Today in the garden and at the beach

We are getting such a mild winter! No snow for the skiers nor a snowpack for the summer’s water supply, but I have to say it’s been really wet, dark and grey. Now the plants are beginning to think it’s spring already…

There’s a rhododendron in the garden that is always early to bloom, but this year the first flower opened two weeks ago. Today – which started out quite foggy before the sun broke through for a beautiful, mild sunny day – the whole rhodo bush came to life with blossoms scattered over it. A pot of crocuses that I’ve had on my doorstep for a few weeks now, has one flower in full bloom and one rapidly expanding bud. I watched one honey bee repeatedly crawling all over the crocus flower, flying off a little ways then coming right back and crawling all over it again.

I decided it was too nice a day not to go for a walk beside the beach today, especially with low tide just after sunset. It seems it was an idea shared by everybody else too! Not only were there absolutely no parking spaces available when I arrived, but the traffic was nose to tail the length of the waterfront, crawling along at a snail’s pace when it wasn’t completely at a standstill. I’ve never seen it like that before, even during the summer. I got about 2/3 of the way along the waterfront and decided that was for the birds, turned into one of the parking areas and drove right back out to get turned around. Undecided about what I wanted to do, I pulled into one of the other parking areas on my way back out  to give myself a moment to think…and a car backed out right in front of me. Perfect!

 

Advertisements

View from the top

Last winter while staying with family in the French alps we visited Chamonix and Mont Blanc. Newly opened was the Pas dans le Vide (Step into the Void), a glass box suspended off the Aiguille du Midi with a looooong straight drop underneath. The Aiguille du Midi is a peak adjacent to Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps, which stands on the border between France and Italy. It is as close as you can get to Mont Blanc without hiking/climbing it. At just under 4,000m in altitude, the Aiguille du Midi takes two cablecars and an elevator to reach. From Chamonix at the bottom of the mountain, the top looks like a little dot (as seen in the first image).

I captured a lot of images while I was up there, today I’ll just focus on the eastern flank, where skiers negotiate a knife-edge of a ridge to a staging area where they can put on their skis in order to ski back down the mountain. I could barely take my eyes off all the peeps who were sidestepping along the ridge and then becoming tiny dots before disappearing from view. And check out the sheer drop off to the left of a group of skiers getting ready to go… Yikes…

Below:
•Aiguille du Midi, yep that little pimple on the top!
•Aiguille du Midi from Stage 2. You can see the glass cage on the right side, there’s actually a person in it.
•Two photos showing the bridge leading from Stage 2 to the Aiguille du Midi, accessed via elevator in the middle of the rock, with skiers hiking down the ridge in the background.
•Stage 2 with Chamonix way down in the bottom of the valley.

The following images show the area accessed from Stage 2 where the skiers negotiated the ridgeline down to the staging area before skiing the rest of the way down the mountain.  Italian and Swiss alps in the background.

And yes, I stepped into the void… 🙂

 

Drizzly day walk in the rainforest

Here in southwest British Columbia we live in a temperate rainforest and at this time of year we can get a lot of rain. One of our local regional parks is a mixture of overgrown, former farmland, hay fields, small forested areas, swamp, a small river, and well maintained trails for hikers and equestrians. One of my favorite corners of the park encompasses a several acre stand of old firs, cedars and hemlock trees and large sword ferns. The stand of trees is flanked on each side by swampy areas. In the swamp on the south side runs the Little Campbell river, though you can’t see it as it winds its way through the scrub. On the north side there are ancient moss- and fern-covered alders struggling to survive in the mud. On wet days, the moss on the trees soaks up the moisture and seems to glow. And walking under those big old evergreens is like being in an enchanted forest.

And here’s one more image, this one is for my iPad Photo Art course page so it was processed strictly in iPad apps, and I had a little fun with it. Too bad the low res version doesn’t do it full justice. Click on it to see a larger version.

forest floor

 

White Rock sunset

I was down at White Rock pier again yesterday. It had snowed lightly the day before and the temps were hovering around freezing and there was still snow on the pier decking, making the footing a little treacherous and icy. Once the sun got low on the horizon the colors in the sky started to put on a show.

