Showing posts with label shooting stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shooting stars. Show all posts

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Sketching Featherwoman Lake

Featherwoman Lake, watercolor pencil, 8" x 10."

My time at Sperry Chalet was drawing to a close, and I wanted to hike up towards Comeau Pass one more time, to sketch one of the lovely alpine lakes in that vicinity. I picked up my bag lunch after breakfast and got my gear ready for the hike. The morning was fine and cool, and I took time to observe and photograph the progression of wildflowers along the trail.

Glacier Lily seed pod.

The Glacier lilies near the chalet path were gone, only their seed pods remained. The yellow Groundsels and purple asters were starting to show more flowers as the Pentstemons and Spireas began to fade. I photographed other interesting plants such as Elk thistle, Yellow buckwheat and Cow Parsnip that I had observed earlier but hadn't had a chance to record.

Arrow -leaved Groundsel (Senecio triangularis)

Elk Thistle (Cirsium foliosum)
Cow parsnip (Heracleum sphondylium)

As I climbed upward into the alpine zone, the progression of bloom continued to change. Patches of Pink Mountain Heather that had been blooming the week before were now setting seed, and new plants emerging from the melting snow patches were blooming. Yellow Monkey flowers, which I had not seen before, bloomed under rock overhangs with pink shooting stars.

Going up the trail to Comeau Pass.

Pink Mountain Heather setting seed (Phyllodoce empetriformis)
Tiling's Monkey Flower (Erythranthe tilingii) and Dark-throated Shooting Stars (Primula pauciflora) bloom under a ledge.
Red-stemmed Saxifrage (Mycranthes lyallii)

Lyall's Rockcress (Boechera lyallii)

The steep switchbacks seemed a little easier to negotiate this second time, and with the patches of snow along the trail gone, I managed to reach the first lake before noon. The rocks crossing the lake's drainage had been nearly covered in snow the week before, but now they were exposed and the water flowed freely.

The trail crosses the first lake.

I walked onto some rock slabs around the lake towards the upper meadow, looking for a good vantage point to frame a painting. Clumps of wildflowers dotted the meadows--pink and yellow Mountain Heather and other alpine plants. There was still some snow on the surface of the lakes.

Wildflowers dot the meadow around the lake.

I set up my camping stool on a ledge and unpacked my lunch. The minute I started to dig into my sandwich a hoary marmot came out from behind a rock and tried to make off with one of my hiking poles a few feet away. I shooed him off and went back to my sandwich. A minute later, the marmot was back, now from behind a different rock, trying the same maneuver again. I stood up, scolded him and sent him off again. A few moments later, he was back--this time approaching from a different direction. I had to give him points for determination, or was it desperation? These creatures really craved salt...

Me waving. (photo by Linda Hsu)
Trying to scare the marmot away. (photo by Linda Hsu

The wily beastie.

 Unknown to me, one of the guests at the lodge, a young lady named Linda Hsu, had witnessed the marmot's antics and my attempts to stave him off, and photographed the exchange from a distance. The pictures which she sent me after I got home are too distant to be very clear, but give some sense of what was going on.  After a number of frustrations the marmot finally left for more promising pastures, and I was able to finish my lunch undisturbed. Afterwards I took in the view, and decided that a bit higher might give me a better painting, so I gathered my pack and stool to hike a bit farther up to the next lake.

Featherwoman Lake

This lake, which I later learned was called Featherwoman Lake, held all the grandeur of these heights: a veil of waterfall dropping into the melting snow, and Gunsight peak in the background. I walked out on the rock ledges for a closer view--perfect! I spent the rest of the afternoon there working on my watercolor pencil sketch, then hiked back to Sperry Chalet.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Logan Pass and Hidden Lake Ovelook

Fields of Glacier Lilies at Logan Pass

Kevin had suggested that I rent a car for a few of days so I could see more of the park on my own--the perfect solution--we made the arrangements that evening when he picked me up. The rental business also offered helicopter rides around the park. That was tempting until I heard the price tag: $800 for an hour. That might be affordable if you could find another seven persons to share the ride with.

The next day, reluctant to tackle the challenging Going to the Sun Road (the only road through the park) in an unfamiliar car, I thought it best to first explore the park on the free shuttles. I parked at the west entrance Visitor Center and boarded a bus-sized one at the Visitor Center which dropped us off at Avalanche Creek, a few miles above Lake McDonald Lodge. Only glimpses of a good-sized creek on our left were visible through the heavily forested sides of the road. At Avalanche Creek we waited for a smaller van (a 12-seater) to take us up the alpine section to Logan Pass. Once on board, the road began to ascend rapidly, going through a short tunnel carved in the rock and turning crazily around The Loop--an amazingly steep switchback that is a landmark.

