Posts Tagged ‘BC’

Over 1000 dolphins escort ferry near Vancouver

Saturday, November 2nd, 2013

Pacific white-sided dolphins

Great video shot on Hallowe’en, October 31, 2013. Over 1000 dolphins swim alongside a BC Ferries vessel on its way to Vancouver through Georgia Strait.

CBC report confirms they’re Pacific white-sided dolphins which usually congregate farther out to sea. Some have suggested that dwindling food supplies have driven them nearer to shore. I saw a pod of about 200 from a ferry in 2011.

Ferry captain is a joker. “Ladies and gentlemen, there’s quite the dolphin show off the starboard side. Tickets can be purchased from the chief steward’s office.”

What temperate rainforest looks like

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

mossiest rainforest in existence

This photo was taken by my colleague Ken Wu, an environmental advocate with BC’s Ancient Rainforest Alliance. The photo was actually taken in Washington State, not far from here. He says this is the Quinault Rainforest in Olympic National Park, “the mossiest temperate rainforest in existence with almost all the record-size trees of the region, just about my favourite place on the West Coast!”

As part of my other design job with a group called Commons BC, I was involved in the fight against Bill 8 which would have privatized vast areas of BC’s forests. Currently 94% of British Columbia is “crown” or public land. Its forests are divided up into “Timber Supply Areas” but if those are converted to “Tree Farm Licenses” entirely under corporate control, BC will not be able to enforce sustainable forest policy – and that’s if we even had good forest policy the way they almost do in Washington State. And we don’t. We won our fight against Bill 8 but now that the resource-happy party back in power after a surprise victory, we believe this will have to be fought all over again. And this time we may lose.

If you want to see what BC has cut on Vancouver Island alone in the last 60 years, look at this before and after map (via Commons BC). Some of the most lush forest in the world, containing streams harbouring numerous salmon spawning runs.

The yellow-green is the original forest cover remaining in 1952. The pink is the logged area. Only a little in 1952; nearly the whole Island in 2012.

1952 to 2012


Surveillance camera map, Vancouver

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

Big Brother is watching

Very nice map of surveillance cameras in downtown Vancouver, by the Vancouver Public Space Network.

Disturbing content aside, it’s a very attractive map.



Pack horse trip in the Northern Rockies: Muskwa-Kechika

Monday, July 9th, 2012

Muskwa-Kechika, creek wall, Day 1

[Update: The Globe and Mail has finally run the story about our trip. Wilderness guide and Globe travel writer Bruce Kirkby came along on our leg of the trip.]

I have been out of internet range for weeks, riding through the remote Northern Rockies on a pack horse trip. The expedition was led by Wayne Sawchuk. Wayne grew up in Northern BC, once worked as a logger and hunting guide and is now a wilderness guide and environmentalist. He spearheaded the protection of this place, which is now known as the Muskwa-Kechika Management Area. It is one of the largest and most species-rich protected areas in North America, and it is also the ancestral Dene territory of my companion for the trip. Along with us were 5 others most of whom work in one way or another with BC’s wild areas (including one of the founders of BC’s Breeding Bird Atlas, in which birders can participate).

Many of the passes and valleys we travelled through have not been visited much, at least in recent times. But this area is part of a route known by anthropologists as the High Trail, one of the paths taken 10,000 years ago by those who traveled across the Bering Sea ice bridge from Asia to North America, back when the last ice age was receding. People traveled south along the high ridges because they are rich in game (as we observed ourselves) and because this saved them from making constant ascents and descents. Today this trail is mostly hard to access unless you go in on a trip such as Wayne’s.

It is staggering to think most empires in history were built on horseback. Have you ever packed a pack horse and then ridden all day? It is not easy. It makes an hour of boot camp seem leisurely. The Hollywood movies of empire and the wild west don’t show each morning’s 3-hour process of building a fire, making breakfast, packing and striking camp, evening out the panniers and and luggage, and saddling the pack and saddle horses. Every morning we’d wake at 6:00 am; one day we broke a record by riding out of camp at 9:45. Then you ride all day, and do it all again, but in reverse order except for the fire, which always happens first.

