Monday, January 31, 2011

Frank's Video Vault

We interrupt these normally awe inspiring postings to bring you a short commercial message. Once again I am looking for gainful employment and had directed one of my potential employers to this site to check out some of the many videos that I have produced as a way of showing what a "swell guy" I really am.

Those that are looking for the latest fix of "frank-isms" will need only wait another day or so and I'll post the saga of my latest road trip with brother Bruce and my father.

In the meantime, here are a number of videos that I think are representative of things I am interested in:
You gotta love these birds!

(I included this clip because Kenna Cartwright Park is one of my favourite hiking spots and there is a good bear track shot in this one)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Go chukars!

In one of my TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) classes our teacher had divided us into groups. These groups she had given names and for once I was not put in with the "turtles", "sloths" or "slugs". I guess teachers have become much more sensitive with their terminology since my elementary school days.

No, this past group I was put in with was the Chukars - not the most noble of birds but better than a Dodo I guess. The placement in this group was a fortuitous segue to this little clip I had composed of some Chukars that I found feeding out on the hillside on the edge of town.

I was perplexed about their penchant for hanging around for a picture as they are normally clearing out of the area at a million miles an hour. My perplexedness was short lived however, for as I was filming, an old station wagon with an equally old couple in it pulled up and they started feeding the birds. While I know a great debate rages about the appropriateness of feeding birds I tend to side with the feeders.

Perhaps God himself is particularly fond of birds. Just maybe being nice to birds might get you that extra half mark on the ledger of life needed to get you into the promised land. If that is the case I better quit writing and go top up the feeders.

Oh and PLUR out to all my new found hippie friends.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Not really a post

Sorry but I am rushing out the door to an important meeting at the office (Tim Horton's) but I am also trying to keep the blog fresh by posting at least every three days.

I thought some of you might enjoy this little clip of an American Dipper, which interestingly enough has a Latin name of Cinclus mexicanus. I guess the Mexicans are reclaiming the Americas one bird at a time.

The bird is one of my winter favourites and I can spend hours watching them feed in the frigid waters. Or at least I could have spent hours watching them feed if the ice I was standing on hadn't broke. Guess it's time to get back on the diet.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why gooder English?

So this grammar class I am enrolled in is very much like looking in a mirror. Now for some of you that is not much of a problem, but for me it can be a little scary.

My subconscious mind, in an effort to protect my conscious self, still tells me that I still have a good head of hair, and amazingly, still sport the body I did when fencing in the 78 Olympics or when leading that expedition up Mt. Kilimanjaro (I should hasten to point out that my subconscious mind also likes to exaggerate somewhat with regards to past endeavours.)

The point is that looking at the real me in the mirror can be more than a little discouraging as there is this great disjuncture between the real and the perceived.

So it is with my writing and the grammar class. I have written pretty much all of my life; from my first forged sick notes in grade school to this very blog. Through it all I have always enjoyed writing. But now, when exposed to grammar and its convoluted rules I am forced to reassess. Should that participle be dangling? Does the subordinating phrase agree with the dependent and independent clauses? Should I get another coffee? These are all questions I find myself fighting with in an average grammar class.

Before, I took the Ma Murray approach to writing and was quite happy. Ma Murray was an editor of a little paper in the Fraser Canyon and she would put a bunch of punctuation marks in her paper at the beginning of the year and encouraged her reader's to put 'em wherever they wanted because she couldn't be bothered.
Now however, I feel compelled to at least to try to get it right.

While it may help with my teaching prospects, it's going to really screw up my ability to write good cowboy poetry.

 The author at 18,578' mark on Mt. Kilamanjaro (or maybe not)

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Up-space class

When asked today, as to what I was taking at university, I replied: "Up space apparently." (as in, the teachers all felt I was taking up space in class that could be better utilized by a decorative plant or other item of equal intelligence). The person asking the question either:
  1. didn't understand the humour or,
  2. understood, the humour, but didn't think it funny or,
  3. maybe just felt a little sorry for me, and
the subject was quickly changed.

