Posted by: kerryl29 | January 19, 2016

The Canadian Rockies Day 9: Memories of a Lifetime

The Icefields Parkway stretches 144 miles (232 km) between Lake Louise in the south and Jasper in the north, providing access to a nearly infinite number of beautiful places.  On Day 9, I decided to spend some time working the southern half of the parkway for the bulk of the day, followed by a late shoot on the Kootenay Plains–about 20 miles east of the parkway at Saskatchewan Crossing on Highway 11.

I started with a sunrise shoot at the Bow River Outlet.  You’ll recall that an attempt at a sunrise shoot there on Day 3 was abrogated given the inability to find the trailhead in the dark.  Later that same day, in broad daylight, the trailhead was easily found and I marked the spot on my GPS.  As a result, I had no trouble finding the trail in the pitch dark on Day 9.  I headed down the path–which drops down below the road bed–and within no more than 300 feet ran into a problem.  Despite a working headlamp, I couldn’t follow the trail, which goes unmarked through a damp, mottled, rocky area, before becoming evident again after several hundred additional feet.  I probed around and could find no sign of the trail.  I decided to take a chance and more or less blindly head in a direction that felt right…and was rewarded when I found the extension of the trail.  The remainder of the 2/3 mile route was fairly easily traversed, despite some patches of ice in a few spots.  The light was just beginning to come up when I reached the water.

The Bow River Outlet is the precise spot where the Bow River drains Bow Lake and it lies in a stunning setting.

Bow River Outlet at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

I set up and simply waited for the light.

Bow River Outlet at Sunrise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet at Sunrise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet at Sunrise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet at Sunrise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mt. Jimmy Simpson from the Bow River Outlet at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mt. Jimmy Simpson from the Bow River Outlet at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet at Dawn, Banff National Park, Alberta

There weren’t as many clouds to the north as I would have liked, but the light remained very nice for quite some time.

Bow River Outlet at Sunrise, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet at Sunrise, Banff National Park, Alberta

As the sun came up, I continued to alternate between a wide angle lens and a telephoto, and turned my attention in other directions.  The skies were far more interesting to the southwest.

Bow River Outlet Reflections, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow River Outlet Reflections, Banff National Park, Alberta

Crowfoot Mountain from the Bow River Outlet Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Crowfoot Mountain from the Bow River Outlet Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

When I was done at the Bow River Outlet, I returned to the car and drove a very short distance–about a mile–north on the Icefields Parkway to the Crowfoot Glacier Overlook.  Rather than trying to photograph from the overlook pullout, I carefully hiked down a steep slope to what appeared to be a trailhead.  That trail led, in short order, to a number of spots along the Bow Lake shore, providing jaw dropping views of Crowfoot Mountain and Glacier in the still beautiful morning light.

Bow Lake Morning, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow Lake Morning, Banff National Park, Alberta

A total absence of wind made for nearly perfect reflections.

Crowfoot Mountain from Bow Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Crowfoot Mountain from Bow Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow Lake Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Bow Lake Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

I followed the unofficial trail system through the forest and checked several different spots along the lake, each of which provided a slightly different perspective.

Crowfoot Glacier from Bow Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

Crowfoot Glacier from Bow Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta

My next stop was Observation Ponds, a marshy area near Bow Summit that I’d scouted in unfavorable conditions on Day 3.  I donned my boots to get into position in this wetland and waited out the burgeoning breeze, which was causing the tall grasses to blow and producing copious ripples in the water.  With patience, I was ultimately able to prevail.

Mt. Jimmy Simpson from Observation Ponds, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mt. Jimmy Simpson from Observation Ponds, Banff National Park, Alberta

I continued north along the parkway, and stopped as I approached the bridge over the North Saskatchewan River.  Here the photographer is  treated to sweeping views of the Howse Valley.  I first ventured onto the bridge itself.

North Saskatchewan River from Icefields Parkway Bridge, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Icefields Parkway Bridge, Banff National Park, Alberta

Then I ventured down below the bridge and made my way along the rocky shore to check out the view from river level.

