Grande Cache is a hamlet within the Rocky Mountains surrounded by three river valleys. We sat down with local photographer, Margaret Abraham, to ask her about nature, wildlife, and capturing the region’s natural beauty.
Tell us a little about yourself. When did you move to Grande Cache?
Hi, my name is Margaret. I’ve lived in Grande Cache for 45 years. I came here in 1974 with my husband and started taking photographs and having a darkroom in my own home and doing weddings and portraits, and now I’m working on photographing nature and wildlife.
What makes Grande Cache special?
Grande Cache is unique because there’s not a lot of traffic. It’s quiet and peaceful. There’s a lot of really beautiful scenery but not a lot of crowds. The wildlife is around all the time, and it’s just a pleasure to be here.
There’s lots to see and lots to do. There’s lots of hiking and trail bike riding and whitewater rafting. It’s wonderful living with the wilderness at my doorstep because I can just step out to my backyard and go for a hike and see all the animals and the birds and just be peaceful and calm.
What’s the weather like in Grande Cache?
The weather in Grande Cache is pretty unique. In the winter, we can have a beautiful snowfall, and then the Chinooks come through and everything melts, and it gets pretty icy.
The springtime is amazing, because the birds are coming through on their migration, and it’s really lovely to see the new spring green leaves coming out.
In the summertime, the trails are great to walk on and in the fall, the colours can be absolutely stunning.
Is Grande Cache a good place for wildlife photographers? What kinds of wildlife can visitors expect to see?
If you’re visiting Grande Cache, you can expect to see deer, elk, moose, sometimes caribou depending on the season that you come through, and the same with the bears. You have to be very careful hiking on the trails, because of the bears.
For birds, there are osprey, loons, ruffed grouse, spruce grouse, and a lot of songbirds. Swans migrate through in the spring, and then they return through in the winter,
What would you suggest keen photographers bring with them when they visit Grande Cache?
If you’re planning on visiting Grande Cache, make sure you bring your camera with plenty of memory cards. There’s so much to photograph. The wildlife, the flowers, the birds, and the lakes. The scenery can be stunning.
If you’re just starting out in photography, see if you can bring a wide-angle lens for the scenery, and then if you can bring a telephoto lens to use for the wildlife. It’s best not to get too close to wildlife, particularly the bears and even the elk and deer, and respect their privacy and their natural habitat, and try not to disturb them. But just be quiet and enjoy taking photographs, as many as you can.
When I’m photographing, to really enjoy what I’m doing, I make sure I do have a telephoto lens, so that I don’t have to get too close to the animals or the birds and frighten them or make them do things that they wouldn’t normally do in their habitat. The advice I would give before setting out to do some nature photography is to practice in your own backyard so that you get to know your camera and your lenses and what they will produce for you.
And where do you recommend visitors go for the best scenery? Is there anywhere visitors can find out about all the highlights?
If you’re just starting out and are new to Grande Cache, I would advise going to the tourism center. They have a map of the trails. Try the closest ones to town to start with. Down at Victor Lake and Grande Cache Lake, there are trails, and out to Sulphur Gates, and down by the Smoky River. Those would be the best ones to start.
If you’re coming to Grande Cache with your family, both Grande Cache Lake and Victor Lake are really good for taking children and wandering around the trails. I also recommend going out to Sulphur Gates. Just make sure you stay safe and stay behind the railings.
What would make for your perfect day taking photographs in Grande Cache?
My perfect day for taking nature photographs is when it’s slightly overcast. There’s not too much bright light and everything’s calm. Other days that can be really good is if it’s raining, but not too hard, and it changes the condition of the lighting, or even if it’s snowing, that can create some very different kinds of photographs.
My favourite spot early in the morning is Grande Cache Lake. In the springtime, the Canada geese come through, and they have their babies, and the swans are sometimes swimming. Then I go down to Victor Lake and watch the beavers and the loons. Those are my favourite mornings.
After a day out taking photographs, where can people relax, and go for a drink or something to eat?
If you’ve been for a long hike and you’re hot and need to cool off, a quick dip in Grande Cache Lake would work well, or else in the summertime, we have a waterpark up near the recreation center, and that would be a really good place to cool off, especially for children. There’s also the local swimming pool in the recreation center.
My favourite thing to eat is fish and chips at The Ridge.
Lastly, what would you say to convince someone to visit Grande Cache?
If you’ve been to Jasper and Banff, you’ll know it’s very, very crowded – lots of people. Grande Cache is a lot quieter. There are not so many people, so you can have a more peaceful, relaxing time. You should visit Grande Cache because it’s beautiful and it’s quiet and peaceful.