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Here is my picture of the week!
We have recently gotten our first little snow fall in Ottawa, ON, but I did not get any pictures of it so I thought I would bring back an old picture with a bit of snow! I love the first snow fall, it gets me all excited for winter! And with winter comes Christmas! haha I know its early, but its the best time of the year!
Have you gotten your first snowfall yet where you live?
** I just wanted to let you all know that I have made a facebook page for my photography! (Click here www.facebook.com/phoenixraayphotography/) I would love for you to like and follow the page, this way you will be able to see what this new project brings in the future! Let me know in the comments if you joined the fam! **
I have never seen so many grouse in my life. On our drive back from Fort Smith every 20 minutes or so there would be a patch of grouse in the middle of the road. We beeped at them and slowed right down to a crawl and then they would finally hobble off the road – some of the more athletic ones would fly.
This particular bunch were just out for a leisurely stroll in the middle of a shear ice road and they weren’t concerned with our big truck coming their way. I actually got out and walked right up to them to get some pictures haha a few of them were sassing me as I was trying to make them get off the road so we could pass!
Pretty early on in our drive home my mom spotted something. We were all so excited and then we realized what it was and got more excited! I quickly whipped out my camera hoping to catch this amazing lynx running across the road and into the bush.
Once he was in the bush we watched him. He stayed far enough away, but still within eye shot. I was attempting to take pictures but as you can see the brush was quite thick. We think he was eating something he had buried there previously because he had his head in the snow a lot. He was absolutely magnificent to watch in his natural habitat. The picture of the tracks in the snow don’t do them justice, they were huge!
Once we calmed down from the lynx all we wanted to see was a wood bison – sadly it never happened.
Driving down these beautiful wintery roads was relaxing. Looking into the forest on the hunt for our next animal sighting while chowing down on leftover pizza from the previous night and other snacks!
When we got to our next ice bridge I took a picture of the gps. For most of the time we were driving on this trip there was no roads for the gps to show or pick up haha we were just driving on water as far as it was concerned!
This day did turn out to be beautiful though. As you saw in the map picture, it was only -7 outside! The sun was shining through all the scrub brush and it made these ice roads look more friendly, which I wasn’t mad about!
There was frost all over the brush near the water almost as if it were crystallized onto the branches.
I hope you enjoyed this shorter post. I have two more posts about my ice road trip and they are probably the most exciting of them all! Lots of really cool pictures to come so stay tuned! 🙂
I bet most of you have been to a very small town in your life. Whether it be just passing through it or staying for a little visit.
I use to think that the town where my grandparents have a summer camp in was small with the population being ~3,200.
I have found a new smallest town I have ever visited, Fort Fitzgerald, NWT Canada. Before you scroll down, guess in your head what the population is.
9! 9 people live there! Did you guess correct?!
I literally googled it for this post, but I thought that maybe 20 people lived there. Although even in my head I was like noo that would be too low.
As we arrived it was getting late as you can tell. There were very few houses at all, let alone with outside lights on. There were a couple of houses that looked like no one could, or should for that matter, live there. Looking at the census I don’t think anyone did!
Fort Fitzgerald is only houses. There are no stores or any other shops; luckily the “big city” Fort Smith isn’t too far down the road (25 km North)! If someone who resides here is looking for employment or schooling, other then hunting and trapping, they must go to Fort Smith.
Now for some information about this little town!
Fort Fitzgerald is positioned on the Alberta/Northwest Territories border along Slave River. Its original name was Smiths Landing until 1915 – renamed in the honour of the late Inspector Francis Joseph Fitzgerald of the North West Mounted Police. Fort Fitzgerald was located at the beginning of four sets of impassible rapids – in the picture above the “DANGER” sign is warning about these rapids. In its prime, Fort Fitzgerald was a very active portage route for goods to be transported to the North.
Once the extension of the railway extended service to Hay River, NWT on Great Slave Lake, there was no more need for the portage through Fort Fitzgerald. This obviously deteriorated the community leaving it now almost barren.
