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)
Ptarmigan Cirque (maximum elevation 2415 m h)
Eiffel Lake (maximum elevation 2225 m)