Linda Lake and Beyond
Much of the focus at O’Hara is on its alpine hiking trails, spectacular vistas and the numerous azure coloured mountain lakes. Despite what we may want to tell you sometimes the weather isn’t perfect up here and those grand vistas are not so grand; cloaked in mist, falling snow or soaked by a down pour. Not to say that those conditions don’t create a certain magic unto itself however it forces one to re-evaluate their hiking plans for the day and make a shift from the Alpine to the “Understory”.
On these days your gaze shifts from mountain tops to the forest where a whole other world resides. You can catch glimpses of wildlife scurrying about or maybe signs that wildlife were just present; a quill from a porcupine, scat on a rock left by a Pine Marten or tracks from mountain goats as they move from one side of the valley to the other; in the spring we see a ton of mountain goat fur hanging off shrubs and trees as they shed their winter sweaters. The birds flit about from branch to branch while the American dipper with its distinctive bobbing hangs around the fast flowing streams. There is a profusion of Moss on the forest floor which at the end of a long hike has you thinking that it might just be the perfect place to lay down and have a nap. And as you move along the trail and it opens up into small meadows the wildflowers begin to show their colours.
What I am really trying to get across is the magic that you can find on those “other” trails at O’Hara. So where do I head on those “rare days” when the clouds look threatening and the rains are in the forecast; Duchesnay Basin. Three reasons take me out that direction: 1) The meadows of wildflowers are prolific and not replicated anywhere else to the same degree at O’Hara. 2) The solitude, If you see one or two other people that is a busy day. 3) The magical views which do unfold. If the clouds lift just enough you get a glimpse back to the O’Hara basin providing perspective that only you can get from Duchesnay. In one wide vista you can see the Huber glacier hanging in its lofty basin between Mounts Victoria and Huber, you see the panorama of peaks which form the backdrop to Lake O’Hara and form the continental divide, you get a glimpse through Opabin pass to the Valley of the ten peaks and peak number 9: Neptuak. Biddle and Schaffer are also within your sights. Lastly Odaray towers almost three thousand feet directly above your head as you walk the shores of Linda Lake or Morning Glory. No where else is the relief so dramatic.
A Profusion of Wildflowers
The wildflowers in the mountains have only a relatively short window to grow, bloom, get pollinated, set seed and then quickly get covered in a blanket of snow. They add a splash of colour to an otherwise monochromatic green background and are obviously a photographers and appreciators delight. A trip out to Duchesnay basin and its three lakes; Linda, Cathedral and Monica provides a perfect setting for the plethora of wildflowers. The meadows are dominated by Fleabane Erigeron peregrines, Valerian Valeriana sitchensis, Paintbrush Castilleja, Ragwort Senecio triangularis , Sweet Coltsfoot Petasites frigidus and Mountain Arnica Arinca latifolia. With a keen eye you see Bracted lousewort Pedicularis bracteosa, the seed heads for the Western Anemone Anemone occidentalis , Elephant head Pedicularis groenlandica, Fringed grass-of-parnassus Parnassia fimbriata, Winter green Pyrola asarifolia and Wooly Pussytoes Antennaria lanata. As you wander along the trails you will also come across a few plants which catch your eye as they are a little different or not as common. One of which has large green lily like leaves and a distinctive flower head. This is the Flase hellebore Veratrum viride, which stands sentinel above the other flowers. The other plant which often goes un-noticed is the one and only Rhododendron in the Rockies, Rhododendron albaflora, whose existence is noted by the distinctive waxy leaves and a beautiful white flowers covering the shrub. However, by this time of year the flowers are mostly gone with the only reminder of its brilliance the odd flower petal at the base of the shrub. If you are inclined and have a botanical key or flower book with you you can be captivated all day as you discover another 2 dozen flowers, sedges, grasses and shrubs in various states.
I don’t profess to be a professional photographer so take these photos as a tease. Go grab a flower book and start discovering for yourself!
You may also download our Yoho National Park Hiking Guide for your peruse.
You can also call the Lodge to inquire about your next stay at Lake O’Hara to experience these hikes yourself! Call 250-343-6418 June through early October or 403-678-4110 in the off-season.