Photoscapes: Blog en-us (C) Photoscapes (Photoscapes) Sat, 26 Nov 2016 01:37:00 GMT Sat, 26 Nov 2016 01:37:00 GMT Photoscapes: Blog 98 120 Life At The Beach (Seal Bay) Although there is an extensive network of trails in the forested portion of Seal Bay Park, I like to wander around the beach area when the tide is low. The beachfront is limited and not too many people walk around there but I like to sit around and watch for wildlife.

It's not everytime that I see seals lying on the exposed rocks and during my recent visit, the tide was quite high up but outgoing. I was quite surprised to see Cormorant birds occupying a half submerged boulder; never seen so many in one place. I've actually never seen these type of birds in the area before. Cormorants are considered a nuisance to fisheries since they dive into the water and go after fish.

Cormorants usually dry themselves off after being in the water.

The boulder wasn't too far from the shoreline and I was using a 180 mm macro lens normally used for close-ups but it also serves as a short range telephoto lens.

The day had started off quite calm but the winds picked up followed by waves crashing against the shoreline. It was a cold day with the temperature around 5*C so lucky had I worn my down vest under my jacket. The sun had shifted at this time of year so light hits the beach mostly on the northern half but doesn't last long into the afternoon.

One thing I find annoying when enjoying my time at Seal Bay is the frequent flying by of noisy jets since the airport is not far away. It appears that the wildlife around the area is habiuated to the noise but it bothers me. One time I counted about 10 jets going by over a 2 hour time period.

Several ducks on a rock

Seals with their heads poking above water in the distance

Time lapse of drifting clouds

Since the clouds were drifting across the sky at a rapid rate, I decided to take a short time lapse but it was spoiled near the end when someone with a couple of dogs walked into view. You can catch a temporary glimpse of a figure near the end of the video.

Seagull coming in for a landing

Rough waves crashing onto the boulder where the seagull sits

The seagull had enough of the waves & is preparing for takeoff

A cropped photo of a bald eagle flying high

After being in the outdoors a lot, I got use to identifying the sound of an eagle before I catch sight of it.There must be a nest somewhere up in the tall trees. On another occasion, I've come across Blue Heron lurking around in the shallow part of the water. Normally, they fly away before I can get fairly close but there was one particular one which hung around and got use to my presence so I that allowed me to observe it for about an hour.


(Photoscapes) Comox, BC Cormorant Seal Bay Park Vancouver Island Fri, 18 Nov 2016 20:43:09 GMT
Shades of Autumn at Seal Bay Park Seal Bay Park is a regional park withing the city limits of Comox, BC. The park is about 7 km from where I currently live and is 1,610 acres in size which is about 1.5 times the size of Stanley Park. At first, I found this hard to believe when I was looking at the area on Google Earth and the map on the printed brochure but the map wasn't to scale. When I looked at the map it appeared to be a short distance to walk to Melda's Marsh but I ended up walking for quite a while before I reached the area. Most of the time, I like to head down to the rocky beach area and see if I can spot sea lions basking on the boulders which project out of the ocean during low tide. There are also eagles and blue heron as well as ducks in the water.

When I visited the park about the third week in October, I was surprised to see fall colors on some of the trees because I thought the previous wind storms had blown the leaves off. There are, however, only certain areas where maple trees appear to be in abundance and that is around the eastern part of the park near the ocean.

Most of the times, the mornings are busier as people appear to do their exercise then head home. I had hiked the Seal Flipper Loop then headed north along the Don Apps Trail taking photographs of the mostly yellow leaves and the ravine filled with ferns before making a loop back to the parking area. From there, I crossed the road and headed to Melda's Marsh and ate my lunch there. A person came by to cut up a fallen tree at the marsh. I thought the tree had fallen due to the strong winds but he told me it was the works of a beaver.

I visited the park about a week later on an overcast and showery day. There were still some fall colors left but most of the leaves have fallen. I made my way to the beach along the Don Apps trail where a narrow path in the forest heads north along the beach. The hike near the ocean reminded me of some trails that I've hiked on Haida Gwai (Queen Charlotte Islands). The tide was high up but outgoing and there was seals laying on some boulders. I also observed a blue heron near the water looking for fish. I ended up photographing the muted colors of the bushes along the cliffs.

The brochures which the city provides at certain trailhead entrances has a nice map of the trails to follow. It also has a description of the loop trail that I took near the beach and describes it as "somewhat challenging" which I found amusing. I would rate it as easy. The brochure also gives somewhat bad advice when encountering bears. It mentions slowly backing away and avoiding eye contact. According to Dr. Tom Smith, a wildlife biologist, you shouldn't back away because it means you are being submissive like a prey. He also states that you should be keeping an eye on the bear to see what its next move would be. There is no evidence to suggest that bears become aggressive if you stare at it.

Walking the Twin Flower Lane, there are lots of ferns which had changed colors from green to brown. The trail along this portion of the park was filled with pools of water. I made my way to Melda's Marsh and around the south part where there are a couple of viewing platforms. Almost all of the bushes in the marsh had lost their leaves leaving behind the reddish brown colors of the branches. I also saw a couple of colorful Amanita Muscaria muschrooms to photograph. There is a lot more trails to cover in the park but I will leave that for another day.


(Photoscapes) Comox, BC Seal Bay Park Vancouver Island Sat, 29 Oct 2016 21:13:26 GMT
Autumn to Winter I have been heading up to the Forbidden Plateau area of Strathcona Park photographing the fall colors over a period of several weeks. During the last week in September, the color were showing up nicely and a week later in October a lot of the green grass in the meadows have turned to a rich diverse color of pink, red, and yellow.

October is still a popular time for people to visit because of autumn so I go early in the morning to photograph when there is no one around. During late morning on a couple of visits, there have been large groups of small kids on field trips. They, however, don't travel far in the backcountry. As a matter of fact, most people only go as far as Lake Helen Mackenzie or Battleship Lake. However, one does not need to go far to see the nice colors since the meadows are the best place to observe the colorful landscape and they are not far from the parking lot. Further away, the meadows are not extensive however there are a lot of blueberry bushes in which their leaves have changed from green to yellow and red. There are still lots of blueberries on some bushes but they appear to be over-ripe and don't taste all that good.

Due to all the rain in October, it has been a waiting game in picking the day with the least wind and rain. One thing you can't rely on is the weather reports; 4 websites give different reports and they are all sometimes inaccurate. The mornings have been quite chilly and in some cases there have been frost on the boardwalks which makes walking slippery especially when the surface slants due to the uneven ground. It takes about an hour of hiking to warm up nicely but when I stop for lunch it gets quite chilly and uncomfortable. The trails are very muddy and getting by them is a challenge.

There are lots of bird activity around such as the Stellar Jay and Grey Jay; each having a distinct vocalization. The grey jay or whiskey jack always drop by looking for handouts but they get none from me. Sometimes the squirrel comes close by and always seems to be tearing apart a pine cone to get at the nuts inside. I always come across piles of torn up cones here and there in the forest.

The days had gotten colder to the point where it had snowed over the weekend on Oct 2nd. I can see the snow on the webcams. I decided to do one more trip up to the subalpine on Oct 11th and get an early start in the dark. Well, I left at 6:30 am but a slow moving vehicle on the way up slowed me down. The road higher up looked pretty slick in the morning since the temperature was -1*C. When I arrived at the parking lot, there was two cars there. I wore my longjohns and down vest under my jacket and with my mitts on I felt comfortable. The fall colors were not as visible since the frosted grass and bushes made them appear white so I was glad that I had already taken photos of the meadows during my last visit. I made my way along the frosted and slippery boardwalk to the junction and headed up in the forest towards Battleship Lake. The air felt warmer in the forest although the temperature was still cold enough to freeze the ground therefore the mud patches was easier to walk through. There wasn't much to photograph along the way because of all the frosted vegetation which hid the colors. I made my way along Battleship Lake and up to Lady Lake. This is where the path became challenging; all the water from the half-melted snow had collected on the pathway and it had froze so it was very slippery. The ice was quite thin in places and enough to be treacherous. In some places the water hadn't froze over so there was a stream flowing down the trail. I should have brought my hiking poles but instead I carried my camera and tripod in my hand which made it easier than digging it out of my pack everytime I wanted to photograph. There was surprisingly blueberries still hanging on some bushes and some berries were big although most were small. This late in the year, they are quite overripe and break apart easily but since they were frozen it was easier to pick and eat. I enjoyed the last of the berries.

I made my way down to Murray Meadows then took the turnoff to Panther Lake but only went a short distance in. The sun was very bright and still fairly hot at this time of year. If it wasn't for the cold wind, it would be nice but still I had taken off my jacket and worn my down vest and I felt comfortable. There was a footbridge which spanned a small creek but it broke in half and part of it was slanted and half sunk into the creek. Normally, if it was dry, there would be no problems stepping on it but there was a layer of snow. I searched for a narrow part of the creek and jumped across to the other side.

Since I always get chilled by drinking the cold filtered water, I brought my stove and heated up some water then dumped it in my water bottle. I also boiled more water for a cup of coffee which warmed me up.

Most of the ice on the trail has melted on my way back but there were still some areas under shade which were slippery and I almost slipped twice. I find walking downhill more treacherous as it is more difficult to control the descent and an icy path makes things worse. The trails in the Forbidden Plateau were the worst that I've seen them; so much mud and water pools that people try to avoid them by walking along the edges and even into the bush which creates more erosion.

I was very disappointed at the fall colors once the frost had melted. The colors looked faded and unappealing and a lot of leaves had blown off the bushes. That first snowfall of the year seemed to have spoiled it and so did the wind storm.

A foggy day near the end of September where the meadows are turning colors.

Early morning on a foggy day

The meadows on a dark cloudy day

Early morning on the way to the Battleship Lake turnoff

A huge cumulous cloud provides a nice backdrop for the colorful meadows.

Sunlight filtering into the forest but not enough to melt the frozen snow.

Ice covered trail

Croteau Lake & snow-covered Mt. Albert Edward in the distance.

Frost & snow-covered Murray Meadows below. Castlecraig Mtn beyond.

