Category Archives: nature

Some Thoughts on Camping Gear

Some of you have asked how the gear we used on our trip worked.  Here are some thoughts.

  • Our Chevy HHR doesn’t have luggage racks so we bought a CCM rooftop bag from Canadian Tire.  The reviews were poor because they said it wasn’t water resistant at all.  So we tossed our sleeping bags and some tents into some heavy duty garbage bags.  We had extended periods of rain from Rosetown to almost Calgary.  When Mark and I opened the bag at the Johnston Canyon Campground, it was completely dry.  I am not sure what we did differently that those who had soaked bags but it worked great.
  • Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarspray: Provided waterproofing and UV protection to the tents.  While Mark and Oliver had a great high quality tent, Wendy and I were using a $100 tent from Walmart.  When it rained one night I was laying there going, “this should be leaking” and it never did.  So two thoughts from this:  Walmart tents are not bad for car camping and waterproofing your tent and tent fly is worth the money and energy.  Nikwax says that spraying UV protection on the tents will add years of life to your gear from backpacks to tents.

  • We bought a Walmart two burner camp stove instead of a Coleman stove because they were 1/2 the price, the reviews were excellent and I couldn’t tell any difference in build quality or design between the two.  It worked great.  We didn’t bring my Primus Classic Stove or Mark’s MSR Pocket Rocket but in hindsight, we should have just for making coffee and boiling water. 
  • If you have a Coleman Stove or need some propane canisters, the Real Canadian Wholesale Club has the cheapest canisters in Saskatoon.  They are around $4.   We bought three of them and thought we may need some more but we only used one and a bit.
  • A Red Niteize LED lightI bought Marley a red Niteize LED light for her collar.  She is a black dog and at night, is invisible.  She doesn’t like her natural advantage compromised but I can see her.  Other campers got a kick out of her as well.  We weren’t planning to do any night hiking but I put one on Oliver and Mark’s backpacks.  If we got caught out after dark, I want to see him.  Either way every night when Mark would take Marley for a walk though the campground, you could see this blinking from all over the place.
  • I had bought Wendy a couple of travel tea presses over the years and she offered to use one for coffee.  Big mistake.  I might as well just chewed on grounds.  The end result was not a single coffee.  We bought a GSI Outdoors Coffee Press last week.  Wendy can drink tea and hot chocolate, I want some black coffee. GSI Outdoors Coffee Press
  • We have some nice lightweight sleeping bags but while the air was hot, the ground was cold in Banff.  It got colder at night which meant with the air mattresses, we froze.  Wendy who has never camped before, ever realized that you needed some blankets between you and the air mattress to keep warm.  After Oliver was sick one night and we gave him one of our blankets, we froze.  We upgraded our sleeping bags this week to some four pound sleeping bags.  I had no idea you could sleeping bags for tall people but you can.  Mark and I both got tall four pound bags and since Wendy is confident that she will not hit a growth spurt at 46, she got a regular sized bag.  Oliver already had one.
  • Olympus OM-D E-M10 II Wendy loves her Olympus OM-D E-M10 II camera but with smaller mirrorless cameras, you have smaller batteries.  Wendy brought an extra battery along but in reality she could have had four or five.  Meanwhile I had two in my Pentax K-3 DSLR and grip and had two extra batteries and never had to use them.   Yes mirrorless cameras are smaller but that size in part comes from a smaller battery.
  • The hammocks were wonderful.  I am glad I bought them.  There is something about a nap in a hammock after a long hike on a cool summer afternoon.  The main difference between mine and Wendy’s hammock is hers had hammock straps while I had to use some cordage to tie mine up.  For ten dollars they are worth it and are easier on trees.
  • I bought a heavy duty pot, tea kettle, and frying pan for the gear.  Looking back, we may just go with our camp kitchen setup for next year.  They took up a lot of space although a decent frying pan seems worth it.
  • No one packed my camping chair but the Compact Lite chairs I bought for Wendy, Mark and Oliver worked out great.  They take up almost no room.  The ones I bought for them are too heavy for hiking but the Helinox Chair One looks great.
  • Get yourself a great camp light.  Wendy bought me a 300 lumen light from Walmart for Christmas.  It lit up our tent brilliantly and was so useful when looking for something in the car or the campsite at night.

