Posted by: kerryl29 | November 4, 2014

The Canadian Rockies Day 4 – Northbound on the Icefields Parkway

Before hitting the road for Jasper, I decided to take one more crack at sunrise from Moraine Lake.  I retraced my steps from the early morning of Day 3 and found myself back at the Moraine Lake parking lot before first light.  Unfortunately, conditions were even worse than the previous day.  There was a fog so thick that the mountain backdrop you see in the previous day’s images–some of the famous Ten Peaks–were completely invisible.

Rather than pursuing the impossible, I put on my rubber boots and made the hike along the lakeshore to the Moraine Lake inlet stream.  I’d shot at the location the previous day and decided that, if I returned, I’d try to wade into the water to obtain a different perspective.  And so I did.  The fog made for nice, even light given the subject matter–though the photographers back on the rock pile at the other end of the lake couldn’t have been very happy.  I did in fact wade out about 25 feet–as far as I could go into the stream without the water spilling into my boots.

Moraine Lake Inlet Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

Moraine Lake Inlet Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

There was no sign of the fog lifting when I finished at the inlet stream, so I headed back to the car and then drove back to and checked out of the motel and began the drive north toward Jasper.  Just a couple of miles north of Lake Louise Village, I exited the Trans Canada Highway–which continues west into British Columbia–and began my trip on the Icefields Parkway.

The Icefields Parkway runs about 150 miles from its southern terminus to the town of Jasper; The scenery along the parkway is universally spectacular.  I made a few quick stops in the first 15-20 miles of the drive, but with cloudy and occasionally rainy conditions, I found shooting opportunities to be limited.  The first lengthy stop I made was at the trailhead for the Bow River Outlet.  This was a location I learned of from Darwin Wiggett’s Icefields Parkway e-book.  The trailhead isn’t visible from the road, but I had the GPS coordinates to work with.  I parked along the west shoulder of the road, got out out and poked around.  In a minute or two, I was able to find the trailhead, down an embankment and through copious shrubbery.

The trail itself runs about 2/3 of a mile to the edge of the Bow River, through a mixture of meadows and forest.  I made mental notes of a couple of spots off the trail to look at on the return, but continued to forge my way to the riverside.  Partial clearing had taken place as I hiked the trail, and after a few minutes I found myself at a small opening on the east bank of the Bow River.  I was left with a stunningly beautiful view.

Bow River Outlet, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet, Banff National Park, Alberta

I also played with converting the above image to black and white.

Bow River Outlet Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Though there was quite a bit of growth alongside much of the riverbank, I bushwhacked my way downstream a bit, to an outlet stream, and found a perspective that offered what I thought might make for a pleasing shot.

Bow River Outlet Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet Stream, Banff National Park, Alberta

The black and white version of the above image:

Bow River Outlet Stream Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet Stream Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

On the way back to the parkway, I stopped at a meadow north of the trail that I’d noticed on the way to the river.  I was captivated by the scene and, even though the ground was a bit damp, I maneuvered around to produce the image you see below.

Bow River Meadow, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Meadow, Banff National Park, Alberta

Back on the parkway, my next stop was at Bow Summit, for views of the famous Peyto Lake.  Unfortunately it was raining steadily by the time I got there so I took a quick run up to the viewing area without my gear to scout the location with the intention of returning at some point later during my time in the Rockies.

I made a number of stops further down the road, at overlooks, for long lens views of the aspen-strewn mountainsides.

Aspen Mountainside, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Mountainside, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Mountainside, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Mountainside, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Mountainside, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Aspen Mountainside, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

The number of views was endless.  I skipped numerous overlooks, but still found my progress routinely interrupted.

Mountain Layers, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mountain Layers, Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, Alberta

At the northern end of Banff National Park, I made a stop at Panther Falls, a true gusher of a waterfall that spews out of a hole in a rocky cliff.  A short (approximately 1/4 mile) trail runs below a parking area alongside the parkway and down to a spot where the falls can be photographed.  It’s important to be very careful at this location as there are no guardrails, the trail is narrow and the drop is lengthy.  I moved out to the very edge of the cliff to obtain a shot of the entire waterfall.

