Forest flowers

Think forest hikes have nothing to see? I beg to differ, at least at this time of year! Here’s a selection of flowers seen along the trail to Norvan Falls from a couple of weeks ago: columbine, clasping twistedstalk, bunchberry, wild ginger, false lily-of-the-valley, and the bloom of the tulip poplar (which isn’t native to BC but it’s still one of my favourite trees).

Last Wednesday’s post was about Norvan Falls itself. This week, it’s about the many flowers we saw along the way – a surprising number to be honest.

  1. Plenty of western (red) columbine, also known as the rainflower – seeing so many of these was the first surprise of the hike.
  2. Clasping twistedstalk – the second surprise was finding so many of these flowers, well-hidden below their leaves. I hadn’t really looked closely at them before so it was lovely to discover the delicate little bells and to see the kinked stalk that gives the flower its name.
  3. Bunchberry – so we’ve seen plenty of this by now, but I can’t resist continuing my search for the perfect bunchberry flower to photograph!
  4. Wild ginger – this was the third surprise, finding wild ginger which I’d never seen along this trail before.
  5. False lily of the valley – lots of these in bloom, the hard part was knowing which patch to photograph. I decided on this one with a kilometre marker post as a background. We saw another photographer sizing up a big patch on our way back – I was almost tempted to wait and get the same patch as they were nicely lit, but maybe I’ll save that for another day.
  6. Tulip poplar – OK so this wasn’t seen on the hike but near the community centre a few blocks from our apartment. We fell in love with tulip poplars when we lived in Maryland. Our first autumn there we drove out to Shenandoah National Park to see the colourful foliage and were struck by the tunnels of bright yellow created by these trees. And then the following spring we saw the first of their tulip-like flowers and we were hooked. It’s a nice reminder of our time on the east coast.
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Unexpectedly sunny

Yesterday’s wander around Lighthouse Park was unexpectedly sunny and cheery. It’s always nice to be reminded of just how big the trees are, and to enjoy the views from the rocks. No marine life sightings but plenty of bird life including the eagle in the third photo. Find of the day was some harvest brodiaea blooming in the dry grass at Point Atkinson. A couple of hours well spent!

  1. It took me many visits to discover this angle on the lighthouse, but now it’s one of my favourite things to do in the park. And it’s not just the lighthouse; the rocks in the foreground have great colour and shape, even looking like miniature fjords, as if we’re viewing a 3-d relief model. I suppose I have Instagram to thank for encouraging me to seek out this view as I kept seeing others’ photos in my scrolling adventures. Now I just have to spend an evening at this spot to catch the warm light of golden hour.
  2. That tree! For years I assumed this beautifully-shaped tree was a pine – after all, the Latin name for the lodgepole (aka shore) pine is Pinus contorta – but a few visits ago I looked a little closer (which is tricky on account of it being on the edge of a cliff) and found that it was a stubborn little western hemlock. I’ve taken many photos of it over our numerous visits to the park but rarely have I been happy with the result. I’m happy to say that has changed with today’s photo, and I really like this one.
  3. Eagle in a tree, perched at the very top. It was a real treat to get a clear view of it, and a good test of the replacement 55-200 mm lens for our SLRs. What a relief to get well-focused photos again! In a way having a non-functioning telephoto lens for a few months was a useful experiment as it taught me that I do in fact enjoy having access to that extra reach. Even with this lens, though, I still had to crop the photo significantly to create this image.
  4. I was recently reminded of the fact that we’d seen this flower on one of our first ever visits to Lighthouse Park back in June 2005. On that day, the camera totally failed to focus on the flowers; I must have held the camera a little too close. Having seen some photos of this flower on Instagram I was inspired to go look for it again. And yet, as we wandered the trails on the western side of the park, I’d actually forgotten what drew me to the park in the first place, and it was only when Maria pointed out these lovely purple flowers that I even remembered! I guess I was feeling relaxed… Anyway, of course I set about taking as many photos as possible, but in the end couldn’t beat the simplest view of the first flower we found.