(Photoscapes) Autumn Forbidden Plateau Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Thu, 13 Oct 2016 18:34:53 GMT
Landslide Lake and Foster Lake I decided to do the Elk River Trail one more time as an overnight backpack this year in hopes of getting the sunrise photo that I had sought for a couple of years. During the early part of the year, I couldn't get to the lake on time before the sun rose and that was due to the very early sunrise during the early part of summer. Currently, the sunrise occurs around 7 am, so that would give me more time to hike to the lake.

There were 5 vehicles at the parking lot already and one particular vehicle; a white truck looked familiar. It may belong to one of the park staff which patrols the trail and that I had met a couple of times earlier this summer.

I paid my $10 backcountry fee at the self serve station then I was off at 8:40 am. I wasn't in a rush to get to the campsite since the hike in is not arduous nor long. The air was chilly and I moved at a slow to moderate pace which was enough to warm me up. All the deadfall has been cleared so the trail was in good shape except for the muddy sections. All the creeks have dried up; the ones which crossed the trail and those which were spanned by footbridges. I stopped only once at the Beaver Dam to take a reflection shot of the mountains. The sunlight spoiled the chance of any good photographs along the way but it was nice to see the light and feel the heat from the sun.

Beaver Dam

I reached Butterwort campsite in ~ 2 hours of rather leisure hiking. There was only one tent on the gravel flats and it looked like the same tent in the same location that the park staff likes to pitch. I pondered about continuing on to the second camp but with the vehicles I saw at the parking lot, I figure most people might be there. The second camp has limited space and I liked the spaciousness of the Butterwort camp. The only drawback is that it is a further hike to Landslide Lake. I decided to pitch my tent in the forest since it would be warmer at night than camping out in the open.

The sun was quite hot on the open gravel bar but when I entered the forest, the air felt cool and damp. I passed by the stinky pit toilet with the door wide open and looked around for a spot to pitch my tent. A couple of spots were ribboned off with a written note about tree hazard. I chose a nice spot beside a fallen tree and a steep bank which rose up to the forest. The area is wide open but this spot provides the most privacy.

Camping out in the dark forest

This is one of the first time that I've camped in Strathcona Park and was able to easily peg my tent with the stakes. The dirt ground was soft and the tent pegs easily went into the ground. With my tent up, I headed to the warm gravel bar to eat my lunch. The sun felt nice and warm. I fetched water from the river nearby and sat on a log to eat and warm up. Afterwards, I put my food in the metal Food Cache. At least the pit toilet and Cache are close by unlike the second camp, where you have to walk away from camp and uphill to reach both. The two carabiners were difficult to get out of the holes which kept the lid locked. After fiddling around with it for a while, I noticed that the right side of the lid, the carabiner slid into the holes more easily when entered from the left side whereas the left side of the lid required entering the holes from the right. They should have designed these cache with the same locking system as the garbage bins that uses a push-in latch. Speaking of garbage bins, the inside of the food cache smells almost as bad as the pit toilet for some reason.

The rather tame looking Elk River by the gravel bar.

I headed back to the gravel bar and sat in the hot sun to pass the time away. That is the problem when arriving at camp too early. Nothing much to do except wait until tomorrow. Around 2 pm the park staff showed up and he remembered my name. I chatted with him for a short while. He had to pack up and be on his way out. He told me that I had the entire place to myself as there was no one around. Not even at the second camp. This surprised me since I told him there were cars in the parking lot. Maybe people headed up to Elkhorn or to Rambler Peak area. Before he left, I asked him if he is finished for the season. He told me that he still has 4 weeks left. Next year, he starts his patrol in May. I told him I might be around next June to hike the trail and may see him then.

The sun went down behind the tall mountain by 3:40 pm. The air slowly cooled down and the light dimmed as if someone switched off the light. When the sun was out, I had my cooked dinner lying on the rocks to thaw out. I had my cooked brown rice, broccoli and carrots vacuumed packed and stuck it in the freezer. I took it out of the fridge around 6 am and after 8 hours it was still partly frozen. The rocks remained warm even after the sun went down so I just lay the pouch on the rocks to warm up my meal.

Waiting for my dinner to thaw out.

One thing good about this time of year is that all the mosquitoes and blackflies are gone. Not a single biting insect to disturb me. There was a monarch butterfly which flew about. It eventually landed on my hand. I watched it for 5 minutes as its siphoning mouthpart probed my skin.

I was surprised to see a couple arrive at camp. They told me they got a late start because they intended to hike Comox Glacier but the guard wouldn't let them by. I told them that the Comox Main logging road is open on weekends only and to contact Timber West. They went on to the second camp. About a half hour later, a group of 3 guys came by. I chatted for a while before they left for the second camp. It was all quiet after that.

Around 7 pm, I took a walk to warm up. The sun was still hitting the mountains on the opposite side. I walked back along the trail to the stand of birch trees then took a rough path which was a dried creek bed that leads to Elk River. There wasn't much here except a grove of birch trees and vibrant moss to photograph.

A stand of birch trees; not too common in the  park.

I went into the tent and slipped into the sleeping bag between 7:30 and 8 pm. It was quite dark and there was nothing much to do. It didn't get very cold last night under the cover of the forest therefore no condensation formed on the inside of the tent walls. For some reason it didn't get pitch dark and I saw light above the forest. I realized later than a full moon had shone. When the moon had drifted away, the night was so dark I couldn't see my hand in front of me.

I didn't have much problem getting up early. I never sleep well on the ground despite the fact that it was very quiet with only the noise of the river in the background. I wish it was like this in the city. I can't stand the noisy and polluting traffic. I got up about 4:45 am and retrieved my food from the Cache. I was on my way with my headlamp lighting up the forest path. This headlamp had become unreliable during the past couple of years. It seems to work when I'm at home but when I needed to use it on the trail, the light wouldn't turn on; it had failed me more than three times in the past. I thought there was something wrong with the on and off switch. I had taken it apart and didn't find anything wrong but I left the rubber pad off which had covered the on/off button and it seems to work fine now. I didn't bother bringing any backup light so I was at the mercy of the headlamp and if it failed I'd just have to stay where I was until it got light.

Hiking with a headlamp is quite challenging since it only lights up the area in front of me; like a tunnel vision effect. There is a wide angle mode but the light isn't that strong so I used a brighter but more concentrated beam. The problem with some trails like the Elk River Trail is that sections of it blends in with the surroundings because of the debris on it and I had to stop and see where the path goes. A few times I almost got misled and I also wondered if I was on the right track but its just a matter of stopping and looking around carefully. It's a different story when hiking during daylight and I can see the trail and surrounding area at the same time. Despite this, I managed to make it to the second camp in 45 minutes. Once past the camp, the valley was slowly lightening up and when I reached the area past the footbridge it was almost light enough to do away with the headlamp but I kept it going to spot out the rock cairns before the path enters the dark forest which switchbacks up past the waterfall and heads up towards Landslide Lake.

I was not in as good shape as earlier in the year and felt a bit tired when I reached Landslide Lake at 6:45 am. It was good to see the mountains again. There was a slight breeze blowing; just enough to stir up the water and prevent a nice reflection but I knew where a portion of the water was protected with some logs laying in the water so I made my way over along the shoreline and set up my camera. Thank-goodness for my 180* fisheye lens which is able to accommodate the entire scene in view; although there is some noticeable distortion. I took a few test shots to get the exposure and composition about right then I waited for the sun to come up. There was blueberry bushes behind me so I picked some to eat. With my back turned away from the lake, I didn't see the sun hitting the mountains until I happened to turn around. I was surprised that the sun had come up so fast. I had estimated that it would take ~2 hours to hike to the lake from the first campsite and that gave me about 10 to 15 minutes to spare so the timing was just right.


Sunrise at Landslide Lake

I had finally got the shot that I wanted and dreamt about; a nice sunrise photograph of the top of the mountains lit up in orange from the low angle of the sun and balanced by a nice reflection of it. That made it all worthwhile just to get up early. I lingered around for about 10 minutes then made my way to Foster Lake at the foot of Mt. Colonel Foster. I remembered this path as being quite narrow and skirts along the left side of Landslide Lake. The little uphill jaunt in places got me tired. I would have expected a more level trail but whoever laid this path down did an unnecessary job of having the path go up then down in places. At the far end of the lake, the path heads down and leads out onto the creek which was flowing at a subdued rate.

A tight spot along the trail near the creek.

The route up the creek bed. Mt. Colonel Foster in sunlight.

View down the creek bed to Elkhorn Mtn

I initially thought that the creek was dry since I didn't hear it running when I was photographing Landslide Lake. I hiked up the bouldery creek bed and eventually headed left onto the terminal moraine. As I was hiking uphill with my head down concentrating on the tiring ascent, I surprised a black bear just off to the side. The only thing I initially heard and caught a glimpse of was black fur running down and across the creek. I stopped and looked but didn't see it until it came out from behind a boulder and scrambled up the steep embankment and disappeared into the bush. Upon further inspection at the matted grass, it appeared that the bear had bedded down and I was probably no more than 8 feet away when it saw me and sped away. Considering the speed at which the bear moved, if it attacked I wouldn't have had time to get my bear spray out of the holster however grizzlies are more dangerous than black bears so I wasn't worried.

The creek which drains from Foster Lake into Landslide Lake.

Foster Lake. Even a fish-eye lens barely gets in all the scenery.

The air was cold at Foster Lake and since I was sweating I felt a bit chilled. The water level appeared to be quite high but there wasn't much outflow. There doesn't seem to be any signs of ice caves so I didn't bother heading over around the lake. Either they must have collapsed or didn't form this year. I filtered some water and picked a few blueberries. One small bush had the most largest and juiciest blueberries I've ever come across. I only picked a few; I left the rest for the bear who happened to be around the area somewhere. I didn't stay long since I didn't bring any food with me except some protein and carbohydrate drink which didn't fill me up and I was getting quite hungry.

View from the terminal moraine of Foster Lake looking down to Landslide Lake and Elkhorn.

