So, it seems that we are back in the city. Harbour horns, seagulls and deer (oh dear not another one!) have replaced the big trucks, RVs (oh, darn, but we wanted to “experience Canada at their pace”!), and deep-cut valleys we spent our summer interwoven with.
I’m more of a sporadic, private journal keeper than a consistent blogger, so for this final end-of-season blog post I’ll dip my fingers into the digital pages of my journal and from there weave something vaguely resembling a coherent blog post together for you. After all, this summer was amazing and fruitful in so many respects that Mary, Heike and I are thrilled to share our experiences with you. It’s been fun to know that friends and family have been following our adventures through this blog, and I hope everyone has enjoyed it.
Let’s see here.. when I say “sporadic” I’m not exaggerating! On July 3rd, though, I seem to have found a spare minute to write.
Chapter 1: Hover-exit training and our first helicopter flight of the season.
Before this summer, I had never flown in a helicopter, and quite frankly lacked much interest in it – I have a bit of a fear of heights. But, altogether this work proves that pushing your fears really does help to subdue or overcome them. I rarely have moments of bad vertigo hiking now, and my internal “wow this is high up” scale has shifted dramatically after this summer. Only our Moose Lake Stations’ assent at one particularly gnarly section got to me, and after some chocolate therapy and a good laugh it had passed.
(Critical Side Note: The MLP 2012 Field Crew fully advocates the use of chocolate to cure most minor ailments; our preference is for Lindt Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt – it just gets the job done).
So to continue, helicopters were all new to me, and in my journal I wrote this of our first flight out of the Elbow Fire Base:
“leaning the helicopter quite a lot to either side as we turned – it was insane to look down through glass and see nothing but river and forest and more and more and more forest, every which way. I felt like all of the negative stomach churning moments on rollercoasters were so obsolete to my stomach now, and silly – I felt energized and exhilarated by the movements and how high we were, more like what it would be like to fly in a dream, or if I could actually fly.”
To summarize, my dreams of a pack pony for general transportation are now in good company of some notable competition.
Skipping a few days dominated by comments on computer work and dinner (apparently we had ribs on July 6th, and they were VERY VERY good – we miss you so much, Jackie and Karen), I’ll jump to July 13th.
Chapter 2: Paintbrush Picking
On our first trip through to Shunda Fire Base (therefore working out of Rocky Mountain House Dispatch – home of the dispatchers with the friendliest radio voices!) we were quite busy, but found time in the evenings to wander along the old air strip at the base. It was incredible at this time of year, mid July, as the ground was blanketed beautifully with Indian Paintbrush flowers of every colour imaginable. Coming from Ontario, I would have been pleased to see even a few colours, but as Heike and Mary told me, this selection was very special. We meandered through clustered of the palest pinks, yellows and peaches, next to equally vibrant blooms of red, orange, yellow and pink. Heike and I got the bug to press some flowers, paintbrush included and I still have some of those (although sadly the paintbrush didn’t really keep it’s strong colour, and had too many little insects nestled in for keeping).
“I hope my flowers press nicely and don’t lose their colour. I have paintbrushes of every shade of red and pink and peach and yellowy white, and tiny yellow buds and white weed-like flowers that remind me of queen anne’s lace…”
This week was dominated by Gregory Alan Isakov, with clippets of lyrics scattered like seeds throughout my journal entries. A calm flower-picking evening was probably inevitable with this soundtrack.
My next mini-chapter is called Little Trees in Incredible Places.
Little trees in incredible places served as a consistent source of intrigue during our work. To come across a tiny spruce or pine in a very precarious or inhospitable notch or knoll was always a source of instant excitement and curiosity for me. (Thank you Heike and Mary for patience with repeated photo-ops of these little champions). While I am equally reverent of the immense old growth stands on island, these trees repeatedly beat the odds each year, pushing through extremely hard winters, deep snow and strong winds, and the tricks that chinooks can play on them. The following is my scaled-down collection of little trees we encountered at or on the way to our sites.
My final chapter is a note to all of the wonderful people we have worked with and met this summer. Mary, Heike and I are so thankful and feel so lucky to have met you all through our work, adventures, and friends and family. I personally feel unbelievably lucky to have gotten the chance to spend the summer as a trio with Heike and Mary – these two bring the “intense” way past camping!
Several key individuals behind the scenes made it possible as well, including Eric Higgs, Alina Fisher, Chris Gat, Rob Watt (you are far too modest with your incredible knowledge), Matthew Wheatley with Parks Canada, and Jill Delaney and colleagues at LAC in Ottawa. A personal thanks to Tory Stevens with BC Parks as well for advice on my own work.
Chronologically, we are so happy to have collaborated with Rick Arthur, Stefan Best, and colleagues in ASRD Calgary . This goes the same for ASRD in the Clearwater District out of Rocky Mountain House, with special thanks to Dave Finn. In the Edson office, for our work in Willmore, special thanks to Bill Tinge, Kevin Freehill and Kevin Johnston. In all regions we really enjoyed working with the wonderful dispatch, GIS/mapping and Logistics teams and Duty Officers. At the Fire Camps, camp bosses and cooks were all great as well. All of our helicopter pilots were amazing, and our feet will always be grateful.
In Mt Robson Provincial Park, the help of Wayne VanVelzen, park wardens Hugo, Chris and Stephanie, and the information desk staff upstairs was indispensable. This is the same for Bruce Wilkinson from the Valemount Visitor Center, who shared incredible knowledge of the area’s history with us.
Of friends and family, Heike’s friend Dustin Styner visited us at the Elbow FB and we all went for a great little hike to Elbow Falls. On our drive out for the start of the season, we stayed overnight at Heike’s parents lovely home in Kaslo, BC which was just wonderful – we were sorry to leave so soon! We also made a stop in Revelstoke, BC to say a quick hello to Mary’s sister, Janice and her two adorable pug dogs.
To wrap up, the last egg in the suitcase needing mention is definitely that of bringing a project through its entirety. All three of us were new to the project this year, and overall the season went quite well. We all were able to take part in the various aspects of pre-fieldwork photo and equipment preparation, including looking for historical photographs on Google Earth, gridding images, arranging and deciding on what to bring with us exactly (we still had more than we needed, but better to have it in case). In the field, we took the next step and stepped foot on the stations that our historical surveying counterparts did so many years before, and we rephotographed and documented. I remember the thrill of locating the first Nidd 1944 image on Google Earth, and how amazing it was to, several months later, be photographing that same image. Following the “bright and shiny” part of the day, computer work beckons, and we have all become well-versed in the various processing requirements of our photo pairs. As Eric Higgs says, for every hour in the field at a station, you can bank on about 4-5 hours pre and post processing. Nevertheless, we’ve tied up most of the outstanding field season work, and for the three of us it is time to jump into gear for a busy autumn ahead.
I hope the fall season brings some good adventures to you.