The Canadian Rockies
There is nothing that I enjoy more than exploring a wild part of the world that is new to me. Especially when this wilderness involves mountains. Spires of rock that tower far over my head remind me of how awesome and vast nature really is. I become keenly aware of what a diminutive being I am while standing among the great towers of stone. But it is here that my imagination stretches to it's broadest horizons. For me, this contradiction is part of their lure.
I have spent quite a lot of time in rocky mountain wilderness areas in the U.S., in particular in Colorado. You might even say that the Colorado rockies are my first love. But the towering fortresses that shoot straight up from the ground in British Columbia and Alberta Canada give the mountains of Colorado a real run for their money.
We covered a lot of ground in the vast Rockies while in Canada and saw vistas that were as awe inspiring as any magical place in the world. Mile after mile of travel unveiled endless beauty and drama. Indeed, the Canadian Rockies are something to behold.
Our trip covered primarily the many National parks that make up the great chain of mountains, the most notable being the famous Banff and Jasper National Parks. We also spent time in Yoho and Kananaskis N.P's and others. These parks all run together and form a long chain of protected mountainous area that spans northward for many miles. Just when you think you've seen the most amazing vista imaginable, it keeps getting better and better and better...
Banff National Park reminded me of the grand finale of a Disney World firework display. One fantastic mountain chain follows another, each out doing the last. Finally, when your are on the north end of Banff in the glacial ice fields, the landscape becomes so dramatic, it is hard to even know where to look.
Summer is wildflower time in the mountains. Flowers dot the landscape in a rainbow of vivid colors. Flowers seem so fragile. But to live in a landscape such as this, they must be a lot tougher than they look.
Traveling northward out of Banff, Jasper National Park is passed the baton as glacial fields continue on northward, with massive lumbering ice fields off to the west of the one road that winds up through the chain of great National Parks. A bit further north in Jasper, the low lands green up again and life of all kinds is abundant. I felt like a kid in a candy store there.
The wildlife in Jasper National Park is abundant. As is the case with viewing wildlife anywhere, timing is everything. Dawn and dusk are the best viewing times, as this is when animals are most active. But occasionally we did see animals out in plain view during mid day. You never know what you will find. That is part of the fun.
A mountain goat nurses her kid. Summer is baby time in the mountains.
Mountain goats are comfortable on cliff sides from the time they are born. Their's is a vertical world.
Birds of legend and lore, a raven and black-billed magpies work as nature's clean up crew.
This chipmunk is chewing the little seed pods at the end of the tall grass. She stretches out to grab them and then sits back and devours them in comfort. In this photo she is still reaching, giving it a rather awkward appearance. But chipmunks in any pose are just adorable!
A big horn ewe nurses her baby.
Big horn sheep ewes are very dedicated mothers. But sometimes one cannot deter a youngster's mischievous nature. These animals live on vertical slopes to avoid predators. Loose gravel rains down from under their feet with each step that they take. It made my palms sweat just to watch them. But not even the smallest baby even seemed to notice. This is what is normal for them.
Field sketch of a little big horn.
Big horn sheep are attracted to roadsides where salts have built up from rain and evaporation. They lick it voraciously. The green vegetation of summer leaches salts and minerals from their systems making the road surfaces irresistible to them. Here a tiny baby learns an important lesson in survival.
But lingering along the roadside can be risky business. It not only makes the sheep vulnerable to cars, but also to predators. I found the remains of this unfortunate animal just up an embankment from a roadway.
This little big horn was smaller than the rest of the spring babies. She has some catching up to do. She was irresistibly cute.
Big horn sheep are common in Jasper National Park. Most of the ones that you see from the road are ewes and smaller rams. We lucked out one afternoon and found four very large rams hanging out together in a group. This was actually the smallest of the big boys. Here he is going down to a river for a drink. His thick winter coat is pealing off in chunks.
Field sketch of a big horn ram. This drawing was later used as a starting point for my painting entitled "Attitude".
( Above) My acrylic painting entitled "Attitude" which was inspired by this trip
This ground squirrel also was full of attitude. What a little chatterbox he was!
An elk youngster strides along. Young elk stay within the female herd. Eventually the young bulls are pushed out by the mothers. Young females stay on indefinitely.
A raven rests on a rocky shore. Ravens are famous for their intelligence and resourcefulness. Their niche in nature is a very important one.
We found this black bear wandering along the roadside. As is the case in most national parks, bears attract a lot of attention from human visitors in Banff. This one in time had had enough and made a hasty retreat.
There is nothing quite like the look of a great mountain in the evening light.
As the sun sinks below the mountain tops, a warm glow envelopes the land.
Finally daylight bows her lovely head. The world comes aglow in a wash of vivid color. We say farewell to the sun with memories that will last a life time...