Great Divide’s Fall Newsletter, 2022
Welcome to the short days of winter. And what an amazing start to winter here in the Canadian Rockies! There was a pulse of snow in early November, and then clear skies and cold temperatures in the last two weeks. During that time I’ve managed to skate on five different lakes and one frozen river. The real treat was getting out on Hector Lake, the second largest waterbody in the park. The ice and frost crystals were magnificent.
2022 was a real “bounce back” season for me, after two rough years of Covid-19. Thank you to everyone who joined me on the trail this year. It was a beautiful summer, and nature, as usual, provided some intriguing stories.
A Cone Crop for the Ages
Most of my guests noticed that the evergreens in the park were just plastered with a heavy crop of cones this summer. The numbers were staggering, and the big cone crop was consistent across different species of trees.
It was only the third time in my 30+ years in the Rockies that I’d seen this, and when it happened the last time, I wrote a blog post highlighting what biologists think is going on.
One thing about this awe-inspiring display of fecundity was how beautiful it was. We usually think pine cones come in a boring selection of beige or brown, but during the growth of this summer’s cones there was pink and purple and green and gold. It was absolutely striking.
Great Divide’s Favourite Nature Book of 2022: Seeds, by Thor Hansen
It is a tradition of this fall newsletter to recommend a book for the nature lover on your Christmas list. Since the big cone crop is still on my mind, I’ve chosen a book about the natural history of seeds. It was a gift from one of my guests this summer (thanks, Elyse!), and proved to be a really engaging look at something we don’t think about much (gardeners excepted).
Nature writer Thor Hansen takes the long view on seeds, starting with their evolution (a big advance over spores, which ruled before seeds took centre stage). From there, it’s a very entertaining ride, with stops en route that take the reader to the deconstruction of an Almond Joy bar, to how the beaks of Darwin’s finches evolved because of seeds, to a breakdown of why the seeds of peppers range from very mild to very hot. Most mindblowing of all: the story of how a 2000 year-old date palm seed found in the ruins of Masada was successfully sprouted in 2005!
Garter Snakes in the Salish Sea
I’m always on the lookout for nature stories that spark wonder. This summer, wildlife and nature photographer Ryan Wilkes went to British Columbia’s Gulf Islands to photograph some unusual garter snakes he’d heard about. On Saturna Island he found what he was looking for: garter snakes that take to salt water to hunt fish in the intertidal zone!
As Ryan wrote, “I spent days watching garter snakes meander down the beach, swim through kelp beds, hold their breath for minutes at a time, and even witnessed the occasional successful hunt. These snakes take on a surprisingly confident and poised persona while in the water which allowed me to get closer than I had previously thought possible from many fleeting encounters on land.”
Rock Star Snowshoeing Videos
Last winter, I hired the team at Calgary-based Roam Creative (great company to work with!) to produce some video footage of my snowshoeing trips. We got lucky with a couple of bluebird days in February, and I’m really happy with the footage.
Some of the clips will be getting featured on my website soon. But for a sneak preview, check out my “hero video” (Roam’s name, not mine) and a really fun stop motion video inviting you to come snowshoeing. Who could resist?
And as the Borg say, “resistance is futile,” so why not join me for a winter outing? My snowshoeing season starts next week, on December 1. To make a reservation, just visit the calendar on my website and pick your day.
Fundraiser for Ukraine
We’ve just passed the 9 month mark of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It has been an awful and brutal conflict. Last March, I ran a fundraising weekend for the Canada Ukraine Foundation, teaming up with Wilson Mountain Sports, our local sports shop. I donated the proceeds from two days of snowshoeing, and Wilson’s matched it. Together, we raised over $2600 for aid to Ukraine.
This coming winter, in February, will be the one year anniversary of the invasion. To help the Ukrainian people, I will be doing another fundraiser, so if you want a fun day out, all while supporting a good and just cause, mark off February 25 or 26 on your calendar!
Enjoy the holiday season and winter, everyone, and I hope you can make it out to the parks for a snowshoe tour.
All my best wishes.