The Icefields Parkway – Beyond the Glaciers

The Icefields Parkway, in Alberta’s Canadian Rockies, is one of Canada’s national treasures.  We spend a lot of time in the mountains every year and the 232 km road stretching through the heart of The Rockies is always one of our favourite areas. Of course, the Columbia Icefields (the largest icefield in the rocky mountains of North America) is the namesake attraction along the parkway, but beyond the glaciers and ice, this magnificent journey through Banff and Jasper has a lot to offer those in search of beautiful landscapes and wildlife.

As you start driving the Icefields Parkway from the south end near Lake Louise, within 3 km you will come across a little gem called Herbert Lake.  It’s easy to miss because there are no signs for the lake and there isn’t a proper place to pull over with  your vehicle, but it is very much worth making the effort to check out – especially when you have a picture perfect morning with fog hanging over the lake like we had on this day.

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Herbert Lake

Love bears???  The parkway contains  prime bear habitat for both black bears and the mighty grizzly bear.  If you want to see wildlife, early (very early) morning always gives you the best chance.  One morning we came across this massive male grizzly bear eating dandelions along the road.  We watched him for about 15 minutes and he made direct eye contact with us several times (which is why we always photograph from the safety of the vehicle).  Grizzly bears can reach 48 km/h from a standing start and can cover a distance of 100 m (327 feet) in 6 seconds!

This is one of our most memorable encounters because he was a BIG male, the lighting was perfect and the dandelions added a soft, dream-like component!

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Field of Dreams

On a good weather day, your neck will need a massage at day’s end from all the jaw-dropping scenery, so make sure you book yourself into a spa ahead of time!  At an altitude of 1920 metres, and at the headwaters of the Bow River, the scenery around Bow Lake is exquisite.  This particular day was so beautiful we didn’t get past Bow Lake  which is located about half way up the Parkway, as we were in search of a colony of pikas that live in the rocks nearby.

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Bow Lake

The Pika is the smallest member of the rabbit family which lives in rocky areas where the climate is cool.  These guys are really cute and they make a very high pitched “eeeep!” sound – that’s usually your first clue they are in the area.  Getting a good photograph of one of them requires a lot of patience sitting in one spot motionless, waiting for them to get comfortable enough to go about their daily business, like grabbing a mouthful of grass and taking it back to the den!

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Pika

This is merely a small taste of what the Icefields Parkway has to offer and we’ll be sharing more images from this amazing part of the world in the near future.

Thanks for reading!
Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt

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The Great Bear Rainforest – Our Favourite Wilderness Area

The Great Bear Rainforest

The name alone conjures up a vision of a wild, remote wilderness – a rugged, ruthless landscape where bears rule supreme…

From all of our adventures in Canada to date, the Great Bear Rainforest is our favourite wilderness area –a precious jewel in Canada’s crown. It has everything:  incredible landscapes, wildlife, ocean, mountains and solitude. It’s as close to perfect as we could ever imagine.

The Great Bear Rainforest is one of the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled temperate rainforest left in the world – about 6.4 million hectares, most of it is only accessible by boat.  In October of 2015 we embarked on a 7 day adventure into its heart, aboard a beautifully appointed 71’ ketch-rigged sailboat named the Ocean Light II. The trip was lead by Marcy’s mentor, renowned wildlife photographer Brad Hill.

It is difficult to describe, in words, our experience in this impossibly spectacular part of the world. Perhaps the best way is to simply reveal the images captured in this pristine environment.

 

Spirit Bear
(Kermode Bear, White Bear, Ursus americanus kermodei)

Is the Spirit Bear a myth?  Nothing more than a tall tale passed down from generation to generation in the Pacific Northwest among the indigenous people?  We were keen to see if it really existed with our own eyes.  We were not disappointed!

Elusive Spirit

Gentle Spirit

The Spirit Bear is not a Polar Bear.  It is a subspecies of the American Black Bear with a double recessive gene living primarily in the Great Bear Rainforest.  Fewer than 400 Spirit Bears are estimated to exist and we were lucky enough to see four!  This beautiful female, along with her two black cubs, posed for us for over an hour. She is probably one of the calmest bears we have been in the presence of to date.

Grizzly with Three Cubs

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Follow the Leader

One of the things that we love about this place is the incredible diversity of life!  This mother grizzly had her cubs marching to her tune (for a while anyway) through the beautiful estuary.

Little Rascals

Three Rascals

Of course, cubs will be cubs and these three little rascals were often diverted for play, which sometimes visibly annoyed mom but sure made for some great photographic opportunities.

Bald Eagle

Eagle in the Mist

Eagle in the Mist

The Great Bear Rainforest definitely lives up to its name in the regard that there is a LOT of rain but it can made for some beautiful and moody landscapes like this eagle, perched in a magnificent tree, as it surveyed the area searching for its next meal.

Harbour Seals

Don't Mess with the Seals

Don’t Mess with the Seals

The seals aren’t bothered by rain (it was pouring), they just want to be left alone to laze on rocky outcrops…

Humpback Whales

Teamwork

Teamwork

It surprised us to learn that the narrow channels between islands are actually deep enough for humpback whales to traverse and they can often be seen bubble feeding.  The whales coordinate efforts by blowing bubbles in a big circle underwater and flashing their pectoral fins to scare the krill into rising towards the surface in a tight ball so they can feed.  It is an amazing display of teamwork!

Solitude

Solitude

Through the mist and the rain a solitary humpback waved goodbye… We will return!

 Marcy & Ray Stader

StaderArt