Did I Ever Tell You That I Liked Bears?

My very favorite interactions with the wildlife happened one early evening.  We had just finished an early dinner in Waterton Lakes and I was feeling a bit tired.  “Let’s just take a drive through to see if anything’s out” Tom suggested.  I didn’t want to feel like the party pooper, so I agreed, but didn’t expect anything too exciting.  Thank goodness Tom suggested our drive because we came across a “wildlife jam” on the two-lane road.

Not knowing what was up ahead and realizing that it was still quite a bit up the road, we pulled over in a designated pullout.  We debated what to do … do we wait patiently for our turn, which undoubtedly means when the wildlife is gone … or do we get out, but not knowing what it was, I didn’t want to be “that person”.  Within a couple of minutes, we could see people leaving the scene and heading back to their vehicles.  Dang it, we missed it, I thought, but at least I wanted to know what it was.  When I questioned one of the spectators, he said it was a cub up a tree – close to the road.  I asked the stupid question … was it gone already?  To my surprise, he said no.  I figured that the park ranger must have been up there and made everyone move on, I mean they were impeding traffic for sure.

Finally, when it was clear, we made our way closer and sure enough, it was a dark black bear cub up a tree … the cutest thing ever!

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As I snapped away a few shots, I wondered where mom was.  A few others had joined us and no one knew.  I thought that perhaps it was abandoned and had genuine concern for its well-being.  Before long, I could see another cinnamon cub even higher up, but trying to shimmy down.  Also, the most adorable thing … and still no momma bear in sight.

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It was amazing to see them skillfully make their way down that tree.  We had a parks vehicle pull over next to us and I thought that we were going to be told to leave, but they actually thanked us for doing the right thing by pulling over – right side of the vehicle on the grass, with the left still on the road.  I asked about momma bear … they didn’t know.  My maternal instincts kicked in and I became the designated momma until it could be found.  🙂

There she was, waiting for them to come on down.  She must have ordered them up – probably due to the onlookers getting to close.  :-/

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As they reunited with their momma, these little cubs couldn’t have been any cuter!  They were frolicking and running amongst those beautiful wildflowers from the last post.  Yes, this was precisely the same place that Tom & I had earlier hiked.

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Every so often, momma bear would stop and wait for them to catch up.

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They would promptly oblige her and race each other to join her.

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I secretly prayed for them to stand up … dang, my wish was their command.  First, the cinnamon cub stood up for me….

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… followed promptly thereafter by the black cub joining in.  I couldn’t believe how wonderful of a sighting it was and I blessed I felt.

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As they ran around a bit, every so often they would stand up again to investigate their surroundings.  I was beaming with delight!!  No joke.

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Mom would periodically venture on back to them, just to be sure that they were behaving and that all was well.   She would then continue on with her grazing.

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We were all in our cars and no bears felt threatened.  It’s so wonderful to watch bears … well, just being bears.  🙂

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It’s funny how you could literally see this black cub using its nose to sniff out details about its surrounding coming to it via the wind.

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Is this the poster child for bears or what?  Love it!

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“Momma, there’s people watching us … I can see it and smell it!”

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Several times park personnel stopped by us and asked us something quite interesting… they wanted to know if we saw the person in the 1st “wildlife jam” (the cubs up the tree) that was nasty to the onlookers and impersonated a park ranger and ordered everyone to leave!  They were quite serious about finding the person, as they had gotten several complaints about the rudeness of the individual.  Again, they thanked us for our time and said that if we learned anything about that encounter, to let them know.  So that explains why everyone was leaving when the wildlife was still around.  Probably explains the cubs being up the tree as well.

Eventually we realized that we had enough of the amazing encounter, though honestly I could have photographed them forever.  Tom finally got me to agree to let them be … but not before another shot of momma bear and each of the cubs!  Heehee.

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We drove back to our lodging with a HUGE smile on my face … kind of like when I’m flying back to Homer from Katmai NP.  Now, and only now, can I leave Canada!

