Monday, October 15, 2012

Autumn in the Lake O'hara Region

From the Opabin Plateau looking out towards Cathedral Mountain

  There are few times of year I enjoy spending in the Canadian Rockies more than fall.  There are few places in the Canadian Rockies I enjoy more than the Lake O’hara region.  You can imagine how I felt when the plans fell into place for an early autumn trip to Yoho National Park earlier this September. 


 Lake O’hara’s access point can be found just between Field, BC and Lake Louise, Alberta, with a clearly marked turnoff from the Trans Canada Highway.   Nestled along the Continental Divide, it is a neighbour to other iconic Rockies destinations like Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.   The access road leads to a parking lot, where you may wait for your bus if you have reservations, or begin the long walk in if you don’t.
Yukness Ledges looking over Lake O'Hara
 
There is limited choice of accommodation within the Lake O’hara  area, and for that reason, a trip to the area can require some careful planning.  Options include the luxuriously rustic Lake O’hara Lodge, two backcountry cabins operated by the Alpine Club of Canada (the Elizabeth Parker and Abbott’s Huts) and  a campground.
 
Although accommodations may be in short supply, and high demand – there are no shortage of trails. Leading you to a variety of destinations, including a multitude of peaks, prospects, lakes, streams, forests and meadows, a nature enthusiast or photographer will find no shortage of interesting subjects.
During my visit, I didn’t think it was any coincidence that of the sixteen people in the Elizabeth Parker Hut, more than 80% supported themselves through photography.  Great minds think alike as they say.  We chose this particular time to go, because I feel there is no time more desirable for landscape photography in the rockies, than in autumn, and obviously more than a few other photographers felt the same way about this time of year.  
Lake O'hara Lodge Cabins on the water

   Fall in the rockies gives a couple guarantees to the nature photographer; larches will be yellow, (among the only trees of a sizeable population that change colors), lakes will be thawed (unlike the springtime), there almost always will be a lovely fresh dusting of snow on the more elevated peaks, couple that with blue skies when you get them, dotted with small puffy clouds and you have the makings of some beautiful mountain scenery.
Overlooking Lake O'hara 

 My recommendation to anyone visiting Lake O’hara for the first time would include a walk along the shore of the lake, visiting Seven Veils Falls, and up to Lake Oesa while passing Lake Victoria along the way. From there, a trip connecting Lake Opabin along the Yukness Ledges alpine route makes an excellent addition, complete with expansive vistas from above the treeline.  Anyone still not worn out by that trek, should head up to the All Soul’s Route and back down to one of the largest lakes in the area; Lake McArthur. It is probably my favourite of all the lakes in the area, although you usually only pass one other lake, Schaeffer, en route.  Whereas, making any of the other lakes your destination (like Oesa or Opabin), guarantees you to pass at least several others.
From the Opabin Prospect showing Mary Lake left of Lake O'hara

Lake O’hara is a beautiful and unique backcountry location in Yoho National Park.   It is a very fragile alpine ecosystem which demands respect in order to preserve its pristine beauty for generations to come.
Also my first opportunity to photograph a wild owl

(if any of these image's links are broken, please don't hesitate to let me know! It's something that happens from time to time)

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