Glacier lily season

Flowers!!! Nuff said really. Glacier lilies are blooming nicely, plus we managed to find some fairyslipper orchids, lots of wild ginger, a patch of very pale pinesap, and even some trillium still in bloom, complete with a well-camouflaged crab spider. My favourite time of year!

As I mentioned in my previous post, we saw some wildflowers on our hike to Goat Mountain (WA). Of course, not just any old wildflowers, we saw glacier lilies! And I’d be lying if it was purely a coincidence. I was so happy to be photographically spoiled for choice with the glacier lilies again, though as usual I still found it hard to come up with really good compositions. The challenge is finding a composition while staying on the trail, or at least on ground that is suitable to step onto. The meadows in the early season are probably at their most fragile and so should definitely not be walked on.

The most surprising photo in this batch, though, is the one of the trillium. At the time I took the photograph, I had barely noticed the fly, let alone the crab spider waiting on one of the petals. It was only later at home when I zoomed in to check focus that I saw the spider, it blends in so well! And I have to say I really like the result: the crab spider has adopted its characteristic menacing pose, ready to pounce on unsuspecting prey such as this small fly. The fact that the spider is on the white petal and the fly on the green leaf just makes the photo even more effective. Sometimes you get lucky!

Flowers, flowers, flowers

Wildflower Wednesday Part 1: a selection of flowers from our trip to the Southern Chilcotins. Glacier lily, paintbrush, moptops, Menzies larkspur, western anemone in flower, white bog orchid, white paintbrush in the snow/hail, columbine, Columbia lily, and a double feature of pink monkeyflower and broad-leaved willowherb. Good times!

Wildflower Wednesday Part 2: flowers from our trip to Phelix Creek. White and pink heather, kalmia (bog laurel), spreading phlox, alpine marsh marigold, a meadow of arctic lupine, rein orchid, alpine mitrewort, wood betony (bracted lousewort), one-sided wintergreen, and the find of the year, glaucous gentian. We only found two of these flowers, about 40 metres apart. To this day I do not know how we managed to spot these among all the heather and other greenery!

View this post on Instagram

Wildflower Wednesday Part 2: flowers from our trip to Phelix Creek. White and pink heather, kalmia (bog laurel), spreading phlox, alpine marsh marigold, a meadow of arctic lupine, rein orchid, alpine mitrewort, wood betony (bracted lousewort), one-sided wintergreen, and the find of the year, glaucous gentian. We only found two of these flowers, about 40 metres apart. To this day I do not know how we managed to spot these among all the heather and other greenery! #wildflowerwednesday #wildflowers #phelixcreek #whiteheather #pinkheather #woodbetony #bractedlousewort #onesidedwintergreen #phlox #spreadingphlox #glaucousgentian #reinorchid #alpinemitrewort #arcticlupine #alpinemarshmarigold #kalmia #explorebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #coastmountains

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

What can I say? We saw lots of flowers on our two backpacking trips – it was wonderful! And these are just some of the species that I photographed with my phone; we took many more with our other cameras. I was pleased to be able to find enough flowers on the second trip that I hadn’t photographed on the first too, even though there was a fair bit of overlap (as you might expect). Not much else to add, really; I think the IDs in the text above are in the right order. If not I’ll edit them later 🙂

Flower season

If you don’t like wildflowers, keep scrolling! It’s wildflower Wednesday and the alpine flowers are beginning to bloom. Glacier lilies, spring beauty, western anemone, paintbrush, sulphur buckwheat, Sitka valerian, Columbia lilies, and white bog orchids can all be found in Manning Park right now along with many others I neglected to photograph!

View this post on Instagram

If you don't like wildflowers, keep scrolling! It's #wildflowerwednesday and the alpine flowers are beginning to bloom. Glacier lilies, spring beauty, western anemone, paintbrush, sulphur buckwheat, Sitka valerian, Columbia lilies, and white bog orchids can all be found in Manning Park right now along with many others I neglected to photograph! #wildflowers #flowerstagram #manningpark #ecmanningpark #ecmanningprovincialpark #glacierlily #springbeauty #westernanemone #paintbrush #sitkavalerian #sulphurbuckwheat #columbialily #whitebogorchid #bogorchid #bcparks #mybcparks #yourbcparks #explorebc #frostymountain #heathertrail #paintbrushtrail #beaverpond #hiking #bchiking #hikebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

I maxed out my allocation for this multi-photo post – I would have included more if Instagram allowed….

