Photo of the Day: Icefield Parkway near Athabasca Glacier

With so many sites along one of the most scenic stretches of road in the world, the Icefield Parkway is a must while vacationing in Jasper National Park or Banff National Park.

The Icefield Parkway connects the 2 parks. It is an afternoon drive to get from Jasper townsite to the town of Banff. And if you take your time and make a few stops along the way, you can easily fill up a day.

I took this shot just north of the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park. Purple flowers dot the foreground (click to see larger picture) and in the background, the shadows of clouds drift over the snow speckled mountain top.

Near Athabasca Glacier

Icefield Parkway near Athabasca Glacier

A White-crowned Sparrow in Jasper National Park

The white-crowned sparrow is quite common throughout North America and you’ve probably seen them many times if you are from Canada or the USA.  If not, you’ll get a chance to see them in the Canadian Rockies.

I saw the popular bird making a guest appearance during summertime in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.

This one was hanging out at a lookout area on the Sulphur Skyline trail near Miette Hot Springs in Jasper National Park.  The bird was keeping an eye on my food, hoping for scraps.

White-crowned Sparrow in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

White-crowned Sparrow in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

A white-crowned sparrow in Jasper National Park

A white-crowned sparrow in Jasper National Park

They jump around fast so getting a picture in focus wasn’t easy!

Skiing, Snowboarding, and Tubing during Mt Norquay Ski Resort’s 85th Season in Banff National Park

Mt Norquay is one of the 3 ski resorts in Banff National Park and this 2010-2011 winter season marks its 85th anniversary as a Banff ski resort.

Mt Norquay has 28 runs and enough lifts to get you up the mountain fast.  It is also quick to get to from downtown Banff.

For something different, Mt Norquay offers the unique opportunity to do night skiing and tubing on certain Friday’s and Wednesdays January through March (see Mt Norquay’s event calendar).  It looks like a good time.

The ski folks at Mt Norquay Ski Resort just put out a couple of fun videos on YouTube.  Check the videos out:

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

Check out Mt Norquay’s Facebook fan page too.  Lots of pictures in their photo album.

Photo: Elk at Jasper Park Lodge

Elk are sometimes in the most curious of places.   They’re amongst the most fearless of the large wildlife.   Many a time have I witnessed elk nonchalantly grazing in the middle of tourist-dense areas of the Canadian Rockies and in Yellowstone National Park where other wildlife wouldn’t dare to travel.

Driving through the grounds of Jasper National Park’s famous Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, I passed these 2 elk fully engaged in their duties as Lawn Care Specialists.

The grassy lawns of the Jasper Park Lodge are known to elk far and wide as a place for a delicious meal.

Elk at Jasper Park Lodge

Surprisingly, elk are not as harmless as they look and have been known to attack when people get too close. Keep a safe distance.

Animal Footprints of the Canadian Rockies

The Banff National Park Information Centre in downtown Banff has an interesting wildlife footprints display.

It is fun for kids and grown-ups alike to try to guess what animal has which footprint.

Can you guess which is an elk, a bighorn sheep, a wolf or a bear?

Sometimes similar footprints can be spotted while out hiking in Banff National Park and surrounding Canadian Rockies.    When hiking, try to look for tracks in the dirt.  But don’t forget to look up every now and then.  The tracks in the dirt may be from an animal just up ahead.

Animal footprints in the Canadian Rockies

Animal footprints in the Canadian Rockies display at the Banff National Park Information Centre

Knowing the type of footprint can come in handy.  Seeing fresh bear footprints in the mud could be helpful when trying to avoid face-to-snout encounters.

Black Bear in Banff National Park

Black Bear in Banff National Park

Hikers on Sulphur Skyline Trail – Photo of the Day

Today’s photo of the day was taken near the summit on the Sulphur Skyline Trail in Jasper National Park.  I highly recommend hiking the trail and then soaking in Miette Hot Springs afterward.

The photo is from a plateau area where hikers can take a breather and enjoy magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and valley below.

It was an intermittently rainy day, hence the rain gear one of the hikers was wearing.

The trail head starts at Miette Hot Springs and is one of the trails featured in the Done In Day Jasper book.

Hikers on Sulphur Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park

I took the picture as I was hiking.  It seemed like the colorful clothing complimented the mountain backdrop and made for an interesting shot.

A Red Fox Visits Jasper National Park

What is that in the distance?  Is that a coyote or a fox?

