The view from our tent

Throwback Thursday to the view from our tent this past summer. It seems that if we weren’t counting mosquitoes, we were listening to raindrops. There’s a tree shadow as an interlude, a photo I took one morning to remind me of the same silhouette cast by the moon during the night. Brings back some great memories of peaceful nights, including perhaps the quietest night I’ve ever experienced when we were far from any creeks and there wasn’t even a breath of wind…

Some people seem to manage to set up their tent and get those Insta-famous shots of a gorgeous landscape as seen through the open doorway of the tent. We’ve camped in many beautiful places, but on only a few occasions have we felt that we could get a great photo just from looking out of the tent. In practice, we’ve found it difficult to get those kinds of shots; mostly it’s just not possible to set up your tent with such a good aspect.

A more typical tent view is that shown in the photos above (click through to see the selection). The first photo reveals that we’re not habitual early risers, instead often waiting until the sun has risen over a nearby ridge at which point the tent becomes an unbearable greenhouse in minutes. The play of light and shadow on the roof of the tent (complete with mosquitoes, of course), along with the intersection of the support poles were pleasing elements that caught my eye. When we do get a nice mountain view, as in the second, the light is rarely great, where, on this occasion, we were again besieged by insects after our blood.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a great fan of symmetry in photos. The third photo is a simple straightforward example, the tent neatly bisected by the centre ridge pole with a difference in light on either side. It’s not perfectly symmetric though; there are two more mosquitoes on the left than on the right…

The fourth photo is the alluded-to interlude. I remember opening my eyes around 1 am that night and noticing the lovely shadow cast on the tent by a tree lit up by the rising moon. For a moment I was tempted to try a long-exposure photo to capture it, but I’m not sure Maria would have appreciated it, and so I treasured the moment and closed my eyes again. To my delight I noticed that the morning sun cast the same shadow on the tent, making it easy for me to capture it, and preserve the memory from the night before.

By the beginning of September the mosquitoes had died off, and so, in order to continue my series of tent-view photos, I resorted to recording the rain drops beading on the fly. While the previous night had been probably the quietest ever night I’ve experienced, this particular night it had rained for many hours, tapering off at times before returning, sometimes as rain, but also sometimes as sleet or snow. I half expected to wake up and find snow all around, but that didn’t happen until I started preparing breakfast!

Of course, snow did settle around us a month later on our final backpacking trip of the year, and for once we had an almost photogenic view from our tent pad. We packed away our gear inside the tent, only making a hot drink when our bags were more or less ready, at which point we sat nursing our morning tea and coffee peering out at the misty, snowy view beyond. That done, all we had left to do was take down, shake out, and stuff away our sopping wet tent. It took two days to dry out at home…

Here’s to a year of tent views! Can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store for us 🙂

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A bear at breakfast

Throwback to that time a grizzly bear dropped by for breakfast. Thankfully it took no notice of us, which is good because our bear spray was in the tent, 100 m away! Lesson learned: keep bear spray with you at all times.

The beginning of our third day saw us sat at the edge of the trees sipping away at our respective caffeine delivery systems, gazing out over the meadows and up to the peaks and ridge-lines to the west lit up by the morning sunshine. We were packing away our food when some movement caught my eye; a bear in the far meadow.

Not just any old bear either but an adult grizzly, snout down and browsing the meadow in search of food. We froze. This was our first grizzly sighting in the backcountry, and we were just two people. Looking wide-eyed at each other, we discussed what we should do. Our assessment of the situation had us thinking that we shouldn’t alert the bear to our presence and we were relieved to notice that it wandered off into the forest along the trail leading to the horse cabin below Spruce Peak.

That should have been our cue to go and get the bear spray but for some reason we didn’t. We used this time to stow our food, hoping that our knots wouldn’t be tested by a hungry grizzly. Five minutes later the bear reappeared, continuing its path along the edge of the trees and – more concerning – closer to our tent, although still the other side of Eldorado Creek.

The bear still hadn’t sensed us so we opted to remain quiet and hidden by the trees. After briefly going out of sight it reappeared, now heading back the way it came, much to our relief. Over the next few and exceedingly long minutes, it retraced its steps through the meadow, until it heard a sound which stopped it in its tracks and began to look around, ears pricked up.

That sound was a mountain biker descending from Windy Pass (our intended destination for the day), whooping and/or hollering loud enough for his voice to echo off the sides of the valley. For a moment the bear paused before beginning to run. We looked at each other and voiced our thoughts, “where is it running to?”. At first we thought it was going towards the source of the sound but we were relieved to note that the bear was actually just heading for the nearest tree cover. We followed its path across the meadow until it disappeared among the trees – the very trees that we would have to walk through to get to Windy Pass no less!

With the bear gone from sight we felt we could relax a little and continue getting ourselves ready for our day’s hiking. We never saw the bear again though we did find where it had dug up the ground in the meadow right next to the trail. Paw prints and claw marks were clearly visible in the disturbed earth. We were fine with that and had no desire to encounter the bear at any closer range.

After that morning, the bear spray came with us to breakfast. Always.

Memories of summer

On a soggy day at the beginning of November it’s nice to be able to look back at those sunnier days on summer trips. Our backpacking trip to the Southern Chilcotins was the highlight of our summer, especially this day up on Harris Ridge – even though we got chased off by a thunderstorm that chucked hail pellets and snow at us for an hour!

It’s been pretty wet over the past few days; it feels like autumn has finally caught up with us as the first hints of snow are decorating the tips of the North Shore mountains. Summer seemed to come and go quickly this year but we did get out on some memorable trips, not least of all our week in the Southern Chilcotins.