I made my way back along the path to the north end of Landslide Lake and took a few more photographs. I headed over to where there was a pool of water where I can get a nice reflection of Elkhorn Mtn in the distance. There are signs that people have camped here (illegally). Someone had a constructed a fire-pit which I tore apart. I flung pieces of burnt wood into the bush. This is the second time that I had to tear apart an illegal fire-pit in this area. In early June when I was here, I mentioned this to the park staff but I guess he never bothered to look around the area to find this spot but he was grateful that I had dismantled the fire-pit.

Landslide Lake from the east shoreline.

This pool of water never dries up but provides a nice reflection although the soft mud makes it difficult to access.

Elkhorn Mtn reflection

Last views of Mt. Colonel Foster before I head down.

Waterfall draining from Landslide Lake.

I hastily made my way down the trail and wasn't looking forward to the 1 hour 30 minute hike back to camp. I met the couple who had stayed at the second camp. They had just started along the trail and it was getting close to 10 am. The sun would be overhead and in front of the mountains; a bad time to take photographs. I made it back to camp around 10:45 am and wasted no time filtering water and eating. The sun was shining on the gravel bar but I still felt a bit chilled from the sweaty clothe. A girl dropped by as I was eating. She's apparently running the trail but carrying nothing. She mentioned she has someone trailing her carrying water. I cautioned her that there are sections of the trail which are quite muddy and slippery.

I rested for a while until I got my energy back then took my tent and ground sheet out on the gravel bar to clean and dry. I packed up and left by 1 pm. It would be about a 2 hour hike back to the car but I wasn't looking forward to it since I was quite tired. I did pass quite a few people heading up the trail. It certainly was a lot busier so I had made a nice decision to hike in on Monday. Besides the tiring hike back which seem to go one forever, my back was starting to ache and I developed a slight headache which seems to occur with regularity on my hikes. When I finally reached the parking lot, I counted 10 vehicles there; certainly busier today.

I was glad to end my hike; after 8 hours of walking it was just too much for me. I didn't really enjoy myself and wanted it to be over. I probably should have stayed another day and rested at the camp but it would be boring with nothing much to do and I only paid for one night anyways.

With the afternoon ahead of me, I felt tired from all that walking and lack of sleep so I didn't drive back to Comox. I headed down Buttle Lake to a pullout which was shaded from the hot sun. I went down the steep dirt bank to the rocky shoreline and made my way to the constructed shelter I made months ago. It was still in good shape and provided some shade from the sun. I ate my dinner there until the sun went behind the mountains around 6 pm.

The Day After:

I slept in my car and fell asleep somewhere around 8 pm. The bright full moon had come around sometime in the night and lit up the place. It disappeared behind the mountains and the area went dark again. Mine workers drove by around 5 am as I had predicted. My frequent stays at Buttle Lake had me knowing the routine of when traffic would come and go. The bus carrying workers went by around 7 am just as I thought. I decided to hang around for lunch so I walked about along the shoreline in the chilly morning. The water level was low and the sun took a long time to rise up and clear the trees. I had discovered some garbage that people have left behind. Three empty cases of beer cans and a few energy drinks. Some idiot party-goers left their crap behind. I got all the cans and flattened them down with a rock to make it more compact. I counted 60 cans; mostly beer. I carted them away and dumped them at the trash bin on my way out.


(Photoscapes) Elk River Trail Foster Lake Landslide Lake Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Fri, 16 Sep 2016 00:47:40 GMT
Mariwood Lake It has been a while since I made a trip to this lake on the Forbidden Plateau area of Strathcona Park. The weather wasn't the best with clouds and showers and low temperatures but I figure that I could capture more dramatic photos with the floating mist than during complete sunshine.

I had a late start so I wasted little time making my way to Battleship Lake, then on to Lady Lake and a brief rest at Croteau Lake. The trails are all muddy again. They had dried out nicely with the summer heat until the cold and rain came. It almost seems like fall outside with the temperatures barely rising about double digit. Some blueberry bush leaves are turning autumn colors and the grasses in certain areas of the meadows have turned yellow.

Mt Washington shrouded in fog

Alpine meadow not far from the parking lot

Croteau Lake

I was thankful for the cool temperatures to reduce the mosquito population and there wasn't any blackflies on this trip to bother me but I hated the dampness along the reduced temperatures. It's hard to dry out my hands with the towel. They still felt slightly damp due to the high humidity.

The trails were deserted along the way and even signs of wildlife were lacking. I didn't hear any birds at all; they must be taking shelter. When I reached a junction, I took the turnoff to Panther Lake. I was here a little over a week ago on a bright sunny day and only took a few photos as there was too much contrast between dark and light. There was a lot of shadow with loss of detail.

Trail cuts through an open meadow

Spindly trees with beard lichen hanging from their branches

I decided to wear my rainpants as the trail is overgrown in places with blueberry bushes. It was a good decision because my boots never got wet inside so I am quite happy with these new boots although I did have an incident while hiking through the forest. The design of the boots resembles a climbing shoe with the laces reaching quite far forward; more so than a regular hiking boots. This is where the problem lay. As I was hiking, my boot lace near the toe caught a jagged end of the root as I was in forward motion and it snagged it stemming my movement. It was like my left foot was caught and I couldn't extricate it so I ended up stumbling. The other incident was stepping on a slanted wet rock which caused me to slip. Despite good soles, nothing can prevent a slip on wet smooth surfaces. Hiking poles would have helped but I didn't bother bringing them with me. I mostly used them for very steep hikes.

The large tarn where I ate lunch

I couldn't believe the amount of ripe blueberries on the many bushes beside the trail. I picked a handful for lunch when I stopped at a tarn to eat lunch. It wasn't long before I started to cool down and my fingers got numb. I couldn't wear my gloves because I was busy eating. Rain came down now and then which made photographing more challenging. Several mosquitoes did manage to drop by but I caught them in flight and squished them. I only stayed long enough to filter water and eat my lunch since I was getting a bit chilled.

The top of Mt. Elma hidden under low clouds

After lunch, I took a little used route up to Mariwood Lake. It was overgrown in places so my rainpants got totally wet but I remained dry. I like the topography around the lake area. Lots of nice subalpine areas and the lake is dotted with small islands. There was a lot of low fog and mist which provided an opportunity to photograph the area under different lighting conditions.

Mariwood Lake

I only stopped long enough to photograph and didn't linger around very long on this wet rainy day instead I made my way up to Kwai Lake and the empty campsite. From here, it was just a matter of retracing my steps back to Croteau, Lady Lake and Battleship Lake then back to the parking area.

Misty day at Kwai Lake

Up from Kwai Lake, I did pass other people heading up this way which kind of surprised me. There are people who don't mind hiking in the rain. However, the crowds have mostly abated and the parking lot wasn't full when I got back. It was a rather refreshing day.

(Photoscapes) Forbidden Plateau Kwai Lake Mariwood Lake Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Fri, 02 Sep 2016 20:52:47 GMT
Arnica Lake Trail I left my place by 4 am in the dark and reached the parking lot at the Myra Falls Mine by 6 am. It was a long drive since I live further away now and the trail is at the very end of Buttle Lake which means driving the length of the lake on a winding narrow road.

I never liked this trail since there are too many switchbacks which are unnecessary long. The switchback grade is quite gentle but I prefer a shorter but steeper trail which gains elevation fast. The hike up was in the forest and kind of boring. I could hear the noise from the mine below until I gained enough elevation to distance myself from it. Further up, I passed a handwritten sign that someone tacked to a tree and warned of a wasps nest just up ahead near a dead fallen tree. When I passed the area, I didn't see any signs of wasps so the nest must be abandoned.

The hike up took me about 2.5 hours to reach Arnica Lake then I followed the trail to the campsite where 3 empty tent platforms and a pit toilet lay close to the lake. I thought there might be at least one person camping here since there were about 6 vehicles at the parking lot but I guess some peopele could have camped elsewhere or maybe hiked the Mt. Myra trail instead. I did pass one fellow coming down the trail but I never did see anyone else the entire day. I didn't linger long but continued up to the high point along the open ridge. I passed ripe blueberries growing by the trail so I picked some to eat for lunch.

Arnica Lake

The sun was bright, the temperature was rising and the mosquitoes were buzzing about. I think the older I get, the less tolerant I've become of pesky insects. But, if I am persistent in chasing them away, I notice that they disappear and leave me alone although there are others which come by.

A lot of small tarns have dried up and the water that remains here and there looks discolored and is littered with small dead insects and other debris. I found a nice shaded area beside a pool of water to eat my lunch. From a distance the small pool looked refreshingly clear but up close dead insect floated on the surface. The problem with these small pools of water on a hot day is that they get warmed up by the sun quite fast so it was lukewarm.

Mt Myra

The little pool of water in the foreground is all that remains.

One of the few stagnant pools of water

In less than a minute after sitting down, mosquitoes were attacking me. I wore my cycling jacket because it is tightly knit and they can't poke through. The sun was hot but the shade kept me cool so despite the mosquitoes, it was a nice place to rest.

A nice place to relax and eat lunch. Notice all that debris floating on the water from which I filtered.

After lunch, I decided to hike further along the ridge and I spotted a few other water sources including a fair size one which offers a grassy area to pitch a tent. Someone even had made a makeshift bench from a piece of tree branch. There are decent views of Mt. Myra from this area and the water looks cleaner.

A small path leads to water and views of Mt. Myra

A cleaner water source to filter water from

I walked further along the barren rocky landscape until the trail came close to the steep ridge and appeared to head down towards a more forested area. I stopped and sought some shade as the hot air felt like an oven. This gave me an opportunity to apply more sunscreen.

The rocky landscape

A boulder made up of layers

I had brought my dinner with me; vacuumed packed cooked brown rice, broccoli and carrots. I also kept it quite cool with a baggy filled with ice cubes and wrapped in clothing inside my pack. I decided to hike back to Arnica Lake and eat my dinner there since it would be about a 2 hour hike back down from that point. It was hot on the hike back but I was glad it was mostly downhill. I also picked more blueberries to have for dinner. I rested in the shade near the lakeshore and ate some blueberries on the bushes beside me.