And while not taking up space I am actually learning some very interesting aspects to the whole Teaching English as a Second Language thingy. I'm not 100% sure that "thingy" is the correct academic term but it shall have to suffice for now as I don't want to stretch my brain too hard at this point in the day.

I had opportunity to sit in and observe a couple of ESL classes today and found in very fascinating. I even knew some of the answers. Some things were very new to me like the fact that run-ed was not the past tense of run. I think though, if you said that "Ed and I were about to get caught stealing apples and I hollered, 'Run Ed!'" that it might get you half marks.

I think the hardest part of the class will be getting any work done while in the actual ESL classes. The students all come from such interesting places that I find I am far more interested in their stories than if they know how to conjugate an irregular verb.

I was talking to one of my classmates and you will never guess where they were from. No really, you will never guess so I will tell you. From Ashcroft. Now isn't that cool? You live all your life thinking that the world doesn't get much bigger than that stretch of highway from Blue River to Kamloops and then out of the blue you meet someone that was actually from Ashcroft.

All kidding aside, I think Ashcroft is pretty cool in that it is a real heritage town and has lots of interesting history associated with it. Sorry but the history lesson will have to wait though as I think the teacher is noticing that I am not really following along with the class discussion.  I'll finish this post later, til then - Shalom aleichem, vaya con dios, and see you later alligator.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A fear of flying

I don't think I've ever made any great secret of the fact that I am a devout coward. In me there is never the "fight or flight" decision to be made. I will always opt for "flight" - unless of course, flight means actual flight in some type of machine. In the case where I have to choose between "fight" and actual "flight" I just feign death until the situation resolves itself.

I guess my fear of flying stems from the fact that I understand how gravity works. There is not much more to be said on that subject so instead I will share with you a few of my adventures when circumstances have forced me to abandon good sense and actually fly somewhere.

While working in the northern rockies I had to fly quite often. Now the normal flying that most of you civilized folks do is pretty safe. Runways are long, paved, quite smooth and usually very close to firetrucks, ambulances, and hospitals. Bush flying is quite the opposite.

Bush flying is usually done into strips that would barely pass for a cattle trail in most parts of the civilized world. Strips would make use of the natural openings in the forest and would seldom be straight, level or long enough. Mountain men seem to lose interest in building a strip shortly after they start on the project and tend to leave it up to the pilot to compensate for their own lack of industry when it comes to construction.

I should add that there was one upside to flying in the mountains. The strips that I flew in and out of were good in that they let me get closer to my spiritual self and I would routinely pick up a religion or two on approach to these strips. I had had to scour the world of theology to pick up new leads on deities that may be there to protect me on take off or landing. It was either religion or booze and most of my co-workers had dibs on the liquor cabinet so I turned elsewhere.

Nowadays I don't have much call to get into a small plane and hurl myself at some 300 meter strip of partially cleared land in the middle of a rock pile, consequently I find my spirituality waning somewhat. Perhaps I will take up snake juggling or something else to motivate my spiritual development. Til then, shalom.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

At the back of the class

I have, at times, awoken under a tree without a clue as to where I was. Often when out hiking, especially if the weather is fair, the day long and having no pressing engagements, I will stretch out under a tree and enjoy a short catnap.

When I awake my mind races through all of the scenarios of trees I have slept under before in an effort to put myself in the right context: Am I in Wells Gray Park? the Northern Rockies? perhaps a hillside in New Zealand? Was I hunting something? Did I have a client with me? Am I in bear country? Yes, there are a lot of questions to be answered as my mind recenters itself, ensuring that I am in the right context before embarking on any course of action.

I offer up the preceding observation as a metaphor for what happened to me last evening. A few hours ago I found myself back in a university class, surrounded by other students, and a stack of books on my desk - none of which had pictures of animals or superheros bashing villains.

