The Grouse Whisperer
I first met Andre when endeavouring to train for a mini triathlon, my first. He was part of the cycle
training club I connected with in Airdrie, and in a different league altogether than a newbie like me. As
with Andre’s interactions with most people he first meets, despite my green cycling skills, it seems he
felt like an old friend before long into our first conversation. His infectious enthusiasm for cycling had
me hooked. And so began my introduction to the Elbow Valley Cycle Club and journeys across foothill
panoramas, through National Park mountain passes and along magnificent coast lines. Teaming up with
Amanda and Sheena, we enjoyed our brief stint as Andre’s Angels on our inaugural Jasper to Banff tour.
I can truly credit Andre with my newfound love of cycling and for moments of sheer awe flying down
steep passes, the air crisp and invigorating, mountain fens alive and aglow beside us, waterfalls tumbling below. Although always trailing far behind him, I am so grateful to have been able to follow Andre’s lead.
It seems each time I talk to Andre, I learn something different about his life story – without doubt I have
never met someone quite so talented and with such a colourful, rich history. I can’t say I know too
many others who can claim to be a true north woodsman, a direct descendent of Louis Riel, a daring
stuntman, a photographer genius of multiple artistic genre, an IT wizard-extraordinaire, a mega-cyclist,
or a mountain goat hiker….and the list goes on. But my favourite title for Andre is the “Grouse
Whisperer”. A title he earned after about our third or fourth hike together, when once again he found
himself being followed by a harem of grouse that materialized out of the woods. As if sensing his
presence, they descend upon him in flocks, cooing at his feet. Andre at first felt it rather unmanly to
have a ‘Grouse’ as his spirit animal, but indeed, what other spirit is surrounded by beautiful women
most of the time, all drawn to him helplessly?
It is also fitting that the ‘Grouse’ is apparently a “symbol of energy, a never ending flow of life that make
them lively and invigorating…Grouse can also transmit its energy to others. People who have this animal
as their totem symbol are always lively. They are the main attraction of the group; grouse people always
have an extra bag of sunshine within them. A grouse is also a reminder that you are seeing the world in a
different way. Life is too short, a day lived without laughter is a day wasted.” (Anonymous)
I have this strong feeling that on my next Carthew-Alderson Hike in Waterton National Park I will meet a
flock of grouse along the way.
Andre – your indomitable, creative spirit and pure force of energy will shine on forever, inspiring us all.
Thank you for so many spectacular, unforgettable memories together.