Submitted by: Don
I’ve always been fascinated with mountains and wilderness, spending many summers of my restless youth wandering the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada of California. That fascination led me to pursue an education in biology as I moved north to explore the Cascade and Rocky Mountains. In 1970 I came to Alberta to continue my graduate studies in alpine and subalpine ecology and fell in love with the mountains of the forest reserve south of Banff National Park in what is now Kananaskis Country. I found a beautiful valley in the upper Elbow River drainage that was off the beaten track and more than suitable for my study area.
In each of the summers of 1971 and 1972 we made a low-impact camp in the subalpine just below treeline and spent six to eight weeks doing our work, only returning to civilization for a couple of days at a time to resupply. Much of the work involved evaluating the habitats of various creatures, including identifying and mapping the distributions of plant species. When not working, we explored the magnificent countryside: the high mountain passes, the deep glacier-carved valleys and the many possibilities for adventure.
Many evenings were spent sitting around our campfire, drinking tea, watching the dazzling stars and marveling at the many night creatures, such as a Saw Whet Owl who would return each evening to dine on the mice that came to clean our outdoor kitchen floor. Those summers were special experiences my wife Betty and I will always cherish, and fueled our later explorations of Canada’s wild places, including backpacking trips into Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Willmore Wilderness. As well, it opened our eyes to the importance of wild places to our environment and our souls.