Political Drama, Sombre Thoughts & Ordinary BeautyPosted: November 29, 2012 Filed under: Animal Life, Plant Life, Toronto | Tags: beauty, Canada, clouds, natural world, nature, Ontario, pigeons, politics, sky, Toronto, trees Leave a comment
Earlier this week in Toronto, our mayor was ordered out of office by a judge who found him guilty of conflict of interest. The mayor is going to appeal the decision, so we’ll see what next unfolds in this political drama.
Out on my rambles, I contemplate political turmoil and photograph the sky, the patterns of the bare branches, the late fall gardens and pigeons in flight. Often my thoughts turn to the times we live in, where so much of the natural world is in peril, threatening all our health and lives. Both the wonder and the terribleness of life are present every day. As much as I can, I like to be open to ordinary beauty, while not denying that the peril exists.
Today, I’m including photos I’ve taken both in recent weeks and earlier this week. And, after lunch, I’ll be out on a walk again.
Peyto LakePosted: November 24, 2012 Filed under: Canadian Rockies, Plant Life, Water | Tags: Alberta, Banff National Park, beauty, Canada, Canadian Rockies, conifers, fir, forest, glacier, Icefields Parkway, mountains, nature, Peyto Glacier, Peyto Lake, Rocky Mountains, spruce, trees Leave a comment
We had heard that Peyto Lake was a beautiful spot, so we turned off the Icefields Parkway 40 kms after its southernmost end to see the lake. The trail was steep but not too long. We took our time, among other travelers, walking up to the Bow Summit, past many fir and spruce trees. Interpretive signs pointed out the differences between these two most prevalent conifers prompting us to attempt to identify which tree we were near at any one time. This became a playful exercise throughout our trip. I am very much in the dark about so much of what I see in nature and wanted to begin learning even the simplest of things to enlarge my horizons. I believe the photo I’m including of conifers on the trail shows a subalpine fir in the centre.
When we arrived at the lookout point, we joined our fellow hikers to look out on the mountains and distinctively shaped blue green lake. For someone like me who has not grown up in such land, the beauty was almost shocking. At the summit was an interpretive sign, this one about the Peyto glacier, which originally carved out the shape of the valley and the bowl of Peyto Lake. During the past century or so, the glacier that once filled the valley has receded about two kilometres. And before the glacier materialized, there stood a forest in its place. This was revealed through the discovery of 3000 year old wood fragments under the ice.
Icefields Parkway, AlbertaPosted: November 20, 2012 Filed under: Animal Life, Canadian Rockies | Tags: Alberta, beauty, bighorn sheep, Bow Lake, Canada, Canadian Rockies, Icefields Parkway, Jasper, Lake Louise, mountains, nature, Num Ti Jah Lodge, rivers, Rocky Mountains, steep incline 2 Comments
The Icefields Parkway in Alberta begins, at its southern end, a little north of Lake Louise. It extends 230 kilometres north to Jasper. We took the Parkway, route 93, twice this past September during our time in the Rockies. Both days were sunny a good bit of the time with the trip northbound being colder. The land that we drove through, stopped and walked in was intensely beautiful. So much so, that although we followed the advice of others and took our time, we were still emotionally exhausted by the time we arrived in Jasper.
Again, many of the photos I took are of mountains whose names I don’t know. However, the force of their beauty has remained with me. I’ll have separate posts on Peyto Lake, Athabasca Falls and Wilcox Pass trail. Among the photos I’ve included today is one of the Bow Lake area plus the sweeping vistas that we looked down upon after the Parkway had climbed and doubled back on itself. These last were some of my favourite views.
I have no photos of a few wonderful minutes on our trip south when many bighorn sheep stopped cars in both directions. The animals crossed the road and leapt over the guardrail proceeding down the side of a steep incline. One, in particular, looked through the car window as I returned his or her gaze. Seeing them was a reminder that we are the migrants in their habitat.
Burgess Shale FossilsPosted: November 16, 2012 Filed under: Animal Life, Canadian Rockies, Mineral World | Tags: beauty, British Columbia, Burgess Shale, Burgess Shale Fossils, Canada, Canadian Rockies, fossils, Mt. Stephen, Mt. Wapta, paleontology, Rocky Mountains, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Yoho National Park 4 Comments
When we were in Field, B.C. this summer, I first heard about the Burgess Shale fossils in Yoho National Park. The Burgess Shale quarries have been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Indeed, the entire park is part of a World Heritage Site. Because of the force of the land’s beauty, I bought a small book, A Geoscience Guide to The Burgess Shale by Murray Coppold and Wayne Powell to begin learning about the fossils. I’m using that book and How Old is That Mountain? by Chris Yorath as references in this post.
