Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hot New Africa 2011 Calendars On Sale Now!!

Hey everyone,

If you haven't gotten your freebie 2011 calendar from your corner gas station yet or just need some Christmas stocking stuffers, please buy my new hot-off-the-presses Africa 2011 Calendar! A new year means 12 more of my favourite mindblowing African portraits gracing your wall at home or at the office!

If you missed out on my Africa 2010 calendar, fear not, for I have converted it into a 2011 calendar. Check it out here.

As always, the proceeds will go towards the beer... uh... internet access fund for the upcoming BTOG expedition!!

I thank you again, the loyal readers of BTOG, for your great taste in Calendar art and relentless support of BTOG expeditions!!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Autumn On The Canadian Tundra 2010, Part 5 - A Haiku.

A Haiku.

Slender tall grass, drenched in tepid sunlight, sway in cold autumn wind.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Autumn On The Canadian Tundra 2010, Part 4.

More Aspens in Fish Creek Park.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Autumn On The Canadian Tundra 2010, Part 3. - Bonus Movie Review: Sicko

The Aspen Poplar (Populus tremuloides) in Fish Creek Park in late October...

Movie Review: Sicko.

I've had Sicko recorded on the PVR since January of this year and finally watched it yesterday.

In Sicko, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine) looks at the state of health care in the USA.

Moore makes a convincing, driving case for reform of the US health care system by highlighting a plethora of individuals who have been denied health care because of cost of insurance or by unscrupulous HMO's/insurance companies (and their political lackeys) looking out for their bottom lines.

I thought Sicko, like Moore's other works, was pretty entertaining.

In order to entertain, he occasionally goes overboard in pressing his case.

For example, as part of his argument for socialized medicine in America, he does a comparative study of social medicine in countries like Great Britain, France and Canada (ugh). He questions "naive" consumers of medical care in each of countries on how they pay for services rendered by their respective health systems. Each patient answers, "it's free". I cringed each time I heard the word "free". Well, I want to warn my American friends that it isn't free. Nothin's free. We pay for it through taxes. Lots of taxes.

I could launch into an exhaustive lecture regarding the merits/demerits of socialized medicine (a system I hold dear to my Canadian heart) but that would be beyond the scope of this post.

I definitely recommend that you watch Sicko though (whether you like or dislike Michael Moore).

It might make you think.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn On The Canadian Tundra 2010, Part 2. - Now go and vote!

Nice to see some non-yellow leaves once in a while...

It's the big Calgary Civic Election today.

How many times have I used the word "big" to describe a mayoral election in Calgary?

From what I've seen on the news, it looks like a close race amongst three candidates for mayor and a huge turn out of voters.

There's a few more hours until the poll stations close.

If you haven't already done so, please vote.

I don't really care who you vote for, it's just important to vote.

Just vote.

Click here for all the info you need.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Autumn On The Canadian Tundra 2010, Part 1

Looks like we're well into a lazy, hazy, and surprisingly warm autumn out on the tundra.

It's a small miracle actually, considering the abysmal summer we had in cowtown.

Everyone should get outside and bask in the warmth of the sunshine before the first blast of winter blows our way.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Bounty of the Harvest 2010, Part 2 - The Carrot.

It was good to be a root in the garden this year. Most of the "above-the-ground" vegetation was blown to smithereens by a devastating hail storm in August.

I think I managed to dig 15 to 20 kg of the orange (and a couple of yellow) taproots out of the dirt this year.

Now for your...

Little Known Facts About Carrots:

Mel Blanc, beloved voice of Bugs Bunny, didn't like carrots.

The world record for longest carrot is 5.839 m or 19 feet 1 7/8 inches.

The heaviest carrot ever recorded:
8.61kg or 18.96 pounds.

Beta-carotene is the pigment in carrots that gives them the orange colour. In the presence of bile salts in the stomach, beta-carotene is converted to Vitamin A.

