Friday, August 28, 2009

Why I Love Mountains -- Part 1

I returned last week from a few days rambling in the mountains. I have been working on the pictures I made ever since and I'm reminded why I like mountains -- they always have so much to give -- you just have to be in a receptive frame of mind!
Mike and the "almost rainbow"

Mike and I, along with friends Lisa and John, backpacked in to Strathcona Park, on Vancouver Island. We were only in for a few days, but we did a hike up to the top of Mt. Albert Edward. The weather on summit day was not great -- it rained when we got to the first steep bit. Then wind, mist, and fog dogged us all the way to the top. We spent an hour at the peak waiting for views. And, even though they were not the spectacular vistas I know Strathcona can produce, I found myself deeply satisfied with what we did see.

Mountains in mist and cloud can be so majestic -- especially when the weather gods are teasing you with wispy views. That was certainly the case with Mt. Regan, little brother to Albert Edward. When the day is fine you don't even notice poor squat and lumpy Regan -- but on a day of thready cloud Regan can be the only ghost peak to float into existence.

When you can see them, mountain colours on a grey day can be deep and rich -- all the more so because nothing else competes. On Albert Edward the burnt oranges and dark crusts of basalt seemed to show us a bit of their birthright, formed in heart of volcanoes as they are. Pale pink granite-diorite helped put depth in the view when the mist parted. Flowers were bright spots of colour, covered with jewels of condensed mist. I could surely spend days in this place.

Davidson's Penstemon - closeup      Mike, John, Lisa      Away up the ridge

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A Two-Dip Summer Day in BC

Summer 2009 has been hot, hot, hot on Vancouver Island. Mike and I, along with Rod, our friend from St. John's NL, decided to try one of the Island's premier backcountry adventures -- the Golden Hinde Traverse. This mountaineering trip takes about 7 days and crosses through the heart of Strathcona Park, in the centre of Vancouver Island. Midway along the traverse sits the Golden Hinde -- at 2200 metres it is the Island's highest peak.

I'm sorry to report that we didn't make the trip -- Rod and Mike were ill with a cold and the last thing I wanted was to be banging around in the backcountry with two old "wheezers"! We only did the first day of the planned hike -- Buttle Lake to Arnica Lake.

In all honesty, I was almost glad we had to cancel. It was so hot I could barely make it to Arnica Lake, and that part of the hike was all in the shade (although an uphill grind). Still, we did enjoy two wonderful dips that day. The first was a skinny dip in Arnica Lake under a bowl of clear blue sky. The second was in the green and cool pool below Myra Falls.

Arnica Lake is a classic sub-alpine pool -- clear water, meadows down to the shore, straight firs reaching for the sky. This one certainly didn't disappoint. After three hours of steady uphill hiking it was a welcome sight. We jumped in almost at once and stayed until I wrinkled.

On our way back to Victoria that evening we decided to make it a two-dip day by hiking down to the bottom of Myra Canyon and taking a dip in the grotto where Myra Falls enters Buttle Lake. The pool here has a definite elvish feel -- like we dropped into a scene from the Lord of the Rings. We had the place to ourselves and plunged in off the limestone cliffs. It was BC-summer-perfect!

There is nothing like spending time floating on your back gazing up at a sunshine-blue sky. Those moments make me sigh, flap my toes, and say "Ain't life grand"!!

More pictures from Arnica Lake

Map of the Arnica Lake Trail, Strathcona Park     Arnica Lake     Sitka Columbine

Check out the full set of pictures at my flickr site: Strathcona Park Hiking, July 26 - 27, 2009