My happy place

OK so yesterday’s flowers were pretty nice, but nothing beats a meadow full of glacier lilies! Truly, my happy place 🙂

Much as I love seeing all those other flowers, there is one in particular that I get a little giddy over. Yes, it’s the humble glacier lily. I was hoping that there would be a remnant snow patch or two in the higher elevation meadows that would be ripe for a glacier lily bloom. Sure enough, there was one little snow patch that had a handful in bloom, but my eye was drawn to a bigger patch of yellow in a more distant meadow. There was something about the particular shade of yellow that had me thinking I was not just seeing more arnica. We tiptoed our way around the flowers to get to a well-placed rock at one end of the meadow where we could see without doubt that this was a great big patch of glacier lilies in peak bloom. Yay!

I had found my happy place.

Wildflowers galore!

Wildflowers galore on the way up to Mt Outram. Best viewed from the trail, of course.

As we plodded our way up the steep trail to Mt Outram, we met a hiker on her descent who exclaimed that the flower display awaiting us was possibly the best she’d ever seen. When we broke out of the trees onto the open slopes, we could barely believe our eyes. The meadows were absolutely filled with all manner of flowers; the blues, reds, and yellows of lupine, paintbrush, and arnica making for a truly eye-catching view. I think every colour of the rainbow was well represented.

It’s always a little difficult to capture such rich displays. Either the flowers end up looking like little dots, and there’s nothing to draw you into the photo, or a small number of flowers becomes the focus, and some of the grandeur and extent of the meadows is lost. But this one seems to strike the right balance, especially with the distant mountains lending a bit of depth and providing a level horizon to emphasize the steep slope.

Unbuffered output to stdout from Python programs

I recently had cause to debug a Python program that extracts data from a remote (MySQL) database and stores in a local SQLite database. I did the usual thing of inserting print statements to check a handful of variables at different stages of the process, but it wasn’t helping because the program would stay obstinately quiet until the end and then print all the information at once.

Wait, but why? Then I remembered that the info being written to stdout was buffered, so that I was only seeing the messages once the buffer had been filled. That’s all well and good, and perfectly efficient and all, but it was getting in the way of my debugging.

The solution I found was to configure stdout in the Python code to be unbuffered. Thanks to this helpful blog entry at Turnkey Linux, I added the following line to the start of my program (plus the required imports):

sys.stdout = os.fdopen(sys.stdout.fileno(), 'w', 0)

Bingo! No more waiting for my print statements to show up. Cue happy dance. Now I can get on with solving the actual problem I’m having with the code…

(I tried the other solution mentioned, stdbuf, but either I was using it wrong, or it wasn’t doing what I expected it do to.)

Red sky at night…

Don’t normally post twice in a day, but tonight’s hazy sunset tonight was quite beautiful, albeit for a sad reason thanks to the forest fires in the Cariboo.

I couldn’t resist grabbing the camera and watching the sun dip lower into the haze, watching the exposure time increase from 1/2000 s to 1/250 s. I liked how the vapour trails were lit by the sun, and how the sun is framed between the trees, both of which add some interest and shape to the photo. In processing photos like this, I’m always faced with the challenge of deciding how much to reduce the highlights before it starts to look unnatural and posterization starts to be noticeable. I also added a slight hue shift to make the yellows a little more orange to fit in with the look I wanted for the sun. I think it’s worked OK. I’ve posted another photo on Flickr.

At this time of year, I’m not normally thinking about rain, but I’d be happy if some could fall on the BC Interior to damp down some of the fires.

Misty mountain top

Not much of a view atop Mt Outram yesterday, but the flowers were beyond spectacular. Check out the lovely purple silky phacelia (sky pilot) which was in full bloom throughout this alpine area.

Oh wow. This weekend’s trip up to Mt Outram was nothing short of spectacular. Beautiful forest, superb views, and some of the most extensive and abundant flower meadows I’ve ever seen. Sure, the hike up was every bit as tough as the stats suggest (especially with an overnight pack) but it was worth every step.

Our glorious sunny Saturday gave way to a cloudy and sometime snowy Sunday. We didn’t really have time to make the summit on Saturday, and we believed the weather forecast that predicted sunshine for Sunday. Well it didn’t quite turn out that way, as it rained in the night, and we woke to low cloud shrouding the summits. Not that we cared. We’d come this far, so why not head up to the summit anyway? And we’re glad we did – it was eery and atmospheric up there in the mist. And so what if we missed the panoramic views? We found other things to enjoy, such as all the flowers, and the sheer delight in being up in the mountains.

Definitely a hike to repeat.

(I should point out that the obvious, pale purple flower in the foreground is not silky phacelia – that is the darker purple flower behind – but the well-named skunky Jacob’s ladder, confusingly also known as sky pilot. I thought I caught a hint of something skunky as I was crawling around getting flower photos at the summit!)

