It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Storm Season is Here!

Yes, the time of year when strong winds and crashing waves make living on the west coast all the more interesting. 



With the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority's announcement that the Ogden Point breakwater will soon be wussified with handrails along its entire 700-metre stretch, today's autumn storm provided an excellent opportunity to photograph this classic structure as it stands up to those powerful, stormy waves maybe one last time before it succumbs to the wrath of modern society.



Since my camera wasn't salty enough, here are a couple of photos with the Olympic Mountains in the distance...



And what would stormwatching in Victoria be without a visit to Gonzales Beach?


Now time to dry everything out!
And celebrate Christmas' impending arrival!

The Most Dangerous Risk of All

Big Brother is Watching

Security cameras are almost everywhere nowadays.

Sometimes, they catch something a little different!

Should I Travel Alone?

Is it better to travel alone or as part of a group?

That's a common question people ask when they first consider travelling.

And of course, the answer is "It depends!"

It usually is safer to travel as a group but safety shouldn't be your only concern. 

Travelling is supposed to be fun! 
Remember, you are on vacation, after all. 

So let's focus on yourself for a few minutes...

What's your temperament? 
Where do you stand on the introvert/extrovert continuum?
The what???

Extroverts are energized by the external world - by activities, people, places, and things. They are more likely to want to travel in large groups and meet new people.

On the other hand, introverts draw energy from their internal world of ideas, emotions, and impressions. They are more likely to prefer exploring on their own or with a very small group of close friends.

If you are an extrovert, you probably wouldn't have even considered travelling alone but if you're temperament is more inclined towards the introvert side of the scale, you might have a tougher time deciding. But don't worry. You are not alone!


Travelling alone has its advantages.
You can do things at your own pace with fewer distractions.
Squeeze into a busy restaurant.
Assimilate into the local environment more easily.

But it can also suck at times.
You'll need to rely on strangers to take your photo. (Joby can only help you so much).
And perhaps most importantly, there will likely be no one special to share those special moments with.

But if you are an introvert, you might be willing to accept these risks and see travelling alone as an opportunity to recharge yourself because travelling with others, even those you know and care about, may take you out of your preferred element. Combine this with the stress involved with travelling, and you may place your relationships into jeopardy.

With that in mind, here are two books I suggest both introverts and extroverts read to have a better understanding of how people with different temperaments perceive social situations. You'll end up having a better appreciation of those around you as you'll be less likely to make snap judgments of one's character which could lead to misunderstandings and lost opportunities.

So is it better to travel alone or as part of a group?
It depends but I think that deep down inside, you already know the answer.

Bird's Eyeview of the Saanich Peninsula

I captured the following video while flying back from Vancouver in the Harbour Air sea plane.

The video starts just south of the Victoria International Airport and continues on to the plane's landing in the Victoria Harbour.


Three Days, Three Hikes, and One Heavy Backpack

The last time I was out in these parts, there were small hints that things were about to turn around, and with that, came hope that better days were to come. That was back in 2009 and a lot has changed since then. Things didn't turn out exactly the way I would have liked and recently, reality decided to remind me of this yet again. So like a lone wolf, I took off from Vancouver for a long weekend along the Sea-to-Sky Highway to re-energize myself with the one thing from those days that did come true: my move to the west coast.

Day 1: Joffre Lakes

Situated past Pemberton, Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is well known for the trail that shares its name. Joffre Lakes Trail takes you past three spectacular alpine lakes to what may be one of the most picturesque camping spots in British Columbia at the far end of Upper Joffre Lake.


There's nothing quite like just finding a big boulder to bask in the late summer sun while relaxing to the sounds of glacial melt making its way to the lake below.


Day 2:  Garibaldi Lake

The weather forecast called for sunshine and unseasonably hot temperatures but it couldn't have been more wrong. It was overcast, foggy, and cool. Irregardless, I followed through on my plan to hike up to Garibaldi Lake on the hope that weather conditions would improve.

Going back and forth, slowly up the mountain with very little to see but some trees in the mist, the expectation that the fog would burn off with the late morning sun was slowly fading away.


Upon finally reaching the outskirts of the lake, the promised views were no where to be seen


but hope was still there, and sure enough after about half an hour or so, the sun slowly peeked its way through the clouds, and the clouds were whisked away to reveal yet another amazing view.


And then almost as quickly as it cleared up, it disappeared again behind a curtain. With hope that this was just a momentary phenomenon, I stood my ground and did not scurry on back down into the forest, and just when my hope was fading while exploring the lakeshore, the far end of the lake started to clear, and within moments, it was like there was not a cloud in the sky. But this again was a tease, and now somewhat predictably, the veil covered Garibaldi Lake in less than a minute yet again. Well, at least it was great while it lasted.

