Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Backpacking in the Canadian Rockies (2)

Day Two - July 6, 2010

Mount Robson, Berg Glacier and Berg Lake

Tiredness is a good sedative and we slept well and warm in our camp at Whitehorn, though the night was cool. I woke about 5:00 am and got up to take a few pictures of some of the wildflowers near the camp including the Green Bog Orchis, Platanthera huronensis, with the dew still on it.  I believe the insect in this photo is a tick, though we had no trouble with them.

Also photographed a carnivorous plant, the Common Butterwort, Pinguicula vulgaris, which grows in abundance along the river at Whitehorn.  This interesting plant has thickened leaves covered with tiny, sticky hairs that trap and digest small insects.  In the picture some of the remains of these insects can be seen on the leaves.

Nearby, blooming and covered with dew, were a lovely flower that I believe to be the Western False Asphodel, Tolfieldia glutinosa, and the Bog Wintergreen, Pyrola asarifolia.  If anyone can correct these identifications, please do so.

After a breakfast of granola with dried blueberries we were on the trail before 6:30 am with the most difficult part of the hike, the four kilometer climb up Emperor Hill, ahead of us.  The first part of the trail is narrow, steep, covered with loose stone, and takes one up the side of the steep south face of the hill.  Very soon we could look back and see the Whitehorn basin far below us.

The trail, still steep, then switchbacked through the woods and brought us out on the cliffs above the Falls of the Pool, then back into woods and finally out to the cliffs across from Emperor Falls.  From there the trail followed a series of switchbacks through the woods to a very steep area where steps had been built.

Near the steps we found two more orchids, several stems of the Early Coralroot, Corallorhiza trifida, a very small leafless and saprophytic plant, and the tiny Northern Twayblade, Listera borealis.  We stopped for quite some time to get photos of these plants.

Not far beyond the steps there was a side trail to Emperor Falls, and with Mount Robson now in sight, we divested ourselves of our packs, leaving them at the side of the trail and taking only our cameras, went to see this impressive torrent.  The spray from the falls made picture taking quite difficult, however.

Emperor Falls and Mount Robson

Photographs taken, we pushed on and soon came back to the Robson River and to the Emperor Campground along the river, the most difficult part of the hike behind us.  We had planned to stop at the campground for lunch, but decided instead to hike on.

Following the river, we finally came to the flood plain below Berg Lake which still lay out of sight.  We hiked a talus slope above the floodplain and finally descended to the flood plain itself and hiked across it to the south edge of Berg Lake.  There we rested a while and watched a ground squirrel going about his thieving business.

Wall Mountain and Berg Glacier

Through the woods again, the trail took us a couple of kilometers along the west side of Berg Lake to our final destination, the Berg Lake campground, where we arrived at about 11:00 am.  We quickly found a campsite and set up our tent, bringing our food and other such items to the shelter there.

After getting everything arranged, pumping water, and soaking our feet, we made lunch, freeze dried eggs which we cooked with some morels we had found in the woods.  Even with the morels they were awful, so we tried slathering them with packets of hot sauce, but they still looked and tasted like yellow styrofoam, only now styrofoam with hot sauce.

After lunch we rested and relaxed a bit, and then, while Nancy was reading, I went back down the trail to get pictures of some of the wildflowers we had seen but not photographed and then further up the trail past the camp to see and photograph some of the wildflowers there.

Indian Paintbrush and Heartleaf Arnica

Red Columbine

Golden Columbine

 I took pictures of two orchids, the Heart-leaved Twayblade, which I found in both its green and red forms and the Green Bog Orchis which was growing in wet areas above the lake.  Also managed to get pictures of a small butterfly which I have not identified.

The day had turned warm and sunny and Mount Robson with its glaciers was spectacular.  They say that Robson is visible only seven days of the year.  If that is true we saw four of those days, since the weather continued warm and sunny the rest of the week.

After our evening meal - freeze-dried Pad Thai and Kathmandu Curry, both very good - we hiked up a trail just north of the camp to Toboggan Falls and to some spectacular evening views of Robson and Berg Glacier.  This trail is very steep but worth the climb.

Toboggan Falls is aptly named since the water of the creek for which the Falls are named, "toboggans" down a 45 degree slope, often running in narrow crevices worn into the rock.  The light was fading quickly and it was not easy to get decent pictures.

After taking more pictures near the camp of the lake with its icebergs, of Mount Robson and Berg Glacier, we returned to the shelter, but found it hot, noisy and crowded, so went to our tent instead where we read a while before turning in for an early night.

Note: Six of these pictures were taken by my wife.

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