Lake Louise

I very rarely go out to Lake Louise in the summer because of how freaking busy that place gets. However, on Sunday, I found myself off work early and out in that area, so I couldn’t resist swinging up for a quick visit. I managed to grab a parking spot right up at the lake just as someone else was leaving (should have bought a lottery ticket after that..) and was in and out in about 20 minutes, which I am pretty is a world record for visiting Lake Louise in August.

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Photographing Bears

This one is for all you people who don’t know what you’re doing when it comes to photographing bears and other wild animals. 

No, this is not a photography-how-to.

This is a wildlife etiquette issue.

Everyone wants that amazing and perfect close-up of a bear in the wild, but is that photo worth your life? Or a bears? A bear that becomes overly comfortable with humans, or with humans feeding it, is almost guaranteed to end up dead at the hands of humans, either having to be put down because it sees humans as a food source, or dead due to road mortality because it doesn’t see cars as a threat, or people are driving like jerks around it.

Over the years, working for Parks and now as a guide in the Rockies, I have seen some seriously crazy stuff. People genuinely do not seem to realize that wildlife is…wild. You can’t walk up a wild animal like its a neighborhood dog. And sure, maybe the person before you did it, and they were fine. Maybe you can do it too, this one time. But its always okay,  right until it isn’t. Then the next thing you know, there is a story on the news of a ‘bear attack’ and everyone calls it a tragic accident.

The truth is, most negative wildlife encounters are completely avoidable. Respecting an animals personal space and making noise so as not to surprise them
(and no! I do not mean bear bells) will help stop most negative encounters.

Most professional or seasoned wildlife photographers that I have met are incredibly ethical in how they photograph wildlife; they know the best practices and they stick to them. These people tend to love the wildlife that they are photographing and would not do anything to put it, or themselves at risk. They also understand the risks, so they are able to avoid them. So many people just have no idea what they are getting into when they approach wildlife, so I have created a list of common ‘Best Practices’ for photographing or viewing wildlife.

1. Stay in your vehicle.

If you are driving and you see an animal roadside, then its simple: Stay in your vehicle. Things start to go wrong when people start to view the wildlife as tame animals. Just because the bear is on the side of the road, and seems more interested in food than you, does not make it okay to get out and approach it.

2. Do not cause a bear jam.

Or a deer jam, or a squirrel jam or any sort of traffic jam for whatever it is that you see. If you see wildlife, and you are going to stop for a better look, then pull over on the shoulder of the road as far as you safely can. If you cannot safely pull over and get off the road, then you don’t stop. Its that simple.

3. Do not harass the wildlife.

Do not stay by an animal for more than a minute or two (refer to #2). The bears do not enjoy having vehicles stop by them and stay there for an extended period of time. If you are going to stop and can safely do so, then stop for a minute or two, snap your photos, admire the animal and be on your way. We do not want animals to become accustomed to humans, because in the long term, that is how they end up dead.

4. Do not bait the wildlife.

On this point, most people are probably thinking ‘Well obviously!’ But a lot of people are unintentionally ‘baiting’ wildlife through simple carelessness. Do you know how many common camping items are actually considered bear or wildlife attractants? Things like: toothpaste, shampoo, soap, cooking oil, canned goods, alcohol, freeze dried foods, pet foods, dirty dishes, the clothes you cooked/ate in, etc. By leaving these things out and unattended in day use areas or campsites, you are inviting wildlife into your site. If you intentionally bait wildlife, then you are an a$$hole. A fed bear is a dead bear. And no photo is worth a bears life.

5. Do not feed the wildlife.

Any of it. Not even that cute squirrel or bird. Have you ever fed a squirrel or chipmunk and noticed that they are taking a lot of food? Like more than their own body weight in food? They are not eating it all, they are caching it around your site, creating little hidden treasures of food that will attract other animals to the area.

6. Do not touch the wildlife.

By now, everyone has probably heard about the well-meaning tourist in Yellowstone who picked up the bison calf because he ‘thought it looked cold.’ Do not assume that baby animals who appear to be left alone, are abandoned. Mothers in nature know whats best for their young and it is not our job to interfere. Do not pick up wild animals, if you are concerned that something has been abandoned, or is injured, report it to your local conservation officers, park staff or fish and wildlife officers. You can find these numbers online for your local area.

