In Pursuit of Alpine Plants

Much of the world has been cooking. Fires, heat deaths, famine and so on. But our cool, rainy weather has persisted. Environment Canada puts out a monthly temperature forecast. You can see that everywhere is hotter than “normal” – except those tiny blue beads scattered down the Coast Range. The cursor is very approximately where I live. All this while we have been in the blue.

Mostly, it has been windless. And the bugs have been awful. Not as thick as they might be, but among the most aggressive I have known.

Usually I make my first trip into the mountains around the third week in June. This year the weather was far too bad. Perkins Peak, my current stamping ground (it’s head hidden in clouds in this photo) had long since lost any snow that might be a problem, and I itched to get up there.

About a week ago, we had A Fine Day! I set off early with the ATV loaded onto the trailer. But 2 km from the highway, I was stopped by a washout that not even an ATV could manage. (The worst indentation is under the round bush – hard to even walk past it.)

I’d heard about the washout but hadn’t realized it was so bad. It was very disappointing. The flowers above the treeline on Perkins Peak are different from other areas and I had no idea how I would be able to access them in any other way. (At 30 km from the highway, it was way too far for this old lady to walk.)

It seemed a terrible shame to squander this Fine Day gift, so I decided to visit Big Stick Lake. The turnoff is quite close to where my driveway reaches Highway 20. The first part of the road is scruffy and beaten up by logging and firefighting, but it mostly steers clear of last year’s fire. Not far along was a thriving slough. Note the foreground snag with holes all up it – a veritable apartment building. There is also a beaver house in the mid distance.

The pond was full of bull lilies.

Further along the road, there was less industrial damage, and flowers abounded. Dogbane.

Common monkey flowers

Butterflies were going crazy. They need warmth to be active, and they were making the most of the Fine Day.

Golden agoseris.

The right side of the road was often steep. At one spot, this lovely volcanic rock dominates.

All of a sudden, from a similar treeless hill, several large black birds erupted. They were turkey vultures. This was a real surprise. I had seen them as far south in the world as the Falkland Islands, but never on the Chilcotin, although I’d heard of them here.

I thought they must have a nice dead snack up there, but they did not return to the hill and I came to the conclusion they had simply been waiting for the day to warm up so they could ride the thermals.

On the shores of Big Stick Lake, beaver had been busy.

Back near the highway, a logging road branches off. This was where last year’s fire was started. I came upon one of the burned out cats that had to be abandoned.

Birch-leaved spirea was common in this drier, harsher landscape.

But along the roadsides, if there was any trace of water, paintbrush made wonderful displays.

Another area of mountain flowers that is easy to access is the trailhead to the Rainbow Range at the top of the Bella Coola Hill. Still nothing like Perkins Peak, and the weather was back to windless, drizzly bug heaven. But the flowers were worth the loss of blood. Lupin at back, pink pussytoes on the left, and male racemose pussy toes on the right. This forest was burned 20 years ago but there is hardly a new tree on it, only a few close to the creek. Other burned areas near the top of The Hill (which gets a lot of lighting strikes) are growing up well. This one must have burned all the soil.

Female racemose pussytoes is different from the male. One of my plant books showed the male as the species, another showed the female – neither explained that both were right!

Along the trail were the usual mountain meadow mixes.

This arnica is the mountain arnica.

But this is Parry’s arnica, which has no ray flowers.

Wood betony or leafy lousewort is common here, but I have rarely seen it in my other haunts.

A particular treat was the chocolate or rice root Lilly. I am usually too early or too late for them. But this time I caught them just right.

2 thoughts on “In Pursuit of Alpine Plants”

  1. Hey Chris,
    Thanks for all your posts, I appreciate them all. Great to follow you and good to see Pepita is still keeping you entertained !

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