Friday, July 16, 2010

Backpacking in the Canadian Rockies (5)

Day Five - July 9, 2010

We were up very early, around 4:00 am, on this fifth and last day of our hike.  Packed up our camp, had a quick breakfast of granola and blueberries, and were on the trail with our packs before 5:30.  No one else was stirring in camp and the trail was deserted.

In all it took us about six and a half hours to hike out, including several fairly long stops for pictures, for refilling waterbottles, and for rest.  This was about half the time we had taken to hike in.  The sky was nearly cloudless again and it was hot, so the early start was a good idea.

Our last views of Berg Lake and of Mount Robson in the morning light were beautiful and it was nice to see the same scenery we had seen hiking in at a later time of the day and in a different light.  My wife took more pictures than I did, however.

We saw two new orchids on the way out.  The Alaskan Piperia, Piperia unalascensis, we had probably missed on the way in.  We found it along the trail just below the Emperor Falls detour.

The other orchid, Platanthera orbiculata, the Pad-leaved Orchis, we had seen on the way in, but none of the plants we saw were in bloom.  Now we found just one plant in full bloom in the woods near Kinney Lake and took our time getting pictures, since this was one we had not seen before.

The plant is very elegant with two large, shiny, round leaves at the base of plant and a fifteen inch flower spike with large, very intricate green and white flowers.  If not the showiest of native orchids, it most certainly is the showiest of the Platantheras.

The last four kilometers of the trail, from Kinney Lake to the trailhead were very busy with dayhikers and bikers, since it was a beautiful Friday and now near noon.  We must have seemed very much in a hurry to them and we hoped that no one could smell us as we went by - five days without a shower leaves a definite odor.

The Robson River, after a week of hot, sunny weather, was a raging torrent, and the woods through which we hiked appeared to be very dry, but we did not linger often even for photos on our way out.  The energizer bunny seemed to have more energy than I did, but even she took only a few pictures on this last leg of our hike.

Arriving at the car we divested ourselves of our packs for the last time and headed for Edmonton.  First, however, we had to get some civilized food and drink, and so we stopped at a Tim Horton's in Hinton, the first town outside the parks and later at a Chinese Restaurant for our evening meal, and so ended our excursion.

Beautiful mountain scenery, and abundance of flowers, time to be together and to relax, what more could one ask?  Will we do it again?  With family in Edmonton it is a real possibility, and the result is certainly worth the effort, but there are other trails and other things to see, and we are not as young as we once were. 

- total distance hiked: 50 miles, 80 kilometers.
- daily average miles hiked: 10 miles, 16 kilometers.
- elevation gain (and loss): 6500 feet, 1980 meters.
- beginning elevation: 2800 feet, 853 meters.
- Berg Lake elevation: 5400 feet, 1646 meters.
- Snowbird Pass elevation: 7920 feet, 2414 meters.
- Mumm Basin elevation: 6800 feet, 2073 meters.
- number of orchid species seen: 15 + two additional varieties

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