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We are known as PaWingers or just The Wingers by our Geocaching friends. When we found our first cache we had to come up with a name to log the find. We came up with this name simply because of residing in Pa. and because one of our many passions is cruising this beautiful country on our Honda Goldwing. Aside from geocaching we are passionate about most anything outdoors including hiking, kayaking, snowmobiling and biking. We are blessed beyond words with a wonderful son and daughter in law. We're also blessed with some terriffic family and friends. We consider ourselves very fortunate due to the fact that after being married over 40 years we still enjoy these things together.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Canadian Rockies - British Columbia

April of 2013 Jeanne and I celebrated the milestone of 40 years together as husband and wife.  So many times I've heard people talk about their years together and will often say that their relationship had some bad times but many good times.  We have been blessed and can honestly say all our years have been incredible with no regrets.  In 1983 our life became even richer when we were blessed with an amazing son Jeremy.  Our family grew again when he married Amy who we absolutely adore. So you are probably asking what all this has to do with the Canadian Rockies.  Every anniversary we would do something special that day but for our 40th we wanted it to be something extra special.  We decided a trip to the Canadian Rockies would be the perfect destination.  The purpose of this blog post is naturally to show you pictures from our trip but also to kinda' outline our route and itinerary in case others might want to do a similar trip.
Our original plan was for early in June and to fly into Calgary where we would rent a car to tour the Rockies.  As far as lodging we would be staying in hotels.  There's a couple things to keep in mind in that regard.  Finding hotels in the Canadian Rockies isn't at all like finding them in US vacation spots.  The place with the highest concentration of lodging is in Banff which is at the southern end of the Canadian Rockies.  Canmore has a few, as well as Lake Louise and Jasper but they aren't the chain hotels like you are used to seeing in the US.  Due to the fact that there are so few, it is strongly advisable to make reservations well in advance.  Another thing to keep in mind is that hotels in the Canadian Rockies are expensive and after Victoria Day the prices go through the roof.  Also,  there are major miles between Lake Louise and Jasper with little of nothing in regard to food or lodging.
With these things in mind we planned our trip with a different approach.  We decided to do our trip in late August which worked out well in regard to good weather.  We flew into Calgary and rented a 30 foot motorhome from Cruise Canada.  We went with the 30' because anything smaller didn't have an onboard generator.  With this approach we would have lodging covered and also we could eat wherever and whenever we wanted.  I might add that we dined at some incredible locations.  Some mornings we would just pull over at a beautiful spot and sit out sipping our morning coffee.  Gotta say, it was awesome!  The other advantage of traveling with the motorhome is that it saved us the daily chore of hauling heavy camera gear and luggage in and out of hotels twice a day.  It truly was the only way to travel and was quite comfortable.  Campgrounds were never a problem as there seemed to be plenty of them.  While we did have some nights that the regular campgrounds were full, they always had room in their overflow campgrounds.  Some of these proved to be awesome locations and with the generator we had everything we needed.  The motorhome had plenty of capacity for fresh water as well as gray and black water.  To say that it worked out well would be quite and understatement.  It worked out incredibly well!
After picking up the motorhome in Calgary we headed to a Walmart to get food and supplies for our 8 days on the road.  We did eat out on 4 occasions but most of our meals were prepared in our camper.  After leaving Calgary we headed west toward Canmore and then on to Banff.  In the following days we would pass through Lake Louise and hit the Icefields Parkway enroute to Jasper.  We spent one night in an overflow campground in Jasper which proved to be a reward rather than a curse.  The mountains to the east of our campsite made an incredible backdrop as they became illuminated by the setting sun. We were also in an area of a heavy concentration of Wolves but sadly we didn't find them.  Wolves and Grizzly's were high on my wish list in regard to photography subjects.
After spending a night in Jasper we headed into British Columbia to Mount Robson which is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.  This day the top was masked by cloud cover but beautiful just the same.  This would be the most northern part of the trip and also one of three times that we would travel into and out of British Columbia.  At the risk of putting the readers to sleep I will pick up the pace and quickly outline other places we visited and keep details to a minimum.  I will also attempt to include a map showing our approximate breadcrumb trail.  After leaving Mount Robson we headed south again and toured 4 different National Parks.  The 4 parks would be Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay.  Each park was  beautiful in it's own way. By the time we returned to Calgary we will have traveled roughly 1600 kilometers.  At this point we can move on to pictures and I will comment below the appropriate pictures.

