We were a bit slow getting out of town and it was mid afternoon by the time we got to the Bolton Creek Campground. The weather was pretty crappy and it was drizzling a little bit so the first thing we did was string a tarp up over the picnic table… Then it rained… and rained… and rained… and we sat for a couple of hours on top of the table under a tarp that leaked like a seive and was too small to cover the benches of the the table, and watched it rain.
Eventually it lessend a little bit and we were able to get the tent and the rest of camp set up before running down to the camp store to buy a new non-leaking much larger tarp.
On the way out of town we had stopped at the grocery store with no particular meal plan, and after a bit of discussion decided that beef stew should be fairly easy in the camp pot, so we bought;
one bulb of garlic
one pack of stewing beef
one bag of mushrooms
one carton of Beef Stock
Back at camp we threw it all in the pot over the fire and let it cook nice and slow, realizing a good stew needs to be a bit thicker than just beef stock I toasted up a hot dog bun and crumbled it into the pot. Maybe I was just cold and wet and hungry, but by the time we sat down to eat at about eleven o’clock at night (do to the fact that it took all afternoon to get the fire going in the rain), it was quite possibly the best bowl of stew I’ve ever eaten.
The rest of the trip was entirely uneventful. That being said there is something strangely enjoyable and relaxing to spending an evening with friends while sitting under a tarp in the pouring rain.
In the last week or so of June 2013 Calgary had its worst flood in well…. ever… with both rivers spilling over their banks and flowing through much of downtown. But you probably know all this so that’s about all I’m gonna say about it (here’s some more info if you don’t know all about it… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_Alberta_floods).
Anyway things were pretty crazy in town, but in all reality it didn’t affect me in the least little bit, in fact I never even saw any of the flood water or river until about a week after it had crested. But as soon as the roads began reopen in Kananaskis country I knew I had to head out to have a look at the damage.
The damage was pretty crazy to see… tiny little streams had cut 20 foot chasms into hillsides and stripped shorelines of trees and plants and soil in huge swaths and ripping roads and bridges right off their foundations. What was really amazing was to see just how much earth the water had moved, roadside ditches that had been 10 feet deep were now filled to road level with dirty or gravel, and whole hillside that used to overlook the iver were simply not there anymore. At one point on the Spray Lakes trail I got out to take a walk along the stream that runs parallel to the road. The first thing I noticed was how wide the stream-bed was, it had probably only been about 10 feet across before the flood, but was now more like 40 or 50 feet across, with the bank on the other side made up of a wall of freshly exposed soil. But what really got me was the smell. The smell of pine coming from the hundreds or thousands of twisted, broken, and downed pine trees that lined the sides of the shore was so strong it literally made my eyes water and burned my sinuses, it was really quite remarkable.
Looking back (yes it’s almost a year later that I’m writing this), whats really crazy to think about is just how long the scars of that flood will be present, the debris and sticks and branches and mud stuck ten feet high in the trees will likely take a good 5 years to be dislodge and washed completely away. The piles of broken and downed trees might be recognizable for a decade or two or three. The changed in the course of the rivers and streams, and the deposits of gravel and dirt and boulders might take a few decades to become healed to the point where they no longer look like a visible scar on the landscape, but in all reality they might be there for a few centuries or longer, or basically forever, at least until the next big flood. Or until we decide to pave over them and put in a new parking lot.
(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
After hibernating through the first few weeks of the year cabin fever finally got the better of me, so I got up early and headed out towards Spray Lakes in Kananaskis Country to see what I could find.
All I can say is I didn’t find much at all. It was pretty much a whiteout as I headed up the hill from Canmore and along the side of the lake. As far a wildlife goes the one and only highlight was a squirrel sitting on its pile of pine cone debris. Once I hit highway 40 the snow had stopped, and the sky clearing slightly, but it was still painfully cold and windy so the few times I did stop it was short lived and not very productive.
I took a sunrise drive out to the mountains, heading first up the Bow Valley Parkway, and then up to the Icefields Parkway (#93) all the way to Saskatchewan River Crossing with an hour detour down the David Thompson Highway (#11).
The morning started out fantastic, if a little chilly, with great morning light on Castle Mountain, and a nice shiny layer of frost on the grass.
Unfortunately it didn’t last long and by the time I got to the Icefields Parkway it had turned cloudy and overcast and by Bow Lake the roads were shear ice, and there was a few feet of snow in the ditches. Once I headed down from the summit, the roadsides cleared up and I was able to do a bit of walking around. The mountains are not very scenic this time of year with a lot of dead grass and old dirty snow, but sometimes you just have to make due with what you’ve got (in this case it meant a lot of bracketing and HDR in post, to bring out what little colour and detail there was).
