Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do…
My name is Catherine Reynolds, and I work and live in the beautiful Waterton Lakes National Park. I work as a Graphic Designer and Travel Industry Liaison for Parks Canada, and while much of my work involves being in an office in front of a computer, I try to spend as much time as I can getting outside and exploring this amazing landscape. I’m a born and (mostly) raised Alberta girl, and I really love that my job allows me to share this amazing place with all kinds of people from around the world.
Take us through a typical day for you in the parks?
It really depends on the time of year. In the spring, I’m getting ready for the busy season. I’m creating advertising and planning our campaigns to bring Waterton to the front of people’s minds as they plan their summer holidays. In the summer time, I’m often out and about in the park. A regular day in July or August can be anything from supporting a stargazing event once the sky gets dark, to taking film crews out looking for wildlife first thing in the morning. I was even able to spend five days in the backcountry on a horse-packing trip one summer; I might just have the best job in the park! The winter is a little quieter, but I’m always kept busy planning for the upcoming year, and working on brainstorming new ways to help people connect with the park.
What has been your most memorable moment out in Alberta’s beautiful wilderness?
It’s so hard to pick just one! I’m really lucky to have grown up in Alberta, so I’ve had the chance to make many memorable moments here. I’ll choose this one:
I’ve always been interested in the night sky, and especially love learning about stars and constellations, and then going out to find them for myself. One day last summer I mentioned this interest to a new friend in casual conversation, and they got really excited. Turns out they only knew how to find one constellation (the big dipper), and not very well. I immediately offered to take them out and show them what I could, excited to share my passion. Waterton has some of the darkest skies in the province, and paired with amazingly clear nights, it’s a perfect place for stargazing. We drove out towards the edge of the park and spent the next couple of hours staring up in wonder at the awesome show taking place above us. It’s one of my favourite memories from that summer.
Do you often spot wildlife? If so, what kind?
YES! Waterton is one of the BEST places in Alberta to see all kinds of wildlife. Mule deer and big horn sheep often hang out right in the village, so they’re easy for people to spot. I see black bears on an almost daily basis in the summer, and have even spotted a few grizzly bears when I’ve been out hiking in the backcountry. Elk strut their stuff and look their best in the fall, gathering in large numbers during mating season. The keen eye (or one using binoculars) can often spot mountain goats hanging out on the rocky cliffs behind any of the alpine lakes, and if you’re lucky, there might be a moose munching plants in that same lake! I’ve even been lucky enough to get a glimpse of a cougar a few times, which is always really exciting.
Do you have a favourite place to unwind?
Definitely! My favourite place to relax is just down the street from my house, along the shores of the lake. It’s an especially soothing place to spend an evening hanging out with friends – skipping rocks, listening to the water tumble the rocks about and watching the bats come out for their evening meal.
Where should we go for the most spectacular views?
Probably the most well-known view in the park is almost certainly from the top of the “short-but-steep” hike known as the Bear’s Hump. It’s one of the parks’ most popular trails, and the reward makes the climb worth your while. From the top you can see the entire Waterton valley – all the way down into Montana – the sparkling lakes, the brightly coloured village and even the sweeping prairie are visible from this height.
If you’re up for a little bit more of an adventure, my personal favourite views are along Avion Ridge, an advanced-level hike along the western boundary of the park. You get glimpses of cobalt blue lakes, and distant snow-capped peaks, plus you get to walk right along the continental divide (the border between Alberta and BC). The best time to go is in the fall when the larch trees are turning colour; carpets of golden needles make it feel like you’re walking into a fairy-tale.
If we’ve only got one day in Alberta, what should we do?
Come to Waterton, obviously. Hike a trail, ride a horse, paddle a canoe, play in the sunshine, or just relax on the lake shore with a good book – there’s absolutely something for everyone here!
What is your favourite time of the year and why?
I’m a big fan of fall. The animals are all looking amazing, with their giant antlers and shiny, winter-ready coats. The leaves change colour, the temperature drops a little, the air gets that wonderful crisp-ness to it – everything just seems a little more in focus in the fall. The whole park seems to be slowly turning inwards and getting ready for the snow; it’s a pretty magical time.
Alberta is a place of wonderful contrasts; do you think it’s important to experience both the urban and the rural sides of the province?
Absolutely! I particularly enjoy the contrast between, say, a day in Calgary vs a day in Waterton. The hustle and bustle and energy of Calgary are amazing and invigorating and absolutely something any visitor to the province should experience. Getting to compare that energy to what you’ll experience in Waterton makes it easier to appreciate that special something people often find here in the park. I’m not even sure if there’s a name for it, but something about this place connects you to a deeper part of yourself that you wouldn’t have known existed if you only spent time in the urban side of the province.
Finally – describe Alberta in just three words…
Alberta in three words?! That’s the hardest one yet! Ok, how about this…“so much more”
CATHERINE’S TOP 5
Stargazing in Waterton National Park
Hiking along Avion Ridge
Relaxing by the lake shore
The buzz of Calgary
The view at the end of the Bear Hump trail