7. Use a long lens.

Do not expect to get a great close up photo with your smart phone. Don’t even try to do it. Use a zoom lens, or take the photo and crop it down after. Approaching wildlife with a smart phone to get a close up photo is the dumbest thing you can do (other than Pokemon Go, but that’s a different story).

 

So what do you do if you come across a bear on the trail or on the roadside? You should call it in to your local wildlife hotline. Google to find your local wildlife authority or parks service. If you call in a report, you are going to be asked for some basic info. Here are some things that you will probably be asked:

  • Your name and contact number
  • Type of Bear (black or grizzly, remember not all black bears are black!)
  • Location – try to get as many landmarks as possible, signs, intersections, etc
  • What the bear was doing
  • How long ago you saw it
  • If the bear was eating, what it was eating.
  • How close you were to the bear
  • How it reacted (surprised, aggressive, indifferent, curious, etc)
  • Visible tags or collars (note numbers on tags and color of tag if possible)
  • If there were cubs, how many?
  • If it was roadside, were other people stopped/getting out of vehicles

This information is used for biologists to track bears and behavior and also used to dispatch conservation officers to help move bears along and stop human-bear conflicts. If you see a conservation officer or parks employee on scene, then do not report it. The person on scene is there because someone else has reported it/they are already aware of the situation so you do not need to create duplicate calls.

I love bears, and all wild animals. I have lived in bear country for the last 7 years. I hate seeing animals need to be put down because of human stupidity.  People visit the mountains because they want to enjoy the landscape and the wildlife, so if everybody would do their part to be here and respect nature, than we can ensure that these places are here and protected forever and that future generations will get to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.

Any other tips on wildlife etiquette?

Share in the comments below!

A Bow Valley Summer Tradition

Floating the Bow River is a long standing tradition for permanent and seasonal residents of the Bow Valley. You go out, buy some sort of floating device, hop in the river and off you go. This is lots of fun if you a)know the river and b)are okay with getting wet. But if you want to float the Bow in comfort and style, then Canmore Raft Tours is the way to do it.

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A locally owned company, Canmore Raft Tours can be found downtown Canmore at their Raft Shack during the day, located across the street from Rocky Mountain Bagel company by the Settlers Cabin.  They run 1 hour tours several times a day, as well as my favorite tour, the two hour scenic float every evening (Bonus: The evening tour features a hot tea or coffee as well as locally sourced treats). All tours start downtown Canmore and you get shuttled back to the starting point, making this easy for anyone to do.

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On these float trips, the Guide does all the work.

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You get to see a side of the Bow Valley that is only accessible from the river.

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There is lots of wildlife to be seen from the river!

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They even do dog friendly trips!

I am constantly in awe of the wildlife that they see and manage to photograph or film. A couple of weeks ago, a black bear swam across the river in front of the boat and just a few days ago, a coyote was on the river bank as they passed by!

Check out the video of the coyote here.

or

Check out the black bear video here.

Looking for a great way to enjoy the rest of your summer? Definitely give a float trip a try; I have gone out 3 times now and each time is better than the last!

To keep up with their amazing social media feeds, or to learn more, you can check them out on Facebook or Instagram (@Canmore_Raft_Tours).

My New Favorite Jeans

When it comes to jeans, I am picky. I don’t want teeny-bopper jeans, and I don’t want mom jeans. I want pants that make my butt look good (isn’t that always the goal?), have some stretch to them and feel good on. I am pretty active/busy and I need all my gear, clothing included, to be versatile. I want pants that I can wear to wander downtown Canmore shopping, but I want to be able to stop and hike into somewhere to get the perfect photo. If these pants can also be worn out to a nice dinner or a bar for drinks, then even better! I have hiking pants for hiking, but I still want to not be held back on a spur of the moment decision because of my jeans.

When it comes to wearing jeans in the summer, usually, I would say ‘Gross!’ There is nothing worse then pulling up jeans on sweaty, sticky, humid days. But recently, I found a pair of jeans that have made my life better. That might sound a bit melodramatic, but in all seriousness, they are freaking amazing. These pants are comfy, stretchy, moisture wicking, cooling, and STAY UP.When I wear them, I’m not constantly pulling my pants up on days where I forget a belt.

So these magical pants, where do they come from? Well they can now be found at MEC, but I originally heard about DISH and Duermanufacturer of these amazing jeans, from my boss. He is a pretty fashion forward guy, but also an outdoors professional, so he has a high standard for pants. When I had the chance to try out a pair myself, I jumped at it (and into the pants!).

