Some Debts Can Never Be Repaid

Remembering the brave Canadians who gave their all 75 years ago at Juno Beach. We can never repay their sacrifice.

Remember D Day, June 6 1944.

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Joshua Tree Sunrises

Sometimes its fun to return to the same spot on different days to take essentially the same photo in different conditions. Last December I drove up to Joshua Tree National Park on four different mornings to take sunrise shots. On three of those occasions I shot from essentially the same spot.

Here are the three different photos showing quite different lighting on the different mornings.

For the last one, here is the look at the sky directly behind me that was lighting up the scene above.

On the final morning I shot from the Cholla Cactus Garden.

There is no arguing that the desert is beautiful in the morning and Joshua Tree National Park is a great place to experience it.

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Maligne Lake 2018

Once again it seems I am sharing a trip long after it occurred. Between taking photos, processing them, and life in general, blogging often seems to take a back seat until I finally decide to get caught up.

Last September I went on what has become a somewhat regular canoeing trip on Maligne Lake in Jasper National Park. I would call it an annual trip except that, while I have done the trip several times over the past few years, I haven’t quite made it every year. In fact, it was two years since I last did this trip. So, I don’t know, maybe I should call it a “sporadically non-annual trip”. But I digress.

The best way to experience Maligne Lake is by canoe or kayak. Actually it is really the only way to see the entire lake as there are no roads or hiking trails that take you around the lake.

The night before we started paddling, my friend James and I stayed in one of the Tentpiks at Whistlers Campground just outside of the Jasper town-site. A combination of a cabin and a tent, they are quite comfortable and certainly less expensive than a hotel in Jasper. And you don’t have to fold up your tent in the morning – you just shut the door and leave.

Early next morning we loaded up the canoe at the launch ramp at Maligne Lake and set off. It is always best to get on the lake as early in the morning as possible, before the wind starts to come up. As well, an early start gets you part way down the lake before the tour boats, taking tourists down the lake to Spirit Island, start running. This morning, the water was like a mirror and the silence was broken only by the sound of our paddles dipping in the water and the occasional call of a loon.

An early morning start

The lake is about 21 km long. Our normal routine is to paddle about halfway the first day, to Fisherman’s Bay. The second day we continue on to the far end and spend two nights at Coronet Creek Campground. Our return trip mirrors our first two days with an overnight stay at Fisherman’s Bay then a paddle out to Home Bay on the final day.

We were able to get a couple of kilometers in before the tour boats started to run. The operators are good about slowing down as they approach, to reduce their wake. Even so, as every boat passes you have to turn your canoe into the wake and wait for the waves to subside before turning back onto your course. With the boats passing about every 10 minutes it tends to slow your progress.

Loaded canoe at Four Mile Point
Love the texture

About halfway to Fisherman’s Bay we made our usual rest stop at Four Mile Point. This gives us a bit of a respite from the tour boats before we continue on to our final destination for the day. We arrived at Fisherman’s Bay in early afternoon. After setting up camp and having some lunch, James was off fishing. James loves to fish and I am quite happy to help him eat whatever he catches. This afternoon we had fresh Brook Trout for an appetizer before dinner.

(Click on any thumbnail below to open full-sized gallery)

Later in the afternoon another friend, Garry, arrived in his big freighter canoe powered by an electric motor. Gas motors are not allowed on Maligne Lake other than for the tour boats and the Park Ranger’s boat. Garry is another avid fisherman so between the two of them we were seldom short of tasty appetizers on this trip.

The “exciting change” since our last visit was the replacement of the “throne room with a view” by a new high-tech composting outhouse, complete with a foot-operated conveyor belt. I will spare you the sordid details other than to say it was a pretty spiffy biffy!

“Old” on left, Spiffy Biffy on right

Early the next morning we were on the water again. The nice thing about the far end of the lake is that once you get past Spirit Island there are no more tour boats. The boats pull into Spirit Island (which is more of a peninsula except in Spring when snowmelt raises the lake level) so that tourists can get their photos before shuttling then back up the lake to Home Bay. As a result the second half of the lake is undisturbed by boat traffic and is absolutely stunning.