Panther Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

Panther Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta

I also played around with different shutter speeds and sectional views of the falls, including this semi-abstract that I converted to black and white.

Panther Falls Abstract Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Panther Falls Abstract Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

It was stretching into the late part of the afternoon by the time I finished up at Panther Falls, and I was still a long way from Jasper., but overlooks continued to beckon.  It was almost impossible to resist the urge to stop, pull out the camera and tripod and fire away.

Icefields Parkway Afternoon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Icefields Parkway Afternoon, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Despite high winds, I felt compelled to stop again when I reached Athabasca Glacier, and walk the trail that brings you close to the ice to see what I could make of it.  Unfortunately, temporary barriers had been installed which prevented my getting any closer than a few hundred feet from the glacier’s toe.

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park, Alberta

With a long lens I was able to zero in on some of the icy blue that is so characteristic of the Columbia Icefields.

Athabasca Glacier Sectional, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca Glacier Sectional, Jasper National Park, Alberta

By the time I put a wrap on things at Athabasca, it was early evening, no more than an hour before sunset.  I was now in Jasper National Park (the park boundary is a bit south of Athabasca), and the scenery was no less compelling than it had been in Banff.  I kept saying that I wouldn’t stop again–that I needed to get to the town of Jasper (my base for the next few days) to at least give myself a chance to scout a location for sunrise the following morning but it was becoming increasingly clear to me that it wouldn’t happen.

Eventually I put an end to the charade and just stopped whenever I found something compelling, which was frequently.  Tangle Falls, for instance, which was right alongside the parkway.

Tangle Falls, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Tangle Falls, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I made numerous additional stops at a variety of unnamed pullouts.

Athabasca River Floodplain, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Athabasca River Floodplain, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspens & Conifers, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Aspens & Conifers, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Icefields Parkway Evening, Jasper National Park, Alberta

Icefields Parkway Evening, Jasper National Park, Alberta

I planned to stop somewhere along the parkway when sunset came–I would still be a good hour south of Jasper when that happened–but, for the fourth straight day, sunset fizzled.  I pulled off at an overlook, but the sky was almost completely cloudy when the sun finally set, and there was no color at all.  I did get a bit of a bonus, however.  Just before dark, I had the opportunity to see–but not photograph–a large bull elk as it wandered through a meadow to the west of the parkway.  It was the first real wildlife sighting I’d had on the trip but it wouldn’t be the last.

It was dark when I arrived in Jasper, which meant that I’d have to hit a location completely cold the following morning at sunrise.  So far, in four days, I hadn’t had a single sunrise or sunset.  I was anxious to see that losing streak end on my first full day in Jasper National Park.

Next:  Day 5 – Patricia and Pyramid Lakes, Highway 93A and Mt. Edith Cavell

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Responses

  1. Thank you for more great memories! Tangle Falls is where I saw my first mountain goats, drinking from the creek there. There used to be a trail that allowed people to walk up to and on Athabasca Glacier, it sure felt good in the late August heat while I was there.

    I hope that you were eventually able to get a few sunrises and/or sunsets, since you at least supplement your income selling images. But, it doesn’t really matter as far as I’m concerned, the scenery is magnificent any time of the day. One could spend an entire lifetime in those two parks and still never photograph or even see every beautiful view there. I really, really need to go back!

    I’m not going to attempt to pick a favorite from among your wonderful photos, they’re all beyond words!

    • Thanks.

      No goats at Tangle Falls (or Tangle Creek) when I was there; I saw quite a few along the Yellowhead Highway in Jasper NP, however, among other places.

      The only way, I believe, to get up onto the Athabasca Glacier these days is to take one of the ice tours that are organized from Icefields Center.

      I did ultimately get some sunrises and sunsets. Things in Jasper were far more accommodating and they were arguably even better in David Thompson Country.

      Definitely agree that the views in the region are seemingly endless; I barely scratched the surface. As you say, a lifetime isn’t long enough, so two weeks… 🙂

      I hope you do get a chance to get back there, and soon!

  2. Your photos are superb – it’s so beautiful there! I must make a point of going…

    • Thanks…and, I definitely recommend a trip to the area, if you can pull it off.