Ventura 300 Lumen Lantern

Takakkaw Falls in Yoho National Park

This is why we came to Yoho National Park.   “Takakkaw”, loosely translated from Cree, means something like “it is magnificent”. The falls are fed by the Daly Glacier, which is part of the Waputik Icefield.   Its highest point is 302 metres from its base.  The falls drop a total of 992 feet in four distinct steps, first dropping over two narrow plunges hidden within the slot canyon at the top of the falls (neither of which can be seen from the base of the falls). The river then hurtles 853 feet over the side of the Yoho Valley wall, then cascading down a narrow flume-like stairstep for an additional 94 feet.

Yoho is where the big mountains are.  The drive to Takakkaw Falls both terrified and inspired the family.  It was worth the trip before we even got there.  I have never visited the park before and I can’t wait to return next summer.

Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park

Some of Parks Canada famed red chairs.Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3191Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3212Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park

The appropriately named Cathedral Mountain.Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3228Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3232Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park

The tradition of dunking one’s head in frozen water continues on.Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3236Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkTakkakaw Falls in Yoho National ParkIMGP3251Takkakaw Falls in Yoho National Park

Mount Norquay

After a day in Banff, I took everyone for a drive up Mount Norquay because Wendy and Mark wanted to see and sit in a Parks Canada Red Chair and I knew two would be up there.  At that point, I didn’t realize the upper Moraine Lake trails were closed because of grizzly bears and I hadn’t thought of going to into Yoho to see Takakkaw Falls yet (nor did I think they would have some red chairs.)

On the way to the chair, I got a phone call asking for Wendy.  She just got the word her father had died.  While she processed that news, a sports car pulls up and a guy and girl pop out because they want to pet Marley.  It was so weird and random but it happened that entire day.

Wendy soon joined us and as a family we walked down to this meadow and took in the views of Banff and the Bow Valley.

I should also take some time to point out that earlier in the day on the way to Banff and Sulphur Mountain, Wendy had her own bear sighting.  We were driving down the Bow Valley Parkway and a black bear popped up over the guard rail.  We had seen another black  bear and we are pretty sure we saw The Boss, a giant grizzly bear beside the road but they were in the middle of a bear jam and out of principle, we didn’t stop.  Wendy just mocked people for being stupid.  So when we saw this bear and we were by ourselves, Wendy was so pumped up.  It was hilarious and she was on a high all day.

Mt Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkIMGP2878Mt Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkIMGP2881The view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National Park

I am not sure how it happened but it looks like Mark got a hold of my camera.The view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkIMGP2907The view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkIMGP2920

I was accused of giving Mark the finger here but I think the photographic evidence is solid, I was just pondering what a bad kid he is.The view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National Park

We met this guy (or gal, I really have no idea) on the way up.  Wendy took some photos and we kept going.  On the way down he (or she) was in the exact same spot.  It was probably pondering what a bad kid Mark was as well.The view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National ParkThe view from Mount Norquy near Banff in Banff National Park

Hiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National Park

Easy 1.5 – 2.0 km One Way Hike

On Sunday, Wendy, Mark, Oliver, Marley and I drove to Prince Albert National Park and hiked the Kingsmere River Trail at the far end of Kingsmere Road.  The first 15 km of the road out of Waskesiu is paved with narrow shoulders but the last 17.5 km is gravel and pretty soft.  It’s not a road you would want to drive on after a couple of days of rain.  It takes about 15-20 minutes to get the parking lot and picnic area with washrooms.

The trail shares the trailhead with the start of the Grey Owl trail.  Take the path for the first 500 metres before you come to a clear sign that directs you to the Kingsmere River Trail and the stairs that take you into the valley. 

