Not this again

Watching the sun set into the haze from forest fires – this is starting to feel like an annual photoshoot :-\ The photos were taken at 7:51, 7:53, 7:55, 7:56, 7:57, and 7:58 pm on August 14th (actual sunset time was 8:30 pm). I edited them to keep the background about the same level to show how much the sun dimmed as it set.

I didn’t set out to create a sequence, but I could see that the sun was sinking quickly into the haze and decided to keep taking photos until it disappeared. Given the low light levels (and the fact that I was shooting hand-held), my expectations for sharp photos were low. But, to my surprise, I had at least one good shot for each “phase” of the sunset, and thought that I might as well see what I could do.

As I processed the photos, I wondered if I could keep the background at the same level from shot to shot, thus emphasizing how much the sun was dimming as it set. It was easy for the first few and a little trickier for the rest, and even though it’s not perfect (the backgrounds aren’t quite the same across all 6 photos), the effect I wanted to show is clear, and striking. I’ve gone back and forth with these photos quite a few times, just to watch it again.

Looking back I still can’t believe that only 7 minutes elapsed between the first and last photo. Clearly I’d started taking the photos at exactly the right time to catch this murky sunset – my timing couldn’t have been better!

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Deep in Middle Earth

How long do you have to wait for a Thursday to be a throwback? Is two weeks good enough? If so then here’s a reflection of Mt Aragorn in a lake from a couple of weeks ago.

We’ve wanted to get into the Phelix Creek valley for so many years and we were delighted to make it at last, albeit at the expense of the paintwork on the car thanks to the plentiful alder and others bushes growing over the road. Although we didn’t scale any of the peaks (with the exception of the unofficially-named Frodo), we enjoyed exploring the area, especially the basin between Gandalf, Aragorn, and Shadowfax with its corresponding trio of lakes. When the breeze dropped, the surrounding peaks were reflected perfectly in the water, the squared-off profile of Aragorn looking especially majestic. (After all, he is the king!) In some ways it all reminded me of the Sierra Nevada mountains with the granite cliffs and lakes. All it needs is a few ponderosa pines to complete the picture.

And that is my 500th post on Instagram! I’ve been using it for 3 years now, and I must admit I’ve enjoyed it way more than I expected when I first started. It did take a while to build up my network of people I follow and follow me in return, but it’s been great fun.

Peak wildflowers

How did it get to be wildflower Wednesday again already? The wildflowers are probably at their peak now and the late bloomers are starting to show up which means that, alas, the flowers will begin winding down soon. On show this week are lance-leaved stonecrop, small-flowered penstemon, the tiniest lupine you’ll ever see, arnica, spreading phlox, sulphur buckwheat, western anemone in its fluffy moptop phase, pink monkeyflower, and fringed grass-of-parnassus. Not shown are the intense red paintbrush, leather-leaved saxifrage, spotted saxifrage, pearly everlasting, purple aster, and partridgefoot among others.

How did it get to be #wildflowerwednesday again already? The wildflowers are probably at their peak now and the late bloomers are starting to show up which means that, alas, the flowers will begin winding down soon. On show this week are lance-leaved stonecrop, small-flowered penstemon, the tiniest lupine you'll ever see, arnica, spreading phlox, sulphur buckwheat, western anemone in its fluffy moptop phase, pink monkeyflower, and fringed grass-of-parnassus. Not shown are the intense red paintbrush, leather-leaved saxifrage, spotted saxifrage, pearly everlasting, purple aster, and partridgefoot among others. #wildflowers #lanceleavedstonecrop #lupine #pinkmonkeyflower #smallfloweredpenstemon #spreadingphlox #sulphurbuckwheat #westernanemone #moptop #arnica #fringedgrassofparnassus #hiking #bchiking #hikebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #backpacking #coastmountains #explorebc

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Another weekend, another backpacking trip, and another chance to catch the wildflower bloom in the high country. The first flush of flowers is done now: anemones have become moptops, while glacier lilies and others are only visible as seed pods. The next wave of favourites is showing up in force with flowers such as pink monkeyflower, broad-leaved willowherb, and fringed grass-of-Parnassus.

