Hiking in the Spring!
As the Spring Equinox approaches and the days get longer we start to get excited about the start of our Summer Season. Spring in the Rockies often means sunny days, rain showers, and dumps of snow; all in the same day! Life down in the valley bottom during the off season, with trees in full leaf and people running and biking in shorts, often has us wondering what life at 7000 feet at the lodge is doing right now. That first trip up the 11 km access road is full of unknowns; How much snow will there be?, Any damage to the pipes & roofs?, Is the ice off the lake? How safe will the Huber Ledges and the Alpine Circuit be? Although we have yet to fully assess what havoc winter played on our infrastructure I can say that there will be no snow at the lodge, the ice is off the lake and the Alpine Circuit should be in great shape for when we open on June 17th.
Wildlife in the Area
While checking out the snow levels on the trail around the lake, as always, I scan the slopes of Wiwaxy looking to see if the Mountain Goats are out and about. I counted NINE. Big ones, little ones, males and females. It was quite a party. The slopes of Wiwaxy lose their snow the earliest and the the goats hit the sunny slopes in anticipation of the seasons earliest bounty of food. We do see them throughout the winter as well although the pickings must be slim. Throughout the summer the goats tend to make a clockwise migration around the lake depending upon the weather and food availability eventually ending back on Wiwaxy in the fall to take advantage of what little strength remains in the sun on those south facing slopes. When you are up keep your eyes peeled as there has never been a week go by where people do not see the goats.
Anyone who has followed our Journal knows about the frequency of wolverine sightings at O’Hara. Throughout the winter months we see tracks from a wolverine or two on a regular basis. An actual sighting remains rare and is a real treat when it happens. Time will tell whether our family of wolverines will make an appearance again this summer or not. Remember that if you do spot one stay away and do not harass or feed the wildlife.
Visiting Lake O’Hara
As many of you know it is not easy to reserve a space to get into O’Hara, whether that is overnight at the Lodge, for the day, camping or staying at the Alpine Club of Canada’s Elizabeth Parker Hut. It can also be extremely frustrating for people who patiently wait for the Parks Online Reservations to open in April only to find that a summers worth of reservations have sold out in the first 15 minutes. Although it is no consolation Parks forward thinking back in the 70’s has prevented O’Hara from becoming another whirlwind stop on a National Park Tour. The intrusions of the 21st Century at O’Hara have been kept to a minimum and have been in keeping with their spectacular surroundings. Much effort has been put into the area in order to preserve it in much the way it was back in the early 1900’s. The hiking trails are second to none and your experience hiking the trails is not fraught with multitudes of visitors shuffling around the lake, tromping on the wildflowers as they stop for a photo and strewing garbage off the trails. People are well meaning and not purposely looking to destroy things it just happens when you try and jam hundreds or in the case of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake thousands of people into a place. As of writing you are still able to hike in and out of the O’Hara area if you were not able to secure a bus reservation. There is no longer a guarantee that you can pay the driver $10 for a ride down, so if you are hiking in, be prepared that you may well be hiking out too. Although hiking the road is not an option for everyone, it is still an option. Is there a perfect system to control access to this gem? I don’t think there is; however I know that Parks Canada is always looking at how to make it better, less frustrating and accessible to a wide variety of people while still maintaining its quota and ensuring the place retains the pristine magic that has drawn so many hikers for so many decades. May it continue! Here’s to a great summer.