Bears Have Rights Too

tentI mentioned in a previous blog post, The Encounter, that my son and I do annual hiking trips in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. This past weekend we did a trip to Jasper National Park hiking up the Sunwapta Peak trail.  This was our 14th trip together. We stayed in a campground called, Wabasso, near the town of Jasper. When we were registering at the campground, we were warned that a black bear had been in the campsite the previous night. While eating our supper that evening, the people at the tent next to us started yelling, “there’s a bear!” They made a bunch of noise to scare the bear away. We never did get a glimpse of the wild animal but nonetheless, the possibility of a bear nearby always makes a person a bit anxious.

Now in the 14 years of doing this, we have only encountered a bear once (if you can call it that).  It was five years ago and the black bear was on the trail in Jasper National Park some 500 or more metres ahead of us.  When we yelled and my brother-in-law set off a “bear banger” (that is a device that makes a very loud bang) the bear took off. Bears are always on your mind when hiking in the mountainous wilderness so we’ve always taken precautions. All of us carry bear spray, a type of pepper spray or capsicum deterrent that is used to deter aggressive bears. Thankfully, we’ve never had to use it although we have talked to hikers who have. When we hike we travel in groups and make lots of noise so that if there is a bear nearby, it knows humans are nearby as Parks Canada advises. (see Safe Travel in Bear Country). We also make sure our food is stored in vehicles, lockers or on bear poles. Bear poles are tall metal poles with hooks so that hikers can hoist their bags (food especially) up to the hooks for safekeeping overnight.

black-bear-blogHaving freshly done a mountain hike in bear country, I began to have some questions about bears so I did some research. The first question I wondered: Just how common are bear attacks? According to the article, Behaviour, by the Get Bear Smart Society,

Bears are NOT mean or malicious. Bears are normally shy, retiring animals that have very little desire to interact with humans. Unless they are forced to be around humans to be near a food source, they usually choose to avoid us.

That leads to my second question: Just how common are bear attacks? According to the article, A few surprises in decades-long black bear study, in the  Globe and Mail,

“Fatal black bear attacks were rare from 1900 to 2009 but they disproportionately occurred in Canada, according to an analysis published in the Journal of Wildlife Management. Of the 63 people who died in 59 incidents, 44 victims were mauled in Canada. It’s not known why, but periodic food shortages due to shorter growing seasons could be a factor.”

That means there were only 44 Canadian victims in 109 year span. The article also reports,

Researchers found that the vast majority of the confrontations weren’t the result of chance meetings in the woods, but the outcome of predatory behaviour, nearly always by lone male black bears. Surprisingly, only 8 per cent of the deadly attacks were attributed to mother bears.

So that made me wonder: Why are there bear attacks?  According to the Globe and Mail article,

Bear-caused fatalities have increased largely in lockstep with the continent’s human population growth and subsequent rise of recreational activities. Most of the deadly encounters with bears – 86 per cent – were recorded since 1960. Nine out of 10 times, the victim was alone or with only one other person. Improperly stored food and garbage was a likely attractant in 38 per cent of the incidents… In all cases, researchers found that bear pepper spray was not deployed as a measure of defence.

Another question: How do conservationists respond to bear habituation? Habituation is when a bear has constant, repeated exposure to people. When this happens bears can become increasingly bold and less afraid of people. These bears run the risk of becoming “problem” bears that enter townsites and campgrounds, places they are more likely to be illegally fed or rewarded with improperly stored garbage or pet food. Parks Canada’s wildlife specialists do their best to reverse this behaviour, but if a bear can’t be rehabilitated they are destroyed because they became too much of a risk to public safety. In areas outside the national parks, bears are often destroyed once they’ve been habituated. In Revelstoke, British Columbia, nine bears were destroyed in one week. (see the CBC article,  9 Bears Killed in one Week).