Next blog post will feature Waterton Lakes NP’s sister park in the US … Glacier National Park.  Stay tuned!

© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

Waterton Lakes NP – Here We Come!

Well, Good Morning!  What better way to start a fresh new day than this amazing breakfast!  Rocky Ridge Mountain Lodge is a wonderful B&B in Mountain View, Alberta, not far from Waterton Lakes NP.  The accommodations are wonderful, the people are very friendly, but the FOOD is beyond description!  Yum, Yum!  Makes me want to stay all week!

photo 1 Even as we walk out the doors, photographic opportunities abound, as this magnificent barn is right outside.

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But onward we go to Waterton Lakes NP.  A bit about the park itself … it has been described as “where the mountains meet the prairie” and one of the narrowest places in the Rocky Mountains.  It was designated in 1895 as Canada’s 4th national park and is the smallest NP in the Canadian Rockies.  It shares a border with Glacier National Park in Montana, US.  In 1932, both parks united in their purpose and they together were named an International Peace Park, a symbol of peace and good will between the United States & Canada.  In 1979, it received the designation as a Biosphere Reserve.  In 1995, UNESCO designated the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park a World Heritage Site.  Quite cool!

We first ventured out to Cameron Lake, a lovely lake nestled between the mountain peaks of the Akamina Ridge.  Outdoor activities in the area include hiking, but also water activities such as kayaking and canoeing.

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The hike at Cameron Lake is an easy one, yet affords the guest a wonderful experience and views.  If one is lucky, you might even find some grizzly bears feeding on the mountainside.  We didn’t … but we did find LOTS of hungry mosquitos!

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Towards the southern end of the lake, the 49th parallel north actually runs through and into the United States – Glacier County, MT.  So these paddlers, if they keep going will actually paddle from Canada to the US.  How cool is that?  What a great icebreaker statement to make in a group setting – I once paddled from Canada to the US – LOL – I can hear it now.

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Rivers and creek abound seemingly everywhere in this gorgeous park.

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Wildflowers were just beginning to present themselves and they were so beautiful.  No matter how hard I tried, I simply couldn’t capture their beauty and do it justice.

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Over 1/2 of Alberta plant species can be found in Waterton Lakes NP.  Now that’s quite impressive!  Tom & I hiked amongst them for a while, of course, looking for wildlife.  Nothing much seen during the day.

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We visited the area again in the evening and found a quite different situation … this place was crawling with bears!  More on that in the next blog post, but I did want to show this cinnamon black bear (yes, black bears don’t have to be black … they can be blonde or often, cinnamon, as in this case).  Well, the cool thing about this very cropped image below is that this bear was about 150 yards away when I first saw it and snapped an image.  At that point, this bear started running towards us (yes, I was I was in my car).

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I snapped off a quick series of images as it came closer to the road and crossed quickly right in front of us.

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I continued to shoot him/her until it was about another 100 yards on the other side of the road in the adjacent field.  I remember being impressed with just how quickly it traveled.  As I posting this image, I got the idea to check the time lapsed from the first shot to the last that I took.  How long do you think it took for it to travel approximately 250 yards?

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It was precisely less than 8 seconds!!!  Now I know that some of us think we’re fast … but come on, there’s no way you could outrun this bear!  Keep that in mind the next time you’re hanging out with bears … 🙂

As we were heading back to our lodging, we came across these two sub-adult bears.  One was black, the other was more blonde … both were black bears and were probably just evicted from the mom.  They wandered the hillside together and seemed to enjoy each other’s company as they figured out how to survive on their own.  See, mama bears don’t raise cubs that suffer from “failure to launch” syndrome, like some humans do.  LOL.  Maybe some humans could learn a thing or two from bears.  Actually, I know that we all could.  🙂

_DSC0908More bears in the next blog, as we continue to explore Waterton Lakes NP!  Stay tuned for more.

© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.comWat

 

 

The Wildlife & Landscapes of Banff NP

Another adventure in Banff National Park started out early in the morning with a sighting of a collared grizzly bear (hence no photo taken) and her two spring cubs.  They were busy sticking close to mom while she was grazing on the grasses.

