Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day Specials

What's not to like I thought to myself as I looked out the bedroom window in the early morning pre-dawn light. I had been waiting for clear skies it seemed like forever, and I was not going to miss taking a road trip on this day. With Christmas day a done deal and the guests all gone home, I had already decided that I would point my truck west come morning. Forget the crowds at the malls, and line-ups at three in the morning in front of electronic toy-stores, my fix would come in the form of blue skies and pristine snow-covered mountains. I soon had my truck loaded with camera equipment, winter clothes, my snow boots, tea-kit, and snacks (as if I hadn't eat enough of those yesterday). I had a full tank of gas, having filling-up on Thursday just in case I would get away today, so I was good to go. I soon cleared the western outskirts of Calgary, and in the early morning dawn I could see a hint of light reflecting off of the Rockies defined against skies that still held stars, although they were fading as the light of dawn tucked them in to bed. I drove west on a all but deserted road that was like a ribbon of light as it had a sheen that was being picked up by the breaking dawn. I was enjoying my coffee and listening to the murmur of my radios with displays that glowed softly in the darkness of the truck cab, while in my head I was mapping out the route that I would drive starting with the Kananaskis Highway that was now displayed on my Garmin Navigator. I made the turn south upon reaching the Kananaskis highway, and only made it as far as Canoe-Meadows where I made my first stop. The sun was now above the eastern horizon, although I could not see it due to the range of hills to the east, but the sun was casting its rays on the upper reaches of the Rockies that lie before me. I always am in awe of the awakening of a new day, where pretty shades of rose-pink, orange and amber begin to appear in the early morning skies that begins with the dawn, and just when you think it cannot get any better, the sun rises over the horizon erasing the dawn and painting the landscape with a new light that sets my heart a flutter. I feel that I am witnessing this creation of a new day for the first time each and every time that I see the sunrise once more. I was pleased with the lack of traffic, as I have a habit of coming to a abrupt stop no matter where when I see a photo-op. I suspect that I am not the first photographer that has come to a stop on a roadway and then realized that it was not a good thing. I had drove through the rock-cut that signals the turn off for the Galatea Trail parking lot where sheep normally hang out. I was surprised not to see any Bighorn sheep near the road, although there were plenty of sign in the form of tracks in the snow that bordered the road.Only a few kilometers further down the road, I spotted movement in a meadow overlooking the ski hills of Nakiska. Pulling over in a turn-out that had been cleared by a snowplow, I began spotting Elk spread out throughout the trees and the open meadow. With 12"-18" of snow on the ground, the elk were forced to paw through the snow to get to the grass that they were feeding on. The elk that were reasonably close to me, watched me with suspicion as I positioned my camera in the open window. I knew better than to exit my truck, as this herd of elk would have been gone in a flash. After several minutes the elk relaxed and accepted my presence as they went back to feeding. Moving on, I made several more stops that included a stop at King's Canyon, where the sun was peaking over the Opal range to the east, giving me stunning views that I had to pull myself away from finally. Before long I was in sight of the Upper Kananaskis Lake where stunning views abounded in all directions. I was stunned by the amount of snow that lie upon the ground at the lakes. I could not remember when in years past that I had seen more snow. It was easy to see that the snowplows were having problems with where to put all the snow, as it was piled up everywhere and the west parking-lot was minuscule in size compared to other years. After checking out all of the nooks and cranny's of the Kananaskis Lakes, I back-tracked down to the junction of the Smith-Dorrien Highway, and begin working my way north towards the Spray Valley. Once I reached the Spray Lakes area of the Spray Valley, I planned on stopping to see the action that would be taking place in the form of dog sledding. I was not disappointed as I pulled in to a turnout near the head of the lake where "Mad Dogs and Englishman" the dog-sledding outfit out of Exshaw were running their dogs. I arrived just in time to greet the return of three sleds loaded with sledders, pulled by dogs that were happy to return after a afternoon out in the Spray Valley. With time now of the essence as the shawdows were growing long, I decided that I had to move it forward and before long, I was making my way down the steep descent from the Spray Valley into Canmore where I picked up a coffee at Tim Hortons for the drive home. While driving home I realized that I had been shopping after all, and had found my Boxing Day Specials in Kananaskis Country.

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