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.
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.
- Distance – Return – 6 km
- Elevation Gain – 144 metres
I wasn’t overly sure I was feeling up to a hike when I parked my car in front of the cement plant on the side of Highway 1A. The wind was blowing so strong it slammed my car door closed on me as I was trying to get my pack ready, which is never a good sign. But I had been promised it was an easy hike, and that there would be Poutine at the end of it so off I went.
The hike was fairly straight forward following up a dry streambed to the top where it comes out through a narrow rock-walled canyon. Which is apparently a lot of fun in the summer when you can wade in the pools and climb all over the canyon. But in October it was mostly dry and what water there was was icy cold and half frozen. Still we had fun climbing around the canyon walls trying to avoid getting wet.
One of the more interesting parts of the hike was to see not only all of the damage caused by the recent floods, but also to see what they had done to deal with future flooding. The streambed we followed up to the canyon, despite now being completely dry, had apparently flooded quite severely and they had come in with graters and earthmovers and cut a massive channel down the mountainside that could probably hold the entire flow of the Bow River.
The weather had improved quite a lot by the time we got back the cars, so after the obligatory stop in Canmore for poutine I decided to make a quick, although not very productive trip up Highway 40.
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Another beautiful day at Elbow Lake…
A bit of a hike, a couple of fish. What more can I ask for…
I’ll spare you the details as I’ve covered Elbow Lake a few times already…
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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 onion
- two carrots
- two potatoes
- 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.
- 8 Kilometres Return
- 280 Metre Elevation Gain
After my first trip to Rawson Lake back in 2011 (read my previous my more detailed post about the hike here.. https://photoboom.ca/wp/?p=3129), I’ve been wanting to go back for a number of reasons. The first of which was for the pikas. There is a huge talus field running along the south side the lake, and on my previous trip I could hear the high pitched whistles of the small rodents all over the mountain side. Although I know of a couple other places were pikas can be found (there’s a small colony on the way to Elbow Lake), but the one at Rawson Lake is far larger and more populated than most. The pikas are a small animal, and although I’ve been able to get close to some in the past, they are quite small and I was never able to get close enough with my 200 mm lens to satisfy me. So, armed with my 500 mm lens I was looking forward to getting some nice close up shots.
After lugging my heavy lens up to the lake we were not disappointed, they were literally all over place, running back and forth collecting foliage for their winter stores.
The second reason I wanted to go back there was to do some more fishing at such a beautiful mountain lake. That being said I ended up having so much fun photographing the pikas that I never really ended up doing much fishing.
I made two major mistakes on this trip up to the lake. The first was not bringing my tripod, it’s heavy and awkward, and I didn’t want to pack it the 280 metres of elevation up the mountainside to the lake. It would definitely have been worth the effort to bring it as they are fast moving little animals, and with the lake sinking into the shade of the mountain so early the extra stability in low light would have been helpful. The second mistake was to go so late in the day, Mount Sarrail towers so high and close to the west side of the lake that the sun slips behind it so early we didn’t have much time to enjoy the beautiful autumn day.
By the time we got back to the shores of Upper Kananaskis Lake, the sun was finally setting for real, and we were able to catch one of the most impressive mountain sunsets I’ve ever seen. Once again, I was left wishing I had brought my tripod.
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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….
I headed out early to Kananaskis country to take pictures, and had after a run-in with a Ruffed grouse and a couple of deer, on the Jumpingpound road (Hwy 68?) I headed up along the #40 to the lakes and shooting pictures along the way. Eventually the weather turned and it clouded up and started to drizzle. So I thought I would stop by Bolton Creek Campground where my sister was camping with a couple of friends. I ended up staying the night (there are benefits to keeping all of your camp gear in the trunk of your car).
I woke the next morning to the sound of rain, which cleared up shortly after, so we decided we’d go for a quick hike, and headed out for the Mt. Everest Expedition Trail, which is basically just a 2 kilometer walk to a lookout point over Kananaskis Lakes.
I also spent a bit of time wandering and photographing the shoreline of the lakes and assessing the damage caused by the recent floods . Then after packing up camp I decided I might was well take the long route back down spray lakes trail, where I spotted a Great Blue Heron out on the lake standing on a old rotten tree stump a few metres from shore.