The Northern Rockies are beautiful, quite strange and ancient. They are older than the Southern Rockies, containing rock from near the beginning of the world, long before life forms, before shells, before fossils. They come to an end just south of the Yukon border.

For more information about each photo, click to reach Flickr page.

Tuchodi Lakes - map
Above, the red pin drop shows Tuchodi Lakes, end point of 13 day trip. Dotted line above is Yukon border, and you can also just make out the yellow line of the Alaska Highway. (Green pin drop is Liard River Hot Springs; photos near bottom.) Click photo for bigger version.

My horse, Spunky
Spunky, my horse for the trip. He was given his name after surviving a 2 month-long pack horse trip while badly wounded in the shoulder as a foal. His mother Hazel is the pack’s lead mare, needed for keeping the pack string together, so she had to make the trip. Spunky had to go with her as he was not yet weaned.  He does have a sort of messed up front left shoulder, as you can see in the photo, but he’s fine.  The funny thing is that I asked Wayne for a spunky horse last January and Spunky is what I got.

Most of Wayne’s horses were saved from meat auctions. They get the entire long winter off, so they lead good lives. Some of them are a bit young or feral, or as Wayne diplomatically puts it, “unsophisticated.”

Cariboo in the high alpine
Curious, almost fearless cariboo approach us in the high alpine. Brian on Comet, John on Hazel. This is part of the High Trail.

Arriving at the Tuchodi River
Tuchodi River, Wayne answering a question about geology. In the foreground, an authentic stetson—there’s a pleasing irony in a First Nations man wearing a hat that apparently used to be known as an “Indian killer.”

Donna on the trail
Behind me on the pack string. Kailo, poet Donna Kane on Bucky, followed by Chrissy, Lock It, Mel, and way behind, Levi. Fording overflow from the Tuchodi River which was running high.

Donna in the pack string
Donna riding with some of the 10 pack horses

Moss campion, striped rocks at Henry Creek
 Moss campion at Henry Creek with striped rocks characteristic of the Rockies, which were created when ancient sedimentation was pushed high up by the collision of the earth’s plates

View from tent, Henry Creek
View from tent at Henry Creek

Percy's mane with dreads from the winter
Dreadlocks in Percy’s mane. The horses graze wild all winter on beautiful land in Rolla BC, so at the beginning of the summer their manes are matted. I spent hours untangling their manes so as not to have to cut all the dreads out, collecting any dead hair that came out to make horsehair bracelets for the group. Interestingly the horses, though a bit wild, seem to enjoy having their manes worked on. Instead of protesting they seem to go into some sort of trance, and soon the other horses drift over to watch or line up. They seem to want the contact. I was going to be on Percy  but in the end he went to Bruce Kirkby, travel and adventure writer for the Globe and Mail and the tallest rider. I did ride him into the Sweetgrass 905 Music Festival the week before our trip, as part of Wayne’s pack-horse packing demonstration at the fest.

Lock It and Hank
Lock It and Hank the day before the trip. Not shy.

Mel basking in high alpine
My favourite of all the pack and riding horses – friendly Mel, basking in evening sun in a high alpine meadow

Muskwa-Kechika, John Keller fording river on Hazel
Fording one of many creeks, John of the BC Nature Trust on Hazel. Hazel is the lead mare, the decision maker for the pack. She usually brought up the rear. 

Muskwa-Kechika, in the high alpine
Brian training Comet on the trail

Muskwa-Kechika, lunchtime on the high alpine trail
Lunch in alpine meadow. Lunch is whatever you pack in the morning and can fit in your saddlebags. There’s no unpacking the pack horses during the day. And usually you’re completely starving.

