Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunset, Silhouettes and Reflections

The land is beautiful, having a calm and subtle depth of detail that one only sees when you stop long enough to look. Tonight was a blend of warm clouds and silhouettes, the sound of sandhill cranes, and the reflection of the sunset on a myriad of lakes..... and I've been reading about coffee too much, but I think its time for some current tea..... something warm and sweet that tastes a bit like the land I'm lucky enough to live in.

Autumn lit lakes set
Like jewels in dark'ning hills
'gainst a warm bright sky
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Sunday, August 29, 2010

All or Nothing Opinions

Reading a friends blog, I stumbled across this article, a science story about insect research potentially identifying several species that have increased in abundance (some from no previous sightings) on Baffin Island, specifically Wasps. I skimmed the first 2 pages of comments (there are a total of 216 - and I haven't got time to read that many or even skim them). However, it seemed to be that there was a rather nasty argument going on between 2 or 3 individuals about the politics of climate change - all of whom had a clear view that they were intent on putting out there on the comments forum. Not to0 much to do with wasps or science, all about whether or whether not a carbon tax would be appropriate, the impacts of climate change and its existence. Now I'm hardly an expert, but I think, that there is a lot for us to learn before we will be able to say with certainty how all of this will turn out and even what all of the causes are.... in fact, it'll be probably generations after we've lived through the phenomena before its all puzzled out... and yes its worthwhile to do science now to predict the possible outcomes and measure what is happening and even investigate all of its causes, but there is no point on being absolutely polarized about the issue either because there is so much we don't know. Its better to put energy spent disagreeing visciously into finding solutions to the mountain of problems humanity is likely to face in the next 100 years, if we hope to stay off the endangered list ourselves.

Anyways, I didn't intend to talk about climate change, just to highlight that like everything else in Science as well as in Politics, its not a black and white issue. Nothing is a black and white issue... or at least its rarely the case. I can think of lots of reasons other than climate change why a carbon tax incentive to reduce the use of fossil fuels would be a good idea, starting with.... Fossil Fuels are NON RENEWABLE and extracting them causes all kinds of environmental impacts (See oil spill in the gulf, water usage in the tar sands and acid mine drainage related to coal mining). Likewise, I can still aknowledge that there are social and economic implications of a Carbon Tax and the manner that its implemented may or may not be palatable, pleasent or easy to implement. Its not a simple issue and it doesn't have a simple answer. Its great that people have an opinion, but it worries me that some people are so focused on their opinion that they feel the need to personally attack people who have an different view. I know the internet makes people prone to saying things in ways they'd never say to your face - but I don't think it bodes well for our world that people have developed a habit of being a jerk or bullying people (even in the context of online comments) if they have a different view. The real question is whether the way some people express their opinion has to do with them being passionate about their cause or if its about being a bully and being right, or about power and money as is usually the case. As least people in the first catagory are sincere, but history makes it likely that the later options are more commonly the cause.

I think people should be thinking about, learning about, researching, discussing all of the things that aren't right in the world. People are going to see things from different prespectives and they are going to disagree about the best way to do something. People with similar points of view are going to group together and try to work towards what they feel is the best solution to the problem. This is all about people caring about the world and socieety we live in, and if people stop caring or thinking we are in a whole lot more trouble. The thing that worries me is that there is a lot of opinion forming and posturing and a lot less thinking and caring than there should be, because if we were thinking we'd realize that nothing is simple and treat those who disagree with us with respect because like as not the answer is in the middle and they are approximately as right as we are. Of course, I could be entirely wrong, right?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I see a good moon arising

I don't have a great shot of the moon with Jupiter last night, but I did get to point it out to a few people. I just thought it was so cool that you could see the craters in the moon in the picture... its a good moon.

