Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spring Trip 2010 – Day 35 – Waterton National Park

The morning of May 26th we woke up in Writing on Stone, to sunny skies, but a cold wind and clouds moving in told the story that the predicted change in the weather was on it’s way. 

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a final ‘over view’ look from the dump station as Ernie did those chores…..and then we were on the road by 8:30, an early start for us.  Headed west on highway 501 – this quiet, secondary highway has proved, in the past, to be a birder’s delight….

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and it certainly started out that way with this sighting of a female Swainson’s Hawk….

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who was quickly joined by this male….

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Since this is such a rare occurrence to see the two together and to have them stick around while pictures are taken….I’ve thrown in another.  This one really shows the larger size of the female, typical of most species of raptors.

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a bit further along we saw an antelope…..and then that was it for anything of interest…..

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We’ll post one more picture of the antelope since we won’t be seeing any more of those for the foreseeable future.

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Gradually we left the flat country and got into the more rolling hills as we advanced westwards…

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and then we started to spot ~ Snow?!

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Yes, snow….was this still left from the snow storm that we had waited out at Dinosaur?  Almost a month ago?  We assume it must have been….unless these areas rec’d snow at the same time we were getting it at Cypress Hills….

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and then, as we were approaching the foot hills and Waterton National Park – it got just plain wet.

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Apologies for the ‘crooked’ picture ~ for some reason, my ‘saved’ Picasa edits….weren’t saved ~ not sure what happened?  have never  run into that before!  Back to the story….we reached Waterton shortly after noon and pulled into the large day use area that is outside of the park gates.  You can see the mountains are still shrouded in dense cloud….

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Took a few wildflower pictures….this is ‘Woolley Gromwell’

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Saskatoon bushes in full flower…

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the ground was a carpet of Wild Strawberries….

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this just shows the general area….and the low ‘ceiling’….

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just as we were pulling out, caught sight of some brilliant orange ~ this male Baltimore Oriole….  Headed into the park, we figured we’d have to stay at the campground right in town but didn’t want to head to that large ‘parking lot’ style spot until we absolutely had to, so decided to take the drive to Red Rock Canyon, just to use up some time and see what we could see. 

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the weather continued to be gray and uninspiring…..

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but there were wildflowers….like these Cut leaf Daisies ~ Waterton is famous for it’s wildflowers, in fact has a week long Wildflower Festival in mid June.

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the rain wasn’t deterring the Mule Deer from making an appearance either.

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And then there was the Balsam Root, in full flower, adding sunshine to another wise dismal day.

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a hillside covered in Balsam Root and Saskatoon bushes.

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close up of this ‘sunshine’ plant.

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Ernie and Shantz seeing what they could see.  The Road to Red Rock Canyon is very narrow and windy, but there are numerous pullouts along the way where you can pull off to explore the roadsides…

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speaking of ‘road sides’, this unique wildflower, called ‘Silky Scorpion Weed’ was growing on the bank at one spot along the road.

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a closer look at the wildflower….and there is Ernie taking his own pictures, off in the distance…

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another spot and it was a combination of Dandelions and Jacob’s Ladder….

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and then more of that Low Larkspur…

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Think this one might be ‘Tall Larkspur’….pretty intense in colour!

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Our favorite campground at Waterton, is Crandell Campground.  We had thought it wouldn’t be open yet, but as we advanced along the Red Rock Canyon Road, we came to a road block where we were advised that the remainder of the road was being worked on and therefore, closed.  This road block was situated right at the turn off to Crandell….and lo and behold, it was open!  So we pulled in ~ wouldn’t have to sit in a parking lot after all!

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So here we are, tucked in nicely.  Ernie talked to the campground attendant who assured us that the ‘snow’ wasn’t supposed to arrive until Friday ~ (this was Wed.) so we hoped he was right.  The first time we were at Waterton it was mid-June and we ended up running from a snowstorm then too….

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Mule Deer wander freely all over this campground.  After supper went for a bit of a wander ~ there was a drizzle happening at the time, so only took the little Olympus Camera that tucks in under a jacket…

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Spotted this Columbian Ground Squirrel at the entrance to it’s den…..this was right beside the main campground road…

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Here is a close up look since it posed so nicely!

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There were Avalanche Lilies in flower along that same road.  Avalanche Lilies are a favorite food of Black Bears….if the lilies are in flower, it pays to keep an eye out for bears!

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there were also some Calypso Orchids….it was raining heavier now….

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Tangles of Blue Clematis were everywhere….  By now it was really pouring, so headed back to the camper.  Earlier a number of trucks and vans had pulled in, full of what appeared to be high school students.  Not sure where they had all come from, but they were all in shorts ~ the proceeded to set up numerous tents in the steady downpour.  Fortunately, there were kitchen shelters in the campground….

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and to give you an idea of what a pleasant evening it was, I took this through the camper window as I was doing the dishes…..   Tomorrow we’d be saying good bye to Alberta ~ Hello B.C.

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