At the bottom of the stairs you will come to a bridge where you can see the clear water flowing along the Kingsmere River. Once your across the bridge you will see a set of train tracks. These tracks are used for people to move small boats or canoes to Kingsmere Lake. Follow the tracks until you get to a dirt and later rock covered trail.  The dirt trail will bring you all the way to the Southend Campground. Once at the campground area, you will have a picnic area, stove, out houses, and bear stands. The campground area over looks Kingsmere Lake, and if you look over to your left you will spot a cabin with a boat, and that is the Park Warden’s cabin.

Hiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National Park

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for Teens | 2015 Edition

What do you get for the teenaged boy on your Christmas list.  The easy way out is cash and gift cards.  We aren’t going to take the easy route out.  We are doing this the hard way and come up with a list that any teenager would love.

Asus Zenpad 7” 16GB Tablet

Asus Zenpad 7” 16GB Android Tablet

  • 7″ IPS Display (1024 x 600) with ASUS TruVivid technology for better visual experience
  • Intel Atom x3-C3200 Quad-Core, 64bit, 1.2GHz
  • 1G RAM, 16G Onboard Storage, Bluetooth 4.0
  • 2M/0.3M Dual Camera; 1 x microSD Card slot, support up to 64GB SDHC
  • Android 5.0 Lollipop

$100 for a cutting edge tablet?  I’m okay with that.  The Asus Zenpad tablet runs a 1.2 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom processor, Android 5.0, more than enough RAM to run the latest applications and 16 gb of storage for videos, music, and homework.  It also has a .3 megapixel front facing camera and a 2 megapixel rear facing camera

While you are at it, pick up a case, Bluetooth keyboard, Micro SD card and a Bluetooth speaker.

Amazon Fire Tablet with a 7” Display

Amazon Fire Tabet with a 7" Display

For less then $50, you can get your teen a modern and functional tablet from Amazon.  If you get the $49.99 version, it comes with advertising on the lock screen but for only $15 more, it has no advertising, just a fully functional tablet.  It’s a great deal.

Pentax K-50 DSLR

We gave Mark my Pentax K-30 to him after I upgraded this summer.  The advantage of Pentax over other DSLR’s is build quality.  The K-50 has over 80 water seals in it.  This means that the teen you are shopping for can take it far more places and adventures than other DSLRs.  The other advantage is the amazing price.  At under $500 (with a 18-55mm lens) it is one of the least expensive DSLR’s out there right now.

Pentax K-50 Digital SLR from Don's Photo

The PENTAX K-50 is a mid-level DSLR with fast, advanced functionality, all wrapped up in bold colors. Featuring specifications of a top level DSLR, enjoy a 16 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, fast continuous shooting at six frames per second, high sensitivity shooting up to ISO 51200, 100% field of view, innovative in-body shake reduction, and an advanced auto focus module with four optional focusing screens, not to mention the PENTAX-original weather-sealing. Also enjoy full 1018p HD video capture, and eye-fi card compatibility for fast and easy image sharing.

At the end of the day, you aren’t buying your teen a DSLR for them, you are buying it for the family time you will spend together shooting it.  This summer Mark, Oliver, Wendy, and I went for countless walks, hikes, and adventures together for no other reason than to shoot from photos and see what we could see together.

If you are wondering about available lens for Pentax, check out my guide to Pentax DSLR lens that I wrote this summer.

Ricoh WG-4

Ricoh WG-4 Ruggedized Camera

If you have a smaller budget, this Ricoh WG-4 is a great adventure proof camera.  It’s waterproof, crushproof, and has a built in GPS to record where you are when you take the photo.  It has a quick f2 lens, 16 megapixel CMOS sensor.  It is the perfect option to take into the backwoods, on a long road trip, or just attaching to your pack for a day out.  Like all WG series cameras, it comes with a wide series of mounts so it can attached to your bike, car, or helmet.  Not only are you getting a great camera but with the mounts you are getting many of the capabilities that a GoPro offers.

