#FindYourPark … Everglades-style

In 2016, the National Park Service will be celebrating its centennial birthday!  Leading up to that event, they have launched a “Find Your Park” campaign, where visitors tell stories about “their” park.  Recently I launched a 9-day series of #FindYourPark images and stories on my flickr page (if you haven’t seen it yet and are interested, click on the flickr link, scan down several weeks of images, and give it a look).  I found it difficult to designate “my park” … should it be the one I visit most often, the one my soul calls to the most, the one I find most beautiful, or perhaps the one geographically closest?

Geographically, “my park” would then be Everglades National Park.  🙂  Now the Everglades NP is an amazing place to visit, has so much beauty to explore, and holds such an environmental significance to Florida and worldwide as well.  So, let’s visit there virtually together in this blog post.  Ready?

Now this is what I’m talking about … pure iconic Everglades … an early morning sunrise often is accompanied by mist and low profile fog … so very beautiful.  Water levels change drastically depending on the season and recent rainfall in the Everglades.  The Everglades represents such change that you can only be guaranteed that each day will have a look all its own – very different than the day before or even the day after.  It’s totally amazing!

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Having grown up in South Florida and visiting the Everglades more that I can easily count, on one recent very foggy morning, I was treated to a new phenomenon for me … a fog bow.  Similar to a rainbow, but it lacks color, due to the small size of the water droplets, it was fabulous to see.  Immediately I pulled off the road to try to document what I saw.  Have to say that it was a fairly close rendition of the moment.  🙂

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Being that these images were from February, much of the wildlife encountered revolved around the birds.  See, the Everglades are an important part of many species of birds and their migratory paths.  I joke too because once the warmer weather comes, as well as the skeeters, even the birds don’t want to hang around (OK, they probably leave for other reasons ;-), and good thing because you’ve got to really want to hang out in the heat and humidity and get totally bit up to come in the height of the summer).

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Roseate spoonbills arrive to various ponds and waters to do some feeding and begin looking for their mate.  About this time, they begin to get those fabulous breeding colors that make them irresistible to all who catch a glimpse of them.  So bizarre looking for sure, but gorgeous!

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The pileated woodpeckers are just one of the birds which call the area their local hangout.

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Most times they’re quite cooperative, but eventually they launch for destinations unknown.

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Of course, the Flamingo area of the Everglades most dominant resident bird is the osprey. In the winter they build their nests, mate, sit on their eggs, and eventually raise their young.  It’s always fascinating to watch dad bring in a fresh catch for mom as she tends to the nest.  Yum!

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Black necked stilts, as in the image below, as well as avocets and yellowlegs, etc, also join in on the fun at Eco Pond.

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Red shouldered hawks are seemingly plentiful as well.  Sometimes you see them … sometimes you don’t … until off they fly with a quick launch.  So very beautiful.  American kestrels and northern harriers often make themselves visible as well.

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Probably one of the most animated of all birds to visit is the reddish egret.  They always make a grand entrance as they fly low just above the waters surface, allowing their reflection to be seen.  They fly with such grace and beauty … such sophistication.  But don’t let that fool you, for they look more like drunken sailors as they run around doing silly antics as they fish for food.  I dare you to watch them for more than 5 minutes without getting a huge grin on your face, or if you’re like me … busting out in laughter.

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While the Everglades always has its fair share of brown pelicans, they also get white pelicans too.  Again, they also have quite the splashdown landing, which commands your attention when they fly in.

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I’m continually amazed at how they go about catching their food.  They seemingly eye it with their heads on a sideways angle, then slam their head and beak into the water and go for it!  You know that they’ve hit pay dirt when they then sit up and swallow.  So fascinating to watch.

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Probably one of my favorite wading birds are the lovely and delicate-looking black-necked stilts.  So very beautiful and skilled at catching the tiniest of minnows, they get quite beautiful this time of year with those bright legs and big red eye.  Soon they will begin their courtship and mating.

