Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chipmunk attacks videographer - barely escapes with life!

My previous publisher always told me that it was the headline people read and not the story. This is why it was important that the two always had some degree of commonality. Me, I was for just putting down whatever came into my mind as I thought newspapers should have a certain degree of fun associated with them along with the mundane reporting of facts.

This chipmunk did not in fact attack me but he could have. This is from the memorable weekend at Harvey's, and if I check the police report from the weekend and our names are not mentioned I can tell you what really went on there. Ah, to be young and foolish - or at least act like it.

While not trying to make it onto the list of Canada's ten most wanted I did a bit of photography and ran a bit of tape as well. Everything seemed pretty good while I was shooting the stuff but in the cold light of day I realize that the molson filter was working overtime on some of the shots.

But I have always felt that I would rather watch bad video I shot myself than good video shot by someone else. It's that DIY mentality that brings the best of us to our knees at some point.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring has sprung

 one sure sign of spring

Okay, I just have about 30 seconds to post this and then I have to rush off to a high powered G4 conference (some of the other countries have found out that I was attending and have dropped out). Actually off to do some Kamloops Naturalist meeting stuff so need to be punctual.

Spent a great weekend out at the lake - I've always wanted to say that, like I actually owned a cottage on the lake - with my good friend Harvey Olson. Harvey and I go way back to the days of hiking and camping in the sage brush hills of Kamloops and more than a few misadventures into the wilds of Wells Gray Park.

This was a much tamer weekend however and only involved one moment of sheer panic - which I will explain in great detail after the heat has died down a little.

The weekend did provide a good chance to catch up on old times and old friends and also gave me a chance to do some wildlife filming - which I shall shortly share on youtube - oh yeah, and it allowed us some time to sit under the boat house, swill beer and watch the world drift by.

Not quite a "River runs through it" type weekend but close.

the other sure sign of Spring (a shadow)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What I did this weekend

Remnant of ice bridge at Mahood Falls

Okay it's not the most imaginative of titles but it is serviceable. It correctly introduces the subject matter and it foreshadows that perhaps the blog entry will be a little retro -taking us back to the dreaded grade eight english assignments by our totally unimaginative teacher who would really much rather be out coaching the football team.

But I misled you the reader, I was just lazy and that was the best title I could come up with for a blog entry about what I did this weekend.

We had an enjoyable visit out with my brother, sister in-law, and our hosts Mark and Kathy Waldron. Mark was participating in a drum workshop and Kathy took the rest of us non-drummers out for a tour of the Horse Lake/Mahood Lake area. It was great getting back into the wet belt around Mahood/Canim falls as I missed the cedars, moss and tumbled lava landscapes of my youth.

We'd met up with one of Kathy's friends and the five of us poked and prodded about the forests that were just coming back to life after an uncharacteristically short and easy winter.

What was most enjoyable though, for an aspiring writer like myself was the chance to talk with Kathy about her writing. Kathy has a billion books to her credit, or at least that's how it seems to we with zero books to our credits. Check out her stuff at: Kathy Cook Waldron.

She had told me about a writing competition that I must enter - for children's fiction. The prize money, while nice, is not as important as the fact that the sponsoring group will submit your entry to three publishers on your behalf. That would be way cool.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Another Challenge

Kenna Cartwright Park - Home of the new Frank Ritcey Invitational Challenge
and no-one is invited

I have determined that I am a goal oriented type of person. I am not one of those big picture type of people, I pretty much have to see what it is that I want and then I can go for it. So, periodically I give myself goals and that gets me scooting off in a new direction.

My recent trips to Kenna Cartwright Park have been great little outings and I have been recording my trips with a GPS. In looking at a map of a park I began to think: That's a lot of trails. What would be cool is to hike each and every one of those trails. What would be way-cool is to hike each and everyone of those trails in a single day.

So there it is - my new challenge. Hike every trail in Kenna Cartwright Park in a single day. I'm hoping it is less than a 100K because then it would be very hard and I am no longer an iron man - more like the Jet-Puffed Marshmallow man if the truth needs to be told.

So check back and see how the preparations are going.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Little Lisa's Apple Crisp

 Lisa with something going into the oven

I was just reviewing all my posts and I find I haven't even bothered with a new recipe for quite some time so I'll trot out this old chestnut (I know I've mixed the metaphors here but we could assume that the chestnut was a mare and not the nut). Okay maybe that is just the lack of sleep talking now. Before I get too far along here lets figure out what this recipe is all about.

