R O C KY M O U N TA I N S
SUMMER 2022 // FREE
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TABLE OF CONTENTS The Comeback Issue
P.12 EDITORS' MESSAGE Call it a Comeback
P.22 MOUNT 7’S DISCIPLES
P.14 BEHIND THE PHOTO Summer Skiing
P.34 RUNNING OUT OF MOUNTAINTOP
P.17 KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOUR Christo Grayling
P.50 THE DRIP ZONE EFFECT
P.18 FEATURE ARTIST Marika Sila, Warrior Princess P.20 UP AND COMER Ava Vanderbeek P.30 LOCAL FOOD Bringing Ayuda and Bayanihan to the Rockies P.41 ATHLETE The Legend of Sam Dickie and the Cougar
P.46 BACKYARD Renewal and Reincarnation in Banff National Park P.54 GALLERY Dreamscapes P.63 TRAIL MIX Curated Brain Snacks P.66 BACK PAGE Farewell to Abbot Pass Hut
ON THIS PAGE Claire Dibble on her Columbia River descent, near Revelstoke at the confluence of two rivers. AGATHE BERNARD ON THE COVER Jasmin Caton somewhere deep and mysterious in the Purcell Mountains of BC, specifically the Qat’muk Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area. Despite it being visible from a popular logging road, it took many years of gazing up at this arch to eventually mobilize and go explore it. Now it’s an established 7-pitch route called the Grizzly Groove (rated 5.7) that sees a small amount of traffic. STEVE OGLE
In the spirit of respect and truth, we honour and acknowledge that Mountain Life Rocky Mountains is published in the traditional Treaty 7 Territory which includes the ancestral lands of the Stoney Nakoda First Nations of Bearspaw, Chiniki and Wesley, the Tsuut’ina First Nation, the Blackfoot Confederacy First Nations of Siksika, Kainai, and Piikani, and the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3. We acknowledge these Nations to honour, raise awareness, and express gratitude for the Indigenous peoples who have cared for these lands for generations.
PUBLISHERS KRISTY DAVISON JON BURAK TODD LAWSON GLEN HARRIS
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EDITOR KRISTY DAVISON
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CONTRIBUTORS Rachel Barkman, Agathe Bernard, Eusebio Cacayuran, Jun Cacayuran, Matt Coté, Jo Croston, Corrie DiManno, Maria Louisa Dela Cruz, Edna Ermita, Brian Feeney, Andrew Findlay, John Gibson, Steven Gnam, Nic Groulx, Irene Hervas, Karsten Heuer, Kevin Hjertaas, Patrick Hoffman, Noelle Kekula, Lauren Kepkiewicz, John E Marriott, David Moskowitz, Steve Ogle, Danielle Paradis, Chris Pilling, Steven Sharnoff, Cody Shimizu, Clint Trahan, Ava Vanderbeek, Meghan Ward. SALES & MARKETING KRISTY DAVISON
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Published by Mountain Life Media, Copyright ©2022. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. Publications Mail Agreement Number 40026703. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to: Mountain Life Magazine, PO Box 2433 Garibaldi Highlands BC., V0N 1T0. Tel: 604 815 1900. To send feedback or for contributors guidelines email email@example.com. Mountain Life Rocky Mountains is published every October and May by Mountain Life Media Inc. and circulated throughout the Rockies from Revelstoke to Calgary and Jasper to Fernie. Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly prohibited. Views expressed herein are those of the author exclusively. To learn more about Mountain Life, visit mountainlifemedia.ca. To distribute Mountain Life in your store please email Kristy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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CALL IT A COMEBACK…
A flyfisherman releases a westslope cutthroat trout in the Flathead River. STEVEN GNAM
“Every day is a renewal, every morning the daily miracle. This joy you feel is life.” - Gertrude Stein O summer. Those perpetually fleeting months between spring snow and the brilliance of fall. Is there anything more glorious than summertime in the Rockies? Barbecues and patio beers, long, warm evenings (midweight-puffy warm) and crisp mornings. The snow disappears off all but the tallest, glaciated peaks for a short-lived glimpse of the rock beneath. We inhale opportunity—the chance to start again, to redefine what we hold sacred, a rebirth of nature and ourselves. Anything is possible in the summer, when we set free the dreams dreamt in the dark of winter. This is our comeback, baby. Here in the Rockies, we watch the rebirth of nature like we watch the weather blow down the valley—blink and you might miss the rapid interplay of snowmelt and green sprouts. Our proximity to nature also shines a spotlight on its fragility and our lead-footed impact on its delicacy. To survive, we must repurpose ourselves and our resources; reinvention and renewal are necessary to the process of life. In this, our sophomore issue, biologist and author Karsten Heuer explores the comeback of an ecosystem in the aftermath of a popular tourist attraction; Andrew Findlay reports on our environment as a harbinger as botanists decode the messages sent to us from our resident flora and fauna and biologists consider the effect of the warming environment on human-wildlife interactions; Indigenous actor and creator, Marika Sila, shares how rebirth from childhood trauma strengthens her voice and her resolve; Ultramarathoner, Sam Dickie, faces a terrifying wildlife encounter and resurfaces a more determined and resilient athlete; and Golden’s “deranged” Psychosis mountain bike race is back—and nuttier than ever. Lace ‘em up, fire it up, and send it—because it’s summertime in the Rockies. See you on the trails. – Kristy & Erin
BEHIND THE PHOTO
SUMMERTIME SENDS Snowmelt feeds the valley bottom as winter ebbs into spring, then summer. The ski season abates with the transition of seasons; yet snow days are chased year-round by a few dedicated ski bums. The preposterous idea of seeking out turns in the summertime holds a specific allure. Long hikes in the hazy heat of summer are rewarded with sun-crusted lines littered with rocks perfectly positioned to chew up bases. The absurdity of it all, coupled with fist bumps and drinks kept cold in the few remaining pockets of natural ice, is almost enough to make a person forget the weight of a backpack laden with heavy skis on sweaty bare shoulders. As temperatures trend higher every summer, glaciers are beaten down into bony renditions of their past forms and the tug-of-war between rock and ice continues. Evan Palmer-Charrette, sending it off a small booter high above Elbow Lake in Kananaskis Country, Alberta. Photo and words by Cody Shimizu
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KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOUR
KNOW YO CHRISTO!
words :: Corrie DiManno Christo Grayling is a ‘surf of the earth’ kind of dude. It’s like saying he’s salt of the earth, but with the added elements of sand, sun, and board shorts thrown in. Originally from Australia, Christo has been chasing waves around the world for more than 60 years. Whether it’s paddling rivers in North America, Chile, and Sri Lanka or surfing in Indonesia, India, or South America, Christo says he’s a cooler person when he’s by a body of water. (He’s even bodysurfed the Kananaskis River on a twodollar Speedo kickboard.) “I’m drawn to water,” he says. “I’ve been in the ocean my whole life. It brings me joy, comfort, and challenge.” Calling it his ticket to the world, Christo came to Canada working for Outward Bound 15 days before his twentieth birthday with nothing but a daypack and a tiny, secondhand suitcase he bought in India. Several years later, he met Barb a.k.a. Babsy, who he describes as having “a gentle and genuine way of drawing people in” with a hidden talent of having a spot-on, internal navigation system. They also share the same birthday. On their first date, they traversed the Athabasca Glacier to ski Snow Dome. “We’ve often chuckled that we’ve hardly been apart since that day,” says Christo, adding their relationship has always been immersed in family, travel, adventure, and work—often all as one.