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Before long the osprey babies get big enough to make their presence known.  Not only do they offer the photographer a nice glimpse at their big orange eyes, but they also sure learn quick how to scream at dad to bring them some dinner.  🙂

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Yes, the landscapes of the Everglades are iconic and second to none.  Case in point it this view of what’s affectionately known as the “Z” tree.  Nature is quite amazing, don’t you agree?

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Now no trip to the Everglades is ever complete, at least not for Tom & I, without a stop at the famous “Robert’s” on your way out.  The best key lime milkshakes in town (as well as many other exotic flavors) and much more for the tourists.  For me, I always appreciate it when they grow the sunflowers along the roadside … which is Florida-unique when coupled with the palm trees in the background!

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Hope that gave you an idea about Everglades NP.  That being said, take a moment to ponder and ask yourself … where is your park? … then participate in the #FindYourPark movement in celebration of the NPS.

Stay tuned for more …

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

It Just Keeps Getting Better (Denali NP-Part 3)

Well, it’s another day in paradise for sure … as we’re greeted to an amazing bluebird day!  Nothing like viewing Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from such a distance away and seeing it without being shrouded in the clouds.

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Of course that was the telephoto view, while the below image was the “eye’s view” taken with a traditional landscape lens near the Mountain Vista Trailhead parking lot.  Either way, the beauty is apparent.

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New to us in 2014 was the Savage Alpine Trail, which was conveniently located adjacent to the Mountain Vista Trailhead parking lot, near the Savage River Campground.  We decided to give it a shot.  I was immediately pleased when I came across a sign warning of bear activity in the area.  I remember thinking that this was going to be a great hike!

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Designated trails in Denali NP are a rare sight to see, as most of this vast wilderness makes only for its own DIY (Do It Yourself) trails.  In the past, one could hike here, but being that it ventured close to the moose rut closure in the fall, it wasn’t generally accessed frequently.  In the beginning of the trail, some boards were used to designate the trail and keep it in good condition.  It was so beautiful as we made our way about 1/4 up the mountain.

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About 1/3 of the way up, we were treated to views like this.  Oh yeah!

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Before long, the views behind us, actually all around us were increasingly spectacular with our climbing elevation.

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Upon reaching near the summit of the climb, Tom took in the view from all around.

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It was one of the most breathtaking views … I’m talking 360 degrees … I’ve ever witnessed.  Didn’t matter which way you looked.  I didn’t ever want to leave as I tried desperately to soak it all in … essentially trying to imprint it into my soul … to draw upon in future days when I would once again long for this solitude and immense beauty.

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But alas, we eventually had to descend … happily the beauty remained all around us.

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And when the mountain views had eluded us, we still had running creek waters to call upon our senses, as the water made its way down the mountain.

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In the finale, we were treated to a beautiful gravel path back down to the park road and our RV waiting for us.

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We never see those bears that were “frequenting the area” :-(, but we were treated some wildlife sightings, mainly birds, such as this lovely grouse seen almost immediately as it scurried off the path in front of us as we explored.  🙂

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Every day and night, we would “troll” those first 15 miles of accessible park road for any wildlife that might be in the area.  Usually it was a moose on the loose, but many have  seen wolf, lynx, bear, porcupine, a variety of squirrels, and other sightings.

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On this evening we made our way back to Savage River to try our chance at finding a bear, lynx, dall sheep, wolf, or whatever might be passing through the area, but only moose were found.  Hard to beat the scene though as the sun began to set on the landscape.

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Then when we turned around to leave for the night, I saw this amazing moon beginning to rise on the landscape.  Being that it was still low, it looked amazingly big … and definitely beautiful.  “Pull the RV over right now”, which was a request usually reserved for wildlife sightings – LOL.

