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.
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.
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.
Another great drive down Highway 40 and Spray Lakes Trail in Kananaskis Country, with a rather cute Bighorn Sheep near Galatea trailhead, a Moose in the meadows by Mount Shark, and a somewhat ugly Cinnamon Black Bear feeding on berries near the shores of Spray Lake….
We decided to take a weekend trip down to Cranbrook in British Columbia and although I’m not really sure why we decided to go there it seemed like a good idea at the time. I think the original destination was Kimberly, but when we got into town it was basically empty, so we decided to continue on to Cranbrook. The weekend turned out to be pretty uneventful and we didn’t end up doing a whole lot other than getting lost on some crappy forestry roads, and a really short hike that was supposed to go to a waterfall, but since the trail was washed out and neither of us wanted to get our feet wet, we never got within sight of the actual falls.
We also took a walk around a wetland on the edge of town, and photographed some Grebes and other waterfowl. Overall not very exciting, at least until we got back to Alberta, where we found a couple of young Osprey in a nest on top of a bridge at Castle Mountain in Banff. Although still juvenile they were nearly adult size, and we watched for a long time while up on the nest, one of them tested out it’s wings, flapping away on the verge of becoming airborne, but never quite achieving liftoff. Further down the parkway we ran into a pair (mother and yearling or two year old cub I think) of Black Bears feeding on berries in front of a mob of people.
(Pictures are in reverse orders… and it’s far to much of a hassle to rearrange them)
I took a trip down across the border to Glacier National Park in Montana to go camping for the weekend. My original plan was to stay at Many Glaciers, but after a three hour wait at the border, by the time I got there the only site still available backed onto the parking lot for a hotel or grocery store or something like that, so I decided to continued on to glacier. After driving over Logan’s Pass I ended up at Avalanche Campground which turned out to be a really neat area. The campground is in a area of rainforest right next to a grove of large cedars with a boardwalk hiking trail where I spent my first evening wandering around the river and forest (see map below).
I got up stupidly early the next morning and drove back up to the top of the pass in hopes of shooting some pictures. As beautiful as Going to the Sun road is it’s not very photogenic from the road, especially in the early morning when sun hasn’t made it up above the mountains and half the range is still in shadow. I almost hit a Mountain Goat with my car coming around one of the really tight corners near the top of the pass, and was able to snap a picture of it on the way day but with its winter fur still being shed it wasn’t a very pretty one.
After failing to get any good pictures up on the pass I thought I would try going the other direction. I ended up doing a lot of driving allover the place following the river out of the park and doing my best to get lost on some terrible gravel roads. I had been told by someone that there was a lot of wildlife in the park, which was my main reason for going down there, but other than the goat on the pass and a Snowshoe Hare in a parking lot I didn’t see a single thing.
Eventually I made it back to camp and feeling a bit defeated decided I had enough driving for the day. The campground I was staying at was also the trailhead for a hike to Avalanche Lake so I thought I would give it a try.
The hike up to the lake was a really nice change from all of the time I had spent in the car over the last couple of days.
The hike is a basic forest trail climbing steadily over the 4 kilometres and gaining about 200 metres in elevation to the mountain lake. The lake was quite beautiful and I was really wishing I had my fishing rod with me as the fish were jumping and surface feeding all over the lake. I didn’t get to stay at the lake nearly as long as I would have liked, but it was evening when I started, and completely dark by the time I got back.
On the way back I decided to go through Waterton in hopes of seeing some wildlife. I was not disappointed. Within a kilometre or two of crossing the border back into Canada I spotted a moose but didn’t have time to grab my camera, a couple kilometres after that a grizzly crossed the road in front of me, but was gone by the time I got there.
A bit further on I caught something moving out of the corner of my eye and pulled over to have a look. I spent a good ten minutes sitting in my car catching occasional glimpses of movement before I finally figured out what I was seeing. It was huge funny looking bird out in the tall grass, my first Sandhill Crane. Once I figured out it wasn’t a bear I climbed out of the car and went stalking through the grass and bushes to try and get a picture of it. It turned out there was actually two of them, and they move fast, seaming to disappear completely in one place and popping up in another a few moments later. I only manage to get one or two clear shots, but the sighting was enough to make me feel better about the previous lack of wildlife.