Married in 1983, they moved to the mountains where they raised two sons, Logan (who paddles and mountain bikes) and Luke (who surfs and skateboards). Living the “regular, full-on Canmore life” while their kids were growing up, the duo swapped hang loose for human resources by designing and delivering team building and leadership development courses for the Pacific Centre for Leadership, an organization they co-founded. Work assignments took the family across the globe. Now in retirement, Christo spends his time at the ski hill, in the community pool, and “skaddling” the Legacy Trail when they are in town. (Skaddling is a term he coined to describe the action of skateboarding with a paddle. Pro tip: find good pavement!) Home for Christo and Babsy is also where they park the ’89 Chevy camper van; and for the past 25 years they’ve driven down to a tiny fishing town in southern Baja, Mexico, where they live off the grid on an acre of land in the desert with water they truck in. They like to live a minimalist lifestyle—Christo surfs and Babsy standup paddles, Christo repurposes odds ‘n’ ends and Babsy bakes and cooks to fuel themselves and often, other surfers along the cliff. “I totally know Babsy and I have our version of a good thing going on. Our lives are completely intertwined and connected; yet we enjoy and thrive on our own gigs. When you have thrived and lived this way for so long, you don’t always see the uniqueness and strengths, you just know life is pretty darn good.” 17
Warrior Princess Indigenous in Alberta, with Inuk actor and influencer Marika Sila
Marika highlights five ways non-Indigenous people can easily support the Indigenous community: words :: Danielle Paradis Marika Sila remembers school as one of the first places she really began to think of her Inuit heritage. Growing up in the predominantly Caucasian small town of Canmore, Alberta, she noticed she was different than the other kids and recalls experiencing bullying and segregation. Now a full-time influencer and actress in film and television, Marika attributes much of her success to how she navigated those early years. “Going through what I went through in my younger years primed me to be who I am today. As a performer, you cannot focus on what other people think of you and still show up authentically. I am blessed to have a deeply rooted confidence…it has freed me from caring about what people think and has shown me that love always wins.” Marika’s family is originally from Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, and she spent her early childhood in Yellowknife with her parents, Angus Cockney and Trish Bartley, and brother, Jesse Cockney. She currently lives in Canmore, and can be found on TikTok (@thatwarriorprincess) and Instagram (@marikasila). As a social media influencer, she showcases beautiful Inuit and Indigenous fashion, promotes Indigenous businesses, answers questions on how Canadians can support the Indigenous community, discusses Indigenous rights issues and demonstrates her incredible athletic abilities with hoops, martial arts (nunchucks!), and fire dancing to her half a million followers. As half-Inuk and half-Caucasian, Marika feels a responsibility to bridge the gap of understanding between Indigenous and nonIndigenous people. She is passionate about reconciliation and elevating the voices and perspectives of the Indigenous peoples across Canada.
Cancelling Canada Day is meant to generate a pause, to honour the Indigenous community in this time, and to take time to reflect upon Canada’s colonial history and the systems that got us here and continues to cause harm. “My goal is to create a deeper understanding amongst our nation, because I believe that where there is understanding there is compassion, and racism dies in the face of compassion,” she says. This belief can be seen throughout her work as an influencer and actress. Among her many projects, Marika is a motivational speaker and currently working on a documentary about Canada’s modern day Indigenous affairs. Marika credits her parents for teaching her everything she knows about her culture. Her father was placed in residential school for 13 years, so the recent news about the Indian residential school system really hit home for her. “Reconnecting is one of my top priorities,” says Marika. “I believe that bringing back ceremony is an important aspect to healing within the Indigenous community.”
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Educate yourself! There are many resources out there like this free course from Indigenous Canada: coursera.org/learn/indigenous-canada
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Marika loves to teach her followers about her Inuit heritage and uses her platform to explain concepts like Land Back and Cancel Canada Day to her audience. “I am passionate about explaining Indigenous rights issues to non-Indigenous people because I like to think that once someone understands they are more likely to support. And, it is so important to have non-Indigenous allies.” “I get so much support nowadays, it still surprises me because I was so used to being bullied growing up,” Marika says. On her platform, Marika deals with hateful and racist messages with compassion. One post has Shawn Mendes’ It’ll Be Okay playing while Marika looks at messages she has received and responds by singing along with Mendes: “Imma love you either way.” Marika’s goal has always been to build a platform with her talents to raise awareness about the importance of Indigenous rights and climate issues. She also works to promote other Indigenous artists as the owner of the RedPath Talent, an emerging Indigenous talent agency and production company. This summer she will be producing, directing, and hosting her first documentary, traveling across Canada to interview Indigenous influencers, elders, and community leaders about their thoughts on reconciliation. Production will begin on July 1, a day steeped in symbolism and the focal point of the Idle No More #cancelcanadaday movement. “A lot of Canadians don’t understand the concept behind Cancel Canada Day,” Marika says. Within Indigenous communities when there is a loss—the present case being the ongoing discoveries of thousands of unmarked graves on residential school grounds across the country—it is common to cancel celebrations around events like Canada Day in order to take the time to come together as a community and to support one another. She explains that cancelling Canada Day is meant to generate a pause, to honour the Indigenous community in this time, and to take time to reflect upon Canada’s colonial history and the systems that got us here and continue to cause harm. It’s a fitting time to launch work on her project which is based on finding positive ways in which Canadians can contribute to reconciliation, so we can move forward towards unity. Danielle Paradis is an Indigenous writer, editor and educator living in Edmonton. @DaniParadis 19
A SEAT AT THE TABLE Ava Vanderbeek
Ava Vanderbeek understands that in order to care for the natural world, you need to experience it. As a high schooler, she witnessed a dramatic shift towards the virtual as a result of the pandemic. Isolation leads to disconnection, a notion which has influenced her work as the director of the Canadian Rockies Youth Network and her quest to get more youth into the mountains. “Providing in-person experiences helps people to know what they are protecting,” she says. For her efforts, Ava was recognized as a recipient of the Banff Centre’s 2021 Mountain Spirit Award. Each year, the award singles out exemplary Alberta youth, like Ava, who motivate and inspire others and demonstrate a healthy, active outdoor lifestyle. Additionally, these individuals “initiate positive change to celebrate, protect and advocate for the outdoors,” explains Laurie Harvey, Banff Centre’s manager of strategic partnerships.
“Working with the network and youth who amaze me every single day helps me feel like I’m doing something that makes a difference.” – Ava Vanderbeek SUBMITTED BY AVA VANDERBEEK
Seventeen-year-old Ava was raised by outdoorsy parents and learned to love the natural world as a child. Yet it wasn’t until her time at Calgary’s Central Memorial High School, and her enrolment in a class called Energy and Environmental Innovation, that she became an environmental advocate. Taught by Adam Robb, the class required students to pick an issue and solve it over the course of a semester. Ava dug in to the challenge but struggled to find a solution to her chosen issue. So, in Grade 11, Adam introduced Ava to the Canadian Rockies Youth Network (CRYN), a joint venture with the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley. CRYN provides educational programming to engage students in conservation and support youth action projects. From there, Ava felt empowered and her interest in conservation flourished. “Working with the network and youth who amaze me every single day helps me feel like I’m doing something that makes a difference,” she says. Though a year younger than the rest of the group, Ava found her stride in her youth outreach role. As group members graduated, she slid into a new position as the network’s first female director— and the first with an Indigenous (Métis) background. It’s no surprise Ava’s leadership within the CRYN arose naturally. “Ava is fantastic at bringing people together and making them feel welcomed and valued,” says Andrew Cotterell of the Biosphere Institute. These leadership qualities are important in motivating youth towards making change. “There is often a gap between people’s aspirations for change and what action they can take on issues like climate change,” Andrew says. “CRYN provides ways for youth to get 20
involved, take action and feel good about the future. Those youth should have a seat at the table when decisions that affect their future are being made.” Ava lit up when we began talking about the network’s advocacy opportunities giving a voice to young people. “We’ve had a meeting with five mountain parks with regards to Parks Canada land management plans,” she says. “And that was really cool, because it went right with our values where we were being consulted as youth, by adults.” Members of the network also need to take on personal projects, and Ava is creating a ‘new campers’ camping kit, intended to remove some of the barriers for people accessing the mountains for the first time. The kit comes with all the gear necessary to safely recreate in the front country, complete with pamphlets explaining camping basics like how to start a fire. She’s currently working on a mechanism to have the kit lent out to those who need it because Ava knows first-hand how impactful an outdoor experience can be. Last summer, Ava participated in an eight-day backpacking trip in Kananaskis Country, hosted by the CRYN and Outward Bound. One night, after heavy rains, the skies cleared to reveal an endless canvas of twinkling stars. “All of a sudden, they just started shooting across the sky,” she recalls. It was the Perseids, a meteor shower that occurs every August. “I thought to myself: I can’t be the only one to see this and to experience it…everyone should get to. And that’s why I want to protect the Rockies.” – Meghan J. Ward
See you in Banff this Fall!
ADVENTURE FILMMAKERS WORKSHOP
Featuring live events in Banff and films on demand.
