Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Moose team broke to pull

Zoe and I spent the afternoon, yesterday, wandering around on the trails of the Little Red River park just north of Prince Albert. With snow on the trees and very little wind , it was a great day to be in the woods. At the end of the day we stopped at the Cosmo Lodge. As I was reading some of the postings on the wall I came across the following newspaper clipping pinned to the wall. I don' t know which paper it came from but the photo intrigued me. It's not every day you run into a little known piece of the past, and in a ski lodge of all places. I did a quick search on the internet for the names mentioned in the article and didn't come up with much but did find some information for the town of Makinak, Man.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Feathery visitors

These are just a few of the feathery visitors to our backyard feeders. Blue Jays were going nuts over the peanuts I put out for them. The Dark Eyed Junkoes were having a blast hopping through the leaf litter. Chickadees, Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers and White Breasted and Red Breasted Nuthatches paid regular visits to the feeders and later in the day a pair of House Finches made off with a bunch of black oil sunflower seeds. Even a pair of Northern Flickers stopped by.

On such a sunny day you'd have to be crazy to be inside.


Monday, October 5, 2009

The sky is white with Snows!

After a weekend of hard studying I thought that I'd take a break and head out into the country. I stopped the vehicle on the top of a hill and quickly glassed over the landscape. I was looking for anything interesting to check out and today was my lucky day. From one kilometer away I could see a large, white patch in the field ahead. It was a large flock of Snow Geese. As I got closer the flock lifted off and flew about a km to the north east. I drove as close as dared, stopped, and slowly slipped out of the vehicle. I wanted to see how close I could get to them, so I slowly crawled on my stomach along the wet ground. I was only able to move a couple of meters before I was spotted and they took off once again. This time I decided to observe from a distance and I watched as flock after flock of geese joined the others in a feast of peas. I don't know what spooked them but the whole flock took off in a mass of white beating wings. It was truly an amazing site. The fall migration is obviously in full swing, there were hundreds of thousands of Snows, Canadas, White Fronted geese and a bunch of Sandhill Cranes. I even saw a lone coyote cross the road allowance.

All in all it was a productive morning.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

What's in a sunset?

I took a break from studying this evening and headed out into the country side for a couple of hours. I was shocked to see that the leaves on the trees, in the river valley, are starting to change color. I guess that shouldn't really surprise me because it is the middle of September. Though the turning leaves may be a sign of autumn, the sounds of hundreds of Canada Geese, Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes are a sure sign that the summer is coming to an end. I had concealed myself in a small bunch of choke-cherry bushes to wait and see what came out. I was hoping to see some deer. Just on the other side of a bunch of trees a lone coyote was howling to another in the distance. A small flock of Sandhill Cranes passed just over head as they were landing in an adjacent field. They were so close that I could make out their flight feathers. A small bird landed in the tall grass just an arms length from me but he was behind me so I couldn't see what it was. When it realized that I was sitting there it took off like as shot. No deer made an appearance but as I was walking back to my vehicle I rounded a bend and in the fading light, standing a couple of hundred yards away were two very nice White tail bucks. A stopped to watch them through my binoculars until they ran off with big white tails in the air.

This bird landed in a tree just behind me and stayed just long enough for a photo.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dewer Creek Hot Springs Aug. 18 - 20 2009

Panaramic view of Bugle Basin seen from our campsite.

Dewer Creek hot springs was our next destination. Dewer Creek is located 65km, north east, of Kimberly, BC in the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy. To get to the trail head logging roads are followed. The roads are pretty rough in some areas, it takes about 1.5 hours to drive the 65kms!

The guide book that we were using is about 10 years old so some of the roads look different and some of the signage that he refers to for directional aids are not there anymore, but for the most part the directions given are pretty good accept for the last 6 kms or so. We did manage to find the trail head parking area but not after a few wrong turns one of which took us to an outfitting camp and after another wrong turn we ended up on the side of a mountain in a clear cut. Very rough and not the sort of place that you'd want to be in a two wheel drive. But after some head scratching and searching we finally found the parking area. There was a few other vehicles, all of them with wood and rocks stacked around the car and one truck actually had chicken wire around his SUV. We wondered about the reasoning for this for a while until I remembered hearing that people do this to stop porcupines from chewing the brake lines. There were no more rocks or wood lying around so we decided to take our chances and just leave the truck unprotected.

On this adventure my good friend Karen would be joining Zoe and I. After a quick lunch we hoisted our packs to our backs and headed out on the trail. The weather forecast called for 30 degrees C and sunny but as we walked through the forest, clouds started to roll in and as it turned out the cloud cover would be a blessing. If it wasn't for the clouds the day would have been unbearably hot. From previous hiking trips I've learned that carrying 45 lbs on your back up and down on rough trails in the heat of the day can be very hard on a person.

