Monday, October 08, 2018

Beauty in Ashes: Our Trip To Alberta

As I reflect this Thanksgiving season, I decided to post our trip to Alberta. We were on a mission this vacation. To visit family and spend time away from work. To focus on things of importance: peace away from our hectic work schedules, to visit loved ones and to spend time in nature.

Here's our experience; seeing what Alberta has to offer:

To start, the weather was dank and cloudy - raining off and on. Still remarkably beautiful.


I hadn't been to Alberta since 1990. I distinctly remembered lush green foothills and the base of the Rockies covered in evergreen forest. I was looking forward to seeing all that again.

As you can see, the view didn't disappoint! As we drove through Canmore, on route to Banff National park, the weather cleared.

Photo by: renZo Cattoni, Lake Louise

Quite chilly, yet totally breathtaking.

Lake Louise was busy - filled with folks from all over the world. Taking lakeside photos, you couldn't help but here all languages spoken in the background.

Walking off the beaten path here and there, we found so many beautiful vistas. I couldn't stop looking down and taking photos of the plant material too.

Photo by: renZo Cattoni


Wolly Pussytoes - Antennaria lanata

Alberta Wild Sunflower


My scope of appreciation stems from the differences between Ontario and Alberta. I loved seeing birch trees clustered - perfectly uniformed.  In southern Ontario, you barely see healthy copse of birches in such numbers.



Our next stop was Writing on Stone Provincial Park. Deciding on where we would go, this park sounded so geographically intriguing, we had to make the trip south. You'd never know it existed until you approached the valley closest to the foothills. We felt we were entering another part of the world.
Photo by: renZo Cattoni

Photo by: renZo Cattoni



Every other step, you'd find Opuntia cactus. Watch your toes!!! It thrived here! 



Salicornia europea Glasswort - unique soil/climate conditions make for unique plant material popping up out of no where.



As we were still in the south, we wanted to traverse the southern foothills. No better place to hike than Waterton Lakes National Park.  As we approached the mountains, I was so excited.




I was ready to ascend and take in the views. We started the hike from Cameron Falls to Bertha lake.

Cameron Falls

As we turned a corner to ascend to Bertha Falls, I went into shock and tears began to well up.

Photo by: renZo Cattoni
There had been a devastating forest fire in Waterton Lakes National Park in the late summer of 2017. Living in Ontario, I heard various reports of forest fires in 2017 - only to hear of more BC forest fires this summer as well, but it doesn't really sink in until you see its impact close up.


This was the map we looked up as we left Waterton Lakes. So much of the park was closed off. We didn't realize the full impact of the fire.
Courtesy of Parks Canada - Important Bulletins (Sept 2018)

Hiking over 10km to Bertha Falls and then on to Bertha Lake, we witnessed such damage and charred remains. I really had a hard time in absorbing the view. With every step looking up, all you saw was blackness.

Photo by: renZo Cattoni


Photo by: renZo Cattoni


Photo by: renZo Cattoni

I pushed forward, only with the hope to see a great lake at the top. Thankfully we arrived at Bertha Falls - only to see it had been untouched by the fires. The water and falls helped to preserve the trees close by. We were relieved to see this pocket remain preserved through the charred devastation.

 Bertha Falls


We continued to ascend, looking down with each step and within the ashes - LIFE appeared. It had been exactly one year since the forest fire ripped through ridge towards Bertha Lake.  Reemerging through the soot and blackness was life. A different form of flora, but nonetheless green.


Fireweed, which only emerges after a forest fire.


The sadness I felt left. Evidence of renewal and adaptation was all around.

The park ranger we spoke when we left, mentioned botanists were taking records of plant species they had not seen on the mountain for over 50 years.

Makes me think about life. Our lives. We have ups and downs and through the mud and mire, we take the good and the bad. Sometimes, out of the bleakest and darkest times, hope springs eternal and a new beginning takes place.

The hike became a more and more healing for my spirit.

If it were not for the charred tree remains:
  • I would not of seen Clark Range or any of the other valleys/ridges from our ascent.  
  • I would not of seen the wildlife and butterflies that were dotting all about. 
  • I wouldn't of paid attention to each tree trunk and it's beautiful bark peeling. 
  • I would not of seen Fireweed in it's full glory. 
  • I wouldn't of seen the various wild flowers popping out of no where. 
  • I would of not seen animal tracks and birds flying around.  
Life carried on and survived - flourishing in a different capacity. The evergreens may have gone, but it was far from dead. It was STARTING OVER.

Many words of wisdom flooded my memories and my faith gave me words to remember:  "God takes our ashes and gives us Beauty".  This was made abundantly clear.

There is hope.

The summit didn't disappoint.  The best part: Bertha Lake and the surrounding trees escaped the fire and we saw nothing but preserved ground. It was euphoric and so wonderful to witness and see this untouched oasis.


Photo by: renZo Cattoni
Alberta has a lot to offer:

From the Coulees...




to the foothills and snowy peaks...


Alberta is amazingly beautiful!

So grateful for the memories, experiences and photos to share.




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