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Not sure if they totally understood what they were doing or why, but they were certainly giving “grass grazing” a fair shake of their own.  They were so incredibly adorable!

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On our adventure drive, we came across a herd of bighorn sheep ewes and several lamb as well.  One of the momma ewes stopped and gave me a discerning glance, as if to determine if I was friend or foe.  The others went about their activities, but she remained perfectly still and steadfast in her heavy stare.

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I hadn’t noticed but she had a lamb right beside her laying down in the grasses.  All of a sudden, it stood up.

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Then they began to run and I thought to myself … what did I do to frighten them?  But I knew it was sudden and purposeful … and they were running towards me for most of the run, then continued on past me.

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It simply warmed my heart to see this little one prancing right along side of its mama.  Love how it would get airborne with all 4 feet off the ground at once.  🙂

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As I was trying to figure it all out, I turned around and this is what I saw ….

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So, they weren’t running from me, but from this beautiful red fox off in the distance nestled in the woods.  That was incredible to me that they knew it was there.  I hadn’t heard it or seen it, but somehow they knew.  That’s one good mama!

We left the area when they ran, but then returned about 30 minutes later and tried to find them again.  Sure enough, we did.  But this time they were down the embankment a bit and on a cliff edge, so I didn’t pursue them any further.  Mama checked us out, then the lamb peeked its head up.  My heart melted  <3.

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I knew that the lighting was very harsh from this angle, but it didn’t matter to me.  I mean, how cute is this little lamb?  In a weird way, I could sense that they were comfortable with us being there.  In the wild, sometimes animals with young ones feel comfortable enough with “proven humans” that they feel more protected in their presence.  I had a feeling that it might be the case right now.

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Not too much further we found this ram laying down somewhat near the edge of the road.  It seemed to tolerate us quite well too, as I hung outside my window snapping images of him and his amazing curl.

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After some time, it got quite interested in us and approached us – slowly, but surely.  Before long, a few other cars saw it, stopped and pursued it, and I had to bite my tongue to not say anything.  Though the one guy who was out of his car and remained there as it approached him probably needed a change of his drawers when the ram brushed up against him, as he pinned against his car.  I believe I heard him mumble “don’t gore me” at that precise moment.  LOL.  I couldn’t help but think that he at least learned his lesson, as the ram passed him safely.

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We arrived at Two Jack picnic area much later than we anticipated due to the wildlife sightings, but that was well worth it.  Luckily, the wind was still at a standstill and I was so impressed by the view!

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I couldn’t decide if I liked the first one better (closer up) or the second one (further away) with that amazing reflection as well, but with the added clarity of the rocks through the clear water.  I think probably the second … how about you?

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The wildflowers everywhere were an added bonus of delight and beauty.

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We then ventured into the town of Banff and as we did, for some strange reason, I thought I saw a moose!  I jumped out and totally abandoned Tom in the traffic.  LOL.  Of course, it wasn’t a moose, but a really nice looking bull elk … nice rack, eh?  This is the view of him as these two hikers turned a corner without seeing him and were probably 4-5 feet from him.  They were quite pleased that I warned them and may have needed a “fresh pair” as well when they saw what was directly behind them.  LOL

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Any wildlife photographer knows all too well my next statement … you never have the right lens with you when you need it … yes, I was trying to shoot this bull elk, from close range, with my 300mm prime lens.  So, I quickly had to change my plans and shoot its antlers only.

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Banff, the day after Canada Day, was quite crowded, so we didn’t stay long.  Just wanted to capture this shot of Bow River.

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The Vermilion Lakes Drive had been closed due to aggressive bears in the area, but had just re-opened on this day.  It’s always a special spot to spend some time.  There were numerous kayakers out that day and I remember telling Tom that we had to bring ours next time.

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Mount Rundle looming in the background, with the complimentary wispy clouds … so beautiful!

