Canadian Adventure

            My last week of being in Jasper was a daily decision of whether to stay or head north.  Almost all my photo friends left early because the bear activity was so slow.  I would have a good day, and then the next day would be an incredibly slow day.  One of the things that helped me stay was a mother grizzly, and fairly large cub, play fighting in the evening.  They started fighting each night, and that was fun to watch and photograph.  Then on June 1st, a new large black bear male showed up for the day and gave us something new to photograph.  I was at least getting one good opportunity a day, so I continued to stay. 

            The weather in Jasper stayed hot and sunny for the most part, not good for photography.  That’s part of what made the days so long, because it wasn’t even worth looking for wildlife because of how bright it was.  I began just waiting for the evening, and the grizzlies to play fight.  I would see black bears on the main road that I searched, but never any moms and cubs.  As far as I knew, and anyone I knew, there were no new mothers with cubs this year, which is not good.  I got a few more good shots of a large black bear, but all the time waiting was not worth it for only one bear at the end.  I’d finally had all I could take, and on June 5th I left Jasper early in the morning.

            I researched as well as I could a couple of parks in north British Columbia, and headed that way.  I drove 13 hours and got to Stone Mountain Provincial Park that evening.  Found a few sheep that evening, but was to tired to care.  Was looking forward to trying to photograph the stone sheep, because it is the last of the 4 species of sheep found in North America for me to photograph.  I knew they were in this area, but had no real idea of how to approach them or where to go to find them.  But that’s what I liked about the place, was that I would be on my own and figure it out as I went.  To my great surprise and excitement, I found a large ram my first morning!  They don’t have as big as horns as bighorn sheep, but this guy was nice.  He hung around the entire day and I got some good pictures of him! 

            On the 7th, I spent most of the day with newborn baby sheep!  They were so small, and I wasn’t sure if I would find newborn ewes while I was there.  They were very difficult to photograph, as their mothers were very skittish and protective of them.  I spent many hours just watching and waiting for them to be in a spot where I could photograph them, and then really try and not spook them when they got in a good spot.  I liked how wild they were, because it made me really work hard to get the pictures! The best shots were when they would get on the cliffs and run and move around.  I got my best shots of them on the cliffs on the morning of the 8th.  Unfortunately, the rest of the day they were out of range.  I was really happy with the shots I had gotten, and was looking forward to Muncho Lake Provincial Park, so I left on the 9th.

            On my drive through the park in the morning, at a great time for wildlife to be seen, I saw nothing.  This was not a good sign.  Everything I had read had built this park up to be a great place to see wildlife, but it was obvious quickly that this was not the case.  My plan was to look for moose and new calves, but that area was unlikely to have many moose.  There was a mineral lick that in writing was a great place, but upon seeing it my hopes were gone almost immediately.  I had thought I would spend at least 4 days there, but that quickly changed and I knew I wouldn’t stay long.  I only saw a distant mountain goat on my first day in Muncho Lake.

            The next morning, I actually ran into my friend Jackie who was traveling north to Alaska too.  All I knew was she was on the road, so to actually run into her was a coincidence and was really glad I did!  It was great to see a face I knew, and after talking with her I knew I would leave the next day and go north.  I did find a few stone sheep with babies for 30 minutes on the road, but that was not near enough for me to stay.  So I left on the 11th and headed for Whitehorse, Yukon.

            A photographer friend of mine, Peter, lives in Whitehorse, and I had told him before I left contact that I would be coming through soon.  When I found some Wi-Fi, we chatted and he had family in town at the moment, and I couldn’t stay that night unfortunately.  Wasn’t sure for a short time what I would do, as I didn’t really want to just continue north.  Then I remembered that my friend, Jackie, was still in Skagway, AK, which is two hours south of Whitehorse, so I ended up going there for the night.  I had no intention of going to Skagway on this trip, but that’s how it goes sometimes.  It was a fun night and I saw another old friend too!  I talked with Peter the next morning, and he said I could actually join his family for the weekend at a cabin of theirs. Crazy how that worked out!

            I stayed with him at his house on the 12th, and then on the morning of the 13th we went to their cabin on a beautiful lake.  It was a great time of relaxing and playing games!  I seriously needed the rest from my long trip, and it became more evident as the day went on.  Peter has 3 teenage daughters, and a girl cousin of theirs was there, but it was still relaxing I promise.  I was just happy to not be photographing and taking it easy.  The next day we did a 4 ½ hour canoe trip down the Takhini river on a beautiful day in the Yukon, and was such a great time! I was reenergized after a great relaxing weekend!

            That evening I drove a couple hours down the road to Kluane National Park.  I didn’t see any dall sheep that evening, but it didn’t bother me.  The morning of the 15th I was excited and ready to hike for the sheep.  I actually spotted a number of dall sheep and babies at the top of the mountain, and that was all I needed to go for it.  I knew it would be a long day when I left at 9:30, but I had no idea it would be as hard and long as it was.

            The first three miles were somewhat up, but the next three miles were brutal.  They were straight up a steep ridge, and I took many breaks.  The view was spectacular of a glacial valley though!  I finally spotted some sheep, but they were still very, very far away.  It even crossed my mind at one point to sleep up there in the open over night, because I knew I wasn’t hiking back up tomorrow.  But the wind became too much for that to be a reality.  I finally pushed all the bad thoughts out and continued on and got to the sheep at 4:30, 7 hours after I started hiking!  It was all worth it as there were 12 babies in the group, and they weren’t afraid of me.  The babies were very playful and offered lots of photo opportunities! After a couple hours with them they bedded, and I went to a different part of the mountain and photographed maybe the largest dall ram I’ve ever photographed!  I sure wasn’t looking forward to the hike down though.

            There was no trail to get down, and my legs were tired before I even started down.  It took a very long time to get down because of how weak and tired my legs were.  I was afraid of tripping, because I didn’t think I could catch myself from tumbling down the mountain.  I ran out of water half way down, but I managed to not fall and it took over two hours to come down the 5,000 feet.  My car was over 4 miles away from where I came down, and I had no more energy to walk. I got really lucky that a lady stopped nearby and I asked her if she could give me a ride to my car, and she did!  What a day! Over 10,000 feet of elevation change, 12 miles of hiking, 12 hours of hiking, and around a 30 lb. pack of photo gear on my back.

            I slept very well that night and had no motivation in the morning to go anywhere.  My legs were incredibly sore and hurt to move at all.  I just lay around and did computer stuff in the morning.  I decided there was no way for a few days I could hike back up, so I decided to make progress and drive a ways to Anchorage.  I stopped every hour or so just to walk around and stretch.  The road was terrible with frost heaves, and there was a lot of construction on the Yukon side.  I crossed back into Alaska that afternoon and made it to a town called Tok that night.  On the morning of the 17th I finished my drive to Anchorage and was very happy to be done driving! It was a long, crazy, unpredictable, productive at times, spring.  Looking forward to resting up and catching up on numerous items before my photo workshop tour to Lake Clark on the 25th.