  1. A glacier lily backlit by afternoon sunshine – the perfect glacier lily photo! This photo was taken on our descent from Frosty Mountain and we arrived at this pocket meadow in the forest at just the right time for the sun to find a gap in the trees and light up the flowers. Beautiful!
  2. Of course, one is never enough but I like this one because it shows the under-appreciated (and hard to photograph) spring beauty, a gorgeous diminutive little flower that blooms alongside the glacier lily and anemone.
  3. Spring beauty in full bloom – see how pretty it is? It’s well named! We first encountered spring beauty when we lived in Maryland, though it was common in low-lying woodland rather than in the alpine (of which there wasn’t any really!).
  4. The glacier lilies may be my favourite, but the stars of the show up at Blackwall Peak were the western anemones which were blooming everywhere, and often right along the edge of the trail. That made getting photos very convenient!
  5. I couldn’t decide whether I liked the shot from the side or from above, so I posted both.
  6. I can never resist a photo of paintbrush either, especially when it’s still in bud like this. I’m pleasantly surprised by how much detail my phone camera captured, down to all the fine hairs on the reddening bracts.
  7. This was a nice surprise: sulphur buckwheat in bud. I like how the flower head is divided up into sub-flowers, each with their own collection of florets.
  8. Sitka valerian – the name conjures up the smell of autumn in the mountains as they have quite a pungent scent when they begin to fade. It was the shape of this one that caught my eye, and it was only later I realized I’d caught just a single flower blooming.
  9. This Columbia lily was blooming right next to our camp site, and taking its picture was the first thing I did when I got out of the car 🙂 We saw many at the roadside as we drove into and through Manning Park; I’d love to have stopped and taken a few photos but that’s just not a particularly safe thing to do on such a busy highway.
  10. Lastly, a tall white bog orchid. As with the Columbia lilies, we saw some really good displays of these by the side of Highway 3. But I was happy with this one at the edge of the marsh by the beaver pond. I love the contrast of the green and white on these flowers.

As I alluded to in the caption above, there were many flowers that I either didn’t photograph or couldn’t feature in this little collection, although a good many of those were taken with our “real” cameras which aren’t as easy to post to Instagram. This is definitely my favourite time of the year now, where I’m torn between seeking mountain summits and spending hours photographing flower meadows…

Elk Flowers

I can tell which are my favourite wildflowers by the number of photos I take! And they all seem to be lilies: chocolate lilies, Queen’s Cup (aka bead lilies), and glacier lilies with a guest appearance from a budding Columbia lily. Great to see these early flowers; the rest should be following on strong in a couple of weeks.

Not much I need to say here, so I’ll just say what each photo shows:

  1. Chocolate lilies – we saw about as many as I’ve ever seen in one place on today’s hike, though quite a few were past their peak
  2. Chocolate lily flower close-up
  3. Queen’s Cup – a nice trio of leaves on this one
  4. A pair of Queen’s Cup flowers nestled together
  5. Glacier lilies!!!!!!
  6. I could take pictures of these all day; alas I had barely 2 minutes to grab what I could before we had to turn back
  7. Columbia lily in (double) bud – we saw many of these, all still in bud; in a week or two the meadows will be full of them, nodding in the breeze

It’s kinda funny looking at my Instagram feed at the moment. It doesn’t seem that long since I was lamenting the lack of colour in my feed; now it seems like it’s nothing by flowers! 🙂

Alpine views

I think this might be the very last of these Throwback Thursday posts. Coming up with a theme for these posts has been fun, and sometimes a little challenging. Today’s link had me scratching my head for a few moments until I realized the connection: both photos were taken in one of my favourite places, the alpine.

1. TBT to a beautiful Thursday in September 2012 on the Skyline trail in Jasper, the view south over Curator Lake from the Notch

First up is this stunning view from the Notch, the highest point along the 44-km Skyline Trail. What can’t be seen is the howling gale that greeted us as we came over the rise. We were oh-so glad of the sunshine after the previous day’s miserable cold rain, and the view was as breathtaking as the wind, but the downside to the alpine is the lack of shelter, and we were certainly feeling that as we huddled down in a group to eat our lunch.

The wind was a constant companion for the next hour or so but it was worth it for the never-ending views along the ridgeline of Amber Mountain. Definitely an awesome hike, and one I would love to repeat.

