Our first attempt to go on the boat tour of the freshwater fiord in Gros Morne did not go as scheduled because of torrents of rain and lightning. However, once the weather cleared, we went on a hike on the Coastal Trail near Green Point, south of the fiord. This cobbled beach trail is flat and runs right along the coast off the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We saw marshy ponds and passed tuckamore forests. Tuckamore is the Newfoundland word for stunted spruce and balsam fir trees that grow by the coast and in mountainous areas.
We did not take the full 6 km return hike, because we could see more thunderstorms brewing in the distance and travelling toward us. Since we were on totally open ground, we felt it was safest to turn around. We were among several other hikers, all of us doing the return hike in record time. This trail has stayed with me for its haunting atmosphere. I found it of great beauty.
I’ve just returned from nearly three weeks in beautiful Newfoundland. Many posts to come from the east and west of the island. This hike near Mad Rock was terrific. Views of the ocean, dramatic rocks and rolling terrain. We loved the signs we encountered, particularly this one. It was near here, on rocks by the ocean, that we saw whales nearby. Our best guess is that they were minke whales.
On our second day at Bruce Peninsula National Park, we hiked 5.2 km around Cyprus Lake. We went through woods by the water and I photographed many wild flowers that I’ll be posting soon. The walking was easy and the day cool, great for a hike.
Last weekend I went to Kortright Centre for Conservation for a walk in the woods. The day was cool and sunny—perfect weather for hiking in comfort. The woods were a vibrant green, a little deeper in hue than the first yellow green of spring.
I photographed the woods and stream in colour and when I wanted to emphasize patterns, I moved to black and white.
As always, when I am at Kortright, I felt a great sense of peacefulness to be in those welcoming woods, so close to Toronto and yet in a world so different.
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.
On our first full day in the Canadian Rockies in early September (after Labour Day), we went on the Johnston Canyon trail. It was a cloudy, drizzly day and we joined many walkers on the cool, shaded trail. This is one that many people would find quite do-able, particularly the lower trail. There were elderly as well as young people, including some with babies in strollers. The presence of other people did not diminish the beauty of the canyon which we found to be a great introduction to Banff National Park.
We eventually took the upper trail, which lead us to deep ochre coloured rocks. There we spoke to a couple from Great Britain who were delighted, as we were, by the beauty we were in. We did not continue on to the inkpots but will likely do so on a future visit.
The drizzle turned to rain as we retraced our steps, watching our footing on slippery rocks. Despite the chill and dampness, I felt the trees, rocks and water giving me a feeling of well-being and calling to me to learn more about the history of this dramatic part of the country.
When I travelled to the Canadian Rockies in September with my husband, we went to Lake Louise several times and twice hiked the trail to the Plain of Six Glaciers as far as the teahouse. I found the lake and the mountains deeply beautiful.
Our first glimpse of Lake Louise was on a sunny day the week following Labour Day. We had heard that the crowds thin out then, but there were still many of us tourists out to see Louise. I had seen photos of her since moving to Canada in the 1970s and expected the pathway we took to the left of the hotel, down from the upper parking lot, to lead us to a trail to her. However, we were surprised as we walked around a bend to find that spectacular scene right in front of us. Here we joined scores of other tourists strolling, gaping and taking photos with large and small cameras and cell phones.
However, we soon left the throngs and walked, with increasingly fewer people, along the lake and up to the trail. We decided to return earlier the next day to hike to the plain of the six glaciers when we had plenty of time. And that’s what we did, stopping often to take in the blessed beauty and to take photos. Other hikers were out walking and we let them pass us as we continued our slow climb, sometimes exchanging a word or two about the beauty surrounding us.
I owe something to Richard Louv who wrote The Nature Principle that I’ve written about. And that is, I am much more accepting of finding other humans on nature trails than I was in the past. That is because he spoke of the extreme importance of people being in nature to care about it enough to want to preserve it.
On the way up the trail we saw golden mantle ground squirrels, who likely saw us as bringers of food. One day I saw a pika which I identified later in a guide book as the small animal I’d seen with round ears–a member of the rabbit family. We saw grey jays and ravens. Earlier, at the base of the lake we’d seen another bird–clark’s nutcracker.
The mountains and glaciers surrounded us. We saw walls of nearly vertical rock and glacial streams of cascading water flowing into streams that led to the lake. At times we were accompanied by rumbling and witnessed a distant avalanche on what I believe was Mt. Victoria. At one point the trail took us on a narrow ledge by a cliff with steel ropes which were comforting to hang on to.
The path itself was generally not rough, but it was a steep climb at times for us, who are moderate day hikers well past our physical youth. By the end, we went very slowly, but made it to the plain and the teahouse there—a wooden building in the conifers with Tibetan prayer flags blowing in the breeze. There, at an altitude of over 6000 feet and after hours of walking, we rewarded ourselves with tea and sandwiches looking out through the deep green of the trees. We stood later, squinting into the sun at the glaciers, and I was able to see the tiny shapes of mountain goats that another visitor pointed out. A raven croaked energetically from the top of a dead tree and the sun was warm on us. I can feel the clear atmosphere now as I write in Toronto.
Then, it was down slowly in the late afternoon, retracing our steps and seeing the land, the heights from a new perspective. Lake Louise gradually came into sight and the rock wall that climbers had earlier been scaling. Greeting us were reflections in the opal water of the calm lake. Those days in the midst of the extreme beauty of earth on the plain of the six glaciers trail and at Lake Louise brought me great solace and a feeling of inner light. They remain with me still and give me strength.