Thank you, America

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Americans! What a beautiful holiday that brings families together to give thanks. I feel very thankful for my family, my wide and wonderful network of great friends and for this beautiful country where we live in peace and prosperity. Certainly we must pray for peace and prosperity for all people around the world today.

I want to share with you this scene we discovered on a vibrant autumnal afternoon in western New York. My family enjoyed our first visit to Letchworth State Park at the height of fall foliage. How fortunate we were to arrive at this waterfall in the late afternoon.

Most of the time I plan my photo shoots: time of year, time of day. This visit to Letchworth State Park in western New York was serendipitous. Good karma circling back to me during a visit to in-laws.

And you thought forest fires were a problem?

At first glance, you might not look at this photograph and realize something is terribly wrong. Something is killing the lodgepole pine trees in Western Canada. Do you see the “red” trees? They are dead lodgepole pines, and the blight has engulfed nearly half the forest in Jasper National Park.

In this picturesque view of the Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park, you can see the “red” trees. Acres of lodgepole pine trees are dying, and they only regenerate after a forest fire.

The villain behind this vast arboricide is a tiny insect called the mountain pine beetle. It lays eggs under the bark that leads to fungus, blocking the circulation inside a pine tree trunk, killing it. With the warmer weather of climate change, the pine beetle has flourished, unchecked by mild winters.

What is Parks Canada going to do? For a long time, the answer was “nothing,” because the philosophy was not to interfere with the ways of Nature. Recently, however, workers have begun cutting down some of the dead trees to reduce fire risk to nearby communities.

Botanists have discovered that the lodgepole pine cones, containing the seeds that would start regeneration only open in the extreme heat of a forest fire. After a natural forest fire has swept the acreage, then the seeds will begin to grow the next generation of lodgepole pines. To me, it seems like a harsh path of evolution wherein the pest thrives, the verdant hillside dies and waits for lightening to strike.

To read more about the pine beetle crisis, you can click here.

The Glistening Bow River

From the summit of Sulphur Mountain, high above Banff, let’s travel down to the Bow River flowing past the village of Banff. Enjoy a scenic walk with me into Banff past the falls and across the pedestrian bridge. On this day, there was plenty of sunshine, fresh air and no sound but the rushing water and the gravel underfoot.

The clear rushing waters below the falls lead the eye toward the distant mountains of Banff National Park.

This image will be included in the 2020 wall calendar Cathy just designed, featuring photographs of the Canadian Rockies. Send Cathy an email if you would like to reserve a calendar for yourself or a holiday gift.

The Continental Divide

When you take in the view from the top of Sulphur Mountain in Banff National Park, you can admire the mountain range to the South, if you turn your back to Banff and the Bow Valley to the North. These rugged high peaks in the Sundance Range reach well above the tree line are about 2 miles high. The Sundance Range is part of the Continental Divide.

Looking south from the summit of Sulphur Mountain near Banff, Alberta, Canada. The chutes on these peaks show where avalanches have cleared a path by taking down trees.

The Continental Divide is also the border between Canadian provinces Alberta and British Columbia. We were told that it is particularly hard to predict the weather on the east side of the Divide, not knowing if the weather systems flowing eastbound from the Pacific will cross this mountain range. We were lucky to have a clear day to take in the view.

I checked the Sulphur Mountain webcam, and found these peaks covered in snow today!

The Power of Perspective

From The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, Tunnel Mountain is tall and majestic. Look how it frames the left side of the the morning vista of the Bow River Valley.

A brilliant September morning in Banff, Alberta Canada, as seen from the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

Now, for a magic trick. Want to see Tunnel Mountain look… small? Take the Banff gondola up to the top of Sulphur Mountain and examine the grand view of Bow Valley.

Find Tunnel Mountain in the center of this image, the Fairmont hotel in lower right, and the town of Banff on the left.

Grateful to have this clear birds-eye view from the top of Sulphur Mountain on a clear day. What an amazing perspective. There were even more stunning vistas, if you turn around. Check out my next blog for more.

Is the Banff Gondola Worth the Price?

For my birthday this year, I got a ride on the Banff Gondola, which included an easy hike along a mountaintop boardwalk with views in all directions. At $51 to $63 per person, the excursion is pretty expensive, but I’d say it was totally worth it.

As long as the valley is not fogged in, the views of the mountains, the Fairmont and the town of Banff are amazing from the top.

I will be posting some of my photos from the summit of Sulphur Mountain. Today (and everyday) you can check the webcam there to see how the view changes with the seasons. As of October 10, the mountains are covered in snow.

Can I walk on this lake?

Gazing at the clarity of the rocks under water and the clarity of the reflection on the lake, I’m not sure what would happen if I stepped into this lake… Would my sneakers get wet as I balanced and slid on those round rocks? Or is the lake surface really reflective glass that would allow me to walk across?

Jasper Park Lodge sits unnoticed on the far side of this mirror lake in Alberta, Canada.

I have to give my husband Charlie all the credit for suggesting that we walk a few miles back from the town of Jasper to the Jasper Park Lodge. We approached the Lodge along the lake and golf course on a perfect September afternoon.