Calm waters at Sunset's Glow

Just a pretty silhouette of Baker Lake in the fall... when the water is a liquid, not a solid like it is from Oct-Nov to June-July.
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On the Shores of a New Frontier - Congratulations to our 2010 Graduates

Taken during the community feast celebrating this years graduates, it seemed natures wanted to gift them one of the most perfectly beautiful nights (weather-wise specifically) ever. Pleasant, no bugs, not too windy, nice sunset and even some northern lights.
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Dangerous Goods

I was running around tyring to get pictures of the HHPS symbols on common chemicals we find in the north and here is the only example I found with 3/4 - apparently Furniture Polish is only explosive, flammable and toxic, not corrosive..... so be careful with it.

This afternoon is grad, followed by the community Grad feast while tomorrow is Grad dinner and Prom. I'm making up for missing my own, I figure by the time I retire I'll probably have gone to 20 or 30 highschool graduations, although, it sometimes makes me wish I'd gone to mine as impossible as it was at the time being an expensive plane ride away in the middle of midterms of my first year..... perhaps in my next life. This years crop of Grads is a pretty special group of young people. I don't think there is a mean bone in the lot and there is tonnes of talent, grit and perserverance to boot. I'm proud of them, but the school will feel strange without them. I'm wishing them all the best of luck in whatever future they choose to persue.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010


I'm late... although my homework for the day involved looking goofy running around the northern with a camera taking picture of HHPS symbols for class. I'm off to take more pictures.

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Northern Labrador Tea - Flowering in Late August

I think earlier I was excited to catch Labrador Tea in flower up at Grassi Lake in July. I haven't seen it in flower probably since the summer I tree planted. I've linked back to that post for anyone who wants to see the difference between the two plants. The northern one is much smaller and has very narrow leaves compared to the southern species. This is one of my all time favourite plants because of its orange fuss on the underside of its leaves and all the neat ways its adapt to growing in nutrient poor, boggy environments which are generally acidic and often like a dessert in the spring as the roots may remain frozen even after the leaves are exposed to light - thus the moisture loss reducing leaf design.
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Fireworks Flower, aptly named

I was lucky enough to get out yesterday to do some real science and see some flowers and plants that I haven't seen before. This bright burst of colour is Fireworks Flower or Saussurea angustifolia. The neat part is that we were up where the snow drifts from the snow fence were and I also saw (but didn't photograph - mountain avens and cranberry flowers.)
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Monday, August 23, 2010

More new flowers

I found these astercaes growing in a drainage ditch behind the power plant. I'm going to go with Marsh Ragwort on this one, although it isn't in Barrenland Beauties, it is in my NWT book and they do look strikingly the same. My first guess would have been coltsfoot (an early spring plant from back home, but coltsfoot is white-pink in the north. Wait it is in Barrenland Beauties, but it is called Mastodon Flower and the picture is far away. Senecio congestus. :D
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Fireweed Follies

Well, the folly is really that I didn't have a bug net or bug spray and there were plenty of bugs. I'm sure folks who stay here all summer would say they really weren't that bad, but I've been living in the relatively bugless mecca of the upper bow valley and I hate, hate, hate blackflies with a passion, enough that I rank the Wade Hemsworth's Blackfly song in my top 20 favourites. (I think if you look closely you'll find one of these buggers (or a distant relative) in this picture. My hatred of blackflies dates back to my tree planting days in the woods somewhere an hour west of Hearst (Erst - as the locals pronounce and tree planters generally add an explitive before and after the name of the town and maybe a few more in the bargain) Still, other than the bug invasion, it was a nice night for a walk and would have been a nice night to canoe. I'm enjoying the warm weather while it lasts and trying to make good on my promise to spend more time outside this year.
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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Water for tomorrow

This is the pumphouse from where I getteth my water - or well, where the truck gets the water and then delivers to my house. Probably one of the locations with the highest truck traffic as the trucks try to keep every home in the community supplied.

