I had a four-day trip planned into the “Winter Wonderland” area of Nordegg, Alberta, but shortened it down to just a couple of days – the roads I was planning to be on were closed to heavy snow and ongoing storms – and with a prior engagement on my last planned day, I didn’t want to be stuck or ‘storm-stayed’ in the middle of no where with no cell service. It’s all ok though – made the most of the situation and was out enjoying the outdoor life!
I rarely see the wild horses of the area in summer, but during the winter, they tend to be near the roads and today was no exception. This mare and her young colt watched posed for photos and then started to approach me with curiosity.
I was sporting my 600mm lens and the two horses were soon too close for me to continue to photograph. I was tempted to reach out and pet the two of them – but they are wild horses and best left to be ‘wild’. Not everyone that passes through this area has good intentions when it comes to wildlife interactions.
I ventured on and came across some Big Horn sheep. They aren’t as patient with photographers this time of year, and didn’t want to stick around long.
I ventured on a bit further, but roads were quite slippery and I actually ended up sliding into the ditch a couple of times while stopping for photos. This popular pull off spot on Highway 11 was the furthest I ventured towards the mountains before turning around to find a suitable camp location.
Due to icy road and trail conditions, I was very hesitant to venture too far off track. I had also hoped for an open area to do some “night sky” photography. This spot, I figured would be perfect, and I setup fairly quickly.
It’s cold (-17C or about 1F) and windy so I installed the Tepui Tents “Weatherhood” to trap some extra heat and block the wind. It works extremely well for these conditions, and will be something I’ll use a fair bit of in the future. It’ll also work in heavy rains to keep the tent material from getting saturated.
Despite the strong winds, I opted to get a fire started. I’ve pushed snow up around the fire ring to block the wind from going between the stones and extinguishing the fire. Yes, it does melt a bit, but by that time you generally have the fire going well, and it won’t fully melt away either. It’ll harden up and keep working as a wind break.
Since the plan was to spend a lot of the night awake, doing some night sky photos, I made some early dinner and planned to have a late afternoon nap until dark.
It’s easy to ‘car camp’ and bring other types of foods (I often run with canned soups and chilli) – but when I find some interesting dehydrated food, I like to test it out in an environment where I have ‘backup’ food in case it’s really nasty stuff. This corn chowder gets my approval and will get added to my ‘backpacking’ supplies! The Optimus Heat pouch is handy to have so your food doesn’t get cold why rehydrating!
Just after my early dinner, I had an interesting weather phenomenon occur and grabbed a few shots in the series of this “snownado” (no, these don’t register on the Fujita scale).
Unfortunately, clouds and high wind moved in and ruined my plans for a night of astrophotography. So I closed up the tent, went for a drive and took a few “low light” photos instead. It’s too bad the wildlife doesn’t like to sit still and pose for low-light photos – I had a beautiful black wolf cross paths with me, but he had no interest in hanging around for me to set up the camera gear.
I definitely need to get out and do some more winter exploring this season, but this trip out wasn’t as “fun” as I thought – my Dunlop Fierce Attitude tires used to be good in the snow – but maybe with them now being two seasons old, they’ve lost their abilities despite lots of tread. I actually slid into ditches twice on this trip. Sure it was slick, but I’ve always had more grab than I was getting on this excursion.