If it’s summer in Alberta, then Highway 40 must be open.
This magnificent drive, an hour west of the city, meanders along the eastern slopes of the Kananaskis Range of the Rocky Mountains. The highest point of the drive is Highwood Pass, at 2210 m (7250 ft), the highest point in Canada that can be reached by a paved highway. Due to winter weather conditions, this highway is closed from Dec 1 to June 15.
We make a point of doing this beautiful drive each summer, and headed out last Friday at 6:00 am.
Our first wildlife sighting was three young white-tailed deer by the side of the road.
Two young long-legged moose, which were likely siblings.
We thought at first they were drinking, but as we sat there and watched them, we realized they were all actually eating the mud, which must have contained some sort of mineral deposit. The moose eventually melted into the thick forest, but the deer could have cared less that they were being watched from about 3 feet away.
Our next wildlife sighting was the species we were looking for, but didn’t really expect to see. This grizzly bear was browsing right beside the road, and didn’t seem very interested in us either. She looked up when we stopped, then went back to eating. She munched for about 10 minutes, then calmly turned and headed into the forest behind her.
We continued on our drive, exclaiming over the fact we had actually seen the animal we were looking for. As we drove, we noticed two cow elk up on the side of a hill.
As we got closer to the end of the drive, four white tailed deer bounded across the highway in front of us. We slowed right down in case more were following, and discovered we had stopped right beside a large Columbian ground squirrel colony.
As we sat there watching them watching us, a beautiful white-tailed doe cautiously approached the clearing. She eyed us warily for a few minutes, then proceeded to follow her herd members across the road.
We continued on our way, absolutely replete with wildlife sightings for one morning. And that, my friends, is why we make a point of driving Highway 40 each summer.
Click the pictures if you want a larger view. Tomorrow I’ll post some scenery pictures from the trip – stay tuned!