The Canadian Rockies: Part 3

The final leg of the trip started in Jasper. After a trip to the glorious, postcard friendly Maligne Lake, the recent lack of showers – and running water in general – led to us taking a much needed trip to Miette Hot Springs on the edge of the park. 

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Maligne Lake boathouse

What a great idea it was. A few dollars to get in and you get to sit in two naturally heated outdoor pools, get a shower and bask in the late evening sunshine.  We even had the pleasure of watching a black bear and her two cubs meandering down the mountainside towards us. 

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Nich enjoying Miette Hot Springs

On the way back into town we encountered an elk strolling across the road.  I hadn’t read the signs warning you to stay in your vehicle at that point, so I hopped out to get a quick shot and noticed that the large bull had a section of his horns missing.  

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A bull elk crosses the road just outside Jasper

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His horn had been torn off in a fight

A few hundred yards further down the road we realised why.  It was rutting season, and the rutting was in full flow. A large male was defending his harem against numerous other males, who were also fighting for the chance to fight the boss.  It was like the WWF… both translations of the acronym! 

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The dominant male fights off a challenger

It was amazing to see, and as a result we weren’t alone. In fact, there was a paparazzi-style gathering of wildlife photographers with massive lenses all desperately trying to get that postcard shot of the elk clashing horns. Some were getting way too close. I had now read the sign which states that elk frequently charge cars and cause thousands of dollars of damage every year.

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Wildlife paparazzi at work

The next day we decided to head out of the park via the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, Mount Robson. It was another great day hike up to a crystal clear lake, with plenty of sights along the way. Autumn had really set in and the colours were fantastic.

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Nich on the trail towards Berg Lake at Mount Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at 4,663 m (15,299 ft)

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As usual, the hike was worth it!

We even found a celebrity squirrel who seemed a bit peeved at being photographed when he spotted me.

Celebrity Squirrel caught by paparazzi

So finally our trip around the Rockies came to and end. On the way back to Vancouver we made a stop at Adams River to see spawning sockeye salmon. The fish swim thousands of miles up to their spawning grounds after 4 years out in the Pacific Ocean. Many of them don’t make it, but thousands appear in a small section of the river during a short period in October, their scales turning a bright red colour as they reach their final destination. At some points the river is bright red with fish. They fight against the strong current and we saw dozens of fish give up and die whilst in the last few yards of their journey, their scales instantly losing the red colouring as the current sweeps them back towards the lake downstream.

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The Adams River – bright red with thousands of spawning sockeye salmon

I managed to get in with them and do some underwater filming which shows how hard they have to battle just to maintain their position in the water. It’s really an amazing thing to see them fighting each other off to reach the best spawning grounds. The males are somewhat uglier and more fierce looking than the females but they all do their fair share of biting and chasing.

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Getting my hands dirty to film the salmon with the GOPRO in an underwater housing

The resulting footage shows the fish fighting each other

Whilst filming I met up with a few colleagues from Global television in Vancouver who were up doing the same thing I was. ‘Small world’ I thought, that was until I met Susan Watts, a former colleague and the Science Editor of BBC Newsnight in the queue for a piece of pumpkin pie at a food stall near the river. She was there reporting on declining fish stocks. Small world indeed. Susan’s film can be seen here.

We finally followed the Fraser River back from whence the salmon had swum to the Pacific Ocean and Vancouver. Next up was a trip back home for my sister Melanie’s wedding. After 5 months away it will seem very strange to be back but we’re both really looking forward to it.
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