“You’re staying in the field, so we should let you know about the grizzly,” the park ranger says as he hands us a couple of brochures about keeping a “bare” campsite.
It turns out that it’s calving season for the elk here, and the elk love to hang out in the field where we’re staying. This is apparent as soon as we walk onto the field, gear in hand, and see that everywhere is a toilet to an elk.
Calving season means easy pickings for the bears. Normally, they wouldn’t come this close to the campgrounds, but this bear must have heard through the grapevine that there’s a feast to be had.
I’m a little uneasy, but resolve to make Tim accompany me at all times, even to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Another camper mentions that the grizzly had been hanging out near the treeline about an hour before. But, luckily the bear had a kill in another area, and likely would be hanging around there (lucky for us and the bear, not the elk so much).
Tim and I set up our tent and inflate our sleeping pads. We leave our food in the truck of the car, and just bring what we need for the night. This includes a flask of rum that we discretely pour into coffee mugs with a small amount of coke.
Jasper is about a four-hour drive west from Edmonton, Alberta’s capital. Flat land becomes hilly, and eventually the Rocky Mountains are in plain view. Once you reach them, they encompass everything–limestone peaks that have their own kinds of individuality in shape and cover.
We left Edmonton at around 5, meaning it’s closing in on 10 by the time we reach the site and get ourselves sorted. Luckily, the Northern latitude means that it could easily be a 6 pm evening summer sunshine closer to the equator. Not-so-lucky is the chill that lingers deep into the spring season. We head over to the fire pit that is surrounded by other members of the Alpine Club of Canada, here on a couple of different trips with the club.
The conversation centres around outdoor pursuits in Alberta and BC. I’ve lived in Alberta for a year now, but still find that I’m clueless. These are people who’ve climbed, skied, hiked, scrambled, paddled, rafted, and bushwhacked through the wildest parts of the provinces. I’m intimidated and inspired, and assure myself that I will work on getting up to that level someday.
Soon enough, the smoke is too much for me, and the darkness takes over. The group shrinks as people drift off to their tents. Tim and I are some of the last, when finally everyone is ready to turn in. It will be an early morning.
We bundle up in sleeping bags, fully clothed because it’s too cold for pajamas. That’s when the rain starts, hitting the tent hard and sliding off the sides. We’ll be dry as long as we don’t need to use the bathroom tonight.
I drift in and out, as the cold and the sounds of rain claw at me. Finally, I blink and it’s morning. My sleeping pad is good, but I’m still a little stiff as I stretch out. It will take a couple of hours for the sun to really chase away the nighttime chill. Just enough time to warm my bones in the mountains, before doing it all over again tonight.
Do you like to camp? Where is your favourite place to camp?