What a day hike. After several rainy days in Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park I took advantage of perfect clear skies and hiked up Mount Decoeli. Just below the pass more than fifty Dall sheep, both ewes with lambs and bachelor bands were spread out in the green alpine. Even the males were beginning to practice butting in preparation for the upcoming rut. It was quite a scene. And they were completely nonplussed by my presence.
The most amazing part of the hike, however was not the sheep or the view of Mount Logan. It was the wildflowers, including the largest mat of moss campion I have ever seen growing from rocky talus slopes.
Decoeli Pass was splashed in colours of pink and yellow and white.
The day was unbelievably warm, warm enough to strip away all my clothes on the top of Mount Decoeli and lie down on the rocky peak with Mount Logan and the Kaskawulsh Glacier shimmering ahead. A most lovely end to my three day weekend.
Rain seems to be the constant this summer but it does make for a dramatic landscape. Never have we seen hillsides so white with blooming heather before. We disturbed a pair of willets who became vocal and agitated when we unexpectedly approached either their nest or young. We tried to find them but after a few moments we began to feel bad for disturbing the hard working parents circling around us, trying all they could to protect their young. We moved off and poked at wolf scat filled with fur and little bones and photographed some of the many blooming wildflowers. Another typical day for us. Aimless wandering. Going outside just to see what we might discover.
It was another rainy weekend in Tat-Alsek Provincial Park but even in the rain and cloud, it is magical. Semipalmated plovers chirped at my approach, trying to lead me away from their nests. Willow ptarmigan flew out of the brush and ran after me, protecting their young. And of course, the wildflowers were more colourful than ever.
An old road lead towards a valley far ahead so we filled our daypack with lunch and water and set off. And what a day of discovery it turned out to be.
The first discovery was 2 western toads, an uncommon alpine toad neither of us had ever before seen.
And just as we climbed out of the forest the purple-hued alpine fir cones stood brilliant against the green mountain hillsides. Once in the alpine the heather was in full bloom, turning the grassy slopes into vast carpets of white.
And once in the alpine, blooming flowers and feathers carpeted the land, splashes of stunning colour.
Above Bennett Lake we sat in wonder over the flowers, the mountains and the three mountain goats trotting across precipitous cliffs below us.
But as we climbed higher the green alpine disappeared beneath deep snow until we came to a frozen lake and an unexpected glacier tucked against a craggy mountain.
A ptarmigan mother tried to lure us away from her chicks trying to blend into their habitat but I did manage to snap a shot of one chick not so skilled in hiding.
And finally, as we reentered the woods, a spruce grouse chick flew up into a branch directly in front of us. Another truly lovely day outside.
Spent two days on a leisurely backpack to Canada Creek near the toe of Kaskawulsh Glacier. Normally, it would have been a straight forward easy one day hike in but this was a work trip so our pace considerably slower, work getting in the way.
I was hiking with two coworkers and it was an unbelievably strange feeling to be in the backcountry with someone other than John. I haven’t been in the woods with anyone but John in almost ten years. I am accustomed to hiking alone or with John. Hiking with anyone else feels unnatural and wrong.
It was a great trip nonetheless. Lots of wildflowers in bloom. Heard wolf pups yipping across the valley. Followed in the paw prints of large grizzlies. Marvelled at mountains, crossed swollen creeks, napped in the Bullion Dunes and celebrated Summer Solstice while camped on an alluvial fan watching mountain goats feeding in a meadow far above us.
And at Canada Creek, I spent an hour watching a grizzly travel across the river flats in search of food, unconcerned by the backpackers just a few hundred metres away.
To enter the backcountry feels like a homecoming. How I miss the backcountry. Only 10 more weeks of work until we are again unemployed and free to disappear back into the wild.
Photos from Top: Bullion Creek, coworkers leading the way, ladyslipper, pyrola and bottom, wildflowers above the Kaskawulsh Glacier.
It’s never wise to silently stalk a snowshoe hare in thick willows when you’re deep in a valley renowned for its healthy population of grizzly bears.
My plans for an overnight trip was thwarted when I happened to stalk the same hare as a grizzly and when we bumped into each other we both happily walked swiftly away from one another.
I had been wandering the willows trying to pick up the faint trail after crossing an expansive alluvial fan when I came across this hare. This is the first year in a long while that I’ve seen snowshoe hares every day. Other people don’t appear to care but I seem to get very excited each time I see one.
And so that is how I met a grizzly out in the A’ay Chu Valley (aka, Slims River East).
In hindsight, I think it was wise I turned back; my autoimmune illness, though currently quiet, I can feel simmering in the background and has me worried about my abilities, especially deep in the backcountry.