Norvan Falls

Norvan Falls on waterfall Wednesday. Not the most spectacular waterfall or hike, but every hike has its season and for Norvan Falls, that’s pretty much now with so much fresh spring growth and a good dose of forest flowers for company. The giant logjam is new since I was last there in 2015. I couldn’t resist including the yellow stream violet seeing as it’s also wildflower Wednesday – it was the only one still blooming!

Getting good photos of Norvan Falls is tricky. There’s often not much water flowing and on a weekend it gets busy so getting a hiker-free view is rare. However, on today’s visit (well, last Saturday’s in reality) I did manage to position myself to get clear views of the falls, either with no one in front of me or mostly hidden by other features.

  1. The falls drop about 10 m into a small pool – since they’re long and thin it’s hard to get them into a square crop, but somehow I managed!
  2. Further downstream the steep sides of the gorge can be seen – it looks quite idyllic from here, and this is the best angle on the area with a few nice boulders in the foreground.
  3. Behind me in the previous photo is this enormous logjam. I’m pretty sure this did not come over the falls, but there’s a drainage/debris chute off to the left that I’ve never explored that I suspect is a more likely source of it. The fallen Douglas fir trunks make for a colourful foreground.
  4. A tiny splash of colour, a yellow stream violet, one of only a few that were still blooming. All of the others along the trail had dropped their petals already. I’m pleasantly surprised how the phone camera focused perfectly on the flower.

Streaming

Streaming sunlight, streaming crows at tonight’s sunset.

I had ventured outside to photograph the rays of light shining up in front of the cloud when I noticed the crows flying east to roost for the night. Hoping I’d capture a large group of them flying over I snapped a handful of photos. Despite missing the largest groups, I was happy to see one photo in which the perspective of the crows’ flight seemed to mirror the crepuscular rays from the setting sun. Obviously, I would have preferred more crows (and it is a little hard to see them in the Instagram-sized version of the picture) but the effect is still there, at least to my eyes. Maybe that’s because I took it, and I knew what I was looking at?

Either way, even if you ignore the crows, it was still a spectacular sunset.

Lynn Peak

Nice day to hike up to Lynn Peak. Busier than expected, trail is still as awful as ever, but the forest flowers are beginning to bloom and looked great in the sunshine.

Lynn Peak was Plan B: we wanted a hike with some elevation gain, but didn’t feel like driving very far or getting sunburn in the snow. Our original idea was to hike up to Norvan Falls but that felt like it would take too much time (being about 15 km in length). However, Lynn Peak is always longer than I remember so in the end I think we took a very similar amount of time…!

  1. The view from the Lynn Peak lookout isn’t the best on the North Shore, but it’s nice enough on a sunny day. Downtown Vancouver is mostly hidden so it’s a good thing that Mt Baker was shining brightly to the south-east to give us something pretty to admire. The cliff bands break up the monotonous green on the long flanks of Mt Seymour to lend some interest to an otherwise dull foreground.
  2. The trail up to Lynn Peak is mostly like this: rubble. It’s not fun hiking, which is why I’m so surprised we saw as many people as we did. Thinking about how most people find out about their hikes these days, I should be less surprised as I doubt many of the people we met had read a trail description or hiked it before… Still, I know the trail well enough these days that I can tune out the worst of it and enjoy the sections through the remaining delightful old-growth forest.
  3. Horned tree stump. In a previous photo I called this a “viking tree” but I’ve since learned that vikings didn’t have horned helmets. I’ve renamed it the metal tree \m/. RIP Ronnie James.
  4. Even on crummy trails there’s usually something of interest along the way. This patch of mushrooms caught my eye as we walked back down, nestled in the hollow of a decaying tree. It was great to see them looking so fresh as we’d seen a different patch earlier that were more dried out.
  5. I drove Maria nuts taking photos of coralroot last year so I had to let her continue hiking while I stopped to try and capture them today 🙂 They’re definitely tricky to photograph, though I was pleased to capture this one in the sunshine moments before the sun moved round to the next patch. I expect they’ll start flowering proper this week.
  6. I just couldn’t resist another bunchberry photo, especially as the florets were just starting to develop. It’s been fun watching the various dogwoods flower this year.
  7. The trickster on the search for handouts at the lookout. I waited for the raven to tilt its head before I took the photo to try and catch the sunlight glinting in its eye and I was delighted to capture it at the right time as it tilted its head again a second later. Someone was feeding it bits of a Nanaimo bar, and I can do no more than just shake my head. Of all the foods to offer wildlife, highly processed sugary food is the very worst. I’d disapprove if they were handing out nuts; to feed it a sweet dessert is just asinine. Alas, in a crowd of indifferent onlookers it’s difficult to speak up. I think I did make a partial point though as they left when the feeder was congratulating himself on making a “connection” with the raven. I joked that if he had food then he had a connection. He laughed it off but I think it made the point. Will they do different next time? I doubt it.
  8. Just as we reached the trailhead again I spotted the tall green stems of rein orchids among the giant leaves of skunk cabbage in a marshy area. To my surprise the camera on the phone focused beautifully on the flowers of the orchid, and I’m really pleased with this photo. It was a delight to see these flowers again, and to be able to photograph them without being set upon my countless mosquitoes…!

