Valley of Flowers

'I believe any trip in search of wildlife can be coupled with physical activity and elements of cultural diversity to form a thrilling opportunity '
John H.Eickert

A man in Govind Ghat warned me the valley was haunted! He related how only devout sadhus journeyed into the valley. I was enchanted by the story. Farther along the trail, I met a Sikh on pilgrimage to Hemkund Lake. We walked together. He explained how Hemkund Lake and the Valley of Flowers is a most holy site for Sikh’s. In the Sikh holy book the Granth Sahib, Guru Gobid Singh wrote of the time he spent meditating on the shores of a lake surrounded by seven high peaks. I rested the night in the village of Gangaria and early the next day finished my trek up the steep five-kilometer path to the Valley of Flowers.

I first heard the name of the place while watching the shadows change on the Taj Mahal. I was captivated by the name of the valley and new I would have to find my way there. The trek begins in the village of Govind Ghat, which can be reached along the road from Delhi and through Haridwar then Joshimath. The trek from Govind Ghat to Gangaria is about 15 kilometers.
The Valley of Flowers is not very large, perhaps ten kilometers by two kilometers. The Pushpawati River splits the valley and tumbles over a series of small waterfalls along its course. The best time to visit the area is mid-July to mid-August. As I recall, I was there in mid-August.

The Valley of Flowers lived up to its name. It was alive with blossoms. I met another man, a botanist from Mumbai. He rambled off the names of so many flowers I could barely write them down. He told me the valley contained nearly 300 species of flowering plant including anemones, asters, fritillaries, gentians, geraniums, larkspurs, lilies, orchids, the Himalayan blue poppy, potentillas, primulas ( picture on left) and marigolds. Phew! As I sat and listened to this learned man, butterflies and hummingbirds whizzed by. The valley was alive with micro wildlife. I guessed Himalayan Thar and blue sheep must also use the valley.

This small sheltered area would be ideal for lambing. If there were lambing grounds here, there would also be snow leopards present then. It was a wonderful day. Eventually, evening shadows crept into the valley and it was time to go. I hurried down the steep path and returned to Gangaria. For some reason, I had an uneasy feeling about being there at night.

Today, I am home in Montana. Though only recently returned, I already miss the Himalaya. Winter is upon us here. The wind blows sharp and cold from the north. Crisp, white new snow blankets the land. It will be a very long time until spring. I close my eyes and dream of the Valley of Flowers. I can smell the blooms and hear the buzzings. My senses tingle. Perhaps the old man in Govind Ghat was right. Perhaps the Valley of Flowers is haunted. Make a plan now to visit next year, take the time and take your time. Cheers.

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