North Saskatchewan River Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

Shoreline Rocks Intimate, North Saskatchewan River, Banff National Park, Alberta

Shoreline Rocks Intimate, North Saskatchewan River, Banff National Park, Alberta

Back on the parkway, I went still further north, beyond Saskatchewan River Crossing to the Glacier Lake trailhead.  My goal wasn’t to go all the way to Glacier Lake itself–a roundtrip of roughly 11 miles–but rather as a way to access another portion of the North Saskatchewan River.  It’s only 1 km (roughly 0.6 miles) to the bridge over the river, and I was there in no time.  After surveying the spot, I crossed the footbridge and  found a spot from which I carefully climbed down to the boulder-strewn shore line without much difficulty.

North Saskatchewan River from Glacier Lake Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Glacier Lake Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

I eventually climbed back up to the trail, re-crossed the bridge and then wandered a kilometer or so downstream (i.e. southeast) on an unofficial trail that paralleled the river, stopping on several occasions to make images.

North Saskatchewan River from Glacier Lake Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Glacier Lake Trail, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Glacier Lake Trail Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Glacier Lake Trail Black & White, Banff National Park, Alberta

After wandering around for awhile, I eventually returned to the Glacier Lake trail parking area.  By now, it was late afternoon.  I headed back to the south on the parkway, stopping briefly at a pullout to photograph the aspens on the slopes of Mt. Coleman.

Mt. Coleman Aspens, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mt. Coleman Aspens, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mt. Coleman Aspens, Banff National Park, Alberta

Mt. Coleman Aspens, Banff National Park, Alberta

I continued south to Saskatchewan River Crossing, reaching the junction with Highway 11.  I headed east from there, out of Banff National Park and into the Bighorn Wilderness–David Thompson Country.  This was the locus of activity for the photo tour I joined the previous year.  That experience had provided me more than a bit of insight to this area, particularly the Kootenay Plains, which had captivated me.  I had always planned to return to this location while on this trip and the evening of Day 9 was my opportunity.  Before making my way to the Plains, about 20 miles down Highway 11 from the Crossing, I stopped at Whirlpool Point–a spot we’d visited on the tour.

I’d found Whirlpool Point quite challenging as a photographic locale and wanted to see if a return visit would yield better results.  For the most part, I found it as difficult the second time as I had the first.

North Saskatchewan River from Whirlpool Point Black & White, David Thompson Country, Alberta

North Saskatchewan River from Whirlpool Point Black & White, David Thompson Country, Alberta

The stop at whirlpool point did afford me the opportunity to get a good look at a huge ram, but he wandered off before I could get out my camera with the telephoto lens.  I had to satisfy myself with a few shots of the scenery.

Isolated Conifers, Whirlpool Point, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Isolated Conifers, Whirlpool Point, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Ex Coelis Peaks from Whirlpool Point Black & White, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Ex Coelis Peaks from Whirlpool Point Black & White, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Mt. Peskett from Whirlpool Point, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Mt. Peskett from Whirlpool Point, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Sunset was now no more than two hours off and, unable to contain myself any longer, I jumped back in the car and made the relatively short drive to the main source of interest for me–the aspen groves at the Kootenay Plains.  We’d visited this area twice during the tour and I couldn’t get enough of the place.  This time, I was visiting a bit earlier in the year–about a week–so the aspens were essentially at peak color.  I also had the place all to myself (aside from the odd passing vehicle on the highway I never saw a hint of another human being; this only added to the ambiance) and on this occasion I ran out of light before I ran out of subjects to photograph.

Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Black & White, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Black & White, David Thompson Country, Alberta

The Kootenay Plains lie on both sides of Highway 11, with low barbed wire fencing (which can easily be cleared) lining each side of the road.  I went back and forth between the two sides several times and was constantly shifting between wide angle and telephoto lenses.

Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

There was a fair amount of wind here, but I was, for the most part, able to obtain sufficient shutter speeds to render that fact moot.

Wind-Blown Aspens, Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Wind-Blown Aspens, Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

The Plains are marked by tall prairie grasses, stands of aspen and conifers, 360-degree views of the surrounding peaks and big skies.

Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Moonrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Moonrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

As you can see, the moon rose while I was on location, making for an added element of interest for east-facing perspectives.

Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Moonrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Moonrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

I spent my time, with ever-changing light, simply wandering around the Plains, compelling compositions staring me in the face at every turn.

Wind-Blown Aspens, Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Wind-Blown Aspens, Kootenay Plains, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Moonrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Moonrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Moonrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains Moonrise, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Just before the light began to fade, I noticed compelling sky conditions behind me and ran across the road one more time.

Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains at Sunset, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains at Dusk, David Thompson Country, Alberta

Kootenay Plains at Dusk, David Thompson Country, Alberta

And with that, the photographic day came to an end.  It was roughly a 90-minute drive back to Lake Louise in the gathering darkness–this distance was, in fact, the only reason I could think of not to return to the Kootenay Plains, and obviously it wasn’t enough to keep me away–but I didn’t care a bit.  What was an hour-and-a-half drive compared to visual memories that would last a lifetime?

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Responses

  1. A beautiful array of breathtaking photos–they really capture Canada’s beauty in the west. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks very much!

  2. What a beautiful gallery of visual memories “frozen in time” through your gorgeous photos.

  3. You’ve some fantastic material for making those life-long memories, Kerry…absolutely beautiful. I used to lie awake at night after being out in the mountains for a Sunday hike…images kept crossing my mind’s eye, reliving the moments of coming around a corner to find incredible vistas in front of me. I can imagine that I would have had several sleepless nights following the excursion if I had visited the places you did in making these photographs. Wow…. Thank you for bringing it back for us….

    • Thanks very much, Scott. In the aftermath of the places I’ve photographed over the years, none permeates the consciousness as frequently as the Canadian Rockies. In fact part–by no means all–of the reason I returned there last fall after having visited the previous year was that, months after returning home in 2014, I just couldn’t get the Rockies out of my head. Such was the magnitude of the impact the area had on me.

      • That the best reason I can think of for returning to such a place, Kerry…how wonderful for you, and us, that you were able to make it back. You captured some truly soul-stirring beauty…

        • “That the best reason I can think of for returning to such a place…”

          I think you’re right, Scott. If nothing else, the fact that I couldn’t get the place out of my head made it more likely that I’d be on my toes (so to speak) when I returned, with creative instincts–hopefully–heightened.

        • I rather think you were “on your toes,” Kerry. 🙂

          Again, excellent work…..

  4. Incredible work! Beauty everywhere!

  5. Spectacular views and compositions! Yes, I have been here and like your wide angles of the Kootenay Plains.The last time I was there last fall it started out hot and sunny then the clouds rolled in and covered the mountain tops and snowed like crazy. I like the set-up with the dead trees. Well seen.You really caught the colours at their peak.The place keeps drawing me back….

    • Thanks, Jane. The Kootenay Plains…an absolute gem of a location in a region jam packed with places of beauty. I feel incredibly fortunate to have learned of it, thanks to Royce, before traveling to the Rockies in 2014.

  6. Priceless comment: “I set up and simply waited for the light.” That could be a song title or the first line to a short story, Kerry. And the photos – spectacular. I was especially drawn to the image of the tree snag rising up from the water in “North Saskatchewan River from Glacier Lake Trail”. But every image is stellar. Memories of a lifetime indeed!

    • Thanks very much, Lynn. It’s always interesting to know which image(s) catches someone’s attention.

  7. Memories of a lifetime is correct, and these are some fantastic memories that you’ve shared with us! Your love of the Canadian Rockies comes through in every single photo. I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t make the trip there more times in the future. There are so many breathtaking vistas just waiting for your skill with a camera to capture them!

    • Thanks! I’m not sure when, or if, I’ll return to the Canadian Rockies–though I’d love to spend a couple of weeks there (minimum) each year if I could. It’s difficult for me to imagine a locale richer in landscape photography potential.

  8. It does truly appear to be the adventure of a lifetime, the photos are just awesome.

    • Thanks very much!

  9. Great images from a beautiful area Kerry.

  10. […] driving.  When I got close to the North Saskatchewan River Bridge–where I’d stopped on Day 9–the fog was of the pea soup variety.  Clearly, the moisture from the river was causing a dew […]


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