Recently Josh Bowmar, an American and a former javelin athlete, posted a video of himself killing a black bear in Alberta with a spear. That video caused sharp criticism on social media and from the provincial government. In the video, a black bear can be seen circling and then approaching the area that had been baited where Bowmar stands nearby before he impels the spear into the bear’s stomach.  The bear ran off, likely suffering for many hours and was found dead the next day. Alberta’s government have since announced it will introduce a ban on spear hunting this fall as part of those updated regulations. (see Alberta Government orders Investigation). If you haven’t seen the video, here it is.

I was surprised that spear hunting was even legal in Alberta. I was even more surprised to learn that baiting bears and other animals was also legal. Personally, I’ve never understood the appeal of hunting. When I was a teen I once shoot a sparrow with my pellet gun and killed the bird. I felt so incredibly guilty when the bird died that I’ve never intentional killed an animal since except for mosquitos, flies and spiders when my wife forces me to. Typically, I rescue the spiders and put them outside.

The bottom line is we humans have an obligation to learn how to live in harmony with wildlife. All living creatures have a right to exist. In fact, UNESCO, an agency of the United Nations, issued a Declaration for All Life on Earth which declared, we shall create a world based on love and harmony in which all forms of life are respected. Organizations such as, World Wildlife Federation (WWF) states their mission to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. I believe this is possible and education is the key. Dr. Jane Goodall, an animal rights activist and best known for dwelling with Tanzanian chimps to observe their behaviour, said it best when she said, “Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help shall all be saved.”  If you are going to be in bear country, it is imperative that you get educated.  A good place to start is to read the Dispelling Myths article by the Get Bear Smart Society. To quote Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. 

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Power of the Mind

Buddha_in_Sarnath_Museum_(Dhammajak_Mutra)I’ve always been intrigued with Buddhism. The founder of Buddhism is said to have declared, “What we think, we become.” What does this really mean? I have been pondering that question for some time now. Others have said something similar. Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, once said, “We become what we think about all day long.” Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” That is just a sampling of like-minded thinkers. So that begs the question, what do these quotes really mean?

I suppose the Buddha’s comment “What we think, we become” could be referring to self-esteem or self-talk. I know from personal experience and from observing my students as a teacher for 35 years, that self-talk is huge. I remember one particular student who thought that she could not pass my exams, and in fact, rarely did. What was interesting is this did not change until her thinking changed. I recommended to this student to visit the school counselor. She did and the counselor after much questioning discovered that her self-talk was such that she believed she could not pass my exams. The counselor worked with the student for a long while to change her thinking and lo and behold she started passing my exams. I also have worked with numerous students who told themselves that they were stupid, and these students were seldom successful. I suspect that this self-talk was reinforced at home. So quite literally “What we think, we become.”

Now this ties into what is known as the law of attraction. According to Wikipedia, “the law of attraction is the name given to the adage “like attracts like” which in New Thought philosophy is used to sum up the idea that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts a person brings positive or negative experiences into their life. This belief is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from “pure energy”, and the belief that “like energy attracts like energy.” So this law would say if you think about something long enough, you will attract it to you. Now I’ve had experiences that could be explained by this law. A number of years ago we took a family vacation to the east coast of Canada using a rental car to travel around. As we often did, we stopped to pick up pudding cups for a treat. Since I didn’t want my children to spill pudding in our rental vehicle, I didn’t allow them to consume theirs in the car. The decision was solely mine as there was much protest from my children and my wife. We all stood outside and ate our pudding. After all my lecturing to my children, along with their opposition and my wife’s belief that I was being a “worry wart”, guess who slopped  all over themselves. You guessed it, me. You could call that law of attraction or as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “We become what we think about all day long.”

 Now the law of attraction would say that when we worry about something, say “I hope the car won’t break down” or “What if the car breaks down” that we attract that into our life even though we may not want it. I can also relate to this. Many years ago my wife and I took a road trip. Out of the blue my wife asks, “What would we do if the van breaks down?” I responded with, “find a mechanic.” Well, a few hours later our van died as the alternator failed. We had to find a mechanic. Was that the Law of Attraction? Perhaps. Orison Swett Marden, an American inspirational author and founder of SUCCESS magazine, said, “Worry clogs the brain and paralyzes the thought. A troubled brain can not think clearly, vigorously, locally.” This law would say that because we were worrying, thus constantly thinking that the van might break down; we attracted that into our experience.

