March 29, 2017 Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

A Second Trip Up to the Sequoia Groves

Sunny, warm weather predicted for today, so I headed out early again hoping for cloud free skies up in the mountains.

Sequoia Black Bear
Sequoia Black Bear

On the way up, I spotted a dark spot way up above the road, fortunately right where there happened to be a turnoff. Unfortunately, today, not expecting to be shooting any wildlife, I had left my big, bulky 600mm lens at home and only had my 200-400mm with me.

Sequoia Black Bear
Sequoia Black Bear

So, not as sharp as I would like and unable to get any real close shots. This is one of, if not the largest black bear I have ever seen, easily has to be in the 400 pound range I would guess. Not sure, but judging from the size of him, and that incredible girth, I would guess that he doesn’t need to hibernate here in the Sierras, but probably just descends in elevation to find year round feed.

Sequoia Black Bear
Sequoia Black Bear

Several other folks stopped when they saw me there with my tripod set up and camera pointed way up the hill and I had a nice chat with a young couple from Argentina.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

The roads up in the groves were a little drier and safer today as the temps remained just above freezing and thus, there were a few more folks up here.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

I read in the local paper that the snowpack in the Sierras this winter is as much as 190% of normal after years of very little snow and rain. They are expecting flooding and full reservoirs this year after many years of severe drought. The extremely wet weather has certainly changed my travel plans as I had hoped to travel the coast all the way north through the state. But with road washouts, mudslides and even bridge damage due to slides, there are several sections of the coastal highway that are closed to travel this spring, some sections closed for as much as a year while road and bridge rebuilding work goes on.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

As you probably are aware, these sequoias are the largest living things on earth, based on volume , not height. Some of these tree trunks pictured are easily 20 feet or more in diameter.

Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park

The weather forecast looks pretty spotty going forward as I hope to move a little north and at least get to drive into Yosemite National Park. Even with road closures there, snow still falling, and temps still dropping below freezing, all open campsites in the park are reserved and there is no place to camp within a 40 mile drive of the park. This is becoming the new normal, either make reservations a year in advance or forget about getting into the national parks.

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September 22, 2015 Glacier National Park, Montana

Iconic Shot Marred by Forest Fire
Iconic Shot Marred by Forest Fire

Park Shots and More Mountain Goats

The east side of Glacier N. P. had a rough summer, suffering once again from the ravages of forest fires. One particularly stubborn fire has marred both sides of the Going-to-the-Sun-Road   for several miles, including the slope you can see in the background of this iconic shot of Wild Goose Island in Saint Mary Lake.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Looking Up to Logan Pass
Looking Up to Logan Pass
Looking Up to Logan Pass
Looking Up to Logan Pass
Falls Below Logan Pass
Falls Below Logan Pass

The road on the east side of Logan Pass is free of fire damage once you are about half way up, leaving other iconic shots such as those above unblemished.

Many Glacier Area of the Park

The Colors of Many Glacier
The Colors of Many Glacier

I made my third trip into the Many Glacier area of the park this morning once again hoping for some bears, and once again coming away disappointed.

The Colors of Many Glacier
The Colors of Many Glacier
The Colors of Many Glacier
The Colors of Many Glacier

Last Trip up Going-To-The-Sun-Road

Glacier N.P. Elk
Glacier N.P. Elk

After my unsuccessful bear hunt in Many Glacier, i headed for Logan Pass, hoping to find some mountain goats along the way.

Glacier N.P. Elk
Glacier N.P. Elk

A bull elk was escorting his harem across some of the open fields along the side of Saint Mary Lake in an area know as two Dog Flats.

Roadside Grazing Black Bear
Roadside Grazing Black Bear

A young auburn toned black bear was grazing along the same stretch of road, obviously not being deterred by car traffic whizzing by.

Coyote Heading for Logan Pass
Coyote Heading for Logan Pass

About a mile or so below Logan Pass, I encountered this handsome coyote steadily making his way up the road heading for Logan Pass. I snapped a few shots of him and proceeded on my way.

Coyote Heading for Logan Pass
Coyote Heading for Logan Pass

Looking in my rear view mirror I could see him drop back down to the side of the road after I had passed. When I stopped a little farther up the road to take some shots of the pass, here he came again, once more climbing up the bank a ways as he detoured a bit to make his way around me.

Coyote Heading for Logan Pass
Coyote Heading for Logan Pass

After taking my shots at this second location, I drove past him again, but when I stopped once more a little farther up the road, and could still see him coming my way, I dropped down behind my car on my knees to conceal myself from him, and waited for him to come by. Not seeing me, he stayed on the side of the road and I was able to get an eye level shot of this handsome fellow as he passed by.

Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat

More Mountain Goats

Today I was fortunate enough to find two different goats running the steep vertical cliffs above Going-To-The-Sun-Road, just below the east side of Logan Pass, in the same area that I saw the lone goat yesterday.

Forgive the number of goat shots below, but these guys simply fascinated me. I probably spent more than three hours taking hundreds of shots of them, so bear with me as I show a dozen or so of them below.

Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat

The shot immediately above is an enlarged detail of the image above it. Notice the placement of the hooves along the outer edge of the ledge shelf he is so nimbly traversing. That shelf can’t be more than a foot wide, it appears, and he just casually strolls along it, more than a hundred feet up.

Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat

A different goat on a different section of the same cliffs, same idea, the second image is an enlarged detail of the first image. Again, note the placement of the hooves on, and actually over the edge of the rock ledge. Now, he is walking carefully, not running, but seemingly with no concern whatsoever for the fact that he is way up there on the cliff face with no soft landing below. Just incredible !

Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat

For the image immediately above, how did he get there? And where exactly can he possibly be thinking of going from there?

Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat
Glacier N. P. Mountain Goat

One image of a goat on safe terrain. Fascinating animals !

Tomorrow I leave Glacier National Park and head down the highway a bit to Yellowstone National Park, hopefully for some nice bull elk shots. Stay tuned.

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August 20, 2015 Top of the World Highway, Yukon

Top of the World Colors
Top of the World Colors

A Magical Day Along the Top of the World Highway

Top of the World Colors
Top of the World Colors

After waiting out two plus very long days and nights ( no cell phone, internet, or TV signals up here ) sitting in the clouds and watching it rain, this morning, despite still being enshrouded in fog, I decided to drive the Prius down to Dawson City. It appeared that there was a possibility of some sun coming out today, and even if it didn’t, I had to get out of the confines of the motorhome and do something other than watch the rain come down. It was starting to get a little depressing!

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Top of the World Colors
Top of the World Colors
Top of the World Colors
Top of the World Colors

No more than ten kilometers ( I’m in Canada now, therefore I have to speak metric ) from the campsite, I dropped below the clouds and was just stunned with the dramatic lighting the inclement weather conditions were producing … some of the most interesting light I have witnessed in quite a while.

Top of the World Colors
Top of the World Colors

I often would stop and take a shot, then see how rapidly the cloud shadows were racing across the landscape, so that within a few moments a completely different looking shot would emerge, different highlights, different shadows.

Top of the World Colors
Top of the World Colors

Adding to the drama was the quickly advancing color of the low growing tundra vegetation. They say that the reds and golds continue to gain in intensity until the end of the month.

Quick Check on Dawson City

Ferry Across the Yukon River
Ferry Across the Yukon River

I proceeded on and took the small, and free, ferry across the Yukon River into the lively little town of Dawson City.

Ferry Across the Yukon River
Ferry Across the Yukon River

This thing sure looks awfully small to be handling large motorhomes with their toads, but since I have seen a whole lot of big rigs go by my campsite on the Top of the World Highway, I guess I can be assured that this little tub can surely handle my mid size rig.

The View From the Front of the Ferry
The View From the Front of the Ferry

Sitting in your car at the front of the ferry, you sure do hope the bow doesn’t take any kind of quick dip.

Ferry Across the Yukon River, Rather Primitive Landing
Ferry Across the Yukon River, Rather Primitive Landing

My only real experience with ferry crossings has been down on the coast of Texas, and I can assure you that this ferry docking point doesn’t look quite as sophisticated as the ones in Galveston or Port Aransas.

I poked around Dawson City, checking out the Visitor’s Center and three of the private campgrounds, figuring I might stay a few days and do some of the side roads in the area.

Top of the World Campsite
Top of the World Campsite

Back Up the Highway to my Campsite

That tiny white dot in the center of the image above is my motorhome, perched in one of the nicest spots I have ever found to boondock.

Black Bear Cub
Black Bear Cub

I made myself a sandwich for lunch and just as I sat down I noticed some movement in the brush just below the motorhome. The abundance of berry bushes in that area had me kind of disappointed that I hadn’t seen any bears here, because it sure looked like a great spot for them to show up. Then this cub poked his head up … and up ahead of him I could see another black body running up the hill towards the road. So I grabbed the camera and went outside to see if I could get some shots of him ( them ) if they decided to cross the road.

Black Bear Mom and Cubs
Black Bear Mom and Cubs

And I was already too late. Mom and yet another cub had already made it up to the road and were racing across.

Black Bear Mom and Cubs
Black Bear Mom and Cubs
Third Black Bear Cub Lagging Behind
Third Black Bear Cub Lagging Behind

The first one I saw from inside the motorhome was actuall y the last of the four coming up the hill through the bushes, I had missed Mom and the brown cub.

