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.  🙂

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

 

 

Driving Through the Countryside

All set for our travels out of the Lake Louise/Banff area and on to our next destination … Waterton Lakes National Park, but first I had always heard of the Cascade Ponds, had never been there, and wanted to experience it for myself.  Our day turned out to be a blah one and I was totally unimpressed with the bright orange plastic fencing, etc in the background.  But I had to just take one anyway.  :-/

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So far during our trip, we encountered lots of black bears, a few grizzly bears, lots of elk, some mule deer, and bighorn sheep.  We hadn’t seen a moose yet, but our luck was changed when we found this moose taking a swim in a small pond.

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It’s funny, because after spending lots of time in Alaska, I tend to come across ponds near forested areas and I always say how it would be prime moose territory.  Well, that’s kind of how this afternoon went as well.  I had to laugh at how it casually swam around for a bit, eating the vegetation, and checking out the onlookers.  I couldn’t help but notice all of the flies that were surrounding the poor guy.  I’m sure the water provided a welcome relief from them … everywhere except for his head!

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Eventually the moose decided that he had enough of the pond and slowly, but surely made his way first towards us, then laterally out of the pond.  We watched as he disappeared into the forest.  I remember thinking how fortunate we were to spot him enjoying the water and quietly wondered how many other ponds had we passed where the moose had just exited the scene.  🙂

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A little fun along the road towards Waterton Lakes … when we came across a barb wire fence with wooden posts … but each post was adorned with a hat.  I would imagine that those driving by would see it and make their own donation.  It wasn’t just a few either …

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… as the fence went on and on!  I wished at that point I had a spare hat to “donate” and make my mark, but I needed the one that I had, as the sun was out strong.

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OK, so one of the most beautiful sights I remember seeing in the Palouse area of Washington state was the fields of canola crops along the way.  I thought that I had left it all behind, but alas, here were more.

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It reminded me of a golden carpet … all woven and full of texture.  Tom denied me the right to run through them, probably for good reason.  LOL

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Tom doesn’t like this shot due to the power lines, but hey, I love it anyway for showing the contrast between the golden canola fields and the irrigation trench that ran through it.  Oh, did I mention those magnificent building clouds?

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Along the way I had a flashback to my early college years, where I started out pursuing agriculture and I began to wonder why I changed from that to nutrition science.  Funny how things turn out, though I guess they are somewhat related.  I believe that this drive was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken.  OK, back to the present!

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Once we arrived at Waterton Lakes National Park, the first sight most visitors see, and drool and marvel at, is the Prince of Wales Hotel.  It sits perched high and overlooks the Upper Waterton Lakes.  It was built by an American, versus a Canadian, railway company (still the only one in Canada) and opened in 1927.  It was built to lure American tourists across the border during prohibition.  In 1995, it was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.  It’s simply a site for sore eyes!

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We didn’t stay there though I’m sure it’s lovely.  We stayed just a bit away in a town called Mountain View at a lovely B&B.  Gorgeous countryside, gorgeous views, and an incredible sunset.

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More on Waterton Lakes National Park on the next blog.  Stay tuned.

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

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

 

Bow Valley Parkway

One evening, we timed our adventure to the best time that we could, considering the restrictions … see more below.  So, as we left our “home”, we could hear a Columbian Ground Squirrel calling out loudly, essentially begging for his image to be taken.  Of course, for good luck, we obliged.

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No trip to the Canadian Rockies and Banff NP would ever be complete without a trip down the infamous Bow Valley Parkway … especially for the wildlife enthusiast.

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See The Bow Valley Parkway, aka Alberta Highway 1A, is about a 48-km scenic secondary highway which parallels the Trans-Canadian Highway between the town of Banff and the Village of Lake Louise.  It offers beautiful views along the way, but it’s best known for its wildlife habitat.

DSC_6585It provides critical habitat for the larger carnivores, such as the wolves, cougars, and bears, just to name a few.  During March 1st through June 25th, there’s a time restriction placed on travel on a 17-km section between the Trans-Canadian Highway/Bow Valley interchange and Johnston Canyon Campground, with no travel allowed from 8pm to 8am.  To maximize our chances of seeing wildlife, yet still allowing us to do other things in the morning, we decided to head out at around 6:30pm.

It wasn’t long before we came across our first and only wildlife on the drive …

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This bear seemed completely oblivious to us as it went about its feeding ritual.  I loved how the bear was in the process of shedding it’s winter fur as evidence on its rump.

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We also had to laugh quite a bit as this one sat down near us and scratched away on its apparent itchy spot!

_DSC9023 We’ve driven this drive before and been skunked on that visit, so at least this time we saw this bear.  But it made the trip worth it all anyways, by the amazing views along the way, such as these.

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That and the fact that it was virtually empty of traffic and tourists.  Yes, we were pleasantly surprised!  I couldn’t help but wonder how it would be at 8am … or how it would be on June 26th, when the restrictions were lifted.  Either way, I’m impressed that they actually try to protect the animals and support their existence and the ban on traffic allows the predators to use the roadways as they travel in pursuit of dinner, etc.

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Would I visit there again?  Absolutely!!!

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Next up:  More from Banff National Park … fox, bighorn sheep, elk, and … you guessed it, more bears!

© 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