The Matterhorn of the Rockies

A few wisps of cloud drift around Mt Assiniboine, and some welcome blue sky after a soggy hike in.

Day two of our backpacking trip into the core area of Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park. We were so glad of the blue sky to cheer us up after the soggy end to the previous day. About half-way through the day, a big thunderstorm caught up with us and pelted us with cold hail. That wasn’t so bad, really, and we were below treeline at the point the thunder and lightning trundled past. But later, as we tired of the ups and downs through the Golden Valley and Valley of the Rocks, the rain returned to sap our remaining spirits. We reached the campground at Og Lake near sunset, at which point the showers turned into a downpour. Og Lake has no shelter of any kind, so we stood around in the pouring rain, miserably eating our rehydrated meals, questioning the sanity of our choice of summer vacation. We were so ready to crawl into our sleeping bags that night.

The next morning was quiet, and we even had a bit of sunshine as we packed up and moved on to the campground at Lake Magog. The rain would return later, but at least we’d managed to pack away a dry tent. And now, at least, we had access to a cook shelter to stay dry.

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Mouse

Cute little mouse munching on foamflower seeds.

Our first day on the Cape Scott trail, and we came to a sign board that pointed to a side trail in order to explore a former settlement. A few metres along the trail something caught my eye and I looked down to see a tiny mouse perched in a foamflower plant, feasting on the seeds of this diminutive flower. I expected the mouse to run away as soon as we approached, but it stayed put, being quite intent on its food. I bent down to get a closer look and it still didn’t move! Even then I thought that by the time I’d got out the camera, it would have disappeared, so we carried on to look at the old settlement.

We found no trace of the farm buildings that used to be here, and headed back to rejoin the main trail. As we neared the junction, I spotted more mice in the flowers, perhaps 4 or 5 in total. A couple did dart off into the grass, but the rest stayed. I had the camera ready at this point and crouched down to get a closer shot. The mouse still didn’t move, and I was able to take a handful of photos (hoping that one would be sharp, given the low light and unstable position I was in). I stood up and moved on; the mouse still didn’t move! I nudged the tip of its tail with my hiking pole (never with a bare finger – those things can bite, and they can carry some nasty diseases), and it still didn’t move! Only after some prolonged prodding did it scurry off, but only to the next flower to resume its feeding.

As ever, it was good that I took multiple shots as only one of them was sharp enough to use; crouching down with a full overnight backpack while trying to focus on a subject the size of a ping-pong ball is not the most stable platform!

Otters

A trio of otters swimming around Stanley Park.

Everyone loves otters. They’re so cute. Except they’re not really. But everyone still likes seeing them.

I’ve seen a few around Vancouver, and remember watching one devour a fish near Kits Point. I was struck by the crunching noises as it chomped its way through that fish. But my sightings had always been single otters – until this day back in 2011 when we saw these three swimming along the seawall in Stanley Park, heading towards Vancouver harbour. We first caught sight of them rolling and playing in the kelp beds near Brockton Point, but as soon as they spotted us they took off and started swimming. I was a bit slow getting the camera on them, and this photo is more distant than it should have been (it’s heavily cropped for the Instagram version). We watched them for a minute or two until they were too far away.

Multnomah Falls

Finally got to see Multnomah Falls in person! The standard photo of the falls just doesn’t come close to capturing the scale and relative heights of the two drops, and besides, you’ve all seen that view before, so I’m posting a close up of the base of the upper falls, which drop 165 m off a cliff into this little pool. Soft focus courtesy of the copious spray from the waterfall 🙂

We spent the weekend in Portland, and I was delighted to find that the Columbia River Gorge was only a half-hour drive out of the city. Even better, Multnomah Falls was one of the first falls along the gorge, and was accessible from the road. Yay! As ever, it was far better to see them in person than just rely on photographs. Almost every photo I’ve seen fails to capture the waterfall in any meaningful way. Of course, that didn’t mean that I avoided the tourist shot as it still looks impressive, especially when you haven’t seen the falls before. But as a photo that captures the feel of the falls it didn’t work for me which is why I went for this more intimate shot of the water near the base of the upper falls, snatched between clouds of spray (though the lens still ended up covered).

Snowline

It’s back…. Finally looks like winter has arrived in the North Shore mountains.

While out on an errand last Friday, I stopped at the corner of Broadway and Granville to grab this view of Crown Mountain with its first coat of snow of this winter. It’s late this year – we had a very mild October, and November hasn’t exactly been cold. Until now, at least. Now the temperature has dropped enough for the rain to fall as snow on the North Shore, which has led to the closure of the Lynn Headwaters backcountry trails and the Grouse Grind for the season. Time to think about snowshoeing again! Hopefully, the crowds won’t be as ridiculous as last year (which put us off going anywhere near the North Shore mountains all winter).

National bird

I, for one, welcome our new feathered overlords. One is cute, but 6 starts to feel like you’re being ganged up on…

The grey jay or whisky jack has recently been appointed Canada’s national bird by the Canadian Geographic Society, though apparently the common loon was the popular choice. The whisky jack is resident throughout the country in all territories and provinces, which is a pretty good qualification for a national bird.

We encountered the famous grey jays/whisky jacks on our first backcountry hike in BC to Elfin Lakes. I was amazed at how bold these birds were and, like many people, marvelled at how they would come to your hand. Over the years I’ve come to realize that while they are cute, they are in fact a nuisance and are so used to being fed by people that they will steal from your hand, even if you’re about to eat.

And, as one of the comments says, there’s never just one. If I remember correctly, at the time this photo was taken (Nov 2008) there were 4 of them on the lookout for a handout, but we have had as many as 6 stand guard over us…

Photogenic fungi

A photogenic pair of fly agaric mushrooms in early morning light.

Another photo from 2011 and part of my “Once Around the Sun” project. I’d seen this pair of fungi a couple of days earlier and ear-marked them as one of my daily photos. I also could see that they were well-placed to catch morning sunshine, and as luck would have it, not two days later we had a sunny morning. I took myself, camera, polarizer (to cut reflections), and tripod to this street corner and set up my shots. I took my time and went home with a few different angles. But I liked this one best with just the right mix of light and dark, depth-of-field, and colour.