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After a few shots, Tom thought that I was done, but no … for I knew that the light would be changing again and that the image might become more interesting and beautiful.  As we were waiting for the moon to continue to rise and the colors to emerge, we were entertained by this cute little guy … flying into our RV grill … in search of bugs!  We watched as he repeatedly fly in and out.  It was quite interesting and most definitely entertaining to watch.

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Sure enough, the colors began to pop and all I could think was that this was the perfect ending to a perfect day!

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We did however have another day waiting for us to explore the wonders of Denali.  I did a mental checklist of the Big 5 … all sightings were accomplished of the moose, bear, caribou, dall sheep, and the wolf.  Denali in its full glory was also accomplished (30% club inductees once again – even better since we viewed it without a hint of a cloud).  Lots of bird sightings … variety of smaller animals … But I was missing a lynx  ;-).  I was still pleased with my luck so far, as lynx sightings in 2014 were scarce due to the decline of the snowshoe hares in the park … a favorite food of the lynx.

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Stay tuned for the remaining stories and images from Denali NP.

© 2014 TNWA Photography

Another Day … Another Experience

What a difference a day makes!  Even though it has barely been 24 hours, most of the snowfall from 36 hrs ago has melted on the lower elevations and you could almost watch as it began to disappear from the landscape.  Luckily, those magnificent clouds and fall landscape colors remained.  🙂

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When I say that the landscape was bright, I mean it.  It seems as though I almost needed sunglasses to effectively mute some of the colors erupting.  The reds, oranges, yellows, greens, and even tones of blues … all unmistakeable and truly god’s work of beauty.  We felt quite honored to be a part of witnessing this display, as it quickly arrives and just as quickly fades into the muted shades of winter’s landscape.

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Once again, the cow moose were plentiful and roaming amongst the willows, as they dined freely.

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As much variety of wildlife that we were treated to the first day, we seemed to hit a bit of a dry spell the next.  Except of course, for the wolf pup sightings!  My friend, Rebecca, told us of her various frequent sightings of the pups, but we hadn’t seen any yet and were quite bummed to say the least.  However, on this day, it was alas, our chance.

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Not the most amazing images I’ve even taken, but the experience was quite rich indeed.  This little one paced the road in front of us for quite some time to the delight of everyone on our shuttle.  Once in a while, it did turn around and give us a “vogue shot”, but for the most part we were treated to its backside.  LOL

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The grizzly bears of course were out and about as always, though I think that I had heard that earlier in the year, the bear sightings were harder to come by.  Funny how timing is everything, as they say.

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Berries are “what’s for dinner?” for these guys at this time of year.  They ingest incredible amounts of berries to provide them the much needed last minute gorging that will serve them well through their early winter and hibernation period.  Having the proper nutrition is mandatory for those sows who will bear cubs during their hibernation.  In fact, if they don’t have the proper nutritional (fat) stores when they den, they may not even produce their young!

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If you ever get the chance to travel and visit Denali NP, don’t miss out on a visit to the Eielson Visitor Center, some 70 miles or so into the park.  From there, many amazing vistas await you, as well as several wonderful hikes (of varying endurance levels), which are quite rewarding.  Of course, in 2014, the hikes were either closed due to the high winds or the presence of bears, who also use the trails.  Guess they appreciate the views as well.  LOL.  In the image below, note the hikers below and appreciate the scale of vastness of this incredible landscape.  Also, note that there are very few trails designated in the park … it’s mostly a “DIY” system … that is, Do It Yourself!  🙂

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This sow and her cub cruise the hillside, finding berries where they can.  It’s fascinating to me how quickly these cubs learn from their moms about survival, even though the sow will continue to nurse the cub while they’re still cared for by her.

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Just look at that CUTENESS!!!

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Yes, we were treated to lots of bears in Denali this year and many of them were quite photo-worthy … and not a major stretch for the lens.  😉

_DSC5770 Of course, there’s more to Denali than the 88-mile stretch of park road.  Lots of opportunities abound to get out and explore on your own and of course, we did just that.  More to come, so check back often and stay tuned!