Eventually I headed east on the David Thompson Highway, with the idea of going to have a look at Abraham Lake, but I had no idea how far it was to lake and it was so windy out on the Kootenay Plains that I gave up and headed back before I made it there.
This was the first time I had ever driven east on the D.T.H. and I have to say the view of the long straight road leading directly into the distant mountain was pretty impressive.
I spent a fair bit of time wandering around in the mud by the river (below the bridge) at Saskatchewan River Crossing. There is some pretty nice scenery there, but again, everything looks pretty bleak this time of year. I will definitely have to find some time to spend there when the grass is green and the wild-flowers are blooming.
The drive back was a bit touchy with a about a foot of fresh unploughed snow (slush) that had come down at the summit since I had passed by earlier, but at least the ice that was there in the morning had melted.
As far as wildlife goes the day was a complete bust. On the way back I spotted an absolutely massive Elk on the Bow Valley Parkway, but it was gone into the trees by the time I stopped the car, that was the only living creature I saw all day. I did follow some really fresh wolf tracks for a little ways, until I broke through the ice and ended up ankle deep in mud (I think the wolf was following a weasel or something of that sort, whatever it was I didn’t recognize the tracks).
It was a warm sunny Wednesday afternoon, and I was off work early so I figured I’d head out to Kananaskis for one last chance to shoot some pictures before the snow started to pile up. Heading down Highway #40 it was all sunshine and blue skies, but the wind was so strong and cold you couldn’t stand outside for more than a minute before being blinded by watering eyes (which always makes shooting photos a bit difficult). After a short walk around Mount Lorette Ponds, and some roadside shots of Barrier Lake I made my way up Spray Lakes Trail.
A bit of a winter storm blew through and I got snowed on for a while, before it cleared up again just in time for sunset. There was a fair amount of old dirty snow in the ditches along Spray Lakes Trail, so between that, the clouds, and the falling snow I didn’t shoot a whole lot of photos. On the way back I stopped for what turned out to be some pretty decent shots of Spillway Lake, the sky had totally cleared up by now, and the sun was pretty much down, but still shining off the mountain range across the lake, which made for some nice low-key high contrast images.
By the time I made it down to Waterton I was in desperate need of some breakfast (the A&W in Alderside doesn’t open until five in the morning, I missed the one in Claresholm, and my route never took me into Fort Macleod). So unfortunately I was stuck wasting my time sitting down to possibly the worst $20 breakfast I’ve ever eaten in my life.
After breakfast I headed to Cameron Lake to shoot some pictures, while the lake was nice, (apart from the tour bus full of people walking into all my shots), the drive there was a bit of let down with very few places to stop for photos, and poor scenery at the places you could stop. After that I headed up the Red Rock Canyon Parkway, which was pretty great the whole way up to the canyon (although the open meadows where looking pretty dry and brown and windblown). I did a little bit of hiking around the canyon and shot some long exposures of the river (not very long, because I left my ND filter in the car and didn’t want to go back and get it, but long enough to get some motion blur).
I tried shooting some more pictures around the park, but the weather was getting increasingly worse, and by the time I headed down to the lake it was so windy at the hotel that I could hardly open the car door, and almost got blown off the hilltop. To make things worse there were foot high white-caps on the lake, and it was so hazy I couldn’t even see the mountains on the far side.
I had wanted to go for a short hike, but it was just too windy (and I was getting pretty tired), so I just ended up driving all over in and around the park, making it all the way down to the US border, but had little success.
Eventually I decided that It probably wasn’t worth staying the night because the weather forecast wasn’t looking very good, and the weekend crowds were flooding into the park (when I left through gates there was 30 or 40 cars lined up to get in the park). Waterton is not very big, and you could probably drive down every road in the park in little more than an hour, so I figured that by Saturday morning it would be way to crowded for my liking.
By the time I got home I had pretty much been in the car for 16 hours straight (except for maybe an hour spent at the canyon) which made for a pretty painful drive home, but all and all it was a pretty great day!
I had a great weekend camping with a bunch of friends down south of Calgary on the Highway 40, at a place called Cataract Creek. Originally we were planning on camping at Blue Rock on the Sheep River, but when we got there on Friday afternoon it was already filled up with campers and RV’s. We decided we should try Cataract Creek, because we had all been there last year, so everyone that was coming out later already knew where it was. We also figured that if the campground was also full we could just keep heading south until we found one that wasn’t. As it turned out, our fears were unfounded, and there was only about half a dozen people in the 100 site campground, which was great because we ended up with the best two spots in the whole place.
