Another amazing trip out in Kananaskis Country, I took the entire Highwood loop heading south out of calgary. Shortly after going over the pass I spotted a young grizzly bear on the roadside (almost in the same place as on my previous trip), and spent quite a while photographing it before it wandered off into the trees. By the time I finished with the bear the weather which had started out pretty crappy had blown through, and it turned out to be an absolutely beautiful night.
- Emperor Falls campground
- Distance One Way – 16 km
- Whole Trip
- Distance Return – 46 km
- Elevation Gain – 1028 metres
Mount Robson and the Berg Lake Trail is said to be one of the top backpacking trips in the country. Which in turn means that it also see more visitors than most other trails in the Canadian Rockies. It starts out a nice easy walk through temperate rainforest along the shore of a lake and then a easy climb takes you up into the Valley of a Thousand Falls, where we stopped for lunch. We had set a painfully slow pace on this first part of the hike, which turned out to be a bit of a mistake as a thunderstorm rolled in shortly after lunch and we ended up slugging our way up switchbacks in the pouring rain. Not only did this make for a long afternoon we missed out on some seriously beautiful scenery and opted not to make the side trip to Emperor Falls because of it. Overall the hike was a relatively easy one with a couple of good climbs but nothing too intense and some absolutely amazing scenery. The valley was pretty spectacular despite it being fairly dry time of year (there was not quite a thousand falls). I got a real kick out of the river on the opposite side of the valley running along the the top of a massive cliff, somehow it just seemed unnatural to see river running along that high above the ground.
We camped out at Emperor Campground which was alright, but the trail runs right through the middle of the camp so there was a fair bit of coming and going, and there is basically nothing there but a place to set up tents.
If I was to do it again I would choose to continue on further to one of the other sites. As we found out the next day continuing on to the lake is a easy walk with absolutely no change in elevation, and there is a lot more to see and do further on.
With two glaciers, one of the more impressive mountains you’ll ever see, and of course Berg Lake with actual icebergs floating around (and the sound of them calving off the glacier) was pretty spectacular, despite the cloudy rainy conditions. There is also a handful of other hikes and trails in the area. Which unfortunately we didn’t have time to do next time we’ll have to plan on a few more days to explore the area, and do a bit more research into all the trails before hand. After passing Berg lake, we continued on crossing back into Alberta to Adolphus Lake where we spent some time relaxing on the shore.
The weather finally cleared up in time for our hike out, and we made much better time, and were able to enjoy a bit more of the scenery. While it was a fantastic trip I can’t help but feel between the overcast rainy weather and the lack of time that we only caught a glimpse of all there is to see and do in the area, and I will jump at the chance to go back and do it again.
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Not much to say, sometimes you just have a good day. I found this beauty on the side of Highway 40 and spent literally a couple of hours sitting back in the car watching. There was very little traffic and all the people that stopped to look were unusually respectful, turning off engines and staying in their cars. He/she never appeared to be even the slightest bit stressed out and had no reason to run off.
It was there on the roadside long enough that I eventually left it at one point, but when I ran into a group of Big-Horned Sheep a kilometre or so down the road, heading at a fast pace straight toward the bear I thought I would go back and see what happened. In the end it wasn’t all that exciting. The herd was trotting along down the middle of the road when suddenly all of them stopped in their tracks and looked up at the direction of the bear. There was a pause and then they all turned and ran back in the direction that they had come from. The bear didn’t even notice. In it’s defence I should point out that it was directly up wind of the sheep.
Of all the Bears I’ve seen this was definitely my best encounter to date, and one of the most beautiful example of an Eastern Slope Grizzly Bear I have ever seen.
Spent the weekend camping in Jasper National Park. Saw lots of Black Bears, but no grizzlies. The cubs in the tree would have been a definite highlight, if it wasn’t a total shooting gallery with about a dozen other photographers lined up there in the middle of the road. Weather was really good, which was somewhat unfortunate because it made for a lot of situations with really bad light, ie. the cubs in the tree, and the mother and cub down on the lakeshore. There was a bunch of elk in and around our campsite, and I saw my first baby Elk that still had spots, but wasn’t able to get a shot of it. Overall it was a pretty typical trip to Jasper with lots of driving and a bunch of bears and other wildlife to photograph.
