Brian Caldecott finds all out about the bear necessities of life on a trip to Alberta in Canada.

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One hot topic was gripping local folk when Tricia and I arrived in Alberta – the visit to Canada by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We flew into Calgary a few days before Kate and Wills arrived on the final leg of their Canadian tour and the city was abuzz with excitement. The royals were welcomed with open arms and given a warm send-off by cheering crowds at Calgary’s annual Stampede festival of cowboys and cattle.

Our TitanTravel schedule for a Rocky Mountaineer and Alaska Cruise getaway allowed time for only a brief glimpse of the largest city in Alberta. But we did spot the ski jump which, when Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics, saw GB’s Eddie the Eagle plummet to fame.

Tour guide Bruce McIntosh led us to our coach and driver Murray hit the highway for Banff National Park. Bruce kept the party going with his humour and his encyclopaedic knowledge and he and Murray, an enthusiastic mountain man, were always on the sightseeing alert. On near-deserted highways through pine forests we were enthralled by frequent sightings of black bears and grizzlies and there were gasps of delight when Murray pulled over after spotting a black bear and two cubs. People leapt from cars, cameras at the ready; some walked into the wooded slopes.

“They are taking a huge risk,” said Murray. “Sometimes the bears resent this invasion of their territory and tourists have paid for their folly with their lives.”

Canadian Rockies factbox

Brian Caldecott travelled with award-winning Titan Travel on an 18-day escorted tour – Deluxe Alaskan Voyage and Rocky Mountaineer.

This tour has eight departures in 2012 (May to September) and includes a seven-night full-board cruise on Holland America Line’s MS Zuiderdam, two days on the Rocky Mountaineer, direct, scheduled Air Canada flights, nine nights in hotels (three in Banff, two in Jasper, three in Vancouver and one in Kamloops), first-class coaching, services of experienced tour manager throughout, excursions and entrances as per itinerary, and the unique VIP Home Departure Service – what a joy to be collected at home and delivered to airport check-in.

Prices from £3,195 per person. For information and to book telephone free on 0800 988 5858 or visit the website at

Less danger was posed by the coyote that was snapped in early-morning pursuit of a squirrel in a town garden. Elk were pictured breakfasting on flowers in townhouse plots; deer and big horn sheep were often seen in roadside pastures; and bald eagles and ospreys in the treetops.

Our first stop-over was in Banff, a hugely popular and bustling tourist destination. We stepped into a glass-enclosed gondola to take in the breathtaking views as it rose across the 7484ft Sulphur Mountain.

More adventurous souls followed a boardwalk staircase, hiking through snow to Sanson Peak while we admired hot springs pool at the cable car station.

On the Trans-Canada Highway next day Murray explained why our coach passed through new tunnels. High fences just off the highway, along with grassed over- and under-passes, are designed to prevent wildlife from wandering on to the road.

“It can take five years for wolves and bears to learn to use these crossings but elk have been using them even while under construction,” he said.

In the charming resort village of Lake Louise, a lakeside promenade offers world-famous views of the amazing emerald-green waters and towering Victoria Glacier. I took a sightseeing chairlift while Tricia braved a gondola to climb high for amazing views.

From Lake Louise we headed for Jasper via the 143-mile-long Icefields Parkway that offers a seemingly endless succession of snow-capped mountains, cobalt-blue lakes and lush forests. Bow Summit, at 6875ft, is the highpoint on the Parkway and a viewpoint for Peyto Lake. Signs tell of Bill Peyto, who was a pioneer mountain man in the 1890s.

Parkway highlights include the sprawling Athabasca Glacier and Columbia Icefield. Visitors can explore six massive glaciers at the Icefield and then drink from its pure water run-off; we boarded a SnoCoach for an exciting trip across the glacier.

The small town of Jasper was a treat – excellent shopping, bars and restaurants. Everyone on tour was keen to take in the sights of Jasper National Park that include the remarkable limestone gorge of Maligne Canyon, the shores of Medicine Lake and the mountain-ringed and glacier-fed Maligne Lake.

There was a sense of excitement as we boarded the world-famous Rocky Mountaineer and begin a 275-mile journey to Vancouver. We settled into reclining seats and enjoyed impeccable service in an upper GoldLeaf Dome coach. From an open platform at the rear of our carriage we focused on features like Mount Robson, at 12,972ft the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, and Thompson Canyon, a canyon famed for its surging whitewater stretches.

After an overnight in Kamloops, in an area famous for its cattle ranches, logging stations and copper mines, we continued by the shimmering waters of Kamloops Lake, followed the Thompson river, where rafters challenge the Suicide Rapids, and the Fraser river valley, with views of the rushing water of Hell’s Gate. Then the peaks of the Coast Mountains appeared and soon we were in Vancouver, capital of British Columbia.

It was July 1 – Canada Day – and the party was just beginning. In the Gastown area, site of the city’s humble beginnings and today a tantalising tangle of mews, cobbled courtyards and Victorian architecture, we dined in an old-world inn before walking to the harbour for a fireworks celebration.

Next week: Brian Caldecott experiences an Alaska cruise.


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