What I find particularly fascinating is that science is providing evidence that the mind can affect matter. Here are two studies that caught my attention. The first is what is called the placebo affect. We’ve all heard of the use of placebos used in the study of new medications. A Baylor School of Medicine study, published in 2002 in the New England Journal of Medicine (see Study Finds…), looked at surgery for patients with severe and debilitating knee pain. The patients were divided into three groups. The surgeons shaved the damaged cartilage in the knee of one group. For the second group they flushed out the knee-joint, removing all of the material believed to be causing inflammation. The third group received a “fake” surgery, where the patients were only sedated and tricked that they actually had the knee surgery. For the patients who received the “fake” surgery, the doctors made the incisions and splashed salt water on the knee as they would in normal surgery. They then sewed up the incisions like the real thing. All three groups went through the same rehab process, and the results were surprising. The placebo group improved just as much as the other two groups who had surgery.

Another fascinating example of how science is showing the power of the mind influences matter is the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto.  Dr. Emoto has been studying the effects of thoughts and feelings on water. He did this by producing different focused intentions through written and spoken words directed towards water samples. He did the same using musical styles. Dr. Emoto would literally present these thoughts to water samples and the water appears to “change its expression”. One of his books, The Hidden Messages in Water (1999), explains how he demonstrated the effects of human thoughts on water. More specifically, he observed the crystals of frozen water after exposing the water to music or thoughts. I have personally read this book and found it quite captivating and he has since published many more. (See Masaru Emoto)

There are many more captivating scientific studies that provide evidence that thought, or the human mind, can influence matter. See the 10 Scientific Studies… to learn more.

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Henry Ford, Time Magazine, Jan 1935

So maybe there is something to the Buddha quote, “What we think, we become.” Or as Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” If we think we are a failure, we become a failure. If we think we are brainy, we become brainy. Now I’m not suggesting it is magic. If we think and believe we are good at something, say hockey, doesn’t mean we magically are. However, the wanting to be good motivates a person to practice and become good at it. Eckhart Tolle, a German-born resident of Canada, best known as the author of The Power of Now and A New Earth: Awakening to your Life’s Purpose, says, “The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly—you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you.” I get that now. If we control those negative or destructive thoughts then our mind can’t use us. If we use our mind in positive and creative ways, then we grow as human beings. It is true. What we think, we become.”

Another Fine Man Gone

On April 9th, 2016 my father in law passed away, which is the reason you haven’t heard from me for a while. My wife’s dad was one of the kindest, most generous men that I had the privilege to know. He was always willing to help people at any time, and at any place. He helped my wife and I many times throughout our marriage for which I will always be grateful. Generosity and sharing don’t seem to be highly valued in today’s society. Society instead seems to teach us to be greedy and to be hoarders. From what I see, most people seem to be selfish with their possessions, time and money. My father in law went against the norms of our society. He was always generous with his time, money and with his possessions. By far, his strongest value was, to always help others in need.

I feel privileged and honoured to have spent his last day with him. My wife and I, along with two of his other daughters and one of his sons were privileged to spend his last day with him and to say goodbye to him. Thankfully, his two other sons were able to say their goodbyes to him earlier. We don’t always get an opportunity to say goodbye before a person leaves the earthly plane.

