In 2007 I visited Canada for the second time, having spent 6 weeks there in 1995. This time I set out to do it all on my own. I would cover over 4500km and reach a maximum altitude of 7500ft.
The trip would take me through the coastal climates of British Columbia, its rainforests and coastal mountains, through the Canadian Rockies, to Banff and Lake Louise. I then travelled further north than I’ve ever been before to the border with Alaska.
This was the time when I really started to enjoy photography. My sister is a good artist so there was always sibling rivalry over who could take the best artistic landscape photo. I hadn’t discovered DSLR cameras at this point so I was shooting on a compact camera I’d got in the sale from Asda. At the time I thought it was amazing!
I flew into Vancouver International Airport, one of the nicest airports in the world. Vancouver is an amazing city, situated on the coast with a backdrop of majestic coastal mountains.
From Vancouver I travelled by coach through the Okanagan valley to Kelowna. Okanagan county is famous for its vineyards and orchards due to its dry climate. There are many lakeside communities with huge properties at the lake shore. Here I got my first bit of advice regarding grizzly bears, from a Canadian cowboy
“If you come across a Grizzly Bear, just make sure you can run faster than anyone who’s with you” sound advice!
Crossing through to Alberta and Banff in the heart of the Rockies. Bears were plentiful, no Grizzlys though just Black bears. When I came to Canada in 1995 I hadn’t seen any species of bear so this was a big improvement.
From the Banff my travels took me to Jasper and some of Jasper National Park’s amazing lakes. Medicine Lake and a boat ride on Maligne Lake taking its name from”Wicked” in French, named by Pierre-Jean De Smet (1801–1873) to describe the turbulent river that flows from the lake after washing away some of his belongings.
Maligne Lake is world famous for one of its features, Spirit Island. Nearly all imagery of the Canadian Rockies will feature this little piece of land with fir trees on. I couldn’t leave here without photographing it.
Next I did some whitewater rafting on the Athabasca river. After that I visited the raging Athabasca Falls. good job our raft didn’t go down there! Final stop was up on the Athabasca glacier, the melting water so rich in mineral cloud that you would hardly believe the colour blue.
From here I travelled further north, catching the Via Rail train from Prince George to Prince Rupert. At Prince George I got my second piece of bear advice, from a woman in the train station:
“If you meet a Grizzly bear on a trail he will be outright aggressive, up on his back legs, angry. Where as a Black bear will be your friend, come up to you all nice and shy and then bite you. If you climb a tree to escape, a Grizzly will knock that tree down to get you, while a Black bear will come up the tree and pull you down” comforting.
The train ride takes you through mountain passes and over high bridges. Grain trains leave behind scattered offerings of food, bears seeking an easy meal come searching for it. Bear sightings now went up ten fold, the train had a viewing carriage with upper deck. The train horn would signal something on the line. Multiple bear sightings happened every few miles, including mothers with cubs, sheltering by trees. Elk and Moose were also everywhere, crossing rivers or in fields. If you want to see wildlife go by rail.
Prince Rupert is probably the most remote place I have ever visited and I absolutely loved it. Just underneath the Alaskan pan handle Prince Rupert has a very wet climate. The clouds lie low here over the coastal mountains and giant fir trees. Precipitation is high. Salmon cannerys are plentiful and an experience to visit. Seeing all the British brands Sainsburys, Marks and Spencers and Tesco having their salmon canned by the same company. We all have our favourite which tastes best though right?!
I have many special memories of Prince Rupert. It has one of the largest concentrations of Bald Eagles anywhere in the continent of North America. Of the sub species of Bald Eagle these are also the biggest, with a wingspan unto 7 feet. On the train ride into the station the Bald Eagles flew out of the trees in the same numbers as garden birds in the UK. In the harbour Bald Eagles walked down the sidewalk like Seagulls would on the UK coast. Seeing it was believing.
I love the art work and history of the Native Canadians. Here I visited the Tsimshian Museum. The Tsimshian are indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast. They performed stories from their history about their sacred birds Raven and Eagle. I was made an honorary chief of the Eagle tribe. I still cherish this memory. Even now it makes me emotional. I bought a sterling silver Tsimshian eagle engraved ring that evening from the museum.
From here I sailed 15 hours to Port Hardy on Vancouver Island with BC Ferries, through the treacherous Inside Passage and out into the Pacific Ocean. Sightings of migrating Grey Whales running the gauntlet of Orcas were a sight to behold. I also videoed Salmon moving in shoals and jumping through the waves. An Orca breaching alongside the ferry was a highlight. Passing beautiful places such as Bella Bella Lighthouse. It was during this part of the trip that the story about the Women’s Institute in my first post happened.
Victoria on Vancouver Island was base for the next few days, I went whale watching and found myself in the company of wildlife photographer Paul Tixier. Paul was studying Orcas for National Geographic. He printed one of his images from our whale watching trip for me which I still have. He left France at 16(!) to pursue his dream of being a wildlife photographer. He is now a qualified marine biologist usually found in Antarctica or the Southern Ocean. His images have been used throughout the world and even in movies. A truly inspiring story. If you have a dream follow it!
Back full circle sailing from Vancouver Island back to Vancouver with Dolphins swimming alongside the ferry.
The pictures in this blog I’ve never shared before. I hope you enjoy them. All taken on my 4 megapixel, casio compact camera.
Canada is the only place other than Wales I have ever imagined living. I can’t wait to return soon with my family and show my son the wonders of this amazing country.
You can see more of my landscape images at http://www.nathanaeljonesphotography.com
All the images used in this blog are the copyrighted property of Nathanael Jones, all rights reserved.