A winding path

Day 2 of Hawaii week! A lovely winding path across the cinder with Maunakea in the distance. It’s also Leave No Trace Tuesday and I just want to say please don’t leave your TP behind, especially in areas such as this where there is nowhere to hide anything. Keep a zip-lock bag in your pack for carrying it out.

The route to the summit of Mauna Loa is marked by lava cairns, though, unfortunately, these cairns are interspersed with tiny white blobs of old toilet paper. At this high altitude they will take years to decompose, and in the meantime will remain an eyesore for other hikers. And don’t think that it’s okay just because others have done it! Do your bit to Leave No Trace anyway – it’s worth it 🙂 Mahalo!

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Day 2 of Hawaii week! A lovely winding path across the cinder with Maunakea in the distance. It's also #LeaveNoTraceTuesday and I just want to say please don't leave your TP behind, especially in areas such as this where there is nowhere to hide anything. Keep a zip-lock bag in your pack for carrying it out. The route to the summit of Mauna Loa is marked by lava cairns, though, unfortunately, these cairns are interspersed with tiny white blobs of old toilet paper. At this high altitude they will take years to decompose, and in the meantime will remain an eyesore for other hikers. And don't think that it's okay just because others have done it! Do your bit to #LeaveNoTrace anyway – it's worth it 🙂 Mahalo! #maunaloa #maunakea #hiking #hawaii #hawaiivolcanoesnationalpark #lnt #nps #explorehawaii #hikehawaii #aloha #ifttt

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My impression is that people are so grossed out by all things toilet-based that they simply refuse to think about ways to deal with it. Suggest a zip-lock bag? People react to the fact you can still see into it. Well, how about you wrap the TP in clean TP? Or bring an old chip/crisp-packet and hide it in there first? So easy to deal with. “Yeah, but then I don’t want it in my pack.” Put in an outside (mesh) pocket, or bring an old plastic carrier bag and tie to the outside. Or put it into your take-out coffee cup. Or bring a few dog-poop bags. See? Easy. The hardest part in all of this is planning ahead. And that takes practice. Plus I suspect that behind the reactions of disgust is the fact that people know they did something wrong and are looking for ways to excuse themselves (no pun intended). After all, people don’t like their faults being pointed out to them.

The hike up to Mauna Loa summit has no outhouse, save for a single open-air throne perched precariously over a huge crack in the lava. Cue jokes about the bowels of the Earth…

The White Mountain

I’ve decided this week deserves some photos from Hawaii 🙂 For Mountain Monday I’m starting with a view of Maunakea, its summit dotted with white telescope domes, as seen from the hike up to Mauna Loa.

I didn’t post much on Instagram last week, mostly because I hadn’t taken much recently that I thought was any good. But I had this idea late yesterday to post a week’s worth of photos from various trips to Hawaii as a way to fill in the current gap in my photographic output. I have quite a few photos from the land of aloha taken over the years, so I imagine that this won’t be the last time I have a Hawaii feature week. And it gave me the idea to feature different places I’ve explored too.

Back to the photo. Maria and I had wanted to hike up to the summit of Mauna Loa for years, and we finally got around to tackling it in August 2014. This is the view across the broken lava fields towards its bigger sister, Mauna Kea – the white mountain – which turns out to be the tallest mountain in the world as measured from the sea bed where it begins. The various observatory domes are gleaming white at the summit, and the colour changes from the lush green of the saddle into the yellows and browns of the ranchland before the vegetation runs out and the rusty colour of the cinder takes over. (Walking on Mauna Kea is how I imagine it feels to be on Mars.) It’s a view I’d been wanting to see for over two decades and it was a truly spectacular sight.

At some point in the years since I first visited Hawaii, Mauna Kea came to be referred to as Maunakea and so I’m never quite sure which way to spell it these days. I’m hedging my bets and using both 🙂

A fine view

A fine view indeed – the North Shore mountains looked very photogenic today. You have to make the most of days like these and we ended up walking 10 km around the city 🙂 My feet are pretty sore now…

What a beautiful day to be outside – apart from the chilly wind and the blinding reflection of the sun off the water in English Bay (there’s no pleasing some people 😉 I ended up with about a dozen photos from today that I really liked, but this one is probably my favourite.