For the first camping trip of the year we (Karl, Steve, Melissa, The Derkowskis, and myself) went to Little Elbow Campground (I think thats what it’s called) along the Elbow River on the Bragg Creek side of Kananaskis Country. We had planned to do this trip the previous year, but the whole area was washed out and closed due to the flooding. In order to avoid the May long weekend crowd we decided to go the next week instead so it made for a nice quiet weekend.
We took a hike west along the river for a ways and then turned and headed up hill to explore a canyon (the name of which I cannot think of right now). It was a nice little hike, although we couldn’t go very far up the canyon because of ice and water that was still left over from the winter. The most interesting part of the hike was surveying all of the damage along the river that was still evident from the previous years flood.
After the hike we met up with Rob and the boys and kicked back for some campfire chili which was a bit of a fiasco because the spice level was completely off the chart. But with a few adjustments, and a loaf of fresh made campfire baked sourdough bread to go with it, it turned out pretty darn good.
I had an amazing evening photographing flying Terns out at Frank Lake. The waterfowl was out in full force with Grebes and Redheads playing around by the blind. There was a bunch of White-faced Ibis off in the distance, and I saw my first couple of Black Terns. But the star of the day was most definitely the Common Terns which spent the whole time hovering and diving into the marshy area east of the blind. I think I shot about 800 photos of the Terns alone (a couple hundred of which were complete blurs, or more likely nothing but sky where I had missed the bird completely). One thing I learned for sure is that shooting birds in flight is not an easy thing to do and I could use a whole lot more practice at it. But it sure was a lot of fun..!
After yesterday’s experience with the Terns at Carburn Park I couldn’t wait to get back there after work in hopes of shooting them some more. This time the light was perfect, and I lugged my tripod down to the river and was all ready for some serious bird photography.
Of course there wasn’t a bird to be seen.
This time I did some actual fishing, I hooked one trout that promptly leap out of the water and spat out my hook, and then another one that almost pulled my rod out of my hands before quickly snapping my line and swimming off with my hook, I guess I’ll have to start using higher test line for the Bow River, there are some big browns in there.
Once the fishing was done I packed up my camera gear and put away my lens, only to turn around and run directly into a big ugly beaver. Literally I almost ran into it, like a couple of feet away. So of course I had to pull my camera back out for a couple of shots despite the fact that it was too dark for decent shutter speeds.
I have to say it was pretty cool watching it strip the bark off a twig like it was a piece of corn on the cob. And then later as it powered through a tree trunk, saliva and wood chips flying all over the place, and then proceeded to drag the tree off into the forest.
I thought I would do some fishing, and headed down to Carburn Park after work. When I got to my fishing spot I found a bunch of Common Terns feeding on insects over the river. Despite the bad light it was a pretty cool shooting session because the I was able to sit right up close on the bank while they worked their way slowly down the river diving and skimming the surface for bugs. Once they were about twenty or thirty yards away they would fly right back up to where I was and start over again.
As I mentioned, the light was pretty crappy, and I hadn’t brought along my tripod, and the birds move pretty erratically, so getting a sharp image was not easy, but it was a lot of fun. Needless to say I didn’t do a whole lot of fishing.
I got a really good deal on a week long stay at a place by the Fairmont Hotsprings and headed out for some R&R. I spent the whole day driving out, through Kananaskis and Banff and Kootenay National Parks, stopping first at Gap lake to watch a variety of small songbirds. The weather was beautiful and I had great time exploring the shorelines at various points along the Bow and Kootenay rivers.
Once I got to Fairmont the weather turned rainy and overcast for the next few days, and I spent a lot of time relaxing around the hotel. That’s not to say I didn’t do much, I did a whole lot of driving all over the area. I explored the forestry roads in search of White Swan Lake. Photographed Colombia Lake at sunset. Drove a dirt track on the south side of the river valley halfway to Golden (and then continued on the rest of the way on the highway). Went hiking down to a old gold miners camp along a small creek. Walked around Canal flats where an old canal had been dug between Columbia Lake and the river which is in a different watershed.
I had really been hopeful that I would see some wildlife, but it was a bit of a letdown. The marshes and ponds were strangely devoid of waterfowl (despite it being the annual bird festival in the area). I did spot a black bear about 2 kilometres from the hotel after driving all the way to Golden and back without seeing anything. I had on my wide lens and after it crossed the road in front of my car I watched it from a stand up and scratch its back on a telephone pole while I was fumbling around with my camera, and of course it was gone by the time I got my long lens on.
I spent a lot of time driving up and down some sketchy forestry roads, but apart from a couple of deer and a huge flock of Coots in one of the mountain lakes it was entirely unproductive.