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.
I took an afternoon drive out to the Highway 40 side of Kananaskis Country, taking a bit of a scenic route through the farmland west of the city. My goal had been to do some fishing at Buller pond (hoping to repeat the success I had there one night last summer). But it didn’t take long for me to realize that it hadn’t yet been stocked, and it was very unlikely that there were any fish in it (and the weather was kind of awful). On the way back I had a run-in with a couple of moose and was able to sit and watch them for a long while.
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…
After a mostly uneventful day in Jasper I thought that rather than trying to shoot ugly scenery under grey overcast skies I would spend the day exploring the unknown stretch of Highway 40 between Hinton and Rocky Mountain House (I’ve previously driven the stretch from Highway 1, to Rocky Mountain House, and from Highway 1 all the way south to Highway 3 in the Crowsnest Pass and the US border).
As expected it was a long day of driving, with more than a few rather sketchy sections with the highway winding around and in a few cases making use of what must have been little more than forestry logging roads.
The weather was such that there was very little opportunity for any kind of landscape photography, and for most of the day you could hardly see the mountains at all.
I did have a couple of run-ins with some large groups of both Big-Horned Sheep and Elk, which is always fun.
What I found really interesting was how much industry is going on up there, with coal mines and logging operations all over the place.
Overall it was another pretty uneventful day, but I could imagine the drive being a lot more interesting and enjoyable on a sunny summer day.
- Distance – Return – 8 km
- Elevation Gain – 311 metres
The weekend weather forecast was looking especially nice for February so I headed out just after sunrise for a drive through the mountains (I was trying to get out there before sunrise but as usual I seem to be incapable of actually getting out of town before dawn).
It wasn’t particularly nice out when I started out on Highway 40, it was cloudy, overcast, and snowing a little, and when I spotted a moose sleeping in the ditch in front of Boundary Ranch I stopped to shoot some photos, but between the weather and the shadow of the mountain the light was sub-par to say the least.
Shortly after I left the moose though the sun broke through the clouds and lit up the western range on the opposite side of the highway, and suddenly it was a beautiful winter morning. Stopping frequently to shoot pictures I made my way down the 40 and towards Canmore on the Spray Lakes Trail. The meadow at Mount Shark was looking particularly great with a smooth covering of drifted snow and the snaking line of the creek running through it.
By the time I hit the trailhead to Chester Lake I was feeling so inspired that I decided to throw on my snowshoes and go for a bit of an impromptu hike.
Chester Lake has been at the top of my list for a long time, yet despite trying on multiple occasions (it’s closed in the spring to stop trail erosion, and has a very healthy bear population which causes frequent closures in the summer time), I have never managed to make it there.
The hike to Chester Lake starts out climbing uphill on a wide well used trail through the forest. Though not particularly difficult the trail is steep enough to get the blood pumping, after climbing steadily for about three kilometres the trail flattens out and enters into a large open meadow. The wind was blowing hard and it was snowing and quite miserable when I got to the meadow and after a quick look I almost turned around and headed back down, mistaking the snow covered meadow for the lake. But I spotted some skiers (there was a large group of them doing avalanche safety) on the other side of the opening and realized my mistake. Eventually I did make it to the lake (it’s another kilometre or so through the open mostly level meadow to the lake), but didn’t stay long as it was getting late in the day and the weather was looked like it was getting worse.
As usually happens the sky had cleared up nicely by the time I got back to my car and I figured I might as well keep the day going and headed into Banff for a few more photos and nice long soak in the hot tub.
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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.
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.
So, the clock on my dresser says its 5:30 in the morning, and I’m staring at the ceiling wondering why I’m wide awake on a Thursday morning after only sleeping like 4 hours. And then I start thinking about a Sausage and Egg Mcmuffin from McDonalds, and next thing I know I’m showered and loading gear into the car. I don’t have to be at work for like 6 hours so I figure I’ll take the long way there……
When I say long way there, I mean the three hundred and some kilometre loop through Canmore up Spray Lakes Trail to Hwy. #40 over the Highwood Pass to Longview and Hwy. #22.