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon of hiking.

Phone Friday VI

It’s Friday, and this week my phone Friday is also a floral Friday with a selection of blooms seen over the past week. We have Japanese dogwood, salal, cottonwood leaf and seed pods, thimbleberry, false Solomon’s seal, western starflower, and a lovely lemon-yellow coralroot.

I picked only 8 photos this week though I could have posted many more!

  1. I’ve been fascinated by the Japanese dogwood ever since I saw the flowers sticking up a few weeks ago (and were featured in last week’s Phone Friday). Just today I noticed that one bloom had turned white and had the same red tips as last week’s bunchberry, and I felt compelled to capture it! I’m enjoying seeing the different dogwoods bloom – the Pacific dogwood is mostly done (though we saw one in bloom near Squamish last weekend) while the bunchberry (dwarf dogwood) is reaching its peak.
  2. A few steps further down the block from the Japanese dogwood, I found a nice patch of salal flowers lit up by the late afternoon sun. I like the way the flowers line a stalk and how there’s a progression in opening along that line. That, and they look so cute and fuzzy!
  3. It’s cottonwood season, and their scent is filling the air. I really love the shape of the leaves, as well as the colour when they first emerge, being tinged a yellowy-green with hints of copper. In the autumn these leaves turn a lovely yellow, especially in the mountains near Whistler, illuminating the paths of rivers, creeks, and logging roads.
  4. Not only their scent but their downy cotton seeds are also filling the air, collecting in great drifts along the edges of paths. I’ve seen the seed pods after they’ve already opened, looking like furry sticks, but this is the first time I’ve seen the pods closed up. Thinking they’d be ready to pop and release their seeds, I gently squeezed a couple. But they didn’t yield at all, and I left them to it.
  5. Thimbleberry is in full bloom at the roadside right now, all the way up the Sea to Sky highway to Squamish and beyond. This patch was at the start of our hike to Crooked Falls (shown in Wednesday’s post) and is but a tiny fraction of the extent of flowering bushes right now. In a few weeks, they’ll start turning into lovely red berries: one of the tastiest berries I’ve ever eaten was a thimbleberry, but, alas, that may have been a one-off as I’ve never been able to find any since that tasted so good. Still, they’re nice flowers.
  6. A collection of miniature starbursts, false Solomon’s seal is a common woodland flower at this time of year. It’s not my favourite, but that doesn’t mean I won’t take its picture! It has an even starrier-looking cousin called star-flowered Solomon’s seal, though that’s not so common.
  7. Speaking of stars, the trail between Shannon Falls and the Sea-to-Sky gondola has some impressive patches of starflower in bloom right now. I couldn’t decide between a close-up or a wider view to show just how many flowers there were, but in the end I felt that the close-up shot would work better for Instagram. I really like these little flowers; they’re just so delicate and it’s hard to believe they can survive attached to such tiny, slender stems.
  8. I’ve saved my favourite for last. On our way up to Sea to Summit trail last weekend I was stopped in my tracks by a small patch of pure yellow coralroot. I’ve seen some flowers that are yellow and pink, but never one that was 100 per cent yellow. It’s always difficult to get coralroot in focus (as I mentioned last year) and I always take a number of photos in the hope that at least one is sharp. This is the best of the bunch from the weekend, but it’s still not as good as it could be and isn’t that sharp when viewed at 100%. However, it fits the criteria of “good enough for Instagram!” which is why it’s included. I would love to go back and photograph it again this weekend but I suspect we’ll be off somewhere different.

