Photo of the Day – Me Next!

This was a great series of shots I was able to capture. Big horn sheep jumping back and forth across a small lake in Jasper, Alberta.

It was a bit nerve wracking watching a few weaker guys not make it and awkwardly splash around until they were able to touch the bottom of the lake.

Fantasy Friday – Happy birthday to my sister!

It’s my fabulous sisters birthday, so I am dedicating my Fantasy Friday destinations to a few of her favorite places:

Her favs:

Grand Floridian Resort at Disney World

Brugge, Belgium

London, England

Las Vegas

Cuba!

Jasper, Alberta

Waterton, Alberta

New York City

Some places I think would be her favs some day:

Vancouver, B.C.

Yellowstone

Chicago

Rome

Photo of the Week – Cub (not from Chicago)

I forgot about this photo I captured in Jasper, Alberta last summer.

A mother black bear and her 3 cubs kept peeking out of the bushes along Maligne Lake Road.

So cute!

The Unsung Alberta Park

When people think of Alberta parks, they often list Banff and Jasper, in that order. Maybe Waterton, but it is sort of unsung in its own right.

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It’s not often that people recommend an area called Kananaskis, which is not at all far from Banff – a half an hour SE of Canmore. But after two summers of visiting Alberta parks, I must say that my favorite (so hard to choose) is Kananaskis.

For starters, K-Country, as it is known, is not the tourist trap that you encounter when you arrive in Banff and it has a unique, almost spooky feel to it when you drive over Highwood Pass, through the looming mountains.

In the winter, this place is great for skiing and people invade one of this large land-use area’s provincial parks – staying at the Delta Ski Resort (which once housed both 1988 Calgary Olympic events and a G8 summit) and head out on Mount Nakiska. I have only been in the summer, of course, for bear watching!

Kananaskis is fantastic for biking. There is an extensive cycle trail set up that covers much of the front-country wilderness, showcasing its numerous, beautiful campsites in the process. Watch out for chipmunks!

That all said, what makes Kananaskis truly special for me is the mountain range that just seems so eerie and peaceful at night. When I was staying at the Interlakes camp site, between Upper and Lower Lakes (absolutely gorgeous!), my favorite time of day was dusk. So quiet, so few people: just the smooth, calm lake and the sound of the loon….oh so very Canadian 🙂

Campground Crackdown

National Parks are home to some great and some not so great places to pop up a tent and light a fire. Since my boyfriend and I moved into 8 different campsites this summer, I decided to rate them in order for myself to remember for next time/year and for your viewing pleasure.

#8 The Townsite in Waterton, Alberta. The view is stunning, looking out into the lake, but it is crowded and has ZERO privacy. No trees exist around the individual sites, and you just have the pleasure of listening to 50 other people snore. Another small plus though is the deer and the Columbian ground squirrels that greeted you every morning and saluted you as you came home from a long day of animal photography (Hot water, showers, $27.50/night).

#7 Bridge Bay in Yellowstone. Again, great view, but you have to walk to the lake for it. Again, great animals on the site to greet  you, including a bison that thought that our tent was sitting on top of some of the tastiest grass. It grunted and chewed and pooped every night right beside my head. Ahhhh, nature… But the downside was also the lack of privacy here. It was a little more spread out and had a few trees scattered throughout the plots to make it a bit more private and nature-y but again, I heard too much snoring from people 2 feet away from me (Hot water, no showers, $18/night).

#6 Mammoth in Yellowstone. Still a little lacking on the whole privacy thing, but the site’s gorgeousness (I am making up a lot of words in this post!) made up for it. You can walk to the town of Mammoth right from the campsite. They created a neat trail that goes over the side of the hill and directs you right toward the elk that are standing guard in the town. Nice hike! If you decided you wanted to sleep in one day, good luck. This was the hottest camp site we stayed at! (No hot water, no showers, $14/night)

#5 Crandell in Waterton, Alberta. My boyfriend did not like this place at all. Might have been the crazy wind that threatened to lift us off while attempting to sleep the three nights we were at this site. Or could have been our crazy neighbours that threatened our fingers to call child services. Can’t choose the neighbours though! Crazy and threatening things at this campsite. View was gorgeous yet again, waking up to the mountains and the deer grazing. Pretty much had our privacy too. (Hot water, no showers, $24/night).

#4 Whistlers in Jasper, Alberta. This is sleeping in the woods! Plenty of large trees, mostly private, bear traps at the entrance. I felt like I was really camping here! (Hot water, plenty of showers, $27.50/night).