While in Fort Smith, we ended up at their community museum. We actually ended up getting a private/personal tour with an explanation for all of the pieces on display. The lady went into detail about the major portage activities in Fort Fitzgerald and the history surrounding that time period. It was very fascinating to hear her story; she was extremely knowledgeable. Better then any history class I have ever taken!
I know that most of you, if not all, will never go far North to visit those remote communities, but if you do drop by the museum in Fort Smith. Most likely the very friendly lady there will tell you the same story too 🙂 There is a lost of history packed into those small communities, which you can’t learn about in school. You have to go out and experience it for yourself.
Upon completion of touring around big ol Fort Fitzgerald, we came back to Fort Smith. We saw these tipis in the day time, so I wanted to come back at night and see them all lit up! Love me some lights!
Overall, I loved this trip. The history we learned from the locals was fascinating and eye opening.
I still have a couple posts with more pictures from the drive back – one in particular I am so excited to share with you guys! So stay tuned!
So, the adventure continues. Today was our only full day to explore the Northwest Territories and we definitely did just that. Once we all woke up, we headed downstairs to the same Chinese restaurant for breakfast. And no, we did not have Chinese food for breakfast I know all of you were thinking that, we had normal eggs and other breakfasty foods. It actually wasn’t too bad, except my mom tried multiple blueberry jams for her toast and they were all rock solid! Good thing I like raspberry jam on mine! haha
With full bellies and a charge camera battery we were off. First we drove around the town of Fort Smith, mind you its not very big so it didn’t eat up too much of the day! We came to the “far” side of town (literally 2 minute drive from the side we were on) and came up to this beautiful view.
Looking off into the distance you could see how the ice wasn’t completely solid, which kind of sketched me out thinking that we have to drive on ice to get home! haha
It was still snowing this morning however the sun was trying to peak through the clouds, which it eventually did later in the day.
The place we stopped at was also where the kids come to snowboard, which I thought was pretty cool! They made a little terrain park for themselves and had it all set up nicely. I guarantee those kids would come home dead and exhausted after being here for a few hours. Snowboarding down would be loads of fun, but if you haven’t noticed yet there is no chairlift or magic carpet to bring them back up to the top!
They set up a pretty big jump at the bottom of the main hill here, and if you picked up enough speed I think you would launch right into the bush!
While we were still in that area, we drove down the little road to the water. People do live on that island out there, and one would think hmm there are no roads to get there so how do they come into town? If you scroll down through these pictures you will see that there are little trees on the ice as markers of where the “safe” ice is to come across on. This also helps to mark their path when it is snowing heavily.
Below you can see the path more clearly that people use. Everyone in these little towns drives quads or skidoos and things like that. Which makes sense to get across ice easier and drive around the small town.
Once done exploring the town, we decided to drive down the highway looking for wildlife, hoping to spot something really cool….like wild wood bison (spoiler: the finding bison thing didn’t happen). I believe it was only like an hour and a bit into the drive and two massive wolves came flying out of the forest, bounded through the deep snow, crossed the road and disappeared into the bush on the other side. It was an awe struck moment and I didn’t get any pictures of them!! I was actually like a crushed kid on Christmas morning that didn’t get the toy they wanted. I stupidly tried shooting through the trucks front window with a million cracks in it (#Albertawindshield) and my camera freaked out, it was the first time in all my life getting an error message on the camera screen.
I kid you not, I have seen wolves before, but this was a whole new level of jaw dropping amazing. These wolves were probably around 160 pounds and their fur was absolutely stunning. They also bounded through the deep snow as smooth as a fish swims through water, just incredible. By this time the snowfall was clearing and their fur glistened in the sunlight. A moment I will never forget…but also wished I could have captured it.
So with all of us being awe struck by those two beautiful creatures we continued the drive in hopes of coming across more beautiful animals.
Every turnoff my dad saw he took it, even though on his truck map you could see that it was just a loop. Every time he would get so disappointed that it was just a loop and not a road leading to somewhere cool. Eventually I pointed it out to him that before he turns he could see how long the road is and we all had a good laugh about that. Even after I showed him he kept doing it and then laughing when the road would end saying “oh well I guess I could have looked at the map”.
