Sights from the North Shore – a couple of hours well spent rambling through subalpine forest with occasional spectacular views of distant cities, mountains, and islands.
We had one of those rare events in Vancouver: a sunny weekend! Alas we had in-town commitments (naturally…) so we couldn’t get out for a whole day, but I was able to grab a couple of hours up exploring some trails on Dog Mountain while Maria was in Deep Cove.
- One of my favourite photos from the afternoon, I really like the little puddle in the foreground, the rugged rocks of the bluffs beyond, a bit of autumn colour, the shadows, and the distant view of Cathedral Mountain (and even Mount Garibaldi in Squamish). It all adds up to many layers and a natural path for the viewer’s eyes to follow from front to back.
- Vancouver far below, the bright afternoon sun reflecting off the Salish Sea and Burrard Inlet between Stanley Park and the west side of the city. In the distance, the mountains of Vancouver Island are visible – later as we drove home along the Upper Levels Highway, we had a stunning view of the orange sky behind the silhouette of Mount Arrowsmith, between Nanaimo and Port Alberni. Just glorious!
- Decaying skunk cabbage leaves, nicely arranged on the forest floor. It’s amazing to think that those giant, robust green leaves of summer soon wither and decay to paper-thin fragments.
- Reflections in a small tarn – the trail passed by several small tarns or ponds, all of which reflected the surrounding trees and bushes just beautifully. I really like the tufts of grass at the water’s edge in this view.
- A dab of colour – many of the bushes and shrubs change colour to gorgeous shades of orange, yellow, and red. It may not be the spectacular maple displays of the eastern deciduous forests, but the subalpine and alpine plants put on their own diminutive show. I just love the vivid primary colours on display: red, yellow, green, blue…
- Mushrooms! I was surprised that there weren’t more on display – I only really found this little group and another nice patch of fly agaric. I don’t know what they are so if anyone can identify them then please let me know.
- OK so this might actually be my favourite from the day. There’s just something about dead trees; they’re often so photogenic and full of character. I always think about how old these trees are, how many summers and winters they have lived through, watching people come and go.
- Last but not least is another favourite showing the terrain dropping away into bowl below the bluffs, and the distance mountains of Coliseum and Cathedral, Garibaldi barely showing up at the edge of the treed slope of Mount Seymour.
So there you have it, my attempt at showcasing the glorious sunny subalpine experience I had last Saturday.
All photos taken on a Pixel 2 phone, edited to taste in Google Photos.
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 🙂 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?
This is kind of a photo-journal of the BCMC trail, all taken with my phone (I didn’t touch the “real” camera once).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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!
- 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!
Think forest hikes have nothing to see? I beg to differ, at least at this time of year! Here’s a selection of flowers seen along the trail to Norvan Falls from a couple of weeks ago: columbine, clasping twistedstalk, bunchberry, wild ginger, false lily-of-the-valley, and the bloom of the tulip poplar (which isn’t native to BC but it’s still one of my favourite trees).
Last Wednesday’s post was about Norvan Falls itself. This week, it’s about the many flowers we saw along the way – a surprising number to be honest.
- Plenty of western (red) columbine, also known as the rainflower – seeing so many of these was the first surprise of the hike.
- Clasping twistedstalk – the second surprise was finding so many of these flowers, well-hidden below their leaves. I hadn’t really looked closely at them before so it was lovely to discover the delicate little bells and to see the kinked stalk that gives the flower its name.
- Bunchberry – so we’ve seen plenty of this by now, but I can’t resist continuing my search for the perfect bunchberry flower to photograph!
- Wild ginger – this was the third surprise, finding wild ginger which I’d never seen along this trail before.
- False lily of the valley – lots of these in bloom, the hard part was knowing which patch to photograph. I decided on this one with a kilometre marker post as a background. We saw another photographer sizing up a big patch on our way back – I was almost tempted to wait and get the same patch as they were nicely lit, but maybe I’ll save that for another day.
- Tulip poplar – OK so this wasn’t seen on the hike but near the community centre a few blocks from our apartment. We fell in love with tulip poplars when we lived in Maryland. Our first autumn there we drove out to Shenandoah National Park to see the colourful foliage and were struck by the tunnels of bright yellow created by these trees. And then the following spring we saw the first of their tulip-like flowers and we were hooked. It’s a nice reminder of our time on the east coast.
Norvan Falls on waterfall Wednesday. Not the most spectacular waterfall or hike, but every hike has its season and for Norvan Falls, that’s pretty much now with so much fresh spring growth and a good dose of forest flowers for company. The giant logjam is new since I was last there in 2015. I couldn’t resist including the yellow stream violet seeing as it’s also wildflower Wednesday – it was the only one still blooming!
Getting good photos of Norvan Falls is tricky. There’s often not much water flowing and on a weekend it gets busy so getting a hiker-free view is rare. However, on today’s visit (well, last Saturday’s in reality) I did manage to position myself to get clear views of the falls, either with no one in front of me or mostly hidden by other features.
- The falls drop about 10 m into a small pool – since they’re long and thin it’s hard to get them into a square crop, but somehow I managed!
- Further downstream the steep sides of the gorge can be seen – it looks quite idyllic from here, and this is the best angle on the area with a few nice boulders in the foreground.