In the background is blueberry hill, beyond which is the Thelon River. Hopefully I'll make it out there (with bug dope and bug net - just in case the wind isn't cooperating) next weekend.
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bikes and blackflies

I made a rare hike to eastern Baker Lake today, which was going well until the eastern end of the hike at which point the wind died and the flies made themselves welcome to our blood and sanity. Still its was good to get out and get some sunshine after days of gloomy rain and wind. (Well, a bit more wind would have been good)
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Ominous Weather and a Barge

The rumour is that the barges are running even later than usual. The barge seems has been later than originally forcast every year that I've been here - although this year it sounds like equipment mechanical problems have plauged one of the barges out of churchill, while I assumed that the Montreal Port strike may have impacted the barges out of Montreal. I don't actually know which barge my stuff is on, although I've been told early September - which is about the same as the last 2 years - so maybe I'm lucky. I don't think our barge season runs as late as others and with the chilly weather already setting in - its just a matter of time before the lake freezes (probably 2-3 months matter of time). Hopefully everything makes it here.

The photo is taken from the Baker Lake Visitors Center behind the Northern. Its the original Hudson Bay Co. Outpost that has been turned into a historical interpretive center. Its very well done and I learned some new stuff about Baker Lake than I hadn't know before.
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Hare Lick??

Well, this guy went from looking nervous after hearing my shutter go (he was less then 5 ft from me) to sitting back and cleaning his feet..... maybe he figured he wanted to look good just in case I decided to eat him - sort of liking wearing clean underwear on the off chance you get hit by a bus.
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Moss Campion - Silene acaulis

This lump of green and purple flowers was the cheeriest thing I found on my hike. It looks like there is a lot of stuff mixed in with it too.

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Prickly Saxifrage

I'm guessing a bit on the identify of this plant. I unfortunately did not get a picture (or pay attention) to the leaves of the plant which would have helped, I'll have to hike again so that I can find out.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Northern Paintbrush

I'll have to check my field guide, but this plant seen near the baseball diamond in Baker Lake looks suspiciously like a species of paintbrush - at least it has the charm of paint brush. Look for more posts of arctic plants as I get a few more pictures up from Friday. I'm hoping to make it out to blueberry hill at some point soon.
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer

Already the forcast for the next week here is fallishly cool, however, the flowers are blooming prolifically and the fireweed in particular is found in vast pools of colour, blowing in the wind and glowing in the sunset light.
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Canmore Folk Fest

I appologize for being all over the place, that is the problem with getting behind. I have completely failed to mention the highlights of the Folk Fest in Canmore. (The picture probably should show rainy, threatening skies - this is from the drive through Kanaskis)

I was excited because there were actually a few artists I knew who were going to be there - especially Dala and Buffy Saint-Marie (The Honourary Doctorate and Speaker at my Graduation from LU many many years ago). Both were good, I especially felt like I'd lived a moment in time hearing Buffy Saint-Marie sing Universal Soldier live - one of the first songs I learned on my guitar back in high school. Dala were excellent, but I was also introduced to 100 mile House (a very 90ish folk band from Edmonton), Te Vaka (a Polynesian Folk group with amazing dancing and so much positive energy), Matt Anderson (highly recommend by a friend - both from the east coast), Le Vent Du Nord (French Canadian Folk) and so many other Zachary Richard was pretty neat and Ruthie Foster was fun too. The one band missing was Isaac and Blewett - still one of my favourite folk bands from Canada.

I even managed to sit (well sometimes, except when I was trying to learn some polynesian dancing) for most of 3 days straight - although sometimes I had to dance a little, to keep from freezing. Buffy Saint Marie closed the show at 11:30 pm, to a crowd of folks that had endured cold and 2 hours of significant rain and mosquitoes more normal for Ontario or Baker Lake than you'd expect to find in Canmore - but most people stuck it out. The weather managed to behave itself while threatening to be wet for the rest of the festival, it was even warm and sunny (despite weather predictions) on Monday, with only about 15 minutes of drizzle.
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Neys Provincial Park

On my Superior Alone Tour, one of my greatest regrets was that I wasn't able to hike in to the beach at Neys Provincial Park, to see the view of Pic Island as painted by Lawren Harris of the Group of Seven. This isn't the right view, I'm facing east rather than west. But, Harris's interpretation of Pic Island is better than the real thing (frankly). The beach was beautiful though, crashing waves, drift wood, the hills that remind me of so many of the Group of Seven's paintings. We went on a self guided geology hike, and got to walk on top of a batholith that had solidified under a volcano that had subsequently been eroded away by ice and water. I probably thought it was unreasonably cool all things considered, but whichever, I'm allowed to be enthusiastic about geology.