The trail mainly cuts through the forest but every now and then it traverses sub alpine meadows that, in the winter, are avalanche chutes. For the most part the trail was dry except for a few damp areas near the springs and the odd creek or spring to negotiate. The trail may have been dry but it certainly isn't smooth. It is a well used trail but it's very rough with a ton of rocks and roots to trip on and this is the mountains so there is a lot of ups and downs, more ups and more downs and even more ups and downs. The elevation gain from the trail head to the springs is supposed to 180 meters but I'm pretty sure that with all the ups and downs that number is much higher. There is a horse camp in the area so the trail is in bad shape due to the horses.

Now I don't claim to be an expert on hiking and being from the prairies the roughness of the trail and the up and down was starting to play on our bodies and minds. To the point that when we arrived at Bugle Basin, 500 m past the springs where the camp site is, we were tired and just wanted to fall over. We set up camp rather slowly then headed to the springs to soak our sore feet. But like anything worth savoring you first need to work for it and the springs were no different. The trail down to the creek was steep and loose.

The springs and natural soaking pools are amazing! They, along with the view from the camp site, make the tough hike well worth it and after 45 minutes of soaking, the days aches and pains were gone. The top pool is supplied with very hot water that leaves the earth higher up the bank and trickles down a large rock face and enters the pool from one side. There is another cool spring that enters the pool from the other side. The temperature (45 degrees C) of the pool can be controlled by blocking the inflow of one of the streams. The second and third pools are fed by the overflow of the first pool and are 40 degrees C.

The backdrop of Bugle Basin is simply stunning! I've been to some beautiful natural places but this place tops the list. Dewer Creek, clean and clear, flows along side the camp site. We were camped near the head waters of the creek and even though the water likely wasn't contaminated we still used chlorine drops or a steripen that is supposed to alter the DNA of waterborne microbes so that they can't reproduce.

Karen, Zoe and myself at the trail head parking lot.

A creek along the trail.

Karen and Zoe crossing one of the avalanche chutes.

Karen crossing one of the many creeks.

Under Dewer Creek.

Second and third pools.

An early morning soak.

The morning view from our tent.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fort a la Corne hiking trip July 25 - 27 2009

Another short hiking trip that we went on this summer was in the Fort a la Corne provincial forest. It's the same forest that De beers has been searching for diamonds in. Zoe's friend Shaun, Zoe and I set out following a trail that started at the edge of a clearing at the side of the road. It was a very hot day and as it turned out, the hottest weekend of July.

Shaun and I starting the fire.

I had been to this spot only once before more than a year ago in May. (it was the same day that I had encountered a pack of wolves in the forest. Click here to read my blog entry "close encounters of the K9 kind.) The trail was much as I remembered it, winding in and out of mixed forests. At one point we came to a large pond and the only way across was to traverse a large beaver dam. The dam was, for the most part in good shape, it was overgrown with vegetation which included wild mint and stinging nettle, which, I of course grabbed onto when I lost my balance. Along the way I managed to get us lost three times, well not really lost, we just took wrong turns. There is a whole network of trails in the forest that are mainly used by hunters in the fall. In my deference it had been more than a year since I had been in the area and when I had been there last it was May and there weren't any leaves on the trees. It always amazes me how different the forest looks with and without leaves on the trees. After a few wrong turns we finally emerged out of the forest at the top of a series of very high cliffs that line the north shore of the North Saskatchewan river. From where we stood atop the cliffs to the water below was a near vertical drop of 115 meters.

Zoe looking out from the top of the cliffs.

We carefully made our way down to the waters edge only to find that the forest along the river was much to dense to penetrate and we were left wanting for more desirable campsite options. After a full day of hiking and descending cliffs we were disappointed with the lack of suitable camping spots and spirits were starting to drop.

Google Earth image of the route as recorded by Zoe's running watch.

As luck would have it, I happened to follow a game trail from the waters edge to the edge of the trees and upon closer inspection I found a small series of steps in the river back large enough for two maybe three tents. It was the only level ground with enough space for tents and we decided right there and then that this would be where we stayed.

Lentil chili and Jalapeno & Cheddar bannock.

We spent the next few days going for walks along the river bank, relaxing in the cool shade of the trees and every now and then cooling off in the river. Even though the camping spot wasn't ideal we made the most of it and enjoyed a weekend in the woods.

Zoe and Shaun in the back ground climbing the 115 meter cliff.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hiking to Grey Owl's cabin, June 26 - 28

Sunset over Kingsmere Lake

One word that could sum up our experience in P.A. National Park would be "Wind". It was windy the whole time we were there. Other than the wind it was a great weekend concidering that the day after we left Saskatoon the forecast was calling for 60% chance of thunder storms, we really lucked out. It was sunny and fairly warm the whole weekend. After registering at the information office we set out from the parking lot at the kingsmere river at mid morning. When we were in the woods the wind couldn't touch us and we enjoyed a peaceful walk along the tail. Zoe hasn't done a lot of back country camping and was pretty nervous about bears. She especially didn't like it when I would point out all the bear signs that we came across along the trail. We had gotten in the habbit of hanging the bear spray from the back of her pack so that it was within easy reach for me if we happened across a bear. I also carried bear bangers in my pocket.

