Nature Notes

Vol. VI July 16th, 1928 Summer Season No. 2


Been reading O. O. McIntyre's "New York Day by Day". Spent a half day on the Skyline Trail yesterday. Wondered if Mac would see as much there as he does along Broadway.

Mac reads the interesting little stories behind the commonplace incidents of the life of a great city. I tried to read the stories along the commonplace mountain trail and soon found it far from a commonplace.

July, but still early spring at timberline. A warm sun. Cool breeze in my face. Patches of snow in the woods. Fields of snow in the open meadows. Everywhere the sound of running water. Snow is melting fast. And as soon as the ground is bare, flowers bloom.

Up through the edge of the forest. Only three trees thrive at this elevation. The tall spire-like alpine fir, one of the balsms. You can tell the balsm by leaning against it. If you stick to it, it is a balsm. Pitch in the bark. The rugged mountain hemlock. Branches run to points. Compare it to the pagoda type of architecture of the far east and the alpine fir to the tall spires of Gothic cathedrals.

Festoons of goat's bear moss on the trees. Similar in appearance to the Spanish moss of the south. Neither are mosses. The goat's bear is a lichen, the Spanish moss a flowering plant.

Both are air plants, merely hang on the trees, take nothing from their hosts. Heather, white rhododendron, mountain ash, dwarf huckelberry, are the under growths here.

At the crest of the ridge. Another patch of snow. Avalanche lilies pushing their way through the edge of the receding drifts. Melting their way, rather, for growing plants generate heat. Here one in full bloom through three inches of snow.

A small pond still covered with snow. Frogs think it is winter and sleep beneath the snow. Mountain ash not yet in leaf, berries are turning red at lower elevations. The season is two months later here.

A bear went over the mountain. He passed this way not long ago. His tracks are fresh in the snow. He was not a large bear, a two year old likely. He was in a hurry, his hind feet over-stepped his front.

A trail again, anemone blooming as soon as they reach the surface, no sign of the leaf as yet, just a flower on the ground. Yellow avalanche lilies and buttercups now and white lilies beyond. Birds of a feather flock together.

Deer seem quite abundant. The trail intersects the trail of a large deer, a buck no doubt. Farther on another deer trail crosses the snow patches. No question here, there are two deer and one is a fawn so the other is the mother. Back a way there were the tracks of a coyote. Dangerous place of fawns but if there is only one coyote he will not take a chance with a doe and fawn. The fawn would be welcome but the doe has sharp hoofs and knows how to use them. Coyote will be content if he catches a grouse or even a few ground squirrels.

Notice how the trees grown in groups here on the high exposed ridge. There is one that attempted to grow in the open meadow. The top is broken and the tree crushed by the snow. A single tree has no chance but there is safety in numbers. A dense clump of trees can stand against the wind and snow. Those in the center will grown tall and spire-like, those at the edges will remain dwarfed and gnarled. They have sacrificed their chance of success for the good of the others. There are men who would do that. Men who do.

Faraway Rock. It is a thousand feet down to the deep blue of Lake Louise. The trail switches back along the ride. This is a perfect flower garden. For a mile or more on the southern hillside the trail is banked with lupine, valarian, Indian paint-brush, basket grass, mountain phlox, helebore, polemonium, foxglove, mountain ash, columbine, dock, asters, lilies, mertensis, heathers, arnicas, speedwells, huckelberies, marigolds, buttercups--it would take too long to name them all. And just over the ridge on the other slope the snow is still ten feet deep in places.

Reflection Lake, mosquoitos and fishermen. Who got the first bite, the mosquitos or the fishermen? Ouch! I did.

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