At the end of our drive we came back into town to fill up the truck, since tomorrow morning we were heading out. And the back of the truck was covered once again in snow and sand from the drive. My mom and I went into this gas station while my dad was filling the truck up to explore. Inside they had a little Tim Hortons, which I though “of course how Canadian” and the rest looked like a pretty normal gas station just with extremely high snack prices. Now these snack prices didn’t deter my mom and I haha even though my dad wasn’t too pleased with us! Girls gotta have snacks okay!
We finished the night off with literally the best pizza I have had in my life. It was so good, I could have eaten it for breakfast lunch and dinner. The place was called Berro’s Pizzeria. 10/10 would recommend. I was skeptical thinking oh just another meh meal, but was I ever wrong. They had all the awards he was given up around the restaurant, which was cool to see and they also had local pictures up too. Once the pizza was done and our number was called, we dug right in. There was no time for pictures because we were starving and salivating over it. We ate breakfast that day and then just some road snacks, nothing too substantial, so you could say we were hungry!
After that very satisfying meal, we headed back out for another journey before calling it a night, which will be where I start my next post. Make sure to subscribe if you want to continue reliving my adventures.
What is the best pizza you have ever had? I bet it wasn’t in the Northwest Territories! Leave me a comment below 🙂
Alright so we left off right after lunch on the first day. We crossed back over the frozen stretch of water to continue north to Fort Smith, NWT. Still a very snowy day, but we were on the lookout for wildlife!
In this field, my mom spotted a fox, or something, moving in the distance. It was snowing too heavy for a good long distance shot, but eventually me and my dad both saw it! haha My mom has such good eyes for wildlife.
This part of the drive was definitely more stressful then the first half and I wasn’t even driving! The road was much more narrow and the scariest part wasn’t that we were driving on ice, it was the fact that now we were driving on winding roads through forested areas. Now it was beautiful for sure, however there are large trucks that just barrel down these roads, so you had to be careful coming around corners.
These pictures make the road look wider then it was! haha if you look closely though you can see that the majority of the tire tracks are all in the same spots and with the trees being so tall, you cannot see a thing coming at you.
After driving for sometime, we crossed over another frozen body of water. At this point driving on water in a loaded down truck is getting less scary haha
We could kind of see blue skies starting but it was still snowing constantly, which was fine because in the winter I love when it snows, but it also made it harder to spot wildlife!
These are the signs on the other side of the frozen water. As you can see, there are strict bridge rules to follow! Even if there are no police out here to catch you! However, I assume most people respect these rules seeing as it would obviously only hurt you if you were to speed on this ice and god forbid break through or something….
Oh and apparently this is also a public parking area, you know if you wanted to just chill and hangout here in the middle of nowhere for a while 🙂 We saw one car parked there and it seemed like it had been there for a while! lol Not a hot spot for hanging out I guess.
Anyways back into the bush we went! 172 km and we are in Fort Smith! woo lets go!
If you were driving normal speed we would have been there in no time haha funny story about this picture actually. I wanted to get the perfect shot (well as good as I could with what I was working with) and so I kicked a coffee cup out from behind the sign so there was no garbage in my picture. The fact that there was a random coffee cup laying on the ground out here really irks me though. Like who would think littering was a good idea instead of just keeping it in your car until there is a garbage can eh?
I don’t know if you can see it, but there is a winding road sign as well as the speed limit through here is 40 MAX! “Take er slow boys!”
By this time we are getting closer to our destination and our eyes were peeled looking for wood bison. We kept seeing all these tracks everywhere and then we saw this! A herd must have been all huddled up on this mound recently. Just seeing this was cool, but I wanted to actually see one!
When we got to this sign, my mom was like “take a picture because its the only one we will see” haha So I did thinking that she may be right.