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It was quite a warm afternoon that day, so we took off our hiking shoes and dipped out feet and legs into the cool water of the lake.  We laid down on the dock for a bit, soaking up the sunshine, the sights and sounds of the area, and the fresh air.  Yes, this is the life and I could easily get used to it.  🙂

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Who wants to venture off now to Waterton Lakes National Park???  I do, I did, and so will you on the next blog post!  Stay tuned ….

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© 2014 Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

Heaven on Earth

By far, I think that one of the most beautiful places in the world is the Village of Lake Louise, Alberta in the Canadian Rockies.  It has so much to offer … landscapes with mountains, glaciers, streams & lakes … wildlife sightings of bear, mule deer, and perhaps elk … solitude, yes, solitude in a touristy town, now that’s quite the feat!

When you visit the Canadian Rockies in the very early summer and you want to take some “just prior to sunrise shots”, you’ve got to be prepared to get up very early!  LOL.  We stayed in the northern end of Lake Louise and had about a 30-minute drive to our first destination, so it was early!

Moraine Lake is a glacially-fed lake within Banff National Park, just outside the boundaries of the Village of Lake Louise.  When the snow melt reaches it peak, in about mid to late June, the lake turns a magnificent blue … due to the refraction of light on the rock flour suspended in the lake, much like at Peyto Lake in the earlier blog.  If this view looks vaguely familiar … it should for it is hailed as one of the diamonds of Canada.  In the backdrop of the actual itself is what’s called The Valley of the Ten Peaks (the mountain peaks that is).  This view has been honored to be on their $20 bills in the past.  It’s absolutely breathtaking!

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There are several trails from the area offering different views of the beauty.  The one below is from the Rockpile Trail – a short hike with a climb up onto literally a pile of rocks which offers the viewer some elevation.

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There’s also another trail off to the left called the Consolation Lakes Trail.  It’s much longer and a higher elevation climb and offers incredible views as well.  We’ve done it in the past, but not this year.  See, Moraine Lake is known for its concentration of bears and Banff NP takes bears quite seriously.  Often trails are closed due to higher bear activity.  Even more often precautions are in place, which include restrictions to hiking in the area.  Hikers may only venture out in parties of at least four, carry bear sprays, and be no more than something like 3 feet from each other.  They say … Prepare (bear spray & education) … Be Aware (watch for signs of bear activity) … Let Bears Know That You’re There (make noise to avoid a surprise).  Funny, the bears are one of the reasons I’m there!  LOL    So we didn’t take it this year, but we did make our way around the lakeshore trail a bit.  Can you imagine canoeing anywhere else???  Beauty beyond any belief!

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Now in the Village of Lake Louise, there’s actually a Lake Louise.  That’s where the famous hotel is located.  It’s very beautiful as well, but to me, I much prefer Moraine Lake.

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Just outside of that area is probably my favorite place of all … Herbert Lake.  It’s incredibly beautiful, much less crowded, and a little slice of heaven on earth to me.  Every, and I do mean every, time that we drove by the area, I absolutely make Tom stop there, so I could absorb in all of that beauty.

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It’s not just the mountain reflections that are beautiful there … even the trees all lined up on the shore offer beauty and awe.

DSC_6494I literally could just stay here all day and get variations of the magnificent place.  Speaking of wildlife, we saw lots of traces of bear activity there, though never ran into “Yogi” or “BooBoo”.  Good thing … we were just two and had no spray … which is something we personally never carry anyway.  Seriously, I don’t think that this area was part of the restriction anyway.  I wouldn’t go breaking their rules anyway … I have a feeling that they’re pretty serious about it.

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Not too far along the Icefields Parkway is another cool place … Crowfoot Glacier.  I’m pretty sure that it’s a bit smaller than 3 years ago when I was last here.  Kind of sad.

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Bow Lake is also an amazing place to see.  It also offers amazing reflection opportunities early in the morning or when the wind is absent.

