And drive and drive and drive. But I should start at the beginning.
Thursday, June the second I met up with Scotty Roxburgh and Darren Misik at 5:00 am for a photographic adventure to the west country. We are all members of our local camera club, CAPS; Central Alberta Photographic Society. Both Scotty and Darren are wildlife shooters where as I’ll shoot whatever catches my eye.
I came to this conclusion early on as I sat in the back of the van watching a beautiful sunrise and I heard them saying it was nice and if they were landscape shooters they might stop and take some photos. As we headed west towards Sylvan Lake there were some fog patches over the marshes and I loved the look of them, I’m not sure my companions noticed.
After a fuel stop in Rocky Mountain House we headed out of town on Highway 11a. I’d never actually been on it out there before and I don’t feel I’ve been missing much not taking it.
We cruised into the industrial area at Nordegg looking for feral horses. (I know a whole lot of people call them wild horses, but they are wrong). We found the horses easily enough and I took a few photos of them.
From the action we saw and the look of their bodies it seems they alternate between eating, fighting and pooping. I didn’t have a very good angle of the fight where one stallion knocked down another one but it was interesting to see.
We followed them as they moved down to flatter terrain but the action seemed over for a while so I took a couple different shots.
Soon we were heading west again and found ourselves at the Crescent Falls Road. In the past there have been bear and lynx sightings on this road so along it we went. I’ve camped at Crescent Falls many times and I had yet to see any wildlife in the area but maybe our luck would change. Not on the way in it didn’t. 1st time in my life that I’ve been to the falls and not gone and at least looked at them. Barely had time for a pit stop and we were on our way back towards the highway.
We had only gone a couple hundred yards when a fuzzy looking black bear started crossing the road in front of us. He looked up at us and had a “oh crap” look on his face as he bolted back from where he came. All I saw of him after that was him running up the hill away from the road. Well, we’ve seen a bear. That bodes well for the rest of the day.
Soon we were in Jasper National Park at a road side turnout looking for bighorn sheep. There were none to be found but I recorded that view.
As we headed towards the washroom I looked over to see a black Toyota SUV slowly pulling into the parking area. “Hey, there’s Rick” I tell Darren. Sure enough, Rick Price and a friend are out looking for bears in the same area. Rick introduced us to his friend Leonard. After a few a bit I still needed to pee so I headed over to the washroom and this gem caught my eye.
I didn’t know anyone was in the van but after a bit, a young lady got out and she had electrical tape up the back of her leg like the nylons back in the 1940’s. Only it was on bare leg and only 1 leg. Discretion being the better part of valour I decided not to take her photo.
As out pit stop had turned into a half hour stop we headed off towards Athabasca Falls to see if there were any sheep there. There weren’t. Scotty did ask if I wanted to stop at the falls but it was raining and I have some good photos of it so I passed.
We took the old highway up towards Jasper, driving up to Marmot Basin, then back down as there was nothing to see.
From there we drove all the way up to Maligne Lake without seeing any wildlife. A forest fire had gone through the area last summer and it was quite a different drive up than I remembered. I did see a few placed I would like to take some photos but they would of taken a while so I didn’t ask to stop.
Into Jasper for a fuel/munchie stop before heading back south towards Banff National Park. The original plan had been to go to the Teck Mine but with our rainy day they decided the road would be really muddy and it might not be worth the drive.
A bear! A black bear was contently munching beside the road. This time we can get pictures.
I stayed in the van even though I only had 240 mm’s to work with. By the look of what a lot of people were using though, I had a super telephoto in comparison.
Darren did get out to get closer. He had a lens that would get him 3.5x closer than me. Of course he was wearing camouflage and kept the “tourists” between himself and the bear.
As we headed south we again passed Tangle Falls and they were beautiful – lots of water flowing over them, no sun beating down on them and next to no one standing in the way for a photo. I don’t think my cohorts noticed.
Rick had gotten some nice grizzly photos around Bow lake and near the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge so we headed in that direction to see if we could have the same luck.
We saw people walking along the lake at the lodge so we assumed there were no bears there. We assumed correctly. The lodge itself is in need of some tlc.
Darren said that he’d seen bears in the past by the Mosquito Creek bridge so we should at least go that far before heading home. There were posted signs and ribbons along Bow Lake warning of bears in the area and before we hit the end of Bow Lake, a grizzly was grazing along the parking area.
Two years ago while I was in Yellowstone I saw a grizzly in the wild for the first time in my life. Today I would get my first photos of one. It was pretty cool to see one. The location wasn’t the greatest, but beggars can’t be choosers.
He (or she) was along the edge of a parking area that was closed off. There was still room to get off the highway so after a quick u turn, we joined the half dozen cars already there.
I stayed in the van and got a few photos. The wind was howling and the ribbon that was strung between the signs was in the shot and kept blowing up to make photographing difficult. Then the rain and sleet came.
Scotty moved us farther from the highway and closer to where the bear was wandering.
This raven was wandering from vehicle to vehicle looking for something he could eat. I tried to get him with the bear in behind but he wouldn’t sit still long enough for me to change my zoom range.
The bear continued to happily wander along the ridge line eating grass.
Scotty kept a vehicle between himself and the bear so he could get a few shots.
I’m much closer to the van, but he has the keys. Didn’t think that through too well.
I got a few more photos of the bear before I was too cold and wet to care about getting any more.
I was in the van waiting when the bear wandered off down the slope. Scotty and Darren stood out in the rain for a bit waiting to see if it would come back up.
No luck. In 10 minutes I had taken aver 60 photos, or, about twice as many as the rest of the day. I deleted a few obviously bad ones while I waited for them to come in from the wet.
Off to Mosquito Creek we went. Nothing to see but some guy with a painted face running along the road.
We headed north to start on our homeward journey. Not far from Bow Lake the highway was blocked so a piece of equipment could be off loaded from a truck. Deciding not to just sit and wait, we toured back to Mosquito Creek to see if the bear was back.
But by now the running man had stopped where we had taken our photos so I got him as my last photo of the day.
I had nodded of a time or two along the route as I was pretty tired. Next time I have to remember to bring a pillow. I read a bit to stay awake on the way home. We detoured back into the Industrial Park looking for the horses again. We could see them but they were a long way away and it was fairly dark down where they were.
The rain we had encountered on and off all day did produce a beautiful double rainbow not far from Rocky Mountain House. I saw Scotty checking it out and looking for a suitable place to pull over to get a nice shot of it. Unfortunately, there was nothing but trees in the way and no real openings in them. As we drove it got fainter and fainter until it didn’t matter if we could stop or not.
We pulled into the Burnt Lake Store parking lot about quarter to 9 o’clock pm. I gave Scotty some gas money and thanked the guys for bringing me along.
I was getting home just a couple minutes before 9. My 1100 kilometer road trip was over. I might not go so far next time. But then again, seeing that grizzly was pretty damn exciting. It seemed to make the day all worth while.