Muskwa-Kechika, Spunky on the trail
Spunky on the trail in a mossy valley wood

Gataga and friends grazing at night
Every night the horses are let loose, with some of them hobbled and 4 of them belled so they don’t wander too far and can be found in the morning. They stay in packs so you don’t have to hobble them all. That’s Gataga with a bell on – the prettiest horse in the pack. He always looks as if he’s wearing silver eyeliner.

Percy in stand of aspen, Tuchodi Lakes
Percy at 9 pm on the last night in a beautiful stand of white-barked aspen. It was quiet except for the trembling of the leaves. It’s beyond mysterious in there, as if an elf from Lord of the Rings could suddenly walk by on the way to Rivendell. I wanted to say goodbye to the horses so I hiked to find them. When I started untangling Percy’s mane for the last time, the whole pack string crowded around and all you could hear was their breathing.

Ed, sleeping off 13 hard days
Ed did very well on a very strenuous trip, partly by taking advantage of every chance to sleep off all the running. He was so camouflaged on this beach we kept tripping over him.

Urs arriving at E. Tuchodi L. camp to pick us up
The famed Urs picked us up in his Twin Otter to take us from Tuchodi Lake back to Muncho Lake on the Alaska Highway. Urs came here with his wife decades ago from Switzerland and bought the Northern Rockies Lodge. He pilots most flights in this region and knows it intimately.

Landing on Muncho Lake in Urs's Twin Otter
Approaching Muncho Lake by Twin Otter. That’s the Alaska Highway down there.

Landing on Muncho Lake in Urs's Twin Otter
Muncho Lake

Landing on Muncho Lake in Urs's Twin Otter

Landing on Muncho Lake in Urs's Twin Otter

Full moon, last night of trip
Full Moon, last night in the Rockies

Liard Hot Springs - ferns close up
Ferns and horsetail at Liard River Hot Springs

Liard Hot Springs
Liard River Hot Springs

Fort Nelson News' business section just called "Oil and Gas"
Back in Fort Nelson, waiting for flight back to Vancouver. The Fort Nelson News doesn’t have a Business section. They just call that topic “Oil and Gas.” I don’t think most people in Southern B.C. have any clue that much of the NE of the province is effectively oil patch. It’s another world up there.

Dinners Cancelled Until September

Monday, June 18th, 2012


Sign seen today in Pouce Coupe, near Dawson Creek, B.C., with my friend Brian.

Letter from Dorothy Field to Stephen Harper

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Letter from my friend Dorothy to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the question of his profoundly anti-democratic omnibus “budget bill” C-38. The bill’s major intent, among many nefarious minor intents, is to obliterate environmental groups and their opposition to the Alberta tar sands and its pipelines. Dorothy is right; Harper has badly misjudged the people and province of British Columbia. Our province is not-so-secretly a main target of the bill, but Harper has forgotten that this region spawned both Greenpeace and Adbusters out of its special and evergreen form of fractious dissent.

This letter is filed under “all time great letter of complaint” department. (For text version of letter, see the comments.)

[For those unfamiliar with this issue, all you have to know is that oil from the vast Alberta Tar Sands must be shipped out of Alberta and across someone’s else’s territory, and that now means B.C. With the defeat of the Keystone Pipeline that was to move oil south to (and through) the USA, that oil must now traverse British Columbia to the Pacific to get to market. This would require pipelines through mountainous (and earthquake-prone) territory, then into tankers that must traverse Hecate Strait, the 4th most dangerous stretch of water in the world, as well as the rough waters of the entire BC coast. The Enbridge Pipeline is the most publicized but there is also the existing Kinder Morgan pipeline, through which a new quintupling of oil will be travelling right to Vancouver and then through Vancouver harbour by tanker. Meanwhile, BC is being promised very little economic benefit and what’s worse, no assurance of aid in cleanup for pipeline and tanker spills that are, as history has shown us, 100% likely. Not only that, but Tar Sands oil is particularly toxic, containing bitumen/solvents to make it flow. See “Kalamazoo spill” to understand bitumen toxicity. Those tankers, by the way, pass less than a mile from my place in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.]