It's a bank holiday here in Alberta this weekend so with crowds of thousands heading to the mountains, Sarah and I stayed home and prepared for the arrival of Mark, Hayley and Ethan for a two week holiday. Once we had done our chores we had a walk down to the river where a flock of red winged blackbirds were chasing females around the bullrushes.
I made a few shots as we don't have these guys at home, it took a while to catch them in flight but they look so much better when doing something that it was worth the wait. The female in the last shot in the gallery below made us laugh with her stance and to cap it all off we saw the local osprey circling overhead (he is currently residing at the Toyota dealership close to our house)
May 15th is always a good day around here, it's the day that the winter gate opens on highway 66 allowing access to tens of thousands of acres of wildland in the elbow valley.
I usually celebrate the day with a hike on Nihahi Ridge but this year the car parking in that area remains closed until June 1st, a little disappointing but there are plenty of mountains to go at, even if most still have heavy snow covering much of the ascent.
I decided at 26 degrees and the first hike of the year, it should be an easy one, so opted for the ascent of Jumpingpound Mountain. The trail is north facing so it holds plenty of snow at higher elevations but it's a gentle ascent and makes a perfect spring opener. As I suspected there was deep snow at the upper elevations in the shade of the forest, but it was clear above and below so there was only a short period of real exertion.
I've seen this summit many times but never tire of it. For those wanting full details of the hike with access points and maps can find a previous visit by clicking here or find a permanent link on our Hiking Canada page. For those just wanting to see the views from the top, click on the gallery below, there are no captions just a bunch of shots of a lovely early spring hike on a beautiful sunny day.
The spring warming continues this week and has brought with it a wonderful splash of colour from the House Finches that enjoy the feeder as they pass through each year. They are always in an erratic group that seems to spend plenty of energy on fighting each other for the best spot on the feeder (even though all 6 holes are exactly the same) The small gallery below represents less than 5 minutes of hectic House Finch activity this afternoon.
Cecil and I made the trip out to kananaskis today in the hope of finding some open water and making a few shots. We were disappointed, there's little sign of liquid out here and still some significant ice and snow. Obviously we weren't going to drive all the way for nothing so we picked our way through the huge ice slabs and plummeted through deep wet snow on occasion around the side of the upper lake. We did find some dry south facing areas but paid for it when we tried walking back on north facing areas. There are still some weeks of melting required out here but at least we got out and enjoyed the day. Below are some ice shots and lakeside skeletons that we captured along the way.
With temperatures reaching the low 20's today I was back out in the elbow valley enjoying the sunshine this afternoon. Just being able to walk around in a t-shirt made it a very pleasant 6 km hike along the river, past the beaver ponds and back on a circular route. The pond had fewer birds but I think that was down to the amount of foot traffic. The weather had brought out dozens of people desperate to enjoy the sunshine after that drawn out winter in Calgary this year. I still made a few shots (as you would expect) and have shared them below in a small captioned gallery.
I was watching the skies outside the house this morning as a red tailed hawk circled around looking for a bite to eat. After seeing him numerous times I got the camera out to try and catch a shot. I made one of him in the air and later when he dropped into the meadow and grabbed a vole I made a couple more just to show that beautiful red fan in all it's glory.
After a few phone calls I got the bike out and made the first ride of spring along our usual 25km circuit. It was great to be out on the bike but hard work in a stiff breeze. I've shared a few shots below for the record.
Cecil and I set out today to make the short hike to Troll Falls in the hope of making some images with water cascading over them rather than ice. As we made our way along the transcanada highway I asked Cec if he fancied taking the more scenic route rather than the direct one. With this agreement we hopped onto highway 68 and made our way west on the dusty potholed road away from the crowds. What a great decision that turned out to be. As we approached Stoney Creek Recreation Area, Cec spotted a grizzly in the roadside forest.
I quickly made a u-turn and we drove back to his location, with telephoto lenses to hand we grabbed shots as quickly as possible. In a very short time he tired of us and headed into the forest and ploughed his way through the deep snow on a slope that was tough going, he sunk up to his middle a couple of times and appeared as fed up of the snow as the rest of us.
Checking my images later I was able to zoom in on his tag, bear 164. This was great as I was able to look him up on the internet where he is described as a young adult with brown and blonde colouring. It seems he has been in trouble in the past and the aversion teams have had to chase him away from campgrounds. As bears age they tend to disappear into the forests and stay away from human contact but young bears are still inquisitive. 164 was radio and GPS tagged as part of a group of 10 young bears being studied by the aversion team.
His history includes getting within 2 metres of a pair of hikers and chasing mule deer along highway 40. He's never shown aggression toward humans but doesn't seem to be overly concerned by them. So, because of his penchant for campgrounds the aversion teams will find him and use bear bangers, rubber projectiles or 'shotgun fired' bean bags to dissuade him from pestering campers. His last reported bad behaviour seems to have been in 2016 so perhaps he's learning, he did scoot away from us pretty quickly today, let's hope he continues that behaviour and stays safe in the forests of kananaskis.
The day was already a winner and we hadn't even got our boots on. Unfortunately, after getting them on and hiking in to Troll Falls we found we were still too early for water over the falls which are still frozen solid for all but a short upper section. Around the snow covered base muddy footprints killed any photo opportunities and we returned to the main trail unimpressed.
As we hit the main trail we turned away from the exit route and headed north for a while before turning east toward the river. We found a lovely short section of river filled with photo opportunities and suddenly we were in business.
Incredibly vibrant dogwoods in red, yellow and orange burst from the riverbank heading skywards and the snow capped peaks behind them completed the image perfectly. We walked the banks and through shallow water onto a small island. After shooting for about 10 minutes our island got a lot smaller, the snowpack was melting as the day heated up and the river was now far too deep to splash across dry footed. After some rockhopping and log throwing we gave up and just plodded through in our boots laughing all the way like a pair of kids as our boots filled with water.
Ultimately it was a great day, we saw the first grizzly of the year, walked a few kilometres, made a few images and enjoyed the spring temperatures. It's great to finally see the back of winter and be out in Kananaskis again.
Sarah and I made our usual sunday stroll from the house today and down to the river. We crossed the bridge making an 8km circuit back to the house. It was nice to see spring birds arriving in good numbers at last and I find myself using them as photo practice if nothing else. The main shot is a Northern Shoveller and the gallery below has captions for each image.
The melting continues this week (albeit with an occasional heavy snowfall) so local areas available for hiking are still few and far between. This is why I found myself heading back to the beaver ponds in the elbow valley today, this time with Cecil for company. We met up in the small town of Bragg Creek and had a coffee and banana loaf in the cafe there before heading down highway 66 to the winter gate.
There were far fewer birds around than I saw just a few days ago but I think this was due to other people wandering around the area making plenty of noise. It was still nice to be out doing something and grabbing a few images so I made a small captioned gallery to share.
It's a sign of how bad winter has been this year that we are well into april, and today was our first walk by the river together. There is still a significant amount of ice on both banks and in the middle making islands but spring really has begun (at last). The sap is rising in the trees and branches are beginning to bud along the pathway and birds are returning to the river.
It's only a 5km round trip to the bridge and back but it's a nice leg stretcher and kept us on clear pathways. The main image below (click for larger) is taken from the bridge looking downstream and shows just how much ice is still hanging on around the river. The small gallery features a few images including a nice common goldeneye duck in flight and has captions to support each shot.
We arrived in Calgary, Canada on 29th December 2011 to continue our journey. This blog is intended to keep our family and friends informed whilst we explore Canada.You can use the RSS feed below to stay updated.
The Shaman, West Texas