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Num-Ti-Jah Lodge is a resort nestled on the shore of Bow Lake.  Quite an interesting place which offers fabulous views right outside your door.  As you can see, it’s also quite isolated, which to us is a major plus!

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Tom loves to play around with his macro lens and shoot some of the wildflowers we find along the way.  These are a few that we saw on a hike in the wilderness, right after lunch one day.

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Before we headed back to our “home away from home”, we decided to check out Peyto Lake again.  Big mistake … it was so crowded with hoards of tourists all trying to get that selfie shot with the lake and mountains in the background.  Ugh!  Once I found my opportunity, I took my landscape shot and made a run for it.  LOL.  It may have been crowded, but it sure was beautiful either way.

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Of course, as I mentioned earlier, I had to stop one last time at Herbert Lake … breathe, exhale, breathe, exhale, breathe, exhale … and onward back to our lodge for dinner…. and a glass of wine.  🙂

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Next on tap … The Bow Valley Parkway in Banff NP.  Stay tuned!

© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

 

Bears, Bears, & More Bears

On the day before the celebration known as Canada Day, we were in Jasper NP.  We left our accommodations very early that morning and decided to explore more of the area.  The first on our list was to travel the Maligne Road, on our way to Maligne Lake.

Before we even got out of the Jasper township, we spotted a few dozen elk, including males and females, as well as some young ones.  Of course, though we had seen more than our fair share of elk already, I just had to stop.

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Noticing that one calf was actively nursing on its mom, and not wanted to spoil that moment for them, I had to settle for not the most clear shot of the action.  What I had never noticed before was that this calf would nurse for a bit, then lower its head a bit, then ram it back into the moms chest, as to get the milk better.  It was the weirdest thing ever to me and I wondered what the mom thought about that!

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As soon as we began the Maligne Road drive, we almost immediately realized that we were on “bear highway”, as we encountered LOTS of black bears along our way.

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Some were alone, while others had cubs with them.  What a face this innocent little one gave us, as I began clicking away with my camera.

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I remember thinking what a good mom this sow was, as on-lookers were starting to infringe on her space, but she remained close to her cub, as she did her best to be tolerant of the audience.

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Before long, we realized that there were actually two cubs!  Of course, with that change in events, it seemed to double the excitement of the crowd as well.

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It was all that I could do to keep quiet and not reprimand the spectators that just had to get closer … I mean, it was a black bear and two spring cubs and these people were clearly not far enough away, but anyone’s standards.  To make it worse, when one person would get closer, someone else had to get even closer!  I started trying to explain to people that they were endangering themselves and everyone else, but most didn’t seem to care.  My only “friend” out there, echoing my sentiments, was a guy from Australia.  Somehow, being a man, a few additional people listened to him, but even he was challenged by the crowd.

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Of course, the crowd’s over zealous need for closeness, made the bear retreat and ended up ruining it for everyone.  I just don’t understand people!

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I had to smile at how these two little cubs promptly followed their mama deeper into the woods.  Funny how these bears had more sense than most humans.  🙂

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Of course, we witness other wildlife sightings along the way, like a herd of elk sunning themselves along the creek.  This particular elk had just gotten up and headed towards the water and readied to cross it to the other side.  Why? you ask … well because tourists walked down the embankment and wanted to get close to it – for a snapshot, of course.  Wonder if these people would do the same in Africa?  I shudder to ponder that question too long for fear of the answer.  ;-0

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The skies were dark and dreary and were threatening rain or were actively raining most of the day, so though we took some traditional images of the Maligne Lake, etc, I wasn’t pleased with them, so I elected to not include them in the blog.  However, I did want to show off an image, one of many, of the amazing glacier views we were treated to during the day.

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One more black bear sighting to share with everyone … this one for a particular reason.  See, after getting tired of crowds gathering when we would sight wildlife, we decided to try to keep this a bit to ourselves.

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Now mind you, we did spot it not far off the roadside grazing on the grasses, but it was around a bend in the road.  So, if you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t most likely see it.  When a car would approach, we would pull in the lens and grab a map … you know, like we were simply getting oriented to where we were.