Jeanne might say that I was a bit crabby here but it's because I'm much more comfortable behind the lens rather than in front of it.  This is at a trailhead into backcountry with a high concentration of Wolves.  We actually would be camping only a 75 yards or less from this trailhead.   It was a beautiful and desolate location with indescribable beauty.

The Canadian Rockies are quite different than the US Rockies.  The US Rockies are primarily metamorphic or granite rocks while the Canadian Rockies are jagged shale and limestone. 

Bighorn Sheep along the Icefields Parkway.  The 600mm was my lens of choice for these critters.

You can count the obvious rings on their horns to tell their age.  Bighorn Sheep will try to stay up out of the way so you need to watch closely or they could easily be missed.

This is a Mountain Goat which by the way are very cool.  I was tempted to Photoshop a Polar Bear head on his body and claim we saw a Polar Bear but I held back.

If you look closely you will see a rainbow.  We did in fact see many rainbows on this trip which really added to the natural beauty. 

This was a very high waterfalls, possibly 300 feet or more.  It was difficult to get a picture that really tripped my trigger.  I guess it was neater to see than it was to photograph.


This image was taken just before nightfall and at quite a long distance that even challenged my 600.  There were actually several elk including a large bull that swam the Athabasca River which was running high and fast.  I think Mommy was relieved when this last young one made it safely to the opposite bank.

This little fella is a Ground Squirrel.  We were in British Columbia in Kootenay National Park and had pulled into a small side road that led to the Kootenay River.  We were looking for a beautiful spot to have dinner and this fit the bill perfectly.  After a great roadside meal we sat around watching for critters on the opposite side of the river and had the cameras all set up and ready to go.  As it turned out, this little Ground Squirrel showed up and gave us tons of photo opportunities.  In fact, at one point I had enticed his little appetite and he actually sat on my foot.  He was a cool little guy.

Here is the same Ground Squirrel posing for another shot.

We found this cow Moose enjoying a nice wallow. 

Jeanne had her heart set on seeing a Moose even if it was just a cow.  When she saw this bull she was thrilled.  Believe it or not we photographed this fella early in the morning at a place called Moose Meadows.  What's the odds of that?

This cool bird is called a Black Billed Magpie.  It had neat colors and a very long tail.  They are quite prevalent in the Canadian Rockies.

I don't really like taking pictures of hawks or any other bird when it's perched on wires but sometimes you just have to ignore your own rules.

Here is a bee gathering pollen as another bee does a fly by.

I suppose now is as good a time as ever to make a statement and set the record straight.  The water you will see was not photoshopped and is truly BLUE. 
The blue color comes from what is called "rock flour".   Rock flour is finely ground limestone dust that was reduce to this powder by the glaciers.  The fine particles are suspended in the water and when the sun shines through it all the colors of the spectrum are filtered out except for the brilliant blue or turquoise.  Depending on the size of the rock flour particles the lakes may have different shades of blue.  It's actually quite incredible.

This is Mount Robson which is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies.  It is actually located in British Columbia.  On this morning, clouds would hide the very top of the mountain.  We still thought it was beautiful.  At the base of the mountain there is a small cafĂ© where we ate breakfast as we gazed at this amazing scene.

This picture was taken in the Valley of the Ten Peaks at Moraine Lake.  The background may look like a fake backdrop but I assure you what you see is real, only the names were changed to protect the innocent.  This water is quite blue because this lake is primarily glacier fed.  Did I mention that we were the only two people in the Canadian Rockies dressed in camo?  I hope we started a trend.

Another shot of Lake Moraine.  This lake is just a short drive from Lake Louise.  Not only is this a beautiful lake but there were very few people as compared to Lake Louise.  We took this shot from the Rockpile Trail.

I shot this photo from a different angle and just as the sun poked out from behind a cloud.  The blue color was nothing short of pure brilliant.

This is Emerald Lake which is not far from Jasper.  We arrived here quite early in the morning before the fog had a chance to lift completely.  Even better was the fact that at this early hour we had this tranquility to ourselves.

I really don't have much to say about these two images other than, you just had to be there!

Just another Big Horn.

This is a shot of the Columbia Icefields in the background.  In the foreground is our Motorhome and one of the all wheel drive buses that carry people out on the glacier.

I really never got the shot that I was hoping for here but we sure treasured the view.