Oct 28 – Nov 6 Find out more about upcoming programs and workshops in Banff. banffmountainfestival.ca
Ashlee Hendy and Elizabeth Chong, Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park, Australia © Simon Carter
Oct 29 – Nov 6, 2022
Golden has resurrected its infamous Psychosis race and the downhilling zealots have returned words: Matt Coté
LEFT Casey Brown drinking out of her shoe, celebrating her win in 2021. ABOVE Rider Andy Tayler dropping into Dead Dog high above Golden, Psychosis 2020.
here are times when life imitates art, and one sport imitates another. Watching a mountain biker drop off the shoulder of Golden, BC’s Mount 7 is more like watching a skier. Scree explodes into the air like powder as back wheels scrub and scrape the sides of the loose slope in a hectic effort to ditch speed. Traction is a game of give and take as the trail spills over the horizon into an even steeper subalpine spruce forest. From this vantage at 1,940 metres above sea level, peaks consume the horizon in every direction, while one of the most intimidating mountain bike descents on the planet falls sharply away. Dead Dog, as the trail is called, links up with a 30-year-old singletrack known locally as “the race line.” That’s because, until 2008, the 1,200-verticle-metre (4,000-foot) lace of dirt played host to what Red Bull famously called the “world’s most demented downhill race.” Dubbed “Psychosis”—it was the brainchild of a handful of rowdy locals (most notably Scott Hicks) who in 1998 asked themselves, “How ridiculous would it be to race a trail so long and steep most people can’t even ride it?” Fast forward five years, and up to 400 people were gathering annually on the shoulder of Mount 7 to test their mettle on a 12-plus-minute bull ride that went on to become the longest singletrack downhill race on earth. Amateurs threw in with the world’s top racers across a breadth of categories, and it created a festival of cycling revelry that electrified the little railway town. Red Bull sponsored the event, international media swooned, and it went on to feature in the seminal 2008 mountain bike film Seasons.
TOP Nate Briggs coming off of the “Wet Dream” drop in the 2001 race.
BRIAN FEENEY. ABOVE Kialani Hines from United States on lower section
TOP Harriet Burbidge-Smith.
CHRIS PILLING. RIGHT Early days.
SUBMITTED BY NOELLE KEKULA
Then, just like that, it was gone. After ten years, at the height of its glory, the Golden Cycling Club pumped the brakes on Psychosis. It had been a significant economic driver for the town, filling hotels and restaurants in the days surrounding the event, and putting it on the map internationally. There was no trail like it in the world, and to most it didn’t make sense to take the spotlight off it and relegate Golden’s mountain bike scene to obscurity. But there was more going on behind the scenes than anybody realized. “I think the board felt we were becoming an event organizer and not a mountain bike club,” Andy Bostock recalls. The former British downhill champion was the club’s president during the Psychosis frenzy. He loves the rough tug of gravity as much as anybody, and was a top contender on Psychosis back in the day. But when the time came, even he conceded the race had to stop—for the good of Golden’s riding scene. “It was before the days of Tourism Golden,” he recalls, “and the club didn’t get any help from anybody, even from town. There were a lot of complaints from hoteliers and restaurants (that we were ending Psychosis). But we weren’t getting anything in return from those guys.” As such, the decision was final, and the club started pouring all its energy into trail development instead. Its coffers had been filled up over the years from the event, but no one had been able to find the time or energy to spend the money until the race was out of the picture. Meanwhile, the sport had modernized everywhere but Golden, and the cycling club hadn’t been able to keep up. Downhill was falling out of fashion, and there was no middle ground between 26
the gnarliness of Mount 7 and the incredibly gentle Moonrakers crosscountry network. That would soon change. In the years that followed the riding in Golden more or less tripled, which Bostock says was a direct result of freeing up bandwidth from the race. “It was a little bit of a change in character, too,” he adds, “because everything had been so downhill oriented for years. There were the Moonrakers, but Mount 7 seemed to be the centre of riding in Golden, and then two full other networks developed.” Par for the course, says Bostock, the geometry of the bikes was evolving and people had started actually pushing on the pedals to access their descents, rather than only using them as a perch as they careened downhill. Enduro-style riding bridged the gap. The new trails were exciting, accessible and inclusive. They invited a new demographic of riders into the sport—and to Golden. As it turned out, Psychosis played both Golden’s oppressor and its liberator. Still, in the club’s mind, Psychosis was never over—only on a break. But with each passing year, it seemed less and less likely the conditions would line up for its return. The climate of liability evolved over the years, and trails like the race line became dinosaurs. Fast forward to August 2020, and a new league of racers is gathered at the top of Dead Dog, their collective eyes agape before the vortex of eroding shale they’ll have to speed down. When that’s over, they’ll have a hike-a-bike in the middle of their run that’s been described as feeling like “choking on glass.” Then shortly before the finish, they’ll have to send a 30-foot road gap.
Riders' meeting at the summit starting line, held by Trevor Gavura, race director.
Against the odds, history has come full circle, downhill has made its comeback—and with it Psychosis. Because of Covid, Crankworx was forced to re-imagine its annual bacchanal in Whistler. In its place, they put on a patchwork of secret competitions across BC’s interior, resurrecting this epic race as one of its marquee events. Crankworx general manager Darren Kinnaird seized the opportunity to work with Golden’s cycling club to bring the sport back to some of its most storied and hallowed ground in 2020. That year they held the race in secret to avoid spectators, during the height of the pandemic, and broadcast it after the fact. Now that the secret is out, the citizens of Golden are returning to the flanks of Mount 7 in droves to celebrate the “official” return of their beloved race. “On a global scale, it could be considered more extreme today than it was back then,” says Trevor Gavura, after explaining to a group of largely new contestants that what they can see in the start gate isn’t even the steep part. Gavura was the last race director before Psychosis ended, and he’s now come back to do it all over again. He also holds a seat with the Golden Cycling Club, and as such he sees it from multiple angles. “The festival used to draw cyclists for the weekend in huge numbers,” he explains. “Whereas this format—working with an international group like Crankworx—it’s more of a long-term benefit to Golden by raising awareness of what we offer for cycling overall, and by driving more tourism and ultimately business to the local community over a longer period of time.” In other words, holding Psychosis again provides the chance to show everything it built since it went away, not to mention giving new riders a taste of yesteryear’s terror. It’s something pro mountain biker Casey Brown says isn’t available anywhere else in the riding world. 28
“Psychosis is the steepest trail I’ve ever ridden,” she emphasizes. “There’s nowhere else that the slowest you can go is still uncomfortably fast. You’re on the edge of control for that first section. Dropping in for this race is a different feeling than any other, you really have to take it piece by piece because thinking about the whole thing is way too much to chew at once.” For Brown, who grew up the next town over in Revelstoke, BC, and has risen to become the godmother of female freeriding, the return of Psychosis is particularly special. “When they stopped doing the race, I was gutted because that was the year I was so keen to start doing events like that,” she remembers. “It was hugely influential, as it was near where I lived and attracted an international level of rider. Racing it years later is really exciting for me, albeit racing it on modern bikes is much different than the 2006 downhill rigs. It’s definitely a one-off event, like the Megavalanche, or Rampage—it has its own category because of its intensity.” As 2021’s winner, she’d know. Her race run would have seemed like it was from another planet back in 2008, flawlessly carving Dead Dog, and putting in a giant whip over the bottom road gap to post a time that would have competed for a course record back in the day. The technology and discipline have advanced enough that all the women are now logging times that threaten old course records, and men are shaving close to another minute off. But that’s not really what it’s about. In the end, this event has become more than a race—it’s a cultural touchstone. It was there for the birth of downhill, and is now ushering in a new generation to the deranged spirit of mountain biking’s roots, in one of the forgotten corners of mountain biking’s past. Psychosis is a church that endures on the side of a sacred mountain—a reminder that all things are cyclical.
