Traffic, Trains and Tracks

In 2013, the residents of the Bow Valley, where the Bow River passes through, found out in a pretty spectacular way the nature of a Valley.  Even today, the cleanup and restoration of the valley after the 2013 flood is still underway.  At the time of the flood, all transit through the valley was at a standstill.

It’s important to understand the narrow channel that a valley represents.  Flowing through this narrow channel is the original means of valley creation, the river.  Sometimes powerful in Spring flood flow as the snow melts on the peaks and flows down into the river channel through many pathways.  Most of the time, the river provides a pleasant place to picnic, to float down on tubes, or an incredible sight as it tumbles down the mountain sides as stunning waterfalls.

Water in the valley continues to form the valley, slowly, over time, widening the passageways.  However, what we face today are some very narrow passageways and so many uses of those passageways.  The most obvious one people encounter is the Trans Canada Highway.  Often referred to with the phrase “follow the only road”, it is the one and only East/West roadway through the valley.  Travel on this road is pretty much a must for visitors to the valley.  You may choose to bike on it, tow your trailer or boat behind your car on it, truck commercial goods down it, hike it or view the mountain scenery from it, stopping along the way to take photos of the incredible views. Understand that since it is the only road into and out of the mountains, the traffic here can be quite heavy.  Be patient with each other and use the overflow parking lots and shuttle service to get to your destination.

Beside the highway, mostly traveling right next to it, is the railroad.  I don’t know why, but just watching the massive, red engines pulling a train of cars in one direction or the other puts a smile on my face.  Driving beside the train, you can catch up with it and pass it or watch it pass you as both forms of transportation travel in tandem through the valley with mountains on either side, twisting and turning around the base of these mountains along the curves first cut by the river waters.

Although, in Canmore, if you have to stop at one of the railroad crossings you may scowl at the time it takes for one of these long trains to pass by, keeping you from crossing from one side of the town to the other.  The good news is that the trains don’t often stop in Canmore and just breeze through as quickly as possible, keeping the wait times to a minimum.  Although at Christmas time, the CP Holiday Train usually makes a stop, featuring live music and fun for the whole family.

Transit through the valley is not for the exclusive use of humans either.  With the train and the highway traveling lengthwise through the valley, it is tricky for our local animals to cross from side to side of the valley.  This used to result in quite the carnage on the highways, until the fences were put up on either side of the highway and the brilliant animal bridges were built!  Now, although you don’t see them, our animal friends travel through the same valley we all use, leaving behind only tracks.

What is most fascinating in the local towns in the Bow Valley is driving through the town or waiting at a railroad crossing for a train to pass and standing nearby is a herd of Elk or other wildlife also waiting for the train to pass. You may even get to watch the wildlife cross at the walkways when the lights change!

Our roadways lie at the end of the rainbow! Come and visit our magical mountain town and experience life in the Bow Valley.

Photographer’s Passion

I once read from a famous photographer that to take beautiful photos, go to a beautiful place and wait for the right light conditions.  Well you can’t get a much more beautiful place than the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the spectacular views found all around.

There’s a multitude of subjects to photograph here: sunrises and sunsets, events, nature photos including animals, flowers, canyons, rivers, waterfalls, ground cover, clouds, and the incredible peaks that form the valley we enjoy.  There are seasonal photos, mood photos, and photos of people participating in various events and activities.  And there’s weddings.  Almost every weekend in the summer at least one or more weddings take place, most in outdoor locations and at venues around town.  There’s always something going on and always new eyes to see it.

When I first travelled to the Rocky Mountains of Canada, I took endless numbers of photos.  And yet, each of the results was flat and looked two-dimensional, only a mediocre representation of the breathless wonder I was trying to capture.  Over the years, I’ve learned techniques that use the light to generate shadows, the use of telephoto lenses to increase the depth of field and a focus on my subject that creates mood and illuminates what you are seeing and your unique perspective.  And I’m not the only one.  The Rocky Mountains attract large numbers of professional and amateur photographers.  Ask around and you will find someone to provide advice, someone to hire to capture your special event, someone to recommend places and spaces to take incredible shots and someone to share your photographic skills with.

