Mondays are usually quiet on the trails after the weekend rush, so I decide a trip up Black Mountain and then over to Eagle Bluff would be an excellent choice for the day. A mere 8 kilometres and under 600 metres in elevation gain. As the crow flies, it’s only about 45 kilometres from me to the trailhead at Cypress Provincial Park. However, it involves driving almost into Vancouver and out the other side. According to Google Maps it will take close to an hour if I leave at 5:45 and if I depart 15 minutes later the trip will likely take 45 minutes more as the morning rush hour develops. I opt for a quick coffee and a bowl of oatmeal before taking the early departure. Lucky for me. Ten minutes out I just get by a two vehicle accident as the police and fire crews show up ready to stop all traffic.
Seven o’clock at the parking where it’s lonely. Couple of cars likely from overnight campers and a few ski hill employees ready to begin work. First thing I do is wander over to both information kiosks to get any up-to-date bulletins on conditions, especially with a small forest fire near Horseshoe Bay. All clear except for a bear warning on Mount Strachan to the east and I’m heading west. I trust the bear will stay on its own side of the line. So on with the boots, heave on the backpack, get the poles ready and off I go.

Black Mountain

Near the Trailhead

Pretty scene at the start of the trail system which leads off to a number of hikes. Instead of wandering through the initial switchbacks, I choose to start my trip going straight up a 45 degree ski run. My legs already think my brain has a touch of altitude sickness. At around 150 meters, I switch over to the Baden Powell trail, but the switchbacks here are tighter and less wandering to and fro. As normal with hiking, most of the journey is spent watching your boots to avoid constantly tripping over rocks and roots. Best to stop and enjoy the view rather than accidentally kissing the trail. Thirty minutes later I’m at Cabin Lake where I pause for an instant before continuing to the top. Most of the strenuous uphill is now behind me. The rest of the hike is undulating.

Black Mountain

Black Mountain Summit

Yes, the summit of Black Mountain. Not much to look at – some bare rock and trees. Usually some good views of the North Shore mountains but smoke from fires in BC and Washington state obscures just about everything. Besides, I’ve been here a few times and I can imagine the peaks hidden in the smog. Now the walk gets easier for the 2 kilometre hike to the Bluffs. Quite a bit of upgrade work being done on the trail. New boardwalks over the swampy areas.Two sections where the trail has been rerouted past boulders which tend to be slippery. Making the hike much safer for those who believe flip flops and high heels are the proper footwear for the mountains.

Black Mountain

Another small lake

What makes this hike interesting are the half dozen little lakes along the way. You’re not hemmed in by the forest the entire journey. Finally, I reach Eagle Bluff where I park myself on a rock. Time to eat – a banana – and squeeze down a caffeine spiked, strawberry flavoured gel. Meanwhile, above me a noisy raven keeps up a constant racket as though I’ve invaded his territory. Or maybe he’s looking for food like the whiskey jacks who land nearby searching for handouts. Can barely smell the smoke so I guess the wind has pushed it all down, trapping it in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. All that fresh air just for me.

Black Mountain

View from the Bluffs

Twenty minutes and I’m ready to head back. As I get closer to Black Mountain again, I wonder why I haven’t met any other hikers. Starting as early as I did meant I’d have the outbound trip to myself but it’s normal to meet quite a few people later in the morning. I take the small detour past a couple of lakes until I’m back to begin the final knee knocking descent. Not really that bad as on many parts you can do a slow jog to make it easier on the thighs. Closing in on the bottom, I stay on the trail instead of the ski run and figure I have to run into at least one other hiker. Not to be. Once at the branch which starts this hike, I discover why I’ve been alone for the past 3 hours. My initial detour prevented me from reading and heeding the warning.

Black Mountain

Don’t Go I Guess?

Oh, well! So I head back to the car. Sit and eat my protein energy bar. And now have the opportunity to talk for a while to a dozen or more hikers about conditions and where they might be headed today.

