Cape Scott

A few days ago I finally completed my write-up of our 6-day trip to Cape Scott, already a year ago now! Although I’d published the summary post soon after returning home, it took months for us to sift through all the photos and for me to rediscover our notes to help me write up each day on the trip.

Looking back on a trip it’s sometimes hard to remember just how it made you feel, and when you do remember, was it just euphoria talking or was it really as good a trip as your words say? I quote my opening line: “Wow! I don’t remember the last time a hike so clearly won me over.” And instantly I’m transported back to those big open beaches, the dense forest, and the sense of wilderness.

I think what contributed to how we felt about this trip was the fact that we weren’t expecting to be wowed in the way that spectacular mountain scenes do. The beauty of the place crept up on us and was just there for us to experience. The rest was up to us to be open to that.

If you haven’t done any coastal hiking, then I highly recommend Cape Scott. I would also suggest that you wait for a good weather window, though that is tricky given the logistics of getting there. But it’s worth it. Who can resist such idyllic beach camping?

Nissen Bight, 4 Aug 2016

Floral assortment

An assortment of flowers near Mystery Lake for wildflower-Wednesday: bunchberry, paintbrush, and fireweed. I was surprised to find bunchberry still blooming, and this was the first time I’ve seen paintbrush on the North Shore. The fireweed photo is actually from Callaghan Valley (though there was plenty blooming next to the Mt Seymour parking lot), against a backdrop of thick smoke from the BC wildfires.

Guess who just found out how to post a slideshow on Instagram? Yay πŸ™‚ I’ll try not to overuse it, but sometimes it’s nice to include a few photos in a single post to tell a wider story. The only downside is that it looks like the photos are forced to be square and I hadn’t prepared these photos with a square crop on mind, so I don’t feel they’re displayed to their best advantage.

Judging by the freshness of the bunchberry flowers, I’d say the North Shore (or at least that part of Mt Seymour) is about 3 weeks behind its usual bloom. We also saw quite a few fresh Queen’s cup, which was another lovely surprise. But the biggest surprise was the paintbrush: my eye was caught by the orangey-red colour on one of the ski runs, and then I found more along the edge of the open slopes just before we entered the forest. I’m pretty sure that I’ve never seen paintbrush on any of the North Shore mountains, though I have nagging memory of maybe seeing it once before somewhere else on Mt Seymour. I’ll need to scan our (ridiculously large) photo collection to be sure!

The fireweed photo is a bit of a cheat as it was taken the day before but I really wanted to show the smoky atmosphere in the background that couldn’t be seen in the fireweed photos I took in the parking lot. It was bad enough to put us off our original hiking plans…

Looks tropical

Throwback Thursday to this time last year when we were enjoying sun, sea, and sand at Nissen Bight on the second of six days at Cape Scott. I finally got round to finish writing about the trip too – link below.

It has taken me ages to finish writing about the Cape Scott trip! Part of that was due to the fact that our note-taking tapered off after the first few days so I had less information to jog my memory when it came to the little things. Also if I didn’t insist on trying to essentially reconstruct each day then I could have written a much shorter series of blog posts and presumably finished a lot sooner. I think it would be a good exercise to try and condense it into something a bit more readable (say for The Outbound) but that would take time away from writing up all the other trips we’ve done that are merely drafts!

If you would like to read the whole thing (all six days’ worth), then start with my overview post, and read the entry for each day linked from there. (Each day also provides a link to the next one so either way it’s possible to read the entire diary. I’ve included photos linked to Flickr within each day, but we took way to many to include them all so there are also links to the complete album of over 300 photos (as well as a Top 140) on Flickr.

Anyway, about the photo itself. The sun came out, the polarizer went on, and the sea turned a tropical colour. We could almost have believed it ourselves had we not first-hand experience of the temperature of the water. Decidedly not tropical!

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!)

Camping without campfires

It’s Leave-No-Trace Tuesday and it seems appropriate to talk about campfires since they are banned across BC right now.

I’m firmly of the opinion that camping does not need a campfire. I prefer it because I get to see the night sky, and there are no concerns about anything catching fire or melting from stray sparks, or finding firewood, plus there’s no messy, stinky fire ring which in turn means no scar on the landscape. Also with a campfire, everyone huddles around it looking inwards. Why not sit and look out at the landscape?

So here’s our tent, lit by a headlamp inside and the full moon outside. What you can’t see in this photo is that we had to dodge two (!) fire rings to pitch our tent, despite the fact that campfires are forbidden here.

Strangely, most of the articles and posts I’ve seen about the current campfire ban use pictures of roaring campfires to make the point. I think the various news organizations and public bodies should invest in some alternative stock photos that either show campfires being extinguished or have campers enjoying a campfire-free life! It is possible!