Tunnel in the rock below the Loop.

After the Loop the view opens up to a grand valley surrounded by snowy peaks, through which Logan Creek flows.

Logan Creek flows through the valley.

As I sat in the shuttle, others familiar with the area mentioned some of the trails they were going on that day, and I heard someone talk about "The Garden Wall"--that sounded like the sort of trail for me! It started at Logan Pass, but from the description it wasn't too clear where exactly. The driver pointed out the Weeping Wall and Haystack Falls as we passed, and I asked about another waterfall visible on the other side of the valley. I was told this was Bird Woman Falls, which drops in two stages from a hanging valley and then down towards Logan Creek for a total drop of nearly 1000 feet.

Bird Woman Falls with Mt. Oberlin on the left.

Everyone got off at Logan Pass--to continue east over the Continental Divide another shuttle change was necessary. Once at Logan Pass, I saw signs for a trail to Hidden Lake Overlook, but the sign said the trail beyond was closed due to bear activity. The overlook was only about 1.5 miles away. Fields of yellow-flowered Glacier lilies and other alpine flowers carpeted the meadows dotted with subalpine firs.

White Pasqueflower (Anemone occidentalis).

Glacier lilies (Erythronium grandiflora).

These stunted trees around the treeline are known as krumholtz. The trail began as a paved walk, then a boardwalk and finally turned into rock.

Trail to Hidden Lake Overlook

After half a mile or so the trail became steeper and began to cross patches of slippery snow--my backpack felt impossibly heavy. I hadn't thought to bring my hiking poles--it was hard for me to imagine there would be still be snow here in mid-July, but I was learning. I wasn't about to let this dissuade me--the best thing was to ditch my pack and take only my camera, which was heavy enough as it was, and continue. I saw youngsters in sandals ambling through the snow patches, certainly I, equipped with boots, could manage it too. I left my pack by a large rock, hoping no one would steal it, and went on.

Hiking at Logan Pass.

At one point in the trail there was room for only one person to go across a steep snow patch and people were trying to pass each other, risking falling down a steep slope. I became traffic cop and asked the other folks going in our direction to hang back and let the folks returning pass us first and then we could go on. Everyone complied and a dangerous situation was avoided. Funny how most people don't think of a common courtesy like this and put themselves and others in danger.

Trail to Hidden Lake Overlook.

Hidden Lake was beautiful, I would have loved to continue on down and see it at close range--too bad the trail was closed. I wondered what kinds of plants might grow on its banks.

Hidden Lake and Bearhat Mountain.

Hidden Lake.

At the overlook, a collared nanny goat with her baby came very close to where I was standing--other tourists were crowding the poor thing, trying to get photos and she kept backing away, eventually stepping on the tiny ledge you see here. I found out later that the she-goats molt later in the season than the males because they require more nourishment to nurse their young.  By mid-July the billy goats all had nice new coats, but the nannies were still in the process of shedding their winter coat. A biologist told me the wooden collars were designed to fall off later in the season after tracking had been recorded. This way they didn't have to try to catch the goats a second time to de-collar them.

Nanny goat and kid.

Billy goats at Logan Pass.

On the way back I noticed more lovely alpine flowers in bloom: tiny Shooting Stars, Moss Campion, Saxifrage, a variety of buttercup or cinquefoil, far too many unfamiliar flowers and plants for me to be able to identify.

Moss Campion (Silene acaulis)

Tiny Shooting stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum) and a species Saxifrage (Saxifraga occidentalis?)
Rocky Mountain Cinquefoil (Potentilla rubicaulis) or Varileaf Cinquefoil (Potentilla glaucophylla)?

Back at the Logan Pass Visitor Center I sat outdoors to eat the chicken salad I'd brought with me for lunch (the Visitor Center offers only cookies for sale and doesn't allow food inside).  A tiny squirrel kept me company, probably hoping I'd drop a scrap.
Squirrel at Logan Pass

Afterwards, I tried to sketch the view, but the black flies and mosquitoes were merciless, and I'd forgotten to bring my bug spray. I finally gave up and headed back to the shuttle. Traffic was so heavy in the afternoon that when I got down to Avalanche Creek I had to wait for a second bus to find a seat. It was after five by the time I got back to the parking lot at the Visitor's Center.