Monday, October 04, 2010

Day 13: Banff to Many Glacier

I woke up in the morning and made breakfast in the kitchen. I heard two women talking about driving to Glacier National Park en route to Minnesota. I asked if they knew that Logan Pass was closed. "No!" "Well, yes it is. On the East side you can drive all the way to Logan Pass but you won't be allowed to go over. On the West side you get to Avalanche Creek and then it's game over." "Well, that settles it. We're going to go to the East side then." They were on a road trip from their summer jobs in Alaska, and highly recommended that I visit Alaska one of these days, preferably during the summer. I knew what I wanted to do next summer, but maybe the summer after that I'll visit Alaska.

It was drizzling as I pulled out of the parking lot for my morning shoot. I wanted to see if Two Jacks would be better and that maybe I would see a rainbow, but no luck at all this morning. With a sigh, I pulled out and started driving towards Kananaski Provincial Park. In the cloudy morning like Kananaski Provincial Park was gorgeous. With clouds blowing in and out of the road I felt like in the dream world.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

The kicker, though was the amount of wildlife seen on the road! Because the road was so isolated and deserted, wildlife was frequently seen on the road. In fact, the first time I saw a pair of Moose on the road side I thought they must have been plastic reproductions, since they were so big and did not move even though I was approaching. When I saw they were real I stopped and put on the 200mm lens. The lesson I've been learning on the entire trip is that when I'm driving I just need to run the longest lens I've got in case I spot wildlife.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

He was quite an animal, and I was very impressed. Less than a mile later I ran across a group of goats who were happy to have me shoot them while they went all over the road. These animals were not at all afraid of humans and cars, and I could even drive up next to them if I wanted to. It was an amazing sight.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

Driving out of the park, the GPS unit navigated me onto a dirt road. I thought about turning back but I've never denied myself the chance to ride an obscure dirt road on a bicycle, so why stop just because I had a mini-van? One of my favorite song quotes was from the Cowboy Junkie's Anniversary Song:
Have you ever satisfied a gut feeling
to follow a dry dirt road that's beckoning you
to the heart of a shimmering summer's day?
So I indulged myself and followed the road. At first it drove through foreboding country: obviously the land here had been logged and/or burned, with big patches of empty hill side and long stretches of blackened tree stumps. But in a little bit I was rewarded by the sight of a cowboy, his partner, and two dogs at work herding some cattle into a field. I shot pictures from the car and tried not to disturb their work or the cattle.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

It was with no little relief, however, when I drove back onto pavement near Waterton Lakes National Park, and saw the fall colors still present in neat little clumbs near farmland.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

I had intended to detour into Waterton Lakes for a quick look on the way to the US border, but a signboard informed me that the Chief Mountain customs office was closed for the season. I reprogrammed the GPS to point me towards Cardston, which was the other customs location nearby. On the way there I saw a farm that looked pretty to my eyes and pulled in for a quickie shoot.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

I stopped by Cardston's tourist information center to ask about the weather and use the rest room. The lady there was familiar with the Cobblestone Manor and told me it had changed management recently. That made me feel a bit better about missing them twice. They were still closed today because it was a Monday. Maybe some day when I return for a summer backpacking trip I can still visit.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Journalism

The drive across the border happened in the rain, but that meant there was so little traffic that the U.S. customs official felt obliged to justify his pay by looking into my van to make sure I didn't have any undeclared merchandise. I drove into Babb and gassed up my car (cheap American gasoline!), and then drove into Many Glacier to find a picnic table to make an early dinner so I could shoot the sunset. I met another camper and we agreed to share a campground. That turned out to be only $5 each, which was a good deal since I did not want to use that gravel parking lot in St. Mary's after the bad memories.

Driving out of Many Glacier, I spotted in my rear view mirror a gorgeous sight --- Lake Sherburn had clouds that looked beautiful, and lent the place a ghostly light.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

I shot several shots and worked the angles a bit and then moved on, hoping against hope that I was not too late. It turned out that over the past two weeks the sunset time had shifted until I was pretty much too late. The cloud cover had also caused the sunset to be early, and as I drove back and forth the Chief Mountain International Highway I cursed myself for not being attentive enough to the weather conditions and missing what was a great shoot. I salvaged the situation in time by returning to an old familiar spot and getting two final glorious shots of the Montana Sky in action.
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors
From 2010 Canadian Rockies Fall Colors

I did not know it then, but it was to be my last good shoot of the trip.

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