That’s all for this week but I’m sure I’ll have plenty to share again next Friday 🙂

Waterfall Season

Waterfall season is well and truly here! Hiked up the Sea to Summit trail on Saturday and to Crooked Falls the next day to enjoy the cool refreshing spray of these spectacular waterfalls. We could feel the thundering water with our feet… Crooked Falls has certainly become a very popular place!

We hadn’t planned on doing two waterfall hikes back-to-back, but as we headed up the beginning of the trail to both the Chief and Sea to Summit trail, we soon realized that the vast majority of people had the Chief as their destination. The decision to opt for the quieter Sea to Summit trail was a no-brainer, and it turned out to be an inspired choice. Not only was the trail peaceful and quiet, but the water in Shannon Creek was roaring over the many sets of falls, cascades, and rapids. Even before we reached the falls, we could sense the deep rumbling of the water, and felt invigorated by the cool oxygenated air. Coupled with the first signs of a multitude of forest flowers, it was the perfect hike for an overcast day, and made our summit beer all the more enjoyable despite the briefest of views of the Sky Pilot peaks.

Sunday’s plan was always Crooked Falls though we almost changed our minds. In the end we were very glad we stuck with our original idea and enjoyed another lovely forest walk, again dotted with a variety of flowers and dominated by a thundering, soaking waterfall in full flow. The biggest surprise was the number of people: it seems that the Instagram effect has reached Sigurd Creek, and I was even moved to ask a few groups how they’d found out about the hike. Remarkably, only one mentioned Instagram.

Anyway, onto the photos.

  1. The first is a general view of what we believe to be Upper Shannon Falls. It’s hard to say exactly which one is the upper falls as there are several along a short stretch of the creek. At first I was disappointed that I couldn’t get a clear shot, but the green of the forest is so beautiful and the zig-zag of the creek still clearly visible that I actually ended up really liking this photo. As usual, the full effect is lacking on account of the square crop but the essence is there.
  2. These falls might be the true upper falls, and are the ones most easily visible from the trail, being blessed with two good vantage points. I took so long taking photos and video that a queue of photographers had formed behind me (of course I couldn’t hear anything as the water was too loud). Apparently one even made a joke about pushing me in to get me out of the way…
  3. Shannon Falls looking as magnificent as ever. While I’ve seen greater flow, I must admit this was still impressive today and I had to take advantage of the lack of crowds to get a clear photo of the falls.
  4. A face-on view of Crooked Falls, I endured a complete drenching to get this photo. Thank goodness for quick-dry clothing! It was definitely a good test of the water-resistance of my Pixel 2, as well as a good test of the non-water-resistance of our RX100II. Both survived, and I could barely see through my glasses by the time I was done. Needless to say, there weren’t many people lining up behind me to get such a clear view of the falls today…
  5. I believe Crooked Falls is named for the way it zigs and zags. Despite the intimidating view, it feels quite safe to get this view looking downstream over the cliff. On my previous visit, I had an ultrawide lens on our SLR and was able to capture this view and most of the falls in a single photo. On that particular day (back in 2014), I don’t think we saw more than half-a-dozen hikers in total.
  6. There’s a third vantage point of Crooked Falls, and I can’t decide whether it feels safe or not. Getting down into the “crook” (if you will) of the falls here requires descending a steep, slippery path, and I’m always aware that a mis-step could propel me over the edge into the waterfall. But many people make it here quite safely, and it is worth it for this unique angle. This photo shows off the capability of the Pixel 2 camera to simultaneously capture deep shadows and bright highlights: the sky is blue and the clouds have structure! I have to admit, I’m still enjoying using the camera on this phone.