Touring the Rockies: Part III
Time flies when you're having fun
How many days has it been? 6? It feels like it just flew by, and with only two left to go. I think I think the last two days were packed with some of the more interesting moments. So our readers who have been following along to this point will be satisfied- Read on.
We began our seventh day by riding up the Jasper SkyTram to the summit of Whistlers Mountain, (which was the correct decision to do in the morning, since we found out if we had come any later it would be over an hour wait to ride both the way up and down). It was a new perspective on Jasper, from above. The place was also crawling with marmots, and pikas, and we enjoyed following them around for wildlife photos on a mountaintop. The photo possibilities here were many - as we were in the clouds. Literally. We decided this was the perfect spot for a group photo. Check it out.
After a couple of hours, we rode back down to the base and made our way to Mount Edith Cavell, not far out of the town of Jasper. This spot is the closest we'd come to a cliff face, with Mount Edith, it's glaciers, and rivers right in front of us. We made some great clips here, too. But, this story gets better.
As I was walking up the trail, I saw a group of people on some rocks - I heard them say "bear." My ears perked up. "It's a Grizzly-" Right then and there I climbed up the rocks, too. I started yelling for two of our students who were just below, waving them toward me. I caught sight of, sure enough, a Grizzly Bear. He walked right out of the woods. We kept our distance, of course. Jean and Paula, our students, stayed put. But, sure enough, the bear exited the woods, and crossed the footpath directly in front of them. It was perusing the rocks for seeds buried by the ground squirrels. Paula, who only had a point-and-shoot camera, got some great photos - yes, that is how close we were. You didn't even need a zoom. It became obvious there was a bear around, because everyone in the area was either running, or screaming for their kids to get away, or yelling for their friends to get a picture. It was a little chaotic. Of course, our group was camera-ready. It was a charged moment - I think everyone had an adrenaline rush. I don't know how you couldn't.
After encounter #1, we made our way to the Tonquin Valley for some photos of the lake and Astoria River, just down the road. It began raining, so we all rushed back to the car (well, most of us). 15 minutes passed as we were waiting for Rick, one of our students. Did something happen? Paul took on the job of reconnaissance. He ventured back to the river to fetch Rick. By the time Paul got down there, Rick had already survived wildlife encounter #2: the return of our Grizzly friend. Safety is always our number one priority, but when you decide to explore on your own - something we encourage for the sake of art - there is always the inherent risk of being alone in nature. Our bear friend had made it to our location in search of food, and Rick did all the right things - he walked right up to him and took some great pictures. No - just kidding - he avoided the bear. But, he did get some good pictures, too, we aren't going to lie. Another adrenaline moment.
From here, we made a stop at Maligne Canyon, and Medicine Lake - a site where the wildfires of 2015 had torn through the trees. By the time of our trip, flowers were blooming, with the burnt wood as a backdrop, making for some cool narrative photos. But again, our students' appetites for photography were back (and Jim's for his daily dose of ice cream). They didn't want to take a break for dinner, they wanted to venture onward. So what did we do? We stopped in town for some really good sandwiches at Patricia Street Deli - where will be going again next year. Then, we headed right out to Disaster Point, a recommended location from a local photographer for wildlife sightings.
And we were rewarded, almost immediately, by a male Elk grazing on the side of the road with the mountains behind him. Count us in for encounter #3. The outskirts of Jasper are amazingly beautiful, and we will be making this a part of the itinerary for next year. Though we didn't see any large wildlife like the Bighorn Sheep we were hoping for, we did see a couple of Beavers and a gorgeous sunset.
And that brings us to day 8, our final day together as a group. We were in for a lot of driving - from Jasper all the way back through the Icefields, to Banff, and finally to Calgary. As tours go, there is never nothing to do, so thankfully, we had some new stops along the way. We made a stop at Goats & Glaciers Viewpoint, a place ripe for mountain goats - hence the name. We didn't see any goats at the viewpoint, but Jean, with her keen eyes, spotted a family of goats on the mountains far, far above us across the road, and Sandy, with his super telephoto lens, caught a glimpse of them.
Our next break was at Coleman Creek, a little rest area sprawling with, like in any national park, hand-fed squirrels. If you had any sort of food, you bet, they're right there waiting. It made for some good closeups.
And last but not least, Mistaya Canyon. Mistaya's thundering water has eroded its surroundings in interesting ways, making for some great compositions and long exposures - given that you're shooting in the shade. The mists can also create rainbows in the canyon if you're looking for them.
And before we knew it, we were at our final destination: the airport hotel. We shared a dinner complete with dessert, and awarded our most enthusiastic photographer, Jim, with the 'Golden Blower Award for Dirtiest Lens". I mean, look at those poses. That's right, we're the cool tour group that gives out prizes. We're still reviewing images for our MVP: Most Valuable Photograph award - where the winner receives a large matted print of their image. And off we were, the tour concluded.
We hope our students enjoyed themselves and created memories that will last a lifetime - and some favorite images, too. I know we did!