  1. Lance-leaved stonecrop in flower – they’re hard to see but this flower takes its name from the tiny pointy leaves at the base.
  2. Small-flowered penstemon – well-named, this little flower is usually only a few inches tall, and often really hard to photograph.
  3. Dwarf lupine – as tiny a flower as you’ll ever see, and so easy to miss; the leaves are not even an inch across!
  4. Arnica – not sure which type, but this little perfect trio in bloom was too good not to photograph.
  5. Spreading phlox – widespread in the dry alpine soil, it was great to find a near-perfect little patch, with a few flowers only just opening up.
  6. Sulphur buckwheat – this was remarkably widespread way up on the ridges above the treeline. We’ve only really seen it in Manning Park before so it was a nice surprise to find it here.
  7. Moptops of course! Who can resist moptops, especially when lit up by the late-afternoon sun?
  8. Pink monkeyflower – common in wet areas, and when they bloom, they really bloom!
  9. Fringed grass-of-Parnassus – one of my favourite late-season flowers (check out the little golf-ball flower buds!), I recently learned of its un-fringed cousin that grows in the UK.

I could spend hours crawling around photographing these and more, even though the bugs were as hungry as we’ve ever known them, especially the horseflies that managed to take a chunk or three out of me! Unfortunately, the flowers and bugs go hand-in-hand; it’s impossible to get one without the other. I suppose I should be grateful for the insects but sometimes…! πŸ™‚

Celebrate

Happy BC Day as Mother Nature celebrates Vancouver Pride weekend πŸ™‚ Another awesome weekend in the mountains, another round of itchy bug bites!

Recently I’ve been using photos from my phone for my Instagram posts, but this shot simply could not have been taken with that. Instead I needed a long(ish) telephoto lens to capture this partial rainbow and associated rain in front of the distant mountains. It was hard to believe just how intense the colours were in this rainbow, and I’m not convinced my processing has truly captured how it appeared to our eyes.

This photo was taken from the summit of Gotcha Peak near Blowdown Pass, an area I first visited back in 2007. On that occasion our group ventured in the opposite direction up towards Gott Peak, and I was struck by the incredible views once up on the ridge. In all directions lay nothing but mountains; a sea of mountains, each dip and peak like the outline of a wave, wave upon wave receding to the far horizon. I’ve found capturing that effect to be surprisingly hard as the resulting photo often ends up looking flat, but this one really works for me as the changing light throughout the image provides some much-needed depth. Definitely one of my favourite photos from the weekend!

Flowers, flowers, flowers

Wildflower Wednesday Part 1: a selection of flowers from our trip to the Southern Chilcotins. Glacier lily, paintbrush, moptops, Menzies larkspur, western anemone in flower, white bog orchid, white paintbrush in the snow/hail, columbine, Columbia lily, and a double feature of pink monkeyflower and broad-leaved willowherb. Good times!

Wildflower Wednesday Part 2: flowers from our trip to Phelix Creek. White and pink heather, kalmia (bog laurel), spreading phlox, alpine marsh marigold, a meadow of arctic lupine, rein orchid, alpine mitrewort, wood betony (bracted lousewort), one-sided wintergreen, and the find of the year, glaucous gentian. We only found two of these flowers, about 40 metres apart. To this day I do not know how we managed to spot these among all the heather and other greenery!

Wildflower Wednesday Part 2: flowers from our trip to Phelix Creek. White and pink heather, kalmia (bog laurel), spreading phlox, alpine marsh marigold, a meadow of arctic lupine, rein orchid, alpine mitrewort, wood betony (bracted lousewort), one-sided wintergreen, and the find of the year, glaucous gentian. We only found two of these flowers, about 40 metres apart. To this day I do not know how we managed to spot these among all the heather and other greenery! #wildflowerwednesday #wildflowers #phelixcreek #whiteheather #pinkheather #woodbetony #bractedlousewort #onesidedwintergreen #phlox #spreadingphlox #glaucousgentian #reinorchid #alpinemitrewort #arcticlupine #alpinemarshmarigold #kalmia #explorebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #coastmountains

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What can I say? We saw lots of flowers on our two backpacking trips – it was wonderful! And these are just some of the species that I photographed with my phone; we took many more with our other cameras. I was pleased to be able to find enough flowers on the second trip that I hadn’t photographed on the first too, even though there was a fair bit of overlap (as you might expect). Not much else to add, really; I think the IDs in the text above are in the right order. If not I’ll edit them later πŸ™‚

Exploration

The South Chilcotin Mountains provincial park is absolutely stunning and one of the best backpacking areas I’ve ever visited. I cannot wait to plan more trips there! But it’s not a place for beginners – do not venture into this area without significant planning and experience. Most of the park has no facilities so you must be self-sufficient and practice your best leave no trace skills.

So many photos to choose from, I picked this one of Harris Ridge with the Dickson Range as backdrop to get me started. Wow!

“Wow” doesn’t even begin to describe how it felt to explore this small part of the Southern Chilcotins. It felt vast, endless, remote, and yet approachable, unlike many of the more jagged mountain ranges and deep valleys of the Coast Mountains. Our five days here was some of the most enjoyable backcountry time we’ve had in a while, probably since Cape Scott in 2016.