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SUBMITTED BY EUSEBIO CACAYURAN
Bringing ayuda and bayanihan to the Rockies words :: Lauren Kepkiewicz in collaboration with Jun Cacayuran, Maria Louisa Dela Cruz and Edna Ermita In 2020, the Filipino Organization in the Rocky Mountains (FORM) found itself on the frontlines of a pandemic, responding to the uneven impacts of COVID in the Bow Valley and beyond. The association is guided by ayuda and bayanihan, two values embedded in Filipino culture. Ayuda is to give support and assistance, perhaps in the form of food; bayanihan means to give back and help one’s community without expecting anything in return. FORM began with the intention of supporting community members, building relationships, and celebrating Filipino culture. Volunteer Jun Cacayuran explains, “FORM started because we wanted to introduce our children to their culture.” With the arrival of COVID, FORM rallied to provide community members with culturallyappropriate food hampers and grocery gift cards. This work has been integral to ensuring that those in precarious living and working situations have enough to eat. “During the first phase of COVID we were so scared, but we thought of ayuda and our experiences in the Philippines. We thought, we can adapt ayuda in Canada. We started in March 2020 and received 150 food packs. We shopped for, packed, and distributed them. We went from house to house. We started there,” says Jun. FORM’s work is done for community, by community. They
build relationships from the ground up—through text and WhatsApp chains, by distributing food to doorsteps, organizing fundraisers to support community members in difficult circumstances, and by personally responding to questions about everything from permanent residency applications to employment issues. “People come to us and we give advice,” explains volunteer Marie Louisa Dela Cruz and then Jun chimes in, “Sometimes we’re consultants, other times we’re marriage counsellors or we help solve a problem with the kids.“ FORM also works with Filipino communities across Alberta with a focus in rural areas that often do not have the same supports as those in urban centres. FORM envisions a province-wide network that shares resources and expertise, particularly during emergencies. This vision of reciprocal support builds on relationships formed and strengthened during COVID. Marie Louisa explains that prior to the pandemic, “We didn’t know Filipino communities in other areas. When we found out that there were, we extended our help and that was the start of the connection.” “It’s in our culture to help,” she adds. “It’s the way we do things and how we connect with people—we start with the Filipino community, and then we go out to connect with others.” Although the past two years have been extremely difficult, armed with ayuda and the bayanihan spirit, FORM has created a network of relationships that have taken root here in the Rocky Mountains based on wellbeing, strength, creativity, and equity.
y w Valle o B e h t ears in y 0 3 r e Ov
TAKE A JOURNEY For the soul
711 Spring Creek Drive Canmore
Photo © Däni
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Get insider info For blogs featuring useful tips, insider information, videos and great stories on biking around Golden visit:
lovethenationalparks.com tourismgolden.com A heart of gold.
Photo by Margus Riga
A heart of gold.
All trails lead back to Golden B.C. There are places that have their own gravity. And at the eastern edge of British Columbia, where the Columbia and Kicking Horse rivers meet, and the Purcell and Rocky Mountains part, all trails lead back to Golden. Over the last ten years, this former railroad and forestry town has become a model for mountain bike development. While some riding destinations are spread out and remote even from the towns they’re based from, Golden is the nexus point for every trail in the valley it occupies—over 185 kilometres (115 miles) worth of them. Riding is part of the very fabric of this little burg, with helmet- and cleat-wearing aliens filling downtown on any given day, at the start, end, or middle of their rides. Pedaling from your doorstep isn’t something you have to force yourself to do here, it’s the most sensible way to roll—and that’s by design. Beginning just south of town, the Mountain Shadows network stretches along the bottom of Mount 7, just a few minutes’ ride from Golden’s cafes, shops, and restaurants. Made famous in the early days for its raucous downhill tracks, Mount 7’s classic lines still exist, but these days also braid into a technical XC system that laces through sandy soil with impressive flow. While the climbs in the Mountain Shadows can be punchy, they offer fluid and fast downhill sections anybody will be comfortable on.
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Higher up, slabs and rock gardens provide a technical challenge; while tight, twisty descents reward those who can clean all the climbs. Meanwhile, another five-minute pedal away, on the other side of the valley, the CBT network winds up a plateau overlooking the Columbia. It’s smooth and fast here, with trails like the Mighty Quinn, Gold Rush, and Hymenoptera tapping into modern mountain biking style. In truly inclusive fashion, there’s also an adaptive loop at the bottom, called Arm Pumper. It has two speedy descent options, both of which double as perfect learning trails for kids. (There’s also a kids’ trail in the Mountain Shadows called Bush Party.) The Moonraker system is buff and fast; a place you can mash the miles in. This all sits below the gondola-access bike park up at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, which has two full-service bike shops. While in Golden, hike in one of the six nearby national parks, walk across Canada’s highest suspension bridge, canoe through the Columbia River Wetlands or raft the Kicking Horse River. Soak up the sun on one of our downtown patios with your choice of fun local venues, restaurants, bars and our local brewery.
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RUNNING OUT OF MOUNTAINTOP
As big as a black bear, scaling steep cliff faces on teeny-tiny hooves, mountain goats are usually unseen specks on distant mountainsides, but climate change coupled with human encroachment on their territory has parks officials concerned a human-goat showdown is inevitable.
words: Andrew Findlay Mountain goats are the ultimate masters of the vertical world. These shaggy, white-coated animals are skilled climbers that can balance on a spot no bigger than a loonie. An adult mountain goat can weigh between 80 and 100 kilograms—as much as a black bear—and their gymnastic ability to scale a mountainside can be breathtaking. But when push comes to shove, these alpine ungulates can be as lethal as they are beautiful. Last September, at the start of the Labour Day long weekend, a couple of hikers in Yoho National Park discovered a dead grizzly near the Burgess Pass trail. They wisely retreated to the parking lot, not knowing whether there was another bear lurking in the area—adult male grizzlies have been known to attack and kill younger males in territorial displays of aggression. Once back in cell range, the hikers notified Parks Canada. A team was immediately dispatched to investigate the scene. It was a busy holiday weekend in the mountains, and a carcass on the side of a trail could be a dangerous attractant for other wildlife. Wardens slung the dead bear to a parks compound near Field. Over the next few days, with the help of University of Calgary researchers, Parks Canada conducted a forensic necropsy to determine the cause of death. The results were surprising, says David Laskin, a Parks Canada environmental scientist based in Banff—puncture wounds on the bear’s neck and armpits led to the ruling of death by mountain goat horn.
Mountain goats in the Lewis Range, Glacier National Park, MT.
It was a first for Laskin, and a rare example of just how deadly mountain goats can be if backed into a corner. Knowing the predatory behavior of grizzlies and the defensive strategies of goats enabled Laskin and his fellow scientists to recreate what went down on Burgess Pass that day last fall. Bears attack prey from behind by locking onto an animal’s head and shoulders. “The goat’s reaction would have been to thrust its head back with its very sharp horns,” Laskin explains. In the case of the grizzly-goat encounter in Yoho, the bear took numerous hits from the horns, one that punctured its lung and another that went through its lower jaw before piercing its brain. The details are gruesome, but that’s life in the wilderness. “It was intriguing for sure. We know goats are capable of this sort of behavior and had heard reports, but we had never encountered it before in the park. There are always interesting things like this happening in nature, but we’re not often privy to them,” says Laskin, who works on wildlife research and wildlife-human conflict mitigation in the four Rocky Mountain parks: Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho. It turned out to be as intriguing for the general public as it was for scientists. Laskin says the Yoho goat-versus-grizzly story went viral, well beyond Canada’s borders, and he welcomes the surge of interest in mountain goats, an animal that Parks Canada considers an indicator species—a species that demonstrates how an ecosystem is faring— because of its unique ability to occupy a harsh and uncompromising alpine ecological niche.
Valhalla Provincial Park, BC.
