Downy woodpecker

A little downy woodpecker for this week’s Throwback Thursday. Another photo from my “Once Around The Sun” photo-a-day project, which was made so much easier by the fact I worked on the UBC campus with its abundant fauna and flora.

So many of my days during this project began with the thought, “what am I going to photograph today?”. And thankfully, on so many of those days nature treated me to a little gift. This particular morning I spotted movement on a low tree branch and stopped to check it out. I don’t remember if I had to change lenses or if the camera had the telephoto lens already attached, but that doesn’t really matter. The little woodpecker was far more intent on finding something to eat to be bothered by me and I had the leisure to snap a good half-dozen shots.

I always felt good about this project on days like these, when I was able to get my daily photo near the beginning of the day. It gave me the freedom to use the rest of the day to scope out future ideas, which was vital for making the project work at all.

North Vancouver Falls

Pretty little Norvan Falls, the destination for the first hike I organized with Wanderung way back in 2005. This photo was taken on my first revisit in 2013 almost exactly 3 years ago. I visited the falls again last year to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my first visit – it’s a pleasant spring hike, and long enough to be a bit of an early season workout.

In the midst of a cold, rainy winter, Lynn Headwaters Regional Park (or almost anywhere on the North Shore for that matter) is not the most inviting place for a hike. But that all changes a few months into the year, and by April, the walk up to Norvan Falls can be really pleasant, especially on a sunny day. On this particular day, some snow had fallen and was persisting in the upper sections of the valley. The rocks were capped with white tufts of new snow, which made it tricky to get down by the creek to get a sensible and safe photograph. Thankfully I managed without falling into the icy water, though I did slip a couple of times 🙂

The falls aren’t the most spectacular, so I always wait until after a decent amount of rain – I wouldn’t bother in the summer when water levels are low except on my way up to Coliseum or Hanes Valley. But on a nice spring day? Go for it. The trail gets much nicer and quieter beyond the debris chute.

The Mountain of the Spiral Road

There’s a pullout on this stretch of Hwy 16 for a very good reason – Mt Robson simply towers above this part of the Fraser Valley

The first time we visited Mt Robson back in 2007, we were driving east along Highway 16 and rounded a bend to be faced by this stunning view of the mountain. Thankfully, there was a large, wide pullout that we could more or less drift into, and we parked up to get out and take in the scale of the scene before us. We made use of that pullout again a year later on a trip with family from the UK. But in 2011 when we were touring the Rockies with my parents, we were driving *west* along the highway, heading back to Vancouver at the end of our trip. We’d already stopped at the Mt Robson visitor centre for souvenirs, the view, and breakfast at the cafe, so Mum and Dad had seen the mountain, but I really wanted to give them the full Robson effect. Plus, I’d seen someone else’s version of this photo and wanted to recreate it for myself.

We drove west with Mt Robson filling the rear-view mirror, and then turned around at a point where the road was quiet. I pulled off onto the shoulder (still a bit too close to the truck traffic for comfort really) so we could admire the view, and Dad and I waited for a gap in the traffic to dash across the road to get this shot. Our timing was perfect as the traffic died down to almost nothing so we had this glorious empty road leading straight to the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.

For a peak with the traditional name “the mountain of the spiral road”, the road leading to its base is about as un-spiral as you can get. It’s almost as if the Romans had got here first…

Clouds clearing Crown

Clouds clearing over Crown Mountain, from a snowshoe trip up to Hollyburn back in April 2011

Sometimes a photo works, and sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve taken many photos of the west face of Crown Mountain on my various hikes up to Hollyburn over the years, but most end up looking flat and boring. Until now – or at least, until April 2011 🙂 This photo was taken part way up the open slopes on the final approach to the summit, roughly at the first mini-plateau on this ascent. Crown appears over the tree tops and teases with partial views through the forest.

I found a spot with a better view and took this photo, although I was still annoyed at the presence of the foreground trees. It was only when I got home and looked at what I had taken that I liked the square crop with the four trees at the bottom of the frame acting as a border hiding the boring lower slopes of the mountain and leaving just the interesting parts of Crown visible as the clouds began to drift away.

A seal a-swimming

Harbour seal swimming alongside the ferry in Active Pass

There are times when it’s hard to believe we live next to an ocean because the sea is so calm.

Sometimes the waters on Active Pass are glassy smooth, disturbed only by whispering eddies.

A seal pops up its head and starts swimming through the flat green water, leaving its own trail of ripples behind it.

West Lion

A different view of the West Lion – taken from the trail up to Black Mountain at the end of March 2010

The Baden-Powell trail up to Black Mountain from Cypress Bowl used to be a leisurely ascent via an old logging road before entering old growth on the summit plateau. It was an especially pleasant approach in the winter meandering past (or over) frozen ponds and gradually climbing up to the south peak. As part of the preparation for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Cypress Mountain ski resort expanded its ski runs on the east face of Black Mountain, wiping out the old trail in the process, which was re-routed up the north side of one of the ski runs turning it into a boring miniature “grind”.

Boring, yes. But the saving grace of this more direct route is that it makes getting up to the summit of Black Mountain easy on those lighter spring evenings, taking barely 45 minutes. And so after work one day I headed across to the North Shore and headed up to the top to catch the sunset. Alas I was too late to catch the sunset itself, but I did capture this gorgeous soft light on the west Lion, all newly bedecked in the metres of fresh snow that fell immediately after the Olympics…

One other thing I noticed that evening was that I was alone – no one else was venturing up on snowshoes, and I had the entire hike to myself. It was so still and quiet, especially after the ski lifts shut down, that I could hardly believe I was so close to the city. Really, quite a magical moment and well worth doing, even if I did take a wrong turn on the descent and ended up coming down on one of the ski runs…

I put up a set of photos on Flickr if you want to see what else I took that night.

The Lions

Obligatory shot of the Lions from the summit of Hollyburn.

Mt Seymour is a more interesting hike, but Hollyburn has its appeal. It’s shorter, with a little less elevation gain, and today it was even quieter. It really feels like most people are leaving the winter sports behind and thinking ahead to the summer, which suited us fine. The nice thing about the view from the top of Hollyburn is this in-your-face view of the Lions, and it was nice to look over and think back to our hike over to them that we did last year. Now that’s got me looking forward to the summer myself!