Category Archives: 2019 Trip to the West

Forest Bathing

 

 

Stef, Charli, Chris and I had most pleasant walk through the temperature rainforest called, most appropriately, Cathedral Grove MacMillan Park B.C.  I could not help but think about forest bathing. Many people, like me, believe that there is a power in nature to heal. This is not heebie jeebies stuff.  Nor nude walks through the forest. While this is not yet scientifically proven, there is growing evidence that there are healing powers in nature that are becoming increasingly well documented.

In Japan there is a interesting notion that they call Shinrin-yoku.  This refers to walking and/or staying in forests in order to promote health. It is a major form of relaxation in Japan; however, its effects have yet to be completely clarified.  There was a scientific study there whose aims  were: (1) to evaluate the psychological effects of shinrin-yoku in a large number of participants; and (2) to identify the factors related to these effects.

Shinrin-yoku means literally forest bathing and the activity has become a recognized stress management and relaxation technique.

Some people, like Richard Louv who wrote the book The Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, points to research that shows that the diminution of life in the world of nature has been one of the causes of increased rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (‘ADHD ‘) as well as other mental health problems. He is the person who coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe what happens when virtually a generation of young people is disconnected from nature.  The result is an illness—a disorder.

Louv says that it is a short hand way of describing what people knew was happening but had no short way to describe. It is related to the increasing alienation between children and the natural world.  That is the alienation or disconnect that humans feel toward the natural world. He points to recent studies that show that the symptoms of attention deficit disorder frequently are minimized with just a little contact with nature. There are other studies that show childhood obesity is partly caused by the absence of a natural connection between children and nature. Some of those studies also show the extraordinary benefits of connecting to nature  for both children and adults.

Frances Kuo is the Director of the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois where they studied the relationship between green spaces and human health. She said that the range of outcomes related to deprivation of nature were staggering. Everything from earlier mortality in adults to general ailments in the population, ADHD symptoms, cognitive functions, mood issues and social functioning were often related to this deprivation of nature that many of us too often experience. The symptoms of this deprivation are vast.

On the 2011 CBC radio series The Bottom Line Professor Kuo said “just everything across the board,”  is improved in nature.  According to Kuo the presence or absence of grass or vegetation in a landscape is a huge predictor of whether or not people will like a place. People like nature. They want to see it. They want to be in it. They want to be a part of it. And if they do not feel that connection they often react adversely. They may not understand why, but that feeling of disconnection from nature is uncomfortable. It is literally disconcerting.

Kuo also studied the effect of nature on cognitive and emotional functioning. Her group went to homes in the inner city of Chicago. Some had more green areas than others. They looked at verbal and physical aggression and they found that people who had more grass or more shade trees were significantly less aggressive than nearby neighbours without any green space. Even a tiny green space helped a lot. She was surprised how such a small space could have such a remarkable effect.

Kuo points out how people often feel rejuvenated or refreshed after a brief walk in nature and she said, “It turns out that refreshment effect is quite documentable and quite consistent.”  Her research shows that the part of the brain that deals with effortful activities gets a respite when one walks in nature or is around nature. “By giving that part of the brain a little vacation it gets rejuvenated and is able to operate better afterwards,” she said. It really is resting and then recharging the brain. It is good for us to be in nature. I know this is exactly how I felt after our brief walk through the woods in Cathedral Grove this afternoon.

Kuo also pointed out how there is research that showed that people in prison with no connection to nature had more self-aggression than people who have some connection to nature. They get aggressive with themselves because often there is no one else they can be aggressive towards. That research also showed that the nature deficit prisoners tended to have all kinds of illnesses more frequently than those better connected to nature.

She said that when we design cities we have to recognize the importance of nature to community health and stop thinking of trees and parks as “merely pretty.”  They are much more important than that, though that is very good too. One of her colleagues calls it “the parsley around the pig.”  According to Kuo, “nature in the city is functional. It helps to provide a healthy human habitat and it is as essential as providing vitamins.”

Diana Beresford-Kroeger is another person who understands the profound importance of nature on health. In particular she concentrates on the value of our relationship to trees. What better place to think of her than Cathedral Grove? She is a botanist who describes herself as “a renegade scientist.” Her latest book is called The Global Forrest.