Once in the main part of Waterton I drove the Red Rock Canyon Parkway and spent ten minutes watching a cinnamon coloured black bear at a distance, then checked the flats looking for Elk but didn’t spot any. Leaving Waterton I opted for the slower route home through Glenwood so that I could make a quick stop at the windmill farms.
Hike to Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana
- Distance – Return (with some walking along the lakeshore) – 8.1 km
- Elevation Gain – 227 metres
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Rainforest Boardwalk, Glacier National Park, Montana
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Random Driving Tour around Glacier National Park and Home to Calgary
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What a great weekend… Karl and I headed out to Jasper on Friday morning making quick time (especially for us) up Highway 93. We stopped briefly for a Mountain Goat on the side of a cliff overlooking the highway, but other than that it was a pretty uneventful drive with cloudy overcast skies not worth photographing.
We made it to the campground relatively early, we had reserved a spot at Whistlers Campground, and on the way in we passed a bunch of Elk with cute little spotted fawns, but were too lazy to change lenses and decided to come back after setting up camp. Big big mistake, we never saw them again.
Later on we had some great success on the Malign Lake Road spotting a bunch of Black Bears, although with overcast skies the light was lacking and faded quickly, but the road was quite and we were able to spend some time photographing them.
The next morning we drove west to Mount Robson and encountered a grizzly on the side of Highway 16, but couldn’t really get into a decent position, until it crossed over the road in front of us. I managed to grab a couple of shots as we passed by on the busy highway, but it was so deep in the ditch that the angle made it almost impossible.
Back at the campground we met up with the Derkowski’s for lunch while they set up camp. After a bit more evening exploring and a ridiculously close encounter on foot with a black bear, we had spotted it from across the lake then parked and walked down to were it was heading and it popped up right in front of us, closer than we had expected.
After that it was dinner time and we feasted on some of the best ever Campfire Chili, and relaxed around the fire enjoying the all you can burn firewood that the campground offers.
The way back was slow with traffic. A washroom break was made amusing by the Parkway’s resident Ravens, and we spotted a beautiful bull Elk with velvet antlers on the Bow Valley Parkway in Banff.
I started out in the prairies, watching swallows (which are almost impossible to photography) working on their nest at one of the roadside birdhouses. After that I headed up through Jumpingpound spotting Buffleheads and Goldeneyes in one of the ponds along the way. Next it was a White-Crowned Sparrow (my first), when I stopped to use the washroom at Mount Lorette Ponds.
When I left town the weather was pretty crappy, windy and cloudy, and not very nice, but the further I got into mountains the nicer it got. By the time I made it to the Shark Mountain turn-off on Spray-Lakes trail it was a beautiful spring evening. While there was still snow higher-up, it was great to see the rivers and streams had already thawed and were flowing high with spring melt.
On the return trip I spotted a pair of Grizzlies (mother and cub), walking down highway 40 from what must have been at least a kilometre or two in the distance. Cutting the engine I coasted down the hill doing my best not to spook them, but a winters worth of gravel on the roadway grinding under my tires was enough to scare them off the road before I could get very close. Thankfully I had my long lens and 1.4X on and was able to get some great shots of them crossing the road and climbing over the guard rail.
After leaving the road they climbed down the embankment, and I spent a half hour or so before it got too dark watching them (from a really bad angle) while they fed on new spring growth.
There was an Elk on the hillside about 20 metres behind them, and neither the bear nor the Elk even blinked at the others presence, they just kept on grazing. I found this very interesting, because everyone knows bears are blood thirsty carnivorous that kill everything they see…
One of the main reasons that I wanted to go down to Waterton National Park was for the wildlife.
I found the first bear of the day a short ways up the canyon parkway across a ravine eating berries on the hillside that sloped down from the golf course. Although I had a nice clear view of it, it was a long way off and there wasn’t enough light to get a decent shutter speed with my 2X-TC. I shot a few photos, and watched for a while before it disappeared into the bushes.
Further down the parkway I passed a car pulled over on the side of the road, the people in it were looking at something in the trees and I caught a glimpse of movement, but didn’t stop (the road is really narrow).
Just after I passed by, the car pulled away, and I couldn’t resist the urge to go back for a second look. On my second pass I saw nothing, and another car came rushing up behind me, so I passed by again and turned around to head back towards the canyon. On the third pass I again saw some movement, and was finally able to stop for a closer look.