Microsoft Midnight Madness


I’ll admit it. I’ve been on the hate Microsoft bandwagon for a lot of years, in fact it started with Windows 95. In early 96, I figured it was time to dump the old TRS-80 and move on up to Microsoft Windows with the brand new copycat design from Apple. Took 2 days for the system to break down. Bundled everything back up in the box and headed back to the computer store. Couple of days later – after exhaustive testing – they used the technical term trash to describe the o/s. So they replaced the malfunctioning trash with a new machine and sent me on my way.
I managed to keep that machine going for the next eight years. A used one with the Millennium operating system filled in the gap until I bought my present computer with Windows 7 sometime around 2010. I’ve had my share of blue screens, frozen screens, mangled updates, disappearing programs, odd error messages, and various other abnormalities. All of which do nothing but cause you stress and the desire to heave the computer out the nearest window.
Despite not being a computer technician or having a programming background or any coding knowledge, I’ve somehow been able to keep these machines running. And never had to resort to visiting the local computer store to cure my problems. As always, the first rational trick has been to shutdown and restart. (And in case you’re wondering, I was never caught flat-footed with the power cord not plugged in.) Surprising how often this has worked even if I had to do it 3 or 4 times in a row. Searching out my problem on the web usually gave me either answers or some direction to follow. Plus if you can find them on their site, Microsoft has a bunch of Fix-It programs which can diagnose your computer and will even fix up errors all by themselves.
When all else failed, it was time to start up in safe mode. You know the one where you hold one finger over the F11 key (maybe), and use the other hand to start the computer. Then attempt to hit the key before the screen changes to the startup. Frustrating on those days when you are suffering from slow finger syndrome or hit the wrong key. Which means you get to sit patiently and go through the whole startup and shutdown process once again. If successful at the first go-round the screen gives you the choice of how you would like to start up Windows. Using the lengthy self diagnostic program became a lifesaver, as it not only located errors but fixed them. After which it prompted you to restart Windows. With luck, it always succeeded.
So a couple nights ago my wife walked in with her laptop and said there was a problem with the Windows 10 updates. I figured here we go again.The message said the computer was at risk because the monthly update had not installed. Taking the easy road I pushed the retry button and figured that would cure the problem. Oops, no. Not only would it not install, I discovered the previous two monthly updates had also not installed. Sensing impending disaster with Meltdown and Spectre on the loose – didn’t James Bond put those guys out of business years ago – time to do something immediately. I started looking for the internal troubleshooter programs when I noticed a link to Microsoft help on the page. Figuring why not give it a shot, I clicked on the button. Up popped a page where I discovered we could chat about our problem with a Microsoft technician.
Surprisingly, it only took three or four minutes to establish a conversation. I’ve become so used to either waiting an hour or getting cut off before help arrives, it was a shock when the first message popped up on screen. After the preliminary niceties, we got down to the business of trying to establish why the updates were not installing. Once he confirmed no third party antivirus software blocked the installation, the teckie requested permission to remote control the computer. No problem. Then it was sit and follow the dancing cursor. Several minutes passed by before the next message. The machine would shutdown, restart and the updates should load . Great. Once restarted, we notice the updates were reinstalling. We typed our thanks and goodbyes in the chat screen satisfied the glitch had been fixed.
Not so fast donkey breath! Updates finished and everything looked perfect. Clicked on the startup button, nothing happened. Clicked on the Edge browser, nothing, clicked on the Microsoft store, nothing either. In other words, all the programs on the computer are in prison behind the non-functioning Microsoft system. Luckily the Chrome browser would still respond and open from the taskbar. I had already looked online using my tablet and discovered it seems to be a common problem with Microsoft after some updates. First line of attack, restart the computer and hope for the best. Okay, that fix didn’t work. I was hesitant to follow some of the suggestions I found online, so why not establish another chat with a Microsoft technician. Yes, I could see a potential problem here as our last Fix-It session did not exactly end up successful. But what the heck you have to give it a try.
Thinking last time may have been an anomaly, I’m prepared to wait for quite a while to establish the chat session. Again I’m surprised. We’re typing away in under 5 minutes and I explained the new problem which resulted from the old problem. Another very friendly technician requested permission to establish a remotelink and within moments we’re up and running, with him at the controls. This time as I’m watching on screen, I can tell the little Microsoft Fix-It apps are not doing their job. Then he powered up the self diagnostic program which takes close to 30 minutes to complete. Sure enough at the conclusion, there are a couple of problems. Unfortunately, the program is unable to fix them and that seems to be it. Not all is lost though. Our techie says there is one perfect solution to the problem. Reinstall a new copy of Windows 10 over top of the existing one on the machine. Guaranteed it will toss out the corrupted parts and leave us with a perfect up-to-date operating system.
My first question was, how long is this going to take. Answer, 30 minutes to 1 hour with a good internet connection, 4 hours with a poor connection. Since I was uncertain what he meant by a good connection I hoped at least for a midpoint. After all, since the beginning of the first problem we were now four hours in to correcting the machine. As Windows 10 begins to download, my Microsoft technician is ready to sign off. He says all we have to do is tell the program to install once downloaded. Well that sounded easy. Once again we say thanks and goodbye and hope for the best.
It was now a few minutes after midnight. All I could do was sit and stare at the screen. Tried to keep track as the whirly thing kept spinning around updating the percentage of download. I had my Nexus but my eyes kept closing and my head drooped as I tried to stay conscious. Twenty minutes later, I realized the prompt to install Windows faced me on the screen. All I had to do is press “I Agree” to the 5 page disclaimer. Then I returned to my semi comatose state to wait for the installation to finish. The onscreen warning that the computer will restart several times kept me interested. Suddenly, minutes before the clock struck one, I realized I was staring at the startup screen. Everything updated and complete. Time to run the test. And with great fanfare I started clicking icons with the realization that every one of them now functioned.
By the next morning, I was beginning to think Microsoft may not be quite as evil as portrayed. Both technicians were friendly and helpful. Unlike some other online companies, they didn’t spend quiet moments doing a sales pitch. Even though it took the better part of five hours, the laptop now runs like a brand new machine. Plus no two or three days languishing in a shop awaiting repair. Oh, did I mention no charge – something to do with maladies from updates covered by your Windows 10 agreement. While I’m not ready to bow in obeisance in the direction of Redmond Washington, I’ve decided to jump off the bandwagon and observe from the sidelines for a while.

