July Wildflower Expeditions

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We were just 10 minutes into the hike, one we’d decided on almost randomly the night before and spent an hour preparing for, filling our packs with power bars and peanut butter sandwiches, when we were stopped dead on the trail by two rangers carrying dart guns. Instructed to follow 100 ft behind them back the way we came, we asked our fellow thwarted hikers what was happening – a “sick bear” behaving “erratically.” In those tense 10 minutes back down the trail we made jokes loudly, and darted nervous glances at one another. I wondered how often the rangers practiced firing their dart guns and how long it took for them to work on bears…

Safely back on the other side of the fence, we formulated a new plan. We would do a much longer hike up to Healy Pass. To this day, I thank my lucky stars for that sick bear as otherwise I may have missed the most stunning flower meadows I have ever had the fortune of witnessing; “no imagining can come near to the beauty of things seen.”

Wait, what? Sorry. Been reading too many plant hunting ‘epics.’ Bless.

Anyways, we did end up at Healy Pass (in Banff National Park) back in early July and it was magnificent. I haven’t shared any pictures from that trip, and inspired/threatened by William Robinson’s exhortations on true art, “which is always marked by respect for Nature and by keen study of her,” I thought I should do so immediately. Over the course of the week, we also hiked up to Ptarmigan Cirque, and Eiffel Lake, which had different sub-alpine and alpine plant communities. Only saw one grizzly bear, on the side of the highway, which Sam proclaimed looked “small.” See if he ever gets a 20 page spread to recount his adventures with that attitude…

(This is actually only a small fraction of the plants we managed to see – in the interests of not boring you overly, I’ve included only a selection of photos and plants. Apologies in advance for the suspect plant IDs. There are no rare plant photos because I can barely identify the common ones… I strive to improve in the coming years.)

Healy Pass (maximum elevation 2360 m)

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Veratrum viride, Thalictrum occidentale and Erythronium grandiflorum

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Castilleja, Valeriana dioica, Aster alpinus

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Claytonia lanceolata

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Erythronium grandiflorum and Claytonia lanceolata

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Valeriana, Senecio, Ranunculus, Delphinium bicolor, Aster alpinus, Erigeron

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Castilleja rhexifolia (?)

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Agoseris lackschewetzii

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Valeriana dioica, Castilleja, Ranunculus, Delphinium bicolor

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I have a million photos of castilleja – sadly my ability to differentiate the species is currently non-existent

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A beautifully coloured Myosotis asiatica Sam found

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Cypripedium passerinum

Ptarmigan Cirque (maximum elevation 2415 m h)

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Evidence of recent bear activity

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Anemone parviflora

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Gentianella amarella?

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Silene acaulis

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Micranthes lyallii?

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Androsace chamaejasme, Potentilla, Salix, Myosotis asiatica

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Eiffel Lake (maximum elevation 2225 m)

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Morraine Lake from the trail up to Eiffel Lake

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Anemone occidentalis emerging after snowmelt

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Ranunculus escholtzii emerging after snowmelt

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Phacelia sericea

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Neottia borealis

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Gentianella amarella

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Saxifrages!

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Saxifraga bronchialis

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Micranthes odontoloma

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Eiffel Lake

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