Western Canada is made for mountain goats, or Oreamnos americanus as they are known by their scientific name. Somewhere between 40,000 and 70,000 of them range throughout BC’s backcountry alone, making up half the global population of this species. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) lists them as not at risk. Though overall, the BC population appears stable, there have been some local extirpations and declining populations in areas of southern BC. Since 2015, Parks Canada has been conducting aerial mountain goat surveys to update population data that is more than four decades old. Though research is still underway, Laskin says surveys indicate that goat numbers in the mountain parks remain stable. More than 300 were counted in Yoho alone (Laskin notes that this is a sample population only and that the actual number is likely considerably higher). That’s the good news. But there is trouble on the horizon for this iconic animal. Parks Canada has attached radio collars to 30 mountain goats in both Banff and Yoho parks to get a better idea of habitat use and patterns of movement. The effects of global warming are magnified in the goat’s alpine habitat, as witnessed by the melt and rapid retreat of our mountain glaciers, making mountain goats a canary in the coalmine of climate change. “Thermal regulation will be a challenge for mountain 36
goats,” Laskin says. “Their response will be to go higher, but eventually they will run out of mountain top.” Bill Jex is the ungulate specialist for the BC Ministry for Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development. Jex, along with his counterparts in Alberta, frequently collaborates and shares mountain goat data with Parks Canada. After all, wildlife doesn’t respect provincial or park boundaries. He agrees that climate change is a real threat to goat populations. Jex says it’s already impacting the animals, especially in dry interior habitats where warmer winters are resulting in deeper snowpacks that cover critical and historically snow-free winter forage. And there’s another emerging pressure on goats, says Jex; their mountain habitat is not the people-less wilderness fortress that it once was. “People are becoming more interested in ungulates because they’re easier to see,” Jex says. “Our landscape is much more permeable today with hikers, bikers, and ATV’ers.” Valhalla Provincial Park west of Slocan Lake in the Kootenays is one of those places where humans are infiltrating goat habitat in greater numbers. Gimli Peak is a popular hiking destination in the park. It’s also becoming increasingly popular with mountains goats. In spring and early summer, mountain goats—especially nannies
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with kids—have an intense drive to acquire minerals like potassium, phosphorous, and sodium to compensate for natural deficiencies that occur over winter. They will often travel 40 or more kilometres over rugged mountain terrain just to reach a natural salt lick. However opportunistic herds, like the one in Valhalla park, have found a much easier and readily available source—salty human urine. In the Gimli meadows, goats have become uncomfortably addicted to this unnatural source of mineral supplements, and it’s creating a tense human-wildlife dynamic. Kim Poole, a Nelson biologist who has studied mountain goats around BC, calls Gimli “ideal mountain goat habitat.” “When goats see people, their normal response is to avoid them,” Poole says. Mountain goats tend to avoid humans, says Poole, the way they would avoid a predatory grizzly; by escaping to high ground and deftly scaling the seemingly unscalable with their cloven hooves. But not at Gimli. There they casually hang around campers waiting for someone to tinkle in the meadow. BC Parks is dealing with a similar human-goat issue in Cathedral Provincial Park, west of Osoyoos. Mountain goats with a reputation for conviviality have become part of the visitor attraction. Although it could be easy for hapless hikers to mistake the photogenic mountain goats at Gimli or Cathedral Lakes for tame animals, it would be a mistake. In 2010, a mountain goat in Washington State’s Olympic National Park gored and killed a 63-year-old hiker. Rangers eventually tracked and shot the goat that had allegedly exhibited aggressive behaviour in the past. The following year, Olympic Park rangers were forced to euthanize another 38
JOHN E MARRIOTT. RIGHT
aggressive mountain goat. Interestingly, mountain goats are not endemic to the region. They had successfully colonized the Olympic Range after humans introduced them to the area in the 1920s; an ecological experiment with no other rationale than to grow prey for hunters. Back in BC, wildlife managers are hoping to avoid having to shoot goats to protect people, but it’s a challenge. Diversionary salt licks—literally placing blocks of salt in locations far from campsites—is one option, but it’s considered a band-aid at best. Hazing mountain goats with rocks, air guns, or dogs is another option. But that requires manpower, time, and financial resources, and likely isn’t sustainable over the long term. Therefore, public education and adequate outhouse and grey water disposal facilities in high-use areas are considered the key. “It seems funny to have to tell people to use the outhouse, but that’s kind of what it boils down to,” says Kirk Safford, a conservation specialist for BC Parks. So far, Laskin says mountain goats sniffing around campsites for salty human pee hasn’t been a problem in the national parks. Though it’s speculation at best, it’s likely a function of the natural geochemistry of rocks in the area providing adequate salt for wildlife. In other words, it’s not worth the mountain goat’s hassle to get cozy with campers; history shows such behavior usually ends badly for wildlife. “We usually see mountain goats as white dots on the cliffs. They avoid people, typically,” Laskin says. There’s no doubt, viewing them up close can be a special treat. But the mountain goat’s ability to thrive in the vertical world like no other large mammal is not only an evolutionary advantage—it’s the key to its survival.
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Sam at the start of the Great Divide Trail.
The legend of Sam Dickie and the cougar The mere thought of an apex predator in our midst can turn a backcountry adventure into a psychological test of mind over matter. Luckily, our fears are mostly in our heads and few have experienced a negative wildlife encounter. But, for ultramarathoner Sam Dickie, that s**t got real. This is his story.
words :: Kevin Hjertaas Anyone who runs ultras—foot races longer than a marathon—will tell you the efforts are part physical, part mental. To develop the capacity for those distances, your muscles and aerobic system must be stressed, then given time to recuperate and adapt to an ever-greater workload. The mental training is much the same. Near exhaustion, the mind will highlight any reason to stop. Keep running past boredom, past self-doubt, and you’ll eventually run into fear—fear of injury or perhaps failure. But with repeated exposure, the mind learns to accept these hardships and build resilience. Of course, not all fears are mere mental constructs. Run deep into wild mountains alone, and you’ll find very real things to fear. On August 22, 2021, when Sam Dickie limped into the remote Hidden Creek campsite northeast of Tornado Mountain, he’d survived the worst of those fears.
The trajectory of Dickie’s running career was a sudden and rapid ascent. He moved from Ontario to Banff in 2013 at age 17 to pursue kayaking, but soon fell in love with the mountains above the rivers. He remembers, “I started running a lot, but only because I wanted to explore the area. I had all the maps for the Bow Valley, and I just wanted to tick off all the trails. It got to the point where I had to train to get to certain places. So, my first marathon was just a trail run on my own. I realized it was wicked what you could do with your body. If you train it and fuel it correctly, you can do anything.” So, train he did. In 2019, Dickie entered his first race, an audacious 100-kilometre run in Edmonton called the River Valley Revenge. He won, then followed up with fifth place in a 50-miler in Squamish, BC. He capped off his first race season with a victory— and a course record—in the Golden Ultra 120-kilometre race in its namesake Rocky Mountain town. “When we saw the results of the Golden Ultra, I was like, 41
Running for charity on the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper.
‘holy shit.’ We expected Leif (Godberson) to win or be close, but Sam beat him by almost an hour,” says Rebecca Newton from RunUphill, the Canmore shop and community hub for trail running. In fact, Dickie won by an hour and a half. As the pandemic settled in, races were cancelled, and runners like Dickie had to find other challenges. In June 2020, he organized his own solo charity event and ran 230 kilometres along the Icefields Parkway from Lake Louise to Jasper in a ridiculous 31-hour continuous effort. On that run, Dickie saw just how far he could push himself: “220 kilometres in, my mind went to a place that was almost like a sixth or seventh sense. Everything in my body that didn’t need to work shut down. My vision dimmed, my hearing went, I couldn’t smell anything. Every sense that didn’t need to, didn’t work so that my body could utilize what was left to run that last ten kilometres. My fastest kilometres were those last ten.” Newton adds more perspective, “The Golden victory and that solo Louise to Jasper fastest-known-time put Dickie on the map. Louise to Jasper is not common, I mean, it used to be done as a (multi-person) relay.” With his compounding success, every dream felt attainable. “The objectives are endless, and nothing is going to hold you back because you can always push your body further. There is no end,” Dickie says. So, just how big could he go? ••• The Great Divide Trail (GDT) traverses the Continental Divide, roughly following the Alberta and British Columbia borders from Waterton Lakes National Park to Prince George. As much a concept as a maintained trail, it’s 1,100 kilometres of rugged wilderness along the spine of the continent with the reputation as “one of the most spectacular and challenging long-distance trails on the planet,” so claims its dedicated website. On August 19, 2021, Dickie started running north from the US border, attempting to complete the epic trail in a modern light-andfast trail-running style. He would cover an average of 80 kilometres of rugged terrain per day, and though he would get support (food 42
and shelter) when he could, he’d cover most of those kilometres alone. The fastest known time for the trail is just under three weeks. Dickie hoped to do it in two. He knew the Great Divide would test his resilience. Part of his desire to do the trail was to be exposed to the full force of the Rocky Mountains. But he didn’t expect the tests to start within the first hour. “Just over a kilometre in, there was a mother bear and her cubs. She was stressed, and her cubs were up a tree near us.” It sounds terrifying, but Dickie shrugged it off. “We were a group of five at that point, with bear spray. It wasn’t scary, but it set us back. That first kilometre took 50 minutes.” Dickie told himself to appreciate the wildlife experience while trying to get back on schedule, and he was able to cover dozens of kilometres before his next obstacle. “The first day is 105 kilometres; 70 kilometres in, the trail just disappeared. I was on a grassy ridge, and a storm came in. I remember seeing a tree that said GDT, so I’m right on it, but there’s no trail. I couldn’t see anything through the storm. It was slippery and steep above cliffs, and I couldn’t see ten feet in front of me. I ended up sleeping under a tree the first night in a rescue blanket.” At 1:00 a.m., the storm started to lift, and Dickie plodded on by headlamp. By 2:30 a.m., he’d reached his team’s RV, where beer and a Snickers bar awaited. Day one had been a challenge, but he’d met it. The next two days went according to plan, though rain and muddy trails slowed him down and cooler temperatures meant he had to eat more to stay warm. When he awoke on August 21 at 5:00 a.m., Dickie was halfway through a 200-kilometre solo segment, and though his gear was wet, he was on schedule and feeling good as he packed up his hammock and hit the trail in the dark. The beam of his headlamp projected the path ahead and he ran toward it while twilight slowly broke. Surrounded by dense forest, he was focused on the single track before him when suddenly something was running back at him. The glowing eyes of a large, healthy cougar were barreling his way. “I was told cougars attack you from behind, but when I first saw this cougar, it was sprinting right at me.” Dickie’s initial adrenal spike was firmly on the fight side of the primal fight-or-flight reaction. “I fumbled with my bear spray for a second but got it out and shot it.