Squishy Aversion


Crap, we are into the winter rain season and the running gets wet. I didn’t even check closely enough peering out into the pre dawn, I missed the drops pouring down. Only when I stepped out the exit door did I finally realize the wet stuff was descending. By that time it was too late to back out; so forward I slogged to the my starting line. It wasn’t all too bad. As usual, once you get wet you tend to ignore the problem. Glasses fogging up and covered with drops are  impediments that you learn to deal with by moving meditation. Watching at corners for cars becomes a higher priority. Fog appears to impede their operators and cause some mild brain freeze or unfocuses their seeing apparati.

Dealing with puddles remains an ongoing problem. Strickly for my feet. As the rain slowly soaks straight through to skin everywhere else, it retreats to being a minor annoyance unless it’s a severely cold rain. Lucky me today, we are being targeted by the pineapple express from the vicinity of Hawaii, so the water tends to be up in the 5 degree celsius range – brisk shower temperature. Back to my feet. I have an aversion to squishy toes. Not only does it become uncomfortable, but it often leads to crinkly skin and on rare occasions – a nasty blister. Starting out, all I can spot are huge puddles of water everywhere which I treat like quicksand or dog poop – avoidance at all cost. Works for awhile as I literally dance my way down the sidewalks and tiptoe at the corners.

Alas. In time my runners fail me. Despite my fancy running technique the water seeps through each gap, breathing mesh and stitch until I feel the dreaded initial squish. Then I simply give up, pick a straight line and go for it. Sooner I get home, the quicker I can free my poor tootsies from the insipid moisture, towel them dry and encase them in warm, toasty socks.

Yogi Bird

Yogi Bird

Eyeball to Eyeball

Gulls hanging out along White Rock beach tend to be laidback and almost dismissive of the hominoids invading their territory.  Even with a camera stuck three feet away from his beak all I got was a haughty stare back. Neither I or the shutter noise phased him in the least.  Different behaviour from his uptown cousins who shriek and squawk at any violation of their twelve foot personal space. Of course, they eke out an existence on garbage while the beach brethren dine on a tasty seafood diet. Like the real estate people say: location, location, location.  Guess the oceanfront crowd has been born to the manor.