The weekend was pretty typical for a weekend of camping, we had a wild Thunderstorm on Friday night that frightened all the children, but by Saturday afternoon it had cleared up nicely, and by Sunday it was absolutely beautiful. We took a walk down to the creek, sat by the fire, ate too many smores, cooked hot dogs and a big pot of chili over the fire, did a bit of fishing (caught a tiny little rainbow), a bit of swimming, and came home with a nice sunburn!
Every winter the section of Highway 40 from the turnoff to Kananaskis Lakes Trail and… well actually I’m not sure where the closure is on the south side of the road. But suffice to say they close the highway down in the winter (December 1), to accommodate the migration of Big-Horned Sheep.
The road reopens on June 15th, and I like to take a drive around the entire loop of the highway as soon as I can after that. My thinking is that the wildlife won’t all be scared away from the roadside by traffic yet, (although this has never been proven true, and I’ve never actually seen anything but a few sheep on this stretch of road at this time of year).
I got off work early on Wednesday day, and headed down south through Turner Valley and Longview, and west onto Highway 40, into Kananaskis Country. It was a nice day but by the time I got onto Highway 40, there looked like there was a storm coming through, and the wind was blowing so hard I could barely stand up outside.
With all the rain we’ve had this year, the foothills were an unbelievable colour of green, and I stopped for photos a few times along the way before entering Kananaskis country. The wind and weather was worsening, and I was feeling a little exhausted, and unsure it was a good day for a drive, but since it’s a loop I was already committed, and had to press on.
By the time I got to the top of Highwood Pass it was snowing (yes… snowing)! Not to mention there was still about 3 feet of snow in the parking lot of the pass. So I kept on going. Originally I had thought I might hike up to Elbow Lake and do some fishing, but with the snow coming down in the higher elevations, I was sure the hike to the lake was getting snowed or at least rained on.
It wasn’t until I stopped off at a little waterfall at the viewpoint for the Elpoca mountain range, and got out and did a bit of walking and climbing around and shot photos for a while, that I started to feel better.
After that, thinks just kept getting better and better. By the time I got to Buller pond (I still wanted to do some fishing, although there was zero activity on the pond so it never did happen), the wind had stopped completely, the sky had cleared up a bit, and the light was absolutely perfect.
It turned out to be easily one of my best trips into Kananaskis, with great light and beautiful scenery (it’s unusually green out there as well), and multiple bear sighting (but that’s a whole other story).
By the time I got home I had shot over 600 photos.
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.
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: –
I took a quick drive out to Kananskis Country and Spray Lakes, mostly just to see how much snow was still out there as I was planing a hiking trip the next weekend. I also wanted to do some fishing, and planned too stop by Buller Pond to see if it had been stocked with trout yet.
It was probably a good thing I went, because as it turned out the planned hiking trail was closed to prevent trail erosion during the spring run-off.
I stopped at the pond, but couldn’t see any fish (it’s really shallow and clear so if they were there I should have been able to see them). It turned out that the pond was actually stocked in May as opposed to June as the hatcheries report said it was scheduled to be. So I guess I was already too late for the good fishing.
After breakfast at a busy little diner in downtown Victoria with my cousin and a couple of her friends we headed north up the east coast of the island to Nanimo. This portion of the drive was pretty painful, although nice fast roads in spots, it passes through a bunch of towns full of stop lights, and traffic, and it seemed to take forever. When we finally passed Nanimo and turned west to head across Island, it was a real relief to leave most of the traffic behind.
I had some concerns about this section of the drive, because everyone I talked to about it told me how awful and dangerous the road was, but personally I didn’t think it was bad at all (I think they were remembering when it was still gravel the whole way). Don’t get me wrong, its a narrow winding up and down mountain road, but nothing to really worry about.
On the way we stopped and took a walk around Cathedral Grove, an old-growth forest that the highway runs through the middle of. The age and size of the Douglas Fir, and Red Cedars growing in this ancient forest are pretty amazing, and it was a great place to wander and explore. Pictures really don’t do the size of the trees justice. What I really loved was how lush and green everything was with giant ferns and carpets of moss growing everywhere.