It amazes me how music has the ability to express exactly what a person may be feeling. At my father in law’s funeral, the musician, a good friend of my wife’s, sang the most beautiful song by Phil Coulter called, The Old Man. This song brought tears to my eyes when she sang it because it so beautifully expressed how the family felt about this man. The lyrics of the song are:

The tears have all been shed now
we´ve said our last goodbyes
His soul been blessed
He’s laid to rest
And it´s now I feel alone.
He was more than just a father
A teacher my best friend
He can still be heard
In the tunes we shared
When we play them on our own

[Chorus]
I never will forget him
For he made me “what I am”
Though he may be gone
Memories linger on
And I miss him, the old man

As a boy he’d take me walking
By mountain field and stream
And he showed me things
not known to kings
And secret between him and me
Like the colors of the pheasant
As he rises in the dawn
And how to fish and make a wish
Beside the Holly Tree

I thought he’d live forever
He seemed so big and strong
But the minutes fly
And the years roll by
For a father and a son
And suddenly when it happened
There was so much left unsaid
No second chance
To tell him thanks
For everything he’s done

Even though the song was a tribute to my father in law, it still made me think of my dad who passed away 16 years ago in March. Coulter’s lyrics, I never will forget him, for he made me “what I am”, though he may be gone, memories linger on, and I miss him, the old man. He was more than just a father, a teacher, [and] my best friend describe who my dad was for me and I know they describe who my wife’s dad was for them, which was why the family chose the song. My wife often spoke about the things her dad taught her, especially how he taught her to drive a stick shift. I’m sure the rest of the family have many memories of things their dad taught them as well. I will forever be indebted that it was her dad and her mom who made my wife who she is. She is special because her parents were special.

The song ends with the lyrics, and suddenly when it happened, there was so much left unsaid, no second chance to tell him thanks for everything he’s done. I will always be grateful, as I know my wife is, that the family had an opportunity to thank him for all he had done for them on his last day of life. A few days prior to his death, my wife wrote a letter to her dad  and was able to read it to him. In the letter she shared many of her favourite memories of him and thanked him for being her dad. Needless to say, everyone present was in tears.

On the back of my father in law’s funeral card, the family chose to insert the poem, In Memory Of My Dad by Leah Hendrie. The poem reads as follows.

If I could write a story
It would be the greatest ever told
Of a kind and loving father
Who had a heart of gold

I could write a million pages
But still be unable to say, just how
Much I love and miss him
Every single day
I will remember all he taught me
I’m hurt but won’t be sad
Because he’ll send me down the answers
And he’ll always be MY DAD

As the song did, this poem describes my feelings towards my dad. Even though he left this world 16 years ago, I believe he is still sending me answers and giving me guidance just as he did when he was still alive. My father in law also gave us guidance from time to time and I know he will continue to do so from the other side. My father in law was an inspiration and role model for his children just as my dad was for my siblings and me. His legacies will continue to inspire us.  He will always be loved and definitely will be missed.

I will forever be in awe of my wife’s oldest sister who cared for her father in recent years. She is a reflection of the kind of man her dad was. I also feel honoured to be part of a family that so generously opened up their homes as a place to stay during this sad occasion. They are truly a family that reflect the values that their father/grandfather held.

“You’re Chicken”

Anybody that knows me understands that I am not one of the bravest people on the planet.  I do not like speed so I avoid being in fast cars, speed boats and roller coasters.  Moreover, I am afraid of heights. I was terrified standing on the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada. You could not pay me enough to stand on that glass bottom.  Strangely, standing on top of a mountain or walking along a trail with a steep cliff beside me, I’m not afraid.  But put me on a roof to shingle it, I’m terrified.  My brothers, when asking for family members to help shingle a roof don’t even bother asking me because they know I’m useless due to my fear of heights.

disneyland-resort-logo-540154My wife loves anything Disney, so in 2004, we took a family vacation to spend time at Disneyland in California, U.S.A.  I will admit, to use the idiom,  that I was a “chicken”.  I refused to go on anything labelled a roller coaster.  That meant that the Space Mountain ride was out.  We were in line to experience the ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad when I noticed a sign stating that the ride was a roller coaster.  I questioned my wife about it and she assured me it was a very mild roller coaster.  So I went.  That was a one time experience though.  Then there is California Adventure Land. They have the California Screamin’, a huge roller coaster.  There was no way in hell that I was going on that.  Then there was the then newly opened The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror ride.  That is a ride that simulates an out of control elevator dropping.  That sounded just too terrifying for me, so I used my “I’ll pass” card.  Let’s face it, I am just a big chicken.