  3. Very nice group of shots. For some reason the B&W’s particularly hit resonance with me. Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you.

      I did a fair amount of shooting on this trip with b/w in mind. For one thing, I shot pretty much all day, every day (pouring down rain notwithstanding, grumble, grumble); there was a lot more “grand landscape” imagery than I’m usually engaged with, including the fast moving and layered clouds of the Canadian Rockies. Comparatively high contrast scenes often say “black and white” to me, so I’ve performed quite a few conversions with more to come.

  4. Hi Kerry,

    Marvelous images, especially the black and white. Thanks for letting us tag along on your journey. I cannot get out at all these days.

    John

    • Thanks, John, for the kind words about my images. I hope you’re able to get out and about very soon.

  5. Awesome! Love the black and white as well as the premium colours of fall in the mountains. Oh, I know what you mean about a half-hour drive taking hours-so many stops! LOL. Great shots of Tangle Falls and river outlets, great idea..Panther Falls is amazing and will be a stop on my next trip if my legs can manage it-it is steep and my balance is poor so that lower trail was one stop I had to forgo. It is a privilege to see this area from your skilled point of view.

    • Thanks.

      Yes, left to my own devices there’s a pretty good chance that I’d still be on the parkway, scoping out another shot. 🙂

      The trail down to Panther Falls isn’t too difficult (the trail down to the base of Bridal Veil Falls, which emanates from the same trailhead, is another matter), but to get the entire waterfall in the frame you have to get very, very close to the edge of a cliff that drops off a couple of hundred feet, I’d estimate, so if you go down there take extra care.

  6. The images you’ve brought back are marvelous, but just being there is mind blowing in itself. I can’t imagine the Canadian Rockies ever disappointing in all its varied moods. Though downpours might be a bit uncomfortable. It’s been far too long since I’ve been up there. Hoping to make it back perhaps next year.

    • Thanks.

      Agreed–the Canadian Rockies represents the most beautiful landscape I’ve experienced to date. I do hope you’re able to get back there soon.

  7. […] If you’d like to see some truly spectacular photography of one of the most beautiful areas on the face of the Earth, than I would suggest that you check out Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog! […]

  8. […] you’ve seen plenty of them in the earlier installments of the series (Day 1; Day 2; Day 3; Day 4) and you’ll surely see many, many more if you continue to follow along as I present the daily […]

  9. […] hadn’t had the opportunity to scout the location the day before, but the route to Patricia Lake via Pyramid Lake Road appeared to be a short and easy to follow […]

  10. I’ll be featuring you this Sunday in another Photo Blog Feature. Congratulations and thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks very much! Is there anything you need me to do?

      • I will present your blog in my feature section with some information (taken from your about page) that will allow people to visit your site! I expect the freshly featured widget to go right next to the freshly pressed one, lol.

        • I’ll be more than happy to post the “Freshly Featured” image to the blog’s sidebar. Just give me a nudge if I’ve neglected to do so after the feature is presented.

  11. […] The first 50-odd miles covered terrain that I’d passed on the way to Jasper, back on Day 4, in the dark, so it was really my first look at this spot.  I didn’t make it all that […]

  12. […] was Waterfowl Lakes.  I’d passed this spot on my trip north on the Icefields Parkway, on Day 4;  I hadn’t stopped, as it was raining when I went through the area.  There’s a […]

  13. […] at Bow Summit on the drive back to Calgary that afternoon.  I’d checked in at Bow Summit on Day 4, during my trip north to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway, but it was crowded and rainy, so while I […]

  14. […] are tied to one of the the branches of an otherwise unremarkable shrub.  I found that marking tape last year, in broad daylight, fairly easily–I had the rough GPS coordinates for the trailhead, which […]

  15. […] parkway from the gorge I continued north until I got to the parking area for Panther Falls.  I had visited this waterfall the previous year, but I wanted to see it again because I had since learned that there was a second spot from which […]

  16. […] at the access point to Panther Falls.  I had been to this location, as you may recall, both in 2014 and on Day 11.  But on the quick visit here a few days prior, it had started to snow, so–in […]


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