Even in Victorian times they recognized the “forest as a spa”. They knew how it could rejuvenate and heal a person. First Nations people thought along those lines too when they initiated the sweat lodge system. They used the natural antibiotic fungicides from a forest to help heal people. Walk in to a pine forest when the temperatures are about 60º C and the air is rising, the pine trees produce a huge chemical factory from the needles, which are really modified leaves. From a distance you can even see a slight bluish haze rising from a pine forest. This reminds me of the Blue Ridge Forest, which was mainly deciduous. Chemicals are literally exhaled from the trees. They help breathing and provide a mild anesthetic.

Beresford-Kroeger says that in Ireland where they do deep meditation in forests they can actually “hear the trees”. Like children who have much better hearing than adults, can sometimes actually hear the tree. Her theories have not all been scientifically validated at this time. Yet, perhaps, it makes sense to hug a tree.

Many of us realize that nature infuses us with an inexplicable calm. Without understanding why, many of us find refuge in a park, even if just for a short stroll. That was how I felt at the Cathedral Grove.

This was forest bathingat its finest.

Cathedral Grove

 

 

 

After leaving Coombs we drove up the highway to MacMillan Park and Cathedral Grove and Stef, Charli, Chris and I went for a lovely walk through the grove.  The reason for the name ‘Cathedral Grove’ becomes immediately obvious only a few minutes into visiting. Soaring towards the sky, these huge trees form their own beautiful cathedral of nature. Fallen trees here and there allow light to streak through the canopy, much as stained glass windows in churches do.

Cathedral Grove features a magnificent temperate rainforest with enormous 800 year-old trees, a carpet of ferns and draping moss, the trees in Cathedral Grove are amongst the oldest and tallest in Canada.Most of the trees are about 250 years old, having emerged after a fire at the time.

It’s a humbling experience to stand next to these incredibly tall and gnarled tree trunks, some as wide as a car. The tree canopy is up to 80 metres high in places, with the sky in the far distance. As you walk through the forest, beams of sunlight filter through the branches above, illuminating so many layers of green. It is a kaleidoscope of green.

 

This was a temperate Rainforest, one of the most fascinating ecosystems in the world. This was probably the most magnificent of the rainforests that we saw. The temperate rainforests of British Columbia are not just cool places where amazingly large trees reside. They are rich ecosystems where a wide variety of interdependent species occupy the terrain. The creatures vary from fungi, to amphibians, birds, mammals, insects, trees, mosses, lichen and many other creatures and organisms, both macro and micro. The temperate rainforest is a system in which nutrients are recycled to nurture new generations of living things in which each member of the system plays a role in the continuing cycle, of life, death and rebirth.

It is more obvious in a temperate rainforest than in most other places that death is a creative force.Death is a lot more interesting than we ever imagined. Our bodies also harbor death. Death is intimately a part of each and every one of us. Cells are programmed to die. They all have a limited life span. Cells need to die! We need death. This may sound really weird, but we need death. We can’t live without death.

Forests are first class recyclers. They recycle rain. They create prodigious amounts of oxygen. In fact together with oceans they are among the most important creators of oxygen. They absorb so much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that scientists are recently emphasizing that perhaps the best way to save the planet from existentially dangerous climate change is to promote, enhance, and protect forests. They believe there is nothing else that we can do that would be more effective in mitigating climate change.

Forests keep the soil together and in places with steeply sloped mountains and hills like British Columbia are vitally important in controlling the movement of water down the mountains and out to the sea. Forests are also crucially important in purifying water for us to drink or use in agriculture. All in all, forests are critical to life on the planet.

Forests provide great habitat for a wide diversity of species, nowhere more so than rainforests, both temperate, like British Columbia, and tropical as in the Amazon. Some of the trees we saw included Douglas Fir, Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, and others.

 

 

Stef and Charli

 

Cathedral Grove is part of the traditional territory of the K’ómoks, Tseshaht and Te’mexw people, who have acted as stewards of this area for thousands of years. To indigenous people of the area, these trees have even greater spiritual significance. Cedar trees have long been considered sacred due to their life giving properties. That’s why they call cedars the “the tree of life.”

Many people think that the most prolific parts of our biosphere are the tropical rain forests.  Though they certainly are prolific this is not true.  In some respects at least the coastal temperate rain forests are actually the most prolific.

Temperate rain forests cover a mere 1% of the surface of the earth, but they contain twice as much organic material per acre as the tropical rain forests.  I found this amazing.  These forests can also produce as much biomass per acre as the tropical rain forest, to say nothing of the amazing fertility of the river mouths and the estuaries.