Back to my friend. I often wondered why some birds stand around on one leg, as I also noticed the same habit with the blue herons living around the corner at Blackie’s Spit.  A while back, I did some research which never conclusively answered my question.  Some suggested they pulled up the leg to keep it warm due to lack of feathers or covering. Never occurred to me to think about blood vessels and flesh exposed to the cold weather, since their appendages just look like attached sticks. Must have been absent for a biology class explaining avian anatomy. If it was the middle of winter, I might have been satisfied with the answer, but on a warm day in March or during the heat of the summer, it hardly makes sense. Reason number two proffered online was to rest the legs. Not sure how shifting from leg to leg helps. I tried it and not only doesn’t it help, my legs tired out even quicker.

Then it dawned on me. I happened along in the middle of a yoga class. Here was my feathered friend – we actually have never been introduced – performing a classic beginner’s pose:  vrikshasana or the tree pose. Told you these guys were laid back. Perhaps one day I’ll invite him for an after class latte or mocha and we can hang out telling each other sea tales.


Yogi Bird 2


Where’s the Gold?

Last Swirl

Last Swirl

Either from watching ‘Yukon Gold‘ or plain boredom we decided to head out to Hope to try our hand at gold panning.  Lucky for us our our now, antique goldpan was still safely stored with some camping gear and had not been thrown on the scrap heap. The only other equipment required was a small garden trowel for digging plus pack a lunch. The British Columbia government has kindly set aside a kilometre and a half stretch of the Fraser River in Hope for recreational gold panning, which means you get to keep all the gold you find but are restricted to a pan and shovel as your only tools. No backhoes or giant sluice boxes allowed.  With the spring high water there was a limited shore area and being on the south side of the river out of the sun, it was still rather cool so we packed up and headed for Yale, a further 24 kilometres upstream.

P1020270 2

Perfect. Another recreational panning reserve on the north side fully bathed in sun and a 50 foot wide beach of sand, gravel and boulders to find paydirt. Then just a simple matter of digging up some material from behind a boulder, chucking it in the pan, heading down to the water and trying to remember how to properly swirl everything around to find the good stuff. And there we remained for four hours, happily taking turns trying our luck with about fourteen pan fulls, enjoying the sun, the warm weather and the sound of the rushing water.

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Alas, the pickings were slim. No shrieks of joy pulling out shiny nuggets. We did get black sand concentrate in every pan with a few flecks of flour gold – not worth picking out – plus a lot of millimetre sized garnets.  While we were there a couple of tourists with a brand spanking  new goldpan came over to ask if they could watch and learn. So Jan gave them some quick pointers and they busily spent a couple of hours using their pristine pan.

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Not that I’ve caught gold fever but back at home I did read up on methods to recover fine gold from concentrate. Who knows?

Did You Read The Sign?

Dog walker

Out of Bounds

Don’t get me wrong, I like dogs. Okay, maybe not all dogs. Not overly fond of those little rat sized ones who bark incessantly in a ear piercing, high-pitched squeal while lunging to nip at your toes. Also not much of a fan of overly big pooches who can silently glare without blinking, all the while making you feel like their next meal. Usually give crotch sniffers a wide path too. Dogs with sissified names like ‘Fluffy’ or ‘Babykins’ who are ranked higher in the family than the two legged offspring leave me cold. But I really enjoy border collies and their closet relatives. Their go-go attitude can be inspiring.

However, I do wish owners – or the two legged Moms and Dads trailing behind on the leash – would respect areas where bylaws prohibit dogs entirely. Both east and west beach, along the White Rock waterfront, plus the walkway are plastered with signs restricting dogs even when on a leash. This restriction only covers about 2 kilometres. Further west another 3 kilometres of oceanfront is a virtual off leash dog heaven. Why the prohibited stretch. Mostly because dog owners tend to follow Pareto’s Law – the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent faithfully pick doggie droppings while twenty percent smirk at anyone watching and walk away from the steaming pile. So one, it comes down to a health matter with so many kids playing at the beach and on the grass. And two, most people are so busy looking out at the ocean they fail to watch where their stepping. Trying to clean the bottom of your footwear definitely detracts from the enjoyment of an ocean side walk.