The first image was captured from part way along the pier, looking approximately ESE, the volcano Mt. Baker on the left, and part of the Cascade range to the right of it. The Cascades are a pretty hefty range of mountains, yet Mt.Baker almost dwarfs them. The tide was on the way out and the gulls and ducks were hunting for clams and other edibles in the tidal pools and along the receding waterline.

Click on images for larger view.

The second image overlooks the pier a little later, looking in an approximately SW direction towards the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island in the background.

 

Chamonix valley, France

While I was in France this summer, one of our day trips was to the Chamonix valley where we took a cablecar up to Planpraz in the Aiguilles Rouge mountain range, on the opposite side of the valley from Mont Blanc, at 4807m the highest mountain in the Alps, and also the highest mountain in the European Union.

Chamonix is a year-round resort, with skiing in winter and hiking and climbing in the summer. Each year a number of people die during activities in the Mont Blanc range, in fact the day these images were captured 6 hikers died on the Aiguille d’Argentiere which is one of the peaks near the Aiguille Verte (4122m) area of the Mont Blanc range, the really pointy peaks in these images. The weather changed very quickly while we were there and it’s thought the climbers were caught in it and fell to their deaths. The second to last (less colorful) image shows the Aiguille du Midi, 3842m. Not possible to see it in the size of this image, but at the top there’s a viewing area with a glass box that extends out over a straight drop-off (on the right of the mountain in this image) that people can step into…I did it shortly after it opened last winter. I’ll post images captured last winter later in the year.

 

Geneva from the water

A few days before I returned home from France, I was in Geneva one more time with my sister to take a short, 2-hour cruise on Lake Geneva. It was perfect weather…warm and sunny with gorgeous big fluffy clouds. It was lovely.

Paddlewheeler Savoie entering Geneva harbour
The paddlewheeler “Savoie” entering Geneva harbour. Paddlewheeler Savoie in Geneva harbour
And churning across the harbour to pick up passengers. These elegant paddlewheelers are  a common sight all around the lake, carrying passengers on sightseeing cruises.

 

These little yellow boats are called mouettes, and they are waterbuses, part of Geneva’s extensive public transit system, ferrying people from one side of the harbour to the other.
Geneva's jet deau wth mouette waterbus in front
Pont de Mont Blanc
The second image shows a mouette about to pass under the pont de Mont Blanc, where the lake empties into the Rhone River.
Mouette waterbus with pont de Mont Blanc behind

 

The famous Jet d’Eau.
Geneva's jet d'eau with old town behind Close up of Genevas jet d'eau from the lake 2 Geneva's jet d'eau from the lakeTop of Geneva's jet deau with birdsBase of Geneva's jet d'eau from the lake
One of Geneva’s mute swans flying into the spray from the jet d’eau. Swan landing in spray from Geneva's jet d'eau

 

Looking back at Geneva from outside the harbour…
View of Geneva from the lake, with a sailboat and jet d'eau in front Geneva's jet d'eau with city behind Returning to Geneva's harbour along the north shoreGeneva's harbour entrance

 

A few scenes outside the harbour…
Looking east from Geneva's harbourLarege clouds over the shores of Lake Genevamarina in Geneva's harbourSailboat on Lake Geneva A chateau on the north shore of Lake Geneva

 

Click on the images above for a larger view, or click on the gallery below to view these and a few more images.

 

Enjoying the outdoors

Click on image for larger view. two horseback riders disappearing the trees

Two riders enjoying a leisurely ride in nearby Campbell Valley park. This park has 29 km of trails, including 14 km hiking/equestrian trails, that wind their way through woodland and fields. Home to deer, coyotes, muskrats, raccoons, squirrels, owls, a few ducks, and other miscellaneous wildlife, there are occasional bear and cougar sightings, but these don’t live in the park but are just passing through. I understand a cougar sighting was reported in the last couple of weeks, but as far as I know these sightings haven’t ever been followed up by any incidents. The park is located amid farmland and more and more residential areas, and is a lovely place to get away from everything for a few hours.