Coronet Creek campground, at the far end of Malign Lake, is a beautiful spot. And here again Parks Canada had a nice surprise waiting for us: new picnic tables and bear lockers had been installed since our last visit. For those not familiar with back country camping, bear lockers are not to keep bears in but rather to keep food away from bears. When camping in the back country you need to be very careful about storing food, or anything that smells like food (cooking pots, toothpaste, etc.) so as not to attract bears. Many sites now have steel bear lockers or bear poles for hanging your food bags from. In the absence of either you may have to rig up suspension from a tree (see my previous post).

New tables and Bear Lockers

We spent two nights at Coronet Creek which gave us a full day to explore the area. There is a nice trail up towards Coronet Glacier that starts in the campground which we have hiked in prior years. This time James and I headed across the bay and hiked along a creek up a valley. As there was no trail our hike often involved a bit of guess work as to how best to get where we wanted to go. It was all worth it though as there was some beautiful scenery along the way, including some little waterfalls.

(Click on any thumbnail below to open full-sized gallery)

Our final two days, returning to civilization, were pretty uneventful. The last morning, as we left Fisherman’s Bay, was a little windy and rough for the first hour or so then the lake settled down again. All-in-all another great trip!

Two tour boats pass in the distance

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Backpacking Trip

When forest fires in BC closed The Rockwall Trail, our 5-day backpacking trip for August had to undergo a last minute change in location.  Fortunately, one of our group was familiar with a hike in the Bighorn Country, west of Rocky Mountain House in Alberta, that would fill the void.  The good news was that no reservations were required for the back country camp sites.

Assembling at the trailhead



Our trip would take us first to Lake of the Falls then to Landslide Lake.  Our group assembled at the Lake of the Falls trailhead near the Cline River on the David Thompson Highway, about a half hour drive southwest of Nordegg, AB.  The first day’s hike of about 11 km took us about halfway to Lake of the Falls.


Resting by the creek

On the trail


The makings of a fine dinner

Makeshift bear poles

On Day 2 it was on to Lake of the Falls.  At the confluence of Landslide Lake Creek and Entry Creek the trail forks.  To the left is the trail to Landslide Lake.  The trail to the right takes you over a little bridge and on to the start of the climb to Landslide Lake.  The steepest part of the climb is about 1.5 km but feels much longer.  The effort is worth it though as when you finally arrive at Lake of the Falls it is absolutely beautiful.  The total distance from the trailhead to the lake is about 18 km with an elevation gain of about 1345 m (about 4200 ft).

Lake of the Falls

View of Lake from campsite

The next day was a free day.  3 of our group went on a day hike while I opted to laze about and watch the rest of the group fish.  It was a beautiful summer day and was nice just to take it easy and enjoy the scenery.

The Falls

The Falls

The Falls

The next day we departed for Landslide Lake.  Our route took us back down the trail to the fork and then another steep climb to Landslide Lake.  As you near the lake, the large boulders strewn everywhere make it very clear how the lake got its name.  As we got to the lake a thunderstorm rolled in.  Donning our rain gear, we continued to the far end of the lake.  Along the way, some in the group saw lightening strike a tree on the far side of the lake – definitely too close for comfort!  We reached the camping area and set up our tents in the rain.  The nice weather of the first few days had now turned into a cold wet evening.

Crossing a creek

The fork in the trail

Landslide Lake

Our intended route for our final day was about a 14 km hike up and over a high mountain pass before dropping down to the trailhead.  It is rated as hard with a fair amount of scrambling.  With the dropping temperatures and risk of further rain that could turn to snow at higher altitudes, we elected to instead hike back the way we had come.  While this route turned out to be nearly 20 km, with close to a 50 pound pack on the back, it was probably still easier than the “short” route over the mountain pass.  At least the rain had stopped but I was one tired camper by the time we got back to our cars.



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Jasper 2018

Over this past summer I managed to get up to Jasper National Park in Alberta several times.

The first time was in early June, a trip that was partly a reconnaissance trip for a visit by a couple of my California camera club friends.  My sunrise shoot along the Athabasca River was a bit lack lustre as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  I did get a view of the moon, though, as the rising sun lit up the mountain peaks.