Eating my breakfast while cruising down Hwy. #1, the clouds rolling over the mountains were phenomenal (as they frequently are at sunrise), but like always I can’t find a decent place to stop for a photo on the highway. After getting stuck in Canmore (long story) for awhile I finally make it up to spray lakes, and everything is completely fogged in, so there’s really no photo opportunities until I’m almost all the way back to Highway 40.
I did eventually spot a moose on the side of the road, which livened things up a little, but it was a ugly young male with little pathetic stunted looking velvet antlers. Which was a little bit disappointing.
After that things started to clear up, and I had a incredible run-in with the most beautiful healthy looking female moose I’ve ever seen. What was really great was how little she actually cared that I was there. It always amazes me how you can tell when an animal is uncomfortable, and you can really tell when it’s just going about its business, and completely apathetic to your presence. By the end of it I was literally driving circles around her to get into position for a shot, (and trying to get a rise out of her, (which I never managed to do)).
Other than the moose, the photography wasn’t really working, at least until I got back down out of the mountains and into the prairies (I love the depth created by the clouds and shadows in the last photo), but by then I was late for work and in a rush.
Needless to say it turned into a really, really, long day at work, but was well worth it in the end.
I was going through some photos from last year noticed this view of Haig glacier, (I had no idea what glacier it was when I took the photo). So I thought I’d post this just to show a little perspective of the our backpacking trip (obviously the path is not very accurate).
**click on the image a couple of times to get to the full view.
(I have no Idea why this image is showing up on top of the screen!!)
- Distance – Turbine Canyon to Maude Lake – 1.53 km
- Elevation Gain to Maude Lake – 144 metres
After the morning hike up to Haig Glacier we came back to camp for a nice relaxing lunch, and by relaxing what I really mean is walking in circles around the table with food in hand trying to get a mouthful of soup with as few mosquitoes in it as possible.
Hot, tired, and full, we retreated to the tent to escape the bugs for a well deserved siesta, which lasted all of two minutes because it was so swelteringly hot inside we literally couldn’t breath.
After that we decided that we might as well do some more hiking because the mosquitoes are far less of a bother when you’re moving. We had been told by some other campers who had been up to Maude lake the day before that there was lots of fish jumping, so we loaded up the fishing gear and headed upstream to find the lake.
We were told it was a an easy 15 minute hike to the lake, but in the heat of the day it seemed a lot longer and harder than it should have been. The lake is only 1.53 kilometres from camp, with about 145 metres of elevation gain, so an easy walk, but we were pretty exhausted and sun-stroked, so it took us more like 25-30 minutes.
The hike takes you through thick forest, and crosses an open flood or avalanche path, with great views of Beatty Glacier before climbing up towards the lake. Although tiny in comparison to the Haig, from here Beatty Glacier looks big and beautiful and imposing like a glacier should (I think you can see all of it, whereas the view we had of Haig Glacier was probably less than five per cent of the total ice-field).
The lake itself was probably one of the most scenic I’ve ever seen, it sits in a large open area between mountains on a kind of a step, so that just past the shore on the one side the ground drops off in to the valley below, so you can look across the lake and see sky and distant peaks just above the waterline.
The first thing we did when we got to the lake was to jump in, fully clothed in my case. I really can’t explain how unbelievably great it felt to jump in the cool water and wash off two days worth of sweat and sunscreen and bug-spray. The water was surprisingly warm for such a high altitude lake. Being up above (or right at) the tree line there was a bit of a wind to help cool us down and keep the mosquitoes away, which was an incredible relief.
After swimming we walked around to the other side of the lake, and couldn’t resist climbing the small hill to see what was on the other side, I’m really glad we did, because up at the top of the ridge (it was actually the low point of a pass between two mountains), we found a sign and a line of rocks that was the provincial boundary with the most incredible view on the B.C. side (the pictures don’t do justice to the awesome expanse of the mountain range).
I later learned that after crossing over the boundary we had entered ‘Heights of the Rockies’ Provincial Park. Which I had found out about earlier in the year and wanted to visit, until I learned that its a completely non-motorized park, meaning there is absolutely no car access and no boats, planes, or helicopters permitted. So the only way to visit is on foot or horseback. So I had pretty much given up on it at the time. Now I can say I’ve been to the park (if only about 20 feet into it).
