Alberta Canada Vacation and Family Surprise!

Last year when Annita and I started looking at 2018 for vacations we had a few ideas but nothing really solid until her cousin Chrissy mentioned they were putting something together for her Aunt and Uncle for their 50th wedding anniversary in Grande Prairie, Alberta. 

The Planning was on.  Rocky mountains, Banff, Jasper, lakes, epic sunrises, wildlife, epic sunsets, family, road trip time with the wife.  All of that did happen but what I really enjoyed about the trip was just being on a road trip with my wife and exploring new areas.  Of course I got some amazing photos as it's hard not to in that area but it quickly moved from a photography trip, which was what was in my head, with some family in the middle to a true vacation just relaxing and having fun with my better half. 

Some facts about this trip that I thought were pretty fun, mostly.

  • 20ish hours flight and airport time with a tad tight schedule in Calgary on our way home to get through US customs and to our connecting flight.
  • Signs every mile it seemed like for don't feed the bears/wildlife and we did not.
  • Total KM/Miles Driven - 2500 KM/1550 Miles spent driving over 8 days
    • Our schedule - Flew into Calgary, Drove to Sunwapta Falls x2 nights (Jasper), Drove to Grand Prairie x3 nights, Drove to Georgetown Inn in Canmore x2 nights (Banff), drove back to Calgary x1 night before catching early morning flight. 
  • 2 separate instances where we were "Surprised" by black bears, more on that in a bit. 
  • Tons of conversations about random things while driving and exploring
  • Incredible time spent meeting family and celebrating 50 years of marriage
  • No Moose Captured in Picture, we think we saw 1 near Banff but it was a quick pass so not confirmed - We have since received 1 photo and 1 video from family that saw them after we left.
  • The list could go on but you get the point, it was fun

The first night we arrived at our accommodations for the night the Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge where the staff was absolutely incredible, shout out to Janessa who gave us a map and a good lay of the land for all the things to do in Jasper.  The rooms were nice and cozy and had what we needed but the bed was a tad on the hard side so probably only thing we would have liked to have different.  That night we walked to scout out the Sunwapta Falls waterfall which is about 10 minute walk from the Lodge with full intention of getting up for sunrise to maybe head back down (Sunrise was at 5:30 or so no biggie but sunset was after 10pm so my days were all wonky).  I will add some photos at the end as this is already a bit long.

Now that your interest is peaked, let's talk about the bears, no we did not feed them in case you were wondering.  On our 2nd day we woke up early and headed to Athabasca falls and while I was deciding on which lens to take down I hear Annita say " uh, Larry, get back in the truck, Now" so immediately I thought bear and sure enough there was one over by the washrooms at the end of the parking lot.  We hung out for a bit took some pics, then the garbage collector came and the bear ran off so we went and got some waterfall pics.  Second instance was on our way back from Grande Prairie to Banff and we stopped in at Tangle Creek falls, which is stunning but as I turned around I saw a Momma and 2 cubs come out of the trees.  Now your thinking neat photo opportunity which it would have been but I saw a young lady go into the washroom right before they came out and now they were standing beside it.  Annita said she looked at me and could tell in my brain I was calculating the situation which I was and luckily or they were tracking them, 2 park rangers drove up and after I told them they moved in quickly to pick the young lady up in their car and pull her to safety.  Wasn't an immediate danger situation but still something I was not 100% sure how to handle so glad there were no issues.  

The highlight of the trip though was surprising Annita's Aunt and Uncle for their 50th wedding anniversary and they were quite surprised so success!  We stayed in a travel trailer on their land along with Annita's other aunt Lauren, Cousin Chrissy and her husband Rick, Cousin Clay and his wife Rhonda, her cousin Clint and all of their kids.  We had a bit of a compound of campers going on and it was pretty amazing. 

So Super long story short, Alberta and the Rockies are beautiful and we can not wait to get back and see them again in Alberta or Colorado!  Also always welcome for the family visits though our vacations will be on a much smaller scale for the rest of 2018, lol. 

Now some pics from various parts of the trip.

I hope you enjoy!  For more photos you can check them out at the following link (will be slowly trickling in over the next 2 weeks). 

https://irishtexan.smugmug.com/Travel/Alberta-Canada/

 Bow Lake - Still a bit frozen

Bow Lake - Still a bit frozen

 Sunwapta Falls

Sunwapta Falls

 Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake

 Do not feed bears!

