The Meadows have finally opened. It ‘s late for this year, being the second week in July, and we braved the sweltering heat wave at 35 degrees, just for another peek at the outstanding Cavell Meadows.
It’s 8:30 am and already the warmth of the day is upon us. A few vehicles are already in the parking lot and some early tourists have focused their cameras on a site, way up the side of the mountain. Way up, only a speck of white, is a lone mountain goat. We view his early morning activity through the borrowed cameras of the tourists. Their good fortune for this photo opportunity is far better than mine, since their equipment will give them that superb, possibly once in a lifetime shot, that my cellphone camera can’t manage.
Packing light sometimes has its downfalls and this is one of those times. I’m grateful to the tourists for giving me the opportunity to view the goat through their lenses and to see the wonderful photo that they have been able to take.
We continue on our way. The runoff from the Angel glacier is streaming in torrents into the lake below. The heat of the day, already melting the skirt of this Angel, and we wonder how much longer we will be seeing this beautiful sight. We make our way up into the meadows, so full of colour, it’s a spectacular sight. Although this is an annual hike, we never tire of the splendor that awaits us in this easily accessible alpine terrain. The wildflowers are unbelievable. Heath and arnicas, paintbrush and avens, they stretch on and on and on, with a backdrop of mountains and the beautiful hanging Angel Glacier.
Our destination, is the climb to the summit of the meadows. A rough path of scree and a scramble at the top, that make the already steady climb, more challenging at the top. We’ve planned for a seven hour day, with time for photos and a relaxing lunch when we reach the summit. The steady uphill hike, takes us through outstanding alpine meadow, to the well worn, rocky path above. Then on to the scramble at the finish which will take most of the morning. The views become more and more fabulous and the marmots come out to play. Today, they are not shy. They don’t hurry away. Instead, they pose for photos and watch us with curiosity. We are one of the first visitors to the meadows today, and since it’s so hot, one of the few.
The climb through the rocky scramble is difficult at times, but the finish greets us with an expansive view of the valley on the other side. We can see the Whirlpool River, Leach Lake and a long stretch of the Athabasca River. Unfortunately, the haze of wild fires burning in the south, cloud our view, so the landmarks aren’t as distinct as they usually are. We peer into the valley below. There are many snow patches, which is a good sign. Usually caribou inhabit lands like these. They like the snow patches to cool their bodies on hot days. No sign of any. That is, not until a pair of biologists on the grizzly bear study, join us at the top, and the keen eyes of one of them, spots a caribou and her calf in the valley below. I pull out my binoculars and hand them around for everyone to have a look. We linger for about twenty minutes, watching these animals, listed as a threatened species, until finally she moves out onto the snow patch with her calf, and lays down beside a large rock.
Mission accomplished. We have the sighting that we wanted, but not the photo. Impressed and satisfied, we make out descent, through the glorious meadow and back to the nearly empty parking lot.
Now on to the next most splendid venture, the lake.
written by Dr. Louise Hayes