Whistler’s Alpine High Note

Now this trek was a fun one. In August I went for my first hike on Whistler mountain, at the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort. This meant taking a chairlift up Blackcomb mountain, then a chair lift further up Blackcomb mountain, then a gondola that takes you between Blackcomb mountain and Whistler mountain, and then along a short hike to yet another chairlift that takes you to the peak of Whistler mountain – all before starting the high note trail!!

Whistler mountain is situated in a rather picturesque location. Previously I have seen these views while skiing. However, the views were arguably even more impressive to see with a little more colour now that the snow is gone!

Once you arrive at the alpine peak of Whistler mountain you are greeted with a view of the impressive Black Tusk peak. Black Tusk is a dark and distinct sight in the sky in Garibaldi Park that is visible from Whistler mountain year-round because of how much it protrudes from its neighbouring peaks. It may seem far away in the photo below, but the Black Tusk peak seemed extraordinarily impressive on this day. Something about how it remains dark among the snow-covered neighbouring mountains makes it stand out. You can also see in the photo below how high up we really are; there are no trees up here and not even grass!

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The first part of the trail is to head down the mountain a bit until we reach a meadow. Then we head across the mountain along the south side (facing Black Tusk and some other sights) until returning back to the gondola to take us down to Whistler Village. The further that we head along the trail, we can see more and more snow and glacier covered mountains, and even a view of the oasis-like Corrie Lake (centre of photo below). The majority of the trail is along the type of terrain in picture below, a rocky meadow, slanted on the edge of the mountain with short vegetation and wild flowers among some areas with shorter trees.

 

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Hiking across Whistler mountain’s rocky meadow, taking in the view of Black Tusk

A highlight of the high note trail is when enough progress is made to be able to see Cheakamus Lake. As you can see below, Cheakamus Lake is an intense shade of green blue that seems unnatural in both colour and texture.

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After the view of Cheakamus lake we head back towards the gondola to the mountain base – and towards new views. Looking east before descending the mountain provided another amazing view, and one significantly different from the winter. Within the view below we could see into the valley that divides Whistler mountain from Blackcomb Mountain, among others, along with more impressive tall and snow covered mountains, but also a bizarrely brown bowl and empty landscape to the right. I like the picture below for all of the colours it shows; the blue in the sky and fading into the valley, the dark green hills, the light green cleared area, the brown ski bowl to the right compared to the grey-black tops of the tall far-off mountains, and the pure white of snow.

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Needless to say, this trip got me truly impressed by alpine hiking.

Cheers,

Brennan

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Dry Wine Sights

I did not get any hiking done during the August long weekend this year for a couple of reasons: (1) British Columbia has been having a rough season of wildfires that had cast a haze over much of the province, making for poor air quality – be safe everyone! and (2) I was in Kelowna for a wine tour with friends!

So no peaks were climbed on this trip, but pictures from Kelowna and the Okanogan Lake are worth sharing. Below you can see the Okanogan Lake. This is taken from one of the many wineries in the area, looking north towards Kelowna. You can see that this area is in the hotter, drier, higher elevation part of British Columbia that is prone to forest fires. The barren and brown piece of land across the water is an example of an area that was scorched by forest fires in previous years. The photos from Kelowna are interesting, as you can capture some strong greens in the hills that are still covered in pine trees along with hills that are a dry brown, with the grey and blue lake.

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Okanogan Lake, Kelowna in the distance

While I was in Kelowna for some wine touring there were a couple of forest fires in the region that would reduce the visibility, but make for some interesting colours in the sky, that would also be reflected in the water. You can see the visibility quickly worsen with distance along the lake in the photo below. By the evening on this day we would not even be able to see the land across the lake. However, I still enjoyed taking some pictures here. The shimmer on the grey-coloured lake still seems unique. On a clear day the shimmer would have been brighter. With the photo below there is almost a redness added in the far right, something unique to the forest fire aftermath.

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A south-east view of the shimmering grey lake and lake-side winery

The region is covered with wineries, not all adjacent to the Okanogan Lake, but still with inspiring views from hill-tops!

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A green view of the rolling hills of winery and forest and lake

Downtown Kelowna holds similar views and landscapes, but with the bonus of being able to get a shot with some action in it! Either a boat, some water sports, or the bustle of the lake-side park on a weekend.

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Looking out at the water from the downtown Kelowna park

Cheers,

Brennan

Canada’s Edge

It has been a few months since my last blog post, but now it is time to share pictures from the past month and a half of hiking and traveling around British Columbia!

To start are some photos from a hike that I have been excited about trying all year. Instead of finding a new peak to conquer on the North Shore mountains of Vancouver or heading further north up the Sea-to-Sky highway, my fiancee and I headed south-east to just outside of Chilliwack, BC to hike Elk Mountain. I was excited to travel to a new area for some brand new views, and to see what the trails would be like in a new region.

The Elk Mountain hike turned out to be one of my new favourites. It is a fun and challenging hike that is pretty much a non-stop steep ramp from bottom to top. The trail is well maintained so it makes for a great afternoon of exercise – and the views were fantastic!

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If you look closely at the map above you can see that after hiking (up) through the forested area of the mountain you reach a high elevation meadow – always great for panoramic views! Also good for some shots combing the wild flowers with the view:

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Me off to the right, the north-facing view towards Chilliwack above

The first clearing above the trees looks north towards Chiliwack and some of the smaller mountains, hills, and lakes in that direction. However, a bit further south along a path through the mountain top meadow leads to a view with some more impressive mountains. To the south of Elk Mountain are views of the Canada-USA border peaks and Mount Baker, one of the more impressive mountains in the region.

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Photo of the mountain-top path with a clear view of the Canada-USA border peaks ahead

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Me, the border peaks, and Mount Baker on the right

More posts from Kelowna, Whistler, Strathcona Park, and Mount Strachan to come!

Cheers,

Brennan

Vancouver Beach Sights

No hiking this week, but it was a beautiful day to be at the beach! Here are some pictures from Spanish Banks beach in Vancouver from the early afternoon until the evening (just before the fireworks for Canada Day!), roughly going from east to west.

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A clear view of downtown Vancouver looking east from the beach. Stanley Park is the group of trees to the left of downtown.

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Another early afternoon shot looking towards Cypress Mountain (left), and Grouse/Crown Mountain (right, centre).

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Looking straight north from the beach towards Cypress, you can see there is still snow at the very top.

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A little later in the day, most people are heading out of the water.

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Sun beginning to go down, and creating some very interesting colours and effects for the mountains in the distance to the west.

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Last shot for the day, picture is unfiltered but has a natural fade effect.

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