Kingsmere River

We made it to the Sandy Beach campground where we had planned to stay the night. When we got there we were the only ones there and we could pick the best of the camps sites. We weren't there more than an hour and we had a fox walk right threw our site. And that wouldn't be the only time that we would see him. On another occasion he came threw camp with a feathery mouth full.

The route to Grey Owl's cabin as recorded by Zoe's running watch, the laps are where we stopped to rest.

On the second day we left our camp set up and set out for a day hike to the cabin. Again it was a warm but windy day and when we got to the north end campsite we found it was empty. We decided to sit a while and rest. Again we weren't there more than a half hour and another fox trotted by with in 20 feet of me.

Kingsmere Lake and storms clouds to the south

By the time we got to the cabin it had started to sprinkle just a bit but not enough to get wet. A couple of weeks before we had planned to be up there a forest fire had been burning only about 4 km from the cabin and the hoses and sprinklers were still set on top of the cabins to keep them from burning. After eating lunch and resting in the cabin to get away from the bugs we headed back. Along the trail just down from the cabin we came across a black bear busily eating along side the trail. We were down wind of him and he had no idea we were there. After taking a few pictures I fired off a bear banger. He took off into the woods but with in a couple of minutes he came back to the trail. This time I made sure that he saw me by stepping closer, raising my arms and shouting. Again I fired a bear banger and this time he left the trail and didn't come back. I was very proud of Zoe for keeping her cool and not panicking. We were pretty close to the bear when we rounded the corning and saw him there. I'm glad that her first experience with a bear was a positive one, though she remains nervous of them.

Our bear on the way back from the cabin

As usual the food is second to none, even when we're hiking. Items on our menu for this trip included green chicken curry, lentil chili and corn bread, coconut cream hotchocolate and lemon grass and coconut cake.

Zoe preparing green chicken curry for supper

A summer of Hiking

Well it's been quite a while since I last made an entry. Late in May, while biking home from work I had and accident and went over my handle bars. The result was a broken wrist, a scaphoid fracture to be exact among a bunch of other injuries. So my summer was set, I was to spend the following 2.5 months in a cast and now I have to wear a brace when every I do anything. Under strict instructions from the specialist there was to be no canoeing for me this summer so I had to look for other ways to satisfy my cravings for the outdoors. My girlfriend Zoe and I decided to focus on hiking.

Our first hiking trip was planned for the last weekend in May and as it worked out that was the Friday that I broke my wrist. We were set to head out of town on Saturday for an overnighter in the nesbit forest. I thought my wrist was just badly sprained, it was swollen and hurt REALLY bad but I could still move it and so we headed off for couple of days away from the city. The weekend was warm but windy, so windy that it prevented us from having a camp fire. With my wrist wrapped up in a tensor bandage and with the use of pain killers and instant ice packs I was able to control the pain to a certain degree. The thing that stands out in my memory is all the pollen that was in the air. It clung to every surface and when a tree or shrub was knocked it came floating down like it was snow. It covered everything. It was certainly not a place for someone with allergies.

Zoe's in her new down sleeping bag

Sunset over the hills.

We weren't alone in the forest.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Snowshoeing under the stars

Sunday March 15th proved to be a fantastic day for snowshoeing or more accurately, it was a great night for snowshoeing. It was warm and the winds were low, especially since we were snowshoeing late in the evening. Six members of the Saskatoon Snowshoe Club met at the Holiday Park golf course parking lot and headed out into the night. The evening started out clear with only a few clouds but as the evening wore on the cloud cover rolled in. It was a lot of fun trying to find our way in the dark, being sure to stay off of the ski trails. We saw deer tracks and evidence of their feeding, we followed porcupine trails and saw where they had fed on tree bark. Every one had a good time and I'm pretty sure we'll do it again next year.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The old tree

Zoe (my girlfriend) and I decided that we needed a bit of adventure and the first thing that came to my mind was the Old Tree. A Cotton Wood tree near the North Saskatchewan River is the largest known tree in Saskatchewan. I had been to the tree in the summer but never in the winter so I wasn't sure how the roads would be. So we dicided to take snowshoes. It was a good thing we had snowshoes with us, the grid roads are not well maintained in this area. There are no farms or anyone that lives along this road so I don't think that the roads get cleared on a regular basis. We drove as far as we could being careful not to end up in the ditch. It would be a long walk back to the highway to get help. Finally the snow covered the road and we could go no further. Leaving the car at the side of the road we dawned our snowshoes, quickly checked my gps for a direction and headed off across a stubble field. I knew we weren't far from the tree and the gps confirmed that we were only about 4 km's from it.

