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.

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Camping without campfires

It’s Leave-No-Trace Tuesday and it seems appropriate to talk about campfires since they are banned across BC right now.

I’m firmly of the opinion that camping does not need a campfire. I prefer it because I get to see the night sky, and there are no concerns about anything catching fire or melting from stray sparks, or finding firewood, plus there’s no messy, stinky fire ring which in turn means no scar on the landscape. Also with a campfire, everyone huddles around it looking inwards. Why not sit and look out at the landscape?

So here’s our tent, lit by a headlamp inside and the full moon outside. What you can’t see in this photo is that we had to dodge two (!) fire rings to pitch our tent, despite the fact that campfires are forbidden here.

Strangely, most of the articles and posts I’ve seen about the current campfire ban use pictures of roaring campfires to make the point. I think the various news organizations and public bodies should invest in some alternative stock photos that either show campfires being extinguished or have campers enjoying a campfire-free life! It is possible!

And I’ve finally found a hashtag that no one has used yet: #campingwithoutcampfires Try it 🙂

It's #LeaveNoTraceTuesday and it seems appropriate to talk about campfires since they are banned across BC right now. I'm firmly of the opinion that camping does not need a campfire. I prefer it because I get to see the night sky, and there are no concerns about anything catching fire or melting from stray sparks, or finding firewood, plus there's no messy, stinky fire ring which in turn means no scar on the landscape. Also with a campfire, everyone huddles around it looking inwards. Why not sit and look out at the landscape? So here's our tent, lit by a headlamp inside and the full moon outside. What you can't see in this photo is that we had to dodge two (!) fire rings to pitch our tent, despite the fact that campfires are forbidden here. Strangely, most of the articles and posts I've seen about the current campfire ban use pictures of roaring campfires to make the point. I think the various news organizations and public bodies should invest in some alternative stock photos that either show campfires being extinguished or have campers enjoying a campfire-free life! It is possible! And I've finally found a hashtag that no one has used yet: #campingwithoutcampfires Try it 🙂 #leavenotrace #lnt #ge_rlparks #goldenears #goldenearsprovincialpark #nocampfires #bcparks #explorebc #backpacking #hiking #hikebc #bchiking #beautifulbc #bigagnes #beautifulbritishcolumbia #ifttt

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The obsession with campfires remains one of my biggest pet peeves when in the backcountry. Here in Canada (and probably elsewhere too), camping is intimately linked to having a campfire, be it for cooking, warmth, or as a TV substitute. They’re in all manner of adverts for camping and spending time in the great outdoors. And so it perhaps no great surprise that when people raised on this message venture into the backcountry to camp, they immediately feel some primal need for a campfire.

The thing is that they are completely unnecessary, borderline useless for cooking (I’ve tried), and damage the fragile backcountry environment to an extent that takes decades to restore. A portable gas stove is so much more efficient, and modern setups weigh very little. It’s the damage and mess that bugs me the most, especially when people don’t reuse an existing scar. As I mention above, there were two fire scars right next to where we pitched our tent, barely 2 metres apart. And when a place looks trashed, people are less inclined to take care and not trash it some more.

And so I do my best to leave places as I find them – or better. If I can walk away from a campsite and see no evidence I was there, I’m happy. That includes campfires. In many places we hike, they’re forbidden anyway (although that doesn’t stop people since enforcement is sadly minimal). And despite my fascination with fire as a youth, I never developed the camping-campfire association.

I’ll admit, then, that I find it easy to not bother with campfires. But I look at what I gain from not having one: no mess, no damage, no smell, no risks, and a clear view. A crackling fire is fine in a log cabin; in the backcountry, I want to hear the sounds around me. A fire draws my eye to its flames: without it, I have the entire landscape to admire. A bright fire accentuates the difference between light and dark: the night is rarely as dark as you think. In the backcountry, I accept there may be mosquitoes, and it may be chilly. I have warm clothing, plus bug wipes and a net if necessary.