At first glance I thought it was a coyote, but then It walked out of the trees and right up beside my car. It was coloured like a coyote, and about the size of a coyote, but it was obviously still a puppy (most noticeable by it’s massive paws). Suddenly it occurred to me that it was actually a wolf pup.
Then I got really excited, and started shooting away, completely forgetting to check my camera settings and ended up with a lot of motion blurred photos shot at f6.3 (idiot)!!!
Anyway, the wolf pup walked right passed my car and onto the road (there’s nothing more frustrating than watching an animal especially a wolf walk around ten feet in front of the car with all possible shots blocked by a bug splattered wind-shield). It was walking down the middle of the road up a blind hill, I was further back, and could just barely see a car speeding towards us before it went out of view behind the hill, and had to make a really quick decision. I revved the engine, and laid on the horn (foregoing all chance at taking more photos), chasing the wolf off the road just in time for the car to crest the hill and speed by (I’m sure they were doing at lease 30km over the 50km speed limit), completely clueless of how close it came to hitting the puppy.
After the wolf I didn’t really have much other luck with any wildlife. I spotted another (it may have been the same one from earlier) black bear, but it was far back in the trees eating berries, and on the main road just outside of town so I only had time to snap a couple of shots while traffic piled up behind me.
Later on a huge brown grizzly bear crossed the road in front of my car a few kilometres from the US border, but it was way too fast to get any photos.
I tried photographing some Herons in the lake, but they were too far out in the water for a decent shot.
I drove around the flats looking for rutting elk (this was one of the main reasons that I had decided to come down), but I never even caught a glimpse of one.
I ended the day at the Buffalo paddocks (the other main reason for my visit), this was also a pretty big disappointment as they were a long way off the road, and the light was absolutely horrible, so I finally gave up and headed home.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I had a great trip out to Kananaskis. What I didn’t really mention is the dozens of Big Horned Sheep, the multiple Snowshoe Hares, the two absolutely beautiful Brown Bears, or the amazing encounter with a mother Grizzly and her little cub.
- Return Distance – 4.5 km
- Elevation Gain – 90 metres
With the weather finally starting to warm up I planned a hiking trip out to Chester Lake in Kananaskis Country with a couple of friends. But unfortunatly I found out a few days before that the trail was closed to prevent erosion and had to come up with another plan. After looking at the trail reports, it was obvious that we were going to have to stick to the lower elevations if we didn’t want to end up waist deep in snow. Most of the trails I’ve been wanting to hike were still reporting 1+ metres of snow, and high avalache risks.
After reading this I figured we should probably stick to something nice and easy. I finally settled on Mount Black Prince Cirque Trail, a nice easy 4.2 km loop (I clocked it at 4.98km) with about 90 metres of elevation gain.
The trailhead is at a parking lot marked Mount Black Prince, on Spray Lakes Trail, about 8km from Kananaskis Lakes Trail.
The trail starts out on a old abandoned logging road, heading easily uphill for about 15 minutes, before leveling out crossing over a bridge and leading into a boulder strew forested area to the shore of Warspite Lake. From what I read before the hike the lake had dried up a few years ago, so I was pleasently surprised when we got there and found a nice little lake.
After following along the side of the lake and through a open boulder covered area, the trail crosses a nice little footbridge over a small stream and enters thick forest before looping back around and reconnecting to the logging road and heading back down the hill.
There was still quite a bit of snow in patches on the trail, and the weather was pretty crappy with a sprinkling of rain. Although the tempurature was almost perfact for hiking (not cold, but cool enough to be comfortable).
The overcast sky was absolutely atrocious for taking photos, and I made the rookie mistake of not realizing I was shooting with my ISO still set to a 1000. So the photos are heavily edited and pretty crappy, but sometimes thats just how it goes.
The trail is actually an interpritive trail with a government pamphlet that’s supposed to go with it, which we didn’t have at the time. But here it is… http://www.albertaparks.ca/media/3291/Black_Prince_Cirque_Trail.pdf
After the hike we headed down the road to Buller pond to kick back with a campfire and some fishing (which didn’t really happen, because there was zero fish activity in the water).
While we were feasting on hot-dogs a beautiful cinnamon coloured black bear crossed into view through the opening on the other side of the pond, which is always great to see.
Although the weather and the light was terrible, it was a great day out in the mountains with friends, and a nice easy start to the hiking season.