Goat on a Roof: Hippies flying high on the Ground

 

 

On our trip to Vancouver Island from Whistler, we woke up early. This is going to be hard to believe—it was because of my son Stef. When Stef lived with us he was never famous for rising early. It came as a big surprise to us when we learned he wanted to go to Vancouver Island on an early ferry. He was on vacation and did not want to waste any time. That is a serious traveller. Much more serious than his parents, who are known to be lazy bums on their travels. Pathetic travelers in other words.

As a result we woke up at 5 a.m. to pack, get ready, and pick up Stef and his friend Charli. After picking them up, we travelled the Sea to Sky highway. Being early, we found out, was also a good idea because we avoided the heavy traffic expected later in the day as this was the end of the Labour Day Weekend. Stef was also a smart traveler, again, unlike his parents.

When we arrived on Vancouver Island we headed north towards Nanaimo, rather than south towards the house we had rented. We wanted to see part of the island where the ferry was located so we would not have to drive so far to see it later. Once more, Stef had planned this well. Chris and I were very impressed with how organized and well-planned Stef was about this trip. This was not the Stef we were used to, but we liked “the new Stef.”

Ever since we met Stef he had been talking about “a Goat on a roof.”  I had no idea what this meant or why we were going to see it. I did not realize it at the time, but apparently this place had been featured in the Survivor television series (or some series like that) and as a result is widely known. When we arrived in the village Coombs we soon knew. At a local privately owned store, in the centre of town, there is a store, large by village standards, with grass on the roof, with at least 2 goats enjoying the grass.

The store was crammed with weird stuff. This was no surprise. After all we were in B.C.—lotus land in other words. The Republic of Vancouver Island. Where good sense goes to die. What else could you expect? In this store standard stuff was hard to find. Odd stuff was everywhere.

Coombs is hippie haven. First, there was an old goat on a bench outside, underneath the real goat happily chewing grass on the roof. The aging hippie was happy to take donations for his music, while contently agreeing to be photographed.

Coombs is a place where you can buy a Tie Dye shirt that talks! Where else can you buy that? Or Goat jerky?  What treasures! It even has a “Hippie Store.” The owner is, of course, another aged hippie, playing Mama Cass of the Mamas and the Pappas. I guess hippies go here to die along with good sense. Here you could buy “After Marihuana Mints.”  What self-respecting hippie could go without that?  You could also buy a card that said, “I divorced my husband for religious reasons. He thinks he’s God.”

Only in B.C.

Spirituality of Skwxú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) Nation and Liĺwat7úl) Nation

 

At the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) which Chris and I visited in Whistler B.C., we learned that the Indigenous People of the west coast, the  Skwxú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) Nation and Liĺwat7úl  Nation believe they are the land. That is about as close as a connection between land and people that we can get. It is what I see as the essence of the aboriginal attitude to nature. It is very different from the attitude of most Non-Indigenous people. It is my belief that we have a lot to learn from such people.

Josh, our Lil’wat interpreter at the Cultural Centre, explained that the two nations who created the centre at one time shared a village in their joint territory before it was destroyed by volcanic forces. The nations have learned to share rather than fight over it. As a result they recognize each other as family. Again, we have a lot to learn from these people.

They also believe that they learn through stories that teach their values of generosity, humility, and compassion. Frankly this reminded me of one of my favorite passages in the Bible, namely Micah 6:8, where the prophet said, “He has told you, man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you: only to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” I don’t think religion gets any more profound than this. Or consider when the Prophet Isaiah said, “cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, abolish oppression, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.”  I think such words get at the essential good things about spirituality. The best of religions are invariably complementary, not antagonistic. In fact, I would say, they are fundamentally the same!

Cedar often plays an important role in the ceremonial and spiritual life of many West Coast Indigenous peoples. They even have a creation story about cedar. It is that important to them. As explained by Alice Huang,

“According to the story, there once lived a good man who always gave away his belongings and food to others. The Creator recognized the man’s kindness, and declared that once the man dies, a Red Cedar tree will grow where he is buried, and the tree will continue to help the people. The Nuu-chah-nulth of Vancouver Island have a similar origin story for Yellow Cedar. According to their stories, Yellow Cedar trees were transformed from three young women running up a mountain. Therefore, Yellow Cedar trees are found on the slopes of subalpine mountains, and contain soft inner bark, like that of woman’s hair.”

