Return to the Flatland

Over the past week I have been away from Vancouver travelling to Ontario for a conference and also a wedding, therefore I have no hiking photos to share this week. However, the flat farming world of south-western Ontario can also provide some picturesque scenery.

Similar to Vancouver, my favourite sights around my Ontario family’s home are outside of town (despite it being much smaller than Vancouver). While the amazement of hiking in mountainous regions like Vancouver is partly due to how far and how much you can see from the mountaintops, this is also true in some ways of flat farming scenery. While driving along a the highway in the early summer (crops just sprouting in this region) you can see flat across the landscape and far off on the horizon still make out the peaks of far off barns and silos.

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Similar to the above photo, it is a little easier to take in the distance that can be seen since this area is chalk full of modern wind turbines. Note that most wind turbines in this area are about 510 feet tall (155 metres) measuring the max height of tower plus blade.

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As always, bodies of water can make for inspiring scenery. Shown below is one of my favourite pictures from this weekend, along one edge of Lake St. Clair. I enjoy having just one or two people in my scenery photos to add scale and a little life to the otherwise still scene. The contrast of emptiness on the right and detail on the left is intriguing to me, and only works thanks to the small island in the distance just caught in the field of view.

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And finally, a picture later in the day capturing a family of ducks swimming at sunset.

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Cheers,

Brennan

Over the hill and through the snow

The sun is officially out of its hibernation in Vancouver! After one of the gloomiest springs ever the sun has come out bright for over a week straight – including the long weekend! My fiancée and I of course could not resist heading to the north shore for a hike. As many local hikers have been, we were fooled by the sunshine and forgot that the mountains are still going to be snowy. Luckily we pack plenty of water, snacks, safety supplies, and our hiking boots, so we felt okay to carry on with our hike of Eagle Bluffs.

For anyone thinking about an early spring hike after a long cold winter, below is a look at what we had to trudge through there and back. It is warm enough out for short sleeves but slippery and slow the whole way.

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With that said, the views on this day were fantastic! The bright green trees against the white snow made for great colours to go with the clear blue skies and far off visibility of nearby mountains. Below shown is the view from Black Mountain peak looking west towards the sunshine coast, with a ferry leaving from horseshoe bay in view.

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The main viewpoint of the Eagle Bluffs hike is a stony clearing on the south edge of Cypress mountain. Due to the openness of this area and the recent sunshine, the viewpoint was actually free of snow, which made it feel much more like summer. Quite the relief after the long hike! The view from up here is amazing. You can see Vancouver and all the east suburbs in one direction, all the way around to a similar westward view as is available at the Black Mountain peak. Joining us at the Eagle Bluffs viewpoint was, appropriately, a family of four eagles flying up and down the mountain side! You can see at least one prominently in the photo below.

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Again below is a shot from the viewpoint looking towards the edge of Vancouver and open blue water.

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To cap off the story of this hike I thought I would add one last photo from the day after our Eagle Bluffs hike. We went to Jericho beach for a day of relaxing with friends and enjoyed the opposite view – looking back from the water up at the face of the mountains. You can almost make out Jericho beach as the light brown beach in the centre-left of the photo above, although I do not think it is possible to pick out the Eagle bluffs viewpoint on the mountain when looking from the beach.

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Truly a Sea-to-Sky weekend of activities in Vancouver.

Cheers,

Brennan

 

 

Shoulder Season = Waterfall Season

My fiancee and have taken most of the past month off from hiking and snowshoeing because April is when the temperature begins to rise and the snow melts most of the local hiking trails into a muddy mess. However, the run off of melted snow travelling down the mountains makes early spring the best time of year to check out local waterfalls. We resolved to go for one hike in April, and chose the Big Cedar and Kennedy Falls trail in Lynn Canyon of the Vancouver north shore mountains.

