Canada is a beautiful country. I guess I've always inherently known this, but up until this summer I had hardly seen any of it! I decided that I needed to spend some time and explore this great land. The following is my journal from my trip across Canada.
June 12, 2006
I left my home in Toronto on Monday June the 12th and headed off in search of another great adventure and hoping to capture a glimpse of Canada's incredible beauty. My plan for the next two weeks was to stop at as many of the great Canadian Parks as I could and really get a taste of what the Canadian landscape is all about.
After just five hours of driving up highway 400 I arrived at my first stop - Killarney Provincial Park. Characterized by windswept granite cliffs and endless stands of white pine Killarney is a magnificent park. Luckily for me the weather was perfect for photography. I set up camp as quick as possible and headed out on the trails.
Working my way along the shores of Georgian Bay I was rewarded with seemingly limitless options for landscape photography. I tried to make the most of this beautiful place on this gorgeous day.
The clouds eventually rolled in and I retired to my tent. A few minutes after I laid down I heard a noise right outside my tent. Crossing my fingers that it wasn't a bear I unzipped my tent and saw the cutest Bambi look-alike and its mother about ten feet from my shelter. I enjoyed these lovely animals and dozed off to sleep dreaming about this perfect first day of the trip.
This morning I hiked one more quick trail at Killarney before heading off to Lake Superior Provincial Park. Once again I was treated to perfect blue skies and a leisurely and scenic drive.
I made a few stops along the way at Agwa Bay and Katherine Cove. I had heard really good things about a place called Gargantua Harbour and decided to camp there for the night. The windy dirt road was a good test for my new Subaru and I have to say that she handled the road like a champ!
Once again I set up camp as quickly as possible so that I could take advantage of the late afternoon light. The beach at Gargantua was almost entirely made up of granite boulders. I couldn’t believe all of the different sizes, colors, shapes and textures. Unfortunately the clouds rolled in before the sun set but I tried to take advantage of the low light conditions by photographing a stream that tumbled down through wave-polished granite stones on its way to Lake Superior.
This morning I made an early start for Quetico Provincial Park. This 700km stretch was typified by endless seas of spruce trees interrupted often by rocky outcroppings and jet-black lakes. Another thing that I recall about that days drive was the number of Tiger Swallowtails that were in the air and the colorful lupines that brightened the sides of the highway.
While I found Quetico to be beautiful in its own right it wasn't that different from what I had experienced in other areas of Ontario. I think that to really make the most of Quetico one needs to have a canoe or kayak and many days to spend in the wilderness of the backcountry.
The next morning before I headed off I went for an early morning swim in the French Lake. Lets just say that it was chilly and that I didn't need a coffee to wake up that morning...
A good friend of mine makes her home in Kenora for half of the year so I was thrilled to have a chance to catch up with her on my way out West. She was a great tour guide showing me the local sights and taking me fishing where I caught a massive musky. Sadly I dont have a photo. But take my word for it it was a monster!
My original plan for this day was to visit Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba. But after a few hours of driving, and after seeing the skies grow darker and darker, I decided that there would likely be few opportunities for photography and that I might as well just keep on driving through to Grasslands National Park.
After an unplanned detour in Winnipeg I managed to get back on track and the Prairies began to unfold before me. Having never been through the Prairies this was a unique landscape that I really enjoyed. To make things even better the weather steadily improved and I was amazed at how many birds were around. There were so many breeding ducks and shorebirds that could be seen along the sides of the road that I had no choice but to make frequent and numerous stops. It was difficult to get close enough to photograph most of them but I did manage some nice shots of Black Terns and Savanah Sparrows and I saw Ruddy Ducks, Canvasbacks, Wood Ducks, Northern Shovellers, Mallards, Blue and Green Winged Teals, Coots, Wilson's Phalaropes, Willets, Yellow-headed Blackbirds and many, many more. Its amazing I didn’t crash my car the amount of time I spent looking off to the side of the road for birds!
I eventually found a nice little campground in Weyburn Saskatchewan where I slept for the night.
The next morning I made sure to set my alarm early so that I could try to find and photograph some of the many species of birds I had seen the day before. Right off the bat I managed to find a great spot to photograph Yellow-headed Blackbirds in some sweet morning light. This turned out to be just the start of what would be an epic day of nature photography.
After driving along a bit further towards Grasslands National Park I found a huge mudflat area where there were dozens of American Avocets and Wilson's Palaropes feeding. The light was still great and I quickly geared up and got down into the mud! I spent the next hour or so photographing these two species under near perfect conditions in their natural habitat. When I had got the shots I needed I proceeded on but made frequent stops to photograph soaring Raptors, Pronghorn Antelopes and even a lone Coyote. I also tried to get some pleasing images that typified this part of the country. The only unfortunate part about this part of the trip was the number of Prairie Dogs that I ran over. I swear those little buggars are suicidal!
