Flora and Fauna (and Four Lakes) in the Rockies

Lesley’s turn again:

As we approached Jasper in the Rocky Mountaineer we saw a number of ospreys and bald eagles, even one of the latter on a nest with 2 chicks. But, when we were only 15 minutes from Jasper, and we saw a black bear climbing up the embankment next to the railway, the whole carriage erupted in cheers and clapping!

Once in the Jasper and Banff National Parks, we were again thrilled to see a black bear strolling casually along the forest fringe, browsing on vegetation as it went. We joined a guided tour to learn about grizzly bears, and although we didn’t see any, we realised how important it is that they are allowed space away from people if they are to survive. And the growth of berry-producing shrubs  which the bears gorge themselves on in the fall before their long winter hibernation, is dependant on birds like the Clark’s nutcracker

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which spreads the seeds to re-colonise with new bushes.

Apart from a few goats and deer we didn’t see other large mammals.
But the small mammals were a surprise. They are not shy of humans and popped up whenever we were out walking. Hoary marmots,

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golden mantled ground squirrels (which we also saw in Bryce Canyon),

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and something like a small rabbit – an American Pika

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all entertained us, but the one I really loved was the ‘least chipmunk’,

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a tiny, shy creature dodging among the rocks.
Something I had looked forward to in a May holiday was the wild flowers, and although we had seen some lovely plants in Utah, I didn’t feel I had seen a ‘wild flower meadow’, until today! Suddenly, above Lake Louise, at 7000 feet altitude, the flowers were coming out.

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Carpets of anemones, buttercups, and several others I can’t identify, as well as lilies about to flower, had miraculously appeared since the snow melted only a week or two earlier.
It is a fragile environment, with a short window for all the animals and plants to grow and reproduce, and the National Parks of Canada do a difficult job well in balancing human and natural priorities.

Four Lakes
Our second day in the Lake Louise area turned out to be themed on lakes. Starting, of course, with Lake Louise itself

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Lake Louise from near the Chateaux

Then we took one of the trails to the right of the lake which went steadily up 1,200ft, via Mirror Lake

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to Lake Agnes

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We missed the trail on to the Little Beehive and instead found ourselves on the increasingly difficult scree and snow slopes heading for the Big Beehive which had loomed above Mirror Lake.

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We decided this was not for us, a view confirmed by Lesley taking a nasty tumble down a scree slope on the way back. However, this section did give us our best animal and plant sightings.

We romped back down in excellent form (very much feeling the benefit of all our recent exercise) and had coffee and dessert at the Lake Louise Chateau.

After that we drove 25km west along the trans-Canada highway back into British Columbia (ignoring the time change) to see Emerald Lake.

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We were just feeling that, superb as it was, we had been spoiled by the sublime perfection of Lake Louise, when we came across notices directing our gaze to nothing less than that supremely important site in the study of the evolution of life on earth – the iconic Burgess Shale (the subject of Stephen Jay Gould’s book Wonderful Life)

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Yet another profoundly moving experience, to round off what can fairly be called the trip of a lifetime for both of us.

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