Eaten raw, only 3 percent of a carrot's beta-carotene is released during digestion. 39 percent is released if you cooked them before eating...

Daucus carota, or the wild carrot is thought to be indigenous to Afghanistan.

China produces a third of the world's carrot supply. No other country comes close. Good job my bruthas...

The first Western variety of carrots first appeared in the Netherlands in the 17th C. Dutch nobleman William I, Prince of Orange (aka William the Silent or Willem van Oranje) organized the Dutch revolt against Spanish imperialists back in the day. Dutch people love orange carrots... Are you still with me people? Did you follow that logic?

Sources: The Carrot Museum, Wikipedia.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bounty of the Harvest 2010, Part 1 - The Garlic.

We had a pretty good haul of garlic out of the garden this year.

Like the size of those bulbs.

Harvested so much, I'm sure there's enough garlic to last till next spring...

Little Known Garlic Facts...

China, by far, produces the most garlic in the world (77 percent of world output or 12 million tonnes per year).

Garlic juice can be used as an adhesive for repairing china or glass.

Garlic is mentioned in the bible and talmud...

Dating tip: halitosis caused by consumption of garlic can be neutralized by simultaneous drinking of milk...

Nearly all cultivation of garlic is by asexual propagation (planting of cloves)...

Source: Wikipedia.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hiking in Waterton Lakes National Park: Tamarack Trail - Day 3 of 3.

Ok, we lucked out on the weather the first two days but we woke up to heavy cloud cover in the morning of Day 3. It looked like the sky was going to open up and pour on us as we started up the steep hill behind Lone Lake.

The final day of the trek just rocked. Two major undulations faced us: first climb over the eastern shoulder of Festebert Mountain and then gain the lofty heights of Lineham Ridge. Not straightforward as it seemed though.

After conquering Festebert, we plunged (depressingly) back down into the forest for a couple of hours. Always following the rockwall demarcating the continental divide to the west, towards the head of a valley.

Fields of flowers.

Nearing the head of the valley, BTOG finally emerged from the forest!!

Surrounded by sheer walls of rock blocking our way, the trail made a U-turn. We could see the feint line of a trail on the far scree slope. That must be the way!!!

No way but up, to Lineham Ridge. Slowly, slowly... The massive U-turn took us almost all the way back even with Festebert Mountain on the other side of the valley.

Where there's dirt, there's life (hanging on). Alpine flowers growing on the scree slopes of Lineham Ridge.

The valley we've been hiking through the whole morning... In the background are the majestic mountains of Super Natural BC. The rock wall in the middle ground represents the Alberta/BC border. Festeburt Mountain is the square topped mountain to the far right. We started the day climbing over the pass to the right of Festebert...

Mind blowing panoramic view once we gained the ridge...

On the other side (to the north east), was a great view of Lineham Lakes.

BTOG hoping he won't be blown into the next valley.

Walking southeast along the ridge, gaining more altitude...

Looking back... Lineham Lakes visible just over the edge to the right...

Highest point on the ridge (2514 m). The multi-tiered Rowe Lakes are below, directly ahead in the next valley.

A different look at the Lineham Lakes to the north east.

The continuation of the ridge walk to the southeast.

Getting closer to the three Rowe Lakes. It was all an optical illusion because the trail would make a switchback and take us to back a point under the ridge summit. One of the craziest trails I've ever hiked I'm telling you.

Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis) grazing by the trail.

The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep is the provincial mammal of Alberta... I did not know that...

Nearly all the way down to the floor of the Rowe Lakes valley. This was the summit of Lineham Ridge.

Looking southwest towards Rowe Lakes and the Akamina Highway.

Phew! Made it down to the valley floor. You're looking at the Lineham Ridge summit directly ahead. Pretty good workout either way from north or south. From here the trail to the Akamina parking lot was a highway: wide, sidewalk-like, and thankfully downhill. Final day distance was 17.9 km. Estimated (park warden-suggested) time: 5.5 hrs. Actual time: 11.5 hrs. Yes, we were either really slow or park wardens are really fast...


Q: How would you plan on completing the circuit?

A: The Tamarack trail does not form a true circuit. If you don't have a vehicle, you'll have to hitch to either trail head and back to town afterward. Traffic to either trail head seemed pretty good in the summer time. Getting a hitch shouldn't be a problem... Not sure during spring or fall though.

Q: Should I hike the Tamarack trail clockwise or counterclockwise?

A: If hiking in the clockwise direction, prepare for a really, really tough first day from the Akamina Highway to Lone Lake. If you're driving in from Calgary and hiking first day, you're in for a late late finish. Better idea would be to camp out by the trail head the night before. We walked in the opposite direction. It was logistically better for us. Easier couple of days of hiking before monster Day 3. Plus, we could got back to Calgary at a decent hour (midnight, ugh).

Q: Did you see any bears?

A: No and yes. No, not out on the trail. Yes, on the side of the road. On the way out of the park, we (with dozens of fellow park visitors) saw:

a black bear (Ursus americanus) AND... a couple of kilometers down the road,

a grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)...

Q: Which segment of the hike would you recommend I do if I don't have three days of time...

A: I would probably recommend the hike up to Lineham Ridge via Rowe Lakes as a day trip. If you are a robo-hiker, you can do the whole circuit in 2 days. We bumped into 2 women who did this (in the counterclockwise direction).

Q: Why do your panorama pics look weird?

A: Thanx for asking... the answer is general photographic incompetence on my part...stemming from lack of an up to date version of photoshop (above CS2), a camera set to aperature priority and auto white balance... Still not a bad attempt I must say. Feel free to click on each panorama to get the "imax" feel...

Q: What were the exact dates you hiked the Tamarack Trail.

A: We hiked from August 15 to 17th, 2010.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hiking in Waterton Lakes National Park: The Tamarack Trail - Day 2 of 3

The water supply behind the Snowshoe campground. Someone should really bottle this water and sell it for big bucks... Strike that last thought. Lets just leave it alone and not wreck the ambiance.

Snowshoe Wardens' Cabin. Apparently there are only 2 such backcountry cabins in Waterton. What a shame... As an aside, didn't get much sleep the night before. I think it was just too quiet out here. That's the pathetic city boy in me speaking...weak. Anyways, that's the BTOG stretching the ol' legs before setting off on Day 2 festivities. (photo courtesy of Khalid)

Beyond Shoeshoe, the fire road ends and the single track steadily climbed through the forest towards the Twin Lakes.

As we got closer to Twin Lakes, a rather imposing rockwall loomed ahead...

It took us about 1.75 hrs. to reach Upper Twin Lake. From here the trail would take a sharp turn southward towards Rowe Lakes. The impressive rock wall in the background represents the Great Continental Divide or the Alberta/BC border. The rock wall would be our constant companion until Rowe Lakes.

Just around the corner was Lower Twin Lake...(photo courtesy of Khalid).

Lower Twin Lake...

Steep switchbacks took us high above Lower Twin Lakes and towards the first pass on the trail. Tamarack trees were beginning to make their first appearance...

On the pass summit, we spotted a unnamed lake down in the Peck's Basin. From here the trail plunged down into the next valley.

Twenty minutes later, we were having a snack on the shores of that unnamed lake...

From the unnamed lake, we contoured around the next mountain, catching a glimpse of Blakiston Valley...

Blakiston Valley...

It took forever, at least in my mind, to get to Lone Lake. In actual fact, it took us something like 5.5 hrs to cover ten K from Snowshoe Cabin... The undulations (slight as they were) in the landscape just knocked the stuffing out of me. Weak. Lone Lake was a jewel of a lake. So, that certainly took the sting out of any aches and pains my body was experience at the time.

Lone Lake Cabin.

I'll leave you with this pic of sunset over Lone Lake. I experimented with a set of Galen Rowell graduated neutral density filters. I like the effect. Very nice.