Columbia lilies

Columbia lilies in an open meadow for wildflower Wednesday – many of the orange blobs in this photo are Columbia lilies. Unfortunately my attempts to capture the extent of their bloom didn’t work out: I have a picture of orange dots in a field of mostly green. I’ve never seen so many in one place before, and it seemed like most of them had multiple flowers per stem, with as many as 5 on one.

I think this is my first Columbia lily photo on Instagram. I don’t have many photos of them because we simply don’t encounter that many on our hikes. I can think of a few places I’ve seen them, but they’re not as widespread as other flowers, and they don’t usually grow in abundance. Even where they do – such as the meadow in the photo above – trying to capture the sense of their number is really difficult as they’re tall and gangly flowers and they tend to be fairly spaced out. So I was happy to see that many of the stems had multiple flower heads, allowing me to get some more interesting photos, rather than simply a single flower atop a tall stalk.

One thing I noticed in taking pictures of these flowers with the Sony RX100II was that the red channel clipped very easily. As a result I have quite a few photos where the flowers are much yellower than in reality, and even processing from raw can’t bring the full detail back, so they remain kinda washed-out looking. I’ve got used to being a little cavalier with my exposure thanks to the dynamic range of the SLRs, and I guess this is one case where I well and truly hit the limits of what the smaller sensor can do. Darn. But now I know.

Mountain double act

Gratuitous mountain view for Mountain Monday – Brunswick and Harvey, a superb double act of Howe Sound summits. Which do you prefer?

Brunswick and Harvey, often mentioned together in conversations about the peaks of the Howe Sound Crest Trail (a backpacking trip I’ve yet to tackle), and two of several tough hikes that begin in Lions Bay. From what I’ve read, Brunswick – being the higher, slightly tougher, and more technical – seems to have the majority mindshare among hikers. I don’t disagree that it’s an impressive peak, and the summit is a fantastic area, but personally I prefer Mt Harvey because the approach is more pleasant (or less unpleasant depending on your point of view!), and I really liked the closer view of the Lions.

Both hikes are hard, involving over 1450 m of elevation gain at an average gradient exceeding 20%. Brunswick has the additional excitement of some scrambling and tricky terrain to negotiate (with some exposure too), whereas Harvey has only a few places near the top where hands are helpful. But for me, the hike up to Brunswick is just awful: over 2 hours of logging road followed by a direct line up the mountain through scrappy second-growth forest. Only once the trail hits the Howe Sound Crest Trail does it become interesting and fun. By comparison, the hike up to Harvey passes through more pleasant forest (even though a lot is second-growth), and winds its way up the steep slope in a more manageable fashion.

Maybe it’s only because I only recently saw the view from Mt Harvey for the first time, but, at least for now, I’ll take the less exciting summit with the more interesting approach!

And that was my 400th post on Instagram. It’s only taken me two years 🙂

Aflame

The only fire I wanted to see at the weekend – backlit paintbrush in the afternoon.

There’s a campfire ban in BC at the moment, which is fine with me as I don’t really care much for them. It’s much nicer to camp without all the smoke and haze to be honest. I couldn’t help but think of fire when I saw these paintbrush lit by the later afternoon sunshine; fire from the sun, and fire-red paintbrush. What you can’t tell from this photo is how many mosquitoes and black flies I was having to keep at bay while lying face down, shielding the lens from the glare of the sun and trying to keep the camera steady…

My happy place

OK so yesterday’s flowers were pretty nice, but nothing beats a meadow full of glacier lilies! Truly, my happy place 🙂

Much as I love seeing all those other flowers, there is one in particular that I get a little giddy over. Yes, it’s the humble glacier lily. I was hoping that there would be a remnant snow patch or two in the higher elevation meadows that would be ripe for a glacier lily bloom. Sure enough, there was one little snow patch that had a handful in bloom, but my eye was drawn to a bigger patch of yellow in a more distant meadow. There was something about the particular shade of yellow that had me thinking I was not just seeing more arnica. We tiptoed our way around the flowers to get to a well-placed rock at one end of the meadow where we could see without doubt that this was a great big patch of glacier lilies in peak bloom. Yay!

I had found my happy place.

Wildflowers galore!

Wildflowers galore on the way up to Mt Outram. Best viewed from the trail, of course.

As we plodded our way up the steep trail to Mt Outram, we met a hiker on her descent who exclaimed that the flower display awaiting us was possibly the best she’d ever seen. When we broke out of the trees onto the open slopes, we could barely believe our eyes. The meadows were absolutely filled with all manner of flowers; the blues, reds, and yellows of lupine, paintbrush, and arnica making for a truly eye-catching view. I think every colour of the rainbow was well represented.

It’s always a little difficult to capture such rich displays. Either the flowers end up looking like little dots, and there’s nothing to draw you into the photo, or a small number of flowers becomes the focus, and some of the grandeur and extent of the meadows is lost. But this one seems to strike the right balance, especially with the distant mountains lending a bit of depth and providing a level horizon to emphasize the steep slope.

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!)

Pinesap

It’s pinesap season! I love how these flowers emerge from the ground, uncurling and unfurling as they grow. Saw a few along the Sea to Summit trail at the weekend, and on Mt Gardner the previous weekend, and more on our hike to Mt Harvey a couple of weeks ago. Alice Lake is a great place to see them at this time of year.

Much like coralroot, I was intrigued by these colourful flowers that grew in the shade of the forest. I don’t remember exactly when I first saw one of these flowers, but I could immediately see it was unlike any other flower I’d ever seen. Varying from creamy-yellow to salmon-pink in colour, this tiny flower unfurls directly on the forest floor, starting out as a tiny coloured bump before growing up and straightening out to a full height of about 30 cm. Like coralroot, there’s not a hint of green anywhere. They sometimes grow alone, but more often in small groups, two or three, maybe half-a-dozen. Since then I’ve found a place where it grows in profusion, and the trail becomes one of the slowest half-miles I’ll ever walk 🙂

So keep your eyes open – they’re picky about where they grow, but when they find a place they like, they can spread out and colonize the area.