A red fox.

Having been my first time seeing a red fox in person, I’d have to wait till I got home to verify the sighting.

I had known there are wolves and coyotes in Jasper but was surprised to see a red fox in Jasper National Park.

But there it stood at the Fiddle River lookout on Miette Hot Springs Road.

The fox sniffed around a garbage container for food, ignoring my slowly approaching car except for a quick glance.

A red fox in Jasper National Park

A red fox in Jasper National Park glances at me then goes about its business

Seeing a red fox takes a lot of luck.  They tend to travel alone and cover a large territory.  Unlike the bighorn sheep and elk who are known to congregate in predictable locations, the red fox will go where the red fox wants to go.

A red fox in Jasper National Park

A red fox in Jasper National Park looking for food

They tend to be active at dawn and dusk.  It was challenging to take a picture from far away in the low light conditions.

Red Fox in Miette Hot Springs Road in Jasper National Park

In a stopped car watching a red fox on Miette Hot Springs Road in Jasper National Park as it walks into a lookout parking lot.

The red fox looks like it is sightseeing.  Maybe it is on vacation too.

The red fox looks like it is sightseeing. Maybe it is on vacation too.

The red fox seems to be looking for food.

The red fox seems to be looking for food.

The red fox heads into the woods.

The red fox heads into the woods. Before I knew it, the fox was gone.

The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) covers a wide range of geography in the northern hemisphere.  According to info on Wikipedia, the territory range of an individual red fox can be as big as 50 km² (19 square miles) or smaller than 12 km² (4.6 sq mi) when there’s lots of food to be found.

The author of a fascinating article here (MountainNature.com) about the relationship between wolves, coyotes and fox in the Canadian Rockies speculates that there may be a relationship between the sizes of wolf, coyote and red fox populations.  As the wolf population in the Canadian Rockies increases, the coyote population is reduced.  Because coyotes compete directly with the red fox, the red fox population increases.  So, with the recent increase in wolf populations comes an increase in red fox populations.

Maybe that means more red fox sightings in Jasper National Park.

Keep a lookout during your animal spotting adventures.

Pictures of Mountain Goats in Kootenay National Park

There’s something magical about driving through the Canadian Rockies near dusk when the chances for spotting wildlife increase.

We drove during dusk from Lake Louise in Banff National Park traveling west through Kootenay National Park and back.  The wildlife were out in full force.

We had perfect timing, perfect weather and a lot of luck. We saw 3 mountain goats.

Given the small population of mountain goats in the Canadian Rockies (Kootenay National Park is said to have around 300 mountain goats, other parks similar), it was a real treat to see them in person.  The mountain goats were on a rocky hill alongside Highway 93, the main road through Kootenay National Park.

Mountain Goat in Kootenay National Park

A Mountain Goat in Kootenay National Park stands near the road in late June. I've been spotted!

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Athabasca Glacier Featured on Bing Homepage

The Bing.com search engine always features interesting photos from around the world on its homepage each day.

Yesterday’s (September 3rd) image featured a picture of the Athabasca Glacier, part of the Columbia Icefield in Jasper National Park.

The photograph was taken be renowned photographer Steve Vidler who specializes in stock photography from around the world.  Vidler has traveled the world taking photos for over 40 years (a good interview with him is here).

Given the size and color of the  building, I’m guessing the photo is from the 1980s or at least pre-1996.  In those older days, the building was home to a Jasper hotel known as the Columbia Icefield Chalet.

Athabasca Glacier on Bing.com homepage

Athabasca Glacier Featured on Bing.com Homepage

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A Black Bear Having a Bad Hair Day in Banff National Park

These photos are of a black bear casually nibbling on plants along the roadside in Banff National Park.

I was very lucky to spot this character on the Bow Valley Parkway near Banff townsite.

You may think black bears are all tough and scary (and you might be right).  But this one was relaxed and almost amusing with all sorts of leaves in its hair from traipsing through the woods.

This Banff National Park black bear was focused on one thing:  eating plants.  The bear didn’t give much attention to the tourists in their cars taking pictures.

Still, I stayed a safe distance away – for my safety and for the bear’s.  A tame bear must to be retrained, relocated or worse.

Black Bear in Banff National Park

“Seen one tourist with a camera, seen them all,” he seems to be saying to himself.

Black Bear in Banff National Park

Black Bear in Banff National Park

Black Bear in Banff National Park

Black Bear in Banff National Park