I started down the trail by 6 pm and stopped where a creek flows by at one of the bends in the trail. It was nice to soak myself and cool down before resuming my hike. Even though the sun was still hitting the mountains, it was dark in the forest. I kept in mind the sign which was posted at the parking lot that mentioned about a cougar sighting in the area although it was 3 weeks ago. Cougars are more dangerous than bears because they operate by stealth and surprise attack. I got down by 8 pm and the sun had already disappeared behind the mountains. There was only 2 other vehicles in the parking lot.

There was quite a few deadfalls along the trail, mostly near the start where a few big trees obscurred the trail. I think BC Parks lack the funding to do trail maintenance.


(Photoscapes) Arnica Lake Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Mon, 29 Aug 2016 00:43:12 GMT
Abstracts of Strathcona Park I like taking photographs of landscapes with a wide angle lens; a lens which comes in handy in photographing massive cloud formations and in taking pictures in confined spaces. However, what I have neglected over the years is practicing my 'art of seeing' and focusing on isolating the big scene. It was years ago, during the film camera era, that I had done a lot of photographing abstracts and isolating the subject matter; something which is difficult to do. So with this in mind, on my next trip to Buttle Lake in Strathcona Park, rather than just photograph the same landscape, I decided to bring along my zoom lens so that I can practice isolating shots and take them in a unique way that makes subjects difficult to recognize. Practicing the art of seeing makes me stop and take my time. It makes me think harder in what to focus on and to pre-visualize if the photo would turn out okay. It makes for a great exercise in creative thinking.

Reflection of a mountain and clouds on Buttle Lake with a slight breeze.

Limestone Ridge in mist

Pinecones on vibrant moss

A reflection of a stick and mountains during sunrise

Grass reflection

Tree reflection during a slight breeze


Full moon descending

Same shot as above except during sunrise

Water patterns

Light & Shadow

Tree stumps on Buttle Lake

A short video heading up & above the waterfall.


(Photoscapes) Buttle Lake Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Sun, 21 Aug 2016 02:01:55 GMT
Mt. Becher & Boston Lake It has been at least 20 years since I last hiked this trail in Strathcona Park. The trail is accessed from the Wood Mountain Ski Park; an abandon ski hill in which a path heads up steeply and gives nice views of the ocean, Comox Lake and the town of Courtenay-Comox.

I did this hike twice during the past week. I first went up on Wednesday when the weather was cloudy, foggy and cool. Taking photos with the rolling fog was nice but the views were limited. There are still huge pools of water here and there but they have diminished in size somewhat otherwise the path was easy to follow.

When I reached the junction to Drabble Lakes and Mt. Becher, I headed left climbing higher. There are lots of nice subalpine areas with small tarns and dwarf evergeen trees. I came to an open bluff which gives views of Boston Lake below and from here it would be about 30 minutes more before the summit of Mt. Becher is reached.

A glimpse of Boston Lake below.

A nice landscape of evergreen and cliffs.

One of several rocky sections along the way.

A nice alpine tarn on a foggy day.

The path goes straight ahead .

A beautiful subalpine area with possible camping spots.

Dwarf Evergreen Trees

The top of Mt. Becher with no distant views.

When I reached the summit of Mt. Becher, the clouds hadn't lifted and a rather chilly breeze blew so I didn't stay long. Coming back down the trail, I saw a path diverging off and heading up into the forest so I followed it to a nice flat area where a firepit lay. There was a small pool of brackish looking water which I used to filter water from. This was the only water source around so I had no choice. Even the filtered water looked slightly brown but it caused no problems.

At one point, the clouds departed and the sun appeared but that was short-lived. Clouds and rolling fog moved in. It was a chilly day for mid-August but that's no real surprise as the temperature difference can be considerable up in the mountains.

Low clouds on the move.

There is a nice tarn in the forest along the way back and a faint path leads close to the shoreline. I saw lots of ripe blueberries on the bushes so I picked some to eat later. Tramping around in the wet bush got me all wet and I later discovered that my new hiking boots was soaked inside despite the waterproof gortex lining.

A couple of days later, I redid the Mt. Becher hike and this time the sun was bright and hot starting from the morning. Along with the nice weather came the bugs. They weren't bothersome until I reached the summit.

Along the way up, I had met some people coming down. They apparently had stayed overnight for the meteor shower. One person even brought his guitar which he said was worth it.

From the summit of Mt. Becher, the distant views of Comox glacier and surrounding mountains was nice but there was a cloud of flies flying around in one particular spot; the area I was trying to photograph the mountains. The flies didn't bite but they were a nuisance.

Distant views of the Comox glacier.

I didn't stay long. I headed down the trail and decided to visit Boston Lake. I met a few people coming up the trail. There is more people on the trail during Friday than any other weekday.

I took an informal path down to Boston Lake. The steep path is not well marked but its impossible to get lost. There is a nice flat camping area near the lake outlet but I decided to eat my lunch near the small creek which drains from the lake. The blackflies were abundant and merciless. I managed to kill over two dozen of them when they landed on me but there was still lots flying around.

Down at the shoreline of Boston Lake. The trail to Mt. Becher heads along and over the cliffs ahead.

After I ate, I hastily headed along the creek and up onto an open bluff where there was less blackflies around. A forested valley lay before me with a logged section and in the distance I can see part of Comox and the ocean. Heading back down the trail was uneventful. It was hot and I was glad to get back into the car and turn on the air conditioner.



(Photoscapes) . Boston Lake Mt. Becher Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Sat, 13 Aug 2016 15:35:03 GMT
Photographing Clouds When I did an overnight backpack up Jack's trail in Strathcona Park about a week ago, I couldn't figure out why I was so physically tired after reaching the open ridge. A little over a month ago, I did a backpack up the same trail but it didn't tire me out as much. After thinking about it, I realized that I've been doing my day hikes in the Forbidden Plateau area of the park which, although the trails are longer, they are not as steep since you drive all the way up to the subalpine. On steep trails as found in the Buttle Lake area, they go straight up then back down the mountainside whereas around the Mt. Washington area, they more or less undulate without any significant elevation gain so that put me out of shape. With steep trails, a person uses different leg muscles so those muscles weren't being conditioned which was why they were sore for several days after the backpack; something which has never happened before.

One of the reasons why I decided to visit this area again was to see if I could find the plastic filter bag which I had lost or forgot to take with me on my last visit. This bag is required to contain the water which needs to attach to the filter so without it the filter cartridge is useless.  However, I can buy another one but it is costly ($44). I can't believe how expensive it is just for a plastic pouch so I thought I might get lucky on my return visit and see if I could find it. I looked where I had last camped before and was surprised to see it still hanging from the same branch where I had last used it. That was the first time I had forgotten to pack it with me.

I decided to camp a little higher up on the ridge beside a small pool of water. I'm not sure if that played a factor in the amount of pesky mosquitoes which buzzed around my head but they sure were annoying. They all but disappeared in the afternoon but by 6 pm they emerged; there must have been around a couple of dozen flying about. A good headnet helped a lot but I should have worn a cap to keep the net off of my head hence I got bitten through the net a couple of times.

Oout on the open ridge I watched thunderclouds build up along the ridge in front of me during the morning and afternoon. I wasn't sure if the clouds would drift my way so I had made sure that my tent was already set up. Luckily, the clouds hung around the ridge. I heard thunder now and then. I mostly used the pool of water to photograph the cloud reflections and watched it change shape.  The clouds hung around until evening and as the sun started to go down, the clouds all but dissipated.

Not much left of the clouds during the evening


The mosquitoes were so bothersome on this trip that rather than stay another day, I had enough. I had to bundle up with my raingear and wear my mosquito headnet. The ony time I felt 'safe' from them is when I headed into the tent around 9:15 pm. The other problem I had to deal with is that my 8 year old tent is showing signs of wear at the zippered entrance. It doesn't slide smoothly and mistracks so it separates while zipping the entrance up. Not something I want happening with all those mosquitoes around.

Due to the lack of wind, heavy condensation formed on the inside and outside of my tent. I didn't bother getting up until the sun hit the tent which was not much after 6 am. I hung around until my tent finally dried and had to put up with the mosquitoes again.

I was glad to get going and when I hiked down to the plateau of tarns (about 20 minutes hike), there was hardly any mosquitoes to bother me. There are lots of water in this area but not so much biting insects.


(Photoscapes) Augerpoint Trail Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Fri, 05 Aug 2016 22:58:00 GMT
Flowers & Other Things Everytime I hike around the Forbidden Plateau area in Strathcona Park, I always admire but bypass photographing flowers so today I made it a point of mostly taking my time to seek out different flowers to photograph. There are a lot of flower names which I don't know yet.

I started early in the morning because flowers are susceptible to the slightest breeze which makes it difficult to get an in-focus shot and morning it usually a time when the wind is absent for a period of time. With a macro lens, it makes it possible to photograph down to life size but because the flowers are so close to the ground, I end up straining my back and neck when looking through the viewfinder.

Bunchberry Dogwood found growing low on the ground

Pink Heather

Lupines with thin strands of spider webs

White Heather

I hiked part ways around Paradise Meadows then took the path up to Lake Helen Mackenzie before cutting across to intersect the trail which goes beside Battleship Lake. From there, I went to Lady Lake and caught the clouds and fog rolling in. The morning had started out sunny and a bit cool  but clouds and fog drifted about.

Lady Lake

Fog at Lady Lake

As I was hiking along the trail, I bumped into a grouse so I stood around trying to get a good shot. The grouse had initially backed away but then started walking towards me which I thought was odd. As I moved forward, it flew a short distance to a tree and at the same time a couple more grouse flew off; they appeared to be younger grouse so I suspected that they were part of the family. I'm sure, if these were smaller grouse chicks, the mother would have charged me.

Mother grouse


Red Indian Paintbrush

Hairy leaves and stems

Spreading Phlox; some dead, some living

Spores of moss

I hiked to Croteau Lake where I filtered water then climbed a high point to eat my lunch. By this time, a breeze blew and the fog obscurred the views but it made for some nice photos. The sun was behind some clouds and the air was chilly.