Just liked the color contrast on this shot.  It's nothing special but not bad either.

Another cool roadside waterfalls.

This is Athabasca Falls.  The picture doesn't do it justice but it's the best I could do.

Lake Louise is beautiful but way too many people for our liking.  On one end of the lake is a huge, and I do mean huge hotel.  It's big and fancy and expensive and once again we were the only two people dressed in camo.  I bet all those other people really felt underdressed in their silly tourist clothes.

Every time there was another rainbow I wasn't ready for it and always caught it as it was fading.

I promise this will be the last shot of this beautiful lake.

When I was trying to compose this picture I tried every position and angle to not include the fence in the shot but as it turned out I think the fence adds to the shot.  Hope you agree and also like the picture.

Sometimes you need a little time exposure combined with a Circular Polarizer.

Okay, now just look at me and lift your front leg a bit to make the picture look more interesting.  Perfect!

I swear, there is a beaver down there.

This is a very neat town in the Canadian Rockies called Banff.  It's loaded with shops and eateries and way too many people.  Jeanne enjoyed a few hours of shopping while I on the other hand didn't.  On the other hand we ate at a place called Tony Romas and they had great food with reasonable prices.

This place is called the Fairmont Banff.  It was so big I was lucky to get even half of it in one picture. A bit too fancy for our liking and if I told you what it cost to stay there you would think I was jerking your chain.  As we drove by we watched closely for someone wearing camo but surprisingly enough we were the only ones.  I hope they felt pretty foolish.

Just stopped here for our morning coffee and to enjoy the view.  Nice camo, by the way!

 These are ewes and they were very cooperative.
Dang, I just love these Buffaloberries!  I hope I don't break a nail.

The white thing you see is our motorhome.  We didn't think this was a bad place to spend the night.

We had a great night here at the base of a beautiful mountain range.  This area is home to several wolf packs but sadly we couldn't locate them.

This was the last picture I took of this bull elk.  I was positioning myself for better light and as I pressed the shutter I saw his lip begin to curl and knew he didn't like me anymore.  He chased me but I survived.  Actually this didn't scare me at all compared to the Grizzly Bear encounter.  Let's just say that the Grizzly Bear encounter put a damper on my rationing of clean undershorts.

Another small group of Big Horn Sheep.  I guess this would be called a herd as there were 8 or 9 of them.

Hard to believe that I had to go all the way to the Canadian Rockies to get a decent picture of a Kingfisher.  Decent but not great!
I really think adding a Polar Bear head to this Mountain Goat would fool many people.

I'll spare you the details of what it took to get this shot but let me say it was a bit of luck mixed with some calculated speculation.  I gave myself a little pat on the back when it paid off.  I guess you could say I got your goat.


We really didn't know if the little calves would survive the swim but fortunately they did.  This was taken from maybe 250 yards in low light.  I have other excuses for the bad picture but I'll let it go at that.

Had I been a bit quicker I would have caught the one cub a bit higher up the tree.

I like to think that I'm a pretty decent judge of character and I don't think he was all that happy with me.  Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think so.

Yeah, I know what you're thinking, "look at the cute little cub with the V on his chest".

This little guy took a break from eating the Buffaloberries so he could pose for the camera.

Hope you're not tired of bear pictures yet!

Bear with me for just a moment!

I think it might be best if I back away and give this bear some privacy.  I don't think he likes me all that much.


Look at the size of those tires!

The two pictures above are Pikas.  They like the rocky high elevations and these two were quite busy scurrying back and forth gathering food for the long winter.  These little critters are really cute and make the neatest "peek" sound.

Another shot of our friend the Ground Squirrel.

You gotta' admit, this is cute!!!

Don't really know what to say about the pictures above other than, here's some Moose pics.

When we rented the motorhome they said they would include two kids for a small fee and we thought yeah, why not.  They were great kids but always had that stupid smile on their face and didn't want to leave the camper.


Just a close up.

You guys watch the fella with the camera while I eat.

These are our new friends from Germany.  We met them on a hiking trail in the rain and then had dinner with them at a Liquor Store in the tiny hamlet of Field.  We then met them once again at a roadside pull off in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia.  They are really nice folks and we so enjoyed our time with them. 

 This is a map of the Canadian Rockies.  Our approximate route is shown by the blue dots.  This is rather crude and I will be working on larger segment maps to show the route better as well as where we camped each night.