Mount Black Prince
Created by My Tracks on Android.
Total distance: 4.98 km (3.1 mi)
Total time: 1:56:09
Moving time: 1:03:06
Average speed: 2.57 km/h (1.6 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 4.73 km/h (2.9 mi/h)
Max speed: 10.50 km/h (6.5 mi/h)
Average pace: 23.33 min/km (37.5 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 12.67 min/km (20.4 min/mi)
Min pace: 5.72 min/km (9.2 min/mi)
Max elevation: 1826 m (5992 ft)
Min elevation: 1714 m (5622 ft)
Elevation gain: 303 m (993 ft)
Max grade: 0 %
Min grade: 0 %
Recorded: 16-06-2012 14:05
Activity type: –
View Hiking Mount Black Prince in a larger map
The drive home was for the most part uneventful, we got into Kelowna late, and didn’t have time for anything but a bite to eat and a much needed soak in the hot tub (and it was Monday night of a long weekend so there wasn’t much to do anyway).
The next morning we took our time and got up nice and slow and off to a late start (for the first time of the entire trip). We stopped in Golden for lunch, where we happened to run into a couple of friends who had been out by Kamloops for the weekend (what are the odds).
Shortly after leaving Golden I spotted something on the side of the road, at first glance I thought it might be a bear, but as we got closer I dismised it as the back of some sort of sign. But then just as we passed by it lifted its head and looked right at me. We were on the Trans Canada doing about a 120 km an hours with traffic in front and behind us, so I couldn’t exactly just stop in the middle of the road. After a couple of minutes we finally found a turn off, and I decided I had to go back and see to be sure I wasn’t just seeing things (I had done a lot of driving over the past few days)!
Sure enough when we finally got back there it was, wandering the ditch eating grass and dandelions. As luck would have it, it was actually on the edge of a roadside pull-out, so we were even able to stop and take pictures while it made its way along the ditch.
What really got me, is that between the time I spotted it and the time it disappeared into the forest there was probably 100 cars that drove by and nobody else noticed it, which is somewhat scary considering it was probably only 15 feet from the side of the busy highway.
The highlight of the entire trip was without a doubt the bear watching tour that we took on our first morning in Tofino.
After (trying to get) a few hours sleep, we were up early the next morning and walked a couple of blocks to the Whale Centre, (http://www.tofinowhalecentre.com/) a fantastic outfit that we booked both our whale watching and bear watching tours through. After suiting up in big read survival suits we headed down to the docks on to the boat and out into the water. The idea of the bear watching tour is to head up river (or inlet or whatever it’s called I’m still not sure), during low tide when the bears come down to scour the shoreline for fish and crabs that are trapped in the rocks by the retreating tide.
I doubt we were out more than a kilometre or two when the guide pulled the boat off to the side laughing (he said he really didn’t expect to see a bear so soon), and pointed out a single black bear standing on the shore. We watched and took photos while it ate sea grass and the guide explained that they eat the grass, not for the nurishment, but because its so acidic that it raises the stomach ph. and enables them to be able to eat and digest whole crabs, shell and all. Another larger tour boat joined us after a while and frightened the bear into the trees, so we headed back out onto the water.
Following the channel upstream we eventually passed a large pen in the water (the first of many), which he told us was a Salmon farm, that particular one housing about 400,000 fish.
It was pretty appearent that the guide knew exactly where he was headed when we pulled into a little cove, and there on the shore was a mother Black Bear and a three really little cubs (he said he had spotted them there the day before).
We watched for a long while while the mother sifted through the rocks looking for food, and the cubs ran around playing amongst the rocks and whining at there mother (at one point she took them all up into the trees to nurse the cubs).
The boat we were on was really small, with seating for probably only 6 people, and other than the guide it was just me and Karl, and a young Asian woman who didn’t say a single word the entire trip but let out a giggle while watching the cubs wrestling on the shore. We watched for quite a while, the bears perfectly comfortable with out presence, going about their natural business, until again, another larger boat came by and scared them off.
After loosing the other boat, we headed back out watching the shorelines until we spotted another pair of bears, this time a mother and her yearling cub. We pulled right up onto the shore and watched as they worked their way efficiently down the shoreline turning over massive rocks one after another in the search for food.
