Thursday, August 7, 2014

Waterton Lakes National Park: Goat Lake Trail

More Rides on the Wild Side

Eric and Jackie descending the Goat... Day 2.
Day two of our horseback ride in Waterton Lakes National Park dawned, and after the exhilaration of Avion Ridge, we were excited about riding from Snowshoe Cabin to Goat Lake. 

As we rode, we passed bikes locked to Engleman spruce at the base of the ascent. Cyclists transformed into hikers to walk up the Goat Trail. Everyone shared greetings when we rode by.

Suddenly, the trail opened to expose the reason why Alpine Stables’ expedition guide, Josh Watson, had not ridden here with guests for four years.

A sheer talus slope greeted us, plunging its way downhill.

The narrow trail clung to the mountainside: to our right, our shoulders would almost brush the cliff face in places.

Off we rode, wondering how we would make it. My horse, Major, slowed his gait, picking his way carefully along the angled trail. Suddenly, we halted.

Josh said, “Dismount, everyone! There’s a big rock here that the horses will have to jump. So get off, take the rains right to their end. Now? Walk ahead of your horses and take care not to get in their way.”


So? We did just that... And, after negotiating the ascent and having lunch at pretty Goat Lake (with mountain goats as company...) we then faced the descent. 

As all mountain hikers know, the descents are a lot more scary... But? We all made it.

Now? I long to return to do The Goat again.

Waterton Lakes National Park: Avion Ridge

Take a ride on the wild side

We're off! Following Josh Watson on Drover.
Day 1: at Snowshoe Cabin, heading for Avion Pass.
“Do heights bother you?” asked Alpine Stables’ horse expedition guide Josh Watson? “If not, let’s ride the horses up to Avion Ridge.”

No, heights don’t bother me or my husband Eric Fletcher, so off we went, climbing more than 720 metres to reach this windswept, talus ridge—on horseback! We were in Waterton Lakes National Park, located four hours south of Calgary, in Alberta.

My quarterhorse, Major, picked his way carefully, as though each and every placement of his hooves was a tremendous responsibility. He sure inspired confidence... Eric’s quarterhorse, Jackie, was completely opposite in nature, being a real “powerhorse” who powered her way through thick and thin. Both were superb, trustworthy athletes.

Checking the view, with Catherine Reynolds,
Josh Watson, and Eric, and horses on Avion Ridge!
Just as well... the 2,413 metre Avion Ridge inspired us with grand views of ridge after ridge of Rocky Mountains extending to the horizon.

Little did we know another challenge awaited the next day.

“I've not been up Goat Lake trail for four years,” Watson said. “But I think you two could make it. Want to try?”

Of course we did! So, the following day up we went, with Catherine Reynolds of Parks Canada accompanying us.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Australians ask: What are we really burning?

Devastation to biodiversity/wildlife during prescribed fires

My friends and colleagues at the Portland Field Naturalists’ Club (Portland, Victoria, Australia) sent me this video made jointly by them and another (Hamilton) Field Naturalists’ Club. Together, they created this hard-hitting, difficult-to-watch video, published June 24, 2014.

Back story: The state government of Victoria has an ongoing commitment to the prescribed burning of 5% of the Crown Land in the State of Victoria. The government does this in order to prevent wild (or intentional/unintentional human-set) fires from endangering homes, businesses, livestock and other establishments/organizations/etc which are considered at risk from fire and hence, more important than the conservation and respect for environmental biodiversity, including wildlife.

Despite lobbying the various levels of government, the two Field Naturalist Clubs believe their well-considered opposition to the controlled burns has been ignored. They are particularly concerned about the excruciating death by burning experienced by wildlife such as koalas, wombats, kangaroos, echidnas, powerful owls, and frankly, anything that moves. Not to mention the flora.

Please watch this video to learn what prescribed burns really do. Note: because it contains graphic images of burned animals, this may not be appropriate for children.


Please also consider that this is not “just” a far-away-in-another-land issue. Here in Canada we allow prescribed burns. How do you feel about this? 

What can we do?