Eventually I arrived at Grasslands National Park. Searching for words to describe this park I think that vast, empty and enchanting are most appropriate. There were but a few other visitors in the park and I truly felt alone. Almost eerily so. I spent the next several hours photographing this incredible place and the many creatures that call it home.
Looking back at this day I would have to say that in terms of photography it was one of the best that I have ever had.
My next scheduled stopover would be Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. Before I would arrive there I would have another great day of roadside photography including a great opportunity to photograph Ring-necked Pheasants.
Dinosaur Provincial Park had some unbelievable scenery that was unlike anything I have ever seen.
I left the Prairies with unforgettable memories of this incredible region and a collection of images that I am extremely happy with. Passing through Calgary the mountains loomed on the horizon and I knew that I was about to enter yet another completely unique part of Canada.
I headed towards Banff along the scenic Trans-Canada highway that even with the cloudy and rainy conditions was breathtaking. Unfortunately the rain prevented any further photography and I decided that my time would be well spent in the Banff town site editing the mountain of photos that I had taken over the past week.
The cloudy conditions continued on this morning. I took a bit of a drive around the park and found a cooperative Elk and a curious Ground Squirrel to photograph. Landscape opportunities however were nonexistent as the sky was a cloudy mess. Once again I headed for the internet cafe to continue editing.
After a marathon 8 hour editing session I headed back out. The weather was somewhat better but still pretty lousy. I took a drive down to the Vermillion Lakes area to get a few shots and see if the lighting would improve. The conditions stayed pretty much the same for an hour or so with a small rain cloud even passing through. This turned out to be a blessing though because it left behind a fantastic double rainbow!
I headed over to the Lake Minnewanka and Two-Jack Lake area where I spent the rest of the evening photographing the lakes at twilight.
Based on the previous evening I had high hopes that the skies would be clear this morning and decided to get up extra early to take some sunrise shots over Two-Jack Lake. I saw a lot of potential here the previous evening and hoped that it would be even better in the early morning light.
I made it down to the lake shortly after 5:30 and the conditions were finally good for photography. The Lake was stunning and the soft morning light allowed for some pleasing shots.
Since the conditions looked good I decided to jet off to Lake Louise to see and photograph this world famous landmark. To be honest upon arrival I was pretty disappointed. In my opinion Two-Jack Lake was much nicer and had the added bonus of having hardly any people around.
After snapping of a few shots of Lake Louise I drove straight to Moraine Lake which was the most brilliant green lake I have ever seen. The sun was getting pretty high in the sky by this point but I managed a few decent shots and also found some cooperative Clark's Nutcrackers and Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels.
All in all it was a pretty productive morning and I decided to reward myself with an extra large coffee and another 6 hours of editing while I waited for the afternoon session.
The afternoon skies did not look very promising. I decided to drive up the Ice fields parkway to Peyto lake anyways with the hopes that the skies would open up. It was a very scenic drive and although the skies remained overcast Peyto Lake was spectacular.
Once again the alarm was set for 5:10 and I set of in search of scenic beauty. The previous evening I had stopped briefly at Herbert Lake and although the conditions then were horrible for photography I saw a lot of potential.The skies were perfect and I got over there as quickly as possible to see what I could do.
When I got to the Lake I frantically tried to capture the scene that played out before me as the sun illuminated the mountains perfectly and their reflection was cast into the turquoise blue water in front of me. I tried to mix up the angles and focal lengths that I was using and was very careful to try to get the exposure correct as I knew that I would later be stitching these images into a panoramic format. It was a great way to start the day.
Once I had the shots I wanted I moved on to some of the feature attractions in Yoho National Park. I visited Emerald Lake and the Natural Bridge as well as Wapta falls. My favorite of the three was absolutely the Natural Bridge waterfall.
The rest of the day was spent cruising through the mountains making occasional stops in Glacier and Mount Revelstoke National Parks. The scenery was simply incredible. I eventually set up camp in a little town called Hope and rested for the night.
This morning I made the final leg of my journey. I am writing this last entry from the Ferry on my way to my new home on Vancouver Island. Its been quite a trip this past few weeks. Experiencing this country first hand is something that I had always wanted to do and I have to say that it has been even more beautiful than I had imagined. I will not soon forget the wind swept White Pines of Killarney or the gigantic granite boulders of Gargantua Harbour. The Prairies were, for me, as spectacular as the mountains and I will always remember the peaceful isolation that I felt while wandering the vast plains of Grasslands National Park. And of course Banff and Yoho National Parks lived up to their reputation. I could spend endless amounts of time there and never run out of inspiration for photographs.
I hope you have enjoyed this ongoing travel journal. If you have any questions about traveling in Canada or photography locations feel free to send me an email. All the best everyone!
Km Traveled - 5422
Parks Visited - 10
New Bird Species Photographed - 21
Dogs Run Over - ?? Sorry little fellas...