When my daughter was first getting into cooking I taught her that you always want to have one dish that is a backup, sure fire, never fail dish and hers turned out to be the Apple Crisp. Living as we do, near some of the best apple orchards in the world, this dish was a natural.

The Apples:

10-12 Apples (I prefer the Macintosh but only if they are fresh), peeled and sliced into varying thicknesses – the thin bits become nice and juicy and the thick bits give you the crunch you want.
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp or so of cinnamon
Scant splash of water

Put the scant splash of water in a 2 quart pot and add the apples. Heat at a medium heat til you start to get moisture out of the apples, then
Add brown sugar and cinnamon
Continue to stir periodically at low heat for about 8-10 minutes (don’t let it become applesauce but ensure that the juices are starting to come out)

The Crisp
1 cup flour
1 cup quick oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 – 2 tsp cinnamon
¾ cup chilled butter

Mix all the dry ingredients and then cut in the butter with a pastry cutter – mixture should be pea sized and uniform

Pour the apple mixture into an ungreased 9x13 casserole dish and then sprinkle the crisp topping evenly over the apples.

Bake in a 350 F oven for 20 minutes or until the apple mixture is bubbling nicely

Monday, March 22, 2010

Another hike through Kenna Cartwright Park

sunset over Kenna Cartwright Park

I have been out hiking in Kenna Cartwright Park for a number of reasons:

1. I am fat and need to lose about 50 pounds to get me back to my horse-logging weight , 30 pounds to my Iditabike weight, 20 pounds to my goat hunting weight, or 10 pounds so I can get into my last pair of blue jeans!

2. I am trying to learn enough about the park so that I can write intelligibly about it in a Interpretive Brochure that I would like to see the club produce for the park.

3. I am trying to capture that one killer shot of the grasslands so that my friend Tim can reproduce it in one of his famous paintings.

So far I haven't lost any weight, still don't know crested wheatgrass from Kentucky Blue bunchgrass, and the best photo I have come up with is a slightly out of focus chipmunk on a woodpile.

Maybe I need to hike more?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Dr. Dirt and the Masters of Mud

Out for a ride?

My friend Jason (lower right) just had a birthday and I knew I had to send him this photo. The three of us; me, Noah and Jason, were having a contest to see who could ride the furthest out into the river on our mountain bikes. 

The contest seemed like a pretty good idea until I got out over my head and then remembered my feet were stuck in the toe clips and I am far from being a good swimmer. I swallowed a lot of river that day and Jason and Noah had a good laugh about it. 

I really couldn't fault the two for it was pretty funny - seeing your buddy struggling between life and death and trying to swim while packing a mountain bike under one arm. The insensitive clods!

But what was funny was when on the next day we rode up to Sylvia falls and I played a little trick on Jason. After leaving the falls we tried going further up the trail to Mahood Lake. Now the trail is very steep on one section and we had to push our bikes up the narrow trail and we finally tired of that, left our bikes, and finished the hike on foot. On our return to the bikes we stopped and had a little lunch. While Jason wasn't watching I unhooked his brakes. Now that was funnier than a man drowning! Jason, was a very good rider but even he had to bail after about five seconds. We all had a good laugh about it (well Noah and I had a good laugh about it).

I think it was shortly after that, that Jason retaliated by hiding about ten pounds of rocks in the bottom of my panniers at the start of our ride up to the top of Baldy Mountain. Now Baldy is about a six hour climb on the bikes with nary a level piece of ground on which to catch your breath (we did it once in under two but that was during a race). Anyways we started out in good spirits but I just couldn't seem to get my wind that day and my legs felt like lead as I struggled to keep up with Noah and Jason. About three hours into the ride I had a flat and had to go into my panniers - when I found the rocks I was not a happy camper! Noah and Jason again had a good laugh about it.

Those were the good ole days - we rode most everyday - wind, rain or snow. Actually the worse the weather, the greater the adventure. My bike is still hanging in the garage, perhaps I'll dust it off and coast down to Tim Hortons one day.

Dr. Dirt and the Masters of Mud at Sylvia Falls

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Ritcey Maxim

 Pick out the predators (2 eyes) and the prey (1 eye)

Now ever since I had learned Boyle's law in a grade nine science class I wanted a law named after me. As I matured however I realized that most good laws had already been taken and started to lean towards perhaps postulating a good theorem. Theorems are by definition a lot less stringent than a law and should have been easier to come up with. Now I have come upon something a little more attainable - a maxim, which by my understanding is a step above "some guy I know told me" or "a friend of a friend says".

