Friday 28 May 2010

Waterton National Park


Waterton National Park is in the south-western portion of the Province of Alberta.

Some time ago, in the early 70s, I was on a road trip with my mother to central Montana and swinging back through part of Glacier National Park and into Waterton National Park. What intrigued me about the scenery was the near absence of foothills before the mountains. They seem to just be there without any of the fanfare from the foothills I was accustomed to in the Calgary and Nanton areas of southern Alberta. The photos posted reflect this.

In early 2009 I posted two hiking trails in Waterton: The Wall Lake Trail and the Snowshoe Trail.

Later in the summer I will be posting about other hiking trails in this area.


Photo Credits: I1][2]-Gord McKenna CC=nc-nd-flickr. Click to enlarge.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Icefields Parkway in May

The long Victoria weekend in May used to be the time I would make a quick trip to the mountains to see Banff, and if the weather was clear and sunny, to take a drive up slightly past the Athabasca Glacier. The amount of snow is variable from year to year, and it is wise to keep snow tires on the vehicle. I used to take chains with my truck for just in case.

The reason for this post today after the long weekend has passed? In Toronto the temperature sits at 30C (87F) with a humidex of 35C (96F). Unusual weather for the season, as it should be much cooler. Looking at glaciers and snow provides a mental chill if nothing else. It has a beauty of its own complete with potential danger of avalanches should some unwary driver honk their vehicle horn.

This photo is taken from a vehicle on the Icefields Parkway heading south toward Bow Lake.

For those sweltering: enjoy.

Phoyo Credit: karenwithak CC=nc-nd-flickr, taken May 22, 2009. Click to enlarge.

Monday 24 May 2010

Panther Falls

During a trip to the Canadian Rockies, in 1907, Mary Schaffer wrote of hearing a distant roar while on the trail up to Wilcox Pass. Across the valley through the trees she discovered: “a lovely little fall may be seen apparently bursting through the solid rock.” Later that day Mary’s group found that a panther had followed their trail for some distance, and so the falls were named after this wild cat.*

The Panther Falls are located just below the Bridal Veil Falls on the Icefields Parkway. The Bridal Veil Falls viewpoint is located on the east side of highway 93, 9.0km (5.5mi) south of the Banff-Jasper Park boundary at Sunwapta Pass. At the lower end of the viewpoint walk downhill to the trail sign atop an earthen barrier. The trail drops down through a number of switchbacks in forest to a muddy slope where the falls can be viewed. Take care as the ground can be quite slippery and hazardous to the unwary.

Photo Credit: Anile P CC=nc-nd-flickr. Please click to enlarge.

Research: * Old Indian Trails of the Canadian Rockies by Mary T. S. Schaffer, 1911, p.50.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Mt. Andromeda and the Athabasca Glacier

This photo shows another angle of Mt. Andromeda (see previous post) in relation to the Athabasca Glacier and the Columbia Icefields. It was taken from the Icefields Parkway.

I find it distressing that the toe of the glacier is so far from the highway. During my childhood my family vacationed in Banff and Jasper National Parks every summer, and I recall using the old Highway 1A as a major route before the TransCanada was put in. In the early 1960s the toe of the glacier was much closer to the pavement than it is now. And the ice and snow on Mt. Andromeda is reduced as well. The Athabasca Glacier seems insignificant to me now, despite the mass of ice remaining below Mt. Columbia.

In 1896 the toe of the Athabasca Glacier was past the location of the Icefields Information Centre blocking the entire valley. Travellers and the early aboriginals used Wilcox Pass to bypass the glacier and the Sunwapta Gorge.

Photo Credit: Alaskan Dude CC=flickr. Please click to enlarge.

Friday 14 May 2010

Icefields Parkway

This photo is looking southeast near the Icefields Parkway in Jasper National Park near the Columbia Icefield. The snow covered mountain to the left is Mount Athabasca (3491m) (11,454ft) and the mountain to the right of it is Mount Andromeda (3450m) (11,319ft). Almost all of Mount Athabasca is above treeline.

Norman Collie and Hermann Woolley completed the first ascent of Mount Athabasca on August 18, 1898. Collie described a vast icefield that stretched westward and surrounded by unknown peaks.

A nearby trail to Wilcox Pass will be covered in an upcoming Hiking Trails post.

Photo Credit: Feffel CC=nc-sa-flickr.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

The Tavernier Stones by Stephen Parrish (Book Review)


When the body of seventeenth-century mapmaker Johannes Cellarius floats to the surface of a bog in northern Germany with a 57-carat ruby clutched in his fist, the grisly discovery ignites a deadly twenty-first century international treasure hunt to unearth the fabled Tavernier stones. The hoard reputedly contains some of the world’s most notorious missing jewels, including the 280-carat Great Mogul diamond and the 242-carat Great Table diamond.

Scrupulously honest Amish-born cartographer John Graf teams up with outlaw prospector and gemologist David Freeman in a ferocious race to find the treasure and break a secret code that will unravel the centuries-old Tavernier stones mystery. But other fortune hunters, opportunists and criminals alike, are in hot pursuit of the mismatched partners—and they’ll stop at nothing to possess the legendary jewels.