I put the question to the passing border collie and he agreed, but the dense humans with him believed themselves special and above the law.

Where’s Winter

The North Shore mountains are home to three ski hills…none of which are operating and February still has a week to go. Although they managed to open for a few short weeks, rain and warm weather has left nothing on the runs but dust and dried up grass, like Mount Seymour pictured here at the base of the lift (1000 metres elevation).

Base of Ski Hill

Base of Ski Hill

The majority of the trail is sub alpine, so there are nearly always views of Vancouver to the south and mountains every other direction. The yellow in the middle of the Vancouver photo are huge piles of sulfur awaiting shipment from Neptune Terminals.



The hike up to the summit is 455 metres higher and out of the ski area to the west. It’s a nice early season training jaunt – usually late April – that whets the appetite for summer scrambles. To be on the safe side I packed along instep crampons and an ice axe along with a snack. Needn’t have bothered. On a round trip of 7.5 K, there might have been 300 metres of snow to contend with and the odd slippery section. Basically, the hike was little different from mid summer when there isn’t a speck of white stuff hanging about. Only a short stretch of 40 metres could be considered a problem as the trail narrows down to half metre ledge but with some snow still there, it is now only two boot widths wide.

Ledge Trail

Ledge Trail

Not once on my journey today did I wonder whether climate change or global warming has managed to play havoc with this winters conditions. It often happens there are very poor snow years, although this one may be close to a record. Since Vancouver and parts of the Lower Mainland depend on the snow pack for water, it may raise a critical shortage during late summer. However, for the moment I’m happy with the early appearance of hiking season.  🙂







Going Places

Neon sign

Going Places Neon

Judging by the actions of security forces hunkered in at Semiahmoo Mall, the only places photographers might be going would be the local penitentiary. Had already snapped one shot, which may not have been apparent to the fast approaching rent-a-cop, and was touched lightly on the arm inquiring as to what exactly I was doing. “Why I thought I’d just taken a photo of this sign for my neon blog” was not apparently the correct answer. Was brusquely informed the mall was private property and cameras were not allowed. When I inquired about exterior pictures I was informed that also was verboten, even from off property. Packed up my camera and departed.

Sent the mall owners – First Capital Realty –  a customer comment which will probably be ignored. Really, they should drag themselves into the 21st century. For one reason or another there are likely hundreds of photos snapped daily in the mall with cellphones as reminders or for price comparisons. Will the mall begin bag searches?

The above post was for another blog I use to try out new ideas from time to time. Right now my wife and I are working on our own photo a day challenge for both enjoyment and to look a little closer at everything. So for the month of February, I’m trying to get a shot of a neon sign – the ubiquitous ‘open’ ones not allowed – everyday, which is a bit tougher when we no longer reside in Vancouver. So that explains heading to the local mall where three stores still have neon signs.

By chance the same evening I read an online story from the Toronto Star about the city restricting photography in local parks and venues. Even though they quickly went into damage control to pull back on a complete ban, a city official still insisted some picture taking would not be allowed despite not being against Canadian law. Authorities are constantly seizing cameras and cellphones – often illegally and accidentally erasing content – and are later ordered by the courts to return the items as the owners were doing nothing against the law by filming or photographing events happening in public. Most of our public art galleries still ban photography based on outdated practices. There are credible studies which show paintings can be damaged over time from exposure to light flashes, especially years ago when flashbulbs were the norm; however, nowadays most cameras and cellphones are capable of lower light shots without any need of extra light. I have photos taken in The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Tate with security personnel all around and was never questioned or prevented from snapping away. The usual defense by Canadian museum directors relates to copyright issues, but it’s almost impossible not to find photographs or prints available of every painting or art object in existence. There are likely more copies, photos and renderings of the ‘Mona Lisa’ than there are people on earth.

