Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bear encounters at Fairmont (1)

When Dad and Mom first invited me to go to Edmonton, I hesitated because first of all, that would cut into 'me-time'. You see, Panda will be away on a work trip, which means I'll have the car, I don't have to cook dinner, I am free!!!

Secondly, which normal adult over the age of 30 goes on trips sponsored by parents? Totally shameless, right?

Well, obviously I got over my shame. Family time is important. It's sort of Dad's retirement trip, too. Besides, I had such a fabulous trip with Uncle Johnny and Aunt Elim at Whistler last August. If I'm going as a tag-along, I shall be as hardworking as a tag-along can be.

Drive, cook, research, arrange. Bring it all on!

When I first researched Fairmont Hot Springs, information was scant and I couldn't for the life of me pinpoint its location. I know it's six hours away from Edmonton, somewhere near the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia, and there are hot springs (duh!). We are embarking on a journey to the Unknown, at least to me.

We drove south towards Calgary, then moved west towards the Rocky Mountains. We had a scare along the way, because while we were in the right direction following the resort's instructions, the GPS added a good three hours to our final destination. Thank God we had that fixed, and we reached the resort at 9.30pm instead of midnight.

And what did they say about sunshine after the rain? We woke up to beautiful mountain views from our balcony the next day!

We stayed in two apartments with a shared corridor at the Sunchaser Vacation Villas. Each apartment comes furnished with a bedroom, a Jacuzzi bath, kitchenette, a dining and a living room. It was perfect for a big group like ours.

We followed all the guided trails in the resort's summer programme. Wildlife is common in the area and we heard from the guides that there are bears and cougars around (gasp!). But Suzie, Kalyn and Pauline from the resort kept us safe with the 'bear spray sandwich' while we explored the area on foot - that is, one guide in front, one guide behind.

No regrets on following them, too. I love plodding through the forest everyday, climbing rocks, crossing creeks, and discovering all-natural hot springs. Summer is not here yet and it seems like we have the mountain all to ourselves.

In the afternoons, however, that's when our REAL adventures begin, because we are guide-less! With bears and cougars and what-nots in our mind, we went on the HooDoos trail all by ourselves. Dad was charged with singing out loud while the rest of us clapped and stomped our feet.

We felt so silly doing that, but you see, we already spotted two black bears along the road on our first day. We don't want to catch any bear unaware on the hike and end up being their dim sum, yummy as we are.

Up on the HooDoos, we were rewarded with brief but splendid views of the Columbia Valley. A thunderstorm was heading our way, and we barely had time to get down before the wind blows us away.

We explored further north, checking out Panorama, Invermere, Lake Windermere as well as Radium Hot Springs. My favourite place is Lake Lillian along Toby Creek Road. Isn't she tranquil?

More on our bear encounters...

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