Walking the seawall in Coal Harbour I was drawn to the blue sky reflected in the water, and this perfect little cloud drifting over Grouse Mountain. I also took a landscape shot that took in all the mountains between Crown and Seymour, but I liked the way this angle neatly fitted into a square crop.

City backdrop

City backdrop. I had fun taking this shot, sizing it up, getting the camera settings right, and then walking back and forth across Cambie St to take the photo in the middle of the crossing 🙂

This was one of my favourite shots from the photo-a-day project, and one I’d had in mind for some time. I always enjoy walking across Cambie St in this neighbourhood with its great view across downtown and to the mountains beyond. This view makes a nice contrast to the photo I posted a few weeks ago that showed the true scale of Crown Mountain.

Looking back on it now, I’d like to reshoot it on a different day with more of Crown visible. Having said that, this shot required a long lens to compress the scene, and I don’t know if I can still achieve that with our current setup – I used a compact ultra-zoom camera to take this photo which I traded in when I bought the Sony RX100II. It’s not a question of pixels, it really does need the long telephoto lens to make the mountains look so close to the city. But maybe I should try anyway…

Another sunset

Well that was quite the sunset tonight! Great clouds over Bowen Island lit up by the last light of the day.

I’d been watching the clouds all day hoping that sunset would provide a nice photo op. And I wasn’t disappointed! Such a lovely towering cloud over Bowen Island, and lit up perfectly by the setting sun. There was another big cloud over Cypress Bowl that looked to me a bit like one of the space invaders, but perhaps that was my imagination getting the better of me.

Zig Zag

Zig-zag falls – at least, that’s what I call them – on the way up to Red Heather Meadows and beyond to Elfin Lakes.

I’ve tried to get photos of this creek so many times before that I almost didn’t bother on this trip, but for some reason the zigzag in the cascades really stood out and I just had to capture it.

I still remember the first time I saw these falls – except they were nothing more than a trickle on a hot, early October day. I remember them because one of the people we were hiking with decided to fill their water bottle straight from the creek and drink it. I never found out if they got sick or not, but it’s something I simply won’t risk. The only time I’ve drunk untreated water in the backcountry was from a stream on the surface of a glacier. That water went beautifully with some good single malt whisky…

Blue hour

Blue hour in Howe Sound.

A lovely calm ferry crossing from Horseshoe Bay to Bowen Island at dusk. The last light of the day broke through a gap in the clouds to light up the summits of Brunswick Mountain and Mount Harvey, but vanished as quickly as it appeared.

It was a few years ago that I noticed a photo I’d taken of the Vancouver skyline looked particularly blue. I liked the effect, and it was only much later that I learned of the “blue hour”. As with the golden hour, some evenings are bluer than others – often in Vancouver they’re more of a grey-blue or just grey, so I was quite pleased to get this shot of Howe Sound all in blue.

A Crown for the clouds

A Crown for the clouds – yet another photo of Crown Mountain from my picture-a-day project of 5 years ago.

Crown is a dramatic-looking mountain, and never more so than when the clouds are clearing. I liked this view at the time because Crown appeared to be sandwiched between two layers of cloud. To be honest, I’m not that enamoured of this photo these days – I shrugged when I saw that I’d chosen it for this week’s throwback photo. It feels a little flat and lacking in presence. Back in early 2012, I was still using the JPEGs from the camera – I suspect that if I processed it from raw I would give it a different feel now (mind you, raw processing is no guarantee of a better end result). Plus I feel I’ve taken much better shots since then. Of course, without the pressure of getting something every day, I can afford to be choosy and wait for better light or better conditions so I would indeed hope that I’d taken better photos in the past 5 years!