Pinesap

It’s pinesap season! I love how these flowers emerge from the ground, uncurling and unfurling as they grow. Saw a few along the Sea to Summit trail at the weekend, and on Mt Gardner the previous weekend, and more on our hike to Mt Harvey a couple of weeks ago. Alice Lake is a great place to see them at this time of year.

Much like coralroot, I was intrigued by these colourful flowers that grew in the shade of the forest. I don’t remember exactly when I first saw one of these flowers, but I could immediately see it was unlike any other flower I’d ever seen. Varying from creamy-yellow to salmon-pink in colour, this tiny flower unfurls directly on the forest floor, starting out as a tiny coloured bump before growing up and straightening out to a full height of about 30 cm. Like coralroot, there’s not a hint of green anywhere. They sometimes grow alone, but more often in small groups, two or three, maybe half-a-dozen. Since then I’ve found a place where it grows in profusion, and the trail becomes one of the slowest half-miles I’ll ever walk 🙂

So keep your eyes open – they’re picky about where they grow, but when they find a place they like, they can spread out and colonize the area.

Camping without campfires

It’s Leave-No-Trace Tuesday and it seems appropriate to talk about campfires since they are banned across BC right now.

I’m firmly of the opinion that camping does not need a campfire. I prefer it because I get to see the night sky, and there are no concerns about anything catching fire or melting from stray sparks, or finding firewood, plus there’s no messy, stinky fire ring which in turn means no scar on the landscape. Also with a campfire, everyone huddles around it looking inwards. Why not sit and look out at the landscape?

So here’s our tent, lit by a headlamp inside and the full moon outside. What you can’t see in this photo is that we had to dodge two (!) fire rings to pitch our tent, despite the fact that campfires are forbidden here.

Strangely, most of the articles and posts I’ve seen about the current campfire ban use pictures of roaring campfires to make the point. I think the various news organizations and public bodies should invest in some alternative stock photos that either show campfires being extinguished or have campers enjoying a campfire-free life! It is possible!

And I’ve finally found a hashtag that no one has used yet: #campingwithoutcampfires Try it 🙂

It's #LeaveNoTraceTuesday and it seems appropriate to talk about campfires since they are banned across BC right now. I'm firmly of the opinion that camping does not need a campfire. I prefer it because I get to see the night sky, and there are no concerns about anything catching fire or melting from stray sparks, or finding firewood, plus there's no messy, stinky fire ring which in turn means no scar on the landscape. Also with a campfire, everyone huddles around it looking inwards. Why not sit and look out at the landscape? So here's our tent, lit by a headlamp inside and the full moon outside. What you can't see in this photo is that we had to dodge two (!) fire rings to pitch our tent, despite the fact that campfires are forbidden here. Strangely, most of the articles and posts I've seen about the current campfire ban use pictures of roaring campfires to make the point. I think the various news organizations and public bodies should invest in some alternative stock photos that either show campfires being extinguished or have campers enjoying a campfire-free life! It is possible! And I've finally found a hashtag that no one has used yet: #campingwithoutcampfires Try it 🙂 #leavenotrace #lnt #ge_rlparks #goldenears #goldenearsprovincialpark #nocampfires #bcparks #explorebc #backpacking #hiking #hikebc #bchiking #beautifulbc #bigagnes #beautifulbritishcolumbia #ifttt

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The obsession with campfires remains one of my biggest pet peeves when in the backcountry. Here in Canada (and probably elsewhere too), camping is intimately linked to having a campfire, be it for cooking, warmth, or as a TV substitute. They’re in all manner of adverts for camping and spending time in the great outdoors. And so it perhaps no great surprise that when people raised on this message venture into the backcountry to camp, they immediately feel some primal need for a campfire.

The thing is that they are completely unnecessary, borderline useless for cooking (I’ve tried), and damage the fragile backcountry environment to an extent that takes decades to restore. A portable gas stove is so much more efficient, and modern setups weigh very little. It’s the damage and mess that bugs me the most, especially when people don’t reuse an existing scar. As I mention above, there were two fire scars right next to where we pitched our tent, barely 2 metres apart. And when a place looks trashed, people are less inclined to take care and not trash it some more.

And so I do my best to leave places as I find them – or better. If I can walk away from a campsite and see no evidence I was there, I’m happy. That includes campfires. In many places we hike, they’re forbidden anyway (although that doesn’t stop people since enforcement is sadly minimal). And despite my fascination with fire as a youth, I never developed the camping-campfire association.

I’ll admit, then, that I find it easy to not bother with campfires. But I look at what I gain from not having one: no mess, no damage, no smell, no risks, and a clear view. A crackling fire is fine in a log cabin; in the backcountry, I want to hear the sounds around me. A fire draws my eye to its flames: without it, I have the entire landscape to admire. A bright fire accentuates the difference between light and dark: the night is rarely as dark as you think. In the backcountry, I accept there may be mosquitoes, and it may be chilly. I have warm clothing, plus bug wipes and a net if necessary.

I am quite happy to camp without a campfire.