Three years ago, in 2013, my daughter volunteered in South Africa for two weeks with a group of university students.  She also spent two weeks traveling on safaris and experiencing Africa.  My daughter declared her  motto to be, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I’m going to experience all that I can.”  I was so proud of her.  She tried new foods such as crocodile, wildebeest, and warthogs. She went shark cage diving.  She did cliff diving, surfing and caving.  The list goes on and on. I thought she was incredibly brave.

clip-art-rollercoaster-347569That same year, my wife had a work related conference in Anaheim, California,  so we decided to make a vacation of it.  I, along with two of our children, went with her to once again experience Disneyland and California Adventure Land. So I thought, if my daughter can be brave and was willing to try new things in Africa, then I can be brave too.  My new motto for the trip was, “If my daughter can try new things, so can I”.  It was  carpe diem; “seize the day” for me. No one was going to accuse me of being chicken this time.  So off we went to experience the theme parks.

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Disneyland’s Tower of Terror

My wife loved Space Mountain, so I said, “I’ll try that.” I did but only once.  Then there was the The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror which I was terrified to go on in 2004.  Not this time.  While waiting in line, I’ll be honest, I was nervous, very nervous actually, but if my daughter could be brave so can I.  The ride turned out to be fun.  In fact, we went three more times after that. I drew the line at the huge roller coaster known as California Sceamin’.  My wife and son loved it.  My eldest daughter and I just waited for them.  She is a bit like her Dad. She is not overly brave but she did try most rides like me.

We also spent a day at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California. I am so proud of myself as I did the new Transformers: the ride 3D and Revenge of the Mummy: the Ride, both of which are a type of roller coaster.

So, I learned something on that trip.  It is okay to try new things; to have new experiences.  Sometimes we just have to face our fears and ‘seize the day’.  I made a deal with myself then to take some risks and to just go for it, although I do draw the line at extreme activities such a sky diving and parasailing. Author Neil Gaiman in The Graveyard Book, says, “If you dare nothing, then when the day is over, nothing is all you will have gained.” That is so true!

The article, Seeking the potential vs the risk, in Huffpost Business says,

Taking risks empowers you to establish new limits in your mind. We all have boundaries or a comfort zone where we’d like to stay and many have misconstrued visions of what we think we deserve or are capable of accomplishing. When you take risks, you can eradicate that thinking, establish new boundaries, improve your outlook on life and your ability to achieve on high levels.

That is what happened to me. I like my comfort zones. In my mind I set limits like “no roller coasters” but when I decided to take risks, I eradicated those old limits and established new boundaries. I decided that I could handle some roller coasters and even an out of control elevator ride. So take some risks. Have some adventures in life. Life is too short to be scared. Helen Keller in her book,  The Open Door says, Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” I prefer to have adventures. You should too.

Someone is Watching You

I regularly receive emails from various websites. Most of them are emails containing inspirational quotes or sayings; basically emails that encourage us to be better human beings. I recently received this one.

Remember that someone is looking up to you now, preparing to follow your example. Let this guide your next choice.

We often think that we are operating in a vacuum, that no one is watching us, that our actions are mostly private. Yet, what if you knew that your every thought, word, and deed today was going to be imitated by one who admires you?

I’ve been pondering on this email for a while now. Being in the teaching profession for 35 years I know unreservedly what being watched is like. Whether we teachers like it or not, we are always being watched by our students and their parents. It is a rare occurrence for me to not be seen by a former student of mine when out in public. It is not unusual to have some young person from the school I taught at in my community to yell out to me with a greeting or to wave at me when I am out and about in the community. It was also common to have a student, when I was still teaching, come up to me and tell me that they saw me in some store or walking on the street, or some such thing. As a teacher, you are always in the public eye. Now I admit, I have always had struggles with this. I sometimes avoided attending community events because of it. It has also given me a much greater compassion for our political leaders, entertainers, sports stars and other people who are even under more scrutiny by the public.