The weather was nice, around -10 to -15 with a very slight wind. When we crossed the field and approached the river valley we discovered that we would have to descend a large hill to the valley floor. Before we made our way to the bottom we took a moment to snap a few photos and take in the view. From the top of the valley we could see a number of deer running along the trees. We slowly made our way down the bank like a switchback road making it's way on a hillside.

Making the final jump at the bottom of the hill we found ourselves on a skidoo trail which I had a feeling would lead us right to the tree. The Old Tree, you can't miss it. A plains cotton wood crossed with black or balsam popular, it stands 68 feet high with, its branches reach 104 feet and is estimated to be over 160 years old. Over the it's life time this old tree has seen a good deal of changes in the area. This area is rich in dukabor history and surely was held in high requard.

After spending some time at with the tree, sipping tea it was late in the afternoon, the light would be fading soon so we packed our things and retraced our steps back to the car.

If you're feeling a bit adventurous or would like to get out of the city for an afternoon, the old tree is definitely a nice place to visit. The tree can be found at this location. N 52° 44.724 W 106° 43.334

Friday, February 6, 2009

Nesbit snowshoe trip Jan, 31 - Feb. 1 2008

Bryan and Rob picked me up Saturday morning and after getting gas and Tim's we hit the road. We parked at the south parking lot at Eb’s ski trails, crossed the highway and headed east toward the South Saskatchewan River. It was very nice on Saturday, though windy with gusts up to 35 km/hr. As we made our way along the trail we pulled our pulks through open meadows, dense poplar forests and open stands of pine. The aroma of the forest, filled the air. It was obvious that we were nearing the river, the land started to descend at a steeper rate and soon we found ourselves at a very steep bank that was the final drop to the rivers edge. Bryan was the first to make his way down, half way down he very gracefully lost his balance and tumbled the rest of the way down. Landing in a pile of ridged poles, snowshoes and covered with snow. I was the second to make my way down and after watching Bryan’s attempt, decided to try another approach. I unhooked from my pulk and walked it down though somewhat out of control on the slippery surface. This went much better. Finally it was Rob’s turn, his was a text book descent, under full control.Along the bank we were out of the wind and in full view of the sun so we took the opportunity to stop for a snack. Muffins, bannock and gorp were on the menu for today.

We didn’t really have a set destination, so we put togeter a loose plan to folow the river south for a few miles then find a suitable place to camp. From our snack spot we could just make out an island a mile or two away so we headed off in that direction. When we arrived at the island we checked it for possible camp spots. We found a nice spot in a stand of white spruce but decided that it was too exposed given the winds, so we pushed on. After a short lunch break we were all feeling a bit slugish and found our pulks to be a bit heavy. For a moment I thought that the dog, Kaya, had stowed away on my pulk for a free ride up the bank to higher country. When we arrived at the top of the hill we were greeted by a wide open, meadow, that swept to the south. Dicrectly across from where we crested a hill was an invited stand of pines, nestled into the lee side of an even bigger hill. I think we all were thinking the same thing and imidiatly went over to have a look. After a brief look around we decided to make camp.

Three grown men and a dog pulling toboggans up a hill must have been a ridiculous site but having discovered that the other side of the hill that we were camped next to was a, long gental slope, we couldn’t help ourselves. We disassembled our pulks and went tobogganing. Senseless immature fun, what more can you ask for.

The wind died, and the evening was warm well into the night and we enjoyed sitting around the fire, eating good food, sipping coconut cream hot chocolate in our fleeces. When it was time we entered our tents prepared for a balmy –10 degree night. I was cold during the night and choked it up to getting old but when I got up in the morning and saw that the thermometer read –20 , I knew that I hadn’t dressed for the weather. Historical data on Environments website listed the temp at –30 with and wind gusts up to 78 km/hr over night.

Though it was cold we still got up and went for an exploratory outing into an area that I’ve never been. As we were leaving camp I noticed that there were fresh deer tracks on top of our tracks from yesterday. They had visited us during the night and though we didn’t see any deer on this trip it’s still nice to know that they’re there. Upon our return we broke camp, ate a quick lunch and headed for home. It was sunny again but just as windy as the previous day, only it was –15 this day.

The route back to the vehicle was mostly the same but near the end we found another trail, or what looked like a trail, and gambled that it would take us back to the highway. Actually, judging by the tracks and the signs along the trail we figured that we were following a coyote trail. It did eventually lead back to the highway but we came out further south than we had anticipated and had to walk threw the ditch back to the parking lot.

Good times were had by everyone. All in all it was a great way to spend a weekend.

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