Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Batchelor Lake pancake breakfast a fun tribute

                                              — photos by Heather Conn

About 40 hikers tromped out to Batchelor Lake (yes, it’s spelled that way, after a military surname) Sept. 20 to enjoy free pancakes, fresh blueberries picked by the cabin, and hot chocolate, thanks to the Tetrahedron Outdoors Club.

Convening at the second parking lot of Tetrahedron Provincial Park on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, we divvied up the breakfast gear, from propane stove to canned evaporated milk and napkins, and carried it up in our respective packs, with Club member Victor Bonaguro overseeing the operation.

Within 40 minutes, we were at the cabin, able to admire the lake views and surrounding forest. In the park’s true volunteer tradition, people immediately pitched in to make pancakes, start a fire in the wood stove, collect and boil water, prepare outdoor seating areas, etc.

The event was one of three pancake breakfasts (tomorrow’s is at Edwards Lake), held to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the construction of the four cabins in what later became the park. Club members Victor and George Smith were two of the primary volunteers in 1987 who supervised the creation and placement of the cabins, trails, and firewood collection.

Some people present, who have lived on the Coast for 40 years, said it was their first time up to the cabin. We had a short spit of rain but only a few people crowded into the cabin for shelter.

Victor Bonaguro

Many thanks to George, Victor and others for such a fun event. The cabins and the park reflect what a committed group of volunteers can achieve. As cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Tet Club members Sue Sleep and George Smith

September 28, 2012 at 12:57 pm Comments (0)

See Chasing Ice: Wake up, global-warming skeptics!

Anyone who thinks that human activity and industry have little or no impact on global warming needs to see the astounding 2012 documentary Chasing Ice. (This movie was screened last week at The Heritage Theatre in Gibsons, BC as part of the Sunshine Coast’s excellent Green Films series.)


National Geographic nature photographer James Balog, a former geologist who was himself a skeptic about climate change, uses truly disturbing Arctic footage to prove how quickly the world’s glaciers are indeed receding. With the help of young male assistants, some of whom have never even worn crampons, he sets up Nikon time-lapse cameras in Arctic glacial fields in places such as Iceland and Greenland and checks them after a six-month interval.


What he discovers surprises even him. When he initially holds up a photo taken a half-year earlier of a glacial landscape that stretches in front of him, he thinks that he must be looking at a different location. He can’t believe how much ice has disappeared in such a short time. But when he rechecks the contours, he confirms that yes, it is the same spot.


As part of his self-created Extreme Ice Survey, Balog crawls onto high, fragile ice shelves to shoot straight into a crevasse. He ropes himself to the shoreline while taking stills of glacier-fed waves smashing onto ice floes. He scales and belays down steep walls of ice, all the while in pain from a much-operated-on knee which doctors say he shouldn’t even be walking on. His eldest daughter says she’s never seen her father so passionate about any project.


The most visceral scenes, besides Balog’s own stunning imagery of glaciers and Arctic ice, are the outlines on a topographical diagram that carve out how much polar ice has disappeared in the last 10 years, compared to the previous century. After managing to film one ice peninsula, the length of five football fields, breaking off, Balog is inspired to capture the same activity at one of the world’s largest glaciers in the Arctic.


He assigns two young assistants, stranded amidst frozen oblivion for two weeks, to keep a camera trained on this glacier. Sadly for us and the planet, and yet fortuitously for the filmmakers, the monumental wall of ice, higher and far bigger than the entire Manhattan skyline, rises up 600 feet, turns on its side, and “calves” (breaks) off. The process takes an hour.


I think that this remarkable, 75-minute documentary should be required viewing in all schools and workplaces.

With multi-festival awards from Sundance and Telluride to Hot Docs, it offers beautiful cinematography by director/co-producer Jeff Orlowski. Editor Davis Coombe does an excellent job of weaving together Balog’s stills with his indoor public appearances and footage from helicopters, dogsled and canoe. Both writer Mark Monroe and co-producer Paula Du Pre Pesmen, repeat their respective roles from the Academy-award-winning documentary The Cove about the slaughter of dolphins.


Some critics charge that Chasing Ice is more emotion than science, but researchers interviewed in the film confirm Balog’s findings. The documentary doesn’t give a platform to the political naysayers who dismiss global warming, yet its website provides a list of top 10 questions that people ask about climate change. The site also provides the resource skepticalscience.com.


Meanwhile, veteran Arctic researcher David Barber, director of the Centre for Earth Observation Science at the University of Manitoba, warns that North Pole ice, which used to be considered impenetrable, is now more like Swiss cheese. When he first visited the Arctic in the 1980s, the ice there usually receded only about a few kilometres offshore by the end of the summer. Today, he must travel more than 1,000 kilometres north into the Beaufort Sea to even find the ice.