I often think of celebrities and how difficult it must be for them. Not only do random strangers notice them, but many of them are constantly followed by the Paparazzi. There is a reason that LAX is providing a new option for Hollywood celebrities looking to skirt airport paparazzi. The article states LAX is set to approve plans to convert a cargo office into a small new terminal that will allow passengers to drive into a secluded entrance, get screened by the Transportation Security Administration privately and be driven across the airfield straight to the stairs to board their flights.

In August of 2015, Buckingham Palace issued an appeal to world media not to publish unauthorized images of two-year-old Prince George, the elder child of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. He is third in line to succeed his paternal great-grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, after his paternal grandfather Charles, and his father, William. (see Prince George harassed)

The palace says in recent months, photographers have done such things as used long-range lenses to photograph the Duchess of Cambridge playing with her son in private parks, have monitored the movements of Prince George and his nanny around London parks, as well as observed movements of other household staff, pursued cars leaving family homes, and used other children to draw Prince George into view around playgrounds. Whether people are a member of a Royal family, a Hollywood celebrity, or politician, these people have a right to privacy, although I am certain that they are all very aware that they are in the public eye.

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Scene from Dead Poet’s Society

Over the years I have become more and more aware of how much I was being examined. Sometimes when talking to former students I will ask them what they remember about my classes. I have yet to have a former student tell me it was one of those brilliant lessons (at least I thought so) I had taught. Instead their response to my question is always connected to relationship. Former students would tell me it was most often something I said to a student. I had one former student tell me that it meant the world to him when I told him in school, paraphrased “You’re a lousy student but you are a really nice guy.” He said he appreciated the fact that I still liked him even though he wasn’t the best student. Another student told me that I was one of the teachers that cared; I was one of the teachers that always listened and helped. Now I write this with the risk of sounding vain but the point I am making is that students notice. They notice when you care. They notice when you are kind. They know when you like them or not.

A person does not realize how much they have impacted a student until they receive letters from them. One student wrote, “I haven’t been in this school very long; you were one of my first teachers… During the many classes we had together you made it very enjoyable and you were very understanding when people didn’t have a clue on what you were talking about.” Another student in a “Thank You” card wrote, “Thanks for being a part of my high school career. I know we had our ups and downs, but just know you have made a difference in my life, and every one else’s”. Still another student wrote in a letter, “I would like to start this letter of appreciation to you by saying what a great teacher you are. Whenever I needed help, you would come right over and do your best to help me understand and that goes for the rest of the class too…I feel lucky to be in your classes at school.” My intent here is not to boast but to demonstrate that people notice how you treat them, what you say to them and most importantly your attitudes towards them.

In the 1980s I worked at a summer camp for three years. I was part of a team that planned, organized and implemented the programs. One of the first weeks of camp we did was what was called Counsellors Week. It was the week where we prepared the counsellors for the weeks where they would be working with the 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 year olds. I just went about doing my duties as a team member and being me. I had no idea how much I had impacted this one counsellor until I received a letter from him a number of weeks later. In the letter he told me that he had watched me during Counsellor’s Week, that I inspired him, and that he wanted to eventually be part of the team at camp so he could emulate me. I had no idea that I had such an impact on this young man. To say that I was shocked when I got the letter is an understatement. The point is people are noticing you even when you are not aware of it.

During a parent teacher interview many years ago, I expressed concern to the parents that I had noticed a change in their child.  I was stunned to learn that the reason for this change was due to something I had said to the child; something the young person took offense to. The choices we make affect others whether we’re aware of it or not.

lg-Eyes-OjosSo always remember that someone is likely seeing you, maybe even looking up to you, and preparing to follow your example. Let this guide your next choice.

