We used to have a relief worker at Base Camp named Simon, who also worked as a Resource Conservationist/Ecological Integrity Monitor with Parks Canada in Banff National Park. Because of his relationship with camp he suggested we bring the students out to the wildlife laboratory/abattoir in Banff for a tour and some hands-on learning with the animals. If you look up the word 'abattoir' you will find that it refers to a slaughterhouse. This isn't entirely accurate when it comes to the wildlife lab in Banff. The abattoir is basically a large freezer where they keep wildlife that have been struck by trains or automobiles. The wildlife biologists will dissect these animals searching for parasites and collecting other data that can be beneficial to wildlife management in the park. Simon has collected various bits and pieces for educational purposes. He has different horns and antlers, hooves and paws, skulls, bones, and even some full-bodied specimens. Most of the students get a kick out of being able to touch the frozen animals and get up close and personal with some species, like bears or wolves, that wouldn't be safe, or wouldn't be possible, in the wild. Simon usually combines a tour of the abattoir with some real-life tracking in the vicinity of the Banff townsite. Over the years we've checked a variety of wildlife cameras that he has set-up, tracked different carnivore species in various locations, and have even found a kill site that Simon didn't know was there. The most popular location with the students so far has been Johnson Lake. Johnson Lake is approximately 11km from the town of Banff along the Lake Minnewanka Road. The hike itself is an easy 3km loop with very little elevation gain.
|Johnson Lake with some great mountain scenery|
Just off the shoreline of Johnson Lake is a hidden cabin. If you didn't know it was there you would walk right past it and never see it. There's a commemorative plaque outside the cabin that explains why the cabin stands where it does and who lived there...
The Hermit of Inglismaldie
Billy Carver built this cabin in 1910, living as a recluse for 27 years. Originally from England, he worked occasionally at the mines in this area. His only acquaintance was Gee Moy, owner of the Market Garden at Anthracite, who brought him provisions. He was seldom seen by anyone else unless by accident.
Originally this cabin contained a handmade stove, table, chair, and couch. The extension was a later addition serving as a bedroom.
In December 1937, local boys discovered Billy here, in poor physical shape. The authorities were notified and Billy was taken to an aged home, where he later died.
The RCMP investigated Billy, and found no legal reason for his seclusion.
|The small cabin|
|It's hard to believe someone lived in this cabin for years|
|Inside the extension|
|The main room inside the cabin|
|Billy Carver's cabin|
|A very calm Johnson Lake|
|A Boreal Toad swimming near the shoreline|
|Mt. Rundle standing above Johnson Lake|
|A family of Loons swimming in the lake|
|This beautiful view at sunrise is looking towards the Ghost Valley on our way to Banff from camp|
|When we stopped we noticed these fresh tracks in the snow along the road. Can you guess what animal made them?|
|They're Cougar tracks and they're so fresh we think the sound of the truck may have scared him off the road!|
|A frozen and snow-covered Johnson Lake. You get a different perspective on the scenery in the winter.|
|The hermit's cabin covered in snow|
|It's away from the lake and off the beaten trail|
|Untouched snow on the lake|
|We noticed these Elk grazing in a field on our way back to camp. That's Mt. Rundle in the background.|
|Most of the Elk in this heard were bulls|