Rocky Mountain Tour – Day 2

Parent volunteers were up and busy by 6 am, preparing a hearty breakfast of pancakes and bacon with fresh fruit. By the time the teachers managed to persuade 50 students to climb out of their tents, the sun was shining quite brightly and we were all looking forward to white water rafting on the Athabasca River at some point during the day.

K and I rafted in the morning. I opted to paddle with six grade 8 boys and rafting guide Jérôme. I took a short turn at the front of the raft, but soon surrendered the privilege of being doused with frigid water every few minutes! Whenever Jérôme took a break from describing our majestic surroundings, the young man who took my place at the front of the raft kept us entertained with his version of “I Believe I Can Fly!” The fairly straightforward rafting trip was over far too quickly and we paddled hard to land at Old Fort Point.

We met up with the other Calgary Science School group in the parking lot behind the Jasper Home Hardware store, where everyone eagerly lined up for a take-out slices from Jasper Pizza Place. Maybe it was partly due to the morning activity, but I’m convinced they make the best vegetarian pizza I’ve ever tasted!

After eating our fill of pizza, our group headed to Maligne Canyon where our Day 1 “Valley of the Five Lakes” guides (from Walks and Talks Jasper) split us into two smaller groups. We learned about horns vs. antlers and the most amazing fact I came away with is that bull elk regrow their antlers in just 3 weeks, no matter how many points!

Weighing the similarities and differences between horns and antlers

We also learned about the extensive karst system that drains into / was instrumental in the formation of Maligne Canyon. But the “no contest” highlight of the day was spotting a mother grizzly and her two cubs while we were walking along the canyon pathway.

Mother grizzly and two cubs at Maligne Canyon

The three bears were about 60 meters away from us, uphill and on the far side of a small stand of trees. Our lead guide, Paula, let us watch them for a few minutes and then instructed us to “make some noise”. With a dozen young teens whooping and hollering, it didn’t take long for the trio of bears to lumber away. To be honest, the rest of our Maligne Canyon walk was a little anticlimactic, even though we saw a crows’ nest with chicks, a tree marked by a bear and peered over the railing of a bridge to the canyon bottom 55 meters below!

Back at our Marmot Meadows campsite, some parents took turns supervising small groups of students during the walk to and from the public shower facilities. The rest of us prepared dinner – a fairly light meal of grilled cheese sandwiches and hearty chicken noodle soup (since we had a hot lunch). In the end, it turned out to be not so light – the kids consumed 27 tins of soup (the camp menu book only called for twelve) AND they ate every bite of the two huge bowls of fresh fruit salad we prepared for dessert!

After supper, while waiting for the sun to go down, the students held an impromptu sing-a-long around the campfire, drawing on their previous Calgary Science School outdoor education experiences to sing favourites like “Purple Stew” and “I’m a Little Piece of Tin”.

Sunset at Marmot Meadows campsite

Finally, it was dark enough to play a much-anticipated game of Glowstick Zombie Survival Tag. I’m not entirely clear on the rules, because the parents were deployed first, flashlights in hand, to stand as human boundary markers around the game play area. After the first game ended, I sped off to my tent to retrieve my camera and tripod to try for a long-exposure shot of the game in progress. And once the second game ended, Ms. Waite challenged the students to work collaboratively to use their glowsticks to represent the Calgary Science School, which I also photographed.

After that, it was time to head for our tents. After a long and active day outdoors, the students fell asleep quickly. And as soon as I made sure my canister of bear spray was close at hand, I fell asleep, too!

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