For a first novel this is a terrific beginning for an up and coming author. There were instances within that made me laugh until I could barely breathe as Mr. Parrish’s wry wit came forth. He deftly wove detailed descriptions of cartography and gemology in with the sub-plots of the other characters, bent on discovering the jewels for themselves at any cost which added to the suspense. All of the characters were well rounded and true to their natures: John Graf, though na├»ve about some things, had good common sense to guide him through some tricky situations; David Freeman, jewel thief extraordinaire, and his girl friend, Susan Saint-James. The good guys were put to the test to come through and the bad guys were very, very wicked.

This book has everything I love to read and lose myself in: adventure, crime, mystery, historical aspects and suspense combined with codes, maps and treasure. I especially liked the detailed background of mapmaking and gemology blended in to give the story more depth. When the ending came I hoped that Mr. Parrish has another John Graf story up his sleeve. This character deserves to live in perpetuity.

I recommend this book whole heartedly. It’s a book that can be read multiple times without losing the humour of the jokes or the suspense that carries through to the end. And the bonus to getting this book is the Treasure Hunt.

The Tavernier Stones website contains an armchair treasure hunt for a real diamond! One carat is waiting for the persevering sleuth who can crack the cipher from clues presented within the English version of The Tavernier Stones and those found on the website. Happy hunting.

Thank you, Stephen, for providing a copy for me to review. It will sit among my other favourite books in my bookcase.

Book Format: Paperback, 371 pages
Publisher: Midnight Ink Books

Author website: Stephen Parrish

Published: May 1, 2010

Available at:


Wednesday 5 May 2010

Hiking Trails - Stanley Glacier

Stanley Glacier is located in Kootenay National Park in British Columbia.

This trail is classified as being moderate, consisting of 9 km (5.6 miles) roundtrip. This is a relatively short and moderately steep hike of a half-day taking the hiker up to a hanging valley with a glacier behind it.

Elevation gain: 395m (1296 ft).

The trail head is on Hwy 93, 3.2 km west of the Banff and Kootenay National Parks borders at a parking area on the east side of the highway.

[1- please click to enlarge]

[2 - please click to enlarge]

When walking through an old burn it is advisable to pay attention to the direction of the wind and its speed. The dead trees pose a hazard to the unwary hiker: by falling down or branches snapping off.

[3 - please click to enlarge]

[4 - please click to enlarge]

[5 - Indian paintbrush - please click to enlarge]

[6 - please click to enlarge]

[7 - Hawk on trail - click to enlarge]

[8 - Pika - please click to enlarge]

These little critters are also known as 'rock rabbits', resembling chinchillas. They have a sharp whistle when danger approaches their nesting area, often tucked between rocks, and in meadows will burrow into the ground to produce their young.

[9 - please click to enlarge]

At 1 km up the trail Stanley Creek drains into a waterfall.

[10 - please click to enlarge]

At the 2 km mark, the hiker crosses over Stanley Creek on a log bridge which is the first opportunity to see the Stanley Glacier.

[11 - Stanley Creek - please click to enlarge]

[12 - Stanley Creek drainage - click to enlarge]

From here the creek is mainly underground. Continue along the east side of the trail bed to the tree line.

[13 - Wolf in meadow - please click to enlarge]

The photographer took a chance in taking this photo, as this wolf with its head lowered is feeling threatened.

[14 - please click to enlarge]

[15 - please click to enlarge]

[16 - Stanley Glacier waterfall over wall - please click to enlarge]

[17 - Stanley Glacier and waterfall - please click to enlarge]

[18 - Another view of the Stanley Creek drainage - please click to enlarge]

[19 - Head of the Valley - please click to enlarge]

[20 - Looking back]

[21 - Stanley Glacier - please click to enlarge]

Mount Stanley [3,090m (10,138ft.)] was named in 1927 by J. Monroe Thorington after Henry Morton Stanley. Henry Stanley’s most famous expedition was to Africa where he searched for and found David Livingstone near Lake Tanganika where he had been recovering from an illness contracted during his quest to find the source of the Nile River. Lord Stanley’s name is best known as the hockey prize, the Stanley Cup.

At the 4.2km mark follow the trail up the stone stairs crossing the talus scree slope.

[22 - please click to enlarge. Note on right side of photo the trail winds over the scree. Here the hiker has to watch out for possible falling rocks.]

[23 - Scree needs care in crossing - please click to enlarge]

[24 - Looking back down Stanley Glacier valley - please click to enlarge]

[25 - Stanley Glacier - please click to enlarge]

[26 - What remains of Stanley Glacier - please click to enlarge]

At 4.5km the trail ends at the marker.

[27 - please click to enlarge]

On the other side of Mount Stanley is Mount Ball which was posted in a previous hike here.

[28 - Looking down the Stanley Glacier valley with Mount Whymper in background - please click to enlarge]

Mount Whymper is 2845m (9334ft.) tall and is located in the upper Vermilion River Valley between Tokumm River and Chickadee Valley. It was named in 1901 after Edmund Whymper, made famous following his ascent of the Matterhorn in the Alps.

