Friday, 30 July 2010

We're Going on a Bear Hunt ...

In the words of Michael Rosen (author of the beautiful children's book, 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt', in case you were wondering) ...

We're going on a bear hunt!
We're going on a bear hunt!
We're gonna catch a big one!
We're gonna catch a big one!
I'm not afraid!
I'm not afraid!
Are you?
Are you?
I'm not!
I'm not!

Grizzly bear

That's right, we're going on a bear hunt.  After four months in Canada, I am yet to see a bear and I'm impatient.  Recently, I learnt of another Australian girl in Calgary who waited two years before she saw a bear.  Well, I'm not waiting that long.  Of course, I'm sensible about it, I only want to see one from the car, I would prefer not to have a face-to-face encounter with a hungry grizzly bear.  And, I'm not going on my own and I'll be packing my bear spray.  So, for this long weekend, I'm off to Jasper National Park for 4 days of hiking and wildlife spotting.  Hopefully, we won't end up in the scenario described in this scary article from Ontario's Globe and Mail newspaper ... 

Ontario woman plays dead to survive Yellowstone bear attack

A woman who was attacked by a bear in the middle of the night at a busy campground was bitten on her arm and leg before she instinctively played dead so the animal would leave her alone, she said Thursday.
At least one bear rampaged through the campground near Yellowstone National Park in the middle of the night Wednesday, killing one man and injuring Deb Freele of London, Ont., and another man.
Appearing on the network morning talk shows from a Wyoming hospital, Ms. Freele said she woke up just before the bear bit her arm.
“I screamed, he bit harder, I screamed harder, he continued to bite,” she said.
Her survival instinct kicked in, and she realized that the screaming wasn't working.
“I told myself, play dead,” she said. “I went totally limp. As soon as I went limp, I could feel his jaws get loose and then he let me go.”
She said the bear was silent.
“I felt like he was hunting me.”
A frequent camper, Ms. Freele said that she was already prepared to go camping again hours after the attack, though she acknowledged that it will take time to recover both physically and emotionally.
She suffered severe lacerations and crushed bones from bites on her arms. The male survivor suffered puncture wounds on his calf.
The names and ages of the male victims have not been released.
The bear attack was the most brazen in the Yellowstone area since the 1980s, wildlife officials said. Wildlife officials still were trying to capture the bear — or bears — late Wednesday with five baited traps. The campground was closed.
One camper at the Soda Butte Campground said he heard the screams from two of the attacks.
Don Wilhelm, a wildlife biologist from Texas, thought the first scream was just teenagers, maybe a domestic dispute in the middle of the night. He tried to go back to sleep, stifling thoughts that a beast might be lurking outside his family's tent.
Minutes later, another scream — this one coming from the next campsite over, where a bear had torn through a tent and sunk its teeth into Ms. Freele.
“First she said, “No!' Then we heard her say, ‘It's a bear! I've been attacked by a bear!” said Mr. Wilhelm's wife, Paige.
By that point, the bear already had ripped into another tent a few campsites away, chomping into the leg of a teenager who had been sleeping with his family. The solo camper who was killed was at the other end of the campground.
Then, the screams stopped.
After a quick parental back-and-forth over whether to shield their 9- and 12-year-old sons with their bodies or make a break for it, the Wilhelms took advantage of the silence and darted to their SUV.
They drove around the campground, honking their horn and yelling out the windows to alert other campers. Along the way, the met with a truck leaving the campground with the second victim — a teenager who apparently tried in vain to fight off the bear by punching it in the nose.
“It was like a nightmare, couldn't possibly happen,” Paige Wilhelm said later.
In 2008 at the same campground, a grizzly bear bit and injured a man sleeping in a tent. A young adult female grizzly was captured in a trap four days later and transported to a bear research center in Washington state.
The latest attack had residents and visitors to this national park satellite community on edge. Many were carrying bear spray — a pepper-based deterrent more commonly seen in Yellowstone's backcountry than on the streets of Cooke City.
“The suspicion among a lot of the residents is that the bear they caught (in 2008) was not the right one,” said Gary Vincelette, who has a cabin in nearby Silver Gate.
Last year, another grizzly broke into three cabins in Silver Gate, said Mr. Vincelette. That bear was shot and killed by a resident when it returned to the area.
“Three attacks in three years — we haven't ever had anything like that and I've been coming up here since I was a kid,” Mr. Vincelette said.
About 600 grizzly bears and hundreds of less-aggressive black bears live in the Yellowstone area.
The region is pasted with hundreds of signs warning visitors to keep food out of the bruins' reach. Experts say that bears who eat human food quickly become habituated to people, increasing the danger of an attack.
Yet in the case of the Soda Butte Campground attack, all the victims had put their food into metal food canisters installed at campsite, said Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Capt. Sam Sheppard.
“They were doing things right,” Mr. Sheppard said. “It was random. I have no idea why this bear picked these three tents out of all the tents there.”
The 10-acre Soda Butte campground in Gallatin National Forest has 27 sites. Sparsely populated and hemmed in by mountains, the Yellowstone wilderness surrounding Cooke City is home to numerous bears. A creek that passes through the Soda Butte Campground is frequently used as a travel corridor by wildlife, Mr. Sheppard said.
Two other campgrounds were also closed while the attacking bear or bears remained at large. U.S. Forest Service officials said they would consider closing more campgrounds after consulting with state wildlife officials leading the investigation.
Black bear

I'm not letting this put me off though, cos ...