Mt. Alma in fog at Croteau Lake

Overlooking the forested plateau between Croteau Lake and Kwai Lake

(Photoscapes) Croteau Lake Forbidden Plateau Lady Lake Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Sat, 23 Jul 2016 15:44:50 GMT
Drabble Lakes I hadn't hiked the trail to Drabble Lakes in a few years and since the drive wasn't too far I decided to head there despite the uncertainty in the weather. The approach to the parking area starts with a drive up the winding dirt road to Wood Mountain Ski Park. I find it quite amazing that people have built homes along the way up close to the proximity of the parking area. There would be a lot of quiet and solitude living in the forest but if it snows I don't know if the road gets plowed.

The chairlifts at the Wood Mountain Ski Park is long abandon and the crumbling cement structure is covered with graffiti. Fire-pits are scattered about. I heard that this area attracts party goers at times so I'm always a bit hesitant to park here.

There was no one else around when I arrived around 8 am. I followed a path which goes straight up the ski slope; a steep bush-lined gravel slope which passes by a dilapidated wooden structure. There are a few narrow paths which diverges off the main one. On my last hike here, I took one of those paths and regretted it because they are more encroached with bushes. The main path eventually swings to the right passing under the chairlift then curves left and up before leveling out on what appears to be a road. I passed by a nice tarn and remnants of the ski operation. In a couple of places there are huge pools of water which made it difficult to get by.

The most boring part of the hike was behind me when I reached the boundary of Strathcona Park and the intersection of the Mt. Becher trail and Drabble Lakes. Most people head to Mt. Becher because it give nice views of the Comox Glacier but I headed over to the lakes; clouds were moving in so I thought the mountain views would be limited. The hike to Drabble Lakes is longer but I enjoy the forest walk.

I didn't like the fact that the trail heads downhill which means an uphill hike on the way back. There are quite a few streams crossing the trail, some minor deadfalls and quite a few muddy sections. My boots started to leak inside again. I think this is the last hike with these boots; feels uncomfortable with wet feet. There are some nice but small patches of meadows along the way and several nice tarns. I enjoyed the fact that there were only a few blackflies and mosquitoes around. I also enjoyed the melody from this particular bird which appears to be common everywhere I hike.

I used a trial version of this editing program so it leaves a watermark which disappears after 1 minute.

At 6.8 km along the trail, I arrived at a junction with a signpost pointing the way to Mckenzie Lake in the Forbidden Plateau area and the path to Drabble Lakes. I followed the rock cairns and soon arrived at one of the lakes then continued up a rock bluff to the main lake where someone had constructed a firepit and with a couple of stones to sit on.

Two different photos of Drabble Lakes above. There are a conglomeration of lakes which make up Drabble Lakes but only a couple are accessible.

I filtered water, ate my lunch and relaxed. I took off my boots and socks to dry them out which was futile since the weather wasn't warm enough. It was a bit cool out but I felt comfortable enough and the lack of breeze didn't chill me. I saw clouds build up and it looked like it might rain however nothing materialized.

Heading back down the bluffs, I saw a small toad leap away. I followed it until it stopped at a steep part of the rock then I managed to photograph it. I had a wide-angle macro zoom lens on so I was able to get a close shot of it. American toads are common in Strathcona Park although seldom seen. This toad is close to a source of water but I've seen them far up the mountain in the forest where no water is present and often wondered how they survived.

American Toad

On the way back to the parking area, I passed by a couple of people heading up around 1:30 pm. I find hiking in the afternoon to reach a destination is too late for me. I like an early start.

I seemed to have missed a nice tarn along the way since it was mostly hidden by bush and it was only after being more observant that I spotted it. I thought about heading into the bush to reach it but further on I saw a faint track and followed it to near the marshy shoreline.

Hiking back down the ski slope, I saw part of Comox Lake below, the ocean and part of Comox, Courtenay area but they were mostly obscured by trees. When I reached the parking area, four other vehicles were parked there.


(Photoscapes) Drabble Lakes Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Wood Mountain Ski Park Wed, 20 Jul 2016 21:06:20 GMT
Flora Lake Trail Flora Lake trail lies in the Chilliwack Valley and is included in the Chilliwack Provincial Park boundaries. I've hiked this steep trail a few times before and thought that it was one of the steepest that I had hiked but after hiking steeper trails in Strathcona Park this trail didn't seen bad at all.

Instead of parking at the formal parking area in which vandalism had occurred to cars, I decided to park opposite the entrance to the provincial campground. There is a little known trail entrance just 30 feet away and this also means cutting off some uphill hiking.

The weather wasn't too good at the beginning with lots of clouds in the sky so I had hoped that a break would occur when I reached the open. The temperature was kind of cool to start but with the uphill jaunt, I soon began to heat up.

There are several creeks which cross the trail in the forest and provides a source of drinking water however most people wouldn't need to collect water until well into the  hike. Despite not hiking here for a few years, I recognized the landmarks of boulders, forest sections and sparse viewpoints on the way up. I used them as a gauge to monitor my progress up the mountain. 

I haven't hiked a steep trail for almost a week but I still managed to make good time at a steady moderate pace. I kept myself well hydrated and drank a carbohydrate solution for sustained supply of energy. I noticed new orange trail markers on the way but thought they were unnecessary except at one area where another path appears to diverge away from the main trail. Otherwise, the path is well laid out and can easily be navigated without additional aid.

I had reached the open subalpine in about 2  hours but the views were nonexistent with low cloud and rolling fog. I continued along to the ridgetop with the path becoming very muddy in places. I thought about stopping near a running creek and having my lunch there since my legs were starting to tire but I just kept plodding onward.

The trail cuts through lush green vegetation with only a glimpse of the background mountain ridge

Fog closed in a bit near the pass. I stopped to filter water at a pool of water and it wasn't long before a couple of women came by. They apparently did a circuit route starting from Lindeman Lake up to Flora Lake and the pass and were now heading down.

The trail heads up and along this forested ridge

Hiking up to the pass in fog

The unappealing pool where I filtered water

When my water bottle was full, I hiked the short distance to the pass and junction where the trail leads down to Flora Lake or goes along the ridge to a high point. I started heading up to the high point and stopped to photograph the landscape which appear to emerge from the rolling fog. A pika; small mammal about the size of a squirrel was out on a boulder. This elusive creature lives in cracks between boulders or burrows underneath one. I guess this one has seen many humans before so it didn't appear too frightened.

Departing fog. There is a Pika on a boulder (on the left)

A cropped photo of the Pika

I little further along the ridge, I caught a portion of Flora Lake below. By now, the clouds had lifted to reveal the broad ridge above the lake. I made my way past a snowpatch and into some light bush to end up on top of a bluff overlooking a grassy and forested landscape where I had previously come up from. There was still a lot of drifting clouds and fog rolling by. I ate my lunch here in a very cramped area.

Part of Flora Lake seen below a long mountain ridge

I lingered around waiting for a major clearing of clouds which didn't appear to be happening then made my way down the trail. When I got down to the small bowl where the trail traverses across the mountainside, the clouds started to depart and the sun shone in places. This was the first time that I saw a couple of large ugly logging scars on the mountainside which wasn't there during my last visit here. It's always sad to see the once pristine forested mountain slopes in such an ugly mess.

I continued along the trail until I came within views of Chilliwack Lake below. These are the views I missed on the way up due to the low clouds and fog.

A glimpse of Chilliwack Lake below

A broader expanse of Chilliwack lake and surrounding mountains

Looking back along the trail to the ridge in the distance where I had been


(Photoscapes) Chilliwack Lake Chilliwack Provincial Park Flora Lake Trail Fri, 15 Jul 2016 21:30:01 GMT
Hairtrigger Lake Hairtrigger Lake lies in the Forbidden Plateau area of Strathcona Park. It was my furthest destination from the parking lot although any of the alpine lakes could have been a good destination when I did a circle trip (18 km) heading towards Battleship lake to Kwai Lake and back to the parking area via Lake Helen Mackenzie.

For summer in July, it was a rather chilly day in the mountains. There was more clouds than the occasional appearance of the sun and the temperature at the parking lot was around 9*C only; quite unusual at this time of year. At least the lighting was even and I wasn't sweating up the trail.

I had a 5:30 am start and made my way in good time to Battleship Lake where I see a newly constructed boardwalk. There are only a few good spots to photograph the lake and I usually take a shot at the south end but its not possible to see the entire lake towards the north.

There was practically no breeze so there was nice reflections of the clouds on the water. The trail climbs up a bit from Battleship lake then levels out to some nice alpine meadows which are flooded at this time of year. The trail heads down and eventually crosses a small stream which flows out from Lady Lake.

Lady Lake

I find Lady Lake quite photogenic. When the lake level is low, it makes a nice walk along the shoreline. I saw patches of blue sky so I thought the clouds was starting to dissipate but it wasn't so.

It wasn't long before I reached Croteau Lake where a new campsite was put in and an update composting pit toilet. I didn't bother wasting time to check out the campsite but pressed on to Murray Meadows.

Croteau Lake with Mt. Allan Brooks in the background.

The downhill jaunt down to Murray Meadows was nice. At the end of the meadows was a sign saying 400 m to Kwai Lake. Quite a few people camping out here. It was close to 8 am and it appears that people had gotten up not long ago. Everyone was bundled up from the cold but I was generating a lot of heat so I walked around as if it felt like summer.

Kwai Lake

At the south end of Kwai Lake, the trail heads up to a junction with one direction heading to the Ranger's cabin and the other to Circlet Lake. I walked the short distance on the latter and passed by some nice small tarns before reaching Hairtrigger Lake. Melting snow patches lay here and there and it sure looked gloomy with no good views of the mountains.

A large tarn along the way to Hairtrigger Lake.

Arrival at Hairtrigger Lake

Despite being early in the morning still, I did't stay at the lake too long. The lake seems to have lost its charm under the gloomy looking clouds otherwise it's a very photogenic lake. I made my way to the Ranger's Cabin then towards Lake Helen Mackenzie through a forested section.

Ranger's Cabin

Typical forest scene

At a point along the trail where I caught glimpses of Lake Helen Mackenzie, I headed into the wet and thick bush to reach the shoreline. I was more concerned about water getting into my boots than my clothes getting soaked.

