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Nature Kamloops is written by members of the Kamloops Naturalist Club, a group dedicated to protection and promotion of the natural environment. Questions and observations about nature in and around Kamloops are welcome. Go online to www.ocis.net/~davids/ or email kamloopsnaturalists @ shaw.ca. Look for answers from club experts in the next Nature Kamloops column.

At the beginning of July, a world-class scenic hike beckons from Wells Gray Provincial Park, just 25 km. north of Clearwater. The Trophy Mountain Alpine Meadows are renowned for their summer wildflower displays, attracting visitors from around the world. Just ask anyone on the trail where they are from!

A little preparation will make this hike a rewarding experience. First, realize that you are going into the sub alpine and plan accordingly. Wear good hiking boots, layered clothing and have raingear, water, snacks and insect repellent in your daypack. I recall one memorable July 1 on the meadows when a hiker came out of the mist. He had been camping overnight at Sheila Lake and woke up to find his tent blanketed in two inches of snow. So, be prepared for anything when hiking at high elevation!

Two indispensable references when venturing into Wells Gray Park are Roland Neave's Exploring Wells Gray Park and Trevor Goward and Cathie Hickson's Nature Wells Gray. These two publications have become the Park Interpreter's "Bibles," and a must for visitors to get maximum enjoyment out of their stay in the park.

It is a good idea to give the Clearwater Visitor Centre a call (250-674-2646) or check the BC Parks website ... http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/ ... before you set out. For example, the recent heavy rains have taken out a culvert on the access road so you might want to wait until July or August to venture up into the Trophies.

Be sure to stop off at the Visitor Centre to see the displays and get updated information on other places to explore in the park.

Turn north at the Visitor Centre in Clearwater and proceed 11.2 km. up the Clearwater Valley Road. Many choose to carpool at this point and proceed with 4X4s or vehicles with extra clearance. Turn right onto the gravel road and follow for 4.1 km. Turn left at the "Trophy Mountain Flower Meadows" sign, then right at 7.7 km from the Clearwater Valley Road. Proceed through a monstrous clearcut to the parking lot.

It is a relatively easy two-hour hike from the parking lot to the meadows through a climax Subalpine Fir and Englemann Spruce forest. Be aware that you will be climbing 300 m to the meadows, so a moderate level of fitness is required. Take your time to enjoy the solitude, interrupted by the quiet of a stream or the eerie call of a Hermit Thrush.

As the trail opens up into the meadows, you will be transfixed by flowers that appear to go on as far as the eye can see. At the end of June and early July yellow Glacier Lilies monopolize the meadow. The second wave of flowering at the end of July and early August shows a profusion of Lupine, Arnica, Paintbrush and Valerian, to name a few. The kaleidoscope of colour reminds one of a Monet painting. Be sure to look back at Raft Peak as you proceed through the meadow to the Sheepherder's Cabin.

The more adventuresome may wish to proceed further above the tree line to the Sheila Lake overlook to observe gnarled trees that have been shaped by the wind, willow "trees" hugging the ground and heathers in profusion. Or, perhaps you will see a Mountain Harebell nestled in a crevice protected from the unforgiving winds, or the exquisite Gentian with an intense blue colour that defies description. Whatever treasures you discover I can guarantee that your experience will be a memorable one.

Contact dwilliams@tru.ca for a selected list of plants you are likely to see on your hike into the Trophy Mountain Meadows. The list is cross-referenced to the "must have" publication, The Plants of Southern Interior BC.

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