Cavell Meadows

Cavell Meadows

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.

http://www.mountaincaribou.ca/content/recovery-plan

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

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A Great Escape

A Great Escape

Good Day Bravehearts

The splendid great wild, with its remote and awesome places. Here, in a world class national park, a UNESCO world heritage site, we live and play and hike to our hearts content. The world of opportunity knocks and we respond with enthusiasm, for the endless adventure in hiking the great wild.
This week, we travel into a remote and little known mountain pass, high up in the alpine. where the curiosity of remote, wild adventure takes us. Ever cautious, we prepare for all weather, rain suites, first aid kits, water ,sunscreen, food, insect repellent, hat, gloves, binoculars and cameras, maps and gps.   It can be cold in the alpine, with changeable weather and here it can be blistering hot, or freezing rain, sometimes turning to hail or snow. We all pack bear spray.
It’s been a good year for bears. Many sightings of females with two and three cubs and the powerful grizzly bear has made her presence well known, with frequent sightings and photo chances of her and her healthy offspring. The alpine is a favorite place of the grizzly and we don’t want to startle one, so our group is large and loud. It’s better to be safe, with large numbers, so the resident predator hears us coming.

The climb is steep and the footing is uneven.  We spent three hours hiking to this remote place, high up into the alpine for a view of the glaciers on another mountain range.  The intermittent showers cooled us and the climb was not as difficult as it sometimes is.

http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/jasper/index.aspx  Jasper National Park

Our fathers fought for this great land.  A magnificent mountain range in a far off place.  They fought for  freedom, for prosperity, for a better world and here, in a remote and little known mountain pass, we enjoy and praise the brilliance of that choice.  To protect the land, to save it for future generations, relatively untouched, preserved and intact.  A home for the wild and an escape for us.

We are early in this years adventure.  The spring was late and the wild flowers are not yet as showy as they will be.  But also, we have left the great bear behind us, to forage in the valleys until the alpine will give them a meal.  They will be here soon.

Today, the pass is for us, with only the calls of the birds and the rushing water, the insects and the wind.

The far off glacier is the head waters of our rivers and the source of our daily water supply.   Protected high up in a mountain top, the glacier lies in its own protected domain.  Remote enough, that it is rarely visited and high enough that is remains intact.  The grand great wild, providing fresh drinking water for us and the planet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AF05-slHnNk  Fukushima

These rare, protected places, great mountain ranges like the Rocky Mountain National Parks are home to the awesome wild, the glaciers and the beautiful flowers. The power of the earth lies in these special protected places, where only the fortunate few can roam.  Our drinking water, our air supply, our dark sky,  our much needed connection to the natural world.

Here is where we live and play and praise the foresight of brilliant people who saved this land for us to enjoy.

written by Dr. Louise Hayes