Sunday, 31 August 2014

Walking in the woods, finally

The original hope after I broke my leg was to be back walking by July and into the woods again by August. Then there was that setback, when I injured myself doing an exercise my physiotherapist gave me. Initially, it felt like a 3 week setback, but then I had knee problems, and 3 weeks became 6.

Today, I entered the woods for the first time since early April when I was out servicing bear cameras. Okay, it wasn't all that exciting -- just a 4.5 km trip to the Banff Park boundary markers and back. But it was exciting for me.

Since the last time I was on this short trail, someone built a new bench in the middle of nowhere out of plastic and pressure treated wood --  next to an older bench that was in the middle of nowhere.

Not much of a view
It is trying to turn fall here.
We call it the Elk Meadow 
Some plant Karen doesn't know
I made it to the park boundary & back -- 4.5 km round trip -- with only leg muscle fatigue as an issue. Well, that and walking on a really crappy trail. Maybe I'm just out of practice.
Park Boundary marker
Warning signs at the park edge
The meadows inside the park. Mt. Rundle in the background 
More meadows. Peaks of the Fairholme Range
It seemed like a good day to play with HDR photos.
What it sorta looked like 
HDR version 
More of it
Even though we have run across a few bears in our 'hood in the last week or so, we saw only old bear poo to suggest any are around. We saw a few elk tracks, and not much else, except for this female spruce grouse.
Pretending she isn't there 
Trying to be invisible
There were other cool things, like fireweed in serious bloom...
Very red
...and a mushroom growing out of a tree.
Strange, that
It was nice to get back into the woods. I'm headed up to Sunshine Meadows on Thursday to explore with my fellow SnowHosts. Here's hoping the weather holds.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

The Ice Bucket Challenge

So I was nominated by my friend Edwin -- who [a] lives in Holland, and who [b] I've never actually met -- to take the Ice Bucket Challenge. He's been reading my blog for years. That automatically earns him a challenge response.

I've been watching the progress of this internet phenom for the last few weeks, seeing it move from cool and funny to populous to mainstream to... backlash. It's the latter stage I find most interesting.

People have complained that it's a waste of water. It is, in a way, but that's pretty misleading. First, it's raised a whack of money for ALS, which isn't really a waste; that water has gone to good use. Second, I (like most people) learned in Grade 4 about the water cycle. Pouring water onto the ground doesn't waste it. It either gets absorbed into the ground or evaporates. If it evaporates, it eventually falls as rain. Groundwater is used by plants to grow, and they transpire that water back into the air, where it again returns as rain.

But there are other ways to "manage" that waste. Matt Damon poured grey water from his toilet over his head. Watch my video for how I managed it.

People have expressed concern over the impact of the campaign on other charities. Being the Chair of a charitable organization, I can tell you "charitable competition" is real. If my organization could come up with an internet phenom that would raise us 70 MM$ in 2 months, we would do it. In a heartbeat. But it's a real issue that people sending $100 to ALS means they might not send it to the United Way or the Crohn's Foundation or whatever their other favourite charity is.

What's interesting is that this campaign didn't start as a challenge for ALS. It started in New Zealand as a challenge to donate to ANY charity. ALS just picked it up and ran with it (and good for them, I say).

So I'd like to get the campaign back to it's roots. I believe that we "haves" (and that's ANYBODY who can read this -- those of you who can afford internet access and a computer are a HAVE relative to countries where the median annual household income is $2,000) have an obligation to give back.

It is with honour that I present to you my response to the Ice Bucket Challenge.

I wasn't the only one with the idea that day. Here's another guy:
He drove out from Calgary to do it
In truth, I have glaciers much closer to my house than the Athabasca Glacier (which is about two and a half hours drive away). I wrote about one here, and another one here. The trailheads to access each are 30 min or 60 min from my house, respectively. I would have gone to one of those, but the "hiking to the glacier" part isn't in the cards right now with my still-healing leg. You can drive to within 600 m of the toe of the Athabasca Glacier. You can take a snow coach ride up onto the glacier, and go for a walk on it if that turns your crank. So I went there instead.

I haven't been to the Athabasca Glacier in about 15 years. I was impressed how far it has receded since the last time I was there. Parks has erected little markers at the terminal moraines, one of which (the 1992 marker) is visible in the video. I remember way back when in the 1980's you could go right to the toe of the glacier, where there were ice caves. Can't do that now; the toe is sitting in a giant meltwater lake.

The movie's proof positive that I don't run iMovie that well. It was supposed to be in glorious HD so that my friend Edwin would see how fabulous the Athabasca Glacier is. I even wanted to figure out how to include this picture of a bear I saw on my way up there.
A shaggy brown coloured black bear
iMovie kept crashing while I was trying to record the audio, and I finally gave up. Ah, well.

The idea behind this thing is to challenge people. I'm going to challenge a bit differently:
  • I challenge my friend Edwin to come see my glaciers for himself. He already dumped water on his head and donated to ALS. Good for him!
  • I challenge my friend Gary Paukert to come up with something creative. He's a good sport, generous to a fault, and understands the impact that giving to a charity can have.
  • I challenge my daughter. She's in Oz right now, up near Cairns. I challenge her to stand on a sandy beach and dump a bucket of warm sea water on her head. She ought to like that.
  • And then, like this news anchor in Australia, I challenge everyone else everywhere to do their bit for charity. Still, he was a bit pompous about it, so I think he really should have a bucket of ice water dumped on his head. Don't be like that.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Birds from the past

When I was a kid growing up in Ontario, one of the most common birds we had were Blue Jays. My mom hated them. She thought them noisy, plus they stole peanuts and sunflower seeds that she put out for the birds, squirrels and chipmunks at home and at our cottage. They were as common as House Sparrows, Grackles, Pigeons and Starlings. 

Where I live now is the extreme west side of the Blue Jay's range, as you can see on their Wikipedia page. Here, they are rare indeed; I saw one occasionally last winter. And I guess that rarity makes them more interesting.

Besides, I never shared my mom's dislike of them. Personally, I think they are beautiful, and fun to watch. They are bold as all get out, and easy to attract up close.

This week, three showed up in my neighbourhood -- a mom and two very large young of the year. A handful of peanuts in the shell hitting the back porch is enough sound to get them to come in for a visit, no matter how close you throw the peanuts in.
Mom. Note the very white face.
One of the kids. Grey face.
They occasionally, but not always, break the shells open and get the peanuts out. Sometimes they take them away and "hide" them in the trees or bury them under the ground (where the squirrels are finding them).
Mom in the tree
The kids are just as bold as mom, and don't worry about getting close to us.
Patiently waiting for food
Being nut/seed eaters, we thought they would like something more than peanuts.
They ate the almonds first, then the peanuts, then the cranberries
The downside to Blue Jays (or any other jay, for that matter, like our more common Grey Jays or the less common Stellar's Jays), is that they will take as many peanuts we can put out, for as long as we put them out. So once or twice a day, we get a 15 minute show from a handful of peanuts we throw out for them. Like my cat, when they are done with that handful, they hang out expectantly waiting for more. Technically, we're not supposed to put out bird feeders, as the leftover food is an animal attractant. Blue Jays leave nothing behind. So we're OK with feeding them so long as they're around to greedily take our food.
A face even my mother could love