Expansive peace

A few throwback-Thursday favourites from our Heather Trail backpacking trip last September. A great hike to soak up some wide open alpine space and big skies…

Our decision to hike the Heather Trail on the Labour Day weekend was made as we approached Hope along Highway 1. Do we take the turnoff and continue into the Fraser Canyon towards the Stein Valley, or head for the alpine of the Heather Trail? In the end the weather looked good enough for a few days of alpine enjoyment, and so we continued on to Highway 3 and into Manning Park.

It turned out to be an inspired move. We set off under cool, cloudy skies and began our 12 km hike in to Kicking Horse campground. Late afternoon sunshine caught up with us near the final pass, bathing the meadows in warm light (photos 1 and 2) for some wonderful scenes. These two photos are among my favourites from the entire trip.

We found a suitable spot for our tent and enjoyed as quiet a night as we’ve ever experienced in the backcountry with not even the slightest breeze to ripple the fly sheet. I remember lying in my sleeping bag, probably around 1 or 2 am, holding my breath and enjoying the sheer weight of the silence.

The next day we hauled ourselves off in the direction of Nicomen Lake for a day’s hiking. We passed through more expansive meadows below azure skies, meeting barely a handful people along the way. (At least, until the ridge above Nicomen Lake itself.) We enjoyed lunch on a peak high above the lake (photo 3) before retracing our steps.

The light was perfect on our return, though we could see the beginnings of some dramatic clouds over the summit of Third Brother (fourth photo), portents of the weather to come that night and the following morning. The square format of this photo doesn’t really do justice to the size of the meadows we were passing through.

As we neared the campground we opted to pick our way carefully across country to the windy summit of Fourth Brother (photo 5) to enjoy a view we hadn’t experienced before. Then back to the tent, a rainy night followed by a snowy morning, and a steady hike back to the car.

It was only three days but it was some of the most enjoyable hiking and camping we’ve had, adding to some of the best hiking and camping we’d already savoured over the summer. Gambling on the Heather Trail was definitely the right decision.

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A Medley of Moptops

A medley of moptops for wildflower Wednesday, definitely one of the most distinctive alpine flowers – I just love the way they catch the light. They only flower for a brief time as soon as the snow melts, leaving their fluffy seed heads to decorate the meadows for the rest of the short alpine growing season.

Moptop, tow-headed baby, hippy on a stick, muppets of the mountains… The seed-heads of the western anemone have multiple nicknames. Many people liken them to characters from Dr Seuss books; to me they’re just moptops. I didn’t have much exposure to the Dr Seuss characters when I was a kid but what little I had I didn’t think much of; I have a vague recollection of thinking that it was kinda silly and unrealistic, even at a young age. So, forgive me if I shrug or even grit my teeth if one more person exclaims about how Dr Seuss-like they are!

It’s remarkable to see how tall they grow and how they dominate some meadows when they start off so small. But the best thing about them is the way they catch the light, be it afternoon, evening, or morning. And I can’t stop taking their picture when that happens!

Lenticular

A line of lenticular-like clouds forms over the summit of Third Brother, a sign of high winds and a likely change in the weather. Later that night it poured with rain, heavy enough on the tent to wake me up, and in the morning turned to snow for a couple of hours. After that the clouds drifted away and the sun came out again. All the weather you could wish for! One of the joys of backpacking and something you always need to be prepared for 🙂

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A line of lenticular-like clouds forms over the summit of Third Brother, a sign of high winds and a likely change in the weather. Later that night it poured with rain, heavy enough on the tent to wake me up, and in the morning turned to snow for a couple of hours. After that the clouds drifted away and the sun came out again. All the weather you could wish for! One of the joys of backpacking and something you always need to be prepared for 🙂 #tripplanning #tripplantuesday #manningpark #ecmanningprovincialpark #ecmanningpark #manningparkresort #heathertrail #thirdbrother #backpackingbc #backpacking #hiking #bchiking #hikebc #bcparks #yourbcparks #bcadventuresmart #explorebc #beautifulbc #beautifulbritishcolumbia #ifttt

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I love clouds in all their forms. Lenticular clouds are less common, but not exactly rare in mountainous areas; we’ve seen them before in the notoriously-windy Coquihalla area before, which lies only 50 km or so north of our camping spot, and several had formed just east of that same area earlier today. What I hadn’t seen before was a line, especially such a clearly wave-like line, of lenticular clouds. I hoped they would persist until sunset; seeing those clouds lit up by golden evening light would have made a spectacular photo. Alas, they drifted off, and the sunset was mostly cloudy anyway with just a few brief patches of colour.

It was sometime after about 2 am that the rain started; the moon rose around midnight and lit up the tent for a while before the rain clouds rolled in. I tried not to think about the physiological effect that falling water would have on me in the middle of the night. Thankfully I lasted until the morning, and we had enough of a gap in the weather to convince us to get moving. At which point it snowed.

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!

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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

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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…

Fat Dog

Throwback Thursday shot to 10(!) years ago today, and my first venture up the Fat Dog trail in Manning Park with its great views of Mt Hozameen. Took me 3 attempts to make it all the way up to the Heather Trail.

Having completed my Once Around the Sun contribution to Throwback Thursday, I had to come up with an alternative source of historical inspiration. Looking back over the years, I decided that dredging up the past from a decade ago would be a reasonable thing to do. And so my first offering for that is a photo taken from the Fat Dog Trail in Manning Park, a winter-only trail that winds its way up old logging roads to the alpine and then along a ridge to join the famously-flowery Heather Trail. Coincidentally, this view was also the subject of the first Instagram post I wrote about on this blog.

Funnily enough, this particular photo isn’t in our set on Flickr for this trip, and there are a few there that I would happily delete (which shows how my photographic tastes have changed over the years – hopefully for the better). But I really like this shot: Mt Hozameen framed by the trees, and a lovely S-shaped swoosh mark left by a skier leading the viewer into the frame. I’d like the framing to be a little tighter, but it was only a 4-megapixel camera so I don’t have much room for manoeuvre there.

And this also marks my 350th (!) photo on Instagram 🙂

Purple penstemon

Purple penstemon near First Brother along the Heather Trail

We were running out of time on our foray up the Heather Trail so I jogged on to see if I could find any remaining patches of glacier lilies. I didn’t find any but I did find this perfect patch of purple penstemon (trying saying that five times fast!), a notoriously difficult flower to capture. Even better, I could get the shot with the ridge of the First Brother in the background, one of the highlights of hiking the Heather Trail. Alas we didn’t have time to venture up there this time.

Lupines and Paintbrush

It’s wildflower Wednesday again – lupines and paintbrush on a green backdrop.

Manning Park is famous for its wildflower meadows and the first time we hiked the Heather Trail we found ourselves stopping every few minutes to photograph yet another patch of flowers. We’d just spent the night camped by Poland Lake and had already filled our eyes (and memory cards) with flowers of all colours. I was especially pleased to find some good patches of my favourite, glacier lilies in an open meadow not far from the lake. After a decade of exploring the BC backcountry, I’ve come to realize that the alpine wildflower displays are what I look forward to most of all when it comes to summer hiking.