© 2014 TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Who’s Afraid of the Denali Highway?

Each year that we travel to Alaska, we always make sure that we experience something NEW … something that we hadn’t tried before … somewhere that we hadn’t been before … or something that we haven’t photographed before.  In 2014, one of our NEWs was traveling across the Denali Highway – from Paxson to Cantwell … all 135 miles of it!

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Though this was already our 8th trip to Alaska, it was of course, our 1st across this infamous stretch of lonely road.  Why?, you might wonder.  A few responses come to mind, such as “the more travelled Glenn Highway is wonderful as well”, “the road is too slow for our pace”, “what if we got a flat(s) along the way?”, and being a relatively un-maintained road, “how bad is the road really?”.  The road had a reputation of being primarily washboard like and extremely dusty.  Caution went to the wind and onward we drove.  Well we began on our journey early one morning and we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted by almost 24 miles of paved road right off the bat!  The scenery along the way, on this mostly clear day, was unmatched as well.  Like the Glenn Highway, it was breathtaking views, but it all felt so much closer on the Denali, as it climbed steeply up the foothills of the central Alaskan Range.

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OK, maybe not that close … but you get the idea.  🙂

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Everywhere you looked, there were jaw-dropping views.  We found ourselves experiencing “shock & awe”  Awed by all of the beauty and quite honestly shocked that we had never traveled this way before.  Of particular beauty was the area around Triple Lakes … gosh how I wished I could own that cabin!  LOL

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At precisely MM 21.3, was where the paved road ended and the gravel road began.  We both paused for a moment – yes, to take the image, but also to vow to each other that no matter what happened, we were in it together and wouldn’t place any blame on each other.  LOL.  We were going full steam ahead in our rented 28′ RV (which wasn’t restricted from the “highway”, but rather not encouraged, with warnings to proceed with caution).  Heck, we figured it couldn’t be worse than the year that we drove a slightly larger RV over Hatcher Pass … not a good idea for anyone wondering about that trip.

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Various lakes and kettle ponds dotted the road and the views continued to wow us.

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We even got to shoot some hawks along the way.  The wildlife however was otherwise non-existent … but who could blame them for hiding, since it was an active hunting season.  Sort of bummed about that.

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Views of Mt. Deborah, Mt. Hayes, Mt. Hess, as well as the overall Wrangell Mountains, Chugach Mountains, and the Alaskan Range were offered up along the way.  At the Mcclaren Summit, the road reaches a height of 4086′, which earns it the 2nd highest road in AK.  The area also serves as a drainage for the Cooper River, Tanana/Yukon River, and the Susitna River.

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In the distance, you can see the Maclaren Glacier and the Maclaren River, with the mountains looming even further in the distance.

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We found it really difficult to make our way across the highway on our adventure, as we couldn’t have pictured it nicer and so far, pretty uneventful as far as the road was concerned.

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All that we were missing was the wildlife, but as I mentioned earlier, I was glad that they were all in hiding.  Though there were numerous hunters camped out, we didn’t see any of their successful conquests … thankfully.

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As we neared the 2/3 marker of the highway, the weather began to get dreary and our visibility began to diminish, so we made more of an effort to simply get it done.  Gone were the promised views of Denali, but hey, it was an amazing run while it lasted.

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Would we do it again?  There’s a 3-word response to that question … In A Heartbeat! It just goes to prove the point … “sometimes the road less traveled is the most amazing one”.  On a side, for those with good recall and might have been wondering, Yes, we were still talking when our tires once again hit the pavement for the final 2-3 miles.  In fact, I believe that we were closer than ever … very tired, but exhilarated at the same time.

Stay tuned for our unexpected surprise along the Denali Highway … you don’t want to miss it, I promise.  🙂

© 2015  TNWA Photography

 

 

A Season to Give Thanks

As we approach the Thanksgiving holidays, I can’t help but take a moment to pause and reflect on the things in life that I’m most thankful for.

