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Yukon & NWT: To the Arctic Circle and Beyond July 2018

Twelve days: Whitehorse to Dawson City by bus, fly to Inuvik, split the group into two – half goes down the Mackenzie River by boat while the other half takes a low altitude scenic flight, in Tuktoyaktuk the two groups switch, from Inuvik fly back to Dawson via Old Crow, from Dawson drive Top of the World Highway through Chicken Alaska down to Haines Junction and finally back to Whitehorse. Before leaving the north, catch the White Pass – Skagway narrow gauge railroad in Fraser, bus back to Whitehorse from Skagway. Great trip!

Best of the Rockies By Rail June 2018

Over 12 days beginning in late June, I led a wonderful group of Road Scholars on a trip that began in Calgary and ended in Vancouver. Most of the trip was by motor coach but two days were spent on the Rocky Mountaineer. This segment of the trip commenced in Jasper and ended in Vancouver. Personal highlights included the visit to the Glenbow Museum, a hike around Fenland Trail in Banff, a spontaneous snowball fight at the Peyto Lake viewpoint (yep, more than a foot of snow fell despite the fact it was early July!), playing the part of a poacher applying for a park warden position in the early days of the national parks, the stunning sculpted landscape of the Fraser Canyon as seen from the Rocky Mountaineer, tasting whiskies on Granville Island after drinking in the eye-candy of the Public Market, and the mind-boggling architecture of high rises in Vancouver. Be sure to check out Vancouver House promoted as a total work of art. It’s unbelievable.

This was a repeat of a trip I led in 2016 so some of the highlights mentioned above I had already captured images of.

Haida Gwaii and Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve June 2018

In June, I joined the crew of the Maple Leaf and seven guests for 2 days exploring Graham Island and then 6 days spent visiting various Haida village sites throughout Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. Highlights of the trip were the visit to the Haida Heritage Centre, sighting a pod of rare Risso’s Dolphins, witnessing some unusual feeding behaviour by two humpback whales very close to a shoreline, conversations with Haida watchmen, observing tufted puffins, and encountering the amazing intertidal life within Burnaby Narrows. All in all, a fabulous trip!

Gulf Islands National Park and the Salish Sea April 2018

Once again, I was on board the MV Swell, a converted classic tug, owned and operated by Maple Leaf Adventures, serving as naturalist on two back-to-back trips among the Southern Gulf Islands. Several highlights from the trips, include getting an excellent view of a big male California sea lion, the hike around the marsh on Tumbo Island, and the wildflowers carpeting many of the islands and islets.

Witty’s Lagoon and Uplands Park January 2018

This past Sunday (Jan. 14th), my wife and I did a short stroll around Tower Point in Witty’s Lagoon Regional Park. We had planned for a longer hike but she was feeling a little under the weather. It was a glorious day. Sunny and warm (about 11C), so she mostly sat and soaked up the sun, while I roamed around with my camera. It’s amazing what interesting things can be found all within a few metres.

As clouds begin to drift across the sun, I drove her home and continued on to Uplands Park.

This park ranks among the first natural preserves in North America to be created within urban areas. Established in the 1940s, it came about because a landowner defaulted on his taxes to the City of Oak Bay. What a stroke of luck! Within the 286 hectare, a remnant Garry oak ecosystem persists, despite the lack of regenerative fire and the encroachment of invasive plant species. More than 120 bird species and almost 200 plant species have been observed in this small reserve.

Great Bear Rainforest Voyage September/October 2017

On September 24th, I flew to Bella Bella to join the crew of the MC Swell operated by Maple Leaf Adventures as naturalist. Once a working tug on the west coast, it has been lovingly and almost lavishly been converted into a something quite different. Instead of pulling heavily loaded barges, this 88-foot vessel features 6 state rooms and a hot tub on the top deck!

Over the next 18 days we explored a variety of islands, inlets and estuaries lying along BC’s rugged north coast between this small village and Kitimat, at the head of Dean Channel. This region is part of the Great Bear Rainforest which boasts of an incredibly high abundance and diversity of wildlife. It was a great pleasure to share this exploration with two groups of guests – each coming aboard for 9 days. They came from Germany, Australia, United Kingdom, United States and Canada.  The following photos attempt to impart the magic and excitement of these trips. Top two highlights for me were observing humpback whales bubble net feeding, orcas playing and a spirit bear fishing for salmon. Definitely a trip worth making!

Pacific Rim Seashore & Rainforest Hikes September 2017

Early in September, I led my third hiking program in and around Pacific Rim National Park for Road Scholar, an American educational travel not-for-profit. The trip was essentially the same as the ones I led in June and August. Only major changes to the itinerary were with the guest speaker and the local guide. Our usual evening speaker, Bob Hansen was unable to join us. He recently retired from Parks Canada where he was the human-wildlife specialist. In his place, we had Tanya Dowdall share her personal and professional path to becoming a park warden charged with enforcing laws and rules and carrying a sidearm. A path she could not have guessed she would take when she first joined Parks Canada.

Dan Harrison, who had served as one of our local guides in June and August, was also not available, but much to my delight, his replacement turned out to be Jen Pukonen, one of my favourite students while I was instructor in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria. Our other local guide was Tsmika Martin, from the Tlo-qui-aht First Nation. Both were ranked as highlights of the trip, along with the days spent hiking Florencia Beach and Schooner’s Cove.

Through the Klondike to the Arctic and Back August 2017

In August, I served as tour director on a 12 day excursion through the Klondike Region of the Yukon with side trips to Tuktoyuktuk on the Arctic Ocean and Skagway on the Pacific Ocean. Mile Zero Tours, out of Victoria, had put the tour package together a year or two earlier and it had proven to be quite popular. On my trip there were 29 people, mostly Canadians from BC and Ontario. The group also included a American couple. There are so many highlights of this trip. The visit to the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre and the low altitude flight from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk over the immense Mackenzie River delta. I also thoroughly enjoyed wandering among the historic buildings of Dawson City and I was awe-struck by the brooding majesty of the Tombstone Mountains. I enjoyed leading this trip so much, I’ve agreed to lead it again in 2018. Can hardly wait!

Pacific Rim Seashore & Rainforest Hikes August 2017

August in Pacific Rim National Park is the time of the year when thick shrouds of damp and cool fog roll in and linger for days, even weeks. So regularly this happens, locals refer to the month as Fogust. True to form, it met my Road Scholar group and I the afternoon we arrived at Jamie’s Rainforest Inn. I think over the 7 days of the program, we only saw the sun a couple of times. Despite this, spirits remained high among the 22 participants. Highlights of the trip, I think, were the local guides: Dan Harrison, from the Rainforest Conservation Society and Tsmika Martin   hiked  can block the sun andt. Anyone who lives on the outer coast of southern Vancouver Island knows this all too well.