James Hansen, a climate scientist with NASA, says: “The scientific community realizes that we have a planetary emergency.” Peter Wadhams, one of the world’s top ice experts from Cambridge University, told The Guardian this month that Arctic sea ice will collapse within four years (in the summer months), calling this “a global disaster.”


Here in British Columbia, the Sierra Club recently announced that the province’s 2010 carbon emissions are four times higher than those reported by the provincial government last June. The B.C. Liberals stated then that 2010 emissions had dropped by 4.5 percent to 62 million tonnes. But the Sierra Club report “Emissions Impossible?” reveals that these emissions total more than 250 million tonnes, when emissions from fossil fuel exports and forests are included. Click here to read more at Sierra Club BC.

What can you do? Stay informed. Ask how your lifestyle and purchasing choices affect global warming. Join groups such as Bill McKibben’s 350.org and support the ones that are educators and advocates for the planet, including scientists and politicians.

Join with like-minded others. Calculate your ecological footprint. Drive less or not at all. Walk and bike.

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September 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm Comments (2)

25 years to celebrate: Many thanks to those who created & maintain Tetrahedron Provincial Park

On paper, it sounds like routine parks work: Build and maintain four log cabins. Carve out 25 kilometres of forest trails. Ensure that the cabins are supplied with firewood, delivered by air. Maintain a precarious, steep winter road as access to 6,000 hectares.


But now add the crucial ingredient, which has made the recent 25th anniversary of what became B.C.’s Tetrahedron Provincial Park particularly compelling: most of this effort came from thousands and thousands of volunteer labor, which continues to this day.


In just one summer in the 1980s, about 200 volunteers built four cabins, which have become the focus of memorable outdoor experiences for generations of hikers, snowboarders and back-country skiers at Batchelor Lake (yes, it’s spelled that way), Edwards Lake, Mt. Steele, and McNair Lake, respectively. (The youngest park visitor, at three weeks of age, who accompanied her parents for an overnight stay in the park, was part of the audience of 100+ at Saturday night’s anniversary presentation at Roberts Creek Hall.)


Saturday’s presentation—a true community-hall event with pot luck dinner, door prizes, rows of tables of friends and photo displays around the room—was a glowing testament to what community spirit and sweat equity can achieve. George Smith, who managed the original construction crew, shared a slide-show overview of the history of the creation of the Tetrahedron Park, from laying out the log foundations for the cabin on airport land in Sechelt, to a crew of committed volunteers replacing a cabin roof during prolonged bursts of hail and heavy rain.


(As a friend of George’s, I’ve heard his ongoing passion over the years about this project and the area and know the challenges he faced, including death threats from locals, to help create the park.)


Fun and humor, though, were part of the presentation and the park’s volunteer legacy, like the image of the identified guy who “pulled a moon” on a cabin porch. (George knows who it was, but wouldn’t tell.)


George paid tribute to the many individuals and local businesses that provided in-kind support and free expertise to create and maintain the park, the biggest one on the Sunshine Coast. The Tetrahedron Provincial Park officially became a park in 1987 and offers elevations from 900 to 1,800 metres, including Tetrahedron Peak, Panther Peak, and Mount Steele.


This visionary community project, which has helped to conserve local watersheds, old-growth forests of hemlock, fir and cedar, and habitat for many animals and birds, including the rare marbled murrelet, required the cooperation of four local governments, the province of B.C. and the federal government.


A powerful desire for back-country recreation, without crowds and commercialization, fuelled this park’s creation from the start. This was evident in a seven-minute DVD of the park by a local filmmaker and a photo slide show featuring 250 images contributed by those who have relished their time in the area. We saw night-time shots of a silhouetted cabin aglow with firelight, a snowboarder in the air above a snowy bluff, fresh ski trails in deep powder, and numerous scenic summer and winter views.


Michael Wilson of the Tetrahedron Outdoor Club presented fellow club members George Smith and Victor Bonaguro a plaque in recognition of their countless hours as the two primary volunteers of this decades-long community effort. This plaque will be permanently displayed at the Edwards Lake cabin.


Many thanks to George, Victor, and everyone who helped to create this outstanding park. I feel proud to be part of a community of individuals who so willingly used, and continue to use, their free time for the benefit of so many.

To celebrate the park’s creation, the Tetrahedron Outdoor Club is hosting a series of Saturday pancake breakfasts at some of the park cabins. Click here for details.

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September 17, 2012 at 10:56 am Comment (1)