After that we did some fishing, which turned out pretty great, with a couple of surprisingly big cut-throat trout, for such a high altitude lake. While we were fishing we spotted a mother and calf moose cross through the opening on the far side of the lake and stop for a drink of water, which is always nice to see.
Overall a phenomenal afternoon, that made the entire trip worthwhile, and left me wishing I had a couple more days to spend there.
Name: Turbine Canyon Campground to Maude Lake
Activity type: hiking
Description: Aug. 5, 2012 Hiking with Chris and Brandon from Turbine Canyon campground to Maude lake.
Total distance: 1.53 km (0.9 mi)
Total time: 30:16
Moving time: 19:54
Average speed: 3.03 km/h (1.9 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 4.60 km/h (2.9 mi/h)
Max speed: 12.79 km/h (7.9 mi/h)
Average pace: 19.82 min/km (31.9 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 13.04 min/km (21.0 min/mi)
Fastest pace: 4.69 min/km (7.5 min/mi)
Max elevation: 2334 m (7657 ft)
Min elevation: 2190 m (7186 ft)
Elevation gain: 318 m (1043 ft)
Max grade: 0 %
Min grade: 0 %
Recorded: 8/5/2012 13:53
View Backcountry Camping at Turbine Canyon Campground in a larger map
- Distance – Turbine Canyon to First View of Haig Glacier – 1.55 km
- Elevation Gain to first viewpoint – 209 metres
We wanted to do a couple of short hikes on the second day of our camping trip to Turbine Canyon. After talking to some other campers we decided we would start out the day with a trip up to have a look at Haig Glacier and the Beckie Scott Centre for High Altitude Training.
We made a quick stop to check out Turbine Canyon, which was actually very impressive, and a whole lot deeper than I expected, so deep and straight down in fact that you could hardly see the bottom.
After the canyon the trail heads up into the forest at a stead climb for about a kilometre (yeah… more uphill) before coming out into a open rocky area with magnificent views of Lawson Lake and Mount Beatty behind us, and Haig Glacier and the Cross-country ski training centre down and across the massive rocky valley in front of us.
It’s about there that the GPS track ends, but we actually ended up going about twice as far, hiking around on the rocks making our own trail towards the glacier. Chris made it all the way to the glacier, while Karl and I stopped about ten minutes short to enjoy the views and the cool breeze coming off the mountain.
The view of the glacier really wasn’t very exciting (they never are), as you could only see the very edge of it (have a look at the satellite view to get a full appreciation of its size).
It was kind of neat to see the Beckie Scott Centre for High Altitude Training, which consists of three big buildings and a heli-pad out in the middle of nowhere, although none of us really had a clue what they do there. While looking for the name of it I came across an article by someone who has trained there… it’s worth a quick read (at least the first bit of it). (http://www.canmoreleader.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=1697241).
We had a lot of fun climbing around on the rocks forging our own path, and the views were pretty stunning. But the best part of the hike was that between the barren surroundings, the high altitude, and the light breeze there was finally no mosquitoes to bother us.
- The map shows the hike to the Glacier, as well as the afternoon hike to Maude Lake, and the hike in to Turbine Canyon Campground.
- Post about Turbine Canyon – https://photoboom.ca/wp/?p=4207
- Post about Maude Lake –
Name: Turbine Canyon Campground to Haig Glacier
Activity type: hiking
Description: Aug. 5, 2012 Hiking with Chris and Brandon from Turbine Canyon campground to Haig glacier.
Total distance: 1.55 km (1.0 mi)
Total time: 52:35
Moving time: 22:39
Average speed: 1.76 km/h (1.1 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 4.10 km/h (2.5 mi/h)
Max speed: 9.02 km/h (5.6 mi/h)
Average pace: 34.02 min/km (54.7 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 14.65 min/km (23.6 min/mi)
Fastest pace: 6.65 min/km (10.7 min/mi)
Max elevation: 2366 m (7761 ft)
Min elevation: 2157 m (7076 ft)
Elevation gain: 529 m (1735 ft)
Max grade: 0 %
Min grade: 0 %
Recorded: 8/5/2012 09:38
View Backcountry Camping at Turbine Canyon Campground in a larger map