Where Will You Go?

Q: Where will you go?

A: It depends. On a lot of things. Like whether it’s a work day or a non-work day. The weather forecast. How much wildfire smoke is in the air. If it’s vacation, stay-cation or business-as-usual. Work and family obligations. Access to transportation. Budget. And a myriad of other factors.

Being mostly retired, we have mostly non-work days. So we started June hoping to get out for lots of day hikes, bike rides and kayak adventures. Although the wildfire smoke was no where near as bad here as it was in other parts of Canada and the United States, it kept us indoors more than a few days this month. So our tallies for June: 3 bike rides, 3 kayak outings, one hike and a few walks.

Those adventures took us to Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks, as well as Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. We hit the multi-use pathways in Canmore and sidewalks in Calgary. Some highlights:

1. Banff National Park

We made four day trips into Banff, Canada’s first national park (est. 1885), driving our EV loaded with two bikes or our inflatable kayak, depending on the day. We pedaled the Bow Valley Parkway twice before it opened to motorized vehicles for the summer. And we paddled all three Vermilion Lakes over two mornings. Each trip reminded us why people from all over the world answer “Banff” when asked asked where they want to go on vacation.

The most impactful highlight? About 45 minutes spent watching three Great Blue Herons from our kayak on Vermilion Lakes. They landed. They took off. Sometimes there’d be one visible, occasionally two, rarely all three.

One landed maybe 100 meters from our kayak and we almost forgot to breath while we watched it move soundlessly through the long grass, stretch its neck this way and that, and then drive its beak into the water, emerging with a suckerfish.

Then it turned and walked almost back to where it landed before maneuvering the fish to align with its beak. And then swallowed it whole! We saw the big bulge in its neck move slowly downwards. Then it gave itself a big shake to finish the swallow. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, similar to seeing a bald eagle in the water last year. For more photos of the three Great Blue Herons, watch Mr GeoK’s Relive video recap.

blue heron standing in lakeshore grasses while swallowing whole a mountain sucker fish

2. Lower Kananaskis Lake

We kayaked in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park twice in June. Our outing on Lower Kananaskis Lake started out with a navigation error. We missed the turnoff for the Canyon boat launch, so ended up putting in at the Panorama Day Use Area (right beside the TransAlta Interlakes hydro plant). Our mistake quickly turned into a blessing, as we spotted a grizzly bear within minutes of setting out.

It lumbered along the lake shoreline, then into the water for a few minutes. A couple of campers from the nearby Interlakes Campground caught sight of the bear. And once it spotted them, it took off out of the water and up the steep hill towards the campground. We heard dogs barking shortly thereafter. But it was all quiet within a couple of minutes so we figure it headed in another direction, away from people.

male grizzly bear with tag in left ear approaching a lake

BONUS: We ended up having lunch with a second grizzly. By “having lunch” I mean we ate our picnic while sitting in our kayak at the shoreline, while watching the second bear browsing willows and grasses about a hundred meters off (it’s the little brown speck just left of center where the yellow grass meets the green shrubs). Watching a bear it lunch from an appropriate difference is a truly fine dining experience.

man in kayaking photographing a grizzly bear in the distance

For more grizzly bear photos and videos, watch Mr GeoK’s Relive recap.

3. Takakkaw Falls, Yoho NP

Yoho Valley Road, connecting the TransCanada highway to Canada’s second-highest waterfall, is closed from early October through mid-June each year. Not only does it run through avalanche terrain, but it has a double switchback that’s so tight that no trailers are allowed on the road. All of which opens the possibility of a vehicle-free bike ride for a couple of short timeframes each year.

We rode it for the first time last October, enjoying late fall colour. In June, we managed to ride this road just a day or two before it opened to motorized vehicles. The wildflowers were amazing. And we saw tons of butterflies. There was a pretty strong wind up at the waterfall, so we “enjoyed” cool showers while doing our best to get some good photographs. Look at all the waterdrops on Mr GeoK’s helmet and glasses!

man wearing bike helmet and sunglasses splashed with water with a creek and mountain in the background

EXTRA: This photo gives some idea how far downstream we were from the waterfall, and we still got that wet! Fortunately, it was a warm day and we dried off while eating our packed lunch before riding back down.

man standing on a rock downstream of a waterfall

Note that Mr GeoK is well back and on dry rock. Two weeks after we rode our bikes up, a 54 year-old visitor died after slipping on wet rocks and falling into the water just below Takakkaw falls. We were very sorry to learn of his tragic accident.

4. Stanley Glacier Trail, Kootenay BC

We walked a lot this spring, but hadn’t done what we’d consider a hike since our trek to the Green Monster back in March. Since we have friends who want to hike with us in July (they’re training to walk part of the Camino de Santiago in September), we were determined to hike at least one mountain trail this month. We opted for a return trek along the Stanley Glacier Trail, which we last did in 2016.

We noted a couple of trail upgrades, including a new bridge just off the parking lot, and a new bridge across Stanley Creek a few km along the trail. Also new? I packed along the Olympus M.Zuiko 8mm f/1.8 fisheye lens. It was our first time bringing a fisheye lens along on a hike and I had quite a lot of fun with it. What’s most amazing is how you can get withing 2.5 cm (1 inch) of something in the foreground and not have it block your entire field of view! I took this one from a shallow cave on one side of the valley, as Mr GeoK was heading down the trail on our way back.

man walking away from a cave mouth towards a mountain across the valley

5. Marble Canyon, Kootenay NP

The 1.6 km paved trail at Marble Canyon is one of those roadside stops visited by most of the tourists driving Highway 93S. So we tend to avoid it during the summer months. But we hadn’t been in years, I was packing the above-mentioned fisheye lens, and it’s less than 10 minutes from the Stanley Glacier Trail parking lot. So of course we had to go!

To get an idea of just how different the shots are composed with a fisheye vs a standard lens, check out Mr GeoK’s Relive video recap. One thing I know for sure – I’d never be able to get this shot of the Kootenay River as it falls into the deepest stretches of Marble Canyon with anything buy a fisheye lens.

man standing at viewpoint beside turquoise waterfall dropping into a canyon

There you have it…some of the places we went in June. To see where other Photo Blogging Challenge participants went, check out the link up at the bottom of host PJ’s blog.

Please consider joining the Photo Blogging Challenge for July. We’re a small, friendly group of bloggers. July’s theme is Selfie! All you need is a set of 5 photographs. The amount of accompanying text is entirely up to you. I’m on the wordy side.

And feel free to leave a comment answering the question Where Will You Go? I’ll try to respond to everyone who shares, whether an already planned vacation or a bucket-list destination.

8 thoughts on “Where Will You Go?

  1. Such a great set of images and stories to go with this theme. It really makes me wish we had spent more time in Yoho/Banff when we were there, instead of breezing through in a couple of days. The once-a-year “caching” trips have always been to go a mile a minute, see things, and keep going. Me and my traveling friend have decided, though, to slow it down some (we started it last year). This year is Acadia National Park and some areas close to it. Next year, Prince Edward Island. We were going to mix them this year, but anymore it seems like it’s ripping off the experience.

    Maybe one day, I’ll see Banff again.

    Great job!

  2. cmiked

    If I hadn’t added Banff to my list of places to see before I die, I have now. You are a great ambassador to the beauty your area has to offer.

  3. You had me at Banff! Thank you for taking us on your adventures. I enjoyed the videos. The Grizzlies and all the birds are amazing! Talk about a fine dining experience! I had no idea there’s a bird called killdeer. Do they do what the name says they do???

    1. Ha ha! It’s for the sound they call…kill-dee or kill-deah, depending on the bird and the sensitivity of your hearing. 🙂

  4. You certainly get around….with the photos to prove it! All masterful shots and this is an area I’d love to see someday. Entrepreneur can’t do the physicality of hiking etc., but I’m sure there are other alternatives. And, yes, watching a bear eat lunch (at a distance) would certainly be a thrill.

    1. There are some beautiful lakeshore walks, there’s a boat tour of Lake Minnewanka, ski gondolas that run in the summer and take you up to viewing platforms and short walking trails, etc. Definitely lots to do if hiking can’t be part of your itinerary.

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