Sights from the North Shore

Sights from the North Shore – a couple of hours well spent rambling through subalpine forest with occasional spectacular views of distant cities, mountains, and islands.

We had one of those rare events in Vancouver: a sunny weekend! Alas we had in-town commitments (naturally…) so we couldn’t get out for a whole day, but I was able to grab a couple of hours up exploring some trails on Dog Mountain while Maria was in Deep Cove.

  1. One of my favourite photos from the afternoon, I really like the little puddle in the foreground, the rugged rocks of the bluffs beyond, a bit of autumn colour, the shadows, and the distant view of Cathedral Mountain (and even Mount Garibaldi in Squamish). It all adds up to many layers and a natural path for the viewer’s eyes to follow from front to back.
  2. Vancouver far below, the bright afternoon sun reflecting off the Salish Sea and Burrard Inlet between Stanley Park and the west side of the city. In the distance, the mountains of Vancouver Island are visible – later as we drove home along the Upper Levels Highway, we had a stunning view of the orange sky behind the silhouette of Mount Arrowsmith, between Nanaimo and Port Alberni. Just glorious!
  3. Decaying skunk cabbage leaves, nicely arranged on the forest floor. It’s amazing to think that those giant, robust green leaves of summer soon wither and decay to paper-thin fragments.
  4. Reflections in a small tarn – the trail passed by several small tarns or ponds, all of which reflected the surrounding trees and bushes just beautifully. I really like the tufts of grass at the water’s edge in this view.
  5. A dab of colour – many of the bushes and shrubs change colour to gorgeous shades of orange, yellow, and red. It may not be the spectacular maple displays of the eastern deciduous forests, but the subalpine and alpine plants put on their own diminutive show. I just love the vivid primary colours on display: red, yellow, green, blue…
  6. Mushrooms! I was surprised that there weren’t more on display – I only really found this little group and another nice patch of fly agaric. I don’t know what they are so if anyone can identify them then please let me know.
  7. OK so this might actually be my favourite from the day. There’s just something about dead trees; they’re often so photogenic and full of character. I always think about how old these trees are, how many summers and winters they have lived through, watching people come and go.
  8. Last but not least is another favourite showing the terrain dropping away into bowl below the bluffs, and the distance mountains of Coliseum and Cathedral, Garibaldi barely showing up at the edge of the treed slope of Mount Seymour.

So there you have it, my attempt at showcasing the glorious sunny subalpine experience I had last Saturday.

All photos taken on a Pixel 2 phone, edited to taste in Google Photos.

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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!

Harvest moonrise

Watching the Harvest Moon rise over Burrard Inlet.

A clear evening for a full-moonrise is not that common in Vancouver so I jumped at the chance to scope out a good place to set up my camera for this one. Using the Photographer’s Ephemeris I decided on the Stanley Park seawall with a clear view towards the Second Narrows bridge to the east and, with moonrise at around 7:25 pm, I knew I had just enough time to get home from work and get down to the park. I hoofed it down from the parking lot by the aquarium onto the seawall and walked along to my designated spot, pulling out the tripod on the way and extending the legs just as I reached a convenient bench.

I had only a few minutes to set up, check focus and exposure before the bright yellow limb of the moon rose over a distant ridge. As with my full moon shoot from January 2017, I was surprised at how quickly the moon appeared to rise for those first few minutes, even though I’m well acquainted with sky rotation (being a former astronomer and all). I snapped away for those minutes, alas making a fatal error and not refocusing as I changed the zoom setting on my lens. Of course I didn’t realized this until afterwards…

This moonrise wasn’t quite as good as the one back in January last year, because the moon rose after the sun had set. This meant that the sky was much darker as the moon brightened, making it much harder to balance the exposure. In the end I mostly exposed for the moon itself, but the reflection on the water was too good to resist. I also didn’t have such an impressive backdrop, and I think I might have been better off trying to get the moon to rise directly over the steel girders of the bridge, although I didn’t want the moon to disappear behind Burnaby Mountain too soon.

Still, I’m pretty happy with the results. The photos on Instagram were from a quick processing session immediately afterwards. I took my time a couple of days later and processed the photos slightly differently to put on Flickr, with different lighting adjustments, noise reduction, crops, and a half-baked attempt to remove some of the red fringing around the bottom half of the moon caused by the lens being slightly out of focus. See for yourself.

Harvest moon rise, 24 Sep 2018

Harvest moon rise, 24 Sep 2018

Harvest moon rise, 24 Sep 2018

Harvest moon rise, 24 Sep 2018

No time-lapse video this time, though. For reasons unknown, my phone and camera were most definitely not on speaking terms, and of course I hadn’t checked that out beforehand. So, another lesson learned from my meagre time lapse experiences! There’s always next time…

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!

Lenticular

A line of lenticular-like clouds forms over the summit of Third Brother, a sign of high winds and a likely change in the weather. Later that night it poured with rain, heavy enough on the tent to wake me up, and in the morning turned to snow for a couple of hours. After that the clouds drifted away and the sun came out again. All the weather you could wish for! One of the joys of backpacking and something you always need to be prepared for 🙂

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A line of lenticular-like clouds forms over the summit of Third Brother, a sign of high winds and a likely change in the weather. Later that night it poured with rain, heavy enough on the tent to wake me up, and in the morning turned to snow for a couple of hours. After that the clouds drifted away and the sun came out again. All the weather you could wish for! One of the joys of backpacking and something you always need to be prepared for 🙂 #tripplanning #tripplantuesday #manningpark #ecmanningprovincialpark #ecmanningpark #manningparkresort #heathertrail #thirdbrother #backpackingbc #backpacking #hiking #bchiking #hikebc #bcparks #yourbcparks #bcadventuresmart #explorebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #ifttt

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I love clouds in all their forms. Lenticular clouds are less common, but not exactly rare in mountainous areas; we’ve seen them before in the notoriously-windy Coquihalla area before, which lies only 50 km or so north of our camping spot, and several had formed just east of that same area earlier today. What I hadn’t seen before was a line, especially such a clearly wave-like line, of lenticular clouds. I hoped they would persist until sunset; seeing those clouds lit up by golden evening light would have made a spectacular photo. Alas, they drifted off, and the sunset was mostly cloudy anyway with just a few brief patches of colour.

It was sometime after about 2 am that the rain started; the moon rose around midnight and lit up the tent for a while before the rain clouds rolled in. I tried not to think about the physiological effect that falling water would have on me in the middle of the night. Thankfully I lasted until the morning, and we had enough of a gap in the weather to convince us to get moving. At which point it snowed.