Chasing spring

We may be subject to another 6 weeks of winter (you know, because today is a cross-quarter day which means it’s 6 weeks to the equinox) but I’m dreaming of seeing these little flowers emerge again.

Yes, today is Groundhog day whereby we get to contemplate the weather-forecasting abilities of a rodent that lives underground. It’s also a cross-quarter day – half-way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox – which means that tomorrow we’re more than half-way through the winter season and looking forward to the official start of spring.

Of course, plants and animals don’t know that we humans have divided the year in this way, and they show their recognition of the lengthening days and warmer (!) weather by beginning to grow new shoots or singing the first songs of courtship and staking territorial claims. One aspect of hiking that I particularly enjoy is how we follow spring up to higher elevations through the season. Beginning at sea level with the first flowers in the city – I always look forward to seeing witch hazel bloom in January – before moving on to the forest flowers that bloom in April (yes, even the skunk cabbage), and up to the alpine flowers from June onwards.

My favourite (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before) is the glacier lily and I really like trying to catch the very first wave of these in bloom. For me, they signify the beginning of the best part of the hiking season: the opening up of the alpine areas and witnessing the last gasp of winter at those high elevations.

Last year our timing was perfect; the road up to Blackwall Peak in Manning Park opened up the weekend we went there to hike another trail. Unable to resist, we walked the short Paintbrush Trail (you may recognize the above flowers in that post too) where the glacier lilies were only just beginning to bloom, the snow barely melted from around them. It was glorious. And with so many flowers so close to the trail, I could take my pick of photo opportunities. We left with many photos, dirty wet knees, and cold wet feet. A perfect day, in its own way.

Getting these photos is hard: the flowers are only a few inches tall at this early stage which means getting down on hands and knees. A tilting screen makes a big difference but it’s still easier to look through a viewfinder (and usually more stable, unless the camera is on a tripod – which is almost never the case for us). It helps that the main camera we were using (the Nikon D3200 with the kit lens) is able to focus at quite close distances even at full zoom. Coupled with 24 million pixels, it becomes possible to capture some tiny details on these flowers even without a macro lens. Then it’s a matter of finding the right flower with just the right shape, with just the right amount of water beading on it…

Advertisements

The king of views

Can’t believe it was 10 years ago that we were admiring this view. Still one of my favourite backpacking trips and I think about returning every time I see yet another Instagram post from this area…

Our first backpacking trip to the Rockies; indeed our first hiking experience in the Rockies (though not our first sight of them – we rode the Rocky Mountaineer train from Calgary to Vancouver when we first immigrated to Canada). And what a way to start, with one of the highest-rated trips from the book “Don’t Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies” (one of my favourite guide books ever written).

We were fortunate with the weather for our first couple of days with clear blue skies (if chilly nights) which meant we had the rare treat of seeing the summit of Mt Robson (also sometimes referred to as the King of the Rockies) free of cloud. This photo was taken on our second day on a short hike up past Toboggan Falls to visit the cave. Just an incredible view. We sat and admired it for quite some time before heading back down to the Hargreaves Shelter for dinner.

For the full photographic experience, check out the full set on Flickr.

I really can’t believe it’s been a whole decade since we hiked this trail. Like so many of the beautiful places we’ve visited, I want to return to this area and explore it some more. There’s always next year…