September in the Cavell Meadows

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Eristalis tenax (Linnaeus, 1758), the bee-like Drone Fly.

Mt. Edith Cavell and the Angel Glacier.

Mt. Edith Cavell and the Angel Glacier.

The winding Edith Cavell road leads up to Mt. Edith Cavell and the Angel Glacier. The trail-head leading away from the parking lot allows fairly easy access to alpine meadows, making it one of the more popular areas in Jasper National Park. For that reason I don’t often visit in summer when the crowds are dense, but I do enjoy a hike there after the summer holidays when an early morning departure can still provide some solitude.

The path begins at the top parking lot and follows the north moraine towards the glacial lake at the foot of Mt. Edith Cavell. It is a short hike on a well made self-guided trail that leads to a viewing area above the chalk-blue water. The path once led right down to the lake’s edge, but that area is now restricted since early August 2012 when a massive ice-fall from the Ghost Glacier fell into the lake and forced a deluge of ice, stone, mud and water down the old rocky glacier bed, sweeping over the parking lot and the upper reaches of the road. More about this event can be learned from the informational signs at the viewing area, and is a good location to get an understanding of glaciers and their impact on the earth.

Pika gnawing lichen.

Pika gnawing lichen.

Moving back along the trail from the viewpoint leads to a Y-junction, where bearing right takes me up the side of the moraine, the path twisting between huge boulders and rubble that were once shouldered aside by the massive flow of glacial ice.

Once over the crest of the moraine the path doubles back in an south-easterly direction before beginning to take switch-backs up through the forest. It is about a 4 km hike to the meadows, where the trail loops around above the treeline.

 

Fungi in the Forest

Fungi in the Forest

Some hikers move on to climb the rocky ridge above the meadows, but I prefer to stay amongst the fir krumholtz and in the meadows themselves, where life is more diverse. It is late in the season, and there has already been some frosts, but this day is warm and the few remaining flowers are getting a lot of attention from drone flies, day-flying moths, as well as a few butterflies and bumble bees.

 

Cavell Meadows

Cavell Meadows

 

After spending a few hours in the meadows doing my best to photograph bugs without straying from the trail, I began the walk back. At this point I am feeling the weight of my backpack, and the heat on the south-facing slope does not add to my comfort. I start returning back through the woods, passing many people as they head up to the meadows. It is great to get down the hill and into the shady forest again, where things are cooler.

Coincidentally, on the way down I meet Professor Richard Palmer and his wife, who are on the way up. We spoke briefly and reminisced about the 2005 field trip to the Bamfield Marine Station, the most thrilling part of the amazing Survey of the Invertebrates course he taught at the University of Alberta. After saying our goodbyes, they continued upwards while I lumbered on down the path, back to the (now full) parking lot.

 

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This entry was posted in Alberta, Alberta, Bugs, Canada, Diptera, photography, Season, Summer, Syrphidae and tagged , , , , , , .

One Comment

  1. Sean McCann 5 February, 2014 at 6:55 PM #

    Great stuff here Adrian! I really like the looper flower-feeding!