I lit out of Hinton, Alberta after a rather hearty breakfast at the hotel. I stopped at a Petro Canada to fill up, and I was on my way.
It had rained a bit Monday night, but it seemed to have moved on a bit. The drive was met with periods of rain and some sunshine, although the majority of the time it was just overcast. That has a downside and an upside. The downside is that the colors in the photos tend not to be as vivid as they would be if I was shooting in the sun. The upside is that I didn't have to deal with harsh shadows created by the sun. All in all, it was a trade off I didn't mind making.
My "ride" for this trip is a 2009 Dodge Nitro. Kinda' boxy on the outside, but it's nice and roomy on the inside. It also has a good deal of power if I need it. And, as far north as I'll be heading on this trip, I still don't think I'll need the 4X4:
My first encounter was with a deer. Don't ask me what kind of deer; I don't know. Whitetail, maybe? Really, I don't know. "The kind of deer that eats fruits and leaves and stuff". How about that?
I was a bit surprised that, when I got out of the car, the deer just stood there. I would've expected it to dart off into the woods. There were two of them, though, so I guess they figured they could take me if I got too close.
So, I figured I had my "wildlife shot", but I kept the Canon 40D on the passenger seat. You know, just in case. Well, I'm glad I did. As I came around a bend, I saw a camper and two cars pulled over to the side of the road. As I got closer, I saw why:
This male elk was standing, literally, at the side of the road. There was another nearby, but it seemed to have more than a passing interest in the Bounder RV parked on the roadside. But when I say "roadside", I mean "roadside":
Since I knew I'd be making this drive, I decided to bring the full photo rig. I've gotten to the point that, when I travel, I only bring the Canon G10. But, since I'd never been here before, and because I've heard about the wildlife here, I decided to bring the 40D, the Sigma 17-70mm, and the "Bigma"; the Sigma 50-500mm Sigma. It really had some benefits:
I'd gotten out of the truck and got down on one knee for that shot. When the elk lifted his head to look at me, I immediately turned to see just how far away from the truck I was. You know... just in case. Those antlers may have been fuzzy, but I was pretty sure I didn't want to feel just how soft as he pinned me to the ground with them.
The elk gave me one last glance as I got back into the truck. I still had a long drive ahead of me and, as much as I would've loved to have been able to just stay here and shoot these magnificent animals, I had to get back on the road.
The drive itself had periods of grandeur and boredom. I have this habit that, when I'm bored, and a camera is nearby, I'll take photos of just about anything:
Oh, and if it wasn't for GPS, I have know idea where I'd have ended up.
Jasper National Park is at no loss for vistas. This is one of those instances where I would've paid for more sun:
This is another "Damn, I wish there was more sun" shot. This is Moose Lake. Here in mid-May, it's still largely frozen over:
After driving a while, I was light on coffee (which is never good). I found the Cafe Mt. Robson, so I stopped in:
As nice as this place was, I was the only one in the restaurant. I'm guessing the owner was glad I didn't order any food, so he wouldn't have to clean the grille.
Before long, the wildlife started showing up again. This herd of elk were off in a field a few hundred yards from the road:
I saw more elk than anything else:
There were so many elk, I was worried I was going to wear out the brakes. It seemed that, around every turn, there was another reason to stop and grab the camera.
I finally decided that I had more than enough elk photos to satisfy all the need for elk photos that mankind may ever have. So, I set the camera on the passenger seat and headed down the road.
About an hour outside of Prince George BC, I was thankful that all the stopping I did in Jasper hadn't worn out the brakes. On the side of the road was a black bear. I couldn't get on the brakes fast enough and, to be honest, I almost ran off the road trying to stop. Hey, that'll happen when you're doing 140 (kph):
Unlike when I was shooting the elk and the deer, I opted to stay in the truck when I shot the bear. He was a juvenile, but I'm pretty sure that, at best, I'd have had my hands full if he came after me. I erred on the side of caution with my decision to just roll the window down and shoot from the driver's seat.
Up until yesterday morning, I would've said that Banff National Park was just about the most perfect place on the planet, and I have said as much, and I've said it often. But Japser offered so much more. The vistas were every bit as perfect, and the wildlife viewing opportunities of Banff simply cannot compare with those of Jasper; it's simply no contest.
So we're off to Fort St. John today. It's about a five hour drive, so we want to get on the road. I'm not planning for too many photo-ops along the way but, you know, sometimes you just never know...