Bighorn Falls, Ya Ha Tinda, Alberta, September 2017. This was my first time to Ya Ha Tinda, which has the distinction of being “the only federally operated working horse ranch” in Canada. The horses that are raised and trained here are used by Parks Canada staff to patrol the national parks in Alberta and other parts of western Canada. The ranch has a long history dating back to the early 1900’s, and there is evidence that the site was inhabited well before that! (You can read more here). I was absolutely amazed by the incredible wild beauty of the area and a return trip is already planned for next year!
I don’t know what season it was when Captain John Palliser and the other members of the British North American Exploring Expedition (more commonly known as the Palliser Expedition) worked their way through the Crowsnest Pass at some point between 1857 and 1860, on their mission to survey a massive chunk of western Canada. If it was in the autumn, with the aspen trees putting on a brilliant show, they were probably especially awed, as I was a few weekends ago, at the magnificence of Seven Sisters Mountain, first named The Steeples by one of the explorers. Almost one hundred years after the expedition passed through, in 1951, a daring Swiss-born mountaineer named Bruno Engler became the first person to successfully ascend the Seven Sisters, “with considerable difficulty“…and, as this account from 2014 shows, not too many people have attempted it since. Staying on the ground to admire the impressive “steeples” seems much safer and very, very pleasant.
This gnarled/gnarly (!) tree stump was posed dramatically in the middle of a massive rock slide area that we crossed on a recent hike around Upper Kananaskis Lake. If you find yourself with a few hours to kill in Kananaskis Country, this is the hike to do – it’s 16 kilometres of incredible scenery and diverse landscapes that are not to be missed. As a bonus, the elevation gains are minimal so if your knees are a muddled mess like mine, you can still nicely manage. And there are TWO waterfalls! Truly difficult to top.
Aaaaaaand then the stump got me thinking about gardening (well, pretty much everything does so that’s not a huge stretch)…and specifically, wildlife and naturescape gardens and stumperies. I haven’t seen too many designed/planted stumperies in the city, but there is a fantastic one at the Ellis Bird Farm in Lacombe, Alberta that wowed me when I saw it a few years ago. What are your thoughts on converting leftover (dead) tree parts to garden elements? Have you ever done it? If so, how did you go about creating your design?
I wonder how much soil is under that rock? I’m guessing, not much. And I’m not showing it in this photo, but there was snow clinging to the rocks just southeast of where I was standing. In July. This common willowherb (Epilobium ciliatum), a close relative of the (ahem!) even more common fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium*, also known as rosebay willowherb), is a mountain plant with heaps of beauty AND brawn.
*In another case of Nomenclature Gone Wild, fireweed was previously known as Epilobium angustifolium. I can’t yet find an explanation as to why the genus name was changed for this plant and not for common willowherb…but I’ll keep digging.
Admission to Canada’s national parks has been free all year as the country celebrates its sesquicentennial, but it’s a gift I hadn’t yet enjoyed…until braving the insane long-weekend crowds in Banff’s Johnston Canyon last Saturday. Parking was at a premium (thank goodness my brother has a car with a supremely compact exterior and a dimension-bending interior) and the steel catwalks to the spectacular falls were crammed with visitors, but as we ventured past the Upper Falls and headed towards the mineral pools known as the Ink Pots, the throngs thinned out and the scenery kept getting better and better…if such a thing is even possible. It’s pretty easy to see why everyone is so keen on showing up.
Well, I still haven’t finished unpacking from our move and I’ve been filling in a ton of hours for all of my vacationing co-workers on top of my regular shifts (which is why the unpacking isn’t progressing)…but some much-longed-for hiking in the mountains is finally happening this summer! My brother and my hubby and I recently did a short trek to Ptarmigan Cirque, in Kananaskis Country. My hubby and I had been up there twice before, and I am always awed by the scenery. This go-around, the water pools were dried up from the heat and the waterfall was a bit on the skinny side; we also missed the peak wildflower bloom, but the place simply cannot ever disappoint. This is an immensely rewarding short hike for families and anyone who doesn’t want to tackle a difficult trek. The challenging part is completed first thing: you’re in the Highwood Pass*, so you start out at an elevation of 2,206 metres (7,239 feet) and then climb up – very quickly, pretty much all in the first kilometre – to 2,414 metres (7,923 feet). It’s a bit hard to breathe up there, plus there’s all that exercise you’re doing…
…and then you get to see views like this. Breathtaking, indeed!
One of my favourite places in the Rockies! The diversity of plant life up there is incredible….
*Which has the distinction of being “the highest paved pass in Canada.” Meaning, there is a really good road up there, a highway that is open to traffic only six months of the year, to protect critical wildlife habitat. The rest of the time, we can snowshoe and ski on sections of it (see here and here).
In around the packing for our move across the city, the brutally lengthy commute, and working at a new location (not to mention, utterly failing to reply to the thoughtful, wonderful blog comments people have left or find the time to read anyone else’s blog entries) , there have been few spare moments to do any hiking or wildflower hunting this spring…and I’m dearly missing getting out. My hubby and I did manage a whirlwind couple of orchid-hunting trips a couple of weeks ago, first to a spot we know southwest of the city, near the mountains, to look for calypso (or fairy slipper) orchids. We found a scarce few, and I hope it was just a timing thing, because their numbers were sorely depleted from our last visit in spring 2015 (when I took the above photo).
Later in the same week, we went out to a place in the foothills of the Rockies, and scoped out the brilliant yellow lady’s slippers I mention here. In this place, this year, the orchids had spread abundantly – a fantastic sign!
Speaking of lady’s slipper orchids, I recently came across a great article about the pollination and seed development of these gorgeous plants. Enjoy the interesting read here.
Hopefully things will settle down in the next month or so and I can catch up with all of you very soon! Have a wonderful weekend!