2. Some colour for a grey day – my favourite flower, a glacier lily, taken a couple of years ago on the trail to Zoa Peak.

View this post on Instagram

Some colour for a grey day – my favourite flower, a glacier lily, taken a couple of years ago on the trail to Zoa Peak. For #LeaveNoTraceTuesday I'll add that getting these kinds of flower photos often means going off-trail, a practice that requires a lot of care. It's also a time when even leaving footprints is not appropriate in case in invites the less careful – I've witnessed many a hiker simply not looking where they're putting their feet. On busy trails I'll simply not bother and just be content to admire the view from afar or use a long zoom lens 🙂 #zoapeak #coquihalla #alpine #wildflowers #glacierlily #erythroniumgrandiflorum #lnt #leavenotrace #beautifulbritishcolumbia #hiking #mec #mecnation #rei1440project

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

The second photo is of a subject that entices me up into the alpine as soon as the snow has melted: the humble glacier lily. Every year I like to go in search of them just as they poke up through the snow, and this year will probably be no different. The trick is to find somewhere new each time, and I’ll need to start thinking about that soon as we’re already in May!

This photo was originally posted on a “Leave No Trace Tuesday”, so I’ll include the comment I made at the time. Getting these kinds of flower photos often means going off-trail, a practice that requires a lot of care. It’s also a time when even leaving footprints is not appropriate in case in invites the less careful – I’ve witnessed many a hiker simply not looking where they’re putting their feet. On busy trails I’ll simply not bother and just be content to admire the view from afar or use a long zoom lens.

I’m always wary of stepping off the trail in popular areas in case someone sees me and interprets that as a green light to wander wherever they please. What they don’t see is the extreme care I take to step through the flowers, sticking to rocks where I can and bare dirt otherwise as much as possible. If I can’t identify a way through then I just don’t go and I’ll find an alternative flower to photograph.

Chasing spring

We may be subject to another 6 weeks of winter (you know, because today is a cross-quarter day which means it’s 6 weeks to the equinox) but I’m dreaming of seeing these little flowers emerge again.

Yes, today is Groundhog day whereby we get to contemplate the weather-forecasting abilities of a rodent that lives underground. It’s also a cross-quarter day – half-way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox – which means that tomorrow we’re more than half-way through the winter season and looking forward to the official start of spring.

Of course, plants and animals don’t know that we humans have divided the year in this way, and they show their recognition of the lengthening days and warmer (!) weather by beginning to grow new shoots or singing the first songs of courtship and staking territorial claims. One aspect of hiking that I particularly enjoy is how we follow spring up to higher elevations through the season. Beginning at sea level with the first flowers in the city – I always look forward to seeing witch hazel bloom in January – before moving on to the forest flowers that bloom in April (yes, even the skunk cabbage), and up to the alpine flowers from June onwards.

My favourite (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before) is the glacier lily and I really like trying to catch the very first wave of these in bloom. For me, they signify the beginning of the best part of the hiking season: the opening up of the alpine areas and witnessing the last gasp of winter at those high elevations.

Last year our timing was perfect; the road up to Blackwall Peak in Manning Park opened up the weekend we went there to hike another trail. Unable to resist, we walked the short Paintbrush Trail (you may recognize the above flowers in that post too) where the glacier lilies were only just beginning to bloom, the snow barely melted from around them. It was glorious. And with so many flowers so close to the trail, I could take my pick of photo opportunities. We left with many photos, dirty wet knees, and cold wet feet. A perfect day, in its own way.

Getting these photos is hard: the flowers are only a few inches tall at this early stage which means getting down on hands and knees. A tilting screen makes a big difference but it’s still easier to look through a viewfinder (and usually more stable, unless the camera is on a tripod – which is almost never the case for us). It helps that the main camera we were using (the Nikon D3200 with the kit lens) is able to focus at quite close distances even at full zoom. Coupled with 24 million pixels, it becomes possible to capture some tiny details on these flowers even without a macro lens. Then it’s a matter of finding the right flower with just the right shape, with just the right amount of water beading on it…

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!

View this post on Instagram

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 🐻 🐻 🙂 Hike reports are on LiveTrails. What a weekend! #glacierlily #erythroniumgrandiflorum #ManningPark #manningparkresort #ecmanningprovincialpark #bcparks #paintbrushnaturetrail #explorebc #wildflowers #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #ifttt #hikebc #bchiking

A post shared by Andy Gibb (@_andy_gibb_) on

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…