The Perks of a Window Seat

Our flight back from the UK (back in May…) left us speechless at some of the views we had from the aircraft, so much so I decided to opt for a series of daily photos for a Window-Seat Week.

Perks of a Window Seat I: mountains and glaciers on the eastern coast of Greenland. After a couple of hours ignoring the sea of clouds outside, our attention was caught by the sudden appearance of blue ocean moments before flying over the Greenland coast. The incredible sight of the coastal sea ice, jagged mountains, and enormous calving glaciers flowing off the ice sheet had us glued to the window. Gradually the peaks were swallowed up by the vast expanse of snow and ice and we returned to our books.

Perks of a Window Seat II: flying over the Rockies in Banff National Park reminds me that it’s been too long since we last visited. This view shows the Icefields Parkway near Mistaya Lake and the Waterfowl Lakes to the north, the Saskatchewan Crossing area near the top left corner. I always enjoy seeing places I’ve been from the air!

Perks of a Window Seat III: flying back to Vancouver last week, our view was hazy from forest fires in Alberta but we could still make out the mountains and it made the puffy cumulus clouds really stand out.

Perks of a Window Seat IV: descending into YVR was the most fun part of our flight, with the opportunity for close-up views of some very familiar mountains. First up was Mt Judge Howay, a well-known, distinctive double-peaked mountain visible from many places in the Lower Mainland. Beautiful in its own right but the layer of clouds clinging to the northwest ridge of Mt Kranrod add extra gorgeousness.

Perks of a Window Seat V: it was hazy as we approached YVR but we could still make out some of the jagged peaks of the Coast Mountains. The Five Fingers group is most prominent with Mount Garibaldi showing up ever so faintly in the distance.

Perks of a Window Seat VI: perhaps my favourite photo of this series, partly because it’s such a familiar peak but also because I’ve stood on its summit. It is, of course, Golden Ears peak itself, along with the jagged Edge Peak and Blanchard Needle (Alouette Mountain is right at the bottom).

And thus concludes my Window-Seat Week 🙂

Earning the view

Earning the patio view at the Sea to Sky Gondola by counting the trail markers. A great way to spend a sunny afternoon – this hike has grown on me in recent years, despite the terrible condition of the trail. I would love to see the Sea to Sky Gondola folks put some money and effort into upgrading the trail. The km markers are a welcome addition but that doesn’t stop inexperienced hikers from underestimating what’s involved.

Well I thought I was behind before, but now I am a whole season behind! After hiking this trail with friends the previous month in somewhat variable weather, it felt good to take advantage of a sunnier day for a return visit.

The patio at the lodge has a great view in several directions, including this view over towards the still-snowy Tantalus Range. I liked how the cable follows the same angle as the land, kind of hiding it. Then there’s the gondola car itself, whose occupants may be enjoying exactly the same view as the photographer, perhaps allowing the viewer to imagine riding the gondola themself, and taking in that scene.

The kilometre-markers are a relatively recent addition, and I think they’re invaluable for gauging progress. I’d also like to see them labelled with the elevation too so hikers can get a sense of how high they’re climbing. Marking the quarter- and half-way marks is simultaneously useful and demoralizing as it always feels that you’ve made more progress than that! The directional signage has also improved drastically since we first hiked this trail back in 2014. If only the trail itself had seen some maintenance during that time…

Howe Sound on a sunny day is irresistible, still looking blue at this time of year before the main snowmelt gets underway when the silt in the Squamish River turns the sound a milky green. I’ve always liked the wiggle in the road from this vantage point too.

Upper Shannon Falls may not be as impressive as the lower counterpart, but they’re still pretty impressive. The smooth rocks by the creek make for a good resting spot, though they must be treated with care as they can be slick.

The bluffs just beyond the half-way point are a great spot for lunch or at least a snack with views of the Chief to the north. Just watch out for the chipmunks and Steller’s and Canada jays as they are all too quick to scrounge for food. Alas too many people have fed them over the years, which has made them all far too bold for their own good.

Of course, on a clear day, the crowds flocked to the suspension bridge for photo-ops, so who could resist making a photo-op of those photo-ops? You have to admit, it’s quite the view…

Revolutum

A plethora of pink fawn lilies for fawn-lily Friday! So happy to find some as they’re very rare on the mainland. A big thank you to bustapbj for pointing me in the right direction 👍👍

Pink fawn lilies (Erythronium revolutum) are very rare on the mainland: I’ve seen only a single one in Lighthouse Park, a few on the UBC campus, and a handful more at the UBC Botanical Garden. So I was really looking forward to our visit to Vancouver Island, and to the Port Renfrew area in particular, where I’d seen a couple of photos showing pink fawn lilies at the base of a large tree. One of my Instagram friends let me know of another site where I might find them, which we drove past multiple times and every time I couldn’t see where they might be hiding.

But Sombrio Beach had a surprise waiting for me with a small area of pink lilies, some of which – alas – had been trampled carelessly. I picked my way through the tangle of salmonberry to find a nice spot with a few flowers in a photogenic arrangement. If those were all I’d seen I’d have to admit that they would do, I guess, though I was still thinking about trying to find this other spot.