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Overlook at Dead Horse State Park in Utah – taken by Rodney Lange… Thanks!

First and foremost is Tom.  I know that I joke about him being my sherpa, but he’s a whole lot more.

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“Sherpa” Tom out to find some bears – Katmai NP & Preserve

Tom is my husband (6+ years now), my best friend, and my partner in travel and adventure.

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Taken by Kelli Williams somewhere in Utah …Thanks sunshine!

I know that it’s a bit cliche to say, but he “completes me” … more importantly, he gets me … and embraces it.

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Thanks for the shot Dave! (www.goseebears.com)

There isn’t a person in the world that I would rather share my life with.

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Selfie @ Dahmen Barn, Uniontown, WA

He shares my spirit of adventure and my love of nature.

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Glacial hiking at Valdez Glacier

Sherpa Tom

Sherpa Tom is also a fine photographer – Yellowstone NP

He encourages me to spread my wings, always encouraging me to follow my heart and my dreams.

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Snowy egrets – Orlando Wetlands

Debbie ready for action. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Thanks for the image Dan Cox of Natural Exposures!

Always willing to try or go somewhere new, life never gets boring.  🙂

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Tom looks out at the Dead Horse SP landscape

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Powder Mountain chairlift selfie in Utah

Then there’s my family… starting first with my daughter, Kelli.  I don’t think that it’s possible to be more proud of her than I.

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~~~ Kelli, my “sunshine” & apparently my “unicorn” as well~~~ 🙂

She really follows her dreams and stays true to herself.  Currently 1/2 way through her first year of PA school, she continues to amaze me with her dedication and drive to excel.

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NSU Jax Physician Assistant Class of 2016 Inauguration

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Kelli & her husband Mitchell … both amazing!

With all of the studying that she endures, she still finds the time to have fun with her husband, Mitchell, and their dogs … or should I say “poodles”.

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Snowbunnies – Utah

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Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico

I’m grateful also to my mom and her husband, who live nearby and always a part of my week.  Growing up my mom always set a great example of integrity for me, combined with a love for life.  Though they think that Tom & I have a severe case of “wanderlust”, truth be told, so do they, only their travel is usually on the seas.

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My wonderful mom

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My mom & her husband in Jackson Hole, WY

Family reunion

Family trip to Yellowstone NP

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Holiday celebration with the family, Florida

I’m grateful that Tom & I have always had good and rewarding careers, which have allowed us the resources to do some of the things that we love.

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Landing @ Katmai NP & Preserve

Out on the Russian River

Taken on the Russian River by Todd Stein … Thanks!

Of course, it goes without saying that our close friends and neighbors are also something that we’re grateful for as well.  Whether it be for a social gathering over dinner and drinks or lending an ear to help each other through this journey of life, it’s always a needed ingredient to a happy life.

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Denali NP snowstorm in August. Taken by Tom; edited by Rebecca Tifft.

Last, but not least, I’m thankful for the opportunities that have presented me, whether it be travel, wildlife encounters, photographic adventures, or just the ability to clear my mind in the great outdoors.

Not a cloud in the sky - viewpoint of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from Stony Hill Overlook

Not a cloud in the sky – viewpoint of Mt. McKinley (aka Denali) from Stony Hill Overlook

Yes, life is good, and my thirst for travel and experiences that I have yet to have will surely continue … those who know me, know that it doesn’t take a lot to make me happy … just give me a few bears, owls, (and other wildlife is welcome as well) and a great view!  Remember … “life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”.  That’s my motto … and I’m sticking with it … THANKFULLY!

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Coastal brown bear @ Katmai NP & Preserve

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Great gray owl looking down at us in Ottawa.

Two Jack Lake, Banff NP, Alberta, Canada

Two Jack Lake, Banff NP, Alberta, Canada

Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!  May you spend time surrounded by those whom are important to you and get the chance to reflect upon what you’re thankful for and celebrate life.