And I’ve finally found a hashtag that no one has used yet: #campingwithoutcampfires Try it πŸ™‚

It's #LeaveNoTraceTuesday and it seems appropriate to talk about campfires since they are banned across BC right now. I'm firmly of the opinion that camping does not need a campfire. I prefer it because I get to see the night sky, and there are no concerns about anything catching fire or melting from stray sparks, or finding firewood, plus there's no messy, stinky fire ring which in turn means no scar on the landscape. Also with a campfire, everyone huddles around it looking inwards. Why not sit and look out at the landscape? So here's our tent, lit by a headlamp inside and the full moon outside. What you can't see in this photo is that we had to dodge two (!) fire rings to pitch our tent, despite the fact that campfires are forbidden here. Strangely, most of the articles and posts I've seen about the current campfire ban use pictures of roaring campfires to make the point. I think the various news organizations and public bodies should invest in some alternative stock photos that either show campfires being extinguished or have campers enjoying a campfire-free life! It is possible! And I've finally found a hashtag that no one has used yet: #campingwithoutcampfires Try it πŸ™‚ #leavenotrace #lnt #ge_rlparks #goldenears #goldenearsprovincialpark #nocampfires #bcparks #explorebc #backpacking #hiking #hikebc #bchiking #beautifulbc #bigagnes #beautifulbritishcolumbia #ifttt

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The obsession with campfires remains one of my biggest pet peeves when in the backcountry. Here in Canada (and probably elsewhere too), camping is intimately linked to having a campfire, be it for cooking, warmth, or as a TV substitute. They’re in all manner of adverts for camping and spending time in the great outdoors. And so it perhaps no great surprise that when people raised on this message venture into the backcountry to camp, they immediately feel some primal need for a campfire.

The thing is that they are completely unnecessary, borderline useless for cooking (I’ve tried), and damage the fragile backcountry environment to an extent that takes decades to restore. A portable gas stove is so much more efficient, and modern setups weigh very little. It’s the damage and mess that bugs me the most, especially when people don’t reuse an existing scar. As I mention above, there were two fire scars right next to where we pitched our tent, barely 2 metres apart. And when a place looks trashed, people are less inclined to take care and not trash it some more.

And so I do my best to leave places as I find them – or better. If I can walk away from a campsite and see no evidence I was there, I’m happy. That includes campfires. In many places we hike, they’re forbidden anyway (although that doesn’t stop people since enforcement is sadly minimal). And despite my fascination with fire as a youth, I never developed the camping-campfire association.

I’ll admit, then, that I find it easy to not bother with campfires. But I look at what I gain from not having one: no mess, no damage, no smell, no risks, and a clear view. A crackling fire is fine in a log cabin; in the backcountry, I want to hear the sounds around me. A fire draws my eye to its flames: without it, I have the entire landscape to admire. A bright fire accentuates the difference between light and dark: the night is rarely as dark as you think. In the backcountry, I accept there may be mosquitoes, and it may be chilly. I have warm clothing, plus bug wipes and a net if necessary.

I am quite happy to camp without a campfire.

The path ahead

Still some snow along the ridge towards Mount Harvey. Saturday was a beautiful day to be up high, and the snow was a welcome cooler! Full trip report on LiveTrails.

The last (and only other) time I reached the summit of Mt Harvey, the only view we had was straight up through the clouds to blue sky above. All around us was heavy cloud that refused to lift or burn off. I therefore wanted to wait for a clear day to repeat the long, steep climb, and Saturday was perfect. (Well, nearly: it was probably a bit too hot for hiking, though we were in shade for most of the ascent and there was a nice breeze at the top.) And it was worth the wait: the view is incredible, and I think I prefer it to that from Mt Harvey’s taller neighbour, Brunswick Mountain.

Of course, it was never far from our minds that this was the place where five snowshoers died back in April, and we met a Korean hiking group at the summit who were there to remember their friends. This part of the ridge shows the remnants of some of the cornices that form during the winter, and even though they are a shadow of their former selves, we were careful to ensure we kept well back from their edges.

A week of glacier lilies

A departure from the usual posting style. Since I saw so many glacier lilies at the weekend, I figured it would be best to combine all those photographs into a single, all-encompassing glacier lily entry. Let the floral overload begin!

We spent the weekend in Manning Park, and found – to my delight – that the glacier lilies were out in force. Here’s one of many in bud we saw last Sunday near Blackwall Peak, beautifully decorated with raindrops. I was surprised to see them blooming even by the roadside on the way up to Blackwall Peak, and we were further surprised by two yearling bear cubs darting across the road ahead of us!

It's that time of year again! The glacier lilies are out in force in Manning Park and should be good for another couple of weeks. Here's one of many in bud we saw yesterday near Blackwall Peak, beautifully decorated with raindrops (as was our tent!). After all the hard work we put in on Saturday to find some (which paid off handsomely I should add), I was surprised to see them blooming at the roadside on the way up to Blackwall Peak. Then we were surprised again by two yearling bear cubs darting across the road ahead of us 🐻 🐻 πŸ™‚ Hike reports are on LiveTrails. What a weekend! #glacierlily #erythroniumgrandiflorum #ManningPark #manningparkresort #ecmanningprovincialpark #bcparks #paintbrushnaturetrail #explorebc #wildflowers #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #ifttt #hikebc #bchiking

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On Saturday we hiked the Skyline I loop, a 21-km hike with 900+ m of elevation gain. We’d been happily enjoying the wealth of blooms along the trail, but then we entered the last big meadow before turning back towards the car. This might be the most spectacular glacier lily meadow I’ve seen so far! Wow!

A trail runs through it – the path through the vast meadow in the previous photo is barely a boot wide, the glacier lilies and spring beauty doing their best to recolonize it. I looked back at photos I took of this section of the trail in August 2007 and there is no sign of glacier lilies anywhere.

And yet more glacier lilies along the Skyline I trail. There was still a bit of snow in places along the ridge but it’ll soon be gone. I find it amazing how so many can grow and yet all signs of their existence disappear once the main summer bloom gets underway. I’m convinced that most hikers never even see a glacier lily over the summer.

Finally, it’s Flashback-Friday, and I thought I’d finish this week of glacier lily photos with the flower that started it all – my very first glacier lily photo from way back in 2006!

That last shot has a lot to answer for…