Canadian Rockies – Big Mountains & Big Horn Sheep!

May 2016 – We wanted the theme for our RV travels this spring to be “Snowcapped Mountains” and, if possible, “Cool Wild Animals.” So far we had seen a little of both in northern Utah, southeastern Idaho, the Bitterroot Valley and in Glacier National Park in Montana. But we knew some of the most impressive mountains and close-up wildlife sightings were probably to be found even further north, so we drove over the border into Canada.

RV travel in the Canadian Rockies Columbia Lake

Snowcapped mountains were on our agenda this spring… and cool wild animals too, if we were lucky!

Our first stop was in Fernie, British Columbia, a mountain town in the Canadian Rockies that is home to a popular ski resort.

Church in Fernie British Columbia Canada

Fernie, British Columbia, is a picturesque ski town in the Canadian Rockies

We asked for snowcapped mountains and we got ’em!!

Church steeple Fernie British Columbia Canada

The mountains soar above the edges of town.

Even though we had rather threatening skies, the mountains framed every view beautifully.

Fernie British Columbia Canada

What a backdrop for a cute little town!

The town of Fernie has a hip and youthful vibe. Lots of kids come here to take advantage of the outdoor sports, and they live on the cheap in shared apartments so they can spend their days on the ski slopes or on the mountain bike trails. We saw almost no gray hair around us as we walked the streets!

Up by the ski resort there were elegant Swiss style lodges.

Ski lodge Fernie British Columbia Canada

Classic ski lodges at the Fernie Alpine Resort

Fernie is tucked into a bend in the Elk River, and a lovely path skirts the edge of town on the river banks.

River trail Fernie British Columbia Canada

There was a pretty walking path that went along the Elk River around the edge of town.

We wanted to walk the whole path, but just a little ways into our walk it began to rain. The mountains began to fade away in the mist!

Peaks of Rocky Mountains in British Columbia Canada

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Fernie is a great town, but we had Canada’s national parks on our minds, so we pressed on into the mountains. It was early May, and a heat wave had just passed through the area, but our arrival was heralded with cold. We stopped in one visitors center and as we were told about various wonderful things to go see, the gal joked, “Well, we’ve already had summer and now we’re back to winter again.”

Freezing cold in British Columbia Rock Mountains in May

A few months ago I was in shorts!

Fortunately, the sun came out and the snowcapped Rocky Mountains filled our view as we drove.

Rocky Mountains peek through in British Columbia Canada

The Rocky Mountains lured us onward up the road.

Cool view.

Cool view.

Rocky Mountains in British Columbia Canada

Good morning Rocky Mountains!!

As we drove north we saw road signs for big horn sheep. We were hopeful for a sighting or two, but didn’t get lucky. “Hah, there aren’t any big horn sheep around here!” We joked with each other.

Rocky Mountain Big horn sheep sign British Columbia Canada

The only big horn sheep we saw were on the road signs… argh!

We stopped at an overlook at Columbia Lake which is the headwaters for the Columbia River that flows down into the US, between Oregon and Washington and out into the Pacific ocean.

RV travel and camping in British Columbia Canada

The overlook at Columbia Lake

In the town of Invermere we got a glimpse of Windermere Lake. This is probably wonderful in the summertime, but it was a bit forbidding when the skies clouded over and more rain fell.

Columbia Lake British Columbia Canada

Windermere Lake

Just before we reached the first park in the cluster of national parks that make up the heart of the Canadian Rockies, we saw another sign for big horn sheep, but this one had flashing lights on it!

Flashing street sign Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep

Hey look, this big horn sheep sign has flashing lights!

There were cars pulled over ahead of us, so Mark pulled the rig over along wtih everyone else. Then I looked out my window and found myself staring right at a big horn sheep!

Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep head British Columbia Canada

Well, hello there!!

Wow!!

There were a few other sheep near him on our side of the road, but suddenly he marched out into the middle of the highway.

Big Horn sheep Invermere British Columbia Canada

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Then he stopped.

Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep in the road Invermere British Columbia Canada

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Crazy sheep. Why was he hanging around in the middle of the highway?!

Big Horn Sheep Canadian Rockies Invermere British Columbia

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Then we noticed that there were a few sheep on the far side of the road waiting to cross. He stood in the middle of the road while the other sheep began to cross the highway in front of him.

Big horn sheep crossing a road in British Columbia

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He was like a crossing guard for them! When they’d all passed him, he joined the last one and came across with it.

Big horn sheep cross the road Invermere British Columbia Canada

The crossing guard accompanies the last sheep across.

Big horn sheep cross the road Invermere British Columbia Canada

Safe and sound.

We looked back across the highway and there was one more sheep. This was a beautiful big ram with a huge pair of horns.

Rocky Mountain Big Horn Sheep crosses the road Invermere British Columbia Canada

Oh wait, there’s one more sheep to come, the big granddaddy of them all!

What a fantastic big horn sheep sighting.

Ram big horn sheep Invermere British Columbia Canada

And there it was — our Cool Wild Animal Sighting.
Welcome to the Canadian Rockies!!

Back in Arizona we’d been excited to see a pair of big horn sheep lying around sunning themselves at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. Seeing them here with their shaggy, shedding coats in the wild of the Rockies — or close to it on the highway — was a total thrill.

It turns out that wild animals are actually a lot more street smart and highway wise than you might think. When we got to Banff National Park, we discovered that a bunch of overpass bridges have been built for the animals so they can cross the Trans-Canada Highway that traverses the national park. And they use it!! (Who wouldn’t — it looks pretty nice up there with trees and bushes — and a view of the traffic from above!!).

Wild animal overpass Banff National Park Canada

How the wild animals cross the road in Banff National Park!!

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