Helen Lake and beyond, Banff National Park, 2012

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Lori S.
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Joined: 2009-10-27
Helen Lake and beyond, Banff National Park, 2012

We took a late season hike up to Helen Lake in northern Banff on August 27th. I'll show some of the highlights (to me, that is ;D) in this thread, but a more thorough trip journal can be seen at this link: http://nargs.org/smf/index.php?topic=162.0

Subalpine meadows along the trail, with the perfect spires of subalpine fir in the valley... The most prominent blooming plant is Senecio triangularis, with a few Valeriana sitchensis, Parnassia fimbriata and asters still in bloom; the Castilleja are mostly done in this area but the bracts are even more richly-coloured as they age; a few flowers still on Veratrum viride ssp. eschscholtzii:

And continuing up into the extensive alpine meadows, some Gentiana glauca and extensive mats of partridgefoot, Luetkea pectinata (which I had not noticed before!):

Continuing up into a rocky area, beautiful mats of Tonestus (Haplopappus) lyallii, Castilleja and Erigeron aureus:

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Looking back, the Dolomites on the left, with Mt. Hector and Hector Glacier, and little Hector off in the distance.  The view is very hazy due to smoke from forest fires burning in the Kootenay in BC:

And looking ahead to what I find to be the most interesting area...

A very few Silene acaulis still in bloom, and heightened colour showing up on various plants such as this Sedum lanceolatum: 

Erigeron humilis x2 (please correct me if I'm wrong); Castilleja; Solidago multiradiata;      

Silene uralensis in what may seem something of a moonscape to some (but a fascinating environment for alpine plants!):

And speaking of moonscapes...

Lori Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3 -30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

In the previous photo, each of the dark spots on the apparent moonscape (a silty expanse of smaller rock rubble) is a tiny plant of, most commonly, Crepis nana, Silene uralensis, or Saxifraga oppositifolia:    

Moonscape or alpine desert?

Amazingly, I found one little Saxifraga oppositifolia still in bloom on August 27th!

A few patches of permanent snow up there, covered in windblown silt) with very concentrated watermelon snow (Chlamydomonas nivalis, green algae) along a melted edge:  

Gorgeous colours in a little alpine garden:

Oxyria digyna, with frost-touched colour, and a very floriferous Crepis nana:  

Lori Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3 -30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

cohan
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Joined: 2011-02-03

Fantastic site and plants- love the moonscape, and the Silene, a plant well suited to the moon :)

west central alberta, canada; just under 1000m; record temps:min -45C/-49F;max 34C/93F; http://picasaweb.google.ca/cactuscactus  http://urbanehillbillycanada.blogspot.com/

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Saussurea nuda; Draba sp.; chickweed; Boechera (Arabis) lyallii:      

View:

A bit of a plateau along the snowmelt drainage, with beautiful stands of cottongrass, Eriophorum sp.:

Epilobium sp., sweet coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus v. nivalis vitifolius), Veronica wormskjoldii and mosses in the wet talus:  

Heading down along the drainage:

Along the creek, the pikas have collected stems of mountain beauty (Epilobium latifolium, shown here) and sweet coltsfoot into little haystacks for drying... provisions for the coming winter in their burrows under the snow:

Lori Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3 -30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Thanks, Cohan!

And in closing, some shots of very intensely coloured Epilobium sp. and Erigeron humilis in the moonscape, and some colour along the trail on the way down:        

Lori Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3 -30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

deesen
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Joined: 2011-01-31

Many thanks for taking the time to post these Lori. Not being a mountaineer myself of any description I do so enjoy your hikes.

David Nicholson in Devon, UK  Zone 9b

Booker
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Title: Member
Joined: 2010-01-30

Absolutely superb journey, Lori ... many thanks for posting.

Cliff Booker A.K.A. Ranunculus On the moors in Lancashire, U.K. Usually wet, often windy, sometimes cold ... and that's just me!

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

Everything looks so happy growing up there!

That florifilicious crepis: do they EVER bloom like that "normally"?  I wonder if it could have fasciated...

What was the temperature like up there on Aug 27?

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Thanks for the comments!Rick, I'd be inclined to think that it was a "normal" plant though exceptional - I'd guess an older, very well-developed one, within the range of variation for the population.  (See also the Silene uralensis in the preceding shots, that has 13 flowerheads where most have 2 or 3.)  It doesn't look distorted to me, as is usually the case with fasciation.  I suppose it could perhaps be more than one seedling grown together?  If you do a google search, though, you can find some equally floriferous examples.

It was a little over 20 deg C at the highest point of our hike, with a coolish breeze... 30 deg C back in Calgary.

Lori Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3 -30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

Hoy
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Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Lori, hadn't time to to enjoy it till now. I would say the landscape looks more like Mars than Moon but otherwise it is fantastic! How I would love to take a tour there :o ;D It is different from any -scape I have ever seen ;)

As for watermelon snow (which is common here): http://exviking.net/mflowers/large/chlamydomonas-nivalis.htm

Trond Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

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