And low and behold literally 2 seconds later we saw this on the side of the road. At first, we pulled over because there was a couple trucks pulled over on the shoulder and we thought maybe there was some bison in this valley area.
Well, I am sure there was, but not anymore! What you see in those two smaller pictures above are hunters and a bison….yup I am sure you can guess what happened here. Now it was a unique experience to see this but I still would of rather the bison been alive! They do use literally every part of it though, and one of these bad boys will feed a small village! It is extremely interesting to see different cultures, especially when its just a few hours north of where you live.
So shortly after seeing the hunters we reached our destination. Literally like the only hotel here haha The back of the truck was packed with snow from the road. My parents said that last year the entire back of the truck was covered with a good couple inches of solid snow. It stayed on there even after we opened the back up and closed it! haha
This night we had a lovely meal at the Chinese restaurant in our hotel. One of the few places to eat here. And they had vanilla ice cream with strawberry sauce which was to die for.. just an FYI if you ever eat there 😉
I will be back soon to continue the story of this very cool trip so stay tuned!
Todays post is going to be explaining the beginning of my adventures on the Winter Road. This is the road that we took to get from Fort McMurray, AB to Fort Chipewyan, AB and then further north to Fort Smith, NWT. It ends up being around a 9 hour drive one way. If you were to go at normal highway speed obviously it would be a lot quicker, but this road was not meant for racing haha
Since this is a winter road only, it does close down in the Spring of each year. Right now you would not be able to do this trip because the roads are mostly, if not all, melted. There is a list of things that you must have to drive on this road, just in case anything happens. Here is a couple for examples:
Good snow tires
Shovel and road flares
A good/complete tool kit and tow rope
Spare heavy duty winter clothing and footwear
Extra food and at least a 24 hour supply of fuel
If you want to see the whole list you can click here.
For the first little while you are actually driving on sand dunes. Last year when my parents went, there wasn’t much snow so they could actually see them. When we went this year, there was quite a bit of snow but you could still see the sand along the banks and on the road.
The picture up above shows the sand in the snow, but it is also the first body of water that we drove across! I was terrified haha I know it is just a little stretch and obviously other vehicles have gone across it, but it is still scary! I found the road more active then I was anticipating. We saw other vehicles often enough that if you broke down, someone would eventually come along. Unless it happened at night, they recommend you don’t drive on this road at night due to it being unsafe.
There is also lots of wildlife on this road – I wish we would have seen more haha and caught more of what we did see on camera! This area is home to many Wood Bison which you can see in herds throughout the day if you are lucky or if you are out wandering the road at night you may run into one! Literally. They sometimes sleep standing up in the middle of the road and if it is snowing their coat will get covered in snow and they will blend right in! And these aren’t little guys, they will do some serious damage to your vehicle! The only way you can really spot them at night is if you see their eyes reflect the light from your vehicle. We were not lucky enough to see any living Wood Bison in their natural habitat. Actually according to a few locals, we just missed the herd!
We saw lots of owls and ptarmigan on the trip though.
Our first stop on day one was Fort Chip for some lunch – just a little reminder, if you ever do decide to do this trip, bring lots of food because the farther North you go, the more expensive it gets!
To get into Fort Chip, you drive across a very long frozen body of water and as soon as you get to the other side, you are in the Canadian Shield and the forest is so different! I thought that was pretty cool haha anyways, on this stretch of ice road only one vehicle is allowed to go at a time and I believe the speed limit was 15 km/h. So very slow! My dad rolled down the windows because the last time they came they could hear the ice cracking under them! That terrified me and luckily I didn’t hear anything this trip!
Up above is all pictures of Fort Chip. Very snowy when we went and it is just a little place! Such a tiny community and when we were in one of the two restaurants in the town, everyone knew each other haha small communities are cool like that.
So once we ate lunch, and looked around a bit we headed back out to get to our final destination!
Side note: I thought this sign was pretty cool … more stories attached to this in later posts! 😉
So off to the Fort Smith we went….ready for another slow (extremely bumpy) drive!