Day 3: The Stawamus Chief

The Chief was on my to-do list since I learned about it prior to my last trip out here. It was a misty December back then, and looking at the trail, it was probably a good thing that I didn't try. But on this day, it was different. Partly sunny skies with only a bit of haze from a nearby forest fire afforded pretty nice views of Squamish and Howe Sound below.


Like the weather on the west coast, things change all the time. One moment, things are calm and beautiful. The next moment, they can turn foggy and grey with no sense of direction. Looking back to the past, I regret letting external forces beyond my control get the better of me. I have to learn to accept those things I cannot change and just enjoy the moment for what it is without any further thought. In my travels, I have seen many interesting and unique things. While I doubt I'll ever call anything awesome again, I suppose there are plenty of other words to describe the things I'll come to appreciate and love. And with that, my journey through life continues one step at a time...

Victoria International Chalk Art Festival

Street art is an interesting art form. After all, who would possibly want to put in so much effort creating such beautiful pieces of art, just to see them fade away within a day or so, if not sooner. Luckily for onlookers, there are quite a number of phenomenon artists who do this every day and allow us to have a peek as to how they go about creating their masterpieces.

The 2012 edition of the Victoria International Chalk Art Festival brought together artists such as Tracy Lee Stum, Jeanie Burns, Cathy Gallatin, Lori Escalera, Gabrielle Abbot, Michael Las Casas, and Victoria's own Ian Morris to showcase their talents in creating 2D and 3D chalk art.

In case you missed it, here are some of the masterpieces on display...









Although the festival ends today, the following massive 3D chalk masterpiece will apparently be displayed to the end of the month at the Bay Centre.


Luckily, Victorians don't have to wait another year to get another dose of chalk art as you can find Ian Morris putting his talents frequently to good use on Government Street all year round. Be sure to check him out the next time you visit Victoria.

Sleepy Bear

Logging is one of those gut-wrenchingly complicated issues for me. On one hand, seeing vast swaths of land gutted of its natural beauty makes me sick but on the other hand, logging is still a necessary evil as we still depend on lumber for so many things in our daily lives. There's a large portion of the BC population that also relies on the forestry industry for jobs so livelihoods are at stake, even as industry increasingly exports Canada's raw logs overseas. With such reliance on logging, there's no attempt to hide it on Vancouver Island, which makes it easier for curious members of the public to view the effects logging has on the forest ecosystem. I chose to take a bit of a closer look yesterday. I did not like it one bit. Although seedlings grow where massive trees once stood, the ecosystem will not return to its former glory for a very, very long time. These lands have been basically transformed from wild forests to cropland.

This is not the positive outlook you've come to expect on this blog so to help brighten things up a bit, here are a few photos of a little black bear, I came across, taking a nap on a mossy hill that likely took hundreds of years to develop into a cozy mattress.

  





I'll just add that this black bear was enjoying an early afternoon siesta in a small forested area right next to this...



No soft blankets of moss here.

Orca Photo Shoot

My photography skills were very much humbled during my latest experience with nature.

When you go on a whale watching trip, you dream of capturing that perfect shot but let's be realistic. The chances of that happening are slim, especially when you aren't familiar with the behaviour of wild whales. So best to leave the photography to the experts and just enjoy the show being performed before your very own eyes.

Easier said than done!
Especially for someone like me who enjoys takes tonnes of photographs.
Yes, I admit that what I don't get in quality, I compensate for with quantity.

Yes, it was a struggle turning the camera off after numerous failed attempts of capturing these magnificent beasts coming up for air but I eventually did and enjoyed every minute of my brilliantly sunny afternoon off the coast of San Juan Island .

But I did manage to get at least one somewhat decent shot of a killer whale...


but at least I didn't miss the orca breaching in the distance or the one that swam right under our boat.

I'd love to go out on the water and watch them every day so it's no surprise that I can't wait to do it again!

Jumbo


I look ugly...
but
I am Sweet!

Gotta get this on a t-shirt!

Avatar Grove - Home of Canada's Gnarliest Tree

After a two-year campaign spearheaded by the Ancient Forest Alliance and backed by thousands of petitioners, a small patch of forest affectionately referred to as "Avatar Grove" near Port Renfrew, British Columbia, was declared off-limits to logging through a new Old-Growth Management Area.  After hearing and reading much about this forest and its star attraction, Canada's Gnarliest Tree, it was time to check it out.

By following the directions to Avatar Grove, you head towards Port Renfrew and beyond, where you can see evidence of clear-cutting from the road.  It's very sad to see mass swaths of forest habitat devastated by mankind, and as you walk through protected areas like Avatar Grove, your appreciation for nature and its power to renew itself provides a small sense of optimism that those destroyed areas will once again rise to a great mass of biodiversity over the next few centuries.

