Alberta Mini Break – Waterton Lakes National Park – Day 1
With ever-changing restrictions, and uncertainty about international travel, we decided to keep our summer vacation to mini breaks in the province. Alberta is never short of stunning landscapes, outdoor activities, and Waterton Lakes National Park is forever on my list of all-time faves! A two-day ‘staycation’ is good for the soul.
The Journey Down
You all know by know, I’m definitely not taking the most direct route. The journey down is by far the way to go. As my hubby was joining me, I did try to keep my photo stops to a minimum, but you do have to remember to breathe! Chain Lakes Provincial Park is a must stop for ‘facilities’ and the first leg stretch. Despite forest fire smoke rendering some of the peaks hazy along the way, there appeared to be a forcefield in front of ‘the beast’, pushing it further south as we progressed.
We stopped to munch our homemade Cornish Pasties at Beauvais Lake Provincial Park, a quiet lakeside retreat. Pretty Cedar Waxwings swooped overhead – next to impossible to capture inflight. And a couple of fishing parties came and went from the dock. Probably because it was midweek, it was really quiet, even though there was a nearby campground. We drove up the shore, followed one of the smaller hiking trails, watched bald eagles soar, and I introduced hubby to the Saskatoon bush. Nothing tastes better than fresh off the bush berries! Birds chirped, Bald Eagles soared, bees buzzed, and butterflies swooped in an out. I’m always on the lookout for new (to me) birds. This White Winged Crossbill couple fit the bill!
It wasn’t until I got home that I discovered not only did my Bald Eagle soar, and was in focus, it was also carrying a fish!! Talk about great excitement!
And More Backroads…
I’d heard the area around the Shell Waterton Complex was beautiful, so we ambled our way to Butcher Lake on deserted back roads. The smoke haze returned for a bit. There were some beautiful old tree skeletons. Even spotted a garter snake which I found super cool. I’m quite comfortable with snakes in Alberta as most are harmless! I was being a lazy shooter, keeping the Tamron 150-600mm on my Nikon D780, in case of wildlife. (Although I did have another wider angle setup and ready to go in the car!) I kept seeing a spiky pink wildflower – a shorter version of my 3 foot tall Liatris at home, which I’d never seen before. Turns out it is a Blazing Star – member of the Liatris family.
Butcher Lake was pretty. But, by this time, the southern Alberta winds had picked up, and the sun was glaring. We did spot a doe and fawn, but she was having nothing to do with appearing on camera. I will 100% be making a return trip in mid-late June because I think the wildflowers in the area will be spectacular.
It had only taken us just over 6 hours – that’s quite good for me! While we waited for our room at Waterton Lakes Lodge, hubby hiked Bear’s Hump. In 45 minutes – including walking back to the hotel, which is really quite something. I, in much more leisurely fashion, enjoyed the rushing water at Cameron Falls. Still in lazy mode (and having shot the falls many many times over), I decided to push my ‘wildlife lens’ and see what it could do with the water. Same stick, different settings. I made sure to focus on the rock as it was the immobile object. The aperture allowed the water behind to be in focus. A fast shutter speed freezes the motion, as in the first image. Slowing it down allows the motion blur. Technically, having a speed slower than the length of your lens brings in a lot of chance for any slight movement to cause focus issues. Especially when not using a tripod! (Again, lazy!) I did have vibration control on, and it worked! And it was bright enough too.
The Day is Not Over Yet!
Can’t keep going without sustenance. I may not have run up a mountain, but I was happy to join Mel in his quest for a beer. The Thirsty Bear Kitchen & Bar managed that quite nicely. In its glory days, back in 1926, it was the Waterton Dance Pavilion rumoured to hold up to 1000 people! The beautiful log beams (mostly original, I understand) and vaulted ceilings are a perfect fit for the lakeside property. A great selection of craft beers on tap, and a ‘Cool As a Cucumber’ Empress Gin Cocktail for me. Who knew it would match my shirt? But it was delicious – as were the Beef Brisket Portabello Mushroom Melts and the fresh made mini doughnuts! (These four were taken with my Samsung Galaxy S10.)
The Day 1 Grand Finale…
I have only had one trip to Waterton in the last 30 years that did not result in a bear sighting. We were not disappointed. A post dinner drive to first look for Elk down in the meadows near Alpine Stables (none), took us up the Red Rock Canyon Road. We scouted out next day’s hiking trail pickup point for Mel. I hadn’t been up this road since the 2017 Kenow Wildfire, so was happy to just check it out. A vehicle stopped on the opposite side alerted us to a potential wildlife sighting. Sure enough there was a black bear happily foraging through the bumper crop of Saskatoons. We u-turned up the road a ways and came back just to watch. Light was fairly low, but my Nikon D780 can handle high ISO’s with minimal noise. (The graininess that appears, particularly in low light conditions.) I probably should have bumped it up slightly higher as I did have to do about 1-stop of brightening in post-production editing to get it to where I really liked it.
The focal distance on that one featured at the top of the post is considerably shorter (200mm) as it had moved down the hill towards us. We still had a road, some hill, and shrubs between it and us, but moved off right after this. Let’s face it – we could now see the size of its claws LOL. And that’s a wrap! I’d optimistically intended to put this trip into one blog. Nope. Way too many photos from Day 2 for that to happen. Including more bears! So stay tuned. That one will be next!
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