Canmore and Banff
Canmore has always had a place in my heart, but this trip intensified my love for the mountains.
Ever since I was a kid, we would go on family vacations to the mountains to ski. We would go to Utah normally and ski all of the big resorts around Park City, but on occasion, we would make a trip within our beautiful country and just head West to Alberta. These ski trips normally did not allow for much time in the cities or towns surrounding the mountains, we would get to the hill before the lifts opened, and ski until they closed then get back to our chalet and recuperate for the next day with more of the same. I am by no means complaining! As a child, and even now, all I wanted to do was ski. Nothing would get in the way of me and the mountain, but as I have gotten older and travelled the world, I am not always in locations at the time of year that I would like to be. This means that sometimes, I am in a ski town when there is no snow, so I am forced to see it from another angle. As a photographer, I like to think that I have gotten pretty good at seeing places in a different light and trying to make the best of a location no matter what, and this applies to Canmore also. I have now been there twice outside of ski season and have had almost as much fun as when I had the opportunity to ski.
The hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, skiing, and photography opportunities that surround the Banff national park are to die for. Luckily we will be staying with one of my best friends, who has been visiting the park frequently for most of his life and is now a local to Canmore. He and his wife will be our guides for the week as we explore some local spots and hike a few of their favourite trails. The first hike we went on took us up to Quarry lake, and past an amazing waterfall along the way.
This hike was not too challenging and was a great way to get our feet under us and test out my new hiking boots.
There are a few opportunities for photos along the way, the main one being this waterfall, which I was able to shoot from my tripod at the side of trail. We climbed up higher and came across a few small, calm ponds surrounded by evergreens and with a mountainous background, but sadly we arrived in the middle of the day and the light was very harsh. Ross showed me one of the local climbing spots up near the top of the hike and we headed back down to plan for the next day.
The next morning, I woke up early and headed out for a walk to see if I could find a nice place to watch the sunrise. As I walked through town, I was lucky enough to see the sun hit just the tops of the mountains, creating a beautiful warm glow. Walking through Canmore at sunrise is something you need to do, no matter how warm and comfortable your bed is, and how cold and snowy it may seem outside, if there is a break in the clouds and you get to watch the mountains light up, it will be worth it.
After helping Ross build some furniture for the new place, I went on a little drive on my own to photograph Two Jack Lake, closer to the town of Banff.
This trip is allowing me to check so many items off of my photography bucket list. Aspen trees during autumn have always been a beautiful sight to me, but I had never had an opportunity to photograph a grove of them with yellow leaves, until now. While scouting a location for sunset at the three sisters, I noticed a horse track leading off of the main road, so I pulled over and grabbed my camera and went for a short walk. I had to trudge through snow over my boots and through some brush, but I knew that the reward would be worth the discomfort. I Started seeing golden yellow leaves so I kept walking, and shortly came across a relatively large grove of Aspen trees! I quickly got to work, I have thought of this shot for such a long time I knew what I wanted to do, so I walked around a bit more, looking for just the right combination of trees and leaves and mountains and ground and sky.
I got back to the car, and Taylor (who had been waiting for me) was wondering how much longer she should wait before sending a search party for me. But she knew that I had found something exciting by the jubilant expression on my face. We drove home, I could not wait to take a look at the photos and then Ross told me that we would soon be heading up for another hike above Banff before dinner. We parked up at the Marsh loop trailhead and went for a nice easy walk along the Bow River.
The following day, I check another item off of my bucket list. I have convinced Ross, Amanda (his wife) and Taylor to wake up early in the morning to drive up to Moraine Lake to watch the sunrise. I made sure we got there very early to ensure that we get a parking spot and a good location to set up my tripod for a perfect vantage point on the valley. I hiked up around the rock pile, and down a few rocks in front of the normal viewing platform to get a slightly different angle amongst the boulders. I took a few test shots while it was still dark to make sure I was in focus, and then it was just a waiting game. I sat behind my tripod with Taylor, as Ross and Amanda went off with their hammocks to watch from a peaceful setting down out of the wind. I watched the clouds and the tree as they move in the wind, looking for the slightest hint of light to come over the mountain to the East and light up the Valley of Ten Peaks. Finally, the sky brightens and I am able to get a shot that I am happy with.
This day has started off spectacularly as far as I am concerned, and it was only 7:00 am by the time we all met back up at the truck. we went down by the side of the lake for a few photos together and then proceded to drive back down one of the most amazing roads I have ever driven, now in the light. Breakfast was at the always delicious Trailhead Cafe before we dove back up to Lake Louise to start our hike up the Big Beehive.
The Hike starts right behind the Chateau Lake Louise and goes up to the North towards the Teahouse. It is a very straight forward hike for the first 20 minutes, but then as you make the first switchback, the ground becomes quite slippery and there are more and more roots. The teahouse is perched at the end of Lake Agnes, but when we arrived there was a group of "influencers" taking silly selfies and ruining the scenery for us. Taylor had wanted a Tea, but due to the number of people, we decided to just continue to hike. The hike started to get tricky now, as we would be ascending the beehive in the shade. The switchbacks had not yet seen the sun today, so they were totally frozen from the cold night and we had to work as a team to get up without anyone slipping off of the edge. The top of the beehive is an amazing spot, with beautiful views off of all sides, but especially down towards Lake Louise and the Cateau. Ross and Amanda brought up their hammocks, so we found a good spot and relaxed for about half an hour with some snacks and water.
After we had our rest, I wanted to get a photo with Taylor over by the edge of the cliff looking over Lake Louise, but she wanted to head down the mountain. I was able to convince her to come over with me and I gave my phone to Amanda for a photo. Everything so far had been so perfect, that it felt like there would never be a better time to propose to Taylor. I pulled out the ring that had been burning a hole in my camera bag for the last few days and dropped to one knee. Taylor gasped, as she thought I was falling off the cliff and Amanda started firing off photos while Ross (one of my best friends) was looking at a magpie in a tree. Taylor said yes after she realized I was indeed not falling off the cliff and we both gazed at the ring as it matched the colour of the lake below.
Now the day had reached a truely high point. Taylor and hiked back down the mountain carefully, after I had put her ring back in the box and into my bag because she was afraid to lose it on the way down. I was able to capture a few more photos on the way down, including one of some evergreen trees as the sun broke over the mountain top and clipped just the tops of the trees, making them glow golden in the reflection of Agnes Lake.
We stopped into the Chateau Lake Louise for a celebratory cup of hot cocoa before driving back to Canmore for an early night.
The next morning we had to head back towards Edmonton to catch our flight home, but we would be doing so through Jasper national park, so we left early in the morning as it is quite a long drive, especially with all of the snow that fell through the night. Drives that beautiful always take extra time when I have my camera and want to pull over every kilometre to take a photo.
I would highly recommend 4x4 and snow tires if you plan on being in Banff or Jasper this time of year because the roads can get treacherous quickly, and you are a long way from help if you happen to go into the ditch. We pulled over a few times to see some of the main sights, like Sunwapta falls, Athabasca Falls, and Mt. Edith Cavell. Unfortunately, Peyto Lake road was closed for construction so we will have to come back to spend some time there.