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Oh Canada...

I think I'm in love. I don't know how to put into words the incredible experience my husband and I shared during our week long adventure to Canada this past summer. The whole trip was planned while we were on opposite ends of the country and only about a month or two in advance. I had never actually heard of Banff, Canada before, but after seeing several photos from the area over time I started researching where these beautiful lakes and mountains were and discovered it was only about a ten hour drive from our home in Tacoma, WA. Being in the Army, we never truly know how long we might stay in one location, so of course we try to seize every opportunity to explore what's nearby while we can.

The trip started off in Banff National Park where we spent the night at a B&B. The timing of the drive in was perfect because the sun started to set not long after we came in view of the mountains. The light was golden, the clouds added color, and the mountains were breathtaking. We were in a picture.

We started our first day by taking the gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain -- one of the most popular touristy things to do in the area. Some of our pictures from the top....

There were so many people at the top that the animals obviously have become used to the crowds and dependent on the food. Just one example of how the chipmunks would come right up to people for a bite of sandwich.

Later that afternoon we went to Johnston Canyon, another popular attraction, and explored the upper parts as well which are known as the Ink Pots.

Below is the area known as the Ink Pots. There were far less people up here than towards the bottom of the canyon. I took the time to play around with my Lee Filters Little Stopper to get that deep blue color in the sky and the movement of the clouds.

MIke took this shot with his infrared camera and then we played with the colors in Photoshop to get it right.

The next morning is where I made one of my most favorite photographs from the entire trip. We woke up early to catch the sunrise at Moraine Lake. Sunrise was scheduled for 5:48 a.m. that morning, so we up and already on the trail by about 5:15 a.m. Super early, but always worth it. Grizzly bear warning signs were everywhere as it was high season and had been recent sightings. We came prepared with our bear spray, but fortunately didn't encounter any bears at this location. Moraine Lake in Canada is known as the "twenty dollar view," because it was printed on the 1969 and 1979 issues of the Canadian twenty dollar bill. The mountains surrounding the lake is known as the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The water is really that blue. It's due to the way the light refracts off the glacier rock flour.

Bear spray in the pockets at all times. Grizzly warnings were in effect. Trails in the immediate area required groups of four or more to help prevent any attacks.

The rest of the time in Banff we spent checking out Peyto Lake, Lake Louise, and driving up and down the Bow Valley Parkway -- an attraction in and of itself. This is Peyto Lake. It's a short but steep hike to the top where its crowded full of people taking the same picture. We didn't stay there long.

The next three images were taken while driving the Bow Valley Parkway. A great drive to see wildlife. We saw bull elk several times and took the opportunity to play with the Canon 400mm lens that I borrowed from Canon Professional Services. I'm really glad I had that lens because the 200mm (which is the longest I own) would not have been enough reach.

This is one of Mike's favorites from the trip, and mine as well.

With such a short time to spend in Banff before we headed out to Jasper National Park, we did not get a chance to visit Lake Louise at sunrise, which would have been ideal because of the golden sunrise colors and the lack of crowds. We ended up visiting in the afternoon and made the best of it anyway. Next visit to Banff will most definitely include a sunrise trip to Lake Louise.

One way to get away from (some) of the crowds at Lake Louise is to hike to the Lake Agnes Tea House. It's a steep hike, but it's not too hard and you are rewarded at the top with delicious teas and bakery treats.

And then it was time to prepare for the most exciting part of our trip -- hiking the Tonquin Valley in Jasper National Park! The hike was about 26 miles round trip. We hiked with our photography and camping gear until we met up with Kable, -- who showed us to the back country lodge where we stayed for two nights. Kable and Sara have owned the lodge since 1992 and were the most gracious of hosts. By the time we got to the lodge, I was miserable -- lol. Thirteen miles with photography and camping gear on my back and soaking wet feet from the boggy meadows we had to trudge through -- I was done! Fortunately for us, Sara had an amazingly delicious meal prepared for us and after food and a few swigs of fireball from our flask (it was cold outside!) I felt much better :) 

This is the before picture....

We finally made it to the lodge!

We spent the next two days relaxing and enjoying the view of the Rampart Mountains. The lodge had some canoes and row boats to use so we went out on Amethyst Lake a few times when the weather cooperated. The lodge's horses also roamed free on the other side of the lake and made for some great photo opportunities.

We didn't go too far without our mosquito nets! The mosquitoes were no joke so while the nets looked a little silly, they definitely saved us from getting attacked with bites!

We explored the Icefields Parkway before heading in for our last night in Canmore. We decided to drive the Bow Valley Parkway one last time and we were so glad we did because we saw our first and only grizzly of the trip. We also saw a wolf with three pups on that last drive.

This mama wolf was trying to get her pups to cross the road. They were holding up traffic for about five minutes with cars piled up on each side allowing them to cross. They finally made it after the mama wolf crossed back and forth a few times to help them along.

We are definitely looking forward to our next trip to Canada! Hope you enjoyed some of our favorites! :)