Have you ever driven on an Ice Road before? If so where was it and did you enjoy the experience?! Keep an eye out for future blog posts continuing the story of this trip!
I have been to Banff, Alberta Canada many times and have always seen this road called “Vermilion Lakes Rd” right before you pass the large BANFF sign entering into the town. I always thought, hmm whats down there but never went! So on a very cold day in December we decided to head down it.
It was my parents and myself in the truck slowly making our way down the road. At the beginning of this day my mom made me get in between them in the middle seat of the front of the truck… it was fun for about a whole 5 minutes until I started to cramp up! haha I am not a tall person, but I do have longer legs and bad joints so you could only imagine how sitting with your knees around your ears wold feel like!
By the time we got to this road I had transferred to the back of the truck, much more comfortable! Now this way I could shuffle around in the back seat popping out of any window I pleased. In this fancy truck of my dads the back windows rolled down too, which was very convenient for getting shots!
So most of the lake was frozen , but as we would drive along we found a few “natural hot springs” where the water was open. I thought these were so cool, even though I have learned all about them in school haha everything about nature still amazes me! In these springs too there were little duckies! So cute!
He looked so out of place though with all the snow around him! It was like his flock left him behind 😦
Now, the road wasn’t too narrow, but also wasn’t very wide with the amount of snow on the “shoulders”. It was quite comfortable when you were the only vehicle on it, and got a wee bit tight once there was one coming the other direction, which really I think there was only one or two.
As we kept driving we came across this massive natural hot spring! I don’t know if the picture does it justice. We could literally see the steam coming off of it.
It froze all the shrubs that bordered the waters edge.
I love the look of crisp frozen vegetation. I guess this is one of the perks of living in a place where it can get so cold!
Now, these next pictures come with a story! haha so I don’t know if you know this, but as people age they become a bit … well entertaining to say the least. (love you parents hahah 🙂 ) So my mom has always loved cattails. Every time when we drove across Canada in the summer when I was younger, heading back home to Ontario, I always remember her making my dad stop so she could grab a few cattails.
So what do you think she did when she saw all of those! “Howard go get me a cattail!”
And out he got! haha into the -25 degree weather to go get his “lovely bride” as he calls her, a cattail!
But it doesn’t stop at just getting her one. It needs to be absolutely perfect. So as you can see, he is inspecting them before he made a decision on which one to bring back! Because he knew that if it wasn’t good enough, he would be back out there.
He couldn’t decide on one, so he came back with multiple … smart man.
I nag my parents a lot, but they are he best people to go on a day drive with and find these cool places to take pictures of ❤
And with that another post comes to an end. Have any of you ever seen natural hot springs in the winter? Or better yet been to any?! I love the natural hot springs 🙂
Today’s post is brought to you by a random adventure! As most are on my blog 🙂
Now this morning, my dad and I had planned to go snowboarding at Sunshine Village, which is a ski and snowboard resort in Banff, Alberta Canada. I highly recommend stopping by there and going for a day if you have never been and are in the area!
Even if you have never done skiing or snowboarding in your life you should still try it out! The mountains are one of the best places for beginners to learn. Lots of space, very wide runs (which mean they are not as crowded), and usually some nice powder … the snow you want! 😉 You can get one on one lessons, which is what my boyfriend did his first day boarding this trip, and in a few hours you will be comfortable enough to try it out by yourself. I will warn you that you will fall A LOT while learning, but it is all part of the process! Just DON’T put your hands behind you when you fall … or you will end up hurting yourself like my boyfriend did a few years ago his first time out!
…when will men listen … never is the answer haha
Anyways, back to the post at hand! My dad and I ended up going back to our cabin and picking my mom up to go out exploring. We went up this road at the beginning of our journey to find the road was closed. However, we parked and I hopped out for some pictures in the minus a million degree weather. This cute cabin was behind us so I snapped a few of it. While I was doing that, all I could think of was wow, I bet they are warm!
Next I trudged through the fairly deep snow to get some pictures of this massive valley we found! It was a decently nice day out besides how cold it was, so I was able to finally get clearer pictures. Unlike that first day if you remember from my other posts haha oh was the snow ever coming down that day!
