Emerald Basin – Yoho National Park

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Emerald Basin

The National Parks opened on June 1, 2020 after their closure from the Covid-19 pandemic.  I was SO excited to get back out on the trails again.  From the moment the trip was planned, through the pre-trip preparation and looking at trail reports and maps, to preparing snacks and packing the bag, I was brimming with anticipation and so eager to hit the trail!

The trail summary is shown in a nutshell on the left for quick reference, and a more detailled description and photos follow below.

We arrived at the parking lot at 10am, knowing that it was a shorter day, and were surprised to find only 3 other cars there!   Normally on a sunny weekday in June we would have had to park down the street and walk to the lake.  Silver linings, I suppose.

As we reached the lake I took some loooong deep breaths, truly appreciating the heady scent of forest after a long rainfall.  I wasn't the only one who appreciated it, judging by the abundance of flora to the side of the trail!  We spotted Calypso Orchids (right) and Glacier Lillies (above) in abundance!

The first part of the trail winds around the shores of Emerald Lake to the back where the delta flows in, and from there we branched off the trail and up into the trees.  The heavy rainfalls were in evidence and there were sections of the trail here that were flowing with reasonably fast moving water (photo below, left)!  I'm sure most of that has gone by now.


From the back of the lake, our trail wound up through the trees, briefly teasing views into a canyon creek from time to time, until we came up to a bench in an old growth forest of cedar.  I adore the sensation of awe and humility I get when I step into an old growth forest.  I instantly feel that the air around me becomes more still, the ambient forest noises are somehow quieter, and my attention is drawn to the trunks reaching far up into the sky and to the mossy forest floor, calmly rooting them in place.

Whilst this grove is not as ancient nor as large as the beautiful Douglas Fir grove on Vancouver Island, the sensations are the same.  We spent a few minutes here, quietly enjoying the forest.

On the other side of the grove we came out into the first avalanche slide path, filled with yellow Glacier Lillies and abundant new shoots.  There was a small amount of snow left on the trail, but after conferring and determining risk acceptance, we carefully moseyed on and managed to stay on top of the snow without post holing!

At the far side of the avalanche path the trail has been eroded away by runoff.  It joined a very vocal creek which is fed from the glaciers that were just coming into view.  The final part of the trail took a bit of route finding, and we kept an eye out for cairns showing the way.  By now we were up in the alpine, and the elements were getting a little more fierce.  So, we found a sheltered place on the moraine to have lunch and admire the view before retracing our steps and heading home.

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