Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kayaking at Pike Lake

It was a little windy on the lake so I stayed in shelter of the creek. A pair of red-winged blackbirds were scolding me, maybe their nest was nearby. At least they stayed still long enough to photograph them, unlike the muskrat which I saw several times but never let me take it's picture. Or another little bright yellow bird (yellow warbler?) that flitted about.
2009-05-31 Pike Lake


Not much question we live in a culture dominated by automobiles. (That's my bike squeezed in between the tables because there's no bicycle parking. Just acres of parking lots.)

I gotta find somewhere better to sit outside and have coffee! The view here really sucks.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

This Rose-breasted Grosbeak was a new visitor to the bird feeder. (Or at least, to all the seed on the ground under the bird feeder.) I've seen one on several different days, maybe the same individual?

Hard to get a good photo through the dining room window, with a 400mm lens hand-held at 1/60th (cloudy day).

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Spring Road Trip

Shelley and I just got back from a week of climbing, starting around Banff and continuing to Penticton, BC where we climbed at Skaha.

As usual, we found some good places to eat... (all new to us)

In Banff we went to the Bison Restaurant and Lounge. On the way there to the restaurant, and on the way back to the lounge for fondue. As well as great food, it's situated in the Bison Courtyard which is a high performance green building containing a blend of retail, residential, and restaurant space. It's similar (although smaller) to the Rivergreen Ecovillage that is being planned for Saskatoon (and that we're seriously considering buying into).

In Penticton we started with the Hooded Merganser. I liked the name, and the pictures on the internet looked nice. We had a little trouble finding it. Knowing it was on the water, we drove up and down the beach but couldn't find it. It turned out to be inside the Resort/Casino. That turned me off a little, but luckily the restaurant was quite separate. We weren't very hungry so we sat in the lounge and had appetizers. It wasn't very busy so we had a quite meal with a great view of the lake. (Coincidentally, a duck I had photographed a few days earlier near Banff turned out to be a Hooded Merganser!)

For coffee we went to Fibonacci Roastery & Cafe. Kind of a funky place, but good coffee and deserts and comfy couches. We went back one evening for some live jazz.

We also really enjoyed Lee's Fusion and Amanti Bistro.

Finally, the evening we visited our friend Ellen in Summerland, we went to the Vanilla Pod Tapas and Wine Bar. They were very accomodating to our vegetarian needs and came up with several options for us that weren't on the menu.

Of course, we also sampled a few of the local wines (and brought a few home). We only made it to two wineries - Soaring Eagle and Zero Balance, both owned by Holman Lang Wineries. Both had some tasty wines. It was the first time we'd been to the Naramata bench - there are a ton of wineries in this small area.

We also did some climbing...

We were climbing at Skaha Bluffs, one of our favorite spots. Skaha has had access issues over the last few years but things seem to be resolved now. The new parking lot is great, although it turned out to be much too small for the busy long weekend. During the week when we were there it was fine.

Shelley's climbing in the gym all winter gave her the advantage this trip. Oh well, it gave me an excuse to get her to lead the hard stuff :-) We did our usual favorites like Plum Line, although we didn't do Double Exposure this trip. The weather was cloudy a fair bit and sprinkled a few drops, but for climbing that's probably better than too hot.

And, of course, some photographs...
2009-05 Banff & Penticton

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

I just saw a yellow-rumped warbler from the kitchen window. They're not rare, but I don't remember seeing one before, at least not up close. They're quite striking with their yellow patches.

I didn't get a picture and most of the ones I found on-line don't do it justice. This one is pretty good:

ON THE EDGE... A yellow rumped warbler perches on the edge of a hand rail at the Rotary marshes in Kelowna.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spring Flowers

The first flower opened today in our yard. Old hat to those of you in Victoria and Vancouver (and my sister in Spain!), but a nice sign of spring here. Of course, they're forecasting snow for tomorrow - the joys of Saskatchewan weather!

I used my tripod, but they're still not as sharp as I'd like - too much wind and not enough light.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Some great photos of the The Volvo Ocean Race.

I thought two month expeditions were long, but this race around the world takes nine months!

A favorite movie of mine is Wind - great sailing cinematography.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Adios Amigos

A few weeks ago I made the tough decision to withdraw from running the Prairie Pitch Adventure Race this year.

Little did I know that it would lead to me withdrawing from the Saskatchewn section of the Alpine Club itself.

A lot of the newer members probably don't know my background with the club. I first joined the Alpine Club over 30 years ago. There was no Saskatchewan section then.

About 15 years ago, Ralph and Lisa Bock and Shelley and myself got together and formed a "Saskatchewan Alpine Club". At that point we weren't affiliated with the Alpine Club of Canada.

