Downton panorama

Panoramic view of the Downton Creek basin, taken on our first visit 5 years ago today.

It’s a funny thing looking back at trips from 5 or more years ago. So many of them felt like they’d been on our to-do list for many years, and yet when I think about it, they were on that list for less time than has since elapsed. Time is a strange thing. Downton Creek was one of those areas that had been talked up on Club Tread as an exceptional destination, and in Sep 2012 we spent a weekend there exploring some of the area.

We had a fantastic couple of days, but I remember coming home and feeling a little disappointed with the photos – it didn’t seem to me that they’d captured the feel of the area. I’ve had this reaction on multiple occasions before and the only solution is time – leave them alone and go back to the photos some time later. This has the disadvantage of delaying putting any photos online; I’ve read many trip reports that were composed within a day of getting home, but I don’t seem to be able to do that. I like to savour the feeling of the weekend in my own mind before jumping in to the photos.

For me, one of the biggest problems with photos is that, once you’re away from the place, they define your memories of it. That’s another reason that taking a bit a time to get back to the photos works for me. Then I’m in a position where I’m having to rely on the photos to relive the experience.

And so it was several years after I took this panorama that I revisited it, reprocessed the 18 or so photos, and recreated the panorama with Hugin. And now when I look at it, I can sit back and enjoy the view and remind myself of what it was like to be there. I like the soft light, the autumn colours, and the mountains seem more impressive than I remembered. Here’s the full panorama (as linked from Flickr):

Downton Creek, 22 Sep 2012

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Triangle

Life will find a foothold wherever it can – a lovely triangular patch of cheery pink moss campion high on Finch Ridge.

Moss campion always catches my eye. It’s one of the few flowers in the high alpine, finding places to grow among rocks and dirt and not much else. Most often, it creates a little pillow of green from which the cerise flowers emerge, though it’s extremely rare for the flowers to cover more than half of the foliage at any one time. Earlier on the day this photo was taken, I found one completely pink patch right in the middle of a field of shattered rock; a real treat. But then I found this little near-equilateral triangle of pink and green, which was just perfect. All I had to do was make sure I stood to one side so my shadow wouldn’t fall across it.

Blue sky, blue lake

Blue sky, blue lake. Birkenhead and Sun God Mountain form the backdrop to Tenquille Lake, a view almost good enough to take your mind off all the mosquito bites…

Well, we couldn’t resist going back to Tenquille Lake this weekend, and our little CR-V got us up to the trailhead again with not too much difficulty. Once again we were greeted by merciless mosquitoes and I picked up more bites in the first 20 minutes of the hike than in the past couple of years! I counted 35 on one side of my back…

But as ever, it was all worthwhile to spend time in such beautiful surroundings. And yes, there were glacier lilies. Along with thousands of other flowers too; it was a stunning display.

This is a lazy photo, taken from the western end of the lake near where we camped. I could have got a better view of Sun God had I walked a couple of hundred metres further east to the next camping area, but we were just about to leave and I didn’t want to hold us up any longer than necessary. So it’s not ideal, but I really liked the colour of the lake (especially in contrast against the green of the trees, though that doesn’t show in this photo), and this was my only chance to take this photo. My goal for our next visit is to get a lovely sunset shot of Sun God Mountain living up to its name. Having been reminded of how beautiful this area is, I hope that will be sooner than another 6 years in the future!

My happy place

OK so yesterday’s flowers were pretty nice, but nothing beats a meadow full of glacier lilies! Truly, my happy place 🙂

Much as I love seeing all those other flowers, there is one in particular that I get a little giddy over. Yes, it’s the humble glacier lily. I was hoping that there would be a remnant snow patch or two in the higher elevation meadows that would be ripe for a glacier lily bloom. Sure enough, there was one little snow patch that had a handful in bloom, but my eye was drawn to a bigger patch of yellow in a more distant meadow. There was something about the particular shade of yellow that had me thinking I was not just seeing more arnica. We tiptoed our way around the flowers to get to a well-placed rock at one end of the meadow where we could see without doubt that this was a great big patch of glacier lilies in peak bloom. Yay!

I had found my happy place.

Misty mountain top

Not much of a view atop Mt Outram yesterday, but the flowers were beyond spectacular. Check out the lovely purple silky phacelia (sky pilot) which was in full bloom throughout this alpine area.

Oh wow. This weekend’s trip up to Mt Outram was nothing short of spectacular. Beautiful forest, superb views, and some of the most extensive and abundant flower meadows I’ve ever seen. Sure, the hike up was every bit as tough as the stats suggest (especially with an overnight pack) but it was worth every step.

Our glorious sunny Saturday gave way to a cloudy and sometime snowy Sunday. We didn’t really have time to make the summit on Saturday, and we believed the weather forecast that predicted sunshine for Sunday. Well it didn’t quite turn out that way, as it rained in the night, and we woke to low cloud shrouding the summits. Not that we cared. We’d come this far, so why not head up to the summit anyway? And we’re glad we did – it was eery and atmospheric up there in the mist. And so what if we missed the panoramic views? We found other things to enjoy, such as all the flowers, and the sheer delight in being up in the mountains.

Definitely a hike to repeat.

(I should point out that the obvious, pale purple flower in the foreground is not silky phacelia – that is the darker purple flower behind – but the well-named skunky Jacob’s ladder, confusingly also known as sky pilot. I thought I caught a hint of something skunky as I was crawling around getting flower photos at the summit!)

In search of glacier lilies

This is why I like glacier lilies so much – when they bloom, they absolutely cover the meadow. I wrote about this in my first piece published on The Outbound – yay!

I’ve had an article at the back of my mind for some years now that explains a bit of my obsession with glacier lilies. I hadn’t found a way to write it before now, until The Outbound Collective advertised a new story-telling feature that prompted me to sign up for an account. After that, I just started writing and before long I had emptied my head of some of the things I’ve been wanting to say about glacier lilies. A bit of editing here and there, and one click on “Publish” later, and it was done.

So here it is, In Search of Glacier Lilies.

That snow lily

A glacier lily pokes up through the melting snow to join the thousands already blooming in the sun

The season for glacier lilies is a short one, so I’m going to make the most of it by posting a few more pictures of my favourite flower 🙂 I loved finding this one poking up through the snow. Some plants actually produce heat that melts the snow above them and allows to break through and bloom. Very cool!