The trail was indeed a muddy trek that required some waterproof hiking boots. We would repeatedly go up and down a series of small hills and often walk straight through some small streams. Being down in the canyon meant no panoramic views from a mountain peak, but the quiet ambience of the forest and the fresh air is always worth a hike as well. In terms of alternatives to panoramic photos, this hike had more opportunities to capture the busy and complex layers of the forest.

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As the name of the hike suggests, there is a rather old and large cedar tree in the middle of the hike. As with most massive trees it was too large to catch in one photo, but you can extrapolate from the thickness of the trunk relative to the trees nearby. This tree also had some interesting shapes and colour sets to it compared to the rest of the trees. Truly a unique tree in the forest.

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Finally, we reached the waterfall. As planned, it was roaring due to the snow melt during April. Not as we planned, the breeze coming off of the cold mountain water was frigid! We grabbed a couple of pictures before we froze with the few layers that we wore, and then headed home.

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The scale is difficult to grasp from this shot, but the water below is far out of reach from where I am standing, and straight across from the top of my head would only reach 1/3 the way up the rock that splits the waterfall.

Cheers,

Brennan

Back to the snow: Joffre Lakes

After returning to a cool and rainy Vancouver from a weekend away in the warmth of Arizona, my fiancée and I went snowshoeing on the first sunny day on the weekend that we got. The trail of choice was Joffre Lakes park, located about 2.5 hours north from Vancouver near Pemberton BC.

It turned out to be a beautiful day, complete with a fresh layer of snow, sunshine, and a quiet trail that had already been trotted out for us by a group that had arrived earlier. The two lakes at the end of the trail hold the more popular viewpoints, but the views of the mountains on the way to the top were just as impressive! The picture below really shows off how much untouched snow was all around us throughout the hike.

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A beautiful part of the trail walking over a snow-covered boulder field.

The view below is looking back the other way compared to the previous picture. While we are hiking up the side of one mountain range there are a number of other mountain peaks to look upon.

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Once you reach Middle Lake (2nd of 3 lakes on the trail) the glacier that feeds the lakes of Joffre Lakes park comes into view. On this day the glacier glimmered in the sunlight of the clear blue sky, shown in the picture below. I particularly like the wavy trail cutting through the middle of the lake by the previous snowshoers, adding a little character and uniqueness to this picture.

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Middle Lake

The view at Upper Lake is much of the same, but the snow of the lake is continuous with that of the mountain that leads to the glacier.

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Upper Lake

On the return trip we walked around the edge of Middle Lake and I took the opportunity to take a picture of a group crossing straight through the lake. I already enjoy photography that includes a human touch with great scenery, it provides a scale for the mountains and makes the photo more unique. The group that crossed the lake that day did so with nearly perfect spacing between the 4 of them, creating a snow-covered reference to the Beatles’ abbey road album cover.

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Cheers,

Brennan

 

The road from red-rocks to the Grand Canyon

My previous blog post described my experience on the Camelback Mountain hike in the middle of Scottsdale Arizona. Of course, while in Arizona for an extended weekend a trip to the Grand Canyon was on the itinerary. Rather than taking a day trip shuttle from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon and back, my fiancée and I did the trip in a rental car so that we could go through the day on our own schedule.

The Arizona landscape and scenery was amazing at all stages of the drive, from the desert of Phoenix, to the red rocks of Sedona, through the forested area in Oak creek canyon, the dry and grey region leading to the Grand Canyon, and then the surprisingly colourful Grand Canyon park.

The first stop on the trip up was to red rock park in Sedona. The most popular sight here is the famous “bell rock”, named for its bell-like shape. However, just beside bell rock was this view in the picture below, which for whatever reason I found to be more awe inspiring.

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Red Rock park near Sedona, AZ

After the warm feeling of being in the sun with the red rocks came a drive through oak creek canyon and up to the Oak Creek Vista, where somebody had clearly needed to shovel snow recently! We through on a light sweater and took in the fantastic view looking back at the drive we had just completed through the canyon, which turned out to be one of my favourite views on this day trip.