Seems that last thing I distinctly remember I was being thrown from a mule as I rode along a narrow mountain pass and the next thing I know I am in the middle of a TESL course orientation. Teaching English as a Second Language is apparently what I am now being trained for. I am not too concerned at this point as I do remember one Star Trek episode where Captain Janeway kept drifting in and out of various scenarios before the time-warp anomaly was corrected and she was returned to the bridge.

Unfortunately, if I don't time-warp back to my mule and packstring I will probably have to start reading these text books. The prospect of being a student again is considerably more frightening than the prospect of rolling off a cliff face into the Graham River. Although I have survived both scenarios before, the scars from the river incident make for much better stories than the scars from being at the back of the class again.

Crossing the Graham

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The coldest place on earth - a longish story

 On top of the world

 The coldest place on earth

Having recently fought off the grim reaper I am feeling extra perky this evening and thought I would endeavour to write a longish story. I do apologize to those of you not in the mood for a longish story but one must endure reading through these things periodically if one is to build character and moral fiber. On the upside, this story should meet your moral fiber requirements for at least the next week or so.

Without much further introduction I should like to relate the story of the coldest place on earth. The timing for this story, by way of the last part of my introductory remarks, was brought about a chance opening of a folder that contained a great number of photos from this ill fated journey and nothing else. Just be thankful that I didn't open the folder labeled "Roadkill 1997-2003"

So it was in the winter of  ought five that I found myself high atop a frozen wilderness plateau, about as far away from civilization or any of its trappings as you can imagine, and on that plateau I had just two things in my favour for survival. Fortunately one of those things in my favour was a sled with about two hundred pounds of provisions and survival gear and the second thing in my favour was another sled with another three pounds of gear and about 50 gallons of gasoline.

No, it would take just a whole lot of bad luck and poor judgement to get into trouble with the equipment and provision that we had with us on this trip.

I should also point out that when I say sled I am not talking about some long narrow wooden dog sled lashed together with caribou sinew but an aluminum high tech job coated with some space age ultra high molecular density plastic to reduce drag coefficients to near zero. These sleds were attached to pair of equally high tech, and high performance snowmobiles which can best be described as "goes fast" and "goes faster."

The purpose of the trip, apart from being off on a grand adventure, was to transport a pair of 18' aluminum boats into normally inaccessible northern lakes. The lakes are inaccessible except by float plane or a 20 day hike on foot - and that 20 days does not include time spent lost or swatting mosquitoes. However, when the winter snows blanket the land which is about 80 percent of the year, one can, if one is so inclined, fight their way in by snow machine. And that is what we were doing.

Ice fishing - Canadian style

The first two legs of the journey were uneventful. We had driven the 1,800 km from Kamloops to the trailhead in a long day of driving. We caught a good two hours of sleep in the cab of the truck, loaded our sleds and headed off on the trail. The first fifty kilometers was up through an incredibly beautiful mountain range and then onto the edge of a broad alpine plateau. At the east edge of the plateau was a large lake that was also the base camp for what was our outfitting territory at the time. (Please note: when I say "our" outfitting territory it is like when the greeter at WalMart says "Welcome to 'our' store")

This base camp is well stocked with warm and efficient cabins and the layover was appreciated. The trip in was pleasant as the weather was warm, about -20, the sun was bright and there was little or no wind to contest with. We double checked our gear and machines the next morning and headed off across the frozen lake and made our way up a small creek bed and then up and onto an even larger plateau.

In the northwest corner of B.C. there are a number of large, relatively flat, alpine plateaus that stretch out for what seems like forever in all directions. These plateaus are important areas for the caribou, moose, grizzlies, wolves and other northern species. These plateaus are also virtually void of all animal life once the snows come. Most mammals know that this area can not support life as we know it when the wind is hitting 80, the temperature is -40, and a hard crusted snow clings to everything. It was into this icebox that we were headed.

As long as we were moving it was alright. Dressed for the weather and fighting the large machines as you finessed your way up mountain pass or along willow-choked valley bottoms one did not worry about being too cold. But once we reached our far mountain outpost, it was a different story.

