Tantalus Views

A mellow hike to ease into the season, the highlights are definitely the views of the Tantalus Range but the trail also passes through some nice forest.

It’s the end of March, and we’re really feeling out of shape when it comes to hiking. As such, we’re starting slowly but surely to build up to the summer hiking season with a mix of easy-to-moderate hikes. After doing so much hiking on snow over the winter, it definitely feels good to be on solid ground again! We’ve done the Brohm Lake Interpretive Forest loop a couple of times before and really enjoyed, so it seemed like a suitable choice for warming up our legs again.

One of the best features of this hike is the exceptional views of the Tantalus Range, as seen in the first three photos. The third is annotated using the PeakFinder app which is very handy for when you simply must know what the peaks are called! Another good view is of Cloudburst Mountain seen from the bridge at the south end of the lake. Strangely, I don’t remember seeing that view before so it was a nice surprise, especially with Cloudburst reflected in the perfectly-calm lake.

But it’s not all about the views. The trail wanders through a mixture of forest – sometimes open and airy, other times darker and more enclosed – past some fine cedars and Douglas firs, and has a few gorgeous rocky bluffs overlooking the lake which would make great sunbathing spots. It’s a popular lake for swimming in the summer but I’m not much of a swimmer, and it never looks appealing to me.

So there you go, a few photos of our hike. Nothing earth-shattering, just a nice day out.

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Frozen

Couldn’t resist stopping off at Alexander Falls after a couple of hours snowshoeing the trails at the Whistler Olympic Park. Unfortunately we ran out of time and had to make do with the view from the parking lot instead of getting down to river level. Hard to believe there’s a creek under there!

With our prolonged spell of fine, cold weather, we knew that the local waterfalls were mostly frozen over. Our original plan was to take in the trail that ventures to the base of Alexander Falls, but our desire to explore new trails got the better of us and we wandered up the slopes and through the forests of the west side of the Whistler Olympic Park instead. That meant we ran out of time before getting to Alexander Falls, so we had to be content with parking up on our way back and doing the short (but treacherous) walk across the snow-buried parking lot.

It was an impressive sight, the falls almost completely frozen over with only the smallest sign of running water. It definitely would have been worth exploring the bottom of the falls, as I’d done with a friend on a previous visit, but we’ll just have to wait until next winter.

I also realized that one problem with photographing the waterfall this late in the day meant that it was partially in shadow; it would be better to catch it either in full sun or full shade rather than have to deal with the large difference in brightness between the shady waterfall and the sunlit snow. Something to remember next time!

Waiting for sunset

Waiting for sunset on Black Mountain, a good little hike for when you’re getting over a cold. Plus we got to hang out with creeks.and.peaks and her pup Abby – we were all a little chilly by the time we headed back down!

We didn’t get out hiking at all in February, and we paid for it towards the end of the month when we were both struck down with colds. That knocked us out of action for a couple of weeks, and today’s hike was our first attempt at some exercise in well over a month. I struggled on the ascent, stopping often to do battle with a fit of coughing, the cold air and exertion threatening to stop me in my tracks.

Thankfully we had chosen a short hike, and we eventually levelled off on the Black Mountain plateau. As we wandered up to the north summit I recognized Ngaio whom we’d met at Keith’s Hut back in September 2016. We stopped to chat and swap stories of our respective colds.

While the sun was shining, the air was cool and we discussed the possibility of hanging around for an hour to catch the sunset. Somehow we all thought it was worth doing and so we wiled away the time taking photos, chatting, and commiserating with a shivering Abby – poor thing! When the time came, the clouds cleared and the snow turned pink-ish. The colours weren’t very strong, especially to the eye, and by now we were all cold – I was also shivering and having a hard time holding the camera still having decided to leave the tripod at home – and I’m not sure anyone thought it was actually worth our time.

However, when I looked at the photos at home I was pleasantly surprised at how well they turned out. The three above are all square crops from photos taken with my phone (my preferred source for Instagram) and I really like them all. The light in the first one is just lovely, the pink light on the trees looks stunning in the second, while the last light is cast across the uppermost slopes of the mountains in the third. I must admit I’ve gone back to look at these photos multiple times even before I posted them on Instagram.

Expansive peace

A few throwback-Thursday favourites from our Heather Trail backpacking trip last September. A great hike to soak up some wide open alpine space and big skies…

Our decision to hike the Heather Trail on the Labour Day weekend was made as we approached Hope along Highway 1. Do we take the turnoff and continue into the Fraser Canyon towards the Stein Valley, or head for the alpine of the Heather Trail? In the end the weather looked good enough for a few days of alpine enjoyment, and so we continued on to Highway 3 and into Manning Park.

