Saturday, January 21, 2017

CR2016: Lake McArthur and Schäffer Lake

The view from our cabin at Lake O'Hara on July 25th, capped by a hazy sky.
After breakfast our hiking pigs were ready to go.
Our destination was Lake McArthur, via the Big Larches route. This is much more scenic than the trail that goes up from the Elizabeth Parker Hut.
The Big Larches trail works its way through the woods until shortly after Mary Lake, when it skirts the edges of a big rockfall zone under Mount Schäffer.
Often hoary marmots and pikas can be seen here, and after some initial frustration, we did.
This pika kept playing hide-and-seek with us.
Then another marmot showed up.
The Big Larches trail has several uphill stretches, some with stone steps, some not.
Big Larches then passes by the trail to All Souls Prospect, and joins the alternate trail at Schäffer Lake.
We heard pip-pip sounds and located their source, a spotted sandpiper foraging in the shallow water. With this memorable shorebird the male takes the lead in raising the young. 
At Schäffer we also saw some Clark's nutcrackers.

Rather than take the meadow trail, as a change-up Joan and I continued on the higher trail, which at first is like a staircase.
Here the trail is approaching the split between the high level and low level routes.
Another young marmot! Today is a good wildlife day.
The high level trail hugs the steep mountainside.
Another pika sighting! As always, we have our binoculars handy. Now which is cuter, a pika of any age, or a young marmot?
The first of two points in the route that require stepping up.
Here we're approaching the second step.
Soon the trail switched back and Joan and I were climbing through sparse woods.
A small meadow and the last bluff before reaching the lip of the lake basin. In this grassy zone there were several diggings where grizzlies had been clawing ground squirrels out of their dens.

The lake is set back against the walls of an old cirque. There was yet a small walk to get closer.
Near Lake McArthur is an area full of hillocks and rocky slabs, good places to sit and to eat.
A frozen remnant of the ancestral glacier hangs on below Mt. Biddle. The edge reveals layers as if cut by a knife -- click on the image to enlarge.
This wider panorama gives a better view of the ramparts on both sides of the cirque.
We could have returned the way we came,
but we left by the low level trail, making a loop. After wandering through a meadow the low level plunges down into the valley ... and then back up again!
Another marmot visited us.
Arriving back at Schäffer Lake, we saw three baby spotted sandpipers. By now our flower count included moss campion and twisted loosestrife.
Joan and I then decided to go partway up the trail to All Souls Prospect, perhaps to the first bench to offer a good view. We huffed and puffed uphill past white, yellow, and pink heather, and passed a group of women coming back down. Then we arrived at a bench, not really the one we had in mind, but we had fun exploring it nonetheless.
On our return to the foot of All Souls we met the group of women again, who were taking a break. They were members of the Shuswap Lady Striders of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, about 200 miles west of Lake O'Hara. The conversation turned to the upcoming election in the U.S., and by the end, they were offering us a place to stay in Salmon Arm.

Joan and I continued our return along the Big Larches route, and then the Lady Striders caught up to us and passed us. Several commented that this was the first time they had been the passer rather than the passed!

Although the weather had been overcast and unsettled, it was another excellent day at Lake O'Hara.