Deep in Middle Earth

How long do you have to wait for a Thursday to be a throwback? Is two weeks good enough? If so then here’s a reflection of Mt Aragorn in a lake from a couple of weeks ago.

We’ve wanted to get into the Phelix Creek valley for so many years and we were delighted to make it at last, albeit at the expense of the paintwork on the car thanks to the plentiful alder and others bushes growing over the road. Although we didn’t scale any of the peaks (with the exception of the unofficially-named Frodo), we enjoyed exploring the area, especially the basin between Gandalf, Aragorn, and Shadowfax with its corresponding trio of lakes. When the breeze dropped, the surrounding peaks were reflected perfectly in the water, the squared-off profile of Aragorn looking especially majestic. (After all, he is the king!) In some ways it all reminded me of the Sierra Nevada mountains with the granite cliffs and lakes. All it needs is a few ponderosa pines to complete the picture.

And that is my 500th post on Instagram! I’ve been using it for 3 years now, and I must admit I’ve enjoyed it way more than I expected when I first started. It did take a while to build up my network of people I follow and follow me in return, but it’s been great fun.

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Peak wildflowers

How did it get to be wildflower Wednesday again already? The wildflowers are probably at their peak now and the late bloomers are starting to show up which means that, alas, the flowers will begin winding down soon. On show this week are lance-leaved stonecrop, small-flowered penstemon, the tiniest lupine you’ll ever see, arnica, spreading phlox, sulphur buckwheat, western anemone in its fluffy moptop phase, pink monkeyflower, and fringed grass-of-parnassus. Not shown are the intense red paintbrush, leather-leaved saxifrage, spotted saxifrage, pearly everlasting, purple aster, and partridgefoot among others.

How did it get to be #wildflowerwednesday again already? The wildflowers are probably at their peak now and the late bloomers are starting to show up which means that, alas, the flowers will begin winding down soon. On show this week are lance-leaved stonecrop, small-flowered penstemon, the tiniest lupine you'll ever see, arnica, spreading phlox, sulphur buckwheat, western anemone in its fluffy moptop phase, pink monkeyflower, and fringed grass-of-parnassus. Not shown are the intense red paintbrush, leather-leaved saxifrage, spotted saxifrage, pearly everlasting, purple aster, and partridgefoot among others. #wildflowers #lanceleavedstonecrop #lupine #pinkmonkeyflower #smallfloweredpenstemon #spreadingphlox #sulphurbuckwheat #westernanemone #moptop #arnica #fringedgrassofparnassus #hiking #bchiking #hikebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #backpacking #coastmountains #explorebc

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Another weekend, another backpacking trip, and another chance to catch the wildflower bloom in the high country. The first flush of flowers is done now: anemones have become moptops, while glacier lilies and others are only visible as seed pods. The next wave of favourites is showing up in force with flowers such as pink monkeyflower, broad-leaved willowherb, and fringed grass-of-Parnassus.

  1. Lance-leaved stonecrop in flower – they’re hard to see but this flower takes its name from the tiny pointy leaves at the base.
  2. Small-flowered penstemon – well-named, this little flower is usually only a few inches tall, and often really hard to photograph.
  3. Dwarf lupine – as tiny a flower as you’ll ever see, and so easy to miss; the leaves are not even an inch across!
  4. Arnica – not sure which type, but this little perfect trio in bloom was too good not to photograph.
  5. Spreading phlox – widespread in the dry alpine soil, it was great to find a near-perfect little patch, with a few flowers only just opening up.
  6. Sulphur buckwheat – this was remarkably widespread way up on the ridges above the treeline. We’ve only really seen it in Manning Park before so it was a nice surprise to find it here.
  7. Moptops of course! Who can resist moptops, especially when lit up by the late-afternoon sun?
  8. Pink monkeyflower – common in wet areas, and when they bloom, they really bloom!
  9. Fringed grass-of-Parnassus – one of my favourite late-season flowers (check out the little golf-ball flower buds!), I recently learned of its un-fringed cousin that grows in the UK.