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Our plan worked for a while, but eventually this black bear got bored with the right side of the road and decided to cross the road.

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Problem was that no one could see it until it could have been too late.  I was torn with how to handle the situation, so I began to flail my lens, arms, and whatever else I could grab, out the window to try to alert oncoming traffic.  Thankfully, traffic was light, our planned work, and the bear eventually made it across the road safely.  I did learn a lesson … for the safety of the wildlife around, when you pull over, flashers on please!

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More to come from the Lake Louise area in the next blog post … stay tuned!

© Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography         http://www.tnwaphotography.com

 

The Icefields Parkway

In the US, we celebrate the 4th of July as our National holiday, but in Canada, it’s called Canada Day and it’s on July 1st.  I knew from the last time that I was in Canada during that time, that there were several places I didn’t want to be, so off we went towards a favorite of mine … Jasper NP.  Since we had spent the night in Golden, it was pretty much a full day’s drive, especially since there are so many wonderful sights to see along the way.

So on to the Icefields Parkway we went.  One of the first places I wanted to visit was the infamous Peyto Lake.  You have to get there early if you don’t want to be crawling in the middle of tons of tourists, who emerge by the busloads.  When we reached the parking lot, we were greeted by several beautiful gray jays.  They were hopping around in the area and seemingly posing for the camera from time to time.

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At Bow Summit, Peyto Lake can be seen below where it sits at an elevation of 6,168 feet. It’s quite an amazing sight too, as it spans 1.75 mi long and 2,625 feet wide.  Though the most distinctive and striking attribute it possesses is its color – a bright turquoise color achieved by the glacial rock flour which remains suspended in its water during the summer months.  This is not photoshop-enhanced … it’s truly this beautiful.

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Once back out on the Icefields Parkway again, it doesn’t take long before we encounter our first bear, a black bear feeding on the green grasses not too far from the road.  It was drizzling a bit just prior to this shot, so this bear had fur full of detail._DSC7531

It never ceases to amaze me what people do when they spot wildlife … and it’s no different in Canada than in the US.  Sometimes common sense goes right out the window … or should I say the door … as they drop everything to try to get the best shot of the wildlife, sometimes endangering themselves and everyone else around them.  This bear was tolerating them, but I distinctly heard it huffing once or twice.

_DSC7572 At that point I told Tom that we should move on down the road, not wanting to watch any mayhem unfold.  🙂

Again, it wasn’t too long before we came upon another black bear, but by the time we got there safely, it had already begun to retreat into the brush a bit.  Probably a good thing.

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After entering Jasper NP, but still out of the township of Jasper, we came across Medicine Lake, which is quite the interesting place.  See, during the summer, the glacial melt fills up this lake, as seen below.

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But in the fall and winter seasons, the lake essentially disappears!  What’s more, at that time, there are no visible channels indicating the path of the drainage.  What happens is that the Maligne River pours into the lake and Medicine Lake drains out through sinkholes in the bottom of the lake.  The water then streams through an underground cave system and it surfaces again in Maligne Canyon.  This makes it one of the largest sinking rivers in the western hemispheres and possibly the largest inaccessible cave system in the world!  Now that’s impressive!

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Another impressive place to stop and visit along the way is the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, on the edge of Bow Lake.  Though we didn’t lodge there, we did take in the views from their parking lot.DSC_6355

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Yes, the approach to Jasper, Alberta and the heart of Jasper NP is a fascinating one!  There is “eye candy” from almost every angle, almost the entire way into town.

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One word of advice to all whom might venture there … don’t just fly by the seat of your pants like Tom & I did.  We arrived into Jasper, with no prior reservation – on the wave of Canada Day weekend – and almost had to turn around and head back to other areas.  Thankfully we did manage to find a last minute accommodation, but it was close!

Next blog will delve into Jasper NP and the wildlife that we encountered along the way.  Stay tuned!

© 2014  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography (www.tnwaphotography.com)