Sam and his pup Miya on Tent Ridge, in Kananaskis Country, Alberta.
There was a breeze, but the mist was enough.” The cat retreated into the bushes, and Dickie had a moment to comprehend the situation. Humans are not typical prey for cougars. In Alberta (Dickie was on the east side of the Divide at the time) there has only ever been one fatal cougar attack. These big cats live mostly off deer and smaller mammals. Even avid hikers go years without seeing a cougar. Though often nearby (there are more than 2,000 cougars in Alberta), these cats are wary and avoid people. In fact, Dickie had likely passed several cougars on his journey without even knowing it. But the strange attack continued. “It started to circle around me from the bushes,” Dickie recounts. “It kept searching me for weakness. With my headlamp, all I could see was the reflection of its eyes.” “Then it would come out and charge me again. I would pop it with bear spray, but with the breeze I never got a direct hit. It was fascinating how smart it was. This animal had one goal. It was doing everything it could to make the kill.” After every attack thwarted with bear spray, the cougar would retreat to the bushes to regroup. After the second attack, Dickie relaxed a bit and tried to come up with a strategy. It didn’t take long to realize that he was no match for this predator and his canister of spray would soon run out. That’s when he thought about pressing the SOS button on his GPS device—not for help, but because he’d lost hope and knew that someone would need to find his body. Then the cougar changed tactics. “The fifth time, for whatever reason, it came in really close and got low. It wasn’t charging; it crawled in with its ears up and its eyes wide. It was close enough I could have pet it. I leaned in and sprayed it directly in the face.” That stopped it, and the cat retreated. Dickie’s primal survival switch flipped to flight and he ran. He didn’t want to turn his back to 44
the cougar though, “So I was kinda running sideways and I caught my foot and fell face-first to the ground, rolling my ankle really bad. I thought, ‘I’m done. This thing’s going to pounce on me.’” But nothing happened, so Dickie crawled to his feet. Hobbled now, he made for a clearing a few hundred metres away. There, the cat would lose the advantage of camouflage in the bushes. Dickie made it to the clearing, and then another three kilometres to Hidden Creek campsite, while always looking over his shoulder for an ambush. He had not seen a soul over the last 100 kilometres, but fate was on his side in this instance, and a tent was pitched there. Finally, he could breathe and believe he would survive. When the two campers awoke, they found a completely spent Dickie lying beside their tent recovering. They helped him limp on his injured ankle to the nearest trailhead where a truck waited. By the end of the day, Dickie was back with his support team trying to make sense of what happened. “The feeling of acceptance that this might be how I die and having to fight for my life… I kept running through the scene in my head over and over. I couldn’t sleep for days.” “Those feelings still come flooding back,” he confides five months later back home in Banff, “I’m still learning from that.” Over coffee, Dickie speaks easily about the GDT and the beauty of the Rockies, but when he recalls the cougar, his eyes widen, and his neck straightens—the same primitive defence triggered. “A lot of things came out of that which I still haven’t gotten over. To this day, if I’m driving in similar lighting, I’ll see a sign on the side of the road, and my mind will turn it into a cougar. Physically, I’m feeling good and building my mileage up, but mentally I still have work to do.” Dickie explains that for an endurance athlete, mental resilience is similar to physical capacity. As you near exhaustion, emotions amplify and athletes must build the capacity to deal with them. So, you push yourself until those vulnerabilities arise, you work through them and then you recover. Or, as he says, “Put yourself in the pain cave and work through it. Repeatedly.” ••• Seven months after the encounter, Dickie is in shorts and a t-shirt running along the Oregon coast. Green grass blows in the breeze and waves roll in the Pacific Ocean. He and his dog, Miya, run on a ridge above the water then scale a small summit. For the next two months, he’ll push himself hard in this warmer climate, then return to his home in the Rockies. Getting away from the snow-covered mountains and running in the sun is a chance to gain strength. Perhaps it’s also a chance to put some distance between him and the traumatic events of his first career setback. Dickie knows that these challenges will lead to adaptation and, with time to recover, will build greater resilience. He’s taking some time before returning to the GDT. But the dream remains. “I’m still very much in love with running and these mountains. The Canadian Rockies are to me the coolest place in the world. To traverse them like that (on the GDT) is a dream. If it takes me a decade to do it, it’ll take me a decade to do it.”
Photos Nick Fitzhardinge
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Renewal > Loss How the closure of a popular tourist attraction in Banff National Park led to the reincarnation of an ecosystem
words :: Karsten Heuer Have you ever noticed how loss leads to renewal? The 1997 closure of Banff’s buffalo paddock is a good example. Spreading over approximately 30 hectares and surrounded by a 2.5-metre-high wire mesh fence, it held anywhere from ten to 107 captive bison during its century of operation. Conveniently located close to the town of Banff and right beside the Trans-Canada Highway, it was a favourite stopover for locals and tourists to gawk at North America’s largest land mammal from the comfort of their car. Where else in the park could you be guaranteed such a wildlife experience? Except they weren’t wildlife. Despite the paddock’s popularity, questions about its appropriateness surfaced in the 1980s. How did a fenced enclosure align with Parks Canada’s mandate to maintain ecological integrity? How did it deepen peoples’ appreciation of nature? 46
I was studying biology at university when these questions were being asked but I didn’t pay any heed to them, not even after landing my first job as a Banff-based wildlife technician in 1995. As far as I was concerned, my work had nothing to do with the controversy over the buffalo paddock—I’d been hired to figure out why wolves weren’t travelling from the west of town, where elk numbers were low, to the east of town where elk were proliferating. It only took a few exhausting months of tracking wolves in the snow to realize the two issues were connected; a plug of human development surrounding town, including the fenced buffalo paddock, had spread so close to the cliffs that wolves and other wary wildlife could no longer squeeze through. Being young and naive, I didn’t shy away from making strong recommendations in the report I submitted at the end of that first winter. Closing the Fairmont Banff Springs golf course was out
LEFT Banff bison herd.
of the question, I was soon told, but the park would look at my suggestions to restore a wildlife movement route on the north side of the highway. A flurry of activity ensued and, a year later, what came to be known as the Cascade wildlife corridor was free of the human structures that had previously riddled it. The Banff airstrip was closed to all but emergency landings and the hangars removed; the Banff National Army Cadet Camp was relocated outside of the park; both the government horse barn and local pony club were dismantled and moved across the highway; and the fenced buffalo paddock was closed and rehabilitated. Assisted by a second technician, I spent the next winter following and mapping how the wolves responded to the restoration of the corridor. To my surprise, they changed their behaviour immediately. Instead of the earlier dead end patterns of tracks in the snow, we now followed the distinctive four-toed prints through to the
KARSTEN HEUER. RIGHT Wild wolf, Banff National Park.
JOHN E MARRIOTT
other side. The success of the restoration effort was irrefutable—in the span of a year, wolf passages had increased by 700 per cent! The story of renewal didn’t end there. The question of what to do with the captive bison after the paddock shut down spawned a whole other chapter. Given the deep history of wild bison previously roaming the Alberta mountains, there was a call to set the captives free. It was an intriguing idea, but unreasonable for Parks Canada to do without undertaking the proper risk assessments and public consultations. What they committed to instead was to study the feasibility of reintroducing wild bison sometime in the future. Fast forward 20 years. In February 2017, after much study and public consultation, I found myself coordinating the translocation of 16 young plains bison from Elk Island National Park into the deep backcountry of Banff National Park. Five years later, the herd now numbers 80-plus animals and, after a 140-year absence, once again 47
roam the remote northeastern reaches of the park. Anyone can go looking for them so long as they’re ready for a wilderness experience: many of the trails in the area are faint, signage is sparse, rivers are unbridged, and you need time (and a backcountry permit). It’s a minimum four-day backpack trip from the Lake Minnewanka trailhead near Banff and back again.
