I met this handsome fellow, a bull Elk, in a meadow near Lake Minnewanka. He was grazing along with a few other males earlier in the month, shortly before the snow began to fly in the park.
After hiking along the Boom Lake trail last weekend, I drove into the Kootenay National Park for a little ways. I stopped when I noticed the snow blowing off of the peaks along the Ball Range that is a line of mountains along the Continental Divide. Looking up from the British Columbia – Alberta border on Highway 93, the snow was backlit by the sun which had still not risen above the wall created by Storm Mountain, Beatrice Peak and Stanley Peak.
Wind pushed veils of cloud up the valley obscuring the ridgeline for seconds or minutes. When the view was clear, it presented a constantly changing scene as the snow lifted into the air.
I went for a hike along the trail to Boom Lake on the weekend and felt like I walked into a preview of winter. The lake is near the aptly named Storm Mountain on the western edge of Banff National Park and the area was already blanketed in 1-1.5′ (30-45cm) of snow. With the sun shining, I was happy to walk along the trail for a couple of kilometres as it was an area new to me. From the trailhead a bridge crosses over Boom Creek almost immediately. I slipped under the bridge on my way out and set up the photograph above which I felt illustrated the wintry feel. This image is also the December image on my just completed 2016 landscape calendar so it was a worthwhile hike on a couple of fronts!
With the cooler days that have come with November, we have had some snow fall up in the mountains. I went up to Two Jack Lake for sunrise on Friday to see how things would look with a bit of snow in the picture. Facing Mount Rundle and her reflection in the water there was just the odd skiff of snow along the shoreline. The color deepened in the sky for a few minutes before it started to color the clouds clinging to the mountain.
When I first arrived, the sun was still a while away from lighting up the clouds. The darker scene, below, allowed for a longer exposure and more stretch to the clouds and water.
I love this time of year when snow starts to build up and the scenic opportunities shift to one dominated by the white blanket that settles unevenly across the land. Winter in the Banff National Park is probably my favourite time of the year there. It is exciting to be on the edge of it.
When I set up my gear on the shore of the first of the Vermilion Lakes, it was cold and dark. I wanted to be there early to catch Jupiter and Venus in the eastern sky before it brightened too much. The pair, with Mars less visible to the left, were directly above Mount Rundle’s peak when I arrived.
As the horizon brightened the stars faded while color started to creep into the clouds. The lake was frozen with a thin cover of ice which gave abstract reflections of the sky and the silhouettes across the water.
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Early sunshine brought a cloud to life as it stretched and broke up over Mount Rundle. Before long, bright pink strands hung above the Bow Valley. It was a beautiful morning and I loved watching it build from darkness into light.
The pink softened quickly and pastels held the sky until the sun blew away the soft hues of the early morning.
A small herd of bull elk were gathered near Moose Meadows on the Bow Valley Parkway when I was there on the weekend. The frost bleached the grass and the cold air made the breath visible.
These were mature adults with massive antlers and they were putting them to use. The rut is on and these elk were challenging each other repeatedly.
They would be eating grass and then stare at another one. Soon after, they would stalk slowly towards each other and lock antlers. Once entwined, a push and a pull fight would take place. Unlike Bighorn sheep battles where they smash into each other, these were shoving matches.
It was a cold morning which made for a particularly appealing scene to watch these giants battle. The elk below was noticeably larger than the others and only one bull challenged him in the half hour that I watched. That contest seemed like more of a measuring stick for the smaller one as it was short and there was no real challenge.
He wandered off after a while heading for the trees and leaving the others to graze and continue the odd skirmish.
On the weekend, I found a Grizzly bear traversing along the edge of the Bow Valley Parkway near the southeast entrance. The bear, a female with the tag #148 (I think), I could see where she had been digging up roots but when I saw her she was already on the move.
She crossed the road between a couple of parked cars and then disappeared into the trees. I played a hunch and drove a kilometre down the road and waited hoping she might continue in that direction. A little while later, she came down the road and scrambled up onto this rock shelf above the road.
That offered a great view of this beautiful creature and I was able to create some solid imagery when she paused to decide on her next route.
Leaving the rocks, she crossed a grassy meadow and then walked through the open forest for a few hundred metres. I loved watching her walk through the trees – at this time of the year her coat blends in with the autumn foliage.
She then crossed the road again and shuffled down the hillside. Out of sight again and this time she did not return. I saw a video of her fishing earlier this summer so maybe she went down to the river for that!
This meadow in the Bow Valley often provides a reflection of the current of the weather affecting much of the park. On this day in early November, the remnants of a storm was thrashing around in the mountains while more promising blue sky opened up above.
Earlier in the morning, the clouds hung low over the Vermilion Lakes hiding all but the lowest slopes of Sulphur Mountain across the water. Later in the day when I returned along the Trans Canada Highway the clouds were truly broken up and it proved to be a very nice autumn afternoon in the Banff National Park.
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… and just about everywhere else in this part of the world is frozen solid. Temperatures have been stuck below -20°C for the week. Much too cold but rather beautiful. This branch hung over a trail I was on near Johnson Lake in the Banff National Park. It seemed to be a fitting summary of the change into full winter.
Winter snuck an early snowstorm into Banff National Park’s Bow Valley last weekend. By mid-morning, most of the snow had melted away in the valley bottom but the upper slopes were still dominated by the white mixed with the green of the forest. It was a beautiful landscape to enjoy – we’ll see how long it takes before the snow takes hold for a longer stay.
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Following an unusually warm Hallowe’en, the temperature dropped below freezing. That low pressure system was accompanied by heavy clouds and snow flew for the first and second days of November in southern Alberta. On Sunday, I left Bragg Creek early in the morning with the snow still falling fast. By the time I was in Banff, the cloud ceiling was much higher and the snow falling much softer. Before noon, the sun was out and the winter wonderland was starting to melt away quickly at the lower elevations. I went down to the Vermilion Lakes to see how things looked and check if any of the wild residents were wandering about. I didn’t find much wildlife, but the landscape looking beautiful with the shoreline’s snow gone but the belt of white starting only twenty or so metres above. When the long chain of freight cars riding the rails on the far side of the second lake came into view I stopped to take a few photographs.
We have enjoyed a long fall season this year. Sometimes winter steals in before it seems like summer had closed off. This autumn is now closing in on two months and has been quite a nice season. I went to a small lake, Pilot Pond, which lies in the Bow Valley facing Pilot Mountain in the Banff National Park a week ago and felt the scenery around the water was a nice reflection of the fall we have had in the mountains.
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I was alone except for one female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) out on the water biding its time, and once flapping its wings, before continuing south.