Just incredible! This is how the water actually looked as it reached the bottom of Marble Canyon. I have never seen such a deep slate blue color in a stream. A perfect place to sit down for a picnic lunch and stare at the rich colors of Tokumm Creek.
Lodgepole pines are the first trees to grow after a devastating fire in the Canadaian Rockies. In fact, the seeds from the lodge pole pines are only released under the scorching temperatures of a forest fire. Fire is therefore a necessary element in the cycle of life for the lodge poles.
However, unlike Yellowstone National Park in the U.S. where the predominate tree is the lodgepole, in the Canadian Rockies other trees such as the Engelmann Spruce and the Subalpine Fir also take root. These later two species will only sprout once the lodgepoles grow to a sufficient heigth to provide ample shade. Just now, 35 years after the last devastating fire, are the little spruce and fir saplings showing themselves.
It was a bit melancholy visiting the beautiful creek and falls of Marble Canyon. The day before we arrived in western Canada, a local family apparently went out into the mountains that they loved for a family excursion. At Marble Canyon a freak windstorm hit while the family was at the top of the canyon. Two young sisters age 5 and 8 were killed instantly when a tree toppled onto them. Their paramedica father tried to do what he could, but the injuries were too severe. Life can be very unfair. In a park where all sorts of people take crazy chances with wild animals and stray off of trails and survive--two little girls who were simply at the wrong spot at the wrong time lost their lives. I felt sort of bad enjoying the beautiful canyon just days after the tragedy, but I read in the local paper that memorials for the girls were to be used for a bench in the canyon to commemorate their lives. We cannot let tragedy stop us from enjoying nature, but we can remember to enjoy each day to it's fullest.
I have no idea what this remaining ice flow was thinking. All it's friends had sense enough to melt into the creek by mid-summer. But this last tenacious ice flow was hanging on, betting that it can survive in its dark, dank recess until the chill weather of winter once again comes round.
Every once in a while, when hiking in the mountains, you will come across a stray boulder or two. They obviously were chucked off the mountainside some time ago. It is interesting to check the tree lines back up the mountainside to see if it was a relatively fresh chuck. If there is a line of trees smaller in height relative to the surrounding forest, you can be reasonably sure that the boulder came tumbling down recently (at least according to geologic times). One can only imagine the sound and fury that would be caused by a several ton boulder such as this rolling thousands of feet, decimating everything in its path until finding it's final resting spot.
I'd just as soon stare down a grizzly bear as peer over the edge of a precipice--especially if said precipice is 140 feet above a rock strewn cavern with a thundering waterfall booming down the impossibly high chute. Basically, I stuck my new expensive camera over the edge, closed my eyes and clicked the button to take the shot. The entire time I had the feeling that either I would go plummeting into the falls or I would lose my grip on the camera and $1000 would go plummeting down the falls. We both came through unscathed and lived to phtograph another day.
This is it. The big falls at the top of the canyon. Roaring water deafens the area and a fine mist slickens the the rocky trails. I almost took a mighty spill and succeeded in wrenching my back catching my footing, but no lasting damage.
I love how the camera was able to freeze an instant of time from this continually gushing wall of water.
To get to the Paint Pots the Vermilion River must be crossed which provides an excellant opportunity to scan the horizon and take in the breathtaking scenery. A rushing river, pine forseted hillsides and glacier pocked mountains on the distance. Very nice.
From Becky's travel journal: "Paint Pots, ok. Basically a flat walk to ochre-colored muddy area. Crossed a bouncy suspension bridge to get there."
She's right, of course. Just big yellow mud puddles. For a kick, try scooping some up and painting yourself ochre. I did, but just on my socks.
When Kootenay became a National Park in 1920--the superintendent shut down the ochre mining as being incompatable with the National Park mission. Apparently, the ochre miners just left their mining tools behind, because here the mining detritus sits in all its rusted glory. Judging by the tools--it appears that ochre mining was back-breaking work.
We followed the trail only a short way to stretch our legs after a long day in the car. If you follow the trail long enough you will reach Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park which is unusual because the park can only be accessed by foot or by helicopter.
It is an interesting walk through a recently burned forest. There were fires in Mount Shanks area in 1991, 1994 and 2002. Flames can flare fifty meters into the sky during a burn. But new life returns to the area immediately. These woods just brimmed with wildflowers.
Since Kootenay just has the one road, you must retrace your route or face an extra hundred miles by taking Highway 95 up to Yoho. That would be a fine option, but we had already seen Yoho a few days previous. So we went back the way we came, which isn't all that bad. By the time we reached Vermilion Crossing and were heading back to Banff the sky had once again clouded over, giving a totally new look to the peaks of Kootenay.
Just inside the park boundary, across the continental divide from Banff, there is an insightful interpretive trail regarding the 1968 fire. In all 6100 acres of mountainside burned in eastern Kootenay and western Banff parks. Today it is easy to see both the charred remains of the old growth trees and the new growth lodgepoles which have now reached heights of 30-40 feet.
Just five or so miles within the northwest entrance to Kootenay is the trailhead for Stanley Glacier. Unfortunately, we did not have the time to make the 10 km round trip hike to the base of Stanley Glacier since we wanted to make it to the Hot Springs exit and back to our basecamp within the day. However, it is reputed to be the best dayhike in the park. Judging from the small view we got of the glacier and the valley from the trailhead, I bet that it is a very fine hike.