ago at Mt. Shasta in northern California. Lake Louise Village is very small, with only about ten shops total, one market, a liquor store, two clothing stores, a bookstore, a bakery, a couple of eateries, and a gift shop. It took several hours to get an appointment at the one medical clinic here, which is only open afternoons, and mostly treats ski injuries in winter and hikers ankle sprains in summer. Dr. Nottebrock prescribed some meds and bed rest for 2-3 days, and even has the only small pharmacy in town. Coincidentally, he is a delightful person, extraordinarily fit, and an expert mountain biker who also owns two bike shops in British Columbia. So now I am semi-horizontal on the couch, working on the blog and trying to make a reasonably quick recovery so I don’t miss out on all the hiking here in Lake Louise.
So, what was Act Two in Ty’s Lake Louise Disaster? You’ve probably heard of the Black Death, the plague carried by rats from China that killed 1/3 of the population of Europe but also “thinned the herd” and led to the Renaissance? Well, this was not so tragic, but… Last week, Computer Guru Suzanne suggested that I back up my hard drive on a portable unit that she was no longer using, having switched to Carbonite, the on-line backup system. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get to it soon…” Then last night, I booted my (previously) faithful Dell and “Arrgh… the Blue Screen of Death!” Okay, I’ll simply reboot, and all will be well with the world. 20 reboot attempts later, nada… zip… zilch! My computer will not restart. I am in Deep Doo-Doo.
I placed a phone call to my dedicated Information Technology Support Team, AKA My Lovely Daughter Elisabeth, who is not only a computer graphics artist and expert skier and mountaineer, but who also ran Texas A&M’s computer lab for two years. My problem description resulted in a grim, highly technical computer diagnosis and prognosis, but I will only include my interpretation of her IT bottom line: (a) my computer is toast; (b) I’m screwed; (c) I should cut my losses and buy a new computer. A very high tech Dell support team may be able to save the thousands of photos on my hard drive, but that will likely take a week or more at one of their facilities back in a large US city. There is no such facility in the back of the lone pizza shop here in Lake Louise, darn it! Consequently, we are time-sharing Suzanne’s computer in a town with only two Wi-Fi spots: a coffee shop and the Post Office.
Since I am on my back for a few days here in the wilds of the Canadian Rockies, I am also ergonomically-challenged, so I will apologize in advance for the paucity and quality of the blog until my recovery. I sincerely hope that you will bear with me (no pun intended) until I am back in battery physically and technologically. Until then, donations and flowers may be sent to the Asylum for the Impudent, Imprudent and Feeble-Minded.