The highlight was an afternoon spent in the reed beds near Canal Flats, which was full of of Great Blue Herons. The light was pretty crappy so I was excited to go back the next day, but the Heron’s were mostly all gone.
As far as photography goes the way there and back again through Banff and Kananaskis was likely more productive than all the time I spent in BC, but I read an entire book about Coastal Wolves and spent more than a few hours in the jacuzzi tub. So I guess it was a successful trip.
It seems like every year come the end of February or early March I get the fishing bug, and suddenly can’t wait to get out on the river. Which is a shame because it’s usually a few months before the weather and the river conditions make it worthwhile.
Starting out at Carburn Park I headed south along the bank all the way down to where Deerfoot Trail crosses over the river. It’s a bit of a hike, and I had only been that way a couple of times before, but had seen both Pileated Woodpeckers and a porcupine in the past so I headed out with high hopes.
The fishing was not very interesting, all of the fishing holes that I had fished in the past had apparently been washed away in the previous years flood. The flood damage itself was likely the most interesting part of the trip. Massive piles of driftwood were stacked up twenty or thirty feet high in the middle of the forest, huge gravel bars stretching out where they didn’t used to be, and logs hung up way up in the treetops. It was somewhat surreal, and also fairly saddening.
Without any of the old fishing holes I never did find a decent place to fish, but eventually stretched out on a sandbar and threw in a line. I was quickly distracted though by a flock of a couple dozen Franklin’s Gulls that flew down and began feeding on a swarm of bugs just a short ways up the river bank.
Still waiting for spring….
I drove out to Kananaskis Country, taking the long way through Springbank, to exploring some of the backcountry roads to try and photograph waterfowl in the country ponds. It wasn’t very successful and the weather was beginning to turn rather ugly. By the time I got into Kananaskis Country I realised that spring was still a long way off in the mountains and headed back early, deciding not waste anymore time.
Winter seemed a big long this year and by April I was desperate to get out and do something. Despite it not being very warm, and a strong north wind blowing I thought I would give Frank Lake a try to see if the birds were migrating yet.
While the birds were starting to arrive (most notably the Northern Pintails) the lake was still partially ice covered. Most of the shoreline was free of ice, but it was completely flooded and I couldn’t actually get near the lake. At the trail to the viewing blind where I parked my car the water came pretty much right out to the roadway, the walkway was completely submerged, and the actual blind had water halfway up the railings.
I walked around the lake shore for a bit despite it being completely unproductive, but eventually the wind took it’s toll and I gave up and headed home.
I went out to Banff for my annual February weekend at the timeshare. The weather was icy cold, despite the beautiful clear blue skies. We did a lot of driving around looking for wildlife. The first night there I spotted a bunch of Elk up on tunnel mountain drive and nearly died of hypothermia (ok not really) trying to photograph them. The light was on it’s way out so I had to get out of the car to use my tripod, although I think my shivering negated most of its effects. The next day we spotted a coyote walking down the railroad track off to the side of the Bow Valley Parkway. We made the usual stops at Vermilion Lakes and Castle Mountain. But it was too cold to really do a whole lot and we spent more time in the hot tub and lounging around the hotel than we did out taking pictures.
After my experience at Elk Island National Park in September 2012 (https://photoboom.ca/wp/?p=4575) I had been wanting to go back for another visit, and more specifically was hoping to visit in the winter and photography some bison in the snow.
This trip was a fair bit less successful, while we did see the bison herd it was way off in the distance, on the other side of the lake. We saw, and heard a bunch of coyotes, but never really got close enough to get decent pictures.
We did however have an interesting and close up encounter with one bison. While driving around the back side of Astotin lake when we came around the corner to find a lone bison in the middle of the road. When he spotted us his behavior was, well amusing to say the least. He (I’m assuming it was a young male by it’s demeanour, but I really have no idea) was jumping around and dancing up and down the side of the road shaking his head around and throwing up snow with his horns. I think it was a bit of foreplay and he was seriously considering mounting our truck. Either that or he thought we were a dominant bull and was getting ready for a fight. Unfortunately we were in a bad position and I wasn’t able to photograph any of his antics, but eventually he calmed down and headed off across the lake.
Apparently I didn’t get enough of the prairies on the drive down to Waterton a couple weeks back. So I headed out east this time in search of Snowy Owls. After driving around the country for a couple of hours with absolutely no luck until I finally spotted a beautiful male pheasant running around in the ditch. Unfortunately I was on a secondary highway at the time and couldn’t get pulled over until it had headed off across the fields.