It turned out to be an inspired move. We set off under cool, cloudy skies and began our 12 km hike in to Kicking Horse campground. Late afternoon sunshine caught up with us near the final pass, bathing the meadows in warm light (photos 1 and 2) for some wonderful scenes. These two photos are among my favourites from the entire trip.

We found a suitable spot for our tent and enjoyed as quiet a night as we’ve ever experienced in the backcountry with not even the slightest breeze to ripple the fly sheet. I remember lying in my sleeping bag, probably around 1 or 2 am, holding my breath and enjoying the sheer weight of the silence.

The next day we hauled ourselves off in the direction of Nicomen Lake for a day’s hiking. We passed through more expansive meadows below azure skies, meeting barely a handful people along the way. (At least, until the ridge above Nicomen Lake itself.) We enjoyed lunch on a peak high above the lake (photo 3) before retracing our steps.

The light was perfect on our return, though we could see the beginnings of some dramatic clouds over the summit of Third Brother (fourth photo), portents of the weather to come that night and the following morning. The square format of this photo doesn’t really do justice to the size of the meadows we were passing through.

As we neared the campground we opted to pick our way carefully across country to the windy summit of Fourth Brother (photo 5) to enjoy a view we hadn’t experienced before. Then back to the tent, a rainy night followed by a snowy morning, and a steady hike back to the car.

It was only three days but it was some of the most enjoyable hiking and camping we’ve had, adding to some of the best hiking and camping we’d already savoured over the summer. Gambling on the Heather Trail was definitely the right decision.

Before the eclipse

Before the eclipse – the full moon rises over the mountains between Stave and Harrison Lakes.

I was heading back to the car having finished yet another round of attempting to photograph bald eagles in flight when I thought to check the time of moonrise. It turned out to be less than 20 minutes away so I drove back down to the dyke on Boundary Bay and waited for the Moon to appear. There were some wispy clouds near the eastern horizon so my hopes weren’t particularly high.

However, that didn’t stop me trying to get a clear line of sight to where I suspected the Moon would appear. A mature cottonwood on the golf course, bare of all leaves, made for a convenient point of interest, and (if necessary) an object on which to focus. I watched the light turn orange and pink on my favourite mountains – Golden Ears and the Cheam Range – before fading completely. A pair of bald eagles chased each other into the top branches of another cottonwood.

And yet, within ten minutes of rising, I caught a glimpse of something through the clouds that I knew was our nearest celestial neighbour. At first a faint semi-circular outline that gradually brightened as the sky simultaneously grew darker, eventually freeing itself from the clouds to begin its day, interrupted briefly by the passage of the Earth’s shadow across its disc.

I snapped a few photos while the sky was still pink before packing up and heading back home. And I’m really glad of that cottonwood tree for something to anchor the scene.

Fleeting

Winter sunsets in the mountains are the best. Judge Howay, Robie Reid, and Meslilloet catch the last light of the day as seen from the First Peak of Mount Seymour.

It wasn’t our plan to be at the summit for sunset; we thought we would have time to make it back down to Brockton Point by then, but we were delayed by the traffic management on the road up to Mount Seymour. But once we realized that, we were quite happy to stay put and watch our first winter summit sunset in quite a few years. With the help of a first-quarter moon, and lights from the ski resort, we didn’t even need our headlamps to retrace our steps back to the car.

The best light lasts only about 20 minutes, and it’s hard to know where to direct your concentration. The most dramatic scenes are opposite the setting sun, the light changing from orange to red to pink before leaving the mountains to shine white against a pink sky. But there was still competition from the mist drifting across English Bay, the shadows of the downtown sky-scrapers cast onto the water of Coal Harbour, and the deep orange glow over Vancouver Island.

I had thought ahead to bring a tripod, just the Gorillapod this time, eager to try out the new ball-head and Arca Swiss quick-release plate on the top. Alas, I quickly realized that I should have brought the full-size tripod as the Gorillapod proved pretty useless; it was difficult to set to the right height, while the rounded feet skidded on the icy snow. Still, I managed to get a few decent photos and I’m especially pleased with the three above.

In order, the mountains on display are:

  1. Mount Judge Howay, a dramatic double-peaked mountain that can be seen from many local mountains;
  2. Mount Robie Reid, an imposing hulk of a mountain;
  3. Meslilloet Mountain, which harbours the closest glacier to Vancouver on its northern face.

The time between the first and third photo is only seven minutes – you really have to act fast at this time of day!

Catching this sunset has inspired me to repeat the experience. I have a few winter sunsets (and even sunrises, though that’s less likely) in mind that I’d like to catch. Some require hiking but one or two can be obtained at the roadside. I might try those first.

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 🙂