We're going on a bear hunt!
We're going on a bear hunt!
We're gonna catch a big one!
We're gonna catch a big one!
I'm not afraid!
I'm not afraid!
Are you?
Are you?
I'm not!
I'm not!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

School excursion time ...

The BodyWorlds exhibition

Yesterday was excursion time here in the land of home-schooling.  Ten year old B has a friend from Europe visiting, so we decided to take both boys to the BodyWorlds exhibition at the Calgary Science Centre.  The trip was mainly planned as a fun day out but we visited with two educational questions in mind - 'Is it art or science?' and 'Would you donate your body?  Why/why not?'  The boys contemplated these questions as we wandered through the exhibition, listening to the excellent audio guides.  The exhibition was absolutely fascinating but also confronting at times.  Seeing bodies in action poses, examining the flexion and extension of the muscle groups was amazing.  Perhaps the most interesting exhibits were the cross sections of different body parts, particularly those showing diseased and unhealthy organs.  We finished our time at the centre by viewing the IMAX 'Human Body' movie, a film I have seen 4-5 times over the past few years with various school groups, but still enjoy each time I see it.  The movie offers a unique peek inside a living human body.

Elbow River from the Calgary Tower

Following our excursion, we did some sight seeing with a visit to the Calgary Tower.  Here, we enjoyed a delicious lunch in the revolving restaurant with amazing views over the city towards the mountains, before scaring ourselves silly with a wander across the glass floor over Calgary's city streets.

The Stampede grounds from the Calgary Tower

It was a fun-filled school day which more than makes up for today's school task - heart and lung dissections.

Standing on the glass floor looking down to a Calgary street

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Those long country roads ...

Long, straight country roads ... 

For the next six weeks, these long country roads are going to keep me company quite a bit.  It is only six weeks until the Rocky Mountain Half Marathon in Canmore and my training has been somewhat sporadic.  Due to my frequent travels, a (slightly) more active social life, poor weather and a lack of motivation, I haven't done nearly as much training as I should have.  I feel pretty fit, I just need to get the kilometres under my belt so my body gets used to running 21 kilometres in one go.  I went for my first long run in a few weeks on the weekend.  It felt good.  The roads are great to run on ... long, straight, gentle hills and minimal traffic.  Running on these roads offers a different perspective from which to view the countryside.  The time passes reasonably quickly when you have such spectacular scenery.  I just need to get out there more often.  Country roads, get ready to get used to me!

... with spectacular views

Lush, green paddocks

Peeking through the trees to a dam

No hunting

An overgrown creek

Some friendly onlookers

An art car

It's not every day you see a deer cross your running path ... oh hang on, I'm in Canada, yes it is every day!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Calgary Folk Festival ...

Main stage

Life is about decisions.  Every day, we make decisions - some big, some small, some super important, some trivial, some mundane and some fun.  This weekend, I made lots of fun but difficult decisions ... at the Calgary Folk Festival.  With 68 music artists, all unique in some way, it was a tough decision to decide which bands to see and when to see them.  As with most decisions, there were some non-negotiables - for me, I simply couldn't miss Michael Franti and Spearhead on Friday night and then Melbourne's own The Cat Empire on Saturday night.  Apart from that, how I spent my 3 days at the festival was up for negotiation.  

One of the smaller stages

The beautiful weather meant a sell out crowd

Over the three days, I managed to see a total of 36 bands (some more than once) from all over Canada, USA, Australia, Israel, Brazil, Niger, Ukraine, Democratic Republic of Congo, Scotland, Ireland, Czech Republic, England, Belgium and Sweden.  The reason that it was possible to see so many bands lay in the unique structure of the weekend.  The schedule offered a range of concerts - one band performing - and workshops where 3-4 bands collaborated on stage.  In theory, this was a good idea and could have resulted in some interesting new music being produced.  The reality didn't quite match the idea but when it did, it was fabulous.  Most of the workshops simply consisted of the bands taking turns to play their own songs.  This was great to get a sample of different music, but didn't really fit the idea behind the workshops.  One workshop was particularly lacking in collaboration - the Swedish girl band, Baskery, didn't even bother to stay on stage while the others were playing.  On the Sunday, the bands seemed to be in more of a collaborative mood, as the sessions I saw were all fantastic and all very different - a gospel and blues collaboration followed by an electronic and hip hop collaboration.