If you are looking seriously at a camera for your teen and aspiring photographer this Christmas, check out this post I wrote over at the Don’s Photo blog, it gives many more options than I listed here.

Sennheiser HD 202 II Headphones

Sennheisser HD 202 II Headphones

There is a good choice that your teen has an iPod or phone that plays music already.  The music is great but one overlooked thing is what do you play it on.  Sennheisser headphones are a great bet.  The Sennheiser HD202 Stereo Headphones prove to be a low priced alternative to high-end studio headphones.  Sure they may be asking for Dre Beats but Sennheisser headphones offer superior sound at a far better price.  No wonder they are the number one best selling headphones this year on Amazon.

Brainwavz Delta In Ear HeadphonesBrainwavz Delta IEM Earphones

 

If you are on a budget (and who isn’t) this Christmas, here are some fabulous looking and sounding headphones by Brainwavz at an affordable price.   Already named the best sounding headphones under $40 by the audiofiles at The Wirecutter, they offer one of the best values of this Christmas season.  And who doesn’t like a great pair of headphones for a really good price.

OontZ Angle 3 Ultra Portable Bluetooh Speaker

OontZ Angle 3 Ultra Portable Bluetooh Waterproof Speaker

One of the most popular and wished for items on Amazon.com.  Brought to you by Cambridge Soundworks, this Angle is the latest in a line of amazing and affordable speaker systems.   It comes in comes in many color options and is 5.3 inches wide, 2.7 inches high, and 3 inches deep. It weighs 9 ounces, which makes it a lightweight unit.  Not only that but it is waterproof meaning that it can go where your teen goes.

Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

Tucom is making tablets affordable for use by anyone, not just artists. This high-quality Tursion drawing tablet is priced just right, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of a graphic tablet. It includes several software utilities, such as PenSigner and PenMail, which allows you to use handwritten signatures, adding a personal touch to what is usually thought of as an impersonal medium. Easy to install and to use,

We gave one to Mark last year for his birthday and he has loved it.  It works with almost any kind of Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10 software has allowed him expand is skills and talents as an artist.

The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens by Sean Covey

The 6 Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make: A Guide for Teens by Sean Covey

From Sean Covey, the author of the international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, this bestselling follow-up book builds upon the legacy of the 7 Habits and shows teens how to make smart choices about the six most crucial choices they’ll face during these turbulent years.

The challenges teens face today are tougher than at any time in history: academic stress, parent communication, media bombardment, dating drama, abuse, bullying, addictions, depression, and peer pressure, just to name a few. And, like it or not, the choices teens make while navigating these challenges can make or break their futures.

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

You aren’t just giving a gift when you give a telescope as a gift.  You are opening up the wonders of the universe.   All of Celestron’s PowerSeekers include a full range of eyepieces plus a 3x Barlow lens that provides an increase in viewing power hundreds of times greater than that of the unaided eye!

Quest Super Cruiser Artisan Bamboo Longboard Skateboard

Quest Super Cruiser Artisan Bamboo Longboard Skateboard

Squier by Fender “Stop Dreaming, Start Playing” Set

Squier by Fender "Stop Dreaming, Start Playing" Set

If he wants to be a rock star, what better way to get him started than with a Squire guitar and amp by Fender?  It comes with an electric guitar, amp, bag, strap, cables, and picks.  Basically everything he will need to rock out in 2015.

ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2 Person Tent

ALPS Mountaineering Chaos 2 Person Tent

So many parents we talk to tell me that all their kid is sit inside and game all summer.  In part because that is where all of the money is spent.  Instead of a new Playstation 4 or a XBox One, why not get them some quality gear for the great outdoors?  This 2 person tent invites them to get outside, explore the world, and see what else is out there.  Whether it is a weekend at a nearby regional park or an overnight hike on a historic trail, give them the gear to go exploring in 2016.