In addition to everyday use, which I described in my previous post to this blog, cedar is used for a variety of ceremonial purposes. Families often commissioned a carver to create cedar figures for a potlatch, usually as a welcoming gesture to the guests. Ceremonial dancers’ regalia might include head rings, neck rings, wristlets braided from cedar, as well as cedar masks. I will have more to say about potlatches later in this blog, but for now, we must realize that they were a means for individuals or communities  to demonstrate their generosity. Generosity was the sign of greatness to West Coast aboriginal people. It had spiritual value. It was so important that some leaders actually impoverished themselves to demonstrate their generosity. The exact opposite of the attitude of the current American President.

Given the importance of cedar in everyday life, it is clear that cedar also plays an integral role in the spiritual beliefs and practices of coastal First Nations. These beliefs recognize that the cedar tree has its own life and spirit. According to Alice Huang, “Coast Salish and Tlingit shamans often had cedar “spirit assistants” or “guard figures” to protect them.”

The Coast Salish is a group of ethnically and linguistically related Indigenous peoples of the west coast of North America that live in parts of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. They are a large loose grouping of many tribes with numerous distinct cultures and languages. The territory claimed by various nations within the group include the northern limit of the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait), on the inside of Vancouver Island including most of the southern part of Vancouver Island, and most of the lower mainland of what is now called British Columbia and much of Puget Sound and Olympic Peninsula in what is now called the United States. Major cities now included in this territory are Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle.

Cedar was also widely valued for its healing abilities. Yellow Cedar bark, which has anti-inflammatory properties, was frequently applied as a dressing for wounds, as a tourniquet, or to ward off evil. Many beliefs and taboos are also associated with the cedar tree. For example, a person who killed a tree through improper harvesting would be cursed by other cedar trees. Similarly, some believed a pregnant woman should not braid baskets, lest the umbilical cord would twist around the baby’s neck. As the cedar is a long-lived tree, some Coast Salish groups ensured a long life for their infants by placing the afterbirth in the stump of a large cedar.

As a plant that has ensured the survival of people for thousands of years, cedar has become a powerful symbol of strength and revitalization. The deep respect for cedar is part of a rich tradition that spans thousands of years and continues to be culturally, spiritually, and economically important.

Canoes, often built of cedar,  were considered living beings. They had to be blessed before being launched. That was believed to breathe life into the canoe. That is in fact the meaning of spiritual: breathing life. The canoe was considered by the Indigenous people to be a gift from the forest. It allowed them to move through their land and connect to it. Similarly, the Indigenous people considered the bear, and other animals, their kin.

All of this spirituality is part and parcel of the belief of many Indigenous peoples in this region that all of them were deeply connected to the land (environment really) in which they were located and to all life in it and even non-life such as rocks. That is the basis of their spirituality and I would submit the spirituality of all of us.

Squamish/Lil’wat Cultural Centre

Josh our interpretative guide

Chris and I visited  the  Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC)  on our visit to Whistler, British Columbia. It was built by two cooperating First Nations and is ranked by some as the number one Indigenous Cultural Centre in Canada. We knew nothing about it before we got there. One of the most impressive things about SLCC was that it was built by 2 competing (but cooperating)  First Nations. Coming from a small city where religious groups often have trouble agreeing on what day it is, we found this delightfully surprising.

The Skwxú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish) Nation and Liĺwat7úl) (Lil’Wat Nation)  say that they have coexisted respectfully as neighbours since time immemorial. Both nations have benefitted greatly from the land in which they were located on the west coast of Canada where the climate is relatively mild and food abundant. In particular they have thrived on the bounty of the ocean, the rivers, and the land — living in close relationship with the world around them.

Together these 2 proud nations have built the SLCC  to share their cultural knowledge in order to inspire understanding and respect amongst all people, and they hope that by visiting their Cultural Centre, all visitors will embrace this vision and live by it.

Both nations have treated the site with respect, building on one side of the property — leaving the forested area mostly untouched. The building is designed to evoke the longhouses of the Squamish people and the Istken (traditional earthen pit house) of the Lil’wat people with a modern architectural interpretation.

Our guide, Josh, welcomed us with a song and then led us to a theatre where we were shown the film Where Rivers, Skies, and People Meet. With the film and guided walk we learned a lot about these First Nations.

Ethnobotanists have learned much about the usage of various plants by indigenous people, even ancient people. None of these plants was more important to the Indigenous people of the coast, than cedar.