On our last day, as we were driving back to take the ferry home, we drove past the “secret” spot one last time and I decided that it was now or never. Leaving Maria in the car with her book, I ran off in one direction. Nothing. I ran back past the car, saw a short trail disappear into the forest and took it. The environment looked ideal, but the only flowers were trillium (which, of course, I did stop to photograph as well…) and false lily-of-the-valley (which I did not, on account of not seeing a good composition).

Returning to the road, I crossed over and followed a different trail down a small embankment into what I thought would be a scruffy area (if not outright dumping ground as it was next to the road). I could not have been more wrong. Here, in all their glory, was the biggest patch of pink fawn lilies I had ever seen. It was stunning! Knowing we were short of time, I hurriedly snapped a few photos, not really taking the time to find good compositions. I ran back to the car and breathlessly told Maria all about them, and decided we had enough time for me to drive the 100 m back to that spot and show her. It was worth it 🙂

So, many thanks Shane – you were absolutely 100% right!

On a final, completely unrelated note, the “revolutum” part of their name instantly brings to mind the Queensryche album “Operation: Mindcrime” and, in particular, the song “Revolution Calling” which I will forever more think of as “Revolutum Calling”. Which they will do every spring.

Misty Mountain Monday

Misty mountain Monday – views of the Stawamus Chief, showers in the Squamish Valley, and a suggestion of snowy peaks hidden in the clouds across Howe Sound.

Sometimes you have to get out hiking whatever the weather, and on this day we had plenty of weather! Winter wasn’t done with us yet, and we ended the day walking in wet snow. Still, swirly clouds make for interesting views along the way.

The first photo is overlooking the gap between the first and second peaks of the Chief, where we can see the Squamish Valley beyond and the way up towards Whistler. I snapped it from the gondola on our descent, and I like how the view is sandwiched between the clouds.

The second photo shows a similar view, though just looking down into the valley: I like how the light was catching the two parallel roads pointing northwards up the valley, and how the view becomes obscured by the rain showers.

The third photo was taken from the patio at the upper gondola station and at first glance might not appear to be very striking. But I really like the subtlety of the snowy mountain barely visible through the clouds. I tried to make it noticeable but not too obvious in the processing and I’m not sure it entirely worked. However, I still like it because it reminds me of the day and how there wasn’t even this much of a view when we first reached the top!

Island flowers

Wildflower season is upon us! I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to seek out spring flowers on Vancouver Island last weekend. Of course I knew there’d be white fawn lilies, trillium, and skunk cabbage and I was hoping to find shooting stars and common camas. But the highlight was all the gorgeous little satin flowers, which I’d never even heard of until I saw bustapbj’s posts. And – oh wow – are they ever beautiful!

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Wildflower season is upon us! I couldn't pass up the opportunity to seek out spring flowers on Vancouver Island last weekend. Of course I knew there'd be white fawn lilies, trillium, and skunk cabbage and I was hoping to find shooting stars and common camas. But the highlight was all the gorgeous little satin flowers, which I'd never even heard of until I saw @bustapbj's posts. And – oh wow – are they ever beautiful! #wildflowerwednesday #wildflowers #whitefawnlily #erythroniumoregonum #trillium #shootingstars #satinflower #skunkcabbage #commoncamas #olsyniumdouglasii #purpleeyedgrass #goldstreamprovincialpark #mountfinlayson #explorevi #explorebc #yourbcparks #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia

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Of course, “last weekend” was back at the beginning of April, when the first wave of wildflowers began to bloom. Despite the threat of rain, I was still able to head to Goldstream Provincial Park and hike up Mount Finlayson in search of a few of my favourite spring flowers. The fawn lilies were well in bloom on the southern side of the park, and only just in bud on the northern slopes of the mountain, so I got to see all stages of their growth (which I always enjoy). The bonus was seeing the trillium and fawn lilies together in a sea of white and green.

Once up into the Garry oak meadows, the shooting stars took over, and I was surprised to find the camas was only just coming into bud. Again, on the north side of Mount Finlayson, I found a couple of small clearings which were covered in the leaves and early buds of shooting stars: they must have looked great a couple of weeks after my visit! There were more fawn lilies, though none were in photographically-favourable places.

As mentioned above, the real treat was seeing satin flowers for the first time, and what gorgeous little flowers they are! And so well-named: the petals really do look like magenta satin. They were more or less at the end of their bloom so I hope I can catch them earlier next year. I don’t feel that my photos really captured them very well, so I would definitely appreciate another chance to check them out.

Lastly, the section of the road just before getting back to the car had some wonderful patches of bright skunk cabbage flowers.

As for the hike itself, it’s well worth doing though the views from the top are quite distant and the nearby development on Bear Mountain is a bit of an eyesore. I’m not sure I’d repeat the loop I walked: the route down the north side isn’t very interesting, and it ends with a few km of road walking. Still, it wasn’t all bad: at least there were more flowers along a few stretches of the road.

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.

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!