Autumn to Winter

October 13, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I have been heading up to the Forbidden Plateau area of Strathcona Park photographing the fall colors over a period of several weeks. During the last week in September, the color were showing up nicely and a week later in October a lot of the green grass in the meadows have turned to a rich diverse color of pink, red, and yellow.

October is still a popular time for people to visit because of autumn so I go early in the morning to photograph when there is no one around. During late morning on a couple of visits, there have been large groups of small kids on field trips. They, however, don't travel far in the backcountry. As a matter of fact, most people only go as far as Lake Helen Mackenzie or Battleship Lake. However, one does not need to go far to see the nice colors since the meadows are the best place to observe the colorful landscape and they are not far from the parking lot. Further away, the meadows are not extensive however there are a lot of blueberry bushes in which their leaves have changed from green to yellow and red. There are still lots of blueberries on some bushes but they appear to be over-ripe and don't taste all that good.

Due to all the rain in October, it has been a waiting game in picking the day with the least wind and rain. One thing you can't rely on is the weather reports; 4 websites give different reports and they are all sometimes inaccurate. The mornings have been quite chilly and in some cases there have been frost on the boardwalks which makes walking slippery especially when the surface slants due to the uneven ground. It takes about an hour of hiking to warm up nicely but when I stop for lunch it gets quite chilly and uncomfortable. The trails are very muddy and getting by them is a challenge.

There are lots of bird activity around such as the Stellar Jay and Grey Jay; each having a distinct vocalization. The grey jay or whiskey jack always drop by looking for handouts but they get none from me. Sometimes the squirrel comes close by and always seems to be tearing apart a pine cone to get at the nuts inside. I always come across piles of torn up cones here and there in the forest.

The days had gotten colder to the point where it had snowed over the weekend on Oct 2nd. I can see the snow on the webcams. I decided to do one more trip up to the subalpine on Oct 11th and get an early start in the dark. Well, I left at 6:30 am but a slow moving vehicle on the way up slowed me down. The road higher up looked pretty slick in the morning since the temperature was -1*C. When I arrived at the parking lot, there was two cars there. I wore my longjohns and down vest under my jacket and with my mitts on I felt comfortable. The fall colors were not as visible since the frosted grass and bushes made them appear white so I was glad that I had already taken photos of the meadows during my last visit. I made my way along the frosted and slippery boardwalk to the junction and headed up in the forest towards Battleship Lake. The air felt warmer in the forest although the temperature was still cold enough to freeze the ground therefore the mud patches was easier to walk through. There wasn't much to photograph along the way because of all the frosted vegetation which hid the colors. I made my way along Battleship Lake and up to Lady Lake. This is where the path became challenging; all the water from the half-melted snow had collected on the pathway and it had froze so it was very slippery. The ice was quite thin in places and enough to be treacherous. In some places the water hadn't froze over so there was a stream flowing down the trail. I should have brought my hiking poles but instead I carried my camera and tripod in my hand which made it easier than digging it out of my pack everytime I wanted to photograph. There was surprisingly blueberries still hanging on some bushes and some berries were big although most were small. This late in the year, they are quite overripe and break apart easily but since they were frozen it was easier to pick and eat. I enjoyed the last of the berries.

I made my way down to Murray Meadows then took the turnoff to Panther Lake but only went a short distance in. The sun was very bright and still fairly hot at this time of year. If it wasn't for the cold wind, it would be nice but still I had taken off my jacket and worn my down vest and I felt comfortable. There was a footbridge which spanned a small creek but it broke in half and part of it was slanted and half sunk into the creek. Normally, if it was dry, there would be no problems stepping on it but there was a layer of snow. I searched for a narrow part of the creek and jumped across to the other side.

Since I always get chilled by drinking the cold filtered water, I brought my stove and heated up some water then dumped it in my water bottle. I also boiled more water for a cup of coffee which warmed me up.

Most of the ice on the trail has melted on my way back but there were still some areas under shade which were slippery and I almost slipped twice. I find walking downhill more treacherous as it is more difficult to control the descent and an icy path makes things worse. The trails in the Forbidden Plateau were the worst that I've seen them; so much mud and water pools that people try to avoid them by walking along the edges and even into the bush which creates more erosion.

I was very disappointed at the fall colors once the frost had melted. The colors looked faded and unappealing and a lot of leaves had blown off the bushes. That first snowfall of the year seemed to have spoiled it and so did the wind storm.

A foggy day near the end of September where the meadows are turning colors.

Early morning on a foggy day

The meadows on a dark cloudy day

Early morning on the way to the Battleship Lake turnoff

A huge cumulous cloud provides a nice backdrop for the colorful meadows.

Sunlight filtering into the forest but not enough to melt the frozen snow.

Ice covered trail

Croteau Lake & snow-covered Mt. Albert Edward in the distance.

Frost & snow-covered Murray Meadows below. Castlecraig Mtn beyond.


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