My colleagues at the Portland Field Naturalist Club suggest we write to the Victorian Environment Minister Ryan Smith: They wrote:

Every year the Victorian Government burns large areas of bush under the banner of protecting human lives and assets, but is this really what is happening? Concerned? Contact the Victorian Environment Minister Ryan Smith, the man responsible for overseeing prescribed burning in Victoria on

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Elizabeth Le Geyt: Bird Lady and centenarian

Former Ottawa Citizen bird columnist publishes book... and turns 100!

Happy Birthday, Elizabeth!

Today, Elizabeth Le Geyt celebrated her 100th birthday and launched her first book, Bird Lady: A lifelong Love Affair with Birds.

Check this link for some stunning colour images of birds featured in Bird Lady, taken by such renowned Ottawa-area birders as Tony Beck and Bruce di Labio.

Readers of her popular bird column in the Ottawa Citizen can now read Elizabeth’s stories about how her love of birds was transformed into a highly respected column... and book.

I can’t wait to read a copy!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mud Oven exhibition closing soon!

Still time to see Year of the Horse, until July 4!

Several artist friends celebrated my first show with me.
Yes, you can still see my first solo show, Year of the Horse, which is still on exhibition at The Mud Oven.

Spirit Horses: Youngsters at Play.
Mixed media. Sold.
Read about the inspiration for Year of the Horse at the Mud Oven’s website, where I have written about the process of inspiration for my artwork.

My vernissage surpassed all my expectations! On May 12, forty-one supporters from the Pontiac region, Wakefield, and Ottawa looked at my seventeen artworks, and amazed me with their support.

Where the Unicorns Play.
Eight pieces sold: a mixed-media painting, a mixed-media burlap and acrylic painting, a woodblock print on some of my handmade paper, and four ceramic pieces (two chargers and two 6x6 inch tile trivets).

Plus? Two commissions. I was — and remain — astounded by this support.

I also designed several gift cards from my artwork, as well as notebooks and mouse pads, many of which were very popular with the crowd.

Several works are still available, however.

So before July 4, drop by the Mud Oven located in Ottawa at 1065 Bank Street, just north of Sunnyside in Old Ottawa South — my old neighbourhood!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Spirit Horse: Leap to the Fire

High energy!

My brilliant orange Spirit Horse leaps towards one of three fiery suns in a brilliant blue sky.

The whirling suns are actually a repeated, very special symbol of mine, recalling the nautilus, a multi-chambered seashell. Throughout the ages the nautilus has inspired us with the concept of infinity, eternal life, internal harmony, and yes, let us not forget mystery, too.

This brilliant Spirit Horse – which itself embodies energy and hope – leaps towards the sun. I painted Blackfoot symbols on this “Indian pony.” The zigzag represents a lightning bolt, the dot symbolizes the circle of life.

After creating the image above, I fired it at The Mud Oven in Ottawa, I “framed” the 6 x 6 inch tile in a “simply ornate” frame and voilĂ ! A trivet is born!

Hang it on your wall or use it on your table as functional art... but above all, enjoy it.

Spirit Horses: Whirlwind

Galloping, whirling horses

Spirit Horses: Whirlwind
before firing.
The inspiration behind Spirit Horses: Whirlwind reflects how these beautiful creatures of flight abandon themselves to a joyous gallop, running for pure joie de vivre, just as my two horses Crescent and Trooper do here at Spiritwood. These four swirl about against a blue heaven, where my nautilus symbol “suns” represent the continuum of life into eternity.

On the right, find my tile before it was fired: here you get a muted example of what the final work of art will be.

As anyone who knows my art understands, I am inspired by strong colours. In Whirlwind, the strength of the horses is further enhanced by bold hues.

Spirit Horses: Whirlwind my 6 x 6 inch ceramic tile trivet
is completed, after firing.
Here my four painted “Indian ponies” whirl their way about on the 6 x 6 tile. After firing it at The Mud Oven’s kiln in Ottawa, I dropped them into a “simply ornate” frame.

The frame transforms my art into a trivet – functional art you can hang on your wall, or use at your table.