A glimpse of the sun at Lake Helen Mackenzie

After leaving the lake, foot traffic started to pick up and I saw more hikers. I stopped here and there to take some photos but was glad to finish the  hike. The parking lot was packed when I got back and more people were arriving.

Boardwalk protect the sensitive meadows.


(Photoscapes) Forbidden Plateau Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Thu, 07 Jul 2016 22:53:47 GMT
Jack's Trail Backpack I was ready to do an overnight backpack up this steep trail but I still had some lingering doubts since my last hike was a week ago although I've tried to keep up my exercise at home but I was wondering if the leg exercise was enough to condition myself. It's also been two weeks since I hiked to the plateau of tarns and there was lots of snow at that time. I hoped that most of it melted.

I had an early start (6:30 am) and took my time. The morning wasn't exactly warm but it wasn't long before I started to over-heat. I took a short break at the first lookout then continued up to the pond. I didn't bother filtering water since I planned to reach the plateau where the tarns are located. At the steep talus slope of loose rocks I saw deer prints leading up. They more or less followed the switchbacks of the trail. This is one of the worst places of the trail either going up or down. Once at the top, it takes about 20 minutes to reach the plateau of tarns. A lot of snow had already melted but there are still large patches covering the route up to the ridge. I only managed to catch glimpses of the trail in places amongst all the snow but it was enough to keep me on track. With the huge snow-patches which lay about, my worn-out boots were leaking a bit.

It was good to see the snow-covered mountains again. I decided to pitch my tent lower down near where the trail passes; there is only one flat spot where I had camped before and this spot gives good views of the mountain ridge and Buttle Lake below. There is a cold pool of water, down a little ways, fed by a large snow-patch.

I ate lunch then hung my food bag in the same area as previous trips. One thin dead and bleached tree trunk which looks like a branch was bent over too low to be of any use. I had used that on numerous occasions but I think the snow must have taken its toll on it so there remained only one other bent tree. It will only be a matter of time before this one goes. I tied one end of the rope to a rock and it took about 5 tries before I got the rope over the branch. I didn't want to throw it too hard as there was a chance that the momentum would cause the rope to wrap around the branch a few times and that would make it impossible to retrieve. The rock wasn't the heaviest therefore it didn't fall low enough and appeared to be stuck at a certain height. I managed to grab it after a couple of jumps. Lucky the snow provided some height.

Hanging my food bag is such as great chore. Easier to hang my food over a cliff but there wasn't any close by which has a sheer drop. Note the strong wind drowns out my voice.

Since I had some perishable food for dinner, I temporarily stored the bag against the snow and wasn't worried since the food was in an odor proof inner bag. I should have dug a hole and buried my food but the snow is compact and hard to dig down.

There was a lot of cloud hanging around the mountains along Buttle Lake while the sky was clear over the ocean in the distance. I wasn't sure if it was going to rain later so I spent the time setting up my tent by first laying down the plastic ground sheet to protect the floor from sharp rocks. One advantage of a free standing tent is that it does not rely on pegs to erect it however the pegs do secure the tent and prevent it from being blown away in strong wind. The ground was quite hard so I only managed to get in two pegs. Guy lines which stretch the tent to make it roomier and open up the vents had to be secured by heavy rocks instead of pegs. This proved to be invaluable when the wind picked up as the tent was held quite securely in place.

Setting up my tent in about 4 minutes. It actually takes me a lot sooner but nothing goes smooth when I'm filming myself.

Relaxing after setting up my tent

180 degree fish-eye shot

I had my vacuumed packed dinner already to eat so I didn't have to bother cooking. When I went to get my food bag from a different direction something unusual caught my eye down in the valley near the base of the mountains. I couldn't believe that I was looking a two fresh logging cuts. The logging company must have built a road from the coast all in the way in and logged the mountainside right near the border of Strathcona Park. How disgusting. Now it makes it more difficult to take photos in that direction with such ugly logging scars. They must be getting desperate and running out of places to log.

Ugly logging scars. They are more visible from another direction and an eye sore.

The hot sun spent most of the time hidden behind the clouds and the wind was chilly. I spent most of the time finding shelter from the wind and tried to relax but there seems to be ants everywhere. Whenever I move a short distance from where I originally rested, I see them crawling towards me. I even got bitten a couple of times.

When I was kneeling down and resting,  all of a sudden I heard the sound of a bird zip by me and brush my shoulder at the same time. Was that a bird attack? First time that something like this had ever happened.

This alpine tarn is mostly frozen over.

When evening came I headed into the tent at 8 pm. One advantage of being up high is that it remains light for a longer period. In the valley below, I see Ralph River campground is caught in the shadow of the tall mountains and it looks dark compared to where I am.

The wind was gusty at times but the tent was pretty cozy; at least the circulation of air was good. This was one of the few times where I wasn't that interested in waiting for a photographic opportunity for sunset. I felt quite tired and the wind was cold so I wore 3 layers of upper layers plus a down vest and long johns inside my sleeping bag. Somewhere around 9:45 pm, I peaked outside and saw the red sky so I grabbed my camera and tripod. It was hard to get a good shot because the wind was blowing the trees and the clouds weren't in the right position.


The light started fading around 10:15 pm so up until that time, it was possible to read. Trying to get to sleep was a bit difficult since the wind came in strong gusts and rattled the tent fly. The wind would eventually die out sometime in the early morning. Somewhere around 3 am, I saw an almost half-moon rising up behind the mountain ridge. It was quite neat to see and nice to have the moon light up the landscape somewhat.

I was mostly awake around 4:30 am and only got out when I saw some clouds turning pink from sunrise. I scampered about trying to find a good vantage point to photograph. It was tiring enough hiking up then down and back up to a high point to photograph in different directions. The clouds were nice to photograph but the color didn't last long. There is a small window of opportunity for sunrise shots before it's all over.

Looking out towards the ocean at the east coast at 5 am with a nice sunrise happening

I filtered water in the morning light and took my time packing up. The morning light was a little slow to rise over the mountains at 6 am but it produced some nice lighting on the mountains across the way.

The hike down to the plateau of small tarns with huge piles of snow made it difficult to follow the established trail but it is easy to navigate in the general direction of where the tarns are located. I wandered about taking reflections of the clouds. There was an interesting cloud formation reflecting on the calm surface of the water and it drifted slowly north but I took a photo at the right moment before it disappeared. With some dark clouds in the sky, I thought it was going to shower. It was warm enough without the sun and that was due in part to the lack of wind.

Down in the forest, I bumped into a solo hiker doing the Mt. Washington crossover. I warned him about the huge snow-patches and that a large portion of the trail would be under snow since he told me he wasn't familiar with the area.

I enjoy hiking the same trails because of familiarity with the area, differing experiences and photographic opportunities. No two outings to the same place are the same and even if the landscape remains the same, varying environmental conditions changes the appearance of the area. On this trip sunrise and sunset wasn't so special however the clouds sure played an interesting role in adding drama to the scene.





(Photoscapes) Buttle Lake Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Wed, 29 Jun 2016 02:19:44 GMT
Crest Mountain The Crest Mtn trailhead is closer to Gold River so it takes about an hour to drive. The times that I've visited here, there aren't too many people; at least not during a weekday and not starting off early in the morning. Today, the parking area was empty.

I like hiking at the start of the trail because of the old growth forest. There is a creek which runs in the forest but dries up later on in the summer so I knew there was lots of water in the large tarn on the ridge and possibly lots of snow still. The trail passes by the creek then heads away and joins up with the same creek higher up. It takes about 1/2 hour to reach the log bridge over the same creek with a nice waterfall but a lot of fallen trees have obscured it but heading off in the light bush along the creek will give good views of the falls which is split in two.

There were a few mosquitoes and blackflies which took advantage of me when I stopped for a break; mostly to mix my carbohydrate/protein powder with water. I read a lot on sports nutrition and carbohydrate taken during exercise will prevent a decline in muscle glycogen reserves. Glycogen is a storage form of carbohydrate which fuels the muscles and gives sustained energy. It helps a lot on long hikes.

It took about 2.5 hours to reach the alpine tarn and I was surprised that there is little snow around however the ridge is exposed to the sun almost all day so it must have melted faster than normal.

King's Peak (left) and Elk River Valley straight ahead. Looks like a long way to hike to Landslide Lake.

The views of King's Peak and Elk River valley below are familiar views. Most people sit on the bedrock here admiring the views looking south but I like to walk back north a bit and sit near a grove of trees and a small pool of water trapped in the bedrock. There are good views of King's Peak and Big Den Mountain. One can also see Upper Campbell Lake in the far distance below where the highway runs.

Looking toward Big Den Mtn

The large alpine tarn on the ridge

A small alpine lake below Big Den Mtn.

Lunch time

Prominent King's Peak

Among a tangle of dead tree branches, Upper Campbell Lake is seen in the distance

Hiking back down is always tiring especially when my heavy pack straps was digging into my shoulders. It's not the best fitting pack but it is very sturdy and tough. I've put it through a lot of abuse but the pack shows no signs of wear.

I stopped by the creek in the forest to cool down. The ice cold water was quite refreshing. When I reached the parking lot I saw one other car parked there but hadn't seen anyone else on the trail. I had a very enjoyable day.


(Photoscapes) Crest Mountain Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Wed, 22 Jun 2016 13:23:47 GMT
Elkhorn Trail I had no intentions of hiking up to the campsite which is used by climbers to tackle Elkhorn Mtn however I wanted to get some exercise and see how the trail was like. Besides, it was the first time hiking this trail although for the first 45 minutes it is accessed by hiking along the Elk River trail until I reached the wooden Elkhorn sign tacked to a tree near the river.

I drank my protein/ carb drink then took off my boots where a small shallow creek only 6 feet across presented little problems. I followed a worn out path which led to the main section of the river that appeared shallow enough but swifter flowing and it was also wider across. By the time I waded across, my feet felt frozen; the water was so cold. The only problem was there was nowhere to go; thick bush in front of me and a small creek entering Elk River between the bushes. I had read about a log crossing that some people use but didn't see any. I hung around for a while wondering what my next move should be. I swung around a dead tree and walked downstream a couple of yards and found a small piece of land to dry my feet off before putting on my boots. I headed into the bush which had prickly spines and came out on a small gravel bar but there was a large pool of water I had to cross then another creek before finally ending up on the other side. I figured I was too far downstream so I bushwhacked upstream in the thick and tangled bush. I searched around and finally came across a red flagging tape and worn out path. I had wasted a lot of time but I wasn't in a rush.