Just last fall, for example, a wolf from the Bow Valley pack traversed the restored Cascade wildlife corridor so it could travel north and check out the reintroduced bison for the first time. Some of the most magical moments of my adult life have been watching wild bison return to the backcountry. But I also miss the old buffalo paddock. Every circuit my family drove of the five-minute loop forged a powerful childhood memory: the guttural huff of enormous bulls as they sidled up to our van; the clouds of insects
that lifted off their matted backs and streamed into our windows; the musky smell that wafted through the vents and eventually urged us to drive on. As formative as they were, the loss of such moments is small compared to the waves of renewal that still ripple out in the wake of the paddock’s removal. Just last fall, for example, a wolf from the Bow Valley pack traversed the restored Cascade wildlife corridor so it could travel north and check out the reintroduced bison for the first time. Not much happened in that initial encounter—some introductory sniffing and posturing—but it rekindled something important: an ancient predator-prey dance that chiseled both species into the beautiful animals we see today. It’s possible the reintroduced bison might someday wander into the Bow Valley. It might happen this year or ten years from now. Maybe it’ll happen tomorrow. If so, it won’t take them long to find the restored Cascade wildlife corridor and the overgrown meadows of the old buffalo paddock. I’ll drive by on the Trans-Canada Highway to try and catch a glimpse of them but, with the gravel loop road gone, I won’t be able to stop. Neither will the bison. With no fence to hold them, they’ll do what wild bison do: eat for a bit and move on.
INSET Hand-tinted photograph of grazing bison in Banff National Park, made expressly for Canadian Pacific Railway News Service. COURTESY OF THE PEEL LIBRARY BELOW Bison calf.
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THE DRIP ZONE EFFECT The microscopic harbingers of Canada’s forgotten inland rainforest
words :: Andrew Findlay Botanist Trevor Goward has spent his career looking at tiny things: lichen. But sometimes bigger picture perspectives reveal things that would otherwise go unnoticed. “One of my few talents is being able to see patterns where other people don’t,” Goward explains one day over the phone from his home in the Clearwater Valley of British Columbia. Years ago, he stumbled across a species of lichen growing where it had no business being: on the branches of a western hemlock that is normally too acidic to support such a lichen. It piqued his scientific curiosity about the inner workings of the inland rainforest, a name Goward coined in the 1980s to draw conservation attention to the unique rainforests of BC’s interior. These forests once covered more
Casey Ogle in the old growth.
than 160,000 square kilometres and stretched 500 kilometres from just south of Revelstoke north to Prince George. More than a quarter of this ecosystem has been clearcut logged and less than ten per cent has been protected. Some people refer to this area as Canada’s “forgotten rainforest.” The inland rainforest is one of the world’s most unique forest ecosystems. In the Incomappleux Valley, south of Revelstoke, thousand-year-old cedars soar among hemlocks above a forest floor carpeted with thick moss. Though it’s in the Columbia Mountains, it could just as easily be the Walbran Valley 650 kilometres away on the west side of Vancouver Island. Such damp, coastal conditions so deep in the interior are made possible by a fascinating interplay of topography and climate. Rainfall in places like Incomappleux fall below the threshold of annual precipitation that defines a rainforest,
roughly 1,400 millimetres. However, winter is the difference maker. Weather systems, laden with Pacific moisture, collide with the interior mountain ranges to deliver a deep snowpack that compensates for the moisture deficit, creating localized conditions that mimic the coast. They are also a frontier for scientific discovery. University of Alberta biologist Toby Spribille has been studying lichens in the upper Incomappleux River valley and has catalogued more than 280 species, nine of them new to science. A survey of mushrooms in the Incomappleux identified 50 species, half of which are normally found only in coastal forests. Darwyn Coxson, a University of Northern BC lichenologist, studies the rainforests of the upper Fraser Valley, near the northern extremis of BC’s interior rainforests. He says similar temperate rainforests are found this far inland in only in two other places on the planet: southern Siberia and Russia’s far east. Coxson, Goward and other scientists have so far identified more than 2,400 moss, lichen and plants species, including many new to science, in an area that includes both Chun T’oh Whudujut (Ancient Forest) Provincial Park and the 50,000-hectare Sugar Bowl-Grizzly Den Provincial Park. However, the fate of the inland rainforest mirrors the decline of the critically endangered mountain caribou, which depend on lichens that grow in abundance in ancient forests like these. The lichen growing on western hemlock branches that caught Goward’s attention that memorable day is one he had previously discovered on Vancouver Island and named Sphaerophorus venerabilis, also called Oldgrowth Coral. But why was it thriving on this normally inhospitable tree? It took the ability to step out of the microscopic world of lichens and into the bigger realm of ecosystem dynamics to solve this puzzle.
STEPHEN SHARNOFF. RIGHT David Walker logging in the Selkirks.
“The gestation of new scientific concepts isn’t linear but more like the flow of a braided stream, its current amplified over time by a continuous rain of observations and insights,” Goward says, reflecting on this scientific mystery. A hypothesis emerged and it went like this: western red cedar absorbs nutrients from the soil, which then leach out from the upper tree and rain down upon the branches of any trees below, including hemlocks. This repeated pulse of nutrients has the effect of raising the pH and lowering the acidity of the hemlock tree, therefore
Pettitt knelt down, flicked on a flashlight, and pointed the beam into the dark cavern of earth beneath the stump. Tiny fluorescent green-gold filaments glowed in the soil, like ornamental LED lights. “Look, goblin’s gold,” he said. allowing this lichen to thrive. Research proved the hypothesis. Goward and his collaborators called it “the drip zone effect,” one of nature’s exquisite processes that happens beyond the scope of easy observation. Over decades of botanizing, during which time he has published more than 100 scientific papers and formally described dozens of new lichens, Goward says he has witnessed the death by a thousand cuts to an ecosystem he loves. Old growth forest has been a hot button issue in BC for decades. Successive reports and government-appointed panels have red 51
Photo: Amar Athwal
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flagged the need to protect what remains of BC’s ancient forests. As far back as 1992, Mike Harcourt’s then-NDP government published the Old Growth Strategy. It was supposed to chart a new course for sustainable forest management and biodiversity protection. Instead, the report sat on the shelf and more or less gathered dust. So last fall when BC Premier John Horgan announced logging deferrals on 26,000 square kilometres of coastal and inland old growth, including 400 square kilometres in the Incomappleux Valley, Goward said it felt like “too little, and too late.” A postage stamp of inland rainforest near the north end of Duncan Lake in the West Kootenays is exactly what Goward is referring to. One hot summer day, I visited this remote forest with Craig Pettitt, a founding director of the Valhalla Wilderness Society. It was a long and dusty drive along the Duncan River, past its namesake lake, before we parked where the forest service road crosses the Duncan River and does a 180-degree swing southward. “This is part of our Selkirk Mountain Caribou Park proposal,” Pettitt told me, gesturing at a wall of what looked like nondescript coniferous green lining the logging road. For the past decade, the New Denver-based conservation group has been championing the concept of a 2,500-square-kilometre protected area linking Goat Range Provincial Park and Glacier National Park that would capture remnants of old growth inland rainforest and critical mountain caribou habitat. Pettitt and I pushed through the undergrowth. It was slow going. Though this 70-hectare patch of forest is designated mule deer winter ungulate range, Pettitt says it’s far from sacrosanct. The designation could easily be scratched with a change of government. Either way, it is a mere relic of what would have at one time covered this entire valley. It was cool and shady despite the mid summer heat. We waded through devil’s club twice my height. Pettitt had a goal in mind: to
show me one of the inland rainforest’s secrets. After a half hour of balancing across nurse logs crowded with hemlock seedlings, clambering over fallen branches and around cedar trees with trunks as wide as a car, we arrived at a massive fallen tree and root mass torn from the ground and tilted on its axis. Pettitt knelt down, flicked on a flashlight, and pointed the beam into the dark cavern of earth beneath the stump.
