More summer hikes - Banff National Park, Helen Lake and beyond

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Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27
More summer hikes - Banff National Park, Helen Lake and beyond

Well, it will still be ski season here for a long time, but it's not too early to start thinking about the coming summer's hikes.

Here are some shots from one we do now and then. The usual trail-in is a scenic, easy hike into fairly high elevation, with a fair bit of elevation having been burned up in the drive, and is consequently, a popular hike... but it is possible to escape excessive human contact (that is, the possibility of anyone else in sight ;)) by continuing on and up beyond the usual destinations.

1, 2, 3) After about 300m(?) elevation gain, the trail opens up for views of Bow Lake and Crowfoot Glacier, and in the other direction, Mount Hector, Hector Glacier and Little Hector.
4, 5) Along the trail, Gentiana amarella and Agoseris glauca.
6) Approaching the top, the first view of Gog Quartzite, always interesting to see in this predominantly limestone outcrop area.
7) And rounding the corner, the first view of the Dolomites.
8 ) Cones on kruppelholz (environmentally-dwarfed) alpine fir, Abies lasiocarpa
9, 10) Flowery meadows

Remember, click on photos to enlarge!

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

1,2) Valeriana sitchensis
3) Arnica lonchophylla
4) Veratrum eschscholtzii
5) Bronze-bells, Stenanthium occidentale
6) The locale
7) Anemone... oops, Pulsatilla occidentale
8 ) The trail crosses Helen Creek
9) Looking back toward Hector, with dome of Gog in center and frost-pattern(?) drainage in foreground
10) Map lichen on Gog Quartzite

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

1) Cirque Peak, ahead, through kruppelholz
2) Very colourful peak
3) Salix spp. in the alpine terrain.
4) Golden-mantled ground squirrel
5) Helen Lake and Cirque Peak
6) Cotton grass, Eriophorum spp., on the boggy shore of Helen Lake
7, 8 ) The prow of the Dolomites sailing towards us, with Hector in the background; stone pavement, linear fractures
9) Alpine pond with olive-coloured mossy bottom
10) There is a strange fore-shortening effect (optical illusion) in the mountains - as we gain elevation, Mount Hector and Little Hector actually seem to be getting closer (though this photo is somewhat zoomed); if you zoom in, you can see spindrift off Hector Glacier

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

1) Saxifraga bronchialis
2) Sibbaldia procumbens Ranunculus sp. still in bloom at this elevation, despite it being mid-August
3) Hoary marmots, quite populous in this area (many pairs in residence), so it is clearly favourable to them
4) Beautifully sculpted and coloured leaves of Petasites frigidus v. nivalis vitifolius; the undersides are felted white; with Salix lyallii in areas where snow melt runs through the talus
5) Haplopappus lyallii in the talus
6) Preserved wave ripples in ancient limestone
7) Cirque, ahead
8 ) Erigeron aureus, one of my favourite plants; this is at about 2600m elevation, but they extend down into the montane zone
9) Purple swaths in the talus...
10) ... which are gradually resolved into bands of Epilobium latifolium, growing along flow paths of snow melt drainage

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Lori, you have been busy tonight (my night at least)!
Since I was a student (long time ago) and bought the flora "Rocky Mountain Wild Flowers" designed primarily for the use of the visitor to Jasper, Banff and Waterton Lakes National Parks (according to the introduction) I have dreamed of walking in the area. But it has been a dream only, I have not managed to fulfill it. And now you show irresistible pictures that do not stifle the dreams!
Some places the landscape looks familiar and some places not at all. The same with the flowers. Some are the same species as at home and some are different. (The Norwegian wild flora is rather poor actually although we have some gems).

By the way, I have tried to sow Erigeron aureus a couple of times but never had the real thing!
I saw you discussed felwort (Gentianella amarella) in another forum (the Norwegian name is "bittersøte" meaning bittersweet) but the old English name is feldwyrt, in Norwegian "feld" is "fjell" meaning mountain so felwort should then be "mountainwort"! A proper name.

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Thanks for looking, Trond!  I should be able to send you some E. aureus seed later on; I also have a potful of little plants under the lights right now.  Yes, many of our species are circumpolar ones and I'm sure they would be familiar to you.

1) Penstemon ellipticus
2) Me, "botanizing" with camera
3) Crowfoot Glacier is now visible over the intervening ridge
4) Old snow in the cirque
5) Saxifraga oppositifolia not long out of bloom
6) Saussurea nuda
7)  Crepis nana in the talus
8 ) And for scale, the same plant with my hiking pole, ~1" diameter
9) Silene uralensis ssp. attenuata
10) Scenery

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Thanks, Lori!

And you do tempt me with your pictures. I have to take a tour to look for myself as soon as possible.

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Boland
Boland's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-25

Wow Lori!  I've been in the Rockies oodles of time but never as high up as you...I got to the Sunshine Meadows but they are not as stark as the areas you have visited...you have seen many alpines I have yet to see in Alberta.  You must have been hiking for hours...did you camp overnight?

Todd Boland
St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada
Zone 5b
1800 mm precipitation per year

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

No, we haven't done any backpacking in years, all day-hikes... the thought of a garden tour, a glass of wine and a soft bed after a hike seems more attractive these days... plus, I have to admit, we are kind of tied down by greenhouse maintenance during the summer (though it's worth it).  To be honest, we are not terribly early risers...  but we do hike at a pretty good pace, LOL!  (Having said that, I also have to admit that I would be left in the dust by the club that Stuart also does scrambles and skis with!)
Living here is a definite advantage, obviously... a 45 minute drive to one of our closest favourite hikes, 2 hours drive to the northern Banff hikes.  We do head out almost every weekend (or weekdays, even better, when I am on summer vacation) through the high season, though, and mostly avoid the popular trails and accesses (for example, I have never been to Sunshine Meadows, though we hike in to an adjacent area, or the Lake Louise hikes, and many others, despite living here for 16 years total... strange, I know.)  Helen Lake is an exception... although there is also the ski route in, where you never see anyone at all, plus you can just go out beyond the usual day-hike destinations to avoid unnecessary contact... (wow, I sound like a total misanthrope, LOL! )  Anyway, as we have learned from long-term resident mountaineering friends, you can live here a very long time before getting a feeling of having "seen it all".  I must say, it is wonderful!

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

1) This is the site of a very tiny-leaved salix (leaves 4-8mm in length), that has been tentatively ID'd as either S. reticulata or S. vestita... if we venture this way again, and happen to find it or others, I'll attempt to gather more observations and photos towards an ID.
2) A pointy-leaved salix.... no idea what this one is either!
3) A rather beaten-up looking Salix reticulata
4) Also the site of a particularly characterful Silene acaulis, standing out for that reason among the many
5) Castilleja sp.
6) A little richer-looking flora in the drainages as we turn to head for home
7) An anomalously golden-foliaged phyllodoce
8 ) Another sentinel, watching us pass
9) Heading down... nice avalanche slopes off the Dolomites
10) Caltha leptosepala down along the trail

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Hoy
Hoy's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Lori, do you have any organization like this http://www.turistforeningen.no/english/ in Canada?
They have hundreds of cabins you can use while trekking in the mountains, woods or along the coast.

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

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