So I am now presenting the following maxim to biologists and naturalists the world over. The Ritcey Maxim or the One-Eye Maxim states that if you have a picture of a bird or a mammal and you can only clearly see one eye, then the animal is most likely a prey species. Two eyes clearly visible in the photo and the animal is most likely a predator.

Try it out with your own photos. And yes there will be exceptions to the rule, even I have photos of a rabbit with both eyes clearly visible - but I would estimate that this maxim holds true over 78.6% of the time.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Two Little Known Facts

Okay, it's a stretch but I had to figure out a segue between this cute photo I had of a Yellow Bellied Marmot and the fact that I had been short-listed in the Canada Writes competition from CBC radio.

So the two little known facts: first is that the marmot spends more time asleep than he does awake - many will head for the den by mid august and won't return til April. When you factor in the time he spends asleep while out and about in the summer months, these guys should be covered in bedsores.

The second little known fact: I was short-listed in the CBC Canada Writes competition. Oh, did I mention that already? Seems I try to get as much mileage out of that one as possible. It was a pretty good feeling though to get the phone call to tell me that they enjoyed my writing. The names, writings and bios of the other writers are available at I read through every one of the entries and they were all excellent. There are a lot of talented writers out there.

Unfortunately the vast bulk of these talented writers are also chefs, taxi drivers, lobster fishermen and just about anything but a paid professional writer.

Also, unfortunately for me, these people also list singing, dancing, and playing 12 different instruments as their other past-times. I listed watching Family Guy and making beer can pyramids as my other talents/interests.

As the next phase of the competition requires us to have written a timed piece (which I did and it was brilliant), and then read it out for the judges - which I will (and I may be less than stellar.)

Some people have said that Bryan Adams could sing the phone book and win a Grammy for it. I, on the other hand, could read the deathbed confession of the guy who really killed JFK and I'd have people switching channels.

I guess witty and handsome just aren't enough these days. Oh for the good old days before the talkies came to town and ruined everything.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Lone Pine

lone pine in Kenna Cartwright Park

I headed out early this morning, hoping to catch the first rays of the sun as it peered into the south Thompson valley. Either I was late or the Sun was early - I'm not going to argue the point - but the net effect was that I wasn't going to get the hundred dollar shot I wanted.  Instead, I headed off around the backside of the park and opted for a long meander through the less traveled portions.

On my way up one knoll I saw this lone pine, ravaged by the onslaught of the pine beetle, dead but still standing. It's bare branches lifted up towards the sky as if to ask "Why?"

The icy wind cut across that bare landscaped and I was jolted from my thoughts - quickly snapped a couple of shots and continued on my climb.

Once I won the shelter of the trees near the summit the wind died and I had time to shoot a couple of artistic shots of the dried root mass of an old Douglas fir.

While the hike itself was uneventful it was fun to get out and play around with trying to get a decent shot under difficult light conditions.

light and dark on Douglas Fir root

Friday, March 12, 2010

Breakfast in Spain

I added this photo as I loved the feeling it invoked. The brightness of the courtyard playing off against the darkness that partially obscures the produce gave it an interesting ying-yang effect.

Now I don't know that produce in Spain is necessarily any better for you than that grown in Mexico or where-ever it is that we get our fresh local produce from but it sure tasted better. Daughter Lisa and I would take the train into Barcelona or the el-traino as those of us who don't speak Spanish would say and after doing the sight seeing thing we would go to the marcado and load up on whatever caught our eye.

Now it may just have been clever marketing but it looked like the vegetables were from small truck gardens and the produce was always fresh, clean and very very bueno. Fresh salads were always the order of the day as were interesting stir fries and rice dishes.

The marcado often provided a palette for both the eyes and the taste buds.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

That last glimmer of hope

the last glimmer of hope

Well I thought I'd best get this blog entry in while there was still a glimmer of hope. If I wait til tomorrow I might have to write an all doom and gloom post and that just isn't fun to read.

I arrived home yesterday to a message on - you guessed it - on my answering machine. It was a pleasant sounding lady from the CBC out in Montreal, asking me to call her back with regards to the "Canada Writes" competition. Now, I can't be sure but she was either phoning me for the necessary phone interview to see if I would be a suitable candidate for a "game show" or she may have been phoning to ask that I quit submitting things to CBC literary contests.

Either way, I was a blip on the radar for a moment and it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside and then. . .