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Upstate NY winery … Cheers to all 🙂

Next up:  Kayaking the Valdez Glacier ice caves!

© 2014  TNWA Photography

 

 

 

 

Our Return to Valdez

Yes, the Kenai Peninsula can be a drizzly place, but so can the Glenn Highway on your way to Valdez.  This was my view for pretty much the entire 6 or so hour drive.  On the bright side, I didn’t make Tom pull over incessantly.

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As we reached the Richardson Highway and made our way over the Thompson Pass, a 2,805′ gap in the the Chugach Mountains, it was totally fogged over with limited visibility.  The pass is considered to be the “snowiest place in AK”, averaging 551.5″ of the white stuff annually.  In the winter of 1952-1953, a record 974.1″ was recorded.  The single day record was also achieved in 1955 with 62″ within a 24-hr period!

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On our way into town, we stopped off just outside at the salmon hatchery and were treated to views like this one.

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Here the Solomon Gulch Hatchery Fish Weir, seen below, is designed to harness the adult pink and coho salmon as they return to their spawning site and then die, completing their circle of life.  Here the salmon artificially spawn and the eggs are harvested with a goal of 230 million for just the pink salmon.  Each female salmon produces on average 1700 eggs and the harvesting yields 10-15 million per day (as their goal).  It’s really quite amazing to see.

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Part of the process is the fish ladders that the salmon must navigate on the way.  We would watch them and cheer them on as they put forth much effort to successfully reach their destination.

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All of this fish activity, of course, brings the birds …

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… the bald eagles also find their way there to get their share …

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… the seals also come to check it out …

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… and of course, the bears frequent the area for their easy meal.

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While we didn’t see bears at the hatchery this year, we were able to have a black bear come out to greet us.  Funny, we could see movement, but no bear.  Then all of a sudden I guess that it smelled us.  It got up from feeding on the grasses to check us out.

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To better ascertain as to what we were and what our intentions were the black bear began noticeably catch our scent.  See, bears have eyesight somewhat the same as a human, but their sense of smell are light years superior to ours.

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There were obviously a family of magpies living in the bushes and they made it quite known that they didn’t want that bear hanging around their home, as they officially escorted the bear out of the area.  LOL.  The bear looked so indignant as it moved on its way.

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We don’t get the opportunity to photograph many black bears, so it’s always a thrill for us when we do.

_DSC3942 The Duck Flats area along the Richardson Highway, just outside of Valdez, yields views such as this as you look towards Port Valdez.  The Trans-Alaska Pipeline terminus is directly on the other side.

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A few days later, when we were leaving Valdez, the skies started clearing up and the landscape which was earlier under the cloak of clouds emerged.

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One of the highlights when in the Valdez area is the Worthington Glacier, nicely viewed from the only road into town and accessible by foot, or I guess I should say crampons.  Viewing the glacier reminded me of a few years back when we took my daughter and now son-in-law to Valdez and enjoyed a day of glacial hiking, ice climbing, and whitewater rafting.

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Rainbows almost always abound in Alaska, so they’re usually part of everyone’s memories.

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Earlier this year, during the winter of 2013-2014, there was an epic avalanche through the canyon … called the “biggest avalanche ever seen” … which essentially took out the only road into Valdez and left its residents at risk for obtaining supplies and the subsequent flooding.  Most traces of that avalanche are now gone, but the wildlife seems to be less this year.

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Before we leave the area, I noticed the clouds were quite varied and interesting and I couldn’t help but snap a shot or two.

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Well, that’s it for now.  Our reason for travel to Valdez was also to explore the Valdez Glacier and its infamous ice caves via kayak, so we’re off to do that, but not before having a little bit of fun in town…  🙂

IMG_1994Stay tuned for the Valdez Glacier and our day touring the ice caves … Very cool!

