Sunday, December 29, 2013

A 50 mm walk in the park

My lovely wife gave me the gift of music for Christmas. Specifically, she gave me the promise of music since I've now set out to reacquaint myself with an instrument I haven't touched since high school, almost 20 years ago. Practice sessions during the past couple of days have left the fingers on my left hand not quite bloody but certainly numb. The D chord seems to be winning, for now.

They say practice makes perfect after all.

Unfortunately, I haven't been getting a lot of practice behind the lens of late. The doldrums began as many as two months ago in late October. Maybe you know the drill: too much to do, not enough time, too dark, too much rain, too much sun, nothing to photograph. Slump.

I nearly dropped some cash on a new lens to get me in the mood when a familiar adage began to ring in my mind. Learn to love the gear you have. Master your equipment. Anyone who's read any number of photo blogs will be familiar with this advice. The underlying message is to suck it up and shoot.

I grabbed my camera and a 50 mm lens with a yearning to narrow my focus. I've shot some big scenes this year. Landscapes don't often get much larger than Mt. Rainier, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park or some of the great trips I've taken on Vancouver Island. If the "nifty-fifty" made the trip, it inevitably stayed in the bag.

Ruckle Park  really does have something for just about everyone. It occupies the site of one of Salt Spring's earliest homesteads. A caretaker family oversees the operation of an active farm and a web of trails leads through forested areas and along the coast. It's a great place to bring family or any group of people with varying levels of comfort with the outdoors. If the place worked with father-in-laws and great uncles, it was probably a perfect spot to start something special with my forgotten lens.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Into the heart of southern Strathcona: Part three

Part one is here
Part two is here.

Dawn rose clear for another glorious summer day in the alpine. With a big walk in store, it wasn't long before three of the five people in our group quietly set off for the Red Pillar to celebrate BC Day in grand style.

Looking south toward camp from the Red Pillar's south-ridge approach
Walking along the ridge toward our objective followed familiar territory from the day before, like a strolling through the old neighbourhood. We made excellent time on our way to the Pillar's southern approach, where a series of diagonal ramps that lead up the summit block. The formidable rock face we'd watched from a distance thankfully revealed many weaknesses as we approached. With occasional flagging and the odd cairn, we only had two or three what-now moments. Not really a problem since most of those wrong turns ended at precarious drops that left us few alternatives. 

The route meanders amidst a series of jagged rock ledges, with a few scrambly sections on the final push to the summit. It wasn't always a thing of grace, but we each managed to wrestle our way up the Pillar's narrow rock strewn couloirs in our own way. The greatest hazard were the dinner plate-sized rocks that gravity swiftly funneled downward at the slightest touch. A helmet is a good idea for those considering a return trip.

Looking west to Nine Peaks (left and RosseauéSetimus (right) from the Red Pillar

A few hours after leaving camp, we were seated on the broad summit, admiring the heart of southern Strathcona. We took our time to savour the long-coveted citurs-infused chocolate bar. These things always taste so good on a peak. Soaking up the mountain vibe for a good hour put a kick in our step as we headed back to camp

We finally met the rest of our party just before it was time to head out at 1 p.m. They had enjoyed a mellow morning by writing, sharing stories and taking photos around camp. They too, it turned out had a BC Day to remember. But the fun wasn't over yet; It would take another three or four hours before we reached the canoes for the smooth paddle back to where it all began. Made for a stellar long weekend and, hopefully, the start of a new tradition to spend BC Day in the heart of Strathcona Park.

Could the Golden Hinde be a future BC Day destination?