The path is rather obscure in a lot of places. It is really bushed in at the start and later on blends in with the forest because of the all the small debris of dead branches and leaves plus the many dead trees which have fallen over. Although there are red flagging tapes tied to some trees, many of those trees have fallen over with age and the red ribbons are either gone or still attached but at a different location; that is, further down slope. Typical of a lot of old forest, there are lots of fallen trees everywhere; some trees have been uprooted while other snapped in half.

Forest near the start of the hike

One other suggestion that I had read was to carry lots of water since the trail is dry however I discovered that is true up to a certain point. I only had ¾ liter of water in my bottle but the trail goes close enough by a creek that it's just a matter of collecting more water so I filled my water bag with 2 liters of unfiltered water and carried that with me. I thought that would be the last source of water which would be reachable but higher up the trail does pass by the same creek about 50 feet away.

One thing about this area is that the forest is quite open with fairly thick vegetation at the start then it thins out considerably with rather thin trees growing. Some old growth forest starts to appear higher up the mountain and so does more vegetation but the area remains quite open.

Typical big boulder in the forest

Taking a rest break on a level section of the trail

The trail is very steep in most places which reminded me of the King's Peak trail however there are no switchbacks to ease the grade. My calves got a good workout. There are sections of the trail which travels high up above the steep slope which drops down to the creek. It's difficult to follow the path when dead trees lay across it. What's more difficult is climbing over the trees heading uphill; that requires a longer reach to step over. When the path came close enough to the creek, I wandered off the path and found a place beside a pool of water to eat lunch.

I cooled down to the point of having to put my jacket back on; not a warm day despite the sun shining. I saw some clouds build up over the mountain ridge and it was just a matter of time before it blocked out the sun. After lunch, I headed up the path which got steeper and the creek had turned into a waterfall which tumbled down a steep rock face from the top of the mountain ridge. One section of the path traverses along a narrow section of exposed tree roots which can be used as hand holds. The tree grows on top of a rock bluff with a tangle of exposed roots and there is a precipitous drop on one side. Once on top, I saw where the path goes up some steep rock. I decided to stop here and head back down.

Scrambling up using tree roots as anchors

This is the path believe it or not

I always find heading up a trail easier than going down not only because it is easier on the knees but also because the force of gravity is against me. Heading down a steep loose dirt surface with small pebbles makes it easier to slide and it fatigues the leg muscle trying to control the descent. I also had to stop now and then to see where the path goes and try to spot any red ribbons.

A small waterfall in a debris filled creek

I took a rest break at the creek and felt a few sprinkles but that was about the limit of any showers. When I had reached Elk River, I searched around for the log crossing and found it. The log was fairly dry and wasn't slippery so I walked across without problem. The water looked pretty deep. Once across, I walked the gravel bar before coming across another tributary of the river and another log crossing which I easily took care of but another braided section of the river required wading. I climbed a small bank then dried my feet under a large tree. I had to bushwhack to reach the main trail then it was just a matter of hiking the Elk River trail back to the parking lot. I had thought about buying a light pair of water shoes for water crossings which should protect the feet from the cold water and provide traction but I decided to tough it out.


(Photoscapes) Elkhorn Trail Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Sat, 18 Jun 2016 17:47:48 GMT
Grouse Attack I was bluff charged by a grouse while hiking down a mountain trail in Strathcona Park. I came upon the grouse in the forest and saw a couple of baby chicks scurry away. Lucky I had my camera slung around my neck (instead of inside my pack) as I was able to film the grouse who charged towards me with its feathers spread open and making noises all the while making a complete circle.

I had been bluff charged by a grouse a couple of times in the past and at first it does appear a bit frightening to see such placid animal become so aggressive when defending their young. Normally, they scare easy and fly away but with young ones they are difficult to scare away. I've tried that one time and it only makes them more aggressive so this time around I just stood there quietly filming away before it eventually calmed down and went to hide amongst the bush. I managed to walk by the grouse without further incident as it didn't look at me as a further threat.


I imagine it can do some damage with its claws and beak and I was wearing shorts but I had to put on my pants as several mosquitoes joined in on the attack. The only item I had in my defense was my hiking pole. At least there was some action on that day which turned out to be a dreary, cloudy and rather cool day for June. There is still lots of snow in the subalpine with small tarns partly frozen over.

(Photoscapes) Grouse Attack Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Mon, 13 Jun 2016 14:13:18 GMT
Flower Ridge I had a 7:30 am start from the empty parking lot. The temperature was already 15*C but I had no idea how it would be like up on the ridge so I had packed my longjohns and down vest in case. The start of the trail is becoming more overgrown each year and there is a lot more dead-fall across the trail compared to last year. There was 9 fallen trees across the trail and several required a bit of effort to scramble over since my legs aren't that long. It's also more challenging to climb over a tree trunk on the uphill compared to heading down.

My pack felt quite comfortable. I don't bother weighing it anymore to see how much I'm carrying since I don't see the point but for just an overnight backpack the food sack is lighter. Everything else remains the same since I basically carry the same equipment.

The problem with the warmer weather now is that I can't bring perishable food. I'd like to bring peanut butter for the extra calories but once the container is opened, it requires refrigeration.

Everytime I stopped for a rest break in the forest, after a few minutes, a horde of black flies and other pesky flies fly around my head and some black flies get behind my glasses. What a nuisance. There was the odd mosquito which I find quite aggressive since they waste no time landing on the face to bite. At least with black flies, they do more flying around than landing.

Pinesap in the forest

I took a break at the only creek in the forest which was fed by an underground spring. The flow of water had reduced to a trickle but at least there are several sizable pools which provide cold drinking water. Further up from this water source, the trail takes a small dip then rises again. Lying in a small depression was a couple of small snow patches. They looked out of place because there is no snow around until further up near the open ridge top. Large patches of snow began about a couple of hundred feet before the lower ridge.

I was getting hungry and needed a rest so I didn't bother making it up to the ridge but stopped just before it and found a small creek running over a boulder. I followed that to its source; a cold pool of water fed by a patch of snow. I rested in the shade, gathered water and filtered it.

The food gave me much needed energy but my legs felt quite tired. I had planned to hike up to the top of the upper ridge which is the high point but I gave up that idea and decided to camp at the lower ridge at one of the areas that I had pitched my tent in the past. There was still a fair amount of snow in the gully leading up to the ridge but on the ridge itself most of the snow had melted and a few patches remained. In the distance, the slope which led to the very top of the ridge was completely snow covered.

Snow covered ridge top in the distance

A lot of bushes which had just emerged from the snow are in the budding stage only. It will be a short season for them to green up with leaves. There are smaller trees bent completely over and partially buried under the weight of the snow. Once the snow melts enough, the trees will spring back up and straighten out. I've seen trees spring back up once the snow has melted enough to release the tension from being bent in half.

Flower Ridge is living up to its name as there are lots of spreading phlox ranging from blue, purple to white in color. Lupines have not flowered yet but I did see a Paintbrush and Pinesap down in the forest.

Spreading Phlox

The heat from the sun was wearing me down and so were the black flies. I hadn't taken a single shot from my camera since the sun was directly overhead and too bright. I spent the time seeking some shade and finding a good place to store my food bag away from my tent. I hung my bag over a cliff which is the most secure place for any animal.

There are a couple of tarns close to where I camped; one is mostly frozen over and the other has a snow patch rimming the east side of the water. There was a lot of dead insects, leaves and other debris floating on the surface of the water so I collected clean water running off from one of the snow patches near the cliff. There is one flat ground beside the tarn which was mostly clear of snow and what got my attention was the illegal firepit someone had built of rocks. I dismantled the firepit and tossed the rocks away but the ashes look unsightly.

A small tarn mostly frozen over

A stiff wind blew most of the afternoon and evening and a blanket of clouds drifted by. It felt a bit chilly with the sun behind the clouds and the wind blowing. Also, the daylight sure dimmed a lot without the sun. It almost looked as if it might shower so I pitched my tent and did so at the same spot as I had done a couple of years ago.

Last year, when I went on a day hike up Flower Ridge, there was a pile of bear droppings right at the site where I had pitched my tent. So far, the only signs of bears was some day old droppings along the trail in the forest. I didn't spot any footprints in the snow around the area.

Cooking my supper away from camp

I went inside the tent at 8:30 pm and lay about in the sleeping bag since I was tired and with the clouds around I doubt it would be a good sunset anyways. In addition, I was safe from the pesky black flies and mosquito. Not long after 9 pm, I took a peak out of the tent and saw the clouds slowly turning a pink-red color so I got my camera and headed out for a shot of Mt. Myra. The color intensified to a deep red color and I scrambled around looking for nice reflections on the water nearby. I was quite happy with the way the photos turned out. This was one of those rare unexpected moments which just happened. Normally, I would have my camera set up waiting for sunset and most of the time nothing dramatic happens but this time I actually felt too sleepy and almost dozed off in my tent. Just lucky I took a peak outside.

Looking down to Buttle Lake from where I started my hike.

Mt Myra during the evening sunset

Perhaps the best shot I have taken of sunset in Strathcona Park

I used a cheap prime lens which was a 28mm wide-angle and because of the restricted angle of view, I had to walk backwards to get more of the scene in view. Kind of inconvenient compared to a zoom lens.

The wind eventually died down and the night remained warm enough. That prevented condensation from forming on the inside walls of the tent. The light started to fade around 10 pm. The night sky was clear with stars and the orange lights from the Myra Falls Mine seems out of place below in the valley.