At one of the many lakes in Jasper, I did catch a nice mountain reflection as a thin layer of fog covered the water.

The following morning, sunrise was an even greater bust but early morning reflections were gorgeous.  I also found a nice river shot along Hwy 93A.

I capped off the day with a hike to a waterfall above Miette Hotsprings followed by a nice afternoon soak in the hot pool.

Waterfall above Miette Hotsprings

At the end of July I returned to Jasper to meet up with a couple of my camera buddies for a couple of days of camping and photography.  It was a lot of fun showing off the park to two friends who had not been there before, as well as enjoying two full days of photography.

A foggy morning led to some playing around with other subject matter to photograph.

We visited Athabasca Falls early in the morning before the tour buses and the hordes of tourists showed up.

Over the years of visiting Jasper, I had never  hiked the Valley of the Five Lakes but I will definitely do it again.  The lakes are beautiful!

First Lake
Second Lake
Annie and Gail at Third Lake
Fifth Lake

And, yes, there was wildlife (click on the gallery below to see the full-sized images).

My final visit was a five-day canoeing trip on Maligne Lake in September with friends James and Garry. As has been our custom on the several previous times we have done this trip, we spent the first night at Fisherman’s Bay, roughly half way down the 21 km lake.  I am not a fisherman but one thing I have learned on these trips is how tasty Brook Trout is when it goes pretty much from the water into the frying pan!

Click Gallery to open images

Since our last visit, the campground had been upgraded with new tables and bear lockers.  Also new was the “high tech composting outhouse” (R) replacing the “barrel biffie” (L).  I was very impressed with ALL of the improvements!

Our next two nights were at the Coronet Creek Campground at the far end of the lake.  This campground had also been upgraded with new tables and bear lockers (but same old “throne with a view”).  This gave us a full day to explore.  James and I took the canoe across the bay and hiked inland up a valley following a stream.  With no trail, the hike involved a bit of bushwhacking and a lot of guessing as to the best way to proceed.  We had a great hike and saw a number of nice little waterfalls along the way.

Click Gallery to open images

Nothing like a margarita by the fire to end the day!

Oh the way back up the lake we spent another night at Fisherman’s Bay.  The following day we battled a headwind for about an hour before calmer water gave us an easier paddle back to Home Bay.

Early morning at Fisherman’s Bay
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Oregon Coast

Last Spring we drove up the Oregon Coast on our return to Canada.  We have made this trip several times now with varying weather conditions.

Unfortunately, from a photography point of view, we had a lot of rain and heavy overcast skies which did not lend itself to a lot of great shots.  I did get a few that I liked, though, during periods of better weather conditions.  Here is a selection:


Wreck of Mary D Hume, Gold Beach, OR


Oregon Coast


Cannon Beach, OR


On of the highlights of our trip was La Conner, WA.  Not only is it a picturesque little town, but we arrived just as the tulip fields were coming into bloom.  I was especially fortunate that a camera club buddy, Annie, who summers in Bellingham, met me in La Conner and took me on a tour of the surrounding tulip fields.


La Conner, WA


Tulip Fields


Yellow tulip





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20180310-056A1323Can a photo give you an earworm (a song playing over and over in your head)?  Who knows?  Let’s find out!

On the drive back from Canyon de Chelly our route would take us past Winslow, AZ.  Of course I couldn’t pass up the chance to photograph “The Corner” – you know, the one in the song.

So here, for your viewing pleasure, are some photos of the corner.

Is that song starting to worm its way in?

Well, I’m a standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flat-bed Ford
Slowin’ down to take a look at me

(Jackson Browne/Glen Frey)

Have you got a full-bore earworm now?  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

While its playing in your head, leave a comment with your favourite memory associated with the song.


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Canyon de Chelly

Our journey continued with about a 100 mile drive from Monument Valley to Canyon de Chelly  National Monument.  As was Monument Valley, Canyon de Chelly (pronounced “de Shay“) is located on Navajo Tribal Land.  While one is free to drive the rim of the canyon to various outlooks, to visit the floor of the canyon one must be accompanied by a Park Ranger or Navajo guide.