British Columbia has 2 native species of cedar tree growing in its temperate rainforest. First there is Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)the larger of the two. The second is Yellow Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis) is not a true cedar either.

According to Nancy Turner, Red Cedar is the most versatile and most widely-used plant among coastal First Nations. Because yellow cedar bark is softer and more pliable than Red Cedar, it is used often for making clothing and other fibrous materials. Red Cedar is used more often to make canoes.  As a result it is the plant with a thousand uses.

They call the cedar “the Tree of Life.” They use the cedar tree for many purposes. For example they use it to make cedar pit houses. One was located on the grounds.

 

They build the pithouse in the earth so that it becomes one with the earth. They also use the cedar bark to make clothing. They use the roots for mats and room dividers so there would be some privacy in their homes.

As Alice Huang said, The astounding variety of objects that can be created from a single tree is a testament to a profound cultural interrelationship between humans and plants.” That is what is important. The people were the land. They were the environment. That connection is absolutely essential to their identity. It is not merely ancillary. Sometimes non-indigenous people fail to grasp the importance of this. That is why they ask why indigenous groups can’t live eleswhere.

Indigenous people also  used cedar in the tools they made and everyday objects they created out of the wood with those tools. As Josh explained, starting with the base of the tree they used the roots of the cedar to form cordage for hats and baskets. They created unique baskets, some of which were on display in the Cultural Centre. They could make their baskets waterproof and heatproof. As a result they were even able to use their baskets as pots and pans for cooking and boiling water! They used hot rocks to the heat the water in the baskets. Once the water was boiling they added food to it. Not a bad system. Roots were also used to make room dividers. As many as 40-60 people might be living in a pithouse, so privacy would be important.

The Indigenous people loved to use the cedar withes. These are the small sub-branches of the main branches. Some grow directly from the main trunk. Once the withes were harvest they could be used as cordage without any changes needing to be made. Some have called them the “bungee cord” of the temperate rain forest.

The withes are strong and lightweight and grow in very long strands, which then perfect for ropes and lashing. Coastal Indigenous people did not traditionally use metal nails or bolts. Instead they used withes to lash together planks on roofs or baseboards. They were therefore very important for house construction.

Josh explained that although the stripping of bark can damage a tree, the Indigenous people used great care to avoid causing damage. First they said a prayer and expressed their gratitude to the tree for all that it provided them. They respected the tree. They did not mow them down like Europeans did when they arrived on the west coast with their clear cutting practices that so appalled Indigenous people.

The men usually did the cutting down of the trees. The harvesting of the bark however was usually done by women. That required great skill. The women would not take more than 2 hands width of bark from a tree so that it would not be permanently harmed. That kept the tree alive and enabled it to be used again.Thanks to their efforts literally thousands of harvested trees that are still intact can be found throughout the region and all showing their characteristic scar marks.

The most versatile part of the cedar is the bark. Bark could be dyed and processed into different types of thread for mats, clothing, blankets, and hats. Like roots and withes, bark was also used to make ropes, baskets, and fishing nets. They used smashed brains from animals to rub into the materials to make them soft and pliable.

They really liked the inner bark of the Yellow Cedar because it was both soft and absorbent. Perfect for diapers for their children. There was no need for Pampers. Expectant mothers gave birth to their children in pits  lined with the inner bark. They also used them for bedding, towels, and even sanitary napkins. Bark also made good kindling for fires and even tinder for matches and torches. Expecting mothers gave birth in a pit lined with Yellow Cedar bark to receive the infant. Furthermore, dried bark burned slowly, providing excellent tinder for matches and torches.

Because cedar wood is so strong yet lightweight, it could be easily split and made into totems, masks, and longhouses. One vitally important use for cedar was in canoe construction. Josh showed us two important types of canoes in the SLCC. The SLCC had a fine example of two different types of canoes.  One was very large, the other small. The large one held a number of canoeists and a captain who guided the paddlers. They would usually sing songs as they worked. Josh gave us a cedar paddle to hold and I was struck by how light it was.  They were light yet sturdy enough for heavy paddling. West Coast indigenous people had a unique design for paddles with a sharp point that enabled them to cut through kelp.

Longhouses formed the central dwelling unit of each village, with large extended families living together under the same roof.  There could be up to 60 people living in one longhouse. Naturally, cedar poles formed the foundations of the house, and they were followed by a framework of fluted beams overlaid with cedar roof planks. Sometimes carved house frontal poles would be positioned at the entrance. This was very common among the Haida and Tlingit.

