Last weekend I was in Kananaskis and was very fortunate to watch a Grizzly bear digging up roots, swimming in the Kananaskis River and walking above and along the shoreline. After a beautiful, mist-filled morning at Wedge Pond I pulled out my longer lenses and drove along Highway 40 intent upon driving over the Highwood Pass. There is a spot a few kilometres south of Mount Kidd where a bend in the river draws close to the road and affords a clear view of both sides of the shoreline.
I saw the bear walking into the forest above the water as I came up to the river bend. She came back into sight a couple hundred metres further down in a small clearing. For a half an hour she shuffled between a couple of similar breaks in the forest above the water. I thought she was going to continue around the corner and out of sight but instead she walked into the water and swam across to the other shore. She pulled out of the water and set about digging back in the trees for most of an hour.
She came into clear view on the bank twice which allowed for some nice opportunities. The rest of the time I enjoyed watching her as she went about her business. During this time, one of the park rangers stopped by and monitored the bear for a while. He kindly shared information about this beautiful animal. She is Bear Number 151 and is one of three cubs that left their mother this spring. The mother is native to Kananaskis and raised the triplets in the area for their first three years covering an impressive amount of territory during that time.
151 looked very healthy and the ranger confirmed that these bears were doing well and had not developed any habits which could bring them into conflict with people. I was very glad to hear that. He carried on with his duties which called him to other parts of Kananaskis and I continued watching her. Several times, when a few minutes had passed with no sign of her, I thought she had melted into the forest and ended this special encounter. At one point I didn’t see her for 15 minutes and had begun packing up my gear. I looked back towards the river just as she stepped out of the thick bushes and onto a sandy strip on the far side of the river.
She sniffed at the air, angled to her left and crossed the sand. At the water, she crossed a shallow part and then swam over to a dead tree likely uprooted in the 2013 flood.
It was a first for me to watch a bear climb this kind of tree, with all of the spiny branches, in this river shore landscape.
I really had fun photographing her moving through her land. When she got onto the bank, returning to the clearing where I had first photographed her, she made a quick dig for roots and then walked into the woods towards the road. I jogged up to the road and after a few minutes she came out a few hundred metres north, quickly crossed the road and headed into the forest that anchors the western slope of The Wedge.
With the early snows of the past week, I was eager to get into the mountains to see how things looked up there this weekend. I went up to Wedge Pond which sits below Mount Kidd in Kananaskis. This small, shallow pot lake is a great location in the fall as it is ringed by a variety of trees and catches the mountain’s reflection in its quiet waters.
It was overcast when I headed out but the sky was more promising in the mountains. Before dawn, the mist started to rise off the water. It was cold and seemed to be perfect conditions for the creation of low clouds and heavy mist. That worked for me and I enjoyed photographing along the shoreline through sunrise.
The leaves on the deciduous trees are just starting to change color so I will make sure to return in a couple of weeks to catch their golds and oranges. The elk rut should start around the same time so I’m looking forward to hearing their bugling in the forest surrounding the pond then too.
In early April I went into Kananaskis along Highway 66 from Bragg Creek. I was late getting out of bed and did not leave myself enough time to set up for a sunrise shoot. I went for a short hike around Elbow Falls but returned to my car pretty quickly. Heading back, I was scouring the hillsides and trees for wildlife. I was lucky to catch this female just as she was stepping out of the forest. The sun hadn’t cleared the mountains across the Elbow River so the moose was not yet in the sunlight. I decided to set my camera up on my tripod and wait for a few minutes.
Patience often pays off and it was true on this occasion. After at least fifteen minutes of watching the moose casually grazing along the slope, I heard a couple of sticks break near where she had come out from the trees before. A couple of minutes after that, a calf came out onto the hillside.
The pair dined for a while occasionally eating together with mom always watchful as cars passed by or a strange sound came to her ears. They were calm and it was special to be able to watch them. I hope the buds, leaves and shoots start to grow soon so their rather austere winter diet is replaced.
I went back to Elbow Falls for the third time in the last couple of weeks. With the snowstorm that blew in on the weekend, I was drawn back to see another face to the area. Heavy snowflakes had piled up in the trees and across the rocks with more falling rapidly when I was up there. A slip on the ice was my payment for passage but I liked the scene I slid into. The falling snow gave the trees a charcoal sketched look while the rocks and water in the river had texture and character that seemed to suit black and white processing.
I went out for a long walk in Kananaskis this morning. Along an old road I hadn’t traveled on before, I was kept company by the heavy snow falling and a lone raven that croaked as I was returning to the trailhead. I stopped for a few minutes and heard another raven further down the valley that was talking with “my” raven. This one flew off in that direction and I carried on.
With fresh snow on the ground, I went back up to Elbow Falls to see how the valley would look in a return to winter clothing. I was there only a week ago and the change, beyond the cold, was significant. I love snow-covered landscapes so I found this visit to Kananaskis to be a very beautiful one. I think spring is coming soon but when winter is this pretty, I don’t mind a little delay.
I went up to Elbow Falls last weekend and ice-covered all but a sliver of the river and most of the waterfall too. With the warm days since then, I wanted to see how this beautiful spot looked now. Much of the snow and ice has melted, opening the waterway and showing another side of Kananaskis. Spring may be around the corner.
Winter is beginning to win the hearts and minds of the mountains in Kananaskis Country. After the sunrise at Wedge Pond, I hiked around the Upper Kananaskis Lake for a little while. There are some lovely yellows and golds in the trees reaching up along the lower flanks. With a few days of cool weather the patches of snow have knitted together and trekked down the slopes to meet, and pass through, the forest.
Canon 5DIII camera with a Canon 17-40mm lens (at 17mm): 13 seconds at f/22 on ISO 400
With most of the aspens having turned gold in the lower reaches of Kananaskis Country around Bragg Creek, I was excited to get up to Wedge Pond to see how the colours were around the water and up towards Mount Kidd. It was a cloudy morning but for a few minutes at dawn the sun broke through in a couple of places. A strange, soft purple-pink glow illuminated the whole scene fleetingly. I doubt I will ever get tired of visiting this place.
I was up in Kananaskis a few days ago to explore the recently opened stretch of Highway 40 up to the Highwood Pass. Leaving home in the dark, I arrived at Wedge Pond just as light was creeping into the eastern edge of the sky.
We had several days of rain preceding this visit so I was unsure what the weather would be like in the mountains. The reports called for partly sunny with showers. From experience, that can mean anything from empty blue skies to heavy, wet gray clouds. I don’t mind either so I was happy to head up and find out. That morning the mist was swirling above the pond and rising up to meet the low hanging clouds that were stuffed into the valley. I trotted down to the water’s edge and moved along keeping an eye on Mount Kidd. The mountain catches the early pre-dawn Alpen glow and can be spectacular right through sunrise. The view over Wedge and up to Kidd whispered of something good that might come and I was happy to move around, watching and waiting.
Seven minutes later, pink light was hitting a few of the higher clouds. The lower clouds were breaking up and it seemed like a clear view of the mountain was coming forward.
It didn’t – the clean view was swallowed up by the clouds as the rich colours on Mount Kidd came in. I didn’t mind at all as a few fleeting openings afforded beautiful views of one or two of the peaks for the next couple of minutes.
I have not had such a dynamic encounter with the weather up at Wedge Pond and I had a great time. It was fun to play around with the moodiness under the clouds balanced (and thrown out of balance) with the sunrise opening above. I’m enjoying the late resurgence of summer we are enjoying but I found myself looking forward to the fall colours that always look so wonderful in this special place. I will be there and would be very happy if these clouds returned then too.