Nevertheless, on to cherish a small victory against the all-mighty forestry industry.

Avatar Grove is split into an upper and lower grove by a logging road. While some may rush on over to the Upper Grove to see Canada's Gnarliest Tree, a walk through the Lower Grove can be just, if not, more rewarding, as giant Douglas Firs and Red Cedars tower over you as you make you make your way to a babbling steam and waterfall.




This isn't a nice afternoon walk with grandma as some may say!  Unless it's one of my grandma's you're talking about! Between the relative steep slope near the start of both hiking paths to the muddy and slippery sections, caution should be taken on the makeshift trails and proper footwear is highly recommended. If you're on the adventurous side, don't make the same mistake I made in wearing a decent pair of jeans either!  But enough about that.  This forest is remarkable!


There are plenty of examples of lush old-growth rainforest here, including many very interesting red cedars with plenty of twists and contorted burls.  Pay close attention to the lush vegetation of the understorey, and how trees are growing on top of other trees. Very cool stuff if you ask me.







While there is no formal path in Avatar Grove, a path has slowly worn its way along the forest floor. This can be a good thing for humans but a potentially bad omen for these beloved trees. Sure, they may have been saved from the chainsaws of the logging industry but now they may face a slow and arduous death, in the face of erosion caused by the eager visitors to get a very close look of these magnificent trees.  Hikers trampling near the base of trees for a great photo op have revealed roots that were once underground. While a couple of footsteps may not seem like much, multiple those intrusions by the hundreds over just a couple of years in the wet conditions of the rainforest, and significant amounts of soil around some of these trees slowly stray further away from their original location.  I'm usually not a fan of boardwalks in areas of ecological importance as I have seen them ruin the ambiance and turned them into tourist traps but while I walked through Avatar Grove, it became readily apparent that the status quo can not continue over the long run, especially as word of Avatar Grove's beauty becomes known to the mainstream public.

Is it worth potentially endangering the longevity of these few jewels to raise awareness of old-growth rainforests and hopefully, protection of other old-growth areas from logging? Perhaps the greater good trumps but maybe we should try to make Avatar Grove an example of a sustainable paradise where hikers and nature can co-exist with as little damage as possible to the trees and ecosystem this initiative has helped protect. Please keep this in mind when visiting the Grove as I too had great ideas as to the types of photographs I thought I'd take of myself with the trees but looking at the current state of the base of many of these trees, I chose not to take part as many have apparently done so in the past. Hopefully, you will try to thread carefully as well.

It should come as little surprise that the threat of erosion might be greatest near Canada's Gnarliest Tree in the Upper Grove.  In addition to all the foot traffic, natural erosion appears to occurring nearby as well.

It just happened that upon logging into my computer back home that evening, I received an e-mail from the Ancient Forest Alliance with news of their latest initiative of raising funds to build an official boardwalk and trail to protect the Avatar’s Grove ecological integrity and visitor safety.  Looks like great minds think alike! Hopefully, the boardwalk plans are fairly basic so this incredible setting isn't ruined by heavy-duty boardwalks found in other rainforests along the coast.

Anyways, you probably arrived here to see photos of Canada's Gnarliest Tree so here it is ...



Many photos online show the tree from a front angle, either straight on or a bit from the side (like above) so here are a few from the back side, just in case you were curious...


Somewhat surprisingly, the tree has been hollowed out over time on its back side...


Once again, my photographs fail to capture the beauty and splendour of this special place.  It truly is a remarkable forest and definitely worth preserving. I will certainly be coming back to Avatar Grove and the surrounding area to explore it in even greater detail.

--- August 2012 Update ---

A couple of videos from my recent visit to Avatar Grove:





Apologies about the dark videos. It seems as though the conversion to YouTube's video format darkened the video big time. You'll just have to visit Avatar Grove yourself!

Supermoon

Hey dude, why's the moon so bright tonight?

Well dude, a supermoon is the coincidence of a full moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, and there just happens to be a supermoon tonight.



Missing E


Despite all the time that has passed, you are still very much missed.

Jasper to Vancouver by Train

With the continuous delays in the arrival of my train in Jasper, I was growing more and more disappointed that I would miss out on the best part of the train trip to Vancouver.  So by the time, the VIA Rail train left the Jasper Station after 1 a.m., there was very little to see of the Rocky Mountains but I must admit that passing through the mountains under a clear sky and a full moon had a certain mystique to it as I gazed out from my private cabin.

Luckily, all was not lost and the train's delay provided the opportunity to view the scenery that would normally be missed over the course of the train's journey through the night...



















While the Rockies may be the star attraction of The Canadian's journey across Canada, the landscape west of them is interestingly diverse and spectacular. Hope you enjoyed my brief diary of my Easter weekend train trip!

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