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Day 3 - Sunday, August 13th
We got up early to continue our trek northwest. A couple interesting things we noticed about the Alberta highways: the signage was better and made for easier navigating. They had signs reading "Important Intersection Ahead". While we weren't sure that it would be important to us - like "could you be a little more specific?", there was at least some warning that we may want to slow down. In addition to all of the signs now being in English and French, we also noticed many of the warning/hazard signs not using any words at all, but pictures. For example, the sign that here would read "Bridge May Be Icy" showed skid marks and a low-reading thermometer. My guess on this is that maybe they can't fit multiple languages on those signs, so they just use pictures - I'm sure this is helpful for the international tourists as well.
We drove through Calgary, which was interesting as it was the site of the 1988 Winter Olympics (and possibly the 2026 games). It looked like a pretty city, but of course, we were anxious to get to our first reserved location. We knew we were getting closer when as we got just out of the city and started to see MOUNTAINS!!
We arrived in Lake Louise in the late afternoon and headed straight to our campground, where we were duly warned of bear safety and keeping a clean campground. When making our online reservation for this campground, I received and was required to acknowledge this warning a minimum of three times during the reservation/check-out/payment process: "Due to the presence of bears and other wildlife, and for the safety of campers, only hard-sided camping equipment is permitted on this site. Hard-sided is defined as a truck-camper, motorhome or recreational vehicle completely without any canvas, soft-sided pop-ups, or slide-outs. ALL soft-sided units (tents, tent-trailers, and units with soft-sided pop-outs) MUST camp in the Lake Louise Soft-sided Trailer/Tent campground." I was thinking at the time "what am I getting myself into?" - and being sure that Art slept closest to the outermost camper wall so any bear breaking in would get to him first! The soft-sided campground they refer to is surrounded by an electric fence and has an electrified Texas gate (or cattle grate as we call them) across the driveway.
We quickly setup the camper, grabbed our hiking gear and headed out to Moraine Lake. This had come recommended by my friend, Linda Tucker, and we were not disappointed!
You might be asking "Is the water really that blue?" Yes, yes it really is. No filters, editing, or Photoshop necessary. The cause is a bit of a science lesson - The lakes in northern Alberta are fed by runoff from the melting glaciers. As the glaciers move (they are moving sheets of ice) across rocks, they grind the rock into a sediment so fine it's called glacial rock flour. The glacial rock flour is carried by the creeks and streams to the lakes below, where it suspends in the lake water. The glacial flour absorbs all of the colors of the light spectrum, except for the one color reflected that we see with our eyes which is the color the lake appears to be. The color of the water depends on the time of year - how much water is flowing into the lake - and even the time of day. Since we wanted to see everything there was to see, we decided to take the 2.9 km hike back to Consolation Lake. To get there, we had to hike across a boulder field, then along Babel Creek through the timber.
We chose not to risk a broken ankle the first day by climbing across the very large boulders to get closer to Lower Consolation or the trail to Upper Consolation, but we were not disappointed with the first up-close view of a glacier - the Mount Quadra Glacier.
We headed back to camp to turn in for the night. Tomorrow - Lake Louise!
We've been home from our "fabulous" trip for a few weeks now and I've been trying to figure out what method(s) to use to describe and share our adventures. It was such an amazing experience, it just doesn't seem right to let it go without documenting where we were, what we saw, and what we were feeling during our travels. I want to record my memories for Art and me, and also our daughters - so they can read about their parents and how much they love eachother and enjoyed their time spent together. So, I've finally decided to use this blog to do just that.
I have two disclaimers before I start:
Now, here goes.....
First, a little background:
Those of you who know anything about Art and me know that we rarely go on a trip or vacation that doesn't involve hunting. Sure, we've taken our kids Up North (that's a real place in Wisconsin) many summers, to Disney a couple times, and Vegas. But when Art and I travel alone, it is almost always a hunting or hunting business trip. The only trip I can think of where we didn't hunt was a trip to Mexico for our 15th anniversary. In fact, even our honeymoon started as an antelope hunt with two other men! (that's a whole other story).
We have now been married for almost 25 years. The actual date is December 19th, but travel to or from anywhere in the northern half of the continent can be dicey that time of year so we thought it best to go in August. Plus, Art was hoping for lots of wildlife photo opportunities. I had never been to Glacier National Park, and Art hadn't been since childhood and had only briefly stopped in Banff, so we decided to do a big trip and see it all! We'd talked about this trip for months and made some reservations in May. We would go to Canada first, then Glacier, and then make our way home. I made reservations for the 11 nights spent in the mountains but we were winging it for the trip out and the last few days heading back East.