I could spend hours crawling around photographing these and more, even though the bugs were as hungry as we’ve ever known them, especially the horseflies that managed to take a chunk or three out of me! Unfortunately, the flowers and bugs go hand-in-hand; it’s impossible to get one without the other. I suppose I should be grateful for the insects but sometimes…! πŸ™‚

Celebrate

Happy BC Day as Mother Nature celebrates Vancouver Pride weekend πŸ™‚ Another awesome weekend in the mountains, another round of itchy bug bites!

Recently I’ve been using photos from my phone for my Instagram posts, but this shot simply could not have been taken with that. Instead I needed a long(ish) telephoto lens to capture this partial rainbow and associated rain in front of the distant mountains. It was hard to believe just how intense the colours were in this rainbow, and I’m not convinced my processing has truly captured how it appeared to our eyes.

This photo was taken from the summit of Gotcha Peak near Blowdown Pass, an area I first visited back in 2007. On that occasion our group ventured in the opposite direction up towards Gott Peak, and I was struck by the incredible views once up on the ridge. In all directions lay nothing but mountains; a sea of mountains, each dip and peak like the outline of a wave, wave upon wave receding to the far horizon. I’ve found capturing that effect to be surprisingly hard as the resulting photo often ends up looking flat, but this one really works for me as the changing light throughout the image provides some much-needed depth. Definitely one of my favourite photos from the weekend!

Exploration

The South Chilcotin Mountains provincial park is absolutely stunning and one of the best backpacking areas I’ve ever visited. I cannot wait to plan more trips there! But it’s not a place for beginners – do not venture into this area without significant planning and experience. Most of the park has no facilities so you must be self-sufficient and practice your best leave no trace skills.

So many photos to choose from, I picked this one of Harris Ridge with the Dickson Range as backdrop to get me started. Wow!

“Wow” doesn’t even begin to describe how it felt to explore this small part of the Southern Chilcotins. It felt vast, endless, remote, and yet approachable, unlike many of the more jagged mountain ranges and deep valleys of the Coast Mountains. Our five days here was some of the most enjoyable backcountry time we’ve had in a while, probably since Cape Scott in 2016.

And that was despite the mosquitoes (which were horrendous in one valley, merely annoying elsewhere), getting caught in a hailstorm with thunder and lightning, and getting rained out on our last couple of days which had us cut our trip short by a day. The hiking was excellent, the trails were easy going (for the most part), and the flowers were endless. So many flowers!! The meadows were just filled with every type of flower imaginable, including a few new ones for us that we’ve yet to identify. I can’t wait to go back!

I was surprised by the complete lack of facilities at any of the suggested camping areas: I think I expected we would encounter campgrounds, or at least established camping spots. In reality we had to make it up ourselves, and use our backcountry knowledge and experience to decide on good places to camp. We ensured we ate about 100 m from our tent, and hung our food (our Ursacks were invaluable) a similar distance away.

One of the highlights was seeing a grizzly bear wandering through a meadow as we ate breakfast. At only 200 m away, it felt awfully close, especially as our bear spray was 100 m closer to the bear than we were! But we soon learned that the bears want nothing to do with people as the sound of a mountain biker’s voice startled the bear into running for tree cover.

The hike up to Harris Ridge (seen in the photo) was definitely the best day of exploration, following the high ridge to its end with views that covered all the valleys we’d hiked through to get to where we were at that moment. Plus we could see nothing but mountain range upon mountain range in every direction. So much to explore, so little time…

A quick trudge up the BCMC trail

Nothing exciting this week – just a quick trudge up the BCMC trail as a training hike for our upcoming backpacking trip(s). Not much to look at either except trail markers, rocks and roots, and other hikers’ miserable faces (seriously, most of the people we encountered looked like they’d far rather be somewhere else). Nothing puts me more into cheery greetings mode than fed-up-looking hikers πŸ™‚ More seriously, some were struggling with the heat, while others had problems with the grade (which seemed to be exacerbated by poor footwear). The only people who looked like they were enjoying the day had good footwear… Coincidence?