And that was despite the mosquitoes (which were horrendous in one valley, merely annoying elsewhere), getting caught in a hailstorm with thunder and lightning, and getting rained out on our last couple of days which had us cut our trip short by a day. The hiking was excellent, the trails were easy going (for the most part), and the flowers were endless. So many flowers!! The meadows were just filled with every type of flower imaginable, including a few new ones for us that we’ve yet to identify. I can’t wait to go back!

I was surprised by the complete lack of facilities at any of the suggested camping areas: I think I expected we would encounter campgrounds, or at least established camping spots. In reality we had to make it up ourselves, and use our backcountry knowledge and experience to decide on good places to camp. We ensured we ate about 100 m from our tent, and hung our food (our Ursacks were invaluable) a similar distance away.

One of the highlights was seeing a grizzly bear wandering through a meadow as we ate breakfast. At only 200 m away, it felt awfully close, especially as our bear spray was 100 m closer to the bear than we were! But we soon learned that the bears want nothing to do with people as the sound of a mountain biker’s voice startled the bear into running for tree cover.

The hike up to Harris Ridge (seen in the photo) was definitely the best day of exploration, following the high ridge to its end with views that covered all the valleys we’d hiked through to get to where we were at that moment. Plus we could see nothing but mountain range upon mountain range in every direction. So much to explore, so little time…

A quick trudge up the BCMC trail

Nothing exciting this week – just a quick trudge up the BCMC trail as a training hike for our upcoming backpacking trip(s). Not much to look at either except trail markers, rocks and roots, and other hikers’ miserable faces (seriously, most of the people we encountered looked like they’d far rather be somewhere else). Nothing puts me more into cheery greetings mode than fed-up-looking hikers πŸ™‚ More seriously, some were struggling with the heat, while others had problems with the grade (which seemed to be exacerbated by poor footwear). The only people who looked like they were enjoying the day had good footwear… Coincidence?

Nothing exciting this week – just a quick trudge up the BCMC trail as a training hike for our upcoming backpacking trip(s). Not much to look at either except trail markers, rocks and roots, and other hikers' miserable faces (seriously, most of the people we encountered looked like they'd far rather be somewhere else). Nothing puts me more into cheery greetings mode than fed-up-looking hikers πŸ™‚ More seriously, some were struggling with the heat, while others had problems with the grade (which seemed to be exacerbated by poor footwear). The only people who looked like they were enjoying the day had good footwear… Coincidence? #bcmctrail #grousemountain #grousemountainregionalpark #hiking #bchiking #hikebc #northvancouver #northshoremountains #explorebc

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This is kind of a photo-journal of the BCMC trail, all taken with my phone (I didn’t touch the “real” camera once).

  1. The trail peels away from the Grouse Grind almost immediately soon and begins fairly innocuously, at least by North Shore standards. It’s following the Baden-Powell trail, and is wide with nice steps where needed.
  2. A clearly-marked junction points us up the slope for the BCMC trail, which soon turns to a sea of rubble. Seriously, without careful attention it’s almost impossible to detect a trail here. The saving grace for this trail is the suite of well-placed trail markers, orange diamonds nailed to the trees. You can’t go wrong if you follow these.
  3. Higher up it gets worse, deteriorating into a mess of roots and indistinct steps. In many areas, bypass trails have been formed by people either avoiding the roots or simply not appreciating that’s where the trail actually goes!
  4. Like historical artefacts, there are occasional signs that there was once a proper trail here. This nice little section of almost-buried steps still visible.
  5. Up to now, the forest has been largely barren, desolate second-growth. Thankfully the forest gradually begins to change with elevation and signs of pleasant greenery and younger growth start to show, especially on a nice sunny day.
  6. Higher still, we reach areas that were perhaps only gently logged and as such still have some original understory, such as these Queen’s cup flowers in a patch of sunlight.
  7. Here and there fallen trees have been cleared by chainsaw-wielding crews who seem to have a liking for carving faces in the the cut sections. (The best example of this was the Brothers Creek trail back in 2016.)
  8. Nearly there: the trail joins the line of a trio of pipelines, presumably carrying waste water down the slope to be treated. This is about the first section of trail that feels flat!
  9. First stop at the top is to buy download passes (now a pricey $15 per person). Second is the washroom; third is the cafe for refreshment. Then it’s time to join the line of tourists to enjoy the 10-minute descent back to the parking lot.

It’s not a great hike by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a good enough workout to make it worth squeezing in to a day where you don’t have the time to go further. Mind you, we reached the top and still felt fresh enough to continue. I think it’s about time we revisited Goat and/or Crown Mountain!