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.
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.
- 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 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….
Rule #1… Always have your camera ready…
I headed out to do some fishing at Sibbald meadows Pond, and shortly after turning off the highway I was thinking I should pull over and put my long lens on the camera when I spotted this big beautiful (if somewhat shaggy) moose standing knee deep in a marsh with a mouthful of grass staring straight at me… And my camera was still in the bag. It was easily the most iconic moose scene I’ve ever witnessed, and I totally missed it. I stopped in the middle of the road and tried to gear up as quick as I could and got off a couple shots before it headed off away from the road. But it doesn’t really do justice to the original scene.
I don’t think I caught any fish on this particular evening, but a moose sighting, as well as some bluebirds I had been meaning to photograph (there’s a section of the road to the pond lined with nesting boxes), made for a nice evening out..
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.
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.
We had a frighteningly close encounter with this Bull Moose while on our way back from Burstall Lakes in Kananaskis Country. It was blocking the trail through the meadow just up the hill from Mud Lake and the parking lot, and we had to get pretty close to get around it and back to the car.
On our second day in Jasper we got up for sunrise and headed down to Maligne Lake, (on our last trip most of the wildlife we saw was on the long stretch of road between the town and the lake). We didn’t see much on the drive down, but when we got to the parking lot at the lake there was a couple deer that we had fun chasing around for a few minutes (it was still a bit to dark to get any really good shots though). After some sunrise photos around the lake shore and on the docks, we spotted what looked like a couple of Moose on the far side of the lake and headed over in the car to investigate. Driving down the boat ramp we were able to confirm that it was in fact a Moose and her young Calf bathing and feeding just off shore. We couldn’t get into a good position in the car and ended up parking and trail-blazing down to the shore (the moose were far to close to the ramp to follow it down). Taking cover behind some garbage bins on the dock we got to spend a few minutes watching while they fed from the lake bottom.
The rest of the day was not very productive at all. I think we literally drove down every single stretch of road in the park, Including one that turned out to be a hiking trail, (but that’s a whole other story). Unfortunately we didn’t see anything, the light wasn’t great, and to be honest we were both pretty exhausted, so we turned in early and spent the afternoon relaxing in the hot tub.
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.
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.
In case you haven’t notice already, I really like driving the Highway #40 – Spray Lakes Trail loop. On this particular occasion I started out in the evening, heading in through Canmore. My first encounter was a very large moose in the middle of the road drinking water from a puddle. It was rather entertaining to see how awkward it is for such a large animal to kneel down, and even more amusing to watch the water leaking out of it’s mouth. I’m pretty sure about 80% of the water it sucked up from the puddle came streaming out of the sides of its mouth before it could actually swallow any.
Shortly after that I spotted a mother and baby moose off the side of the road, and pulled into the ditch to wait for them to move into a better position. After about half an hour they finally moved out of the forest and into view. It was right about then that some moron pulled up in his car, parked right in my field of view, got out of his car and scared them all away (thanks a lot douche-bag)!
After that the weather turned nasty and I white knuckled it through a pretty wild lightning storm. It did clear up a little bit at one point and I spotted a Snowshoe Hare hanging out on the side of the road. Although rabbits aren’t very exciting animals, you would be surprise at how hard they are to find (I’ve probably seen a half dozen bears for every wild Hare I’ve seen (the city ones don’t really count)). This was the first one I had ever managed to photograph, and it just sat there on the side of the road a few feet from my car posing for me. Of course the light was mostly gone at this point, so the pictures didn’t turn out great, but at least I was able to get some shots.
I thought I’d get up early and head out to Canmore to drive the Spray Lakes/Highway #40 Loop in search of wildlife. I never spotted any of the big predators, which is always the goal, but three close moose encounters, some very strange coyote behaviour, and fantastic morning light, made for an amazing morning!
Kananaskis Lakes, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Female Moose in a marsh near Kananaskis Lakes. As is usually the case she waited to come out in to the open until it was too dark to get a decent photo. I still spent about 10 minutes just watching her feed on the marsh grasses and listening to her chewing and the sucking sound the mud made every time she moved her legs.
Wild Moose from a couple different trips last year in the Spray Lakes and Peter Lougheed Provincial Parks area of Kananaskis Country.