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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 Thombstone 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.
Great Bear Rainforest Voyage May/June 2017
This was my maiden voyage with Maple Leaf Adventures as a naturalist. Over 18 days, we would be exploring islands, inlets, and estuaries lying along the stretch of wild and rugged coast that runs from Campbell River to Kitimat. Our expedition’s base was the schooner Maple Leaf, a classic 90-ft sailing ship. We welcomed on board 8 guests in Campbell River and let them off in Bella Bella. A day later, another group of 8 joined us for the trip to Kitimat. Both groups were blessed with seeing so much wildlife. Highlights were certainly the number of grizzlies and black bears seen as well as a wolf.
Rome Italy and Abruzzo National Park April 2014
In the spring of 2014, I was invited to attend an international workshop focused on advancing ocean literacy in European Union. The invitation came from Bonnie Schmidt, President of Let’s Talk Science. Since neither she nor any of her staff could attend, she asked me if I would represent her organization. I was thrilled to do so.
I had just wrapped up a four year contract with Ocean Networks Canada where I built a national ocean science education program using the principles of ocean literacy. At the workshop, I would be exchanging ideas and strategies with marine educators and scientists from 14 countries.
The workshop was held in the summer seaside resort of Fregenea, near Rome and its international airport. There were approximately 18 people invited with most of us staying in a quaint, if not a little spartan, place called, Hotel Miraggio. After the 2 days of meetings, a small group of us ventured into Rome to explore some of the sites on foot.
After the workshop, I rented a car and drove southwest of Rome to Italy’s oldest national park, Abruzzo National Park. It’s located approximately 150 kms se of Rome. If I hadn’t taken the wrong exit, the trip there would’ve taken about 2 hours. However, my wrong turn ended up extending the trip to just over 8 hours! But I saw lots of the rural countryside and it was a pleasant drive for the most part.
I set up my base of operations at a farm stay just outside of Sora near one of the park entrances. Can’t say much about the farm stay as I rarely ate meals with the family and other guests as I was usually up very early and back late. I maximized my time exploring the park.
A couple of the highlights were (in no particular order):
Poking around the park’s main resort centre, the village of Pescasseroli as well as visiting the Nature Centre. I attempted to meet with someone from the national park service but no one was available when I dropped by; and
Hiking some of the trails. The park boasts hundreds of kilometres of trails, most appear to be in the mid- to high altitudes. I had hoped to spot one of the 50 or so Mariscan brown bears found in the park. I also kept an eye out for wolves which were making a comeback in the region.