- Behind me in the previous photo is this enormous logjam. I’m pretty sure this did not come over the falls, but there’s a drainage/debris chute off to the left that I’ve never explored that I suspect is a more likely source of it. The fallen Douglas fir trunks make for a colourful foreground.
- A tiny splash of colour, a yellow stream violet, one of only a few that were still blooming. All of the others along the trail had dropped their petals already. I’m pleasantly surprised how the phone camera focused perfectly on the flower.
Nice day to hike up to Lynn Peak. Busier than expected, trail is still as awful as ever, but the forest flowers are beginning to bloom and looked great in the sunshine.
Lynn Peak was Plan B: we wanted a hike with some elevation gain, but didn’t feel like driving very far or getting sunburn in the snow. Our original idea was to hike up to Norvan Falls but that felt like it would take too much time (being about 15 km in length). However, Lynn Peak is always longer than I remember so in the end I think we took a very similar amount of time…!
- The view from the Lynn Peak lookout isn’t the best on the North Shore, but it’s nice enough on a sunny day. Downtown Vancouver is mostly hidden so it’s a good thing that Mt Baker was shining brightly to the south-east to give us something pretty to admire. The cliff bands break up the monotonous green on the long flanks of Mt Seymour to lend some interest to an otherwise dull foreground.
- The trail up to Lynn Peak is mostly like this: rubble. It’s not fun hiking, which is why I’m so surprised we saw as many people as we did. Thinking about how most people find out about their hikes these days, I should be less surprised as I doubt many of the people we met had read a trail description or hiked it before… Still, I know the trail well enough these days that I can tune out the worst of it and enjoy the sections through the remaining delightful old-growth forest.
- Horned tree stump. In a previous photo I called this a “viking tree” but I’ve since learned that vikings didn’t have horned helmets. I’ve renamed it the metal tree \m/. RIP Ronnie James.
- Even on crummy trails there’s usually something of interest along the way. This patch of mushrooms caught my eye as we walked back down, nestled in the hollow of a decaying tree. It was great to see them looking so fresh as we’d seen a different patch earlier that were more dried out.
- I drove Maria nuts taking photos of coralroot last year so I had to let her continue hiking while I stopped to try and capture them today 🙂 They’re definitely tricky to photograph, though I was pleased to capture this one in the sunshine moments before the sun moved round to the next patch. I expect they’ll start flowering proper this week.
- I just couldn’t resist another bunchberry photo, especially as the florets were just starting to develop. It’s been fun watching the various dogwoods flower this year.
- The trickster on the search for handouts at the lookout. I waited for the raven to tilt its head before I took the photo to try and catch the sunlight glinting in its eye and I was delighted to capture it at the right time as it tilted its head again a second later. Someone was feeding it bits of a Nanaimo bar, and I can do no more than just shake my head. Of all the foods to offer wildlife, highly processed sugary food is the very worst. I’d disapprove if they were handing out nuts; to feed it a sweet dessert is just asinine. Alas, in a crowd of indifferent onlookers it’s difficult to speak up. I think I did make a partial point though as they left when the feeder was congratulating himself on making a “connection” with the raven. I joked that if he had food then he had a connection. He laughed it off but I think it made the point. Will they do different next time? I doubt it.
- Just as we reached the trailhead again I spotted the tall green stems of rein orchids among the giant leaves of skunk cabbage in a marshy area. To my surprise the camera on the phone focused beautifully on the flowers of the orchid, and I’m really pleased with this photo. It was a delight to see these flowers again, and to be able to photograph them without being set upon my countless mosquitoes…!
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon of hiking.
I hadn’t appreciated just how cute the tiny florets of palmate coltsfoot could be, especially since it’s quite a straggly-looking plant that favours wet, swampy conditions
I was pleased to find this flower a few years back (and posted a photo last spring as well) on account of it being a favourite of a late friend of ours, but I had to admit I didn’t really see the attraction. It doesn’t grow in pretty areas – I’ve mostly found it in boggy ditches – the flower head looks kinda messy, like it’s unravelling, and the overall impression is of an unforgettable flower. So when I saw them growing this year along the Capilano Pacific trail, I stooped to take a few snapshots (more out of a sense of duty than anything else) but didn’t really pay close attention to what I was photographing.
It was only when I got home and looked through the handful of photos that I realized what I’d got: for once, I’d captured the coltsfoot flower at the moment it actually blooms. All I’d seen before was just the pre-bloom flower when the florets look like budding dandelions (or similar). The tiny pink-and-white florets are really quite pretty little star-like flowers. So maybe that’s why our friend liked them so much? Either way, it’s given me a whole new appreciation of this flower, and I’ll be on the lookout for its alpine relative when it blooms later in the year.
A selfie of sorts – my shadow at the top of Pump Peak (First Peak) on Mt Seymour, looking over to Tim Jones Peak, Third Peak, and beyond to Garibaldi.
Another beautiful day in the mountains, and a mid-week chance to have the summit of Mt Seymour’s First Peak to myself – or so it appears, at least! But perhaps my favourite photos of the day were of patterns in the wind-scoured snow. Maybe I’ll post one or two of those later…