Fireweed fluff

Fireweed fluff: a close up view of the seeds from fireweed (aka rosebay willowherb). It was amazing to see how tightly packed and perfectly arranged they were inside the pod.

Another shot from my daily-photo project of 5 years ago. Fireweed is a remarkably pretty flower, yet it often gets overlooked on account of it lining clearcuts and logging roads. Somehow it picks up that association of the downside of improved backcountry access – at least for me and a few of my hiking friends. Of course it doesn’t just grow in the backcountry; I found a patch on Marine Drive heading up to UBC and earmarked it to photograph in full bloom. That didn’t happen, and so I stopped on my way up that hill one morning to admire the seeds as the fluff was beginning to disperse. As I poked one of the pods with my finger, it burst open and the seeds in the photo above began to float away. I was stunned by the intricacy of the seeds that lay within – it was really quite beautiful to see, and I spent quite a few minutes just admiring them. I’ve tried poking fireweed pods several times since then but none have popped open in this way. It really must have been absolutely on the verge of opening.

Brothers Creek

The lower cascade of the twin falls on Brothers Creek, one of my favourite North Shore hikes. It’s a pity the upper cascade is so difficult to capture as it’s about twice as high – this drop is only about 7 or 8 metres, but that’s plenty good enough for waterfall Wednesday 🙂

I’ve come to realize that the most difficult part of photographing waterfalls is capturing the size and scale. Sometimes there are obvious indicators – especially for big waterfalls – and sometimes the absence of scale lends greater stature to the tiniest of cascades. The difficulty lies in between. And so I was taken aback again at how large the upper falls were behind this drop, and also foiled again in my attempts to even begin to capture it. Hence, one more shot of the lower falls.

However, it’s not the shot I used to be able to get. A couple of years ago, a big windstorm blew over a substantial number of trees in this area, in the process making it much more difficult to get close to the falls. On a damp day there was no chance I was going to risk picking my way over a bunch of slippery logs on a steep slope. I think I’ll just make do with the view from up by the trail.

Evening light

The clouds begin to clear as the sun goes down. Time to get cozy! But not with a campfire, especially in sensitive alpine areas, and even more especially when there’s a perfectly comfortable hut only 50 m away. If you haven’t guessed, I’m not a fan of backcountry campfires as they’re not in keeping with the principles of “Leave No Trace”. And besides – you can’t see the stars if you’re dazzled by such a bright light! Bring extra clothes instead 🙂

I’ll spare you my usual rant about campfires in the alpine and just direct your attention to the gorgeous evening light hitting the clouds above Mt Matier and Joffre Peak. Well, I would if this photo even came close to doing the scene justice. Despite the advances in camera and processing technology, it’s still hard to capture the full range of light in a single shot.

Moments later the light had gone and the chill descended, at which point we settled in to the hut for dinner and conversation with our fellow hikers.

Flow

Glaciers flowing off the flanks of Mt Matier

Another photo from our hike up to Vantage Peak. The juxtaposition of the mountains, glaciers, and the Twin One valley was beyond awesome. Definitely one of the best views we’ve experienced hiking in this part of BC.

Who goes there?

Who goes there? Bear! Prelude to probably the best bear encounter we’ve had. It was quite something to be stopped on the road and have a mother bear wander back and forth between the cars to find tastier berries.

I don’t know how long we were stopped for, but it felt like an age as we sat in the car and watched this mother bear and her three cubs feeding by the roadside. Traffic was at a complete standstill, and the road was completely blocked by cars (including a tour bus); people had just stopped in the road to watch. It was a mesmerizing experience, but I worry about the cubs in situations like this as they are likely to grow up thinking that cars stop for them.

Eventually a gap opened up in front of us and we moved on to Maligne Lake for our boat tour (see the previous entry).

Becalmed

Beautiful reflections in Maligne Lake

We’ve taken the boat tour on Maligne Lake a couple of times now and I still think it’s worth doing, despite the cost. The highlight is getting to see the famous Spirit Island that adorns the majority of the RVs touring the mountain parks. As we neared this point, the pilot slowed right down and swung the boat round in a big lazy arc so as not to create a wake and disturb this near-perfect reflection. Definitely a big “wow” moment!

Bear crossing

Why did the bear cross the road? Probably to escape the camera-wielding tourists…

Yet another photo from our 2011 visit to the Rockies. We spotted this bear along the road between Jasper and Pyramid Lake, and of course had to pause long enough to get a photo or two. While it looks like the bear is crossing the road, it’s actually walking through an empty parking lot so there was a good distance between us. It looked our way for a few seconds before taking off into the forest.

Cloudscape

Now that’s what I call a cloud!

I just happened to step out onto our balcony at the right time to be greeted by this enormous cloud. I grabbed one of our cameras, only to realize the lens wasn’t wide enough, so I went back in to get the camera with the ultra-wide angle lens. Even then it only just fitted in the frame.

Emeralds and fossils

Mount Burgess rises high over Emerald Lake. The Burgess Shale is somewhere along the ridge on the left – well worth taking the guided hike to visit!

Emerald Lake is one of those tourist hotspots in the Rockies. Getting a space in the parking lot is the first challenge. Trying not to trip over hordes of shambling tourists is the next. Then there’s getting a photograph that’s not full of said tourists. I was fortunate enough to find a spot where no one was in front of me at a time when there were no canoeists to disturb the lake to get this classic view of Mt Burgess rising up over the lake.

It’s hard to believe that the world-famous (at least to biologists and other fans of the natural world) Burgess Shale fossil beds are so close. We’d been on a guided hike offered by Parks Canada just a few days earlier that visited the quarry where Charles Walcott discovered the strange fossils. I don’t have many bucket-list items, but that was definitely one of them! I really enjoyed the day, and I could have spent hours sifting through the rocks looking for fossils. It made me realize just how much effort it took to find and excavate fossils!

It’s a hard life

It’s a tough life at 2000 m – yellowing needles on a tiny lodgepole pine on the way to Vantage Peak.

Picking our way back down through the rocks and shrubs after summiting Vantage Peak, I was struck by this little pine tree eking out its existence between some rocks. I particularly liked how it made a nice little counterpoint to the enormous glaciated mountain in the background. Normally these trees have deep green needles but I’m guessing that up here at 2000 m, the soil has less water and fewer nutrients to keep those needles green. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate just how tough these plants have to be to survive in these high mountain environments, and that we as hikers/scramblers/mountaineers can only ever be transient guests.