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View from Oak Creek Canyon Vista

Our first look at the Grand Canyon came at the Mohave Point. Instantly, the Grand Canyon became the most impressive sight I have ever seen. The picture does not portray the experience, missing the scale of how far down the Colorado River sits, and how far away the other side of the canyon seems to be.

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Mohave Point view

The Grand Canyon was impressive, unique, distracting, but also colourful. Particularly as it got to be later in the evening, the dark purple of the deeper shaded regions began to contrast well with the bright yellow and orange rocks still in the sunlight.

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Evening view from Desert View at the east entrance to the Grand Canyon South Rim

I recommend everyone goes to see the Grand Canyon sometime! It was truly amazing.

Cheers,

Brennan

 

 

A different type of mountain view

Two weeks ago I got the chance to go down south to Arizona for a little sun. This of course necessitated a break from snowshoeing in the frosty mountains of Vancouver and Whistler, but did not prevent from hiking in general! While staying in Scottsdale AZ, I had the chance to go for a sunrise hike up camelback mountain.

I was excited for the trip to Arizona in general, but could not have anticipated how much I would enjoy the scenery. Hiking up camelback mountain (1200 foot elevation change via Cholla Trail) was completely different from hiking in British Columbia. In BC, when heading up to a mountain peak it is usually just your group and the trees – you have to wait until the end to see anything because the forest is so thick. This was not the case on camelback mountain, where the greenery consists of sparse saguaro cactuses (apparently people can’t decide if it is cacti or cactuses) and short shrubs.

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This is a view half-way down the mountain, no trees blocking the view!

Starting prior to sunrise was beneficial in avoiding the hot desert sun during a mountain ascent, and also made for fantastic views of far-off mountains and some unique views of the mountains within metro Phoenix while their shadows were long and stretched across the city.

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View of the Phoenix Mountain Preserves from Camelback Mountain. The shadow to the left is the massive shadow created by camelback mountain during sunrise.

The Phoenix area has some impressive looking mountains nearby. Camelback mountain was just a quick morning hike, but there would be plenty more hiking to be done had I stayed in the area any longer. Just as the sun was rising was a great time to look out towards the famous four-peak mountains.

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The four-peaks mountain is centre-right of this photo, off in the distance.

Cheers,

Brennan

Winter Sights

This past weekend included a return to Cypress park for more snowshoeing, but this time there was (some) sun in the forecast so the target was the summit of Hollyburn Mountain with hopes of getting some views of Vancouver, the north shore mountains, and the Howe Sound.

The Hollyburn trail gets steep pretty fast, with many people electing to remove some layers near the beginning after the first couple of hills. The bulk of the trail is a series of steep climbs, each of which provides a nice view of what you have accomplished thus far.

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View from the top of an early section, just getting started on the >400m elevation change

There were some clouds scattered throughout the sky on Saturday. Those that were around the mountain would come and go to periodically reveal previously hidden views; this glimpse at Crown Mountain (below) was a pleasant surprise revealed when the clouds to the right of the picture moved out of the way.

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From the Hollyburn summit the clouds unfortunately blocked the views of downtown Vancouver, but did create awe inspiring scenes by mixing in with the mountains further to the North.

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On the return trip the low clouds has dissipated. They left behind a view of an oddly yellow horizon, reflected in the water surface.

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Overall, a beautiful day out in the snow.

Cheers,

Brennan

Sea to Sky to Ski

The winter season in the lower mainland of British Columbia is absolutely incomplete without a trip to the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort. On Family Day (Canadian provincial holiday in February) this year I took a trip up the Sea-to-Sky highway on what turned out to be a gorgeous day for skiing. Every ski trip to Whistler starts with an early morning McDonald’s breakfast in Squamish, because how could I pass up a McDonald’s with this view from the parking lot:

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The rock face to the right is the Stawamus Chief Mountain, a popular hike during the summer months.