Down in a lonesome valley and exposed to all four winds was a smallish, say 10'x16' cabin. This cabin was used in the fall by hunting parties that would have ridden in by horseback or would have been dropped off by floatplane. When the weather is in around the freezing mark it is a pleasant cabin and the little airtight heater throws off enough heat to warm you and to dry your clothes. In the winter it is a different story.

Because of the lack of timber of suitable size in the area the cabin was built with the logs on the vertical instead of the traditional horizontal orientation. The upright logs were held together with wooden splines that ran their length and were to provide a measure of chinking against the outside elements. The splines probably did their job well for the first ten or so years of their existence, but by the time I got to the cabin they had sort of lost interest in what they were supposed to do. The wind, apparently straight out of the arctic circle, would rush down that long narrow valley and would cut through the cabin as though the walls did not exist.

The life jackets, kept inside for safe storage would swing violently above my head as I lay on the bunk huddled in my sleeping bag, teeth chattering like a squirrel on crack. The little airtight would being glowing red hot but unless you had actual physical contact with the metal of the stove, the heat would disappear like a politician's promise the day after an election.

All night I lay there in the bed thinking of places I would rather be than there in that ice box. I am sure that the ptarmigan outside, huddled in the snow where warmer than I. In hindsight I think it was the orientation of the cabin and the splines within the logs that created a vortex in the cabin and in fact amplified the windchill factor within the confines of that space.

To steal a line or two from Robert W. Service:
If our eyes we'd close, our lashes froze
Til sometimes we scarce could see

When morning finally came there was little reprieve from the cold. I managed to get enough heat into some eggs and bacon pressed hard against the stove that they actually cooked. We gobbled down our breakfast, fired up our machines and "got the hell out of Dodge" without looking back.

The next day we continued on our journey and made our way across yet another mountain range and finally to the frozen lakeshore where we were to drop our boats. Our return trip was much faster as we had  a broken trail to ride on and were not encumbered by our heavy loads.

The original plan was to spend a second night in that little icebox of a cabin but I suggested we press on through as the warmer cabin to the east was only another 50 kilometers away and freezing to death on the plateau in the dead of night was preferable to voluntarily spending another night in the cabin.

Again, the more astute of you will surmise that I did not in fact freeze that night on the plateau but did make it back to civilization. The trip back had some adventure to it but I grow weary at the keyboard and the NyQuil is now kicking in. I shall write of those adventures another time, but for now I think I shall retire to my warm bed and dream of being in a warm bed.

Morning- the clouds have to thaw out to begin moving again

Me on the trip home - happy that I am not frozen

 I must cross the river but the ice bridge is gone

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thanks John

Click on the video so it plays while you read

I was listening to a set of John Prine's tunes on Youtube yesterday and figured I might as well give up on my hope of ever being a songwriter - John has taken all the good lines already.

"Broken hearts and dirty windows make life difficult to see"
"That's why last night and this morning always look the same to me"

And when he isn't being poetic he is just plain funny. If you can listen to "Please don't bury me" without smiling then you are unfortunately dead; and not in the good sense of floating around on a cloud dead - eating bonbons and catching sunbeams - but more of that walking-dead, cement jungle, type of zombie dead.

I guess the purpose of this posting is just to say thank-you to John for sharing his songs with me. The small amount of royalties he has made from the tapes and cds I've bought over the ages doesn't come close to the enjoyment he's brought me.

Once, on a particularly eventful roadtrip with my buddies Rod Hammerston and Kelly Ferguson, we had only one cassette for the 18 hour drive - fortunately it was a John Prine cassette and one just can't ever get tired of listening to and singing along with John. I'd like to say that when the cop that had pulled us over heard we were listening to John Prine that he too was a fan and let us off with a warning but that would be just lying and I'm not about to start that now. In hindsight, perhaps it was the refrains of "An illegal smile" that put our group in such a bad light and the cop in a suspicious mood.

