Well, so much for mostly sunny…the weather today was cloudy most of the day with some periods of light rain. There were a few periods of almost sunny that we took advantage of for photos on our hike…but after breakfast we decided to go on our planned hike anyway and just make sure we took warm and dry clothes.
We packed up lunch and rain gear and headed out about 1130. First stop was right outside the campground where there was an Elk Jam. We stopped a way back and watched 6 carloads of people including children as young as 3 or so walk right up to this group of cow elks. Didn’t see any elk calves but one of the females mock charged a young Asian couple and their 3 year old several times…the idiots just stood there not knowing that they were taking a serious risk of getting trampled. Connie was yelling at them…as well as the guy with a super telephoto lens who (despite the telephoto lens) walked up to within about 20 feet of them. Neil got this shot from probably 40 yards or so away across the road; we didn’t even get out of the car for it.
Continuing south down Highway 93…we crossed the Athabasca River and Neil walked back out on the bridge to get shots down and up river of the pretty swollen river. The second picture actually has either a bear or beaver or something similarly brown on the river’s edge; but it’s way out there (probably a half mile away) so it’s not really visible. Wasn’t visible with the telephoto lens either so it was really far out.
We continued down another couple of miles and pulled into parking area 15 for the Valley of Five Lakes Loop Hike. There weren’t any spots left so Neil sort of made one…as we packed out stuff to head out we talked to ourselves again about why we don’t usually hike on the weekends…but that given the weather forecast waiting for a weekday wouldn’t have really worked. Luckily; despite there being 30 or cars in the parking lot…the trail was fairly deserted…there are about 5 trails through the valley and a bunch off ways to combine them with a total length of about 7 or 8 miles so the crowd was pretty spread out.
We spotted a nice red wildflower.
and then after a serious climb over a ridge about 75 meters high, down the back side, then back up and down another one 30 or so meters high we ended up at Lake #5. There are a total of 5 lakes in this valley…hence the name Valley of FIve Lakes. Last night when we were planning the hike we decided to start at 5 and proceed north along the east side of the lakes, then turn back at the north end of #1 and cut back between 1 and 2 to return to the parking area. The alternative route was to continue around the north side of #1 and head back down the west side. As it turned out…this was about 2 miles farther and had a bunch of up and down terrain contours on the map so we’re glad we decided to skip and take the shorter route back. All of the lakes have a bluish color with each one being slightly differently hued due to being at different depths. The smallest lake is #2 which is almost circular and maybe a quarter mile around. Number 4 is slightly larger and the odd numbered ones are all longer and shaped more like a finger lake with #1 being the largest at about 1.25 miles long and maybe a1/3 of a mile wide at it’s widest.
First stop was at #5, here are a couple of shots of it as well as of a couple of for rent boats that are waiting slightly better weather before being rented.
We almost stopped for lunch on a log right near these boats but Neil convinced us to trek the 1/4 of a mile or so to #4 hoping for a better view. Here is the view from the south end of #4.
We stopped for lunch at the little beach you can just see sticking out from the right side of the lake…lunch was some turkey wraps we made up this morning. While we were eating a duck landed out in the middle of the lake…he kept diving and swimming underwater along the bottom looking for food and pretty soon was within 20 or 30 yards of us. We grabbed some pictures but weren’t able to identify it as a female non breeding Barrow’s Golden Eye until we got home and looked it up in Petersons. We’re at the very south and east end of this species range and the key to figuring out what it was (as opposed to a Common Golden Eye) is the double white splotch on the wings where as the Common has a single patch. As we were taking photos she took off and ended up on lake #3 awhile later; Neil left the last picture in even though the bird is out of focus because it really shows off the motion as she flew off after running a half dozen steps across the water to get up to speed.
We packed up an headed about 150 yards or so across a small ridge to the southern end of #3.
then trudged up the right side of it to the other end and grabbed another shot looking back to get #3 an #4; the latter is the small section at the far end; we lunched just around to the left on #4.
From about the same spot as the last one above we could see #2 which turned out to be the worst of the bunch…it is almost dried up and has very little color in it.
However, as we were heading on toward #1 we did spot a hawk. We think it’s a Swainson’s Hawk but couldn’t decide for sure and weren’t able to get the super telephoto bird lens out of the backpack in time. Sorry about the lousy photo but it’s the best he could do.
After rounding #2 we headed downhill and then found the narrow land bridge between it and #1; then turned north up the east side off #1. This is the largest of the 5 lakes but unfortunately has the most obstructed views with trees right down to the edge and very few overlooks where you could get shots. Neil did get a couple of shots by hiking across rocks to the very edge of the lake and we grabbed a few through the trees to show off the beautiful aqua colors.
Along the way we spotted some nice blue flowers so Connie grabbed a shot; and we also found a piece of elk spine and pelvis…based on the size this is probably from a calf about a year old we guessed as opposed to being from a newborn calf. It was picked pretty clean so despite the pretty fresh bear poop we also found along the trail probably is a week or two old anyway rather then being a fresh kill.
We also had the worst drizzle of the entire hike while going along side #1 but since the trail was well covered in the woods actually didn’t get too wet. After getting to the north end of the lake we retraced our steps to the junction of #1 an #2, grabbed a nice view looking north of the length of #1
and then we hiked up and over the two ridges between the lakes and the car…we were getting pretty tired by this time. We got back to the car, changed out of our hiking boots and headed into Jasper…where we got a beer at the Brewing Company and used their internet to get mail and upload yesterday’s blog post. A really good hike of about 4 to 5 miles…the views would have been a little better if it was sunny but we were pretty satisfied with it anyway.
Neil forgot he took a short video of lake #1, he found it later so I’ve posted it on youtube…you can see it here.
After that we headed home and had some chicken and rice with sauce for dinner. Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy all day…so I think we’re going to go to Mass (we found a church in town so we don’t have to drive 45 miles over to Hinton like we thought we were going to have to)…and then do laundry as our hamper is getting pretty full.