I am quite happy to camp without a campfire.

A winding path

Day 2 of Hawaii week! A lovely winding path across the cinder with Maunakea in the distance. It’s also Leave No Trace Tuesday and I just want to say please don’t leave your TP behind, especially in areas such as this where there is nowhere to hide anything. Keep a zip-lock bag in your pack for carrying it out.

The route to the summit of Mauna Loa is marked by lava cairns, though, unfortunately, these cairns are interspersed with tiny white blobs of old toilet paper. At this high altitude they will take years to decompose, and in the meantime will remain an eyesore for other hikers. And don’t think that it’s okay just because others have done it! Do your bit to Leave No Trace anyway – it’s worth it 🙂 Mahalo!

Day 2 of Hawaii week! A lovely winding path across the cinder with Maunakea in the distance. It's also #LeaveNoTraceTuesday and I just want to say please don't leave your TP behind, especially in areas such as this where there is nowhere to hide anything. Keep a zip-lock bag in your pack for carrying it out. The route to the summit of Mauna Loa is marked by lava cairns, though, unfortunately, these cairns are interspersed with tiny white blobs of old toilet paper. At this high altitude they will take years to decompose, and in the meantime will remain an eyesore for other hikers. And don't think that it's okay just because others have done it! Do your bit to #LeaveNoTrace anyway – it's worth it 🙂 Mahalo! #maunaloa #maunakea #hiking #hawaii #hawaiivolcanoesnationalpark #lnt #nps #explorehawaii #hikehawaii #aloha #ifttt

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My impression is that people are so grossed out by all things toilet-based that they simply refuse to think about ways to deal with it. Suggest a zip-lock bag? People react to the fact you can still see into it. Well, how about you wrap the TP in clean TP? Or bring an old chip/crisp-packet and hide it in there first? So easy to deal with. “Yeah, but then I don’t want it in my pack.” Put in an outside (mesh) pocket, or bring an old plastic carrier bag and tie to the outside. Or put it into your take-out coffee cup. Or bring a few dog-poop bags. See? Easy. The hardest part in all of this is planning ahead. And that takes practice. Plus I suspect that behind the reactions of disgust is the fact that people know they did something wrong and are looking for ways to excuse themselves (no pun intended). After all, people don’t like their faults being pointed out to them.

The hike up to Mauna Loa summit has no outhouse, save for a single open-air throne perched precariously over a huge crack in the lava. Cue jokes about the bowels of the Earth…

Elfin Shelter

Elfin shelter and Mt Garibaldi as seen in Oct 2004. Seeing this week’s leave-no-trace Tuesday post from happiestoutdoors gave me an idea for what I wanted to say. Backcountry huts are always popular and will only get more so over the winter season. Good hut etiquette is vital in order for 35 or more people to get along in such a small space which means showing some consideration towards your fellow hikers. Go easy on the noise, be aware that some folks are wanting an early start, and make space for others when you’re done cooking and eating. Oh, and don’t pee right outside the cabin!

Elfin shelter and Mt Garibaldi as seen in Oct 2004. Seeing this week's #leavenotracetuesday post from @happiestoutdoors gave me an idea for what I wanted to say. Backcountry huts are always popular and will only get more so over the winter season. Good hut etiquette is vital in order for 35 or more people to get along in such a small space which means showing some consideration towards your fellow hikers. Go easy on the noise, be aware that some folks are wanting an early start, and make space for others when you're done cooking and eating. Oh, and don't pee right outside the cabin! #LeaveNoTrace #lnt #elfinlakes #wanderungca #elfinshelter #garibaldiprovincialpark #mountgaribaldi #atwellpeak #bcparks #explorebc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #hiking

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It’s hard to believe we’ve been in BC for 12 years now. Twelve years of hiking in the Coast Mountains, and 12 years since we went on our very first hike with Wanderung. Just for fun I counted up the number of times I’ve visited Elfin Lakes. Answer: 10, which means it’s almost an annual trip for me. Oh and I have a confession to make – I didn’t take this photo, Maria did. I was so hot and tired by the time we reached the lakes that all I did was lounge there. 🙂

