Thursday, 12 February 2009

Hiking Trails - Tonquin Valley - Day 4

[1-Ramparts and Amethyst Lakes]

This is a continuation of the post from last week where the hike stopped at the Amethyst Lakes campground.

While taking in the beauty of the pristine wilderness of the Tonquin Valley it is important to remember this is home to grizzly bears. Grizzlies tend to be grumpy and will bluff charge hikers if they get too close. Hikers should be in groups and make lots of noise on the trail to avoid surprise encounters. It is recommended to maintain a distance of 100 metres from bears and a minimum of 30 metres from other wildlife species.

[2-Grizzly bear track in Tonquin Valley]

The Tonquin Valley is used by woodland caribou in early June for calving (in side valleys), for feeding all summer and for the rut in October. There is controlled access for hikers to avoid confrontations with the caribou and the bears.

[3-Grizzly sow with cub - click to enlarge]

Other nasty residents to be wary of are the biting insects. To avoid the bears and the blood suckers is to visit later in the season in autumn. During the summer insect repellant and a mesh bug hat and jacket are necessary items to keep comfortable.

[4- Woodland Caribou in Tonquin Valley - click to enlarge]

The Woodland Caribou are considered an endangered species in Canada.

[5- Cotton Grass in Tonquin Valley]

Amethyst Lakes have Rainbow and Brook Trout for fishing enthusiasts.

[6- Lower end of Amethyst Lake with fish fins - click to enlarge]

There is winter access for skiers; however, it is strongly advised to have maps and good route finding skills to follow Portal Creek and the open areas of the valley floor. There are no signs advising the route. Avalanche training is required. Please visit here for information.

[7- Amethyst Lake and Ramparts]

[8-Outlet of Amethyst Lake forming Astoria River - click to enlarge]

At the outlet of the Amethyst Lakes follow the trail to the 1.5km mark downstream on the Astoria River where there is a bridge. This is a good place to refill the water bottles before going on to the Surprise Point Campground.

[9-Crossing Astoria River near Amethyst Lake]

[10-Astoria River in Tonquin Valley]

[11-South end of Tonquin Valley toward Surprise Point campground - click to enlarge]

[12-West over marshy area in Tonquin Valley]

After crossing a very wet meadow, probably teeming with mosquitos...

[13-Hiker in Tonquin Valley] the 2 km point is the Surprise Point campground. This is considered the most popular campground in the Tonquin Valley, but it is in an exposed location. Surprise Point has four tenting sites with tent pads, bear poles with cables and a privy.

[14-Unnamed lake at Surprise Point campground - click to enlarge]

Source: ParksCanada

Photo Credits: [1][5][6][7][8][10][12][13]-brilang CC=nc-sa-flickr, [2][11]-drpritch CC=nc-sa-flickr, [3]-kiwehowin CC=nc-sa-flickr, [4]-Feffef CC=nc-sa-flickr. [9]-priya biswas CC-nc-flickr.


Teresa said...

These are such gorgeous pictures, Barbara. I love the pictures of the bears and the caribou. I did not realize caribou are now endangered.

Barbara Martin said...

Teresa, the woodland caribou are in serious trouble in the Canadian Rockies where they feed off lichen often found only in the old forests. Outside the national parks the forests are being destroyed through lumber companies competing with one another. Of the herds in Jasper National Park there are only about 100 individuals remaining. I commented on this aspect in part 2 or day 2 of this series of posting.

ParksCanada are in conflict with animal protection agencies over last winter's snow plowing the road to Miette Hot Springs where there a herd of the woodland caribou had made a 'yard'. A 'yard' is an area in deep snow where the caribou have trampled the snow down to a managable depth the dig the snow away from the lichen on the ground. The problem with plowing the road to Miette Hot Springs: it allowed several packs of wolves access to the herd which were killed. If ParksCanada can close the hiking trails to Tonquin Valley to help the Woodland Caribou calve, then they can close Miette Hot Springs in the winter to save the caribou.

J. L. Krueger said...

Fantastac shots as usual. Niche and specialized species are usually the hardest hit by environmental and habitat changes. They usually cannot adapt fast enough, so it takes a little more effort and thought on our part to preserve them.

RuneE said...

Another area where one could stay forever with a camera - if one stayed away from those bears? We have a few bears in Norway, but no grizzlies and they are not in thei area.

PS Thank you for the nice comments while I have been "away"!

Reader Wil said...

Thanks for the terrific hike along the lakes. I hope the caribou can be saved. Too many forests are being destroyed all over the world. In Australia by fire, in Indonesia by lumber companies and in your country as well. This is a very good post Barbara!

Philip said...

Great post Barbara

You have such beautiful parks I have never seen one of these Bears before only in pictures and videos never in the flesh I would love to one day.

Barbara Martin said...

J.L., it seems there are people who have not discovered the connection we have with the environment, the animals and ourselves. If the environment and animal habitats are declining then humans will not be far behind.

Barbara Martin said...

RuneE, as I mentioned autumn is a good time (September). Also, after one night of frost the bugs are gone too! I recommend using an outfitter for the first trip in as they know the area and what places to avoid, i.e. bear encounters. ParksCanada has a list of outfitters on their website.

Barbara Martin said...

Wil, I find it sad and perplexing that there are people, who in their greed, cannot see the long-term benefits of keeping the forests intact: ridding the planet of air pollution and providing oxygen. Humans need to do serious housecleaning of their industries by using environment friendly products.

Barbara Martin said...

Philip, I have seen black bears close up in childhood while in the relative safety of a car. Grizzlies I saw were at the game farm Al Oeming ran in Alberta during the 1960s. Beautiful place.

While working for Alberta Environment (many years ago) I heard about the close encounter a few colleagues had with the Swan Hills Grizzly. They were tagging and putting electronic tracking collars on tranquilized bears when one woke up too soon. The bear had them trapped on top of the bear cage. However, they were rescued via use of a radio transmitter and the quick thinking of the team leader's use of the helicopter: buzzing off the bear.

The Swan Hills Grizzlies are slightly smaller than the Silvertip Grizzlies in the Rockies, but dangerous when provoked or angry.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I was looking forward to these pictures of the secret area by the Ramparts! Glorious! There does look to be an enchanting feel to the place.

When you talk about gauze bug hats - does the gauze come down over the face like a bee-keeper's hat, Barbara? I made myself something like that using an old net curtain - I get most peculiar looks when I wear it, but it is very effective when painting outdoors!

David Cranmer said...

I may ask you to send me some money, so that I can visit all these wonderful places you tease me with.

Barbara Martin said...

Raph, perhaps the valley is located on one of those magnetic whey lines--like the metaphysical grid I mentioned to you. The place has an excellent vibration to it (now visitors are going to think I'm completely nuts, but I haven't posted about this area of quantum physics yet).

Yeppers, the gauze bug hats are very similar to a bee-keeper's hat. Very good idea to wear one in other parts of Canada too, to protect oneself against contracting West Nile virus from mosquitos.

David, my money is so tight it squeaks. Maybe when I make some money off my fantasy stories I can run a contest as a promotional gimick.

David Cranmer said...

Ok. I will be first in line:)

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

The more you show me of this area, the more I fall in love with it Barbara. You are so lucky to still have these wide open spaces. SA is so small there are very few of them left unfortunatley.

Barbara Martin said...

Joan, I need to return to living out west just to be closer to the mountains. From here I need to travel by road is approximately 3,750 km one-way to Jasper, though I would prefer to take the train.