It is a roomy 2 person backpacking tent. It has a Hubbed Shockcorded Aluminum Frame that is strong and durable. The Full Coverage Fly will protect the tent from the worst weather and has 2 Doors and 2 Vestibules for stowing excess gear out side the tent. Each Vestibule has an Adjustable Vent to help with ventilation. And the no-see-um mesh panels on the roof and walls will help keep the tent comfortable. So much mesh that you could leave the fly off for stargazing should the sky be clear. Other features include fully taped Fly and Floor seams, aluminum stakes, sturdy #8 zippers,

ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad

ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Series Self-Inflating Air Pad

When you’re away from home and want to add extra comfort to your cot or sleeping bag, try this ALPS Mountaineering self-inflating air pad. Par of the lightweight series, this pad inflates and deflates quickly with the jet stream foam and rolls up compactly to fit into the stuff sack. The top fabric is tough, lightweight ripstop and the bottom is made of durable polyester taffeta. Another benefit of adding an air pad is that it will help keep you warmer, which is essential to a well-rested night at the campsite. A stuff sack, compression straps, and repair kit are included with every pad.

Energizer 90 Lumen Headlamp

Energizer 90 Lumen Headlamp

If they are going to explore, they are going to need to know where they are going at night.  For this, they will need a headlamp.

  • Four LED headlamp with three white LEDs and one red LED
  • Three modes: White (high & low), red for night vision
  • Pivots to direct light where you need it
  • 80 lumens of light output
  • 8.5 hour run time
  • Packed with three Energizer MAX AAA batteries
  • Water & impact resistant to stand up to harsh conditions.

 

Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Camping Stoves with Piezo Ignition

Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Camping Stoves with Piezo Ignition

Everyone has to start somewhere, and for beginning backpackers and campers there’s no better place to start than the Etekcity mini camping stove. There’s virtually zero setup and it’s extremely easy to use with no risk of fuel spills and no priming required.  We have one of these and it is the easiest stove I have ever used.  You just screw it into the fuel canister, turn it on, use the Piezo ignition system and away you go.

Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device

Bushnell BackTrack D-Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device

Even if your teen does get lost, he or she can always find their way back home with the D Tour Personal GPS Tracking Device from Bushnell

High-functioning GPS capabilities and a precision digital compass with latitude and longitude allow you to track any course by automatically keeping track of time, temperature, and altitude, along with route, length and speed. Once you mark one of five waypoints, it will also help you find your back to that place, whether it is a camp, a parking lot, or home.

Garmin eTrex 20x GPS

Garmin eTrex 20x GPS

The best selling sports GPS unit on Amazon is the new eTrex 20x is our upgraded version of the popular eTrex 20, with enhanced screen resolution and expanded internal memory so you can download a greater variety of maps than ever. This rugged, dependable GPS retains the ease of-use and affordability that eTrex is legendary for, with an array of compatible mounts for use on ATVs, bicycles, boats and cars. The new eTrex 20x also has the ability to track both GPS and GLONASS satellites simultaneously. It supports geocaching GPX files for downloading geocaches and details straight to your unit.

Other Christmas Gift Guides

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides

The Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National Park

The Narrows Peninsula Trail is a 3km loop in Prince Albert National Park.  It’s a great hike and a relatively easy way to start a day of hiking.  This trail passes through a variety of habitats following the shore of Waskesiu Lake. Of particular interest is a spectacular fern bed. In the 1880’s a fur trade post was set up on the point by an independent trader.

Hiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National ParkHiking the Narrows Peninsula Trail in Prince Albert National Park

A 103 year old Orca is bad news for Sea World

Here is why

SeaWorld could be in trouble because of “Granny,” the world’s oldest known living orca. The 103-year-old whale (also known as J2) was recently spotted off Canada’s western coast with her pod — her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. But while the Granny sighting is thrilling for us, it’s problematic for SeaWorld.

First of all, SeaWorld has claimed that “no one knows for sure how long killer whales live,” when simple figures or even living and thriving examples — like Granny — can give us a pretty good idea. The Whale and Dolphin Conservation project estimates that whales born in captivity only live to 4.5 years old, on average; many of SeaWorld’s orcas die before they reach their 20s. Perhaps because of their reduced lifespans, the whales are forced to breed continuously and at perilously young ages, which could also diminish their overall health.