#3 Tower in Yellowstone. Great location, it too had the woodsy feel to it. Grizzly sightings nearby drew us to this site. It was quite funny that we actually asked the park rangers which campsites had bear warnings in order to be in the sites where we could literally just roll out of bed, grab our cameras and start shooting. It was also the cheapest site we stayed in. Downside – outhouses were the only facilities here. (no hot water, no showers, $12/night).


#2 Coulter Bay in Grand Teton National Park. This was my first experience of camping since I was much younger. The site was so private, so many trees to shade you in the day (including plenty of mosquitos), and close to Leek’s pizza. Loved the people working there too! (Hot water, pay showers for $3.75, $15/night).

#1 Interlakes in Kananaskis Country, Alberta. WOW. Best site EVER! Imagine the picture below as your backyard. Something you wake up to in the morning and see a moose taking a morning sip with the calm waters lapping upon the rocks. Such a private and quiet site to sleep in. Only downfall was the lack of amenities, which included the stinkiest outhouses for your pleasure.

Shout out to my awesome Coleman tent that got us through a month and a half of rain, shine, snow, frost and wind.

The Outhouse – A Comparison

I thought one of my posts since my return from a month and a half in wilderness should fittingly be on camping comforts. One such comfort I became very familiar with was the outhouse. One place I was careful not to come in contact with the seat.

One huge difference I noticed when traveling from the US (Wyoming and Montana mostly) to Canada (Jasper, Kananaskis, and Waterton) was the smell in those lovely waste heaps. It is amazing how fresh and clean these ‘houses in Wyoming and Montana are. Some had fresheners trying to mask the dirties, but others, it was a mystery…they just didn’t smell at all.

Canada, on the other hand….phewwww. I could barely do it. The tall grasses looked more appealing when I was there. I saw the fresheners in Canada, tried to appreciate the cedar wood smell featured it some of the ‘houses. But POW in the face when you went to one in Canada.

Please tell Parks Canada your secret National Parks Service of the USA. My nose will be better for it.

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Stop and smell the roses…

Happy 125th Anniversary…

…National Parks of Canada!

Close your eyes…no wait! Just pretend to and read on. You know that music you hear on commercials that represent peaceful sounds of nature, the birds tweeting, the flutes gently playing a soothing note, then you see a rabbit under a tree, a deer nudging it’s newborn to walk, and butterflies fluttering around the flowers? Got the sound in your head?

Isn’t that the song you hear every time you enter a national park, right past the welcome sign? I mean, if you have ever visited Banff and passed the “rustic” booths to pay for your entrance to the park, past all the lines of SUV’s and signs featuring major restaurant chains available within the park, that’s the music that pops into your head right?

Ok, not knocking the national parks, I actually find them amazingly beautiful once you get past all those commercialized and congested towns associated with the park. Last summer, as I mentioned, I had a great opportunity to visit three Canadian national parks with one amazing tour guide (and also visited one American park at that time, which I will skip talking about for now as I celebrate the Canadian anniversary).

Waterton Lakes National Park

The first stop was Waterton Lakes National Park. As soon as I crossed the line into the park I saw gorgeous hills turn into mountains, wildflowers just coming into bloom and deer grazing on the grasses. That song started running in my head. Then all of a sudden my guide spotted a bear! My first live bear (minus the zoo…does that really count?). I was getting so excited! Then a bit further down the road, ANOTHER black bear, with two cubs…and a whole whack of tourists scaring them off. Hmmm…time to move on there. The drive through the quaint little town of Waterton was quite enjoyable.

My trip started off amazingly. I took some great pictures with my SLR that I was trying to get the hang of. After a few wonderful days there, it was time to move on to Glacier National Park in Montana, then right over to Banff National Park.

Banff was pretty entertaining. I only stayed for a night because it was too crowded for the type of trip my guide and myself wanted to partake in. Ate at Earl’s, walked around town, took a few pictures and moved on.

Banff

After a quick stop in Banff, I was quite excited to see Jasper. A little more remote, quiet, AND the best prime rib

Athabasca Falls

I would have in my life, guaranteed by my guide! Good thing I was attempting to become a vegetarian at the time, huh? Oh boy Prime Rib Village is a MUST eat! I had to go back for the second night too. Good thing my guide was actually my boyfriend, who did not judge me, just encouraged me!

A day trip to Icefields Parkway and Columbia Icefields, to Pyramid Lake Road, Medicine Lake, and Athabasca Falls was just breathtaking and my camera quickly became exhausted.

Visiting all these parks made me feel fresh, alive, closer to lovely mother earth.

As my planning continues for Summa Time 2011, I really hope a stop in a park similar to these gorgeous places is included. I can never get enough nature in my life. Happy anniversary!