Third Black Bear Cub Lagging Behind
Third Black Bear Cub Lagging Behind

This last cub didn’t seem too concerned that his family had gone on without him. In fact, he didn’t cross the road and head up the hill in the same spot the other three had, and ran quite a way down the road before heading up the hill.

Another Caribou Hunt

Tundra Colors
Tundra Colors

After my lunchtime bear encounter, I decided to drive the sixty-five kilometers back west to the border station to see if I could find some caribou once again.

Caribou Trails in the Tundra
Caribou Trails in the Tundra

But today, I would not find a single caribou up here. Looking at the many trails worn into the tundra in the image above, no doubt they are still moving through this area, I just wasn’t fortunate enough to locate any today, perhaps I had used up all my good fortune a few days back.

Tundra Colors
Tundra Colors

But the tudra colors still offered many nice opportunities to do some photography. The dark, brilliant reds in the foreground of the image above happen to be cranberries and are the most intence of the tundra colors.

Tundra Colors
Tundra Colors
Tundra Colors
Tundra Colors

This colorful hillside is the same spot where a few days back I ran into two different groups of caribou browsing. None today, however, but the cloud cast shadow on the hills below made for a nice foliage backdrop.

Tundra Colors
Tundra Colors
Tundra Colors
Tundra Colors

If I weren’t wanting to get down to Hyder to catch some bears feasting on a late salmon run, I would be very tempted to stay up here and find out just how intence these ground colors will become. Well, maybe that would be one of many reasons to return here sometime in the future.

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May 15, 2015 Travel from Grand Prairie to Watson Lake

Wood Bison
Wood Bison

Crossing the Canadian Rockies, Wildlife Galore

Wednesday, May 13 Jasper to Grande Prairie

I left the Whistler CG in Jasper heading for Grand Prairie around 8 AM. Drove north on Route 16,  a nice , wide, smooth, and scenic drive to Hinton, where I got on Route 40. The first 30 miles or so of Route 40 are pretty rough, and narrow, with no shoulders, but then it gets a little smoother, a little wider, and by the time you approach Grande Cache, it is a fairly nice road.

In Grand Prairie, I took the bypass to the Visitors Center and sat in the parking lot for several hours to get 2 posts done, absolute torture, ended up using my IMac because the new PC laptop couldn’t pick up the same weak signal the Imac used. Signal in and out but finally got it done.

Proceeded down the road to the WalMart to overnight. This Walmart store is one of the worst  I have seen. Very poorly stocked and maintained with probably the worst cashier I have ever encountered, barely spoke any English and had just a terrible attitude. Oh well, at least the camping fee was reasonable. I had no problems here overnight and there were enough other RV’s there that I felt pretty safe.

Thursday, May 14

Left the Walmart parking lot at 6 AM and filled up with gas in Grand Prairie. Oil/gas field truck traffic is pretty heavy between Grand Prairie and Fort Nelson. All the roads today were in decent shape, with only 3 major road projects today, and I had no significant delays or problems with any of them. Made it to Fort Nelson, filled up again and decided to continue on, starting the climb across the Rocky Mountains.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Caribou in the Road
Caribou in the Road

Crossing the Rockies on the Alaska Highway

I had my first sighting of Woodland Caribou today when these two darted out from the woods then fled along the side of the road and into the woods when they saw me. These shots were taken on the move, through the windshield because these guys didn’t seem to be too anxious to stop and pose for the photographer, and since they are the first I have ever seen, I had to include these shots!

Wioodland Caribou Fleeing
Wioodland Caribou Fleeing
Stone Sheep Ram
Stone Sheep Ram

Got some decent shots of Stone Sheep near Stone Mountain.

Stone Sheep Salt Lick
Stone Sheep Salt Lick

StoneSheepRamVert

Stone Sheep are a gray colored subspecies of the all white Dall Sheep, found a little farther north in the Yukon and Alaska. Images to come later in the trip, I certainly hope.

Stone Sheep Ewe
Stone Sheep Ewe
Stone Sheep Ram
Stone Sheep Ram

StoneSheepEweSQ

I originally thought they were all Bighorn Sheep, but the Stone and the Dall Sheep are referred to as Thin Horned Sheep, who knew?

Black Bear Grazing
Black Bear Grazing

There were black bears out and about in several spots today, and I stopped to shoot a few of them. Apparently no females, because I have yet to see a black bear with cubs since leaving the Kootenay National Park. And no grizzlies, yet. Stopped for the night 300km short of Watson Lake.