Living in this unending beauty that is in constant change, provides new perspectives.  As a photographer it is your point of view that is critical to generating phenomenal photos.  How you frame the photo, the angle you take the photo from, the micro vs. macro view of your surroundings, the depth of perception with the use of foreground and background distances to generate dimensions, the lighting you use to highlight shadows or create a sense of the breathless magnificence surrounding you.  There’s an endless supply of advice, learning opportunities and places to practice while you are exploring or experiencing the activities or events of the season.

Whether you take your photos with your iPhone or Android device, or use a DSL camera with sophisticated lenses and filters etc., your photos can record a memory, be posted globally across the Internet, or can become something truly special.  So bring your camera when you travel to Canmore, you will be forever grateful that you did.  Just be careful when you use your selfie stick that you don’t walk off the edge of the cliff you are standing on or fall over a bridge!  And please, please, please respect the wildlife around you, they are wild and this is their wilderness. Be safe out there!





360 Degree Views

Here in Canmore, if you want to order a mountain view, you might have to specify which mountain you are interested in.  There are the iconic Three Sisters, a major landmark view to the South of the highway and East of downtown Canmore.



There is Lady MacDonald, to the North of the highway and East of downtown.  Then there is one part of Mount Rundle to the South of the highway and West of downtown.  Ha Ling South and West, Mount Shark and Mount Lougheed tucked in behind the Three Sisters to the South and East are in the Kananaskis Valley, and all of the other peaks in between these major sentinels.  Stand on any corner and turn around to see peaks in all directions!

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Each mountain has a unique personality and viewpoint.  Each one has crags and crannies, slopes to climb and explore and many, many ways to enjoy them.  From the Canmore Nordic Centre on the Spray Lakes road to Kananaskis, South of town, lies the pathway to Grassi Lakes and the pathways to climb the Three Sisters.  A little further down south on the same road, you can find the access points to hike Mount Shark and Mount Lougheed.  You can climb many of these on foot, on horseback, dogsled, or snowshoes, cross-country skis, or jog through the area.  Every season (360 degrees) brings new opportunities to explore in all directions.  Some of the slopes are easy to climb like the mountain roadway up to Grassi Lakes to see the incredible green lakes at the top.  Mountain climbers meet there and you can often see them scaling the sheer sides of the cliff looming above the Grassi Lakes.  Others bring picnic lunches and enjoy the lakes.

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Many families enjoy the pathways and if you go early in the morning, later at night or during the off-season, you may experience the utter serenity of the zen beauty to be found beside these amazing lakes.  In this way, 360 degrees can be vertical as well as horizontal!  Don’t forget to look down at your feet.  The layers of rock and vegetation can be as beautiful as the vast vistas.

If you are lucky, along the way, while you are enjoying the mountain views from a distance or up close and personal, you may also experience an encounter or two with our local wildlife.  They live in the mountains and we are the visitors to their home.  Sometimes they come down into the town or you may surprise them around a corner as you climb, drive through or get up and close with the mountain landscape.  The key here is to respect their space, their distance and help to keep them wild by refraining from feeding them.

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If you want more adventure and a serious climb, try Ha Ling or Lady MacDonald, or hike up the challenging route to the Grassi Lakes and experience the beauty of the massive waterfall.  If you want to stick with canyons and river valleys, try the river walk right from downtown Canmore.  A beautiful boardwalk has been built for your pleasure walking on water along the wetlands of the river valley.  Take a short drive to Chester Lake along the Spray Lakes road to climb to the shores.  Whatever direction you choose to go in, you will find beauty and an endless supply of mountain vistas.  Come and enjoy our 360 Degree views!