Trips

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Olympic National Park

Photos from a week spent camping and hiking in this fabulous national park with my wife August 2018. It lies just across the Juan de Fuca Strait only 20kms away. We gaze on the park’s mountains every day from our place in Victoria, British Columbia. They never cease to amaze us. Constantly changing patterns of shadows and light, curves and angles, and  every shade of colour imaginable.

Since moving to Victoria from Brandon Manitoba some 36 years ago, my wife and I have made more than infrequent visits to the park and its seashore adjunct. I’m guessing we try to get over there every three years or so.

It still surprises us how many people we know who haven’t visited the park. When we tell them what some of our favourite things to do in the park are, they get excited and go away inspired to visit the park.

One of our favourite things is to spend time in the alpine meadows surrounding the Obstruction Peak trailhead. Here I like to slow right down and become immersed in my photography. My wife likes to wander off to find the perfect place to sit and contemplate.

It’s in those meadows where the marmot shots were taken. At the time I was shooting with a Canon 60D with a 100 – 400mm lens handheld. The marmots barked their warning when we first appeared, but after we settled down, they also became more settled down. Soon I became aware of a furry brown body on a rock behind me. Turning ever so slightly, I was delighted to see a marmot in a relaxed pose gazing intently at me.

I managed to slowly raise my camera and get in a couple of shots before it dashed away across the meadow. Then, much to my great delight, it was joined by 3 or 4 young pups! Wow! Through the telephoto lense I was privileged to witness some very beautiful and intimate moments between mother and children of the marmot kind.

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!