© 2014 TNWA Photography

 

Visiting the Kenai Peninsula

Whenever we venture over to Katmai NP, we always do so via the quaint town of Homer, which is on the Kenai Peninsula of Alaska.  About a 4-5 hr drive from Anchorage, the drive itself has a lot to offer … wildlife and views … and it’s one that we always enjoy.  This year though, much of it was done in the rain, well drizzle, and low lying clouds.  That always makes the “views” part of the drive a bit muted.

The stretch of roadway is almost a certain for spotting moose along the way.

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When we arrived into Homer, we’re immediately awed by the views … Kachemak Bay and the Cook Inlet, mountains galore, and glaciers, which were difficult to see clearly due to the fog layer.  Homer is probably my favorite town in all of Alaska, at least of the places that we have been.  It’s been proclaimed the “Halibut fishing capital of the world”.  They describe it as “a drinking town with a fishing problem”.  It’s a combination of seaside, artsy, eclectic, and definitely outdoorsy.  I’m sure that in the height of the season, it can be also quite touristy, but we’re not usually visiting at that time.  Adventures are there for the taking and wildlife is also ever-present.

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Bald eagles are probably the most known residents and can be found just about anywhere.  Such a thrill to roam about town and hear them calling out consistently in the distance.  This eagle is on the job watching for signs of tsunami activity.  LOL

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When I looked towards the lake where we take off from to go to Katmai, this is what I saw.  I didn’t hold much hope for a flight out in the morning, but as you know, we got off without a hitch.

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Gulls and black-footed kittiwake often live in their own version of “public housing” as they make their nests in the pilings of the underside of the dock on the bay.  It’s really quite the impressive colony!

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Yes, it’s quite peaceful to sit at the end of the “spit” and look across the bay and see those layers of mountains, with lakes and glaciers adorning them.

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The fog also hanging in the air and giving quite the mysterious impression of what lies on the other side.

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Yes, the sea is quite revered in Homer, as its fishing industry is a predominant one, so they pay homage to mermaid … however by the looks of things, I don’t think that the eagles and the gulls respect her as much.  🙂

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Near the fishing hole on the bay side of the “spit”, you can almost always count on spotting bald eagles as they wait for the changing tide and the fish that come with it.

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This year, while walking around the town, we came across this sight and so, you know I had to check it out.  Turns out to be an art gallery with a very fitting display, sure to attract attention.

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I especially loved these tiles placed together giving the illusion of the fireweed, which was still a bit in bloom when we were there.  Like I said, it’s an artsy town.

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On our way to the Beluga Slough, I spotted this sign on the road, which I found quite humorous and appropriate for the town as well.

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Last year, while driving past the roadside of the slough, I was treated to the “dance of the sandhill cranes” and I still remember it like it was yesterday.  Not so this year, but we were treated to sighting of the pair and their colt foraging out in the slough.  Such a precious sight.  Sandhill cranes are also a bird that you can hear and see in the distance at almost any moment.  Love it.

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We stayed on a campsite on the beach and woke up to views like this each morning.

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Nearby is a town of Anchor Point, where we visited to spot some wildlife … moose and bald eagles mainly, but another thing we found quite beautiful while there were the beaches.

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Tern Lake, though absent of terns in late August, is a place that we stop every year, always with different views and impressions.  This year, it was quite overcast, the fireweed had already past its bloom stage, and there were very few birds occupying the lake … just a few loons and a solo trumpeter swan.  As much as I prayed for a moose to emerge into the landscape, it didn’t happen.  Maybe that’s for next year.  🙂

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Now we’re ready to go across the Glenn Highway and onward to another seaside town … Valdez, where we hope to get out and do some kayaking and wildlife watching.  Be sure to stop by and check it out on Thursday.  We’ll be watching!  LOL

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© 2014 TNWA Photography

Back In The USA

Finally, our time spent in Canada was coming to a close.  We woke up on this, another gorgeous day, and began our drive back into the U.S.A.  We were headed to Glacier NP in Montana … the other half (and bigger half) of the Wateron-Glacier International Peace Park,  shared between Canada and the US.

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Once we successfully crossed the border back in to the US, of course, the gorgeous landscapes just kept coming.  Northern Montana is such an amazing place to visit.

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We had a special day of fun planned for today, for we were meeting up with some long-time friends that we hadn’t seen in well … too long!  More on that in just a few.  🙂

We were a bit nervous about how the weekend would turn out, since we still didn’t have a place to stay and the rooms around Glacier NP had been booked for quite some time.  The road itself – The Going To The Sun Road – hadn’t even opened up for travel due to the heavy recent snowfalls and local avalanches, until the day before we arrived.  But as they say, things have a way of working themselves out.

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We drove on up to the summit of Logan Pass (on the Going to the Sun Road) and it was quite apparent why the road had just opened up … there was quite a bit of snow up there.

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You know … you think that you’re prepared for anything, then nature throws this at you.  Haha.  Where did you pack the snowshoes, snowboards, and skis Tom?  What?  You didn’t think that we would need them?  Think again baby!

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It was such a glorious day to spend in the great outdoors.  Views of mountains, blue skies, wispy clouds, and green forested landscapes were pretty much everywhere!  We even saw some bighorn sheep walking the mountain ledges and some mountain goats on the landscape covered with snow – all TOO far away for a quality shot.  I’m talking “micro dots” even through the binoculars!

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It’s OK about the distant wildlife sightings.  We were enjoying another sighting, which we appreciated even more!  Our friends, Buck and Donna Shreck drove on up from Great Falls, MT to spend some time with us.  As many of you might know, we’ve known them for many years and photographed with them in Alaska, Montana, Wyoming … it was wonderful to catch up with Buck (he’s looking great and feeling awesome) and Donna (just as sweet as always), as well as finally meet their dog, Abby, who was a bundle of energy and fun!  What a fun day reminiscing about the past and a bit of planning for the future.  Let’s not take so long next time.  🙂

DSC_6918We even got to photograph a moose together as we spotted it making its way through the brush.  Of course, there was that magnificent looking bald eagle too that decided a fly-by was all that we were going to get.  🙂
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Tom and I stayed at Glacier for another day and just focused on having fun and exploring the area.  Found these circa 1930’s Glacier NP Red Bus collection, which features a canvas roll-down top that can be pulled back to allow visitors to see the beauty of Glacier, from just about every angle!  Didn’t venture into one, but I thought it was fun looking.

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Our second day in the park was beautiful as well.  Whether it be the mountain peaks against the landscape, sky, and clouds or one of the many waterfalls who call Glacier NP home, it was all so magnificent.

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At Glacier NP, they have strict guidelines as to who can safely travel on the park roads … and as you can see below, it’s for good reason.  The roads are quite narrow, have no excess shoulder in areas, and have a low clearance as well.  We made it through safely in Tom’s truck.

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Once again, at the summit of Logan Pass, I was a bit drooling about not having our snowshoes with us.  Yes, we’re from Florida but have snowshoes … actually an anniversary gift to each other one year, if I recall correctly!  🙂

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We did venture up the Hidden Lake Trail, which on this day, had a “hidden trail” as well.  Eventually, we turned around when we realized that though it was cool enough temperature outside, we failed to bring any food or water with us, nor sunscreen.  Mental note to self … don’t do that again!

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Gorgeous views continued on the eastern side of Logan Pass as well.

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We also spotted some interesting landscape features along the way.  It always amazes me what you find when you just take a few moments to relax and take it all in.

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We settled in for a quick and delicious bite at the restaurant at the Lake McDonald Lodge, which had some amazing views as well, like the one shown above.  The area itself was a bit crowded for my taste, but who could blame it … look at this amazing day!

More to come on the next blog … more Glacier NP and also the Hungry Horse recreation area and dam!  Check it out!

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© 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

 

 

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