Nothing exciting this week – just a quick trudge up the BCMC trail as a training hike for our upcoming backpacking trip(s). Not much to look at either except trail markers, rocks and roots, and other hikers' miserable faces (seriously, most of the people we encountered looked like they'd far rather be somewhere else). Nothing puts me more into cheery greetings mode than fed-up-looking hikers πŸ™‚ More seriously, some were struggling with the heat, while others had problems with the grade (which seemed to be exacerbated by poor footwear). The only people who looked like they were enjoying the day had good footwear… Coincidence? #bcmctrail #grousemountain #grousemountainregionalpark #hiking #bchiking #hikebc #northvancouver #northshoremountains #explorebc

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This is kind of a photo-journal of the BCMC trail, all taken with my phone (I didn’t touch the “real” camera once).

  1. The trail peels away from the Grouse Grind almost immediately soon and begins fairly innocuously, at least by North Shore standards. It’s following the Baden-Powell trail, and is wide with nice steps where needed.
  2. A clearly-marked junction points us up the slope for the BCMC trail, which soon turns to a sea of rubble. Seriously, without careful attention it’s almost impossible to detect a trail here. The saving grace for this trail is the suite of well-placed trail markers, orange diamonds nailed to the trees. You can’t go wrong if you follow these.
  3. Higher up it gets worse, deteriorating into a mess of roots and indistinct steps. In many areas, bypass trails have been formed by people either avoiding the roots or simply not appreciating that’s where the trail actually goes!
  4. Like historical artefacts, there are occasional signs that there was once a proper trail here. This nice little section of almost-buried steps still visible.
  5. Up to now, the forest has been largely barren, desolate second-growth. Thankfully the forest gradually begins to change with elevation and signs of pleasant greenery and younger growth start to show, especially on a nice sunny day.
  6. Higher still, we reach areas that were perhaps only gently logged and as such still have some original understory, such as these Queen’s cup flowers in a patch of sunlight.
  7. Here and there fallen trees have been cleared by chainsaw-wielding crews who seem to have a liking for carving faces in the the cut sections. (The best example of this was the Brothers Creek trail back in 2016.)
  8. Nearly there: the trail joins the line of a trio of pipelines, presumably carrying waste water down the slope to be treated. This is about the first section of trail that feels flat!
  9. First stop at the top is to buy download passes (now a pricey $15 per person). Second is the washroom; third is the cafe for refreshment. Then it’s time to join the line of tourists to enjoy the 10-minute descent back to the parking lot.

It’s not a great hike by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a good enough workout to make it worth squeezing in to a day where you don’t have the time to go further. Mind you, we reached the top and still felt fresh enough to continue. I think it’s about time we revisited Goat and/or Crown Mountain!

Phone Friday VII

Another selection of photos for phone Friday or forest Friday or fungus Friday or even frosty Friday (since many of these were taken on our Canada Day hike to Frosty Mountain). Check out the tree you can ride like a fairground carousel pony! I was surprised to see the coral fungus growing already… I couldn’t resist photographing the garbage gobbler at the Hunter Creek rest area πŸ™‚ The last photo is the pall of smoke from the Topanga Cafe fire 😦 a 116-year old building gone.

And that was my week in photos!