Another key aspect of an orca’s life — which is missing in captivity — is the ability to swim up to 100 miles per day. When Granny was spotted earlier this week, she had just finished an 800-mile trek from northern California along with her pod. According to animal welfare advocates, long-distance swimming is integral to orcas’ psychological health and well-being; SeaWorld, however, has gone on record claiming that orcas do not need to swim hundreds of miles regularly, ostensibly to defend the parks’ cruel practice of keeping massive, powerful orcas confined to cramped tanks.

Since Granny was first spotted (as early as the 1930s), she’s believed to have mothered two calves, who in turn have had calves of their own. (One of her grandchildren, Canuck, reportedly died at the age of 4 after being captured and held at SeaWorld). As her pod has grown, Granny has kept up with them — without being separated through human intervention — and traveled astonishing distances with her pod annually. Orcas at SeaWorld are routinely separated from their pods, which has been known to cause huge mental and emotional strain and can prevent calves from developing normally.

Granny doesn’t simply represent an impressive feat of nature; she embodies what’s wrong with SeaWorld by being a living example of what’s right in the wild. While it’s true that most wild orcas don’t live as long as Granny has, their lifespans are still dramatically longer than those of SeaWorld’s whales (the NOAA estimates that wild female orcas, like Granny, live an average of 50 to 60 years). Their lives are also filled with much more swimming, exploration, variety and bonding with family — in other words, their lives are likely filled with much more joy.

Turkeys are smaller now and Butterball doesn’t know why

GOBBLE Gobble

The time for Americans to clean out some fridge space before Thanksgiving may have come a little early this year. Butterball, the US’s top maker of Thanksgiving turkeys, is having some problems delivering the bigger birds to stores around the country.

The company told retailers that their orders for fresh turkeys 16 pounds (7.3 kg) and bigger have been cut by 50%, according to a press release from Big Y, a grocery chain in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Butterball, which produces around 20% of the US’s turkeys and 1.3 billion pounds of turkey meat a year, has confirmed in a emailed statement that “there may be limited availability on some larger sizes of fresh turkeys” and that the shortage is nationwide.

This is a big worry because 16 pounds is the average weight of turkeys eaten at Thanksgiving, which 88% of US households celebrate, according to EatTurkey.com, an industry site. According to Butterball’s handy calculator, a 16-pound turkey would feed a dinner party of six adults and six children.

Mind you, that doesn’t mean there’ll be no big turkeys to be had. It’s only fresh turkeys from Butterball that are affected; the company sells frozen ones too, and there are several other manufacturers who will be only too delighted to fill the gap. But what might be more reason for panic than a turkey shortage is what’s causing it.

“We experienced a decline in weight gains on some of our farms causing a limited availability of large, fresh turkeys,” said Butterball’s statement. Translation: Its turkeys aren’t growing as fast as they used to.

This is odd because the industry has cranked out steadily heavier turkeys with each passing year. In 2011, the average turkey weighed some 57% more than in 1965, according to the US Department of Agriculture. And though it’s the most popular size, a 16-pound turkey isn’t even that big. The birds raised for processing average 28 pounds.

Odder still, though, is that Butterball, the US’s turkey-farming powerhouse, isn’t sure why its birds stay svelter than usual—or isn’t yet saying. “While we are continuing to evaluate all potential causes, we are working to remedy the issue,” says the company.

Enjoy your bottled water

There is a really good chance it came from a tap

Imagine there was a time when bottled water didn’t exist in our catalog of popular commodities. Perhaps the trend started in 1976 when the chic French sparkling water, Perrier made its introduction. There it was seductively bottled in its emerald green glass amongst the era of disco and the spectacle of excesses… who could resist right?! What could be more decadent than to package, sell and consume what most consider (in the western world) a common human right easily supplied through a home faucet! It’s absurd that the cost of designer water is at a “280,000% markup” to your tap water and it’s reaching record heights in consumption.