Del Ray, a unique blues musician

St Vincent collaborating with another band during one of the workshops

After seeing many of the bands, I was faced with another tough decision ... "They were good, when are they playing again?"  So, I ended up seeing several of the bands two or three times.  Each time I saw a band perform, the experience was unique, thanks to the workshop dynamics or the fact that the band was performing on their own.

The cowboy collaboration

Haydamaky, a crowd favourite

A decision that I fortunately didn't have to make, but most men contemplated a little too lightly, was related to the weather.  The entire weekend was filled with sunshine and blue cloudless skies.  Friends were keen to point out that it was typical summer weather in Calgary.  The decision that the men seemed to take far too lightly was the decision to go shirtless.  From my time so far in Canada, I have noticed that as soon as the sun makes a brief appearance, Canadian men feel the urge to remove their shirt.  Thanks to the beautiful weekend, far too many men seemed to make this choice.  Unfortunately most of them didn't have the body to pull it off.  Note to guys feeling the urge to take their shirt off ...  Are you 6 foot tall, tanned and toned?  No?  Then keep it on.  Please.

The lead singer just looked like he was enjoying him so much, it would have been impossible not to enjoy their performance

The Swedish girl band, Baskery - great music, terrible attitude

Thanks to the stunning weather, there was another decision to be made - to dance or to lie in the sun.  I managed to do a bit of both over the three days.  The festival events occurred on 6 stages during the day and the main stage at night.  Several of the smaller stages were set up under the trees, providing a perfect place to lie on the grass and doze off to the mellow sounds wafting through the trees.  Other workshops and concerts were more upbeat and required some dancing in the sun.  On Friday and Saturday nights, I managed to squeeze my way to the very front of the main stage to listen and dance to my two favourites.  On Saturday night, I got some odd looks when I knew all the words to The Cat Empire's songs but then felt very out of place when I was surrounded by Calgarians who knew all the words to the songs of Alberta's favourite young cowboy, Corb Lund.  On Sunday night, the headline act was Roberta Flack (famous for 'Killing Me Softly'), with a more mellow sound - perfect for lying on the grass to listen and watch the sun set.

Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens

A classic folk festival hippy

The final decision of the weekend was deciding who my favourites were.  Of course, Michael Franti and Spearhead and The Cat Empire were high on the list but there were also some great new bands that I will definitely be following in the future.  Bands who were particular standouts were the funky hip hop band Coolooloosh from Israel (I can't seem to get the link to work on this one); Caracoal, French Canadian girl with a beautiful voice; St Vincent, an American waif of a girl with another gorgeous voice; Romantica, whose lead singer originates from Ireland but is now based in the USA; Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir whose gospel music mixed with some funk was amazing; and the Peatbog Faeries from Scotland whose mix of Scottish folk (yes, the bagpipes were a part of it) and funky jazz made for an interesting mix.  My favourite musical discovery was the incredibly energetic and funky Haydaymaky, a Ukrainian band whose live performances were so upbeat and joyful.  It's not the kind of music that I would necessarily purchase, but the live performances were simply too much fun to miss.

The lovely Caracoal

Hill Country Revue

Whilst the weekend was filled with decisions, all were fun decisions and I was happy with all of my choices..  Prince's Island park couldn't have been a better place to spend a fine Calgary weekend.  What a good decision it was to go to the Calgary Folk Festival.

A very bad photo of Michael Franti

Dan Mangan

The Cat Empire

The Cat Empire

The Cat Empire ... Ollie, the pianist, always has this pained look on his face


Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans - Alberta's young up and coming cowboy singer

Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir

Israel's Coolooloosh collaborates with DJ Logic

Calgary's CBD from Princes Island park, where the festival was held

The river rocks provided a nice place to have a quiet moment

The main stage lawn

Peatbog Faeries

St Vincent on the big screen

Roberta Flack - what an amazing voice

Friday, 23 July 2010


Continuing with the bear theme, my lovely Dad sent this to me last week ...

Thursday, 22 July 2010

A walk in the woods ...

Green leafy pathway

Summer seems to have finally arrived here in Calgary which means that it is perfect for getting out and exploring a little more.  The days are super long with the sun setting at close to 10 pm, so there is always plenty of time in the day to go wandering.  Unfortunately, living by myself places limits on where I can wander safely with no worry of bears.  Last night, a friend came to visit, so I took advantage of safety in numbers to go for a wander in the Brown Lowery woods nearby the ranch.  It was on these trails that I did my first trail run when I first arrived, in the snow, singing loudly while running to scare away the bears.  As you can see, the trails are pretty narrow, so bears are unlikely to see you until the last minute, so it was nice to have some company on my stroll last night.  The path was lined with much greenery with some plants sporting some beautiful flowers.  The walk was cut short thanks to the presence of a huge mosquito population, but it is definitely an area that I will visit again in the near future ... if only the sun stays out!

A wild rose ... Alberta's floral emblem

Muddy creek

This little squirrel was a real poser

Green shoots on a dying tree


And another creek