Weather systems, laden with Pacific moisture, collide with the interior mountain ranges to deliver a deep snowpack that compensates for the moisture deficit, creating localized conditions that mimic the coast. Tiny fluorescent green-gold filaments glowed in the soil, like ornamental LED lights. “Look, goblin’s gold,” Pettitt said. This moss, known also by its scientific name Schistostega pennata, has evolved to occupy a light-starved ecological niche. Special cells act as lenses that are able to collect the faintest of light. Chloroplasts absorb the useful wavelengths and reflect back the residual light, creating a surreal glow. These inland rainforests are indeed a world of natural wonder—small and large. For Goward, they represent a continuity made possible by moist conditions that have spared them from massive fire events, fostering a rich biodiversity centuries or even millennia in the making. “Old forests have gone on, and on, and on. Their processes are very long-lived,” he says. But these days, walking among these inland rainforest giants feels ominously like walking through a museum.
Clearcuts and logging roads along the Lardeau River.
Alyson Dimmitt Gnam in Assiniboine Provincial Park.
Once upon a time in a place we called Tahiti (New Denver) my favourite little mermaid... Scarlet Sutherland Loesch. The tides have changed.
The beauty of life unfolds all around us. Keep your eyes peeled for its magnificence.
Larch trees and Mt. Birdwood from Smutwood Peak trail, Kananaskis Country, AB.
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CURATED BRAIN SNACKS FROM A LOCAL EXPERT THIS ISSUE’S TRAIL MIXER: JOANNA CROSTON Joanna Croston is director of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, and has lived in the Canadian Rockies for more than 20 years. She’s a closet poet, book geek, wannabe birder—and if she could find a way to do all these things on skis, that would be her dream life.
COVER TO COVER Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer, 2013, Milkweed Editions. Braiding Sweetgrass is a transformational read, taking you deep into the millennia-old relationship between plants and humans. It is a book full of wisdom and personal anecdotes of Kimmerer’s experiences as a trained scientist with Indigenous heritage. The author grapples with the dichotomy of belief systems daily. How do you engage in the scientific method, and embrace Indigenous creation stories? How do you maintain sustainable relationships with the land, and live in a modern world which focuses on scientific fact? Kimmerer never tells us the answers, rather she lets the reader discover their own possibilities.
The Environmentalist’s Dilemma; Promise and Peril in an Age of Climate Crisis, Arno Kopecky, 2021, ECW Press Kopecky’s latest book is a rant of sorts, firmly nestled in the angst of a pandemic—but it’s the best kind of rant. It reminds us that we’re not alone fumbling through an attempted environmentallyethical lifestyle when there’s so much happening in the world, most of which feels beyond our control. This sounds like a heavy read, but the beauty of Kopecky’s writing makes these difficult conversations accessible. His words are concise and well-researched and quite funny on occasion, despite the gravity of the topic. By the end of The Environmentalist’s Dilemma, I felt both optimistic and energized to act.
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Fave Podcast – This is Love hosted by Phoebe Judge The second episode of This is Love describes a kind of insane event regarding an ocean swimmer and a whale, and if you only listen to one, make it Something Large and Wild—it literally had me sobbing with pain and joy simultaneously. Episode 39: Can I speak to David? is another favourite—spoiler alert, let’s just say it involves David Lee Roth. How can you go wrong talking about something everyone could use a bit more of? Love, that is. thisislovepodcast.com/episodes
Mountain music – Nurdjana de Rijcke has an incredible voice, and an indescribable depth to her sound—sultry, jazzy and rich but also light and playful. Nurdjana is revitalizing songs written by her father, and adding new ones and her own stylistic spin on these beautiful tracks. She keeps dropping singles that make me stop what I’m doing immediately and listen. Her new EP is coming out June 14 and I’m definitely waiting with bated breath. nurdjana.com
@ruby_tooth is a Banff artist with a knack for pairing wild with domestic and, through the style of the “old masters”, makes everything both classic but racy and ultracontemporary. My favourite painting: Ground Squirrel with Badger Hair Shaving Brush. The self-deprecating style of outdoor writer and filmmaker Brendan Leonard, @semi_rad, has me cracking up daily with his ridiculous, nonsensical infographics. Example: the Doing Shit bar graph where progress is inversely related to time and measured with two elements on the x-axis, “doing shit” and “saying you’re gonna do some shit”. That’s some funny, useless information, yo. 63
1. A jacket you can wear 365 days of the year, the PEAK PERFORMANCE VISLIGHT GORE-TEX PRO JACKET ensures long-lasting protection, even in the most extreme conditions. It’s light and breathable enough to use in the summertime, and durable enough to handle climbing and skiing in cold weather. Packable into its hood, this is your ideal garment for overnight hikes. www.peakperformance.com // 2. The NORTH FACE FLIGHT VECTIV™ are light, fast, and responsive trail shoes made for high performance over long distances. Designed with input from our athlete team, these shoes are built to optimize energy return and reduce downhill tibial impact by ten per cent to propel you toward your running goals. Available at The North Face stores in Banff and Jasper and at www.thenortheface.com // 3. Osprey’s best-seller just got even better. Available in MEN’S (ATMOS) AND WOMEN’S (AURA) BACKPACKING PACKS in 50L and 65L sizes has upped the ante with improved anti-gravity suspension for maximum comfort on the trail. Combine enhanced organizational components (for better access to your gear) with an easy-peasy integrated rain cover, and this pack’s got you covered for long days in the mountains, no matter the weather. www.osprey.com // 4. The RUX mission is to boost the flow and freedom of outdoor adventure by creating systems that make organizing, storing and moving gear fun, fast, and cool. The RUX 70L is a compressible, weatherproof gear management solution with a wide rigid opening for easy access, a secure tri-fold lid, modular straps for easy carry, and a component-based design for a wide variety of adventures. www.rux.life // 5. Part backpack, part cooler, the YETI HOPPER M20 makes it simple to take your ice-cold bevvies and fresh snacks well beyond the trailhead. The powerful magnets in the top closure create a leak-resistant opening that stays open when you need it to and seals closed with a gentle push. Your potato salad exploded in all this excitement? Don’t worry, it’s fully waterproof inside and out; just hose it down when you get home. www.yeti.ca //
6. Made for the trails or the town, SALEWA’S WILDFIRE LEATHER APPROACH SHOE offers supreme comfort, stability, and durability—all in one sleek suede leather design. On top of performance, this hiker boasts the Salewa Committed badge, meaning the shoe meets ethical production and material standards to minimize environmental impact. Look good and feel good in your new everyday approach shoe. www.salewa.com // 7. A machine with world championship-winning pedigree at the forefront of two-stroke development, the 2023 HUSQVARNA MOTORCYCLES TE 300 utilizes proven electronic fuel injection for smooth, controllable power, and impressive torque to get you where you're goin'. www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com // 8. Rain or shine, they call it the great outdoors for a reason. Zip up for trail and travel in the WOMEN'S BURTON VERIDRY 2.5L RAIN JACKET and prepare to take whatever Mother Nature delivers. Fully waterproof and breathable, this jacket is loaded with convenient features like a chest pocket to easily access the internal mesh pocket through the shell, and the whole jacket stuffs into its own pocket for easy packing. A jacket worthy of adventure that’s totally at ease in the city too. www.burton.com // 9. Shield yourself from the elements with the PRO CHANGE ROBE EVO FROM RED EQUIPMENT. Built for performance, the waterproof and breathable outer shell keeps rain out, whilst the super soft and cozy inner fleece lining locks warmth in and wicks moisture away. Dependable in all elements and perfect for adventures year-round. www.red-equipment.ca // 10. Designed with rock climbing in mind, the PATAGONIA ALTVIA ALPINE PANT for men and women will be your staple in adventure trousers. Featuring four-way stretch and an environmentally friendly, durable, water repellent coating, you’ll be set for all-day movement and comfort above the tree line. Find the Fair Trade Certified sewn pant at www.monodsports.com
Farewell to an old friend Abbot Pass Hut: 1922-2022 Having straddled the continental divide for 100 years, Abbot Pass Hut will be removed by Parks Canada this summer in response to irreparable structural damage caused by slope erosion and glacial recession.
Abbot Pass Hut, 1924.
ROLLIN T. CHAMBERLAIN, WHYTE MUSEUM OF THE CANADIAN ROCKIES, V22/80/NA66-280
Next issue drops October 2022.
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Photo: R. Schedl, R. Steinke, KISKA GmbH
Please make no attempt to imitate the illustrated riding scenes, always wear protective clothing and observe the applicable provisions of the road traffic regulations! The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipment available at additional cost.
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the entire globe is a playground just waiting for you to explore. inspired by the north and built for the world, the norden 901 is a rugged travel machine ready to face the unknown.