Being Outdoors, April 2023

And just like that, a quarter of the year has passed. We have our lighter evenings and longer days back and it feels so good! Okay, so it’s not feeling any warmer yet but hopefully that will come soon enough.

If we were being outdoors today, I’d say how I surprised myself by admitting I wasn’t ready to give up winter hiking just yet. We got out on three snowshoe trips in March and all three were so much fun. We didn’t go far – to Mount Seymour twice and Hollyburn the other time – but we had three very different experiences. which is what we were seeking.

The first trip to Mount Seymour started out dull and cloudy but a gap in the clouds on the western horizon yielded a few minutes of beautiful sunset light.

The second trip to Mount Seymour was a bluebird day that enticed us over to Tim Jones Peak to leave the crowds behind where we revelled in the views.

Hollyburn was a bust view-wise – we remained surrounded by mist and cloud the entire time – but the snow was great fun to play in and the mist just added atmosphere. In all three cases we noticed that the crowds of mid-winter have definitely dissipated as people find other things to do, and that made each trip even more enjoyable.

If we were being outdoors today, I’d be delighted to say that the first signs of spring are really, finally starting to show. And by that I really mean wildflowers. My bike commute along the beach takes me past the edge of Pacific Spirit Park where I can check in on how a few early season flowers are coming along. Then there’s the native plant garden near the Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC which has a nice array to admire.

The first to show itself is the unremarkable-looking coltsfoot, which starts out as a golf ball of florets on a green stem before becoming a tall(ish) scraggly plant with a cloud of white blooms and surrounded by big jagged leaves. It’s the kind of flower you probably would barely even notice, especially as it often grows at the edge of wet and marshy areas. But get close and you’ll see that the individual flowers are stunningly beautiful, each a tiny bouquet of tiny, pink-centred white flowers. If you find some, I highly recommend looking more closely!

Next to show is salmonberry, its bright pink dots of blossom lighting up the brown stems of this shrub. I like seeing this in bloom as it means the rufous hummingbirds will soon arrive – not that I’ll see any, I’ll just hear their metallic buzz as they fly past. Western trillium also starts to bloom at this time, and there’s plenty on show at UBC as I mentioned above. I spent a lunch-hour with friends basking in the sun and then checking on the flowers. (The grass was already roped off to allow the camas to grow.)

Finally there’s Pacific bleeding heart, whose leafy fronds are one of the softest things I’ve ever touched. Try it for yourself – you’ll be amazed! It took a couple of minutes of searching but I found a few flower buds among all the fresh leaves, still tightly furled and a deep purple in colour.

If we were being outdoors today, I’d say it’s not all about the flowers – the birds are nesting and pretty much every day I hear the gulls and crows expressing their displeasure at the appearance of an eagle or a raven. A tall tree a block north of us has become a regular hangout spot for a bald eagle and the local birds tell me loud and clear when it’s there. I’ve watched the crows mob and dive towards the eagle to try and intimidate it and managed to get a few decent photos of one such encounter. Sometimes the eagle objects to the attention, other times it just sits there as if the crows were nothing but a swarm of annoying flies. It still amazes me that we get to see large raptors like that from our living room window.

If we were being outdoors today, I’d express our delight at booking a week of camping and backpacking in Jasper National Park in September. We joined the queue of thousands online on two separate mornings and were fortunate enough to get the exact camping spots that we had planned. We’ve booked four nights on the Tonquin Valley trail, an area we’ve talked about visiting for over a decade. Back in 2012, when we hiked the Skyline Trail, it was a toss-up between Skyline and Tonquin Valley. That time Skyline won, but we haven’t visited Jasper since then – all our recent Rockies trips have taken us to Banff, Kootenay, and Yoho National Parks – so we’re long overdue a return. We’re really looking forward to that!

If we were being outdoors today, my blogging update wouldn’t be as good as last month. I wrote up and published three posts (plus the obligatory Being Outdoors post) about a solo hike I did to Elk Mountain last July, our snowshoe to Garibaldi Lake in January, and a Vignette about my winter cycling commute in which I shared a bunch of my favourite photos taken on my bike rides to and from work. My writing stalled in the second half of March but I hope to pick it up again soon and get back to reliving our trips to the South Chilcotins and the Rockies.

If we were being outdoors today, I’d say that I’m still enjoying my bike commute, and even rode downtown to our annual departmental conference. That was a different experience than riding to UBC. It was great to have the protected bike lane for so much of the route, but annoying to have to keep stopping at all the traffic lights, which are timed for vehicle traffic, not cyclists. Of course the bike lanes didn’t take me to where I needed to go so I had to ride in the rush-hour traffic for a couple of blocks. That actually wasn’t quite as bad as I expected because the traffic was so slow no drivers could actually try and pass me, at least in the morning, but drivers were definitely less patient in the afternoon/evening commute. The bonus for being downtown was I got to do a bit of abstract photography with all the patterns in the buildings. That’s always fun!

Well that’s another month of updates – and more words than I expected to write, so I won’t be offended if you just look at the photos! Until next month, hope you have a great April!

I gratefully acknowledge that these words were written and photographs taken on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded lands of the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Stó:lō First Nations.

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