19 firefighters killed in Arizona wildfires

From  CBC News

Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said that the 19 firefighters were a part of the city’s fire department. The crew killed in the blaze had worked other wildfires in recent weeks in New Mexico and Arizona.

“By the time they got there, it was moving very quickly,” he said.

He added that the firefighters had to deploy the emergency shelters when “something drastic” occurred.

“One of the last fail safe methods that a firefighter can do under those conditions is literally to dig as much as they can down and cover themselves with a protective … foil-type fire-resistant material — with the desire, the hope at least, is that the fire will burn over the top of them and they can survive it,” Fraijo said.

“Under certain conditions there’s usually only sometimes a 50 per cent chance that they survive,” he said. “It’s an extreme measure that’s taken under the absolute worst conditions.”

Outside Magazine has a feature on how dangerous of a job it is

THE NIGHT AFTER I leave the Mill Fire, the hotshots begin a controlled burn on the north side of the canyon. But then the winds pick up: 15-mile-per-hour gusts start blowing downhill, threatening to carry the flames onto the canyon’s southern slopes. By this point, the fire is at 25,000 acres.

Cowell and Eric Rice, one of Cowell’s two foremen, leave the crew to scout a corner of the canyon where the winds are particularly volatile. Above, a helicopter launches napalm-filled pellets into the brushy draw between the road and the main fire, an attempt to coax a fuel burnout before the winds get stronger. Ten engines are parked on the road, ready to hose down any sparks that blow across the stream into the southern side of the canyon.

That’s when things go haywire. Around 7:30 P.M., a gust sends the fire down toward the line, blowing burning leaves over the engine crews. Some land on the exposed necks of firefighters, sizzling in their sweat. Others float into the dry chamise thickets at the base of the canyon’s southern slopes. A strap of fire begins running up from the creek bed.

Cowell grabs his radio and barks to Moschetti, the other foreman, “Get ’em up, Brad. We’re going after the west flank.” The spot fire runs from bushes to gray pines: one, two, four acres. In the creek bed, the crew members are boot deep in the stream’s tepid water, waiting for three guys from an engine crew to drag a hose up the cut bank that separates them from the flames.

Rojas and a swamper scramble up the cut bank and, with another hotshot crew, use chainsaws to bore a three-foot-wide hole in the brush—just big enough to drag a hose through. The engine crew follows behind, shooting a beam of water over Rojas and into the 15-foot flames roaring ahead. It’s steep, 45 degrees in places, and covered with stones the size of a baby’s head. Rojas yells “Rock!” when he knocks them loose; they come tumbling down the mountain at the other hotshots, who are widening the break.

Alicia Miller brings up the rear, using a rake to sweep away the leaves lodged in the scree. Between her and Cowell, who’s up front with Rojas and the sawyers, some 40 hotshots and engine-crew members are working on the line at a frantic pace.

At 11 P.M., the crew hooks over the top of the spot and starts building line down the eastern flank and back toward the creek. Rojas is mowing through the brush when a flare-up sends a wash of embers overhead. Behind him, Cowell yells, “RTO! RTO!” It stands for reverse tool order, which basically means get the hell out. The crews power through the brush to the top of the spot, where they pause to catch their breath.

Burning mountains surround them, and Cowell has to make a decision. They either gamble and try to put out the spot fire by building a firebreak directly on its eastern edge, or they back off and take the line up to the ridge top. Option two is safer, but it gives the fire a chance to gain momentum. Cowell sends Rice downhill to scout. The foreman climbs a tree, sees emergency lights flashing 500 feet below, and hears another hotshot crew’s saws screaming in the night. The fire looks manageable. “We can do this,” Rice radios to Cowell.

“Tirso, you’re on,” Cowell says to Rojas, who fires up his saw and starts building line downhill. Not long after midnight they finish. The spot’s contained, and the Mill Fire won’t grow another acre.