Like most people these days I use my camera or my Nexus 7 tablet – I may be the last person to not own a cellphone – to grab images of sale items, locations or any number of things as reminders for later use. Much handier than trying to find a pencil and paper. And many of these have been taken in other malls with security people around without any concern on their part. But all bureaucratic levels including municipal have come to regard  this as snooping and possible interference with national governance. No matter where you go these days there seems to be a government authorized camera dogging your every step and recording your actions. This is considered appropriate because ‘model citizens’ have nothing to hide.

There’s an excellent opinion piece in the Toronto Star by William Kowalski on the current push to limit public photography. As he states, ‘there is no law against public photography in Canada’ which I’ve always been aware of since I started snapping pics and developing film some years ago. And I plan to keep on in spite of the small minded bureaucrats and self-interested politicians lined up to take away my rights.

Camera photo

Keep It Free

As to the mall owners, once I referred to their obnoxious and heavy handed  security people on Facebook, they got back to me in less than fifteen minutes to assure me they would look into the situation. Maybe I’ll hear back or then again maybe not.

Thought these new laws brought in by the US Forest Service for my neighbours to the south were controversial but I’ve not had the chance to follow up.

De plane! De plane!

Fantasy Island

Fantasy Island

Sometimes you get lucky and are in the right place at the right time. How else would I get a photo like this?  Purely serendipitous when you happen to be carrying your camera and strolling down a local street when the owners of the local travel agency drop by for a advertising photo shoot. Who let them off the island anyway? Don’t they have guests arriving on the next plane? Needless to say the photo did require some post processing: the Fantasy sign was brightened up and the red wine stains on Roarke’s suit were cloned out. Perhaps the last guests were a mite exuberant on their arrival. Other than that  the picture paints a thousand words or something like that. In case you’re wondering the rest of the story can be visited here.

Scumbags Are Us

No Adobe

Lots of high praise out in photography land for Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and their other software programs for manipulating images – probably well justified. For me, using Paint.net and occasionally Gimp provides more than enough trickery to brush up any photos I post to my blogs. My only real experience with Adobe was using their PDF reader quite a few years back when most users were less than enthralled with the product. The main complaints were the constant freezing requiring computer reboots and its tendency to slowly use up all the ram even when not in use. Since I never needed to produce PDF documents, I simply hit the delete button to rid myself of Reader and downloaded Foxit which I’ve used without problems for years.

Which brings me to the reason for this post. This afternoon my wife asked me to download Paint.net onto her laptop so she could work on photos herself. No problem or so I thought. Brought up the webpage, found the download button and presto all the little wheels started whirring until the indicator showed complete. Using Chrome, so just double clicked and waited for the wizard to pop up to begin installation, only Windows pops up with the message – unable to open the Adobe program. HUH! That’s when I noticed the Adobe icon instead of the Paint icon attached to the execute file. Not being immediately paranoid, I disabled the few extensions thinking they might have affected the download – wouldn`t be the first time – and went through the download process again with the same end result. Still under the illusion it was a computer glitch, I downloaded the Paint program from my own computer – sans any Adobe programs – onto a flash drive, checked for the Paint icon and figured I had the problem solved. Not so fast, as soon as the drive was plugged into the laptop, the icon was immediately replaced by an Adobe one and once again no installation. Now I’m frustrated but not without resources. Opened up the control panel, found `Programs and Features` and cleverly uninstalled Adobe Reader on the laptop, after which I went through the whole procedure once again, this time with an entirely successful outcome. Paint.net up and running on Jan`s laptop with nary a glitch.

As of late both Apple and Amazon have been caught reaching into private computers removing items or programs at will claiming ownership resides with them and customers really only rent songs or books or files. In this case Adobe cannot in any claim ownership. So somewhere along the way when an update for Adobe Reader was downloaded to the laptop – same goes for millions of users out there – Adobe sneakily attached a small file to prevent the download of any software they felt was a competitor to their own programs, in this instance: Photoshop and Lightroom. So beware out there folks – Big Brother Software is watching you.

Oh, by the way did I mention Gimp and Paint.net are free!

Bye Bye Adobe

Bye Bye Adobe