I don’t think I had ever been to Big Hill Springs before, so when one of my photo groups planned an outing there I though it was a great idea. But when It came time to go I had a couple of friends wanting to come and we were running late. So we just went and did our own thing (I said hello to the group in passing, but that was about it).
The springs make up a nice little set of waterfalls, so we spent some time playing with long exposures. Other than the water there wasn’t really much to photograph, and the light was pretty flat and gloomy, so we ended up doing a bit of a hike (more like a walk) through the park.
There is a nice little trail that passes by all of the falls, and then continues on up through the forest in a big loop that ends up back at the parking lot. It was solid ice in a few spots, which got somewhat tricky on the steep sections, but other than that was a nice walk walk through the forest.
Total Distance: 2.59 km (1.6 mi)
Total Time: 1:03:30
Moving Time: 31:48
Average Speed: 2.45 km/h (1.5 mi/h)
Average Moving Speed: 4.89 km/h (3.0 mi/h)
Max Speed: 11.13 km/h (6.9 mi/h)
Min Elevation: 1178 m (3865 ft)
Max Elevation: 1266 m (4153 ft)
Elevation Gain: 215 m (705 ft)
Max Grade: 0 %
Min Grade: 0 %
Recorded: Sun Feb 05 14:54:56 MST 2012
Activity type: trail hiking
A friend and I took a weekend trip to Jasper. We went in hopes of finiding some bears, or rutting elk, but unfortunately we were a week or two late as the bears had moved up into the mountains, and the Elk rut was pretty much at an end.
We thought we would take the scenic route to Jasper (because Hwy #93 is not scenic enough), so getting up early we headed out past Cochrane and then turned north on Highway #40 (a.k.a. highway #734 or Forestry Trunk Road).
Not to much to say about the drive except it was long slow winding gravel road with lots of ups and downs. It was scenic at parts, but mostly treed in so not a whole lot of views. We did see a few moose, including one nice close encounter with a big bull, but that was about it.
It was still early morning when got to Ram falls and did the short walk down to the viewpoint. The falls were nice, but the early morning shadow and the low water level made them a lot less impressive than I had hoped for. I think I’ll have to go back sometime in the spring when the river is flowing at full capacity.
We spotted a Spruce Grouse on the side of the road near the falls and stopped to chase it around for a while. I’m not sure why, but it looked a bit different than other Spruce Grouse I’ve seen. Could be that it was a male, or a male in breeding plumage, or in normal plumage, or maybe just because of the difference in location, I’m really not too sure, but at the time I was convinced that it was a different bird all together.
By the time we got to Nordegg, he had just about had enough of gravel roads, and so decided to change course and take the David Thompson Highway (Hwy #11) west to Saskatchewan Crossing and Highway #93. Originally we had planned to take Highway #40 all the way to Jasper (apparently it goes all the way to Alaska) but the going was a bit too slow. I had also wanted to see Abraham Lake because I know of a professional photographer that raves about it, although looking back I think all his photos I’ve seen are in the winter when it’s frozen over. It was nice, but not overly exceptional under midday sun in the fall, and we only stopped for a few minutes.
While passing by the lake we had a run-in with a herd of really nice lookiing Rocky Mountain Sheep on the side of the highway.
I took a very long drive down through Millarville and up the Maclean Creek Trail into Kananskis Country. From there I went west on Highway #66, continuing on past the winter gates to Powderface Trail and eventually ending up on Sibbald Creek Trail. I try to take this drive at least once every summer, looking for wildlife. After 3 years in a row I think my running count so far is one moose from about 500 metres away (and of course a ton of deer).
After a couple hundred kilometres on gravel roads I think this was the only photo I kept (and it’s a pretty terrible photo, I just like how close it’s standing to the sign).
On a side note I finally got my Macro lens (just in time for winter to start).
On my way down south to Cataract Creek to go camping for the weekend I decided to get up early and take the long way around, taking Spray Lakes Trail to Highway #40 over the Highwood Pass and down to the campground. It turned out to be a beautiful morning and a really nice drive with a couple of moose and elk sightings.
We had a great couple days camping and fishing with friends, and Hiked up to Cataract Falls on the last day. The hike was a spur of the moment decision, and the only direction we had was from fellow campers who pointed off to the north and said go that way until you find a trail. The Hike was pretty easy, although a bit rugged, and little more than a game trail for most of the way. It also involved a bit of climbing over boulders and down a cliff, but nothing too intense. The falls were quite nice and well worth the hike.
**I have more photos from camping, but don’t have access to them right now, so maybe I’ll get around to posting them some other time.