Do not feed bears!

 Patricia Lake - This was by far one of the best views of the trip

Patricia Lake - This was by far one of the best views of the trip

 Pyramid Lake

Pyramid Lake

 Annita with one of her uncles horses

Annita with one of her uncles horses

 Bear near Athabasca Falls

Bear near Athabasca Falls

 Momma Bear and Cubs near Tangle Creek Falls

Momma Bear and Cubs near Tangle Creek Falls

 Moraine Lake

Moraine Lake

 Our trusty rental for the 8 days, handled great in the mountains! 

Our trusty rental for the 8 days, handled great in the mountains! 

Wake Early. Drink Coffee. never stop chasing the light and always get out and shoot.

2017 Carnival Legend Alaskan Cruise - Day 5 - Juneau

Day 5 brought us to the Capital city of Alaska, Juneau.  Fun fact is that Juneau is a bit unusual among U.S. capitals in that there are no roads connecting the city to the rest of Alaska or to the rest of North America. 

For this stop we had decided to book us a photo safari excursion with Gastineau Guiding that would take us out whale watching as well as a little hike to the Mendenhall Glacier.  I wasn't sure what to expect as it was a "photo" safari where the tour guide was also suppose to be able to give some photography tips and tricks along the way.  We ended up absolutely loving this excursion and our primary tour guide Zach Kelly was incredibly knowledgeable about the wildlife and nature but also an incredible photographer so was just a great day.  We saw whales, birds, sea lions, seals, eagles, fish, and an incredible Glacier all within a few hours.  So now on to the pictures. 

 Our first view as we walk off the ship

Our first view as we walk off the ship

 Our whale watching ship (cell phone picture that was overexposed so processing kinda bad)

Our whale watching ship (cell phone picture that was overexposed so processing kinda bad)

 So many humpback whales during our trip

So many humpback whales during our trip

 n some whale species, flukes are so distinctive that researchers use them like fingerprints to identify individuals.

n some whale species, flukes are so distinctive that researchers use them like fingerprints to identify individuals.

 The sound from this island was loud but incredible

The sound from this island was loud but incredible

 So much wildlife around

So much wildlife around

 From the boat to the land where beauty is just every where around you

From the boat to the land where beauty is just every where around you

 Mendenhall Glacier - Water was a bit high so had to take from a distance

Mendenhall Glacier - Water was a bit high so had to take from a distance

 Annita and I at the Glacier - A bit of harsh light but still beautiful

Annita and I at the Glacier - A bit of harsh light but still beautiful

 Can't leave without 1 tourist style photo.  =)

Can't leave without 1 tourist style photo.  =)

 So many cruises landing around the same time

So many cruises landing around the same time

2017 Carnival Legend Alaskan Cruise - Day 4 - Skagway

On day 4 of the cruise we pulled into port in Skagway Alaska with some incredible cloud cover and beautiful views from every side of the boat.  We were arriving at the same time as the Norwegian cruise line so was also fun to watch them dock the ship behind us. 

 Norwegian Sun docking in behind us

Norwegian Sun docking in behind us

 Another shot of the Norwegian sun with the low clouds in the background

Another shot of the Norwegian sun with the low clouds in the background

 View off the back of the boat from the channel we just came through

View off the back of the boat from the channel we just came through

 Front of the boat towards Skagway

Front of the boat towards Skagway

Once we were docked it was time to jump off on our excursion for the day which was to take a train (White Pass & Yukon Route) up the mountain and then bike down (it was on the bike that I realized, i need to get out of the house more, seriously out of shape, lol).  We didn't get a ton of pictures on the way down as well I was trying to make it without death. 

 View of the train from the boat (turns out not the train we were taking but ours looked exactly the same)

View of the train from the boat (turns out not the train we were taking but ours looked exactly the same)

 View from the train on our way up

View from the train on our way up

 View of the train as we head up the mountain

View of the train as we head up the mountain

Skagway was a lot of fun and there are a few different excursions here depending on your comfort and athletic levels.  The last picture below we noticed all the rocks painted when we pulled in and when we got a chance to ask one of the crew members it is a tradition at the end of the cruise season to pain the logo or some other tidbits on the rocks which we pretty interesting for some of these.

 Painted rocks - View from ship

Painted rocks - View from ship

Next Stop - Juneau - my favorite stop of the whole trip