Day 1 - Friday August 11th
The camper's packed - all of our clothes, hiking gear, and food - and we're ready get up and head out in the morning. But wait. The night before, after backing the truck up to the fifth-wheel, Art noticed a puddle of fluid under the truck! This is after it had been in the shop two days earlier to get everything tuned up and checked. So, our first morning finds us at the dealership when the doors open to replace the transmission fluid and plug. I guess better now than somewhere in the middle of nowhere. At 0845 we're headed out of Dodge.
Day one took us across Minnesota and half of North Dakota. That stretch of road is pretty unremarkable to put it nicely. We decide to stop around Jamestown, ND. I find a couple potential campgrounds using Google on my phone, and after a little scare letting the gas gauge dip too low, we find Parkhurst - a little self-serve, honor-system, no utilities campground for $10 per night.
The view from our camper the first night of our vacation - Parkhurst, North Dakota.
Day 2 - Saturday, August 12th
Up early and headed north. It's North Dakota - not much to look at, but there were a few interesting things to break up the boredom:
Crop duster - those pilots are crazy! I love sunflower fields :) Did you know they turn to follow the sun?
Then, near Kenmare, North Dakota, we came upon hillside after hillside decorated with rocks. It appeared that each graduating class from the local high school claimed a piece of ground and made it their own. I guess you can't do anything else with that terrain, so why not?
The best part of this day? Crossing the border!!! While I had flown into Canada twice on hunting trips (Saskatchewan and Quebec), interestingly enough I had never crossed the border by land. I was so worried about packing something that wasn't permitted and having the whole camper searched and thereby delaying our vacation that I went so far as to weigh all our food categories and make an inventory list. Art got to bring a bottle of rum, while I would have to buy my spirits in Canada (alas, only one type of alcohol allowed). The border crossing guard was quite impressed with my preparedness. Needless to say, we were across within 5 minutes.
Obviously, we knew that Canada (and most of the world) uses the metric system. That doesn't mean we were ready for the instantaneous change we needed to make in our thinking. Speed limits (thank goodness spedometers have both), distances, and money.
Take this gas station sign for example:
Seems like a great price, right? When's the last time you saw gas for less than $1.00?
Ya - it's 98.9 per Canadian dollar, per liter of gas.
You do the math.
Southern Saskatchewan via the Trans-Canada Highway looks just like North Dakota, so pretty unremarkable drive. Except for one thing: we were now without GPS. Due to the cost of international data and call rates, we put our phones on airplane mode when we crossed the border. So we were old-school with my brand new Rand McNally and directions to Lake Louise that I thankfully had printed ahead of time. The other thing we noticed about Saskatchewan: the highway signage was awful. Teeny tiny highway signs and zero warning when a major intersection was coming up. Combined, these conditions made for some fast turns where we were nearly laying down black marks and riding on two wheels while pulling the camper.
We drove through Moose Jaw and spent the night at Ponderosa Campground in Swift Current (cute names for cities, eh?). The sign in the closed office read "help yourself to open sites behind the office or west down by the creek". We left $40 American in the box, which included a $12 tip. This would be the one and only night we would grill out for dinner - mostly because there was a fire ban everywhere out west due to the extreme dry conditions and wildfires - but also because we were too busy to bother with the hassle involved with cooking and cleanup in bear country.
View from my camp chair on night #2 - Swift Current, Saskatchewan
The snow here in Wisconsin is coming and going. We went for almost two full weeks with bare ground and the sounds of spring to 14 inches of snow on march 22nd and 23rd. This has not slowed the overall migration down or slowed the turkeys and pheasants from trying to find new mates either. The last few weeks has been nice to get the camera out next to some open water and along open fields to see the birds enjoying the spring weather. The next few weeks are crazy busy but I am hoping to get out and take some more images of the different migratory ducks as they come through our area. I hope you all have a wonderful spring All photos were taken with canon equipment and the new Tamron 150 to 600mm 5.6-6.3
This past weekend while out looking for Raptors to photograph I came across this 3 year old survivor. He though he was well hidden and did pose a slight problem of trying to focus through all the brush around him. 1st image Shot with a canon 60d, Tamron 150 to 600 mm lens at 256mm, 640iso, f6.3 and 1/13
2nd and 3rd images are both with the same gear and settings just at the full 600mm.
I had to work in Lomira Wisconsin on Saturday late so I decided to make the short drive over to the Horicon Marsh and stay the night. Sunday moring my wife and I headed over to the marsh hoping to get some of natures beauty through the lens of my canon. I was not there looking for anything imparticular or with high expectations. I was just there to enjoy the morning and hoping to capture some images. It ended up being a great short trip with us seeing lots of feathered friends and some pretty botanicals. Here are a few images from Sunday. To see more from this trip or others please go to the home page and check out all my images.
Cedar wax wing
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Wild Reflections Photography, a division of Art Helin Outdoors, specializes in photography of nature & wildlife and muscle cars, classics & motorcycles.