I would also highly recommend this park for camping. The sites were beautiful and spacious and the comfort station nearly new. I didn't get to hike all the trails, but I certainly could have spent a long time on the beach if I hadn't been so tired. I did manage to see a few shooting stars. The sound of the train coming around the point was pretty cool too. There is a visitors center that talks about the role of the site as a POW camp during WWII. It didn't open until after I had to hit the road, but I hope to go back there some day and see the rest of the park.
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Stormy Superior Skies

Lake Superior never fails to stun - somehow I got past Thunder Bay before I managed to take any decent pictures (owing in part that I didn't have my camera while I was wandering around Thunder Bay and the fact that it rained from Falcon Lake to Kakabeka the day before, save for a brief sunny respite in Kenora, Ontario - where I can recomend their town clothing (I'll have to find a picture of their really amazing logo) and the breakfast in the tall blue hotel on the harbour.

The 2nd day in Ontario was a nice mix of sun and cloud providing with dramatic skies. I'm not sure where this picture was taken - 1 of Nipigon, Kama Bay or Little Pic River Lookouts. I should probably know, but I can't remember. All three are worth stopping at.
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Sundra Grasses

Actually taken in "downtown" Baker Lake, I loved the way the setting sun backlit these grasses.

Pelicans in Nipigon Harbour

A quick stop in Nipigon to pick up fuel for our stove at their Canadian Tire. The birds down at the harbour are usually worth the drive and if not the view of the hills, lake and train bridge are. I'd even give the outhouses at the Marina mention for being incredibly clean and nice, for outhouses.
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Sun Sets on Summer in the Mountains

I'm back in the meadows of tundra far to the north and east of the Rockies. I miss the mountains and its inhabitants, but I'm finding the Tundra reminds me an awful lot of my favourite part of the mountains - alpine meadows. The fireweed is glorious this year and I've had two beautiful sunset walks. I'm hoping to wander out toward the Thelon and Blueberry Hill sometime this weekend. I'm going to try hard to make some time to enjoy the land this year. Last year I hardly got outside at all. I'm mostly unpacked and tidied up. I have a few more odds and sods that need to find their homes or need their homes reorganized to make proper space for them.

I have a few more pictures I'll post - some from the trip east from the rockies and other from the last few days up here.... this should keep me going for a few weeks. So hopefully I'll have regular blog posts, even though its a busy time of year.
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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Kananaskis Sunset Drive

So, what to do on an evening without TV options when the sun is threatening to set in a spectactular way... why not go for a nice long drive on a gravel road? Or maybe the person suggesting the drive should consult a map or the driver perhaps communicate that the drive is about 150 km. Ah well, it started off with a washboarding jolt up a winding 1 lane wide trail that hugs the mountains, followed by a brief sighting of a young (small) grizzley bear galloping across the road (yes, nice to see in a car) and then by sightings of deer, moose, snowshoe hair, and elk.

The neat thing in this picture (taken with my back to the sunset (likely in a moving car)) is that I accidently captured the actual sunset in the side mirror.
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Beautiful Burn??

This barren, but greening hillside, is believed to be the site of a burn (possibly proscribed) in the Fairholme Range near Lake Minnewanka in 2003 (see map). I mentioned the 17 km of burned forest between Sault Ste. Mari and Thunder Bay (White River area) as having its own beauty, and I'm still struck by the beauty of a burned area I passed in Temagami in 2001. I'm not saying I prefer burned areas to healthy forest, just that it always impresses me the way that nature recovers and that there is something wonderous about pale green aspen leaves in a sea of blackened stumps. If you want to learn a bit more about the history of Lake Minnewanka, here is a like to Wikipedia.
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