The name Burgess Shale refers to a segment of layered rocks, called a formation. It’s within this particular formation that the fossils of well preserved soft bodied creatures were found. This is a big deal because it’s much more common to find only the skeletons of animals without their soft tissues being preserved.
The Burgess Shale fossils were first found in 1909 on a ridge between Wapta Mountain and Mt. Field. And on nearby Mt. Stephen, many trilobite fossils have been found. I’ve compared my photos of mountains in the area to several online photos. From this comparison, I’ve included two photos I took that I believe show the area close to the the Burgess Shale fossil quarries as well as Mt. Stephen.
While I gather that there’s no one exact indication of the age of the fossils, the two books I’ve mentioned indicate they are between 530 and 505 million years old. In A Geoscience Guide to The Burgess Shale the authors compress the earth’s history into a single year to help us fathom the enormous sweep of time of the planet’s history. If the birth of the earth is imagined to be on January 1, then the animals of the Burgess Shale appear on November 20th. As a comparison, dinosaurs who seem incredibly old to us are more recent than the fossils, appearing between December 21st and 27th. And humanity’s ancestors appear at 9:07 p.m. on December 31st. Homo sapiens, our exact species, only appear on December 31st at a quarter to midnight! We are the newcomers on earth.
Because of my new interest, I indulged in the common tourist activity of buying a t-shirt memento of this part of our travels. The shirt has a rendition of some of the amazing looking fossilized creatures of the Burgess Shale. I look forward to wearing it around Toronto next spring and summer. I will certainly receive puzzled looks from people who are not paleontology buffs, wondering what on earth it’s about. What on earth, indeed!
On a Warm November DayPosted: November 13, 2012 Filed under: Mineral World, Ontario, Plant Life, Toronto | Tags: Brick Works, Canada, climate, Evergreen Brick Works, grass, Mineral World, nature, science, Toronto, trees Leave a comment
This past Sunday, Remembrance Day, was an unseasonably warm day of 18 degrees Celsius in Toronto–a record breaker. To take advantage of the warmth, in the afternoon we went to The Evergreen Brick Works. We walked along the railroad tracks, past milkweed and thistles and a disheartening array of tires dumped there.
At the Brick Works, we found that many people had the same idea as us and were strolling around the grounds and enjoying the day. The colours are now soft—mostly muted browns, beiges, yellows and greens.
At the North Slope of this once quarry was a Toronto Parks and Recreation sign noting the geology of the slope that reveals evidence of several ages of ice alternating with warm periods. The sign reads as follows:
-The North Slope is a geological feature of international significance.
-Professor A. P. Coleman, a world-renowned Toronto geologist, first identified the significance of this slope in 1894.
-This site was one of the first in the world to reveal a rare sequence of climate change. The deposits here indicate a glacial episode, followed by a period of climate slightly warmer than today’s, followed by another glacial episode, and lastly the climate of today.
There’s also a drawing on the sign indicating the age of the deposits that make up the North Slope. These range from the bedrock which is 448 million years old, to deposits over 135,000 years old and lastly to the most recent ones in the top layer which accumulated 13,000 – 50,000 years ago. I like to contemplate life from this other perspective—it certainly helps with a feeling a humility.
November’s Trees in TorontoPosted: November 10, 2012 Filed under: Plant Life, Toronto | Tags: autumn, beauty, branches, Canada, downtown Toronto, nature, November, streetcar, Toronto, trees Leave a comment
Recently, the days have been mostly grey in Toronto, with an unusual sunny day this past Thursday. It’s the dark time of the year, mid autumn, with the end of daylight savings time. Most of the leaves have fallen off the trees. As in every year, I turn to their branches as a source of beauty and connection to nature which I need in order to feel well.
In the neighbourhood are many trees and gardens that I walk among. But I’m always of the lookout, even downtown, for trees that soften the sometimes stark buildings. Here’s some photos from recent rambles.
Emerald LakePosted: November 7, 2012 Filed under: Animal Life, Canadian Rockies, Plant Life, Water | Tags: beauty, British Columbia, Canada, Canadian Rockies, chipmunk, Emerald Lake, moraine, mountains, rivers, Rocky Mountains, trees, woods, Yoho National Park Leave a comment
While in Yoho National Park in British Columbia this past September, we hiked around Emerald Lake. Emerald Lake, like Lake Louise, is a tarn formed in a basin surrounded by mountains into which melting glaciers have poured their water. And, like Lake Louise, it owes its green blue hue to rock flour. Rock flour is made of very fine particles that have been ground down by glaciers moving against bedrock and washed into the lakes.
The hike around the shore of Emerald Lake was level for the most part and not a strenuous trail, with some climbing near the end. We hiked here twice on our travels. The first time we went on a cloudy and cold day, while our second hike was in mixed cloud and sun.