Another selection of photos for #phonefriday or #forestfriday or #fungusfriday or even #frostyfriday (since many of these were taken on our Canada Day hike to Frosty Mountain). Check out the tree you can ride like a fairground carousel pony! I was surprised to see the coral fungus growing already… I couldn't resist photographing the garbage gobbler at the Hunter Creek rest area πŸ™‚ The last photo is the pall of smoke from the Topanga Cafe fire 😦 a 116-year old building gone. And that was my week in photos! #frostymountain #manningpark #ecmanningprovincialpark #camping #hiking #bchiking #hikebc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #beautifulbc #explorebc #yourbcparks #garbagegobbler #coralfungus #teampixel #pixel2 #happycanadaday #staircaseofdoom

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  1. Happy Canada Day from the summit of Frosty Mountain! Notice how the flag is totally horizontal? Yeah, it was blowing a frigid gale up there! Thankfully, there’s a low stone wall to shelter behind so we were able to enjoy our lunch in comfort.
  2. Fresh larch needles – I still remember the first time I touched larch needles and how surprised I was that they weren’t like needles at all but were soft and pliant, almost rubbery. I often run a hand over the branches, leaves, or bark of trees but none are like the larch. Even in the autumn as they turn yellow and fall from the tree, they remain so much softer than typical conifer needles.
  3. Sit-upon tree – it just invites being sat on, doesn’t it? And we have πŸ™‚
  4. The tree-clearing crews had recently finished their work and we could smell fresh sawdust as we passed every place fallen trees had been cut. This winter seemed to bring down a lot of trees, but this one caught my eye with its striking asymmetry. Often trees like this are the result of two trunks that have merged, but I’m having a hard time see that in this case. I wonder what caused it to grow in this way? Was it really so much sunnier on the one side?
  5. On the climb up towards Frosty the first view is of the valley containing the Lightning Lakes chain, with Mt Hozameen at the far end. Today the north summit was in the clouds so all that could be seen was the snow field on below. The Skyline I trail (that we hiked last June) is the ridgeline just out of the frame on the right-hand side of the photo. It’s not a spectacular photo but it’s a nice view, and it feels like a just reward for the last hour of forest views.
  6. Car camping – our little backpacking tent sits in the middle of a large gravel pitch at the Mule Deer campground in Manning Park. Such a contrast with many of the setups that occupy so many sites which are often festooned with tarps, or shelters covering the picnic table. Sometimes the space is taken by a large RV, caravan, or trailer, but I prefer our tidier, more compact arrangement. If it rains, we sit in the car to eat πŸ™‚
  7. Staircase of doom – this doesn’t look so doom-like as you descend but after a long uphill slog from Buckhorn Camp on the Heather Trail, this staircase is a bit demoralizing. I saw it nicknamed the “staircase of doom” by some hikers a few years back and the name has stuck with me. In any case its curving path makes for a lovely photo.
  8. Coral fungus – I normally associate these fungi with autumn hiking so I was really surprised to see them pushing up through the soil already. The photo doesn’t really do them justice: it was neat to see how they’d emerged from the ground, and like the larch needles, they looked so fresh. I don’t know if they’re edible but I’m happy to leave them where they grow.
  9. Garbage gobbler – a bear-proof bin painted with a hungry mouth. This is the modern incarnation of the painted bins from the 1950s or 1960s that the BC Ministry of Transportation installed at rest stops and pullouts across the province. I saw an Instagram post from the Ministry that mentioned them again, so I was pleased to find this one at this rest stop. OK it’s not really much of a photo, just one of those interesting things we find on our travels.
  10. Where there’s smoke… Last Friday morning we awoke to the sound of a helicopter buzzing overhead and the smell of smoke in the apartment. We looked outside and saw the pall of smoke from this fire on 4th Avenue. A quick search of Twitter revealed that the building housing the Topanga cafe was on fire. It took most of the day to put it out, after which the building had to be destroyed. I’m sad to see yet another historical building disappear from Vancouver streets. No doubt it’ll be replaced by something faceless in a year or two. Naturally, with it being a restaurant on fire, the first thought is that it started in the kitchen somehow. Sadly, the CBC reported today that it may have been started by something as simple as a discarded cigarette butt. I wish that smokers were more careful in their disposal of cigarette ends but I’ve seen far too many just flick it away, a total failure of imagination and misplaced belief that nothing will come of their actions.

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!

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 πŸ™‚ 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…