The girl with us let out a gasp as the mother bear crossed in front of us, ducking under and rubbing against the bow of the boat, less than a metre and a half from where Karl and I sat at the front of the boat (we could easily have leaned forward, reached out, and touched her without leaving our seats). Eventually we moved on from there, leaving the bears to themselves.
While we were cruising the shoreline I asked the guide about eagles, because I was surprised we hadn’t seen any yet. I was just curious as to whether they were only there at certain times of the year, but he asured me that wasn’t the case, and about 30 seconds later one passed overhead.
Before we were done we saw another group of three bears (a mother and two yearlings, I think), as well as a couple of Bald Eagles perched up in the tree tops.
The outfit (http://www.tofinowhalecentre.com/) I would highly recomend to anybody, the small quiet boat let us get up nice and close without stressing out the bears, and the local native guide was particularily great, he was friendly and knowledgable, and you could tell he had a deep respect for the animals, and was enjoying himself almost as much as us, (his native chanting to himself while he drove the boat really helped set the mood).
The final count at the end of the morning was 10 bears, and a couple of Bald Eagles, even the guide was really impressed with our success and kept us out a bit longer than he should have.
Unfortunately we never saw any wolves or sea otters which I was really hoping to see, but overall the trip was absolutely amazing. And had we not been booked up for the next morning we both easily would have signed up for another tour.
Although I got some good pictures, the quality could have been better, it was still early morning, and pretty cloudy, so there wasn’t a whole lot of light. Between the 1.4 teleconverter I was using and the movement of the boat, even at 1000 ISO I still couldn’t get the high shutter speeds necessary, and so they didn’t turn out as sharp as I would have liked.
View Tofino Tours 2012-05-19 07:34 in a larger map
Map shows the track of both Bear and Whale watching tours, the bear trip is the inland portion.
We spotted this one hiding behind some bushes on the side of the road eating grass, and had just enough time to snap a couple of photos.
We had an amazing experience with this mother and her three cubs on the side of the road to Maligne Lake. It was just about sunset when we spotted her and started shooting pictures. But then after a few minutes we noticed something moving around in the tree tops and one after another the cubs slowly came down the tree to join her in the grass on the side of the road. It was really amazing how comfortable she was with us being there. At least until a couple of red-necked idiots in a pickup truck stopped by and taunted her untill the hair on the back of her neck was raised, and she took a protective position in front of her cubs. But thankfully they didn’t stay long. Other than that we were alone with them until it got too dark to see.
The next morning we went back to the same spot, and they were still there. Although this time there was people all over the place.causing a traffic jam in the middle of the road with a bunch of idiots getting out of their vehicles to take pictures with cell phones. These bears must have been really comfortable with people (they got within 5 metres of my car window), because they never ran away, but you could tell the obvious distress in the mother compared to the night before.
Watching the bears climb around in the branches of a pine tree, and run around wrestling with each other in the grass was pretty amazing to see, especially at such a close distance.
**I’m posting a gallery of photos because there’s too many to post individually, so you need to click on the images to see the full picture.
I have no idea how we spotted this bear (it’s the tiny black dot on the edge of the falls)! But there it was on the far side of Medicine Lake (it was really really far away), walking along the shoreline. When it got to the falls it made a couple attempts to cross and from what we could tell from that distance almost got washed downstream into the lake. Eventually it gave up and headed into the forest probably looking for an easier crossing.
We found the second bear of our trip to Jasper on the way to Maligne Lake. It was walking along the shores of Medicine Lake eating dandelions, completely oblivious to us. So we spent about an hour sitting in the pouring rain just watching it walk back and forth gorging itself on flowers.
We spotted the first bear of our weekend trip to Jasper eating grass in the ditch on the side of Highway #93A.
I surprised this massive Bear on the side of Spray Lakes Trail while on my way back from fishing. He ran along side my car for a bit before crossing the road in front of me and heading straight up a hill into the forest.
I tried to take a photo (and failed), but as I’m sure you can tell It was pretty dark out, and I was driving about 30km per hour, in one direction while the bear was probably running 40 or 50km per hour in the other direction.
Although I didn’t get a picture it was still a pretty amazing experience. It was easily the biggest bear I’d ever seen, it’s size, and the speed and ease that it moved especially when it headed up a hill (that was steep enough I doubt I could even walk up) without missing a step was absolutely incredible.