No matter how many times I come to Banff, I am always able to find new little look off points or little back roads to explore. The possibilities of adventures in the Rockies are endless 🙂
By this point in the picture taking my dad and mom have made it out into the deep snowy field where I was. My mom was so cute all bundled up in her winter gear and her hat ties done up around her chin to keep it on haha I was a frozen little nugget and so as soon as she made it to me I turned around and headed for the truck!
Back in the truck now as I thawed out, I went through the pictures on my camera to see if any are decent. I always find it hard to actually see the quality of the pictures on that tiny camera screen, I like to blow mine up on the computer!
I thought the little pit stop down this random road was a success. Now we went off to eat a late lunch back in the town of Banff!
Do you guys ever venture down random roads looking for one thing, yet finding another? Let me know down below!
I am sitting here today in a coffee shop staring at my screensaver on my laptop. It is of the herd of elk my boyfriend and I spotted in Banff! This was on our very first morning there and it was incredible.
All throughout growing up I have seen so much wildlife. I was very fortunate to grow up on the greenbelt in Fort McMurray, AB (back when the city was still quite small) where we got to see a variety of wildlife through our kitchen window. It came to a point where my dad would say “Girls! Come down here there are deer in the backyard!” and we were like ya ya we know haha Its the same thing for the Northern Lights; I never realized that most people don’t ever see them in their life. We would get out of the old purple safari van coming home from gymnastics late at night and see the Northern Lights before we went inside the house! So casual and common for us!
Anyways, back to the elk! Like you would have read in one of my latest posts (linked here if you haven’t read it), we got up early to drive to Canmore so I could take pictures of the sunrise, but sadly it was snowing out and the sky was pure white all day. So we went driving around. On our way driving to Two Jack Lake we saw a car pulled over and we were trying to see if they were looking at wildlife, however we couldn’t see any so we just kept going. Now on the way back though, that same vehicle was parked there! They were probably parked there for 20 mins or so. And now I understood why! haha There was a herd of elk back in the trees all lying down and sleeping! It was so adorable and surreal to see!
So of course I was like “pull over pull over pull over!!” and the boyfriend obliged and did so 🙂
And voila! I got these pictures that you see! I am oh so happy I had my new lens with me or else these would not have turned out as good. Because if you know anything about wildlife, you need to give them their space. Now as a photographer, sometimes that is very difficult to do because you are so fascinated with everything and want all the pictures at every different angle possible. However, I was respectful to them and left lots of room.
Now I will tell you about this carload of people though… they were not too smart. So first of all, they had iphones as their cameras, which is all fine and dandy but the zoom is quite .. well shitty to say the least 🙂 So this lady got out with her little iphone and was walking towards this massive herd of elk, like so close I was actually scared for her! The herd was in the bush right, so we can only see however many they want us to see. There was probably so many more further back in the bush too.
Now in Banff, if you ever go, you will be one of these touristy people and maybe not from Canada too. Banff has so many tourists from all over the world who have no clue how to act with these very large animals. Which is more so sad for the animals then the idiot people. But I will just give you some advice if you are ever in this situation, go ahead and take pictures if you want but give them their space. Never go sticking an iphone in their face because you don’t know how they are going to react!
Anyways, I got back into the car and my hands were frozen so I had to sit on them and let them warm up before I checked if I got any decent pictures haha and I did so I was like okay babe we can go now. And he was like “no, I want to see how this plays out” haha talking about the iphone tourist!
But we did not end up staying, I made him leave eventually. After this adventure we went into town and got small gloves I could wear while taking pictures in -25 degrees because holy cow do your hands ever freeze! And I can’t wear my big knitted mitts when I take pictures or else I will hit every button on the camera.
I felt so lucky to have been able to see these beautiful animals in their natural state. If you ever do go to Banff and you go for a drive I guarantee you will see some animals so have your camera ready.
Have you guys ever been to Banff or seen elk where you live? I would love to know in the comments!