Friday, May 15

No problems with my roadside campsite. Up at 4:30 and cooked up some stroganoff for some fast reheat meals in the days ahead. It is only dark this far north for about 4 or 5 hours now, so I go to sleep while it is still light and when I awaken, it is light enough to go out with the dogs with no need for a flashlight. I remember when I did this trip in 1993 that I had some trouble sleeping  because of the light, not so last night. Got on the road around 7 AM.

Black Bear Grazing
Black Bear Grazing

I encountered several more male black bears this morning, and they are now so numerous, I am able to get picky, and don’t stop for them unless the light is just right, or if they have a variant color,

An Auburn Black Bear
An Auburn Black Bear

like this auburn black bear.

Moose Seeking Salt
Moose Seeking Salt
Young Bull Moose
Young Bull Moose

Two young bull moose ran out in front of me this morning and I stopped and got a couple shots when they returned from the woods and went about licking minerals from the blacktop.

Wood Bison Moving Out
Wood Bison Moving Out

And the highlight of the morning … Wood Bison! Another animal I had never previously encountered.

Wood Bison Nursery
Wood Bison Nursery

These youngsters can’t be very old, and it was a riot watching them frolic around with each other, and gather up to pester one of the adults, then all return to their respective Moms to suckle. Hard to believe these cute little guys grow to be such awesome giants.

Wood Bison Family
Wood Bison Family

Dad takes a dust bath, while Junior, who can’t be more than a few days old, just makes sure he keeps out of the way.

Wood Bison
Wood Bison
Wood Bison
Wood Bison
Wood Bison
Wood Bison
Wood Bison Heading for the Woods
Wood Bison Heading for the Woods

All along this section of highway, from the hot springs all but into Watson Lake, there are ample signs ( read piles ) of these Wood Bison on the hills along the road, yet I only saw two groups of them. They must be all hiding out in the woods by day, as the group above were heading to do. I would advise being very cautious driving this section of the Alaskan Highway, especially when the light is poor. A collision with one of these giants would not have a happy outcome.

After two long, rewarding, days of driving, I decided on the spur of the moment to stop and stay in the Downtown RV Park in Watson Lake and see if their WiFi was up to the task of allowing me to catch up a bit on blog posts. $40/night Canadian with a Good Sam discount to park in a gravel parking lot with full hookups right in the town of Watson Lake. And I got my blog posts caught up!

Now on to Whitehorse and time to make a decision on whether to take the Top of the Workd Highway to Alaska or stick to the safer Alaska Higway route.

Alaska Trip Road Diary

Starting From the Canadian Border

Route 95 North – Highgate Border Crossing to Radium Hot Springs

Good two lane

Route 93 North – Through Kootenay National Park to Castle Junction intersection with Route 1

Very good two lane with one moderate climb at southern end. Great scenery with possible wildlife sightings, I got a nice black bear and cub shot along this road.

Route 1 Banff to the Icefields Parkway just north of Lake Louise

Very nice 4 lane divided highway with fences and overpasses for wildlife protection, great scenery.

Icefields Parkway, Route 93 North Lake Louise – Jasper

Absolutely incredible scenery with wildlife sightings, I got several black bear shots and some ducks. Roughly 180 miles with the first 20 miles or so a little rough. A couple of long grades, but quite doable for my rig while towing. Two lane all the way with mostly fairly wide shoulders and many, many pullouts. A “ must drive “ highway

Route 16 East – Jasper to Hinton

Two lane very nice highway, no major hills, wide shoulders, nice scenery plus wildlife. I got Bighorn Sheep battling along this road as well as ducks. Many elk along this stretch of road.

Route 40 West – Hinton to Grande Prairie

First 30 miles or so of this two lane road are very rough with narrow shoulders. After that, it improves slightly. Lots of up and downs all along this road, very hilly terrain.

Route 43 West/2 North – Grande Prairie to Dawson Creek

Two lane paved road kind of beaten up with all the heavy oil/gas field trucking, lots of truck traffic.

Route 97 North, The Alaska Highway – Dawson Creek to Fort Nelson

Two lane paved road kind of beaten up with all the heavy oil/gas field trucking, lots of truck traffic.

Route 97 North, The Alaska Highway – Fort Nelson to Watson Lake – “Crossing the Canadian Rockies”

Two lane paved road in pretty good condition overall, all things considered. A few steep grades ( you are crossing the northern terminus of the Rocky Mountains after all ), nothing that presented a problem for my rig though, winding in places and a few narrow sections. The last 100 or so miles into Watson Lake are almost like a main highway, wide shoulders, fairly smooth road surface, really in pretty good shape, but you really have to watch for Bison and Black bears along this stretch. Wonderful scenery and all kinds of wildlife sightings. I truly enjoyed driving this stretch of road over the two days it took to do so.

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