For those unfamiliar, Whistler Blackcomb is a world class ski resort with skiing available on two adjacent mountains, named Whistler Mountain (same name as the town that houses the ski resort) and Blackcomb Mountain. On this day I got started on Blackcomb, taking the gondola from Whistler village up one third of the mountain, then immediately taking a chairlift up roughly another third, a short ski horizontally across the mountain, and then up one more chairlift to get to the top. At which point I am above the tree line with a clear view of Whistler mountain ahead, and the dark comb-like peaks of Blackcomb beside me.

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Whistler Mountain as viewed from Blackcomb Mountain

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A view of Blackcomb Mountain after a short ski down from the highest chairlift on the mountain.

After a few runs down the upper slopes on Blackcomb, I took the peak-to-peak gondola between the mountains to spend the remainder of the day on Whistler Mountain. Once again, the few of the opposing mountain was magnificent.

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Blackcomb Mountain as viewed from Whistler Mountain

With the end of the day drawing near, there happened to be a power outage that shut down the entire ski resort, while myself and many others were on a chairlift. While the 30min wait hanging in the chairlift was not exactly great, it did mean that the slopes were particularly empty for the trip down once the chairs did get moving again. Here is a photo from just that point in time showing only one other person on this run during a pretty busy day at the resort.

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And finally, Whistler Mountain has the benefit a south-facing viewpoint that was unbeatable on this clear day.

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The soft rolling snow on the mountaintops coupled with the texture of the mountain peaks and the famous Black Tusk peak was fantastic. Truly a great day outdoors.

Cheers,

Brennan

Hollyburn Snowshoeing

My second trip to the mountain trails this year lead to Cypress Mountain park. The snowshoe trails in this park are separate from the alpine skiing trails, the nordic area is on Hollyburn Mountain while the alpine activities are on both Black Mountain and Mount Strachan. Since it was a cloudy and snowy day outside I did not venture to the peak of Hollyburn Mountain (this trail is maintained by BC Parks), but rather stuck around in the network of smaller and lower intensity trails that are maintained by Cypress Mountain’s nordic activities group.

The snowfall in the Vancouver (BC, Canada) area has been relentless lately, meaning there was plenty of fresh snow that made for a joyful day of snowshoeing and produced beautiful scenery of untouched fresh snow on the ground and weighing down tree branches.

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It was a relatively quiet day on the trails, which really just fit the mood of the quiet and chilled environment. I found this only added to the ambience of being out next to nature and taking in the fresh air.

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Cheers,

Brennan

1st 2017 Adventure: Mt Seymour Snowshoeing

It is my third winter of living in Vancouver, and up until now the winter months from about November to March have kept me mostly inside and certainly stuck inside the city (which is not all bad!). Finally, this past weekend my girlfriend and I went out to try snowshoeing. In summary, we loved it and now we can continue hiking and exploring all year round!

We started on what is one of the easiest snowshoe trails in the area: Dog Mountain, which is a trail on Mount Seymour starting from the Mount Seymour ski resort. Unlike our usual hiking adventure days, we started in the afternoon. This meant that the trails and nearby snow was well-trotted upon, but made for a fantastic skyline at the finish. The two photos below show the snow-covered forest scene that was the majority of the trail – including a photo of the First Lake bridge that shows just how much snow is piled everywhere (tough to scale based on just the picture, but that is about 2m of snow that has now become the new bridge).

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The visibility on Saturday was maybe the best that I have ever had for any hike. When we reached the viewpoint, not really a steep enough hike to Dog Mountain to be worthy of being called a summit, there were fantastic views of Grouse and Crown Mountain to the west, …

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Mount Bake and associated mountain range to the east, …

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and to the south was an amazing view of Vancouver and Vancouver Island.

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We will be planning some bigger and better snowshoeing trips in the coming months : )

Cheers,

Brennan