Did I say I wasn't about to start lying? That must be the Buckley's talking. It's been another long night.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My fine feathered friends

 The common magpie (Pica pica)

Again, the wee hours of the morning find me unable to sleep. This time I am splitting my time between T.V. (ScoobyDoo) and the computer (pulling together video from days past).

The video editing is more rewarding but Scooby does take my mind off of the chore of trying to breathe.

Tonight's video is not all that inspiring but for some reason I find very entrancing - perhaps it is the combination of sleep deprivation and Buckley's - but I do like watching magpies.

I think the local university would do well to provide a course in using technology for field study. Setting up cameras like I did yesterday yields a lot of information about birds and how they interact, and I truly believe that knowledge no matter how obscure is a wonderful thing.

Watch this short clip of the birds and see what you can glean from the antics of our feathered friends.

Monday, January 3, 2011

My mountain friends

The upside to being sick is I don't feel so bad when I take the time to dig through my archives of videos from days gone by. This latest clip I remembered fondly and thought I would share it and the lesson that one can take with it.

I was to be the last person transported out of our mountain camp up at Lady Laurier. However as the little bush plane departed with the second to last load, the weather closed in and I knew I was to be on my own for awhile. Up there in the mountains one learns quickly that plans have to be fluid, especially when it comes to travel by air.

The rain, hail and sometimes snow was relentless over a four day period and I was starting to go a little 'bushed' until this little mouse (actually a red-backed vole) showed up in my cabin. The vole looked as though he had been in a one sided fight and was obviously exhausted as he hauled himself under our wood stove. The heat from the stove was probably welcomed and he just lay there, panting and obviously stressed.

Now I know that most would have taken the opportunity to dispatch the rodent as they are the bane of all who live in cabins. They chew the leather on your saddles, they eat your porridge and they poop in the pepper. But I have recently been of the view that I should only kill that which: I can eat, is about to eat me, or is really annoying. I hasten point out that my wife reminds me that the third criteria I mention is not really appropriate and I thank her for filling in for my somewhat faulty social conscience.

So instead of whacking the vole on the head with the frying pan, I offered him up a small piece of cheese. Small to me of course but a veritable mountain to my minute friend. He finally got up the nerve to feed on the cheese and I got a good deal of satisfaction out of watching him chow down.

The vole came back periodically and each day he seem to grow in strength and his offspring are probably still up in that alpine cabin - chewing on saddles, eating porridge and pooping in the pepper.

My plane never did return and I had to ride out on my own through a raging mountain storm, through a valley choked with grizzlies, and then faced with fording a swollen mountain river. You may surmise that I had survived that trip but the truth of the matter is the subject of yet another of my "Amazing Tales form the North."

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Yawn Hyper Ape

Those of you into cryptology will of course recognize the title of this first posting of 2011 as a scrambling of the simple phrase well wishers pass onto one another on this first day of the year. 

So will this posting be about cryptology? Of course not, but it is something that you might want to stash away in the back of your mind for future reference. You might also want to pass this blog on to any of your friends that are into treasure hunts and other such nonsense. You will of course want to remind them if they should happen to find some buried treasure in 2011, that it was you who pointed them in the right direction.

Other than that paragraph I really don't want to say too much. Well, I do want to say much more but one needs to be patient in this treasure hunting business.

So if I can't talk about treasure hunts, what can I talk about? I think I will take the first couple of weeks to plot out all of my upcoming projects for the new year. The major project is that I would like to post 150 new videos to YouTube. With quantity comes quality.

This first video is some I had taken many years ago up along the Clearwater River. It is interesting to watch how this sow reacts to catching my scent. For those not so well versed in the out of doors it is important to learn to watch the animals around you and to pick up on their actions as to how they are feeling and what they are about to do. Probably not bad advice for watching other humans as well. Anyways when you see a bear perk its ears up, get its nose up in the air, and start casting its head side to side, then you know it is getting nervous and is getting into that fight or flight mode.

Any of you that missed my best wishes for 2011 I send them out again to you - hopefully we can share some good stories, photos, and hikes in 2011.