I had decided to give up and was pulling into a roadway to turn the car around when I looked up, and sitting right there in front of me on top of a grain silo was a beautiful almost pure white snowy owl. I was only able to get a couple of shots off before it dropped down to the ground and out of sight behind the building.
An especially warm chinook blew in over the weekend, so Karl and I figured we would make the most of it and take a drive down to Waterton for the weekend. Of course as usual along with the warm weather came the strong winds blowing over the prairies. By the time we stopped to shoot some photos at the windfarm near Glenwood it was blowing so hard we could barely get out of the truck.
t was even worse when we got to the pullout that overlooks the park and the temperature had begun to drop. It was soon apparent that the Chinook hadn’t reached as far south as the Waterton, as it was cold and windy and snowing heavily. The ditches were deep with snow and after realising the parkways were all closed (probably should have checked on that first), we only made it as far as the sign stating that the gas station was also closed for the winter.
We were running low on gas and with no clue how far an open one might be we thought we had better play it safe. Heading back to the prairies (and the warmer chinook weather) we decided to spend the night in Lethbridge, I think we had a plan of some sort for the next day. But we woke to a full blown blizzard and had little choice but to face the weather and make the long slow drive home.
I was asked to do a model shoot by a make-up artist friend, despite having to drive across the city in the middle of a blizzard, and the professional model not showing up, she was able to convince her neighbor to be a stand-in and we got a couple of decent shots.
Ravens End – Mount Yamnuska – Mount John Laurie
8 Kilometres Return (more like 7 if you don’t get lost and wander off in the wrong direction)
550 Metre Elevation Gain
After spending the weekend in Banff I had planned to meet up on sunday morning with some friends to go hiking at Mount Yamnuska. I was up early and decided to take a quick drive down the Bow Valley Parkway to Lake Louis in search of wildlife before meeting up with them. By the time I got to Yamnuska I was way behind schedule and could see by the cars in the parking lot that they had already headed up the trail. I figured I was probably only twenty minutes or so behind them and could likely catch up as they had children with them. But instead I ended up taking a wrong turn and ended up wandering off in the wrong direction for a while (which became rather evident when the trail ended at a barbed-wire fence).
I did finally catch up to them at the top (aka. Raven’s End, aka. the chimney, aka. the point). They had gone on a little bit further past the chimney and I was waiting there when they came back through (wondering if they had come back down and passed by me while I was on the wrong trail).
Yamnuska is basically a staple for hiking around Calgary. I think this was the fourth or fifth time I’ve been up to the chimney. But it is a really good hike with great views looking out east over the prairies. It also has the added advantage of a slightly longer hiking season than a lot of the hikes that are higher up in the mountains.
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I had made plans to go hiking on the Saturday with friends, and since I also had friday off I figured that I might as well go up a day early and make the most of my weekend. I was up early and was greeted by a beautiful autumn morning in the mountains. Things were looking really good as I stopped on the shores of the Bow river to photograph Castle Mountain. And then headed north on Highway 93 to explore the Icefields Parkway. I stopped on the side of the road to photograph the mirror like reflections in Herber Lake, and it all went downhill from there.
Two hours later I was in a tow truck traveling the seven kilometers back to Lake Louise for the obscene cost of $300 (yes that’s $42.85 per kilometre). But what can you do, at least the mechanic in Lake Louise was friendly, although my new battery was still ridiculously overpriced, but there’s not a whole lot of options in a place like that.
I spent the rest of the morning wandering around the Lake Louise area on foot while he work on my car. It turned out to actually be a really great morning exploring the small community walking along the river bank and following a random hiking trail up the mountainside towards the lake (they called to say my car was done so I turned back somewhere near the halfway mark).
I did make it back onto the parkway after another couple hundred dollars (not including the $50 I would later find on my phone bill from calling 411 to get a tow number – I was right on the egde of service and my phone kept cutting out, I think it took about 15 calls to get connected). I drove away the rest of the day, making it all the way to Abraham Lake on the Dave Thompson Highway before heading back to Banff for the night. To be honest I was a bit on the grouchy side and not feeling particularly inspired, so it wasn’t my most successful trip despite the beautiful weather. I did however get some great shots of Herbert Lake… while standing stranded on the side of the road.
Steak and Avocado Salad and Mexican Steak Fajitas…… Need I say more?