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I have only worn mine a couple of times, but they feel incredible on and its as comfy as wearing a pair of full stretch hiking pants, but they look a heck of a lot better in the city. I wore mine kicking around Kananaskis, for a quick hike to a nearby waterfall and then out for beer, and they were fantastic. I personally own the ‘Straight and Narrow’ cut and I find them incredibly comfortable. The wash is a great classic indigo colour and the rear pockets are classic and flattering.

I will definitely be doing more adventuring in these pants and will be trying on other styles and washes to get another pair. Or two…

I didn’t snap any pictures of me wearing them; there is just something about trying to photograph your own butt/bottom half that just doesn’t work out well… But check out the companies website to see the different styles they offer! This is a Canadian based company (head office is in Vancouver!) that ethically manufactures their product. That, along with the fact they they are technical jeans, is definitely something I can get behind. Or into. You know, pants and all 😉

Our philosophy is the opposite of fast fashion. We believe that creating long lasting garments promotes sustainability by preventing the amount of waste that enters our landfills. We design and produce our garments with extra attention to quality and longevity, so you can take home better products and buy fewer things.

– Dish and Duer Website

Rock Glacier, Kananaskis

Not going to lie, I drove past this at least a half a dozen times before finally pulling over on the highway.  Rock Glacier, from the road, looks like a giant pile of rocks. Which is pretty much accurate, because it is in fact, a giant pile of rocks.

But beyond that, this giant pile of rock is actually a deteriorating face of Mount Rae; time, along with wind and water have eroded the rock face, causing pieces to break off and pile up. It is home to many beautiful alpine plants, flowers in miniature, along with lots of Picas. A Pica is a member of the rodent family, more closely related to a rabbit than a mouse, despite its mouse-like ears.

Rock Glacier is a neat spot to stop for a few minutes, wander the super short interpretive trail (seriously, it will take 10 minutes tops to walk) and to admire all the tiny wildflowers while feeling that picas are watching you from all around (their ‘eek’ is a very distinctive sound). I now stop in at this spot every couple of months (when the road is open) to check out the wildflowers and be taunted by Picas.13901381_10210278538269582_225001863872050541_nCHE_0008

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This Pica taunted me with its ‘eeks’ for a solid 5 minutes before I spotted it in the pile of scree.

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A dwarf-sized fireweed

Welcome to Cowboy Country

I started horseback riding when I was about 4 years old; I show jumped, rode dressage and finally switched to western when I was a teenager. I have ridden for the majority of my life, but unfortunately I have been so busy over the last few years, that I haven’t been able to ride. Before today, I hadn’t been on a horse since I moved to Alberta, which is a little embarrassing considering that Alberta is Cowboy Country, and I live 5 minutes away from a ranch…

So today was the day to get back on a horse. Where did I choose to go? Boundary ranch, in KCountry. The ranch is just a few minutes from my house and is a beautiful property. Walking up the path, you can see why they host so many weddings here.

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I was hoping that riding a horse would be like riding a bike and it really was. I put my foot into the stirrup (I had forgotten how high it seems!) and bounced gently (and gracefully in my mind, I don’t want to hear the reality from someone who was watching 😉 ) onto my horses back. Western saddles have always seemed like a lazy boy chair to me, versus the jumping saddles I used to ride in, and I felt myself relax into the worn leather. The reins fit easily into my right hand, fed through my fingers, thumbs on top. Heels down, toes forward, elbows in, chin up left handing resting on my leg. Being on a horse was definitely like riding a bike, muscle memory is a great thing.

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The horses are saddled and waiting upon arrival.

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It was so good to be back in the saddle, not to mention those views!

I did the two hour ridge ride, and I would highly recommend it! The views were absolutely breathtaking.

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Mt Kidd from the Ridge

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Our guide pointed out the local peaks and told us their names

Looking to experience a real trail ride, through beautiful forest with breathtaking panoramic views? Then give Boundary Ranch a call. The people are great, and the location is by far the best in the Rockies. For more info, check out their website: http://boundaryranch.com/

Its Here!

I have been asked time and again to put together a calendar with some of my photos, and recently, my facebook fans voted on the photos that they wanted included in the calendar. I ordered a prototype to see how it would turn out and….

It is beautiful! (If I do say so myself 😉 )

The calendar is now available to order here, through my Etsy shop.

 

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