And then I drew a blank - I couldn't remember which piece of prose I'd wowed them with. I knew it wasn't in my sent files as you submitted via a form on the web so I had to search all of my files that had anything to do with CBC. It seems I've entered a lot of CBC contests in the last number of years, but adding a chronological sort along with a word search for CBC found the two most likely culprits - my "dog-gone" song - an homage to all dogs that have packed it in on film or in song, and then my pitch for my next great "B" movie -"The Attack of the Mutant Kreepy Krawlers"

After having re-read both submissions I have unfortunately concluded that CBC must have been calling to persuade me to give up writing in favour of something more in the realm of reality. Something like moose polo or rabid beaver toss.

Oh fame, you're a cruel temptress.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fire on the mountain

fire on the mountain - run boys run

When most people think of forest fires - they think of them in negative terms. While there are some definite downsides to a forest fires - there is actually a lot of good associated with them as well, so today's Ying - Yang lesson will be about the benefits of fire.

Back in the day when I was working for a guide outfitter in the northern Rockies, we would have a yearly spring burn (sanctioned of course by the 85 government agencies that one must deal with). The burns, were carried out only under the most favourable of weather conditions and normally the window for such activities was only 7-10 days. This window usually occurred when there was still snow on the backsides of the hills we were burning and a good cover of snow in the heavy timber at the base of the hills. The hillsides in late spring would dry up and with a forecast of rain in the next 5-7 days we'd "light 'er up"

The fast moving fires would clear out all of the old grass and debris from the forest floors. This allowed fresh grasses and legumes to sprout and serve as feed for our horses and all of the wildlife that relied on this particular food source. Some of the mature trees would die but these were considered collateral damage and not our primary target.

The natural fire regimes of the north are much longer than down south and it seems it would be every 80-150 years before a really big fire would burn through the valley. This resulted in much larger fires - that scorched the earth and provided a totally different effect that the periodic burns that we were trying to mange our area with.

As you can see from these photos, the effects from these fast fires are quite pronounced.

without fire, the new grass fights through the old

with fire, the growth is dramatic

minor scorching of the trees - but great regrowth on the forest floor

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Indicator Species

Indian Pipe - a saprophytic plant

I was out on an extended hunt in the mountains with another guide and a hunter. We were after Thinhorn sheep and we may as well have been hunting hippos for the amount of game we were seeing.

As we were making our way through a valley pass to the next mountain range the other guide commented on how much our horses seemed to enjoy "that swamp grass". I mentioned that the swamp grass was in fact some form of "equisetum". He looked at me as though I was from another planet and then took up a good fifteen minutes of our ride to explain to me how ridiculous it was to have that piece of information at the ready.

At that point I realized that I was dealing with a lost cause. There are people who go through this world, not only ignorant, but in fact reveling in their ignorance of many things. This was not an uneducated man but one who simply didn't understand nature and the bigger picture.

"Why would you want to know about something like that?"

I knew the question was rhetorical so I didn't bother to answer. I'm sure one of you reading this might want to know, so here it goes: When you understand all, or some, of the components of an eco-system you can glean what is going on from all types of "indicator" species. Maybe at the time you don't know that you are in fact looking at an indicator - but at some point the light will go on - and you'll have that moment of knowing how everything fits together.

The photo at the top of this entry is of "Indian Pipe" a saprophytic plant that feeds of dead plant material and is white due to it's lack of chlorophyll. The plant, in of itself, is not that useful to we humans directly, but it is an indicator of the plant in the photo below - the Huckleberry. So, find some Indian Pipe and you know you're in a good huckleberry hunting area. This I know only to be true in the environs I've traveled in and it may not hold true for your neck of the woods so please don't raise too much of a protest.

Equisetum, apart from being great horse food, is also great bear food - especially if the berries or food sources are not ready at that particular time. So why know this? If you find yourself in a big patch of equisetum and you've noticed a lack of berries or other things a bear might want on his plate, there's a pretty good chance that you're walking into Yogi's kitchen/dining room and you might want to be taking the necessary precautions.

Huckleberries - as indicated by Indian Pipe

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sunrise - Sunset

sunrise over Kamloops

Mornings have to be the best part of my day. I guess it is because I am always the optimist and believe that each day has that immeasurable opportunity for greatness. Some days I make it through till lunch before having that notion beat out of me.

Sunsets are the second best part of the day because it means that in a short while, it'll be sunrise again and in the words of Little Orphan Annie:
"The sun'll come out
Bet your bottom dollar
That tomorrow
There'll be sun! 

 Sunset -Puerto Escondido