Leaf no trace

It’s leaf no trace Tuesday! 🙂 The rhododendron bushes added a great splash of colour to the forest at Joffre Lakes, and made the lakes look even more spectacular. I was puzzled by a few things along the trail that were packed in but not packed out: a broken Thermos flask just left on a rock, gas canister for a camping stove, the inevitable plastic water bottle (half full), and most bizarrely, a trio of hardback books propped up on a rock as if on sale. Seeing the books (which were not there on the hike in) reminded me of the time when we found a copy of Gideon’s bible perched on a rock. That rock was on the trail to – you guessed it – Joffre Lakes. I don’t get it. Is there something about this trail that compels people to leave stuff behind?

It's leaf no trace Tuesday! 🙂 The rhododendron bushes added a great splash of colour to the forest at Joffre Lakes, and made the lakes look even more spectacular. I was puzzled by a few things along the trail that were packed in but not packed out: a broken Thermos flask just left on a rock, gas canister for a camping stove, the inevitable plastic water bottle (half full), and most bizarrely, a trio of hardback books propped up on a rock as if on sale. Seeing the books (which were not there on the hike in) reminded me of the time when we found a copy of Gideon's bible perched on a rock. That rock was on the trail to – you guessed it – Joffre Lakes. I don't get it. Is there something about this trail that compels people to leave stuff behind? #leavenotracetuesday #lnt #LeaveNoTrace #joffrelakes #joffrelakesprovincialpark #hiking #explorebc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #fall #autumn #bcparks

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A lovely cool overcast day to hike up to Joffre Lakes. Our friend Jen hadn’t seen them before and we figured that now was a good time to visit as the summer insanity had subsided. That’s not to say it was deserted – we encountered many people along the trail (a sizeable fraction of whom were committing the cardinal backcountry sin of wearing jeans) – but it was still a mostly peaceful day.

I’ve only visited the lakes in summer too, so it made a nice change to visit them in the autumn as the berry bushes changed colour. Lots of yellows, golds, and reds today which made for a wonderful contrast against the colours of the lakes. It was a good reminder of precisely why this hike is so popular.

Evening light

The clouds begin to clear as the sun goes down. Time to get cozy! But not with a campfire, especially in sensitive alpine areas, and even more especially when there’s a perfectly comfortable hut only 50 m away. If you haven’t guessed, I’m not a fan of backcountry campfires as they’re not in keeping with the principles of “Leave No Trace”. And besides – you can’t see the stars if you’re dazzled by such a bright light! Bring extra clothes instead 🙂

I’ll spare you my usual rant about campfires in the alpine and just direct your attention to the gorgeous evening light hitting the clouds above Mt Matier and Joffre Peak. Well, I would if this photo even came close to doing the scene justice. Despite the advances in camera and processing technology, it’s still hard to capture the full range of light in a single shot.

Moments later the light had gone and the chill descended, at which point we settled in to the hut for dinner and conversation with our fellow hikers.

Mud, glorious mud!

It’s what hiking boots were made for, right? Plus trekking poles are great for checking mud depth before committing 🙂 Good things to have for classic North Shore trail conditions.

I’m always trying to think about contributing a post for Leave No Trace Tuesday on Instagram, and this struck me as a good one to talk about given how the popularity of the trail to St Mark’s Summit has increased with the rise of social media. So many hikers do not wear footwear that can deal with these conditions, instead often decked out in light runners (trainers, as we’d call them). In turn this means people will try and skirt around the mud, often forging a new trail which will eventually get just as muddy. For years I’ve tried to set an example by walking through muddy sections – usually picking my way over rocks and/or bits of wood – but it doesn’t seem to be catching on.

Alas there were no views from St Mark’s today – the good weather in the forecast was a few hours late!