Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Hummingbirds, hippies and hikes

The first cruise ship just docked in Vancouver downtown which means summer has officially begun.But we've actually already had a summer-like spring, here are the highlights:

An Easter weekend of tree frogs, hummingbirds and hippies

UntitledNo, we didn't visit Costa Rica, just my relatives on Vancouver Island. Just a word on 'the Island' as its known here in case you're imagining something Isle of Wight like - its roughly the same size as England, but is populated by the wolves, cougars, bears and is the most left wing place in BC (and probably Canada).

A day with my cousin, the incorrigible EC Pielou (pioneering ecologist with her own wiki entry, which does not do her justice), who at 88 delighted in choosing the steepest trail for our morning hike.  Then on to my cousins Richard and Joyce on the even wilder Quadra Island. Our first Canadian 'pot luck' turned into a barbecue on their friends' deck, only retreating inside when the sound of the hundreds of treefrogs inhabiting their wetland property became deafening.

UntitledHummingbirds are incredibly territorial, in spring the crimson throated male Anna's hummingbird is busy protecting the best food sources ahead of the mating season. The Pielous' new arrival did not appreciate Mark's efforts (you can guess at whose behest) to get the perfect photo, but he kept his cool amid the close shaves to get a pretty awesome one.

And mustn't forget the hippies: Mark had to work Easter Monday so my friend Dan and I took the ferry to the 'Sunshine Coast' (rainshadow of the Island) and cycled its quiet roads past beaches, rocky headlands and hippy cafes (BCs biggest export is growing marijuana "BC bud" and there's plenty of domestic consumption...) Those of you who have visited us know that under no circumstances can one sit inside on a ferry crossing in case you miss a marine mammal sighting - it paid off yet again with three dolphins on the way home.

Hiking training

Sounds odd, who has to train for hikes? But with my niggling ankle injury (an ultrasound, MRI and specialist eventually showed a strained tibial and other foot tendon but nothing too serious) meaning no running for months I was becoming increasingly nervous about the multi day backpacks we had planned for our two month summer road trip.  Gym work had definitely strengthened my legs, but now it was time to get on the trails...

In classic Marshall style I planned a 10 week program, increasing the hike length by 1 hour a week. It was a good test of my footwear (rubbish - now trialling a new pair), new orthotics (excellent) and self reliance (well mainly not having anyone to witter to). The latter was solved by meeting a very nice hiking companion on hike 3 (esp lucky as the falling snow meant my hands got too cold to do up my jacket), listening to Ironman world champion Chrissie Wellington's biography and numerous episodes of In Our Time (though even I lost interest in the assasination of Tsar Alexander).

PhotoNow up to 7 hours, 22km and 1100m of elevation gain on the very rough north shore trails so, tw, all should be well.

Camping and campaigning

First camping trip with Mark to Alice Lake Provincial Park. Out of practice we forgot essentials like an axe for firewood but managed to borrow from neighbours and had first outdoors cook of the year, yay!

And lots of campaigning to persuade people to vote to protect the coast in the elections on May 14 (but that deserves its own post...)

So next up is a May long weekend trip a couple of hours north to climb, camp and horse ride. No bears yet for 2013 so fingers crossed...

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