It was around the same time that Vic started Vic's Vertical Walls (now Climb 306). Not surprisingly, the members of the club were some of his first customers. I was so excited to have a climbing wall in town that I spent my evenings and weekends helping Vic and his Dad build the walls, first at their original location, and then at the current location.

For the first few years of the club, Shelley and I were the only members with any amount of experience and we led most of the trips.

I remember Dave McCormack showing up at one of our early meetings and telling us he wasn't going to climb, just hike. As you probably know he ended up doing plenty of climbing. And despite moving to British Columbia, he continues to lead some of the section's most popular trips.

Next, we decided we should be a section of the Alpine Club of Canada. We had to overcome a certain amount of bias against a small group from the flatlands, but we made our case successfully and became a section. I remember nervously making our proposal at the national meetings and waiting outside to hear the verdict.

We started a section newsletter, The Prairie Pitch, which was arguably the best section newsletter for many years. Shelley and I edited, folded, stuffed envelopes, printed mailing labels, and wrote articles ourselves when we were short.

We brought the Best of the Banff Mountain Film festival to Saskatoon. It was a big gamble at the start - if it had flopped we would have been paying for it out of our own pockets. But it was a success and continues to be one of the main fund raisers and promotional events for the section.

About 10 years ago, on an ice climbing trip with Shelley and I, Tony Nadon proposed starting an adventure race in Saskatchewan. For lack of a better name we called it the Prairie Pitch, the same as the newsletter. Tony did a great job of organizing the race for five years. When he stepped down, I took over for the next three years. Organizing the race was a lot of fun, but also a huge amount of work. (Especially if you're a perfectionist like me!)

The section has always been pretty "hands off" with the Prairie Pitch. The big reason it was done as a section event was to get insurance coverage. Tony wasn't an active member of the section and nor were his friends that helped him with the race.

I did my best to step down from the race gracefully. I really hoped someone from the section would volunteer to take over. But I wasn't very optimistic. For a while I'd been telling people I wouldn't be running the race forever and that someone should get involved so they could take over. But everyone is busy and as long as I was doing the work, it was easier not to think about it.

When I made my decision I first notified the section executive, gave them a chance to respond (they didn't), then notified all the section members (they didn't respond either), and finally let all the racers know. The racers did respond - thanking me for running the race in the past, and hoping that the race would continue.

The only people interested in organizing the race were Full Moon and J2 Adventures who put on races in Alberta. Full Moon didn't feel they could take it on this year but J2 was eager to take over - even to the point of taking over the expenses incurred to date (mainly the reservation at Cypress Hills Resort), and offering to give the section a portion of the proceeds.

Again, I notified the executive about this. Again, no real response. I didn't really find this strange because, as I said, the section has never had a lot to do with organizing the race.

I met with J2 in person and they convinced me they were the best option to have the race continue. I was happy because I'd really been afraid my stepping down would be the end of the Prairie Pitch.

This is when things went bad. Some of the section executive started having second thoughts about what I'd done. They didn't want to lose a major source of funding for the section. I can understand that, but the section had no one willing to organize the race. If no one will do the work, it doesn't matter how much you want the money! And it's not like the section "needed" the money. Most of the section revenue is just donated to various other organizations. The section itself doesn't have a lot of expenses.

They kept questioning my actions and arrangements until finally I lost my temper. Oops. I was chastised (rightly) for my "emotional outbursts".

But I felt (and still feel) angry, hurt, betrayed, sad. After everything I've done for the section, this is how they repay me. By pulling the rug out from under me. By reneging on the arrangments I made in good faith. And all, as far as I can tell, for nothing. It's not like anyone has a better suggestion.

I really wish they could have spoken up before I'd finished making all the arrangements. All they had to do was say "we'll take it from here" and I'd have been happy to let them deal with it.

I honestly thought I handled it openly, honestly, respectfully. I didn't go behind anyone's back, didn't do anything underhanded. I kept everyone in the loop. I certainly didn't stand to gain anything from it personally. Even now, I don't understand what I could have done different. (Other than not lose my temper!)

Now I look bad, the club looks bad, and J2 is in a really awkward position - they've already advertised the race and even had people register for it! And the executive didn't even have the decency or courtesy to phone the poor guy - just sent him an email saying the Prairie Pitch belongs to them and they'll decide what to do with it.

So I've quit the section. Obviously I'm on a totally different wavelength from some of the section executive. Maybe I'm overreacting, but this whole thing has left a sour taste that isn't going to go away any time soon.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

You Know It's Spring When ...

When you can sit outside and have coffee and be warm in the sun.

When the crocuses bloom. (crocus photos by Shelley)

When you can kayak down Beaver Creek on the spring runoff.

And see the muskrats. (We also saw two Great Horned Owls and the first garter snake of the year.)

And last but not least, sit outside and eat an ice cream cone after kayaking :-)

Life is good.