Part IX – Chapter 1 – 2011

The growing season for this calypso orchid that BJ found in Waterton Park is usually mid-May to the first week or two of June, depending on when the snows melt. That means her orchid, on the 16th of June, was at the very end of its cycle. Another week, and it’d probably have already gone to seed.


Charlie and BJ did their usual tour of Waterton when they first got to the park, and they found deer and Rocky Mountain bighorns everywhere.

They were grazing in the schoolyard between Vimy’s and the Community Center. And on people’s lawns. And even downtown.

The group below is just soaking up the sun.

Rocky Mountain Sheep

This is a close-up of a bighorn rack.

A Rocky Mountain Bighorn
This guy’s my gravatar.

Charlie told BJ that a rack like this can weight thirty pounds or more, more than the total of all the other bones in its body.

And if you take a three-hundred-pound buck that stands three feet at his shoulders, he thought to himself, and have him charge another buck at over forty miles an hour, it’s not much wonder you can hear the clash a mile away.

And it’s not much wonder that most bucks, like the one below, have chipped horns and a battle-scarred muzzle.

A Rocky Mountain Bighorn
It takes about eight years for those horns to curl around its face like that.

Once they got to Red Rock Canyon, Charlie commented, as usual, about the number of point-and-shooters on the bridge doing their best to immortalize the little waterfall and the red argillite rock.

And as usual, there were a number of people down along the creek enjoying the sun.

When Charlie and BJ were at Red Rock in June, there was still quite a bit of water going over that little waterfall. Two months later, in the photo below, the water flow was much reduced.

August 13

But the flow usually stayed about the same until well into the fall.

Red Rock Creek
October 21

On the hike into Blakiston Falls, the trail was mostly wet, and there was still some snow. But nothing like they were going to find on the Cameron Lake trail.

The color of the path below is from the red argillaceous rock in the area. You’ll notice that when the sun is on the path, it is more the color you see above.

And this is the calypso orchid that BJ discovered, which is also known as the Venus slipper or the fairy slipper. She was quite excited about her find when she found out later that they were rare and even classed as endangered in some places.

The Blakiston Trail

Blakiston Falls, itself, wasn’t all that interesting. Charlie’d seen it when it had a lot more water than in the shots below. Also, he’d said at the Red Rock bridge that he suspected there’d be no sun on the falls, and he was right. And being in the shade made the falls far less dramatic.

But at least it was hike number six off his list. Eleven to go.

When they got back to the Visitor Center, and Charlie asked about the Cameron Lake trail, they said that it was a way too early. No one had been able to hike it yet. Some had tried, but they couldn’t do it because the snow was still really deep and really rotten. Even with snowshoes, they’d just kept breaking through.

Outside in the parking lot, on their way to the car, BJ knew exactly why she was thinking about Jesus and his pearls-before-swine comment. And she knew exactly what Charlie was going to try next.

Hike number seven, of course, which would leave him with ten to go. But the elevation gain on some of the remaining hikes, up to a kilometer, and the distance, over twenty kilometers, and the scrambling, would make six of these first seven seem like a walk in the park, which, in fact, they were. And that was fine.

Charlie’s goal from the outset had been to hike all seventeen trails listed in the Hiking Map and Guide for the Waterton Lakes National Park the year he turned seventy, this year, and these seven were part of that package.

The first twenty minutes of the Cameron trail had footprints. But then they stopped.

In fairness to Charlie, however, he did tell BJ they could turn back at that point, if she wanted. And in fairness to BJ, she did agree to go with him as long as he did turn back if they started breaking through the surface of the snow.

They ended up breaking through a few times. Charlie broke through once with one leg almost up to his groin, and BJ broke through once with both legs all the way to her waist. And that led to a string of stories about other people’s encounter with hibernating bears when they broke through, until she suggested he save his stories for when they were back in the car. And safe.

With six feet of snow, for example, it would easily be possible to have a four-foot den with a two-foot-thick roof that was supported by broken coniferous boughs, and easily penetrable.

But despite the breakthroughs, BJ didn’t say anything. And they kept going all the way to the lookout by the grizzly bear habitat, which they almost missed because the snow was so deep.

If they had, Charlie thought, they would have ended up in the United States without passports, and maybe even have been taken to Gitmo for waterboarding. And other bad stuff. Or not.

The Footprints Have Stopped
You can see Charlie’s footprints and where he kicked the snow off the handrail.

At that point, they were looking south toward Montana’s Mount Custer, which is on the right behind the trees, and they were probably almost at the border, which runs through the lake just before the end.

So they had to turn around. Hikers are not allowed to enter the grizzly bear habitat. And besides, BJ’s ankle was getting sore.

By four thirty p.m. they were back at the Visitor Center, and Charlie proclaimed to one and all their first-of-the-year success on Cameron.

And after much ado about nothing, in the greater scheme of things, they were off to the Big Scoop to celebrate.


Copyright © Glenn E. Christianson, 2017- 2022. All Rights Reserved.



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