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© Anne Elliott 2017
24 June 2017
Yellow Angelica
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Yellow Angelica / Angelica dawsonii

Yellow Angelica / Angelica dawsonii
There were a lot of these plants in bloom along the Cameron Lake forest trail five days ago. It is always amazing how fast the flower species in Waterton Lakes National Park change from one week to the next. I have the chance to go again soon and there may not be any of these Yellow Angelica flowers to be seen. Same with the spectacular Bear Grass, though I do hope there may still be a few flowers left, in case there is anyone who has never seen Bear Grass.

"With its merging landforms, connected ecoregions and its mild, moist, windy climate, Waterton Lakes National Park is an amazing meeting place for an abundant and diverse collection of vegetation.

Despite it's small size (505 sq km) Waterton is graced with over 1000 species of vascular plants . Over half of Alberta's plant species are found in this tiny place. The park's four ecoregions - foothills parkland, montane, subalpine and alpine - embrace forty-five vegetation communities. Sixteen of these are considered significant because they are rare or fragile and threatened.

Waterton also has an unusually high number of rare plants - over 175 are provincially rare (e.g. mountain lady's-slipper, pygmy poppy, mountain hollyhock), and over twenty of these are found only in the Waterton area (e.g. western wakerobin, Lewis' mock-orange, white-veined wintergreen). Over 50 species are rare in Canada (e.g. Bolander's quillwort, Lyall's scorpionweed, Brewer's monkeyflower.)" From Parks Canada website.

www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/ab/waterton/natcul/natcul1/f.aspx

To have the chance to visit Waterton Lakes National Park five days ago, on 24 June 2017, was such an absolute treat! This was an annual bus trip arranged by Nature Calgary, with the destination being different each year. To visit Waterton for just one day does make for a very long day, though - takes about 3 hours to drive each way, for a start.

We had two main stopping places in the park - the lookout at Maskinonge Lake and a longer stop at Cameron Lake, plus a bit of time in the tiny town itself before leaving for home. The views from all the places are spectacular. Luckily, we had beautiful weather all day.

Actually, we weren't too sure if the road going through the mountains to Cameron Lake was going to be open. It was due to reopen the day before out trip and, fortunately, the gate was open. Once at Cameron Lake, we found an empty picnic table right near the beach, and ate our picnic lunch. We were able to walk along the forest trail that followed the shoreline on the right edge of the lake. At a certain point, one has to turn around and go back along the same trail. Cameron Lake is one of my favourite places in the park, with a beautiful view of the lake and a pleasant, flat walk through the forest. There didn't seem to be a lot of forest wildflower species in bloom - maybe we were just a bit too early for them. However, the huge, creamy white flowers of Bear Grass growing along the edge of the road up to the lake had everyone in absolute awe. The road is only narrow and our bus was huge, so on the drive there, all we could do was gasp in amazement, with no chance for taking photos. We asked our excellent driver if there was any chance he would be willing and able to stop at one of the very small pull-offs at the edge of the road on the return drive - and he did! He was expecting maybe five or six people would get off, but I think almost everyone wanted to get a close look at these amazing plants. Even the driver himself got out to look and take photos. He had apparently never been to Waterton before and had never seen Bear Grass. We noticed tiny Crab Spiders on two of the flowers; one was lying in wait and the other had caught an insect. These spiders don't construct webs, but camouflage themselves by changing their colour to that of the flower they are hiding in, and then they wait. We also saw several stems of Striped Coralroot orchid in the ditch by some of the Bear Grass.

After spending a couple of hours at Cameron Lake, the driver took us back into town, as some people had said they wanted to eat there before the long drive back to Calgary. Others, including myself, would have preferred to have spent the time somewhere else, seeing nature and taking photos. However, we were able to walk to the lake's edge, from where we were able to take a few scenic photos - something I had been hoping for. On our way back to the bus, some of us called in at a very popular ice cream shop - we all agreed it was the best, tastiest ice cream we had ever had! A huge, single scoop of wild cherry in a waffle cone - what more could one want?

Penny, you did a great job of organizing this wonderful trip for us all! I know a lot of work goes into setting up an outing like this, and we all appreciate the time and effort you put into planning this. Such a perfect destination for this year's annual bus trip! Pam, thanks for your company on this long drive - helped make it far more enjoyable!

Valfal has particularly liked this photo


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