The Monument is actually comprised of three canyons carved out by streams: de Chelly, del Muerte, and Black Rock.  The canyon’s history is really the history of the Ancestral Puebloans (also referred to as Anasazi) who lived in the cliff dwellings and, more recently, the Navajo.  In the winter of 1864, Colonel Kit Carson attacked and laid seige to the Navajo in the Battle of Canyon de Chelly.  Faced with starvation the Navajo ultimately surrendered and were marched to the Bosque Redondo reservation near Fort Sumner.  Four years later they were allowed to return to their lands.  Today about 40 Navajo families live within the Canyon.

Our first afternoon was spent touring the rim of the canyons and shooting down into them.



Spider Rock


The next day we took a tour of the canyon floor then ended the day at a couple of the outlooks again looking down into the canyon.



Fortress Rock


White House Ruins


White House Ruins


Howling Wolf


Next … a throwback to an Eagles’ tune.



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Monument Valley


The Mittens, Monument Valley

Last March, along with a group of photographer friends, I journeyed to Monument Valley.  This collection of massive sandstone buttes is located in northeastern Arizona, straddling the border with Utah.

The valley is on Navajo Tribal Land.  To visit the valley you must first buy a permit from the Navajo Nation Parks & Recreation.  While you can do a self-guided tour, the best way to visit is to hire a Navajo tour guide.  There are quite a number of tour operators to choose from.  For a photographer, it is well worth the additional cost to do a photography tour.  We used Phillips Photography Tours and found them to be excellent.  If you have the time, I would recommend, in addition to one or more of their other tours, the Hunt’s Mesa Overnight Tour.  The jeep ride up to the Mesa alone is worth the price of admission!  Arriving at the Mesa in time for sundown, you are treated to an incredible vista.  While you are shooting, the guides are setting up camp and starting supper.  Once it got too dark to shoot we enjoyed an incredible feast featuring steak cooked on an open fire.  The next morning we were up early to catch sunrise before starting the journey back down.

Following are some of my favourite shots from Monument Valley.


Next up, Canyon de Chelly.

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Argentina Part 2

The morning of our final day in Mendoza was free time, so I took advantage of the opportunity to explore the area around our hotel.  Across the street from our hotel was the  Plaza Indepencia, the largest park in the vicinity.  Tree- lined streets took you to four other parks within a few blocks of each other.  The area was beautiful and quite pleasant to stroll around.

Gentle rain was falling as we arrived, that afternoon, at the final, and perhaps most uniquely-designed winery of our tour.  O. Fournier winery is located in the Uco Valley.  The winery is, if I recall correctly, 7 stories high – most of it underground.  Using gravity to move the wine saves the use of pumps.  Grapes are unloaded on the “roof” (at ground level) and move down through the floors as the transformation to fine wine takes place.  A central column, with a skylight at the top, carries light into the depths of the building, reducing the need for artificial lighting.

Another unique feature was the barrel room.  Holding only a fraction of the number of barrels it was built for, the walls of the room are lined with art.  Looking down from the catwalk above the room, it is certainly an impressive gallery!

From the gallery/barrel room we entered the “library” which holds wines of different vintages and labels instead of books.  The shelves surround a large boardroom table.  Now this is a library I’d happily spend time in!

An underground passageway returned us to the dining room from where we had started our winery tour.  Here we would enjoy our final dinner in Argentina, accompanied by some great O. Fournier wines.  The rain had let up, leading to an incredible view out the windows, across the pond and vineyards, to the sun setting over the Andes.  What a perfect ending to an incredible tour of some of the finest wineries in Chile and Argentina.

Sunset over the Andes

Our tour was more than just a series of tastings.  We had the opportunity to see where wines, in some cases that I had been buying for years, came from.  In talking to the wonderful, friendly folks at the wineries, we learned more than just about the wine.  We learned about the culture, the backgrounds of the winemakers, and the history of the wineries in what has become an important wine-making region in the world.  In so many ways it was a voyage of discovery.

My thanks to Janine and Daryl for being such incredible, friendly and attentive tour leaders.

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