GRIZZLY SIGHTING ON ALBERTA GOLF COURSE ... A LIFETIME MEMORY
KANANASKIS, Alberta - A newfound friend I played golf with on Thursday tells me he's lived in Canmore for nearly four decades and is surrounded by wildlife.
"We have deer all over out here and I've had elk winter in my backyard. And I've seen black bears and mountain goats and all sorts of animals. But I'd never seen a grizzly until today."
I was playing golf with a group of American writers at the Kananaskis Country Golf Course south of Canmore and Banff and was taking pictures on the fourth hole at the Mt. Kidd golf course; a lovely hole with an island-style green you reach from an elevated tee. Suddenly I looked down at the river and spotted a bear and a cub shuffling out of the woods. I could tell by the colour and the shape of the back it was a grizzly and her baby.
They ambled over some small rocks and made their way to the Kananaskis River, crossing from our right to our left as we all leapt for our cameras and watched in awe. The mother made it across easily but the cub had trouble and was getting swept down the river until it found its footing.
Once reunited, they wandered up near the side of the fourth green and wandered about for a few minutes. We quickly called the clubhouse and they sent out a guy in a truck to try to safely shoo the mother and child grizzlies back into the woods. Ultimately, they crossed back over the river.
"Wow," said local resident Gord Schultz. "I've been here 37 years and I've never seen a grizzly."
Half an hour later he was still asking me when I'd wipe the smile off my face.
I've been lucky to go to many places in the world and see many wonderful things in my life. But to see a grizzly bear and a cub shuffle down a riverbank and swim a river together in one of the most spectacularly rugged mountain settings in the world, and to be able to catch it on camera? I'm (nearly) at a loss for words.
Earlier in the day, we had a 20-minute, knee-knocking (for me) helicopter ride past 9,000 foot peaks in the Kananaskis Range, a trip with perhaps the most ridiculously beautiful mountain views I'll ever see.
I almost feel sick thinking about what a magical day it was. It's an incredible blessing to be able to do things like this, and I only wish everyone could have a chance to see some of the things I get to see.
The helicopter was great, but to be maybe 100 yards away from one of mother nature's most magnificent creatures in a setting like Kananaskis is indescribable.
ALBERTA GOLF PART THREE
The Mt. Kidd course at Kananaskis is quite a lovely one; with remarkable mountain views and deep green fairways with plenty of white sand (thanks, guys). I played terribly, but it was our sixth round of golf in four days and the old bones simply weren't up to the challenge.
We got to play Silvertip on Wednesday morning, which is the "home course" for Calgary's Stephen Ames. It's got mountain views of the Canmore area that are absolutely remarkable, and there's a 600-foot elevation change so there are plenty of challenging and tricky holes. It's a fun course, and it's in terrific shape.
Across the valley in the western part of Canmore is Stewart Creek, which is one of the best tracks in the province. The front nine is in a mountain setting, but the elevation changes aren't nearly as drastic and it's probably a fairer test for most golfers. The back nine is in more of a valley and there are plenty of beautiful holes and some significant challenges. All in all, it's a first-rate facility. And check out the mushroom soup next time you're in the neighborhood.