Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Canadian Rockies 2011

Since we have family in Edmonton, a son-in-law, a daughter, a granddaughter and a soon-to-be second grandchild, we have opportunity nearly every summer to visit the Canadian Rockies.  The past two summers we went backpacking in Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia:  This year we were unable to do the backpacking because of other obligations, but did manage to get in a full day of sight-seeing in Robson and in Jasper National Park in Alberta.

Maligne Lake, Jasper

We left home very early Monday morning and drove through the night, arriving at Robson about 6:00 am at the Berg Lake trailhead.  My wife had a very bad headache and wanted to sleep a while in the car, but I did some hiking up the trail on my own, following the river and going as far as the Kinney Lake campground, arriving back at the car at around 11:00 am.

Kinney Lake

We were a week later than last year but because of a very cold and wet spring many of the wildflowers we had seen earlier last year were still in bloom this year.  Some of the wildflowers I saw were the Common Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia), Red Clover, a non-native (Trifolium pratense) and Sticky Geranium (Geranium viscosissimum), shown here in the order listed.

We had gone especially to see the orchids, however, and I counted ten species and varieties in the few hours I hiked.  One species, the Lesser Rattlesnake Orchis (Goodyera repens) was not yet in bloom.  The two Lady's Slippers were nearly finished and I had to look hard to find some decent flowers.  One species we had seen the year before, the Pad-leaved Orchis (Platanthera orbiculata) I did not find.

Small Round-leaf Orchis (Amerorchis rotundifolia)

Sparrow's-egg Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium passerinum)

Large Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens)

Blunt-leafed Rein Orchis (Platanthera obtusata)

Northern and Heart-leaved Twayblades (Listera borealis and cordata)

Leaving the Berg Lake trailhead we drove across the rest of Mount Robson Park and then through the north part of Jasper National Park, stopping often to examine the wildflowers and to take pictures.  We found one of my favorite wildflowers, the Rattlebox, in bloom along with a number of orchids we had not seen on the Berg Lake trail, another five species and varieties, shown below.

We also found along the roadside the Yellow Clematis (Clematis tangutica), here an invasive weed, but very beautiful.  When the sun came out later in the day there were a lot of butterflies but I managed a good shot of only one of them, the White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis). 

One of the joys of driving through this area is that the roadsides are filled with white and green Platantheras (Bog Orchids) at this time of the year, and this year was no exception.  We saw thousands of these native orchids in every wet boggy area along the way, and not only found them but one new native orchid, Coeloglossum viride var. virescens, the Long-bracted Green Orchis.

Alaskan Piperia (Piperia unalascensis) and Northern Green Bog Orchis (Platanthera aquilonis)

We found these orchids not only on the main east-west road through Robson and Jasper, but also on the Maligne Lake Road, one of the most scenic drives in Jasper, and which we followed nearly to its end.  There we not only found the Coeloglossum but more of the Yellow Lady's Slipper, along with thousands of Wood Lilies and other wildflowers.

Long-bracted Green Orchis (Coeloglossum viride var. virescens)

Maligne Lake

Large Yellow Lady's Slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens)

Wood Lily (Lilium Philadelphicum)

This year was also one of the best for wildlife.  We saw several black bear, a number of deer, bull elk and moose with their antlers still in velvet, some mountain sheep looking a bit ratty with their half-shed winter coats, and a coyote near Jasper town.  In every case were able to get pictures as souvenirs.  Finishing our sightseeing later that evening we spent the night in Hinton, east of Jasper, and went on to family the next morning.

On our way home we made sure we had time to hike in Robson once again and this time hiked together and further up the Berg Lake Trail.  In addition to the orchids I had seen a week earlier, we also saw a number of wildflowers that included Goatsbeard (Aruncus sylvester) and Red Columbine (Aquilegia formosa).

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