Lighthouse Park wins again

Lighthouse Park wins again. Last May I remarked on my flora and fauna sightings on a visit to this park, and I was rewarded again today with a few really nice wildlife sightings. No flowers this time – it’s been far too cold recently, and the odd patch of snow still lingers even here in Lighthouse Park. (I think last year’s February sighting of a fawn lily was the exception rather than the rule – I’m sure it’ll be another month before we see those again.)

I walked down to the rocks at Point Atkinson and found a good place to sit and just take in the calm before me. I could see birds out on the water, probably surf scoters, as well as the usual woody debris. A couple of common mergansers paddled off as I approached. But having seen porpoises here before, I started scanning just in case. And – yes – was that a dorsal fin? It was, but it was far away. A kayaker out in the bay had stopped paddling and seemed to be just watching – maybe the porpoises, perhaps just the birds, or seals that I couldn’t see. A few minutes later the kayaker moved on and provided me with a great photo-op as they paddled on by.

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

As I was sizing up photos through the lens, I heard a sharp exhale and looked down to see a smooth shape slip under the waves. A moment later the shape resurfaced and I caught a clear view of a Steller’s (?) sea lion, barely 10 metres off shore. I grabbed a photo, and though not the best it was a nice clear sighting:

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

I haven’t mentioned the eagles yet. On the drive to the park, I saw and heard a couple, and within moments of stepping out of the car I heard their staccato cries from the treetops. They were very chatty today and I could hear at least four or five calling from different trees. A pair flew out to sea and back a couple of times, and I’ve taken enough eagle photos to know better than to bother with distant shots. However, on one of their returns, they approached on a line almost directly over me, so I sized them up hoping that I’d get a couple of decent shots as they passed.

And then they did this:

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

Cool or what? I remember watching a pair of eagles go talon-to-talon in (ironically enough) Porpoise Bay on the Sunshine Coast many years ago.

And so onto what was (for me) the star attraction. Now, it must be said that harbour porpoises are pretty low key performers and it’s perhaps true that my best photo is a little underwhelming: four dorsal fins in close proximity. What I can’t capture is that they were close enough to hear them exhale as they surfaced. And that was magic. Plus I had the rocks to myself at this point.

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

It was a great excuse to find a comfy rock and watch the porpoises get closer to the park as they followed the outgoing tide. I’d seen them a couple of times before, but hadn’t stopped long enough to really watch them. I estimated there were at least half-a-dozen individuals in the group I was following, and there may have been a second, smaller group nearby (with another 2-3) but it was hard to tell.

The porpoises continued out towards the strait, and I didn’t see them again after the boat from the Vancouver Police marine unit went by. Time to move on and I turned my attention to the lighthouse itself. I hadn’t actually noticed the old WW2 bunker facing across to Tower Beach at UBC before. I wandered on to the lighthouse lookout where one of the eagles was standing guard on the weather vane. Here I also encountered a huge flock of dark-eyed juncos, and stopped to watch (and listen to) a small group of nuthatches.

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

Finally I took a trail that I’d not taken before: the west beach trail. I’d noticed a lot of photos on Instagram that showed the lighthouse from the west and it makes a really nice photo. Which is how I ended up with this shot:

Lighthouse Park, 14 Feb 2017

Possibly my favourite of the day – those clouds! – though one detail I really like about the photo is the cormorant. Photographically done for the day, and after a brief visit from a river otter, it was time to head back to the car and home.

Grumpy blue heron

Great grumpy blue heron – this heron was standing in a couple of inches of water right next to the trail, and I was surprised at how close I was able to get. Maybe that’s why it looked grumpy 🙂

Oh, I remember this day… We had walked through to Coal Harbour from Stanley Park in order to sample one or more hot chocolates as it was the Vancouver Hot Chocolate Festival. The highlight was definitely getting a nice close up view of this heron (perhaps it should have been the hot chocolate – good enough, but these days I find them to be far too sweet). The low point was me rolling my ankle as I ran along the seawall near the convention centre, and didn’t see the change in level of the path. That was a painful walk back into the park to get back to our car before our parking ran out. So maybe it was me that was grumpy, not the heron?