G7 and Climate Change

As we drove towards B.C.  we heard on the radio that at the recent G7 talks when the subject of climate change came up on the last day, President Donald Trump left the room and the meetings.  There was nothing he felt he had to learn on the subject. He knew it all. The country that has emitted more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other country in the world is now led by a simpleton who does not understand the significant dangers of failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As the actions of the G7 countries are currently on track to lead to increased average global temperatures of 4°C rather than the agreed upon maximum of 2°C, with likely catastrophic results, the failure of the American President to take the issue seriously is profoundly unsettling. But no one should be surprised.

Mount Robson

 

The Rocky Mountains contain the highest mountain peaks in central North America. The highest peak in the Rocky Mountains is not in Canada, as I thought. The highest peak is Mount Elbert, which is found in Colorado and is 4,401 metres (14,440ft.) above sea level. Mount Robson, which we saw today, is the highest peak in Canada, but it is “only” 3,954 metres (12,972 ft.) above sea level.

When we saw Mount Robson today I was immediately brought back to my days as a Canadian National Railway porter in the summer of 1970 and 1971. I got the job to work in the summer. On every trip to B.C. we stopped right here and our passengers clambered out to gawk at and photograph Mount Robson. I did not have a camera so I never got a single photograph it. I made up for that today.

Mount Robson is special.

 

Helmcken Falls

 

After a fairly long drive in to the park from the main highway we had been following in  BC since we left Jasper, and a wonderful stop for Ice cream and directions, we found the falls. They were not a disappointment.

Helmcken Falls is 141 m (463 ft.) high. It is located inside of Well Gray Provincial Park. In fact, the park was created partly to highlight the falls. And I am glad they did!

Helmcken Falls is the 4thhighest waterfall in Canada measured by total drop without a break. The three higher falls are Hunlen Falls in T in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park and Della Falls in Strathcona Provincial Park. Interestingly, all of these water falls are found in British Columbia and we have a chance of seeing the  Takakkaw Falls. It is found on the Murtle River. The falls were easily accessible by a drive of about 47 km out of our way. I felt this was a small price to pay for such  spectacular falls. Chris was not totally convinced. It did not help that we approached them sort of late in the day and were a little worried about a hotel in this area as a result of the Labour Day Weekend starting today. I figured it was worth the risk. Of course, I am a waterfall guy (just like I am a wild flower guy, a bird guy, a lighthouse guy, a bog guy, a….

 

The falls were named after John Helmcken, a physician with the Hudson’s Bay Company who was instrumental in bringing British Columbia into Confederation in 1871. He never actually saw the falls, so I consider this an inapt designation. But, of course, I am a waterfall guy, not a guy trying to honour politicians.

The falls drop over the western escarpment of the Murtle Plateau. The escarpment consists of a huge lava deposit that occurred about 200,000 years ago and filled the Clearwater River valley.  At the end of the last Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago, the massive floods that occurred when the continental ice sheets started to melt, carved out a huge canyon in the area. When water gets trapped behind ice if the ice damn later dissolves, as they tend to do, they can emit an awesome deluge. This happened many times in North America creating astonishing canyons. The canyon here is called, of course, Helmcken Canyon.

Wild life in the Rockies

For the animal shall not be measured by man.  In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.  They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.

– Henry Beston

 

An “animal traffic jam” on the highway in Jasper National Park led us to this elk.   A long line of cars were stopped beside the road and we noticed many people out with cameras. This was a sure sign that there was some wildlife on display.

The Male elk was keeping a close eye on this female elk and 3 more that made up his harem

Down the road we found a Rocky Mountain Goat.

We also saw a Bighorn Sheep. The Rocky Mountains are a fine place to find wildlife.

Rocky Mountain High

The Rocky Mountains are, in my opinion unsurpassed by almost anything I have ever seen before. I wish I was a much better photographer than I am so that I could show you what I mean.

 

Notice that many of the pines are red!  That is the deadly work of the Mountain Pine Beetle.  This photo was taken just south of the town of Jasper on the banks of the Athabasca River.

The colours of the lakes vary from blue to turquoise, to green , depending on the sediment.

Maligne Lake has a totally inappropriate name. It is not malign at all.

Medicine Lake is better named. It is medicine for the soul.

This photograph was taken near Spirit Island when the spirit of the lake was calm.