[29 - Another view of the Stanley Glacier valley - please click to enlarge]

[30 - Hiking out from Stanley Glacier - please click to enlarge]

Before venturing out on any trail in Kootenay National Park it is best to check the trail conditions first. The current conditions for Stanley Glacier are: “Snowbound and icy. Be very careful. Slippery sections! Avalanche danger.”

Also check for a Bear Update as in early May they have just crawled out of their winter dens and are HUNGRY.

Research: ParksCanada

Photo Credits: [1][29]-openq CC=nc-flickr, [2]-anastaz1a CC=nc-sa-flickr, [3][4][6][7][8][9][10][13][23][24][25][27]-jtbradford CC=nc-flickr, [5][11][19][20][26]-A tea but no e CC=flickr, [12][17][18]-Steve Corbato CC=nc-sa-flickr,[14][15][16][21][22][28][30]-brilang CC=nc-sa-flickr.

Monday 3 May 2010

Slow Death by Rubber Duck by Rick Smith, Bruce Lourie and Sarah Dopp (Book Review)

From the publisher:

“Funny, thought-provoking, hopeful, and incredibly disturbing, Slow Death by Rubber Duck is an alarming yet informative book about the toxic elements around us. It reveals that just the living of daily life creates a chemical soup inside each of us, and empowers readers by offering some simple ideas for how they can protect themselves and their families and change things for the better.”

What intrigued me about this book was that the two authors, both environmentalists, Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, decided on a whim to expose themselves with a variety of chemicals and see what kind of test results might be produced. They wanted to know what kind of chemical toxins their children were exposed to. These chemicals are ones that everyone is exposed to on a daily basis and all of them are toxic to the human body. It made me aware that toxins in the products available to consumers have more impact on a personal level than other environmental concerns such as global warming and oil spills. And it is very, very scary that corporations care more about their profit margin than the current health and future health of the consumers that purchase their products. It’s also appalling corporations get away with this.

Although I had already changed some brands of my daily toiletries and cosmetics to ones that have less toxic substances in them, this book provided a real eye opener to others. For example, “flame-retardant chemicals from electronics and household dust polluting our blood; toxins in our urine caused by leaching from plastics, run-of-the-mill shampoos, toothpastes and deodorants; mercury in our blood from eating tuna; and the chemicals that build up in our body when carpets and upholstery off-gas.”

When did this start? When companies brainwashed consumers through advertisements that they needed these products to have a cleaner, safer home and neighbourhood environment. Early ads for DDT told families it was safe to use, and later it was discovered not to be safe at all. Use Teflon so your eggs don’t stick! Use flame retardant clothing on your children in case they play with matches!

The topic seems to be overwhelming, but the light approach taken by the authors provides information and a variety of avenues the consumer can make to change their choice of products in order to limit their exposure and that of their children. They explain about their research into several of the more toxic products on the market: Teflon coated frying pans; triclosan in toothpaste, cosmetics and a variety of other household products, toys, water; PCBs, PBDEs, phthalates in food, food processing, household products, toys and other products. There is medical research outlining triclosan’s “interference on thyroid activity”. Further, “In Scandinavia, government officials have discouraged the use of triclosan as a result of possible endocrine disruption as well as potential bacterial resistance.”

Many chemical manufacturers continue to produce substances which are considered by the Environmental Protection Act [EPA][U.S.] to be hazardous waste materials. These substances are used in food, clothing, cosmetics, fragrances, household items, toys and other products.

People need knowledge of the information that is provided by this book to help provide change in the products consumers purchase. There are various websites listed and intelligent insights about the research conducted on the various products within the book. The authors have provided a positive approach for others to take control of reducing their exposure to harmful toxins.

To assist in remembering which plastic containers are safe to use, the authors made a mantra of “5, 4, 2, 1: all the rest are bad for you.” They also provide a “handy plastics guide” containing the recycling symbol, plastic type and description.

It is important for consumers to be aware of any possible health risks in the use of certain products by providing full disclosure on the package about the ingredients/chemicals within before they are purchased. Consumers have the right to make a well informed decision about any product available especially when there is the possibility of exposing young vulnerable children to it.

This book is a MUST READ for all parents, prospective parents and care givers. Please enlighten yourself about the products you use.

"A fascinating and frightening read leavened by frequent references to pop culture--everything from Saturday Night Live episodes to quotes from Miss Marple--as well as the authors' brio in using their own bodies as test subjects."
The Globe and Mail

"Alarming, engrossing, and just plain loony at times, their experiments drive home just how mundanely day-to-day our mass chemical poisoning has become."
Adria Vasil, author of Ecoholic

About the authors:

RICK SMITH is one of Canada's leading environmentalists and executive director of Environmental Defence. He holds a doctorate in biology from the University of Guelph.

BRUCE LOURIE is an environmental professional with expertise in toxic pollution and mercury. He works closely with governments, businesses, foundations and non-profit organizations. He is president of the Ivey Foundation.

SARAH DOPP is a veteran grassroots organizer, political staffer, and campaigner.

They all live in Toronto.

Book format: Paperback, 340 pages
Publisher: Vintage Canada, an imprint of RandomHouse Canada


Available at: