Leave it to Beavers

corr IMG_4567
Beaver Dam on Tranquille River

Water is precious and so are beavers in the semi-arid climate around Kamloops.
Canada became a nation literally on the backs (skins) of beavers and today I think it’s fair to say that most of us rarely even think about them as we go about our everyday life. In fact, if we hear about beavers it’s probably in the context of being a ‘damn’ nuisance.

But there are real advantages to their presence especially in dry old Kamloops.
Building dams to hold back water is essential for them to live and have babies, but the effects are not all for them.
By making ponds they create a world for millions of others creatures essential to our survival. Pollinators like birds, bees and butterflies, insects like ants and beetles who are natures vacuum cleaners, ducks, plants, water creatures and mammals all depend on a water source, and beavers are miraculous builders of them.

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Dragon flies mating Copyright M. Budreau

There is a beaver dam on the Tranquille River Trail that is frequently destroyed by humans caught up in modern thinking that beavers are pests.

As one who respects all life, my instincts tell me beavers know more about how to live in this world than we currently do. Humans think they rule the world and behave that way too. They want things to go one way and animals often know it is best for all if they go another way. There is seldom a meeting of minds because people just don’t take the time to understand the web of life. However there is a brilliant and patient man who has taken some time and solved a problem between men and beavers that has mutual benefits .

Instead of destroying beaver dams year after year, which is a great example of “if you keep doing the same thing you will get he same result,” he broke the cycle by taking the time to understand what makes beavers build dams where they do, and once he figured that out he used this knowledge to gently adjust, with no harm, where the beavers were building so there was no longer a reason to destroy their dam that annually washed out a road in the spring. He brought harmony between what men wanted and what beavers wanted to the benefit of all concerned – that is brilliance and compassion.

This method of working with beavers could be used anywhere there is a dam problem.

Beavers are indeed important beings for the survival of countless species, including us as we proceed face first into climactic change.

Here’s a link to view this fabulous story produced by PBS
All About Beavers
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idZYLQeITEk&ab_channel=PeggyBrown

Checkout our new book!   Kamloops Backcountry Hikes

Mairi Budreau

 

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Mosquitoes are Teachers – what?

I wrote in our Kamloops Backcountry Hikes that you can hike on most trails year round in the semi-arid Kamloops climate without using bug repellant, but this year has been a bit different – there are a lot of mosquitoes this year, also a lot of rain and short stretches of heat which is prolonging their season.

I’ve lived and hiked in Kamloops since 2005 and have found that ‘skits’  have not been a big deal except in the spring or when travelling through shady areas by lake shores and creeks. By mid summer the heat dramatically cuts back their numbers, but this summer is a bit different – so far.

spring
One of several springs along the Tranquille River Trail

Both Al and I are not fans of putting insecticides on the largest organ of the body, our skin, so we ‘feed’ the mosquitoes.

As a ‘feeder’ I’ve learned that after a bite if I resist scratching it, in just a few minutes the irritation declines and disappears and the need to scratch goes away entirely. If I cave in and scratch it, I’ll be scratching the bite for 2–3 weeks. From this I’ve deduced that mosquitoes are great teachers by giving us an opportunity to exercise tolerance of discomfort by withstanding a little sting and ignoring the urge to scratch for a few moments. If we’re successful the white lump disappears.

allergic-to-mosquito-bites
If you give up and scratch, the white lump inflames and itches for many, many days, scabs can form and then there is blood on the sheets or your clothes and so on – I’ll take the former.

As a society we’ve become very soft and intolerant of discomfort, any little thing gets under our skin. We’re programmed to avoid discomforts or treat them by buying a product. Not this chicky!
Mosquitoes can be looked upon as reminders to build tolerance for discomfort which can enrich other areas of our lives because there’s plenty of things in this world that would benefit from our tolerance. ‘Skits’ also remind us to make a choice about a future outcome – to itch or not to itch.

Through a little introspection, nature reveals subtle yet important life ways.

Mairi Budreau

 

Be ‘Bear Aware’

There are several different types of large wild animals native to the Kamloops area, and hikers should learn all they can about each one and where they might be encountered. Wild animals are naturally unpredictable, and they may consider a sudden encounter with a human to be a danger to them. Different animals will react differently, so if you do find yourself face-to-face with one you will need to know which set of tactics to use.

The most familiar, and perhaps the most misunderstood, of the large wild animals around Kamloops is the black bear.

standing BEAR IMG_8105
This bear saw Al then stood up perhaps to get a better look, then dropped to all fours, turned away and disappeared into the forest.

There were more than 14000 complaints about black bears in BC in 2017 and a number of these have involved bear-human conflicts on the hiking trail. These conflicts are almost invariably caused by inappropriate human behaviour – they are never the fault of the bear. Black bears are naturally shy and will avoid people if given the chance, so if you see one at a distance, do not approach him.

If you encounter a black bear on the trail, give him plenty of room. Black bears have a strong sense of personal space – a distance that varies from bear to bear and from which they won’t back away, and if you end up inside that space, you are likely to experience a combination of highly intimidating behaviours. You are entirely responsible for your own safety if this happens, and to manage a human-bear conflict successfully you must be able to communicate with the bear in a way that he understands.

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In the bush, we saw this bear before he saw us, so we moved ourselves out onto the road and continued the hike. On the return he paralleled us and again seemed to be oblivious of us. Then came into the open right behind us and then moved on.

Almost all bear attacks are defensive bluffs based on fear, and many of the behaviors that appear ferocious are really expressions of the bear’s own anxiety. So make yourself appear physically harmless; face the bear but avoid direct eye contact, talk calmly to him to identify yourself as a human and not another animal, then slowly begin to back away. Do not turn away from him, and NEVER RUN. This takes nerve, but remember that the bear is defending something; cubs perhaps, a food source or just personal space, and is not making a predatory attack – black bears do not prey on humans. Once there is enough distance between you, the bear will no longer feel threatened.

Leave the area immediately following the encounter, preferably the way you came in. If you choose to detour around the bear and continue your hike you may very well face him again on your way back.

More information about bear encounters see pg 35 of Kamloops Backcountry Hikes

BEAR VIDEO       There’s a little blurb below the video too!!

 

Al Budreau

 

 

Stay on the Trail

Hiking is one of the most rewarding outdoor activities you can do, and the Kamloops area is hiking country. Much of it is open terrain with big hills and sweeping vistas, but at higher elevations it can be heavily forested, and there it is important to plan your route,

Anticipate conditions you will be encountering, and stay on the trails.

Trails provide easily identifiable routes and allow you to enjoy the beauty of nature while also preserving it for the future. There are many benefits for staying on the trail, both for nature and for yourself, but the biggest benefit may simply be this – staying on the trail will help keep you from getting lost.

FOREST TRAIL

It can be tempting to veer off the trail to check out a possible viewpoint perhaps, or to see where that animal trail goes, but if you are in unfamiliar territory it is wise to resist these temptations. Animal trails don’t show up on maps and they usually don’t lead anywhere. They often just wander off for a short distance and disappear, and their rough nature can make it hard to backtrack. And going completely off any trail can be worse. If you become lost and your route-finding efforts fail, you will need to call upon other back-country skills and experience to be able to find your way out, and in this age of reliance on technology fewer and fewer people have those skills.

Carrying a GPS without doing any pre-hike planning or preparation, leaving a physical map or compass at home can lead to a bad hiking experience. Relying solely on a GPS with weak batteries or falls and breaks or a way-point wasn’t set at the beginning of the route and now they have no idea which way is out are all realistic possibilities. If you have decided to bushwhack in unfamiliar territory with only your GPS for guidance, and now you don’t have it, you may suddenly find yourself in serious danger.

With that said, it is sometimes possible to get lost on trails too. Not all trails or trail systems are signed – or even mapped. In areas under dense canopy a GPS can lose accuracy.

So if you intend to go hiking in the beautiful countryside around Kamloops, plan your route before you head out, research the terrain that awaits you using topographic maps, and stay on the trails.

Al Budreau

 

Sacred Places

All hikes travel through sacred places because the earth, no matter how man has desecrated it, is sacred. The word “sacred” as I’m using it here, has everything to do with universal laws, the energy that prevails and having respect for all.
Sacred places where marks are left behind by ancestors from long ago hold energy on stone.

hunting picto

Archeologists try to surmise how ancient peoples used sacred places based on knowledge of religions from another continent and it comes across as inaccurate. It seems to me they have not connected the right dots.
I can’t blame North American Shamans for keeping quiet how to work with energy, how to talk with trees, water, rocks and each other without opening their mouths.
Archeologists and shamans rarely talk to each other so a genuine understanding of  sacred sites is still unknown to most. Until there is full understanding of the responsibility that goes along with having this knowledge – the wisdom to use it – there will not not be possession of it.

sm cave in mtn marked

Al and I hiked to a sacred site this past weekend. It’s a cave a thousand feet up from the trail head, a slit on the side of a mountain. It’s hard work to get up there. There are 5 pictographs in the cave and as an artist I think the images were painted with finger tips not brushes. The lines are solid and endings rounded and the width of the lines are right. The pressure of a finger could push the pigment into the rock better than a brush, explaining how sharp and clear they appear today. They are red ochre and one is faded.

One has been marked in white by a disrespectful person.

There were two girls there with a insect whining drone. They were taking pictures of themselves at this ‘cool’ place and it felt rude to me, but I am sensitive that way.

Someone left an offering at the most faded pictograph, that was good to see. I smudged the cave with local sage. Strong emotions rose in me.
I was thankful to be there, to be with the residue of people made 8,000 years ago.

The trails we walk upon are sacred and when we are quiet, introspective and open we make way for deeper connections and understanding.

Mairi Budreau

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MB taking photos of the pictos on the ceiling. Just beyond my feet the floor of the cave drops off.

Even If I Don’t Go Far

We need wilderness

 

The term ‘Wilderness’ has been defined as “a tract or region uncultivated and uninhabited by human beings”, and “an area, together with its naturally-developed life community, that is undisturbed by human activity” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary).

For me, real wilderness is more than this. Yes, it has its physical elements – forest, clean water, space, virgin flora and wildlife, but its essence is something else. Wilderness for me is an abstract, intangible thing – a mood, an impression of solitude and remoteness,
of having left far behind the familiar artificialities of the modern human world. And I believe we need wilderness. We need to be able to get into it, to wrap ourselves in it and to shed ourselves, just for awhile, of the cares and reminders of the workaday world which enslaves us at all other times. And one of the best ways of reaching this wilderness is by hiking.

Budreau AL in woods

Hiking is a recreational activity where we walk because we want to, not because we have to, and the journey is just as important as the destination. However, as distinct from trekking, it usually implies a single-day outing and because of this we must confine our broad picture of wilderness to those areas of it that we can conveniently reach. But hiking is a wonderful way of exploring nature, and for me it is about more than just recreation. Hikers have long known of the connections between nature, themselves and good health, and modern research is making those connections too.

Perhaps some day we will be thoroughly urbanized creatures happily adapted to a hemmed-in life, surrounded by hordes of other people, but we are not that kind of creature yet. Today, in this crowded age we need wilderness more than ever, and hiking gives us a way to experience the real world, directly and without a filter. Being out in nature, wrapped in the wilderness and away from the business of everyday life, allows me to connect with myself and with nature in a way that brings peace and a sense of well-being. Even if I don’t go very far.

Al Budreau

French Fry Hill

When lava cools into geometric columns…

The Kamloops area is hiking country. Much of it is open terrain with large hills, providing sweeping vistas from many vantage points, but there is much more to see than just the big, post-card views. We live in an area with a long volcanic history and the evidence of that violent, hostile past remains on bold display throughout the region to this day.

Northwest of the city lies the Lac du Bois Grasslands Protected Area, a large (15712 hectare) tract of public land made up largely of grassland and (other) open, rolling countryside. But it also has spectacular cliffs and canyons which display a wide variety of rock formations (and features), and almost all of this fascinating geology is composed of one rock type – basalt.

Basalt is (an igneous) volcanic rock (which is) formed when lava erupts onto the surface, then cools rapidly (to forming a hard, dark-coloured rock with a fine-grained mineral texture).

When the lava cools it contracts and its surface will often crack. Sometimes the contraction occurs around evenly-spaced centers, and when this happens a hexagonal fracture pattern will develop. (The fracture pattern forms at the exposed surface of the lava and propagates downward into it as the flow cools, ) forming long geometric columns. This phenomenon is called columnar jointing.

columnar basalt

The best example of basaltic columnar jointing in our area is located on the south side of the Dew Drop Flats, directly north of Battle Bluff. To reach it, follow the Tranquille-Criss Creek Road to the switch-back turn and continue straight on Frederick Road to the Battle Bluff trailhead. Follow the Battle Bluff Trail to the bottom of the hill where the final ascent begins, then turn east up the wooded valley as it rises gently between the two hills. The basalt columns appear on the north side as a nearly vertical, 25- meter-high cliff (atop a talus slope, forming the lower section of a multi-tiered hill) known locally as Bighorn Bluff and referred to by my wife as French Fry Hill.

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The basalt face of French Fry Hill

Al Budreau