The day started to get light around 4:30 am and that is when various sounds of nature stirred. A bee was makings its rounds to the flowers nearby, a grouse was heard close by and the birds were singing. I went to get my food bag and noticed that the snow patch was quite solid and more slippery. The sun came up over the mountain ridge by 6 am and I slowly packed up then made my way down the mountain by 7 am. My pack felt just as heavy as when I first started probably because I were tired. I heard this bird singing and its melody is recognizable even around the forest in Campbell River but I've never seen what type of bird was making such nice sounds so I stopped to observe. It wasn't long before the bird flew to a nearby tree and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was tiny; like the size of a hummingbird. Back at the small creek in the forest, I went to the viewpoint which was mostly blocked by tall trees and sat there for a break. I heard the sound of grouse again. I really enjoy the sounds of nature compared to the noisy street traffic where I live.


(Photoscapes) Flower Ridge Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Fri, 10 Jun 2016 14:37:17 GMT
Landslide Lake I did an overnight backpack to Landslide Lake along the familiar Elk River trail in Strathcona Park at the end of May. My left knee was still a bit sore and I wanted to keep this as a low elevation hike since the nights are still quite cold higher up the mountain. Another reason for doing this as an overnight hike is that there is no backcountry camping fee until mid-June so I saved $10.

When I arrived at the parking lot just before 7:30 am, there were 2 vehicles here. There was a motorhome but it appears the occupants were using this as an overnight stop.

My pack wasn't as heavy as previous backpacks so the hiking was too arduous but I had a long ways to walk to the campsite. I hiked at a more relaxed pace since there was a slight ache in my injured knee and still made good time. On the way, I didn't bother to take any photos at all since the sun was shining and creating a lot of harsh lighting. In addition, I've taken a lot of photos along this trail already. At some of the fallen trees across the trail, people have been making their own detour route which I followed and found it easy going to detour around a few major deadfalls.

There is enough space for me to crawl through

There was one tent on the gravel flats at Butterwort camp otherwise the place was empty. I didn't bother to stop but kept on going to the second campsite. There was one small creek in the forest where I had to take off my boots and wade the shallow water. It's a bit of a slowdown and nuisance to dry my feet and put on my boots. I met a young couple with a dog coming back down the trail. They mentioned they had spotted a bear around the gravel bar near the river close to the second campsite.

I stopped to eat lunch where water tumbled down from a cliff. It wasn't into eating my lumch when a couple of people who were running the trail, stopped to take a break. They told me, they had hiked Flower Ridge the day before. I asked them about the snow conditions and they mentioned there wasn't very much except at the very high point. Considering that trail is very steep and now they are jogging this trail to Landslide Lake for 11 km one way, they must be in really good shape.

A small waterfall cascades down a rock face along the trail

When I saw the food cache box and pit toilet, I knew I had reached the second campsite which is further along down the trail. Unlike the first campsite where the toilet and food cache is on level ground, this one requires a short walk up the hill. There was no one at the second campsite so I had a lot of choices on where to camp.

The rather spacious campsite

I settled on pitching my tent in the partially open forest instead of near the river on the gravel bar which was too bumpy. It should be a bit warmer in the shelter of the forest and the ground is more level. Even though the ground was dirt, I had to struggle a bit in getting the tent stakes in because there was a lot of small rocks underneath. I unloaded my pack of non-essentials then made my way to Landslide Lake. Funny thing is that my pack didn't feel too much lighter. On the way, I bumped into the same park staff that I met a week ago except he was without his partner. Apparently, he is making regular patrols of this trail and also the Bedwell Lake trail which is a good thing. I chatted with him for a while then headed to the lake. He did a nice job in clearing some of the encroaching bush along the trail. I remembered getting completely soaked last year walking through moisture laden bush because it overgrew the trail.

The lake level was higher and part of the path which led closer the shoreline was muddy and flooded in places. The sun was directly overhead and prevented me from taking photos so I waited until it disappeared over the mountain. In the meantime I rested in the shade of the bush and filtered water. A thin blanket of clouds had moved in and filtered out the sun a bit. In the shade, it was a bit cool when the wind blew. Every once in a while, blackflies would pester me then they would disappear. So far, no mosquitoes yet.

I wandered around the area and discovered an illegal fire-pit with a stock of cut branches. I scattered the branches in the bush and tore the fire-pit apart. The black ashes look unsightly. There is a sign along the trail at the second campsite which prohibits camping at Landslide and Foster (Iceberg) lake but obviously people seem to ignore that.

Landslide Lake and Mt. Colonel Foster

The sun had gone down behind the mountain by 6:30 am and the air chilled down a bit so I slowly made my way down and photographed a couple of waterfalls along the way. I stopped in at the creek which comes down the valley from Rambler creek before making my way back to camp.

I put my food bag inside the Food Cache then wandered around the campsite which was still deserted. Funny to have the pit toilet located near the Cache.

I decided to wear my longjohns and light down jacket inside my sleeping bag. Even though my down bag is rated to 0*C, I still feel cold when the temperature drops to around 5*C. I tried to fashion a pillow by stuffing clothing into a sack but it wasn't soft enough to be comfortable. The day was still reasonable light until 10 pm and around that time the birds stopped singing.

I didn't see any stars in the sky when I got out to relieve myself. The day started getting light around 4:30 am and that is when the birds resumed their singing. It was welcome noise and being inside the tent works like a blind since the birds were quite close to the tent. I had to use the pit toilet and I hated the fact that I had to walk uphill to reach it since my legs felt kind of stiff.

I collected water from the creek and hung the bag and attached the filter. Compared to my Katadyn pocket filter where I have to pump the water through the filter element, this one works by gravity. The flow rate is quite high and I can filter water with no effort.

I hiked out around 7 am taking my time. I noticed things in the forest which I hadn't observed before since I spent more time looking and less time hiking. There was a tree along the trail in which a fungi grew; this one had a diameter in excess of one foot.

There is this tree growing on top of a boulder situated near another boulder


I reached the Butterwort campsite and saw the park staff packing up. He is on his way to check out Bedwell Lake. I mentioned to him about the two firepits at Landslide lake which he was unaware of.

I continued on my way and felt quite tired and hungry even though I was only about 20 minutes or so from the parking area. I stopped along the gravel bar at Elk River and rested there. I could have fallen asleep, I was so tired. I ate my lunch and rested for an hour before hiking out; that seemed to restore my energy.

(Photoscapes) Elk River Trail Landslide Lake Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Wed, 08 Jun 2016 13:54:37 GMT
Elk River I had planned to do a steep hike up the mountain but last week I banged my left knee on a fallen tree that I was trying to get over so I decided to hike the Elk River Trail again since there is less elevation gain. My knee was still a little sore but held up quite well on this hike.

I noticed the water level in the Elk River has gone done substantially and the forest had greened up with vanilla leaf and ferns. A lot of deadfalls remained but the creeks in the forest are running low or have dried up so at least I didn't have to take my boots off in certain areas compared to when I was last here in early April.

Downed trees are a common occurrence along many sections of the river.

About an hour into the hike, I took a break near the Elkhorn sign beside the river. To get to Elkhorn Mtn, you cross the river at this point and it looks shallow enough. The trail is suppose to be extremely steep and long so maybe I'll try it next time and see how far I can go.

When I came to a washout, I noticed that the creek had stopped running. I headed down a short distance to the river and hung around for a bit. Since the water is lower than my last visit, the boulders in the river is more exposed and the current more visible which makes it more ideal for photographing.

I met a couple of fellows hiking back from an overnight stay. They apparently are affiliated with BC Parks and doing light maintenance on the trail. They mentioned that Landslide Lake is completely free of snow and ice which was a surprise. I guess the warm spring had melted all the snow early this year.

Shortly after my chat with them, I encountered a creek crossing in the forest. This one still had a good volume of water but I felt lazy to take off my boots. I found a small log in the creek to step on and although it looked a bit slippery that wasn't the problem. When I got my weight on it, the log shifted and I lost my balance so I stepped into the creek which was about 4 inches deep where I was. Surprisingly, not much water entered my boots despite the fact that the soles are split however I did a decent job in gluing them together. One problem with crossing a creek with bare feet is that the rocks are uneven and irregular. It wasn't so much the cold of the water which bothered me but the sharp rocks which hurt the feet.

When I reached the beaver pond, I noticed the water level had risen quite a bit which made walking across the Dam a little more difficult. The water is always calm here for a nice reflection of the mountains in the background. At Puzzle creek, I took a few photos and rested here briefly. It was the first time that I noticed the wooden sign with the name tacked to a tree. It was so inconspicuous.

Reflections on the Beaver Pond

Puzzle Creek

The Butterwort campsite was empty. I headed downstream a bit and out of the sun. I followed a faint path down to the river and ate my lunch, boiled some water and filtered about 1.5 liter of clean water. Walking back up to the gravel flats, I stumbled on a protruding rock and fell forward hitting my camera on the ground which I was carrying in my hand. Luckily, there was no damage to the lens. Accidents like this can happen anytime with exposed tree roots and rocks sticking up from the ground.

I went into the forest at the campsite where the pit toilet and bear cache was. This part of the campsite provides nice shade compared to camping out on the gravel bar. I continued along further up the trail until I reached the footbridge over Butterwort Creek. I followed the creek downhill to a point and rested beside the noisy water.

Footbridge over Butterwort Creek

Boulders in Butterwort Creek

I headed back to the parking lot close to 1 pm and took my time. I wasn't in a rush since I had brought my dinner. When I came to the small creek crossing in the forest, I took of my boots and waded the short distance. The only problem with filming myself is that I had to come back and get my camera.

Small creek crossing

I came across a group of about a dozen school kids who were out on a 3 day backpack. I was surprised to see them since this is a weekday but I guess it must have been a school trip. Since the time was close to 3 pm, I guessed that their destination was camping out at Butterwort rather than the second campsite further up the trail.

Since I had lots of time on my hands, I wandered across to the gravel bar near the river. The water looked very shallow around here making it possible to cross to the other side easy although the creek bed is very rocky. Huge billowy clouds have built up in the sky and blocked out the sun at times. There were quite a few Columbine flowers here and a couple of Phlox which were mostly shriveled up.

When I got back to the parking lot, there was only one car there. I guess the school kids must have gotten transported by bus after which it left. One would never know that the campsite would be crowded.



(Photoscapes) Elk River Trail Strathcona Park Vancouver Island Wed, 25 May 2016 21:16:34 GMT