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FIELD NOTES / THOUGHTS FROM BASE CAMP

ELK ISLAND NATIONAL PARK SOLO ADVENTURE

I respectfully acknowledge that the land in and around Elk Island National Park is located within the Treaty 6 Territory, the ancestral and traditional territories of the Niitsítpiis-stahkoii ᖹᐟᒧᐧᐨᑯᐧ ᓴᐦᖾᐟ (Blackfoot / Niitsítapi ᖹᐟᒧᐧᒣᑯ), ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ ᐊᐢᑭᕀ Nêhiyaw-Askiy (Plains Cree), Michif Piyii (Métis), Cree people.
Source: native-land.ca

“If you are waiting for someone to travel with you, you may end up waiting a lifetime.”

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Autumn in Alberta can be over in a blink of an eye, and earlier in the week the colours were really starting to pop. The weather has been above the seasonal average and the weekend was going to be GORGEOUS! The only problem was that my husband/adventure partner had to work ALL weekend… (For context: we always go on adventures together and I’ve never gone solo before).

I was NOT going to let my absolute favourite season slip away from me while sitting at home not doing too much, so I decided to head out on a solo adventure Saturday morning to take advantage of a beautiful day, photograph the season changing, and hope to get in some bird and wildlife photography. I chose to go to Elk Island National Park (and some other nearby areas) and make a day out of it. I had already been out there twice that week, and was seeing the quick progression of the leaves turning colours so I knew that it was going to be absolutely stunning. But little did I know that this would turn into quite the adventure…

I woke up early, got my gear together, created a few “find my friends” notifications to let my husband know my location, grabbed a hot chai, dropped him off at work, and set out East on Highway 16 to Elk Island National Park.

About halfway to the park, fog was setting in and about 15 to 20 kilometers away it got incredibly thick. I have never seen fog like this before, nevermind driving through it – and ALONE! Navigating the last stretch of road was awful. Signs and intersections were not visible (thankfully there was minimal traffic), and I didn’t want to try to turn the map on my phone on as all attention needed to be one thousand percent on the road. I needed to find my way by muscle memory.

A slight turn to the right, now a larger turn to the left. Okay, I should be getting over into my left lane soon.
A small curve to the right, almost there – let’s start slowing down right about here. Okay, cool! I see the turning lane opening up. I think this is the intersection to the park. As I am in the turning lane, I see the faint lights of a truck driving in the West bound lane. Visibility is a vehicle length outside of the intersection. FUCK! This is absolutely terrifying, but I NEED to cross the road.
I open all of my windows, take a moment and listen for any oncoming vehicles. I hear nothing but absolute silence. Okay, let’s go for it. I take a deep breath, say a quick “please don’t die”, cross the two lanes of a major highway and enter into the park. Once I get past the park sign, I let out a huge sigh of relief and can feel the stress leaving my body. I have made it. Whew!

I queued up at the park gates to flash my park pass, and send a quick text to my husband while I am parked.

Made it to Elk Island
Fuck it’s foggy!

The fog isn’t nearly as thick as it was on the highway, and now that I arrived and am safe from highway traffic I am STOKED! I absolutely love foggy days (we don’t get them too often, and when we do I am never able to run out and take some photos) and with the autumn leaves – oh my gosh! This is going to be the best day ever!

Bison Loop is my first go-to location. I always try to take my time going through here (traffic dependent as there isn’t a lot of places to pull off to the side of the road). I’ve missed what would have been awesome shots this way, but there is nothing worse than someone blocking the road oblivious to what is happening behind them. (This happens so frequently) Just be respectful. You can always loop around and come back.

I spent some time photographing the stunning landscape (after all that is why I came here) and figuring out how to best photograph fog (this was my first time shooting in these conditions), and when not photographing I sat in my Jeep with the windows rolled down, enjoying my chai and listening and hopefully waiting for wildlife to appear. (There were none…)

Eventually I made my way down to Astotin Lake to see if there were any shorebirds. They were some, but they were about 50 feet away from shore and in the fog (not great to photograph). I took some time to soak up the stillness of the morning and stood on the dock looking off into the foggy lake (until everyone that was camping had started to come down to the lake). It was getting busy and I decided that it was time for me to start heading out.

I had initially planned on explore more in and around the park, but the fog wasn’t letting up and I didn’t want to drive down any roads I wasn’t familiar with, so I decided to head back to the Bison Loop to hang out there for a bit, where I finally saw two bison way off in the distance (you could barely even see them), and then headed back home. Thankfully on the drive home there was no fog and I made it back safe.

It was a wonderful day, and I would definitely do a solo adventure again!

Until next time, chase the stoke!
– Tracey

Chase the Stoke Mountains

INFORMATION

  • Don’t forget to check your local weather and traffic reports for the route you are taking and your destination. (Weather can greatly fluctuate in only a few kilometers).
  • You will need a Parks Canada Pass or daily admission to enter into Elk Island National Park.
  • More park information can be found on the Parks Canada website.
  • When photographing wildlife, please keep your distance. Parks Canada recommends 30 meters from large animals and 100 meters from bears. Never bait, call, crowd, chase, or capture an animal to take a photo.

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