This trail took us through varied landscapes. On one side of the lake is an open expanse of meadows and streams. I believe I am right in saying that this side is a moraine, that is, an area of gravel and sand washed down from the mountains by their glaciers over time. Here, the trail is paved and is wheel chair accessible. Having never been in the Rocky Mountains until this trip, I was very taken by the beauty of the streams and rivers at the base of mountains and stopped to look at these for a long time at Emerald Lake.
We continued on the trail which led around the other side of the lake through a lush forest reminiscent of west coast rainforests and unusual in this area. I loved this part of the trail, filled with the deep atmosphere of the woods through which we could see mountains on the far side of the lake. Living in Ontario, I am familiar with woods, but not with catching glimpses of enormous mountains beyond the trees. These sights always evoked in me a sense of mystery and awe.
Again, I took many photos and in late afternoon was drawn to the reflections of the mountains in the lake. I did not keep track of which mountain had which name—two of them being Wapta Mountain and Mt. Burgess—but they seem to have accepted my ignorance with good grace.
Field, B. C.Posted: November 3, 2012 Filed under: Animal Life, Canadian Rockies | Tags: B. C., beauty, birds, British Columbia, Canada, Canadian Rockies, Field, magpie, mountains, Rockies, Rocky Mountains, Yoho National Park 2 Comments
Back to the Rockies. When we hiked in Yoho National Park, we stayed in Field, B. C. Field is a tiny town of around 100 people on the eastern border of British Columbia with beautiful views of mountains. Our one sighting of a black bear was in Field. We were eating at the Truffle Pig Restaurant one evening (and greatly enjoying our meal) when another patron pointed to a small bear by the railroad tracks. Most of us got up to have a look. The next day, signs were posted that a young bear had been seen searching for food by the tracks, apparently separated from his or her mother. We were cautioned, for the bear’s safety and our own, not to approach the bear if we saw it again.
Field is on one side of railroad tracks. Directly on the other is the National Park Office which we went to several times to check on conditions before hiking. We heard about the Burgess Shale fossil finds for the first time at the Park Office. And this was, in part, responsible for my interest in the ancient history of the land. I’ll come back to this in a future post. In the National Park Office’s parking lot, we encountered many magpies walking about, likely also in search of food. Though magpies are common in the Rockies, we had never seen these birds before our trip and, to us, they were beautiful.
During our time in Field, the temperature fell to highs of 8 degrees Celsius with clouds and showers. But, after bundling up, we enjoyed our hikes to Wapta Falls and Emerald Lake which I’ll also tell you about in future posts.
Grasslands ProtectionPosted: November 2, 2012 Filed under: Grasslands, Plant Life | Tags: Canada, Community Pasture Program, Grasslands, Grasslands National Park, hike, lichen, natural world, nature, plains, prairie, prairies, Rocks, Saskatchewan, saskatchewan canada, wildflowers 8 Comments
Recently I learned that our Canadian federal government has cut a prairie land protection program called the Community Pasture Program. The government is turning care for grasslands outside the national park over to the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. There are people concerned about Saskatchewan’s plans to sell what remains of this fragile landscape at market value rates. They fear that much of what is left of the grasslands could be lost to development of different types and have started a petition to speak up for the continued protection of this land.
I do not live on the prairies but have travelled to Saskatchewan three times over the past few years. There we drove through vast plains and grasslands and hiked in the Grasslands National Park. What we experienced was a hauntingly beautiful land. Contrary to what I’d heard for years, I did not find the plains of Saskatchewan boring. While they are not dramatic like the Rockies, the grasslands have the deep, elemental feel of sky and land seen over huge distances. We felt in the presence of something ancient.
In Grasslands National Park, where we hiked on rolling hills and up buttes, we saw stones patterned by lichen, wildflowers, mule deer, sky and land in full circles as far as the eye could see. We felt a deep connection to this unadorned land and to life.
Generally, when looking at protecting parts of nature, people take different sides and fight with one another. We are divided by politics and by economics among all the other things we humans cannot agree on. However, I wonder whether we share something in common. And that is, a love of some aspect of nature, be it land or water, light or clouds, trees, flowers, other animals or, in this case, grasslands. This can only happen if we have had the chance to experience nature first hand in a way that matters to us and have not been deprived of the experience, say, in city neighbourhoods devoid of nature.
And although I write using the dividing words human and nature, I return to my first blog post where I thought we could use a new word to unite us—something like humanature. Because, although nature is generally defined as the world other than human, we are animals and a part of nature. If we learn to see ourselves and our place on earth in this way, new perspectives open from the question: why should I care if such and such a part of the natural world disappears, goes extinct or is polluted. If we see ourselves as part of nature, the protection of other parts of the natural world is really a protection of ourselves. Perhaps this seems far-fetched or poetic in the face of daily concerns with making a living and just getting by. However, I don’t think so. I believe that to save and restore what we call the natural world is actually a way of saving and revitalizing humanity.