While we enjoyed travelling through the landscape, it’s our two days of day-hiking that stand out as our favourites, and especially the second of those days on which we hiked up and along Harris Ridge.

After a bit of hard work we ended up on the broad expanse of the ridge, walked to its end, and sat down for an early lunch with the view above. The sun came and went, and we waited as long as we dared to get this shot as the storm clouds rolled in our direction.

This view was one of our favourites as we looked down into the meadow where we’d camped for two nights – the same meadow we watched a grizzly bear patrol while we cleaned up after breakfast – and up to Windy Pass with its endless views to the west. It’s possible to gain the ridge from those meadows although it looks quite steep from down there.

We tried to outrun the weather but it caught up with us as we began our descent back to the tent, pelting us with hail that turned the landscape white for a time. As I said, a memorable trip…!

Watersprite

Finally we get to see this Instagram-famous view with our own eyes! A sunny hike in was followed by a snowy and rainy hike out the next day. And it was worth it. A big thank-you to the BCMC for all their hard work in creating this trail.

Warning: potentially unpopular opinions ahead.

So I finally got to see Watersprite Lake in person at the weekend and I’ve been trying to pin down exactly what I think of it. My initial reaction is that I was not wowed by it at all, which I put down to a few things:

  1. I’ve seen a billion photos of that same view on Instagram. Yawn.
  2. The lake is smaller than you think.
  3. The sun was dipping below the ridge to the south west, casting deep shadows over the lake and making it hard to get a good photo. Plus I found that the scene would have benefited from the wide-angle lens that I had left at home in favour of a telephoto that didn’t get used. Then it clouded over anyway.

I was also a bit tired and impatient to get to the campground and drop my overnight pack, and we still had a snowy boulder field to cross.

And while the approach is on a good logging road, it’s still just a logging road, although the views are rather gorgeous on a fine day. On a wet day it’s a long soggy trudge.

The view of the lake from the campground is nothing to write home about. I probably need to get higher up.

Sounds like a terrible place doesn’t it?

Well, after getting all that out of my system, my conclusion is that I simply didn’t get to spend long enough at the lake to explore and size up the best angles for photos, or catch the best light, so I simply have to go back! The reality is that the lake is a fantastic colour and nestled in a stunning amphitheatre of sheer mountains. The BCMC has done (and is still doing) an excellent job in ensuring that this beautiful place will hopefully be able to withstand its new-found fame. It was a lovely place to camp for a night, and was so atmospheric in the snow.

Anyway, don’t take my word for it. Pick up a copy of 105 Hikes and check it out yourself!

Hankering

Hankering after views like this, especially when I couldn’t be bothered to get outside at the weekend for anything more than a walk on the beach.

It’s Mountain Monday once again, and I found myself paging through hiking photos from the weekend where people had ventured in the mountains despite the rain. For a few moments my mood turned grumpy as the FOMO kicked in. Why hadn’t I got outside, I asked myself? We had planned to get out (and had a couple of simple hikes in mind) but when the time came we favoured staying dry indoors over a day of damp fresh air.

To get me out of this self-absorbed mood, I found the need to find a photo I liked from the summer’s hiking to contribute to the endless firehose of photographs that is Instagram. I settled on the one above from our backpacking trip to Phelix Creek, and I remember sizing up this shot at the time. The symmetry and neat dividing lines of the scene caught my eye, as did the contrasting colours: the red/brown of the rocks where I was standing, the blue-green water, the grey rock beyond, and the blue sky above. I tried to divide it evenly, but couldn’t quite get it to work: I have a little too much foreground. Perhaps I should have cropped a little tighter, but I wanted to give Mount Aragorn space.

Despite that, this is definitely one of my favourite photos from that trip, if nothing else because it immediately takes me back to that warm day lounging around on the smooth rocks, oh-so happy to be free of the marauding mosquitoes from the valley….

Ridges

Ridges for miles… Throwback Thursday to a great weekend in the mountains at the beginning of August. Those hot buggy days already seem a distant memory…

It’s a bit of a slog up to Gott Peak but once up there it’s possible to walk for some distance right along the ridge top. One side slopes away steeply but smoothly over boulders and then meadows, while the other drops precipitously in a cascade of broken rock, dirt, and snow. The ridge is not just an endless line stretching out before you to infinity either, instead undulating up and down, gaining and losing 50-100 m of elevation each time. Of course, that soon adds up, turning a simple climb into a more challenging adventure.

Thankfully getting to Gott Peak only involves going over one such bump (indeed, our first visit to this area we only ventured to this sub-peak), and it makes for a wonderful photo-op on the return journey, especially when lit by the warm afternoon sunshine. We continued beyond this peak to cross other, lower bumps further along the ridge, eventually dropping down very steeply into the valley to rejoin the trail back to the pass. A fun day of ridge exploration!

A Medley of Moptops

A medley of moptops for wildflower Wednesday, definitely one of the most distinctive alpine flowers – I just love the way they catch the light. They only flower for a brief time as soon as the snow melts, leaving their fluffy seed heads to decorate the meadows for the rest of the short alpine growing season.

Moptop, tow-headed baby, hippy on a stick, muppets of the mountains… The seed-heads of the western anemone have multiple nicknames. Many people liken them to characters from Dr Seuss books; to me they’re just moptops. I didn’t have much exposure to the Dr Seuss characters when I was a kid but what little I had I didn’t think much of; I have a vague recollection of thinking that it was kinda silly and unrealistic, even at a young age. So, forgive me if I shrug or even grit my teeth if one more person exclaims about how Dr Seuss-like they are!

It’s remarkable to see how tall they grow and how they dominate some meadows when they start off so small. But the best thing about them is the way they catch the light, be it afternoon, evening, or morning. And I can’t stop taking their picture when that happens!