Sixteen of us, plus the requisite dog, braved wintry conditions on Saturday, November 16, as we hiked through several inches of fresh snow up Stemwinder Mountain near Hedley. Starting at km. 4, and enjoying intermittent sunshine, we proceeded west along a trail in the snowy wilderness, where we came across a couple of crumbling, wooden structures, likely cabins from decades past.
Once we reached Pickard Creek we turned northward and followed its course, climbing under and over fallen aspen trees. The density of vegetation surrounding the creek creates a wetland microclimate, as it provides a thick canopy cover for fungi, leaf lichens, mosses and ferns – quite a contrast to the dry, southern slopes where cacti are found in the heat of the summer. Eventually we veered eastward, and as we climbed constantly in the deepening snow, a few flakes began to fall.
By the time we reached our southern viewpoint, at approximately 1,300 metres, we were engulfed in fog Undeterred, we enjoyed our photo opps, and then continued with our hike, now happily descending. Our two girl scouts, Linda and Margaret, had left us partway through the hike and returned to our campsite to relax and start a fire, a much appreciated gesture by the rest of us. When we all came rambling down the final slope, the wood fire was most welcoming
Lunch and camaraderie followed, as did the snow and fog, but we lingered and shared an array of enticing food.
In due course we doused our fire, tidied up, and headed for home once again – ‘til next time.
Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists’ next field trip will be held December 7, when Mary Masiel and John Henry will take us snowshoeing at China Ridge. This site may change, depending on snow conditions, so be sure to confirm at 295-7154. Our next meeting will not be until January 14, and we will convey more info regarding it closer to the date.