We are NOT operating in a void where no one is watching us, that our actions are mostly remote. Someone who admires you will reproduce your every thought, your every word, and your every action? Make your next choice with this in mind. Your choices could impact another person for the rest of their lives. That could be positively or negatively. If you are not sure how to be the kind of person that people look up to, check out, How to be a good person that people look up to.

 

Adventures with Mother Nature

Every summer since 2002, starting when my son was 8 years old, my son and I have taken hiking excursions to the Canadian Rockies. Traditionally, we go with my brother-in-law and his two sons. Sometimes my brother and his son would join us as well as a friend and his two sons at the beginning. These excursions entail carrying 40-pound backpacks containing food and cooking equipment, sleeping gear and a tent. On some occasions we carried our 40-pound packs 14 kilometres (8.7 miles) before reaching our destination.

Most hikes were to the backcountry, a remote undeveloped rural area accessible only by hiking trails. We would hike to places such as Landslide Lake, Ribbon Lake, Lillian Lake, Utopia Creek, Glacier Lake, and Celestine Lake to name a few. I realize that these names likely don’t mean much to many of you but I can assure you that these settings are some of the most breath-taking, beautiful scenery in the world.

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Lillian Lake

We’ve had some adventures over the years. In what is called Kananaskis Country, we did a day hike to Ribbon Falls after a good night’s rest at the Ribbon Lake campground. To reach our destination, we had to maneuver down a vertical cliff. Thankfully, there were chains attached to help a person propel downward. By carefully finding footholds and hanging onto the chains we successfully got to the bottom part of the cliff. Being that I am afraid of heights, this was a terrifying experience for me. Climbing up the cliff was much easier.

After hiking the Galatea Creek Trail, also in Kananaskis Country, and arriving at our destination of Lillian Lake we put our backpacks down and went to scout out a site to set up our tents. Several minutes went by before we returned to collect our equipment to take to our chosen site. To our dismay, we discovered a chipmunk chewing its way through the top of my son’s brand new pack which I had just purchased for my son. In fact, this was his first trip with it. The chipmunk had chewed a hole into the top of the pack in an attempt to get at the trail mix inside. I was not happy with that animal and yelled some choice words at the creature. Thankfully the little beast was not successful in retrieving any of the trail mix.

Hinton Jasper 277
Geraldine Lake trail (boulder hoping)

One of the most difficult hikes we’ve done was to Geraldine Lakes in Jasper National Park. It involved a very steep climb beside the waterfalls between Lower and Upper Geraldine Lakes where you come to kilometres of boulder hopping across what is called talus field. To say it was exhausting hopping from boulder to boulder carrying a 40 pound backpack is an understatement. At one point I was feeling sorry for myself asking, “Why am I doing this?” Thinking that I was getting too old for this hiking business (I was in my 40s), we came upon a fellow hiker in his 70s. He told us that Geraldine Lakes was one of his favourite trails and that he had hiked the trail many times. I needed an attitude adjustment at that point and my outlook changed after talking to the senior hiker. If a 70-year-old man can hike that trail, I had nothing to complain about being I was 30 years younger than this man. It’s all about your mental attitude. Being in shape, of course, helps.

One of my favourite hiking experiences was our hike to Utopia Creek in Jasper National Park. There were eleven of us on that expedition. On the Saturday evening we decided to take a different trail back so that we could climb up to what is called the Sulphur Skyline, which has some of the most breathtaking panoramas in Jasper National Park. This meant hiking the Fiddle River 11 kilometre horse trail from our campsite, then going up a 700 metre (2300 feet)  elevation gain of about 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) to reach the skyline. The trailhead had a sign saying, “Trail not recommended,”  but this didn’t stop us. What we did not realize is that we had the cross the Fiddle River not once, not twice but six times.

On our first crossing we carefully hopped across the river from boulder to boulder with our backpacks on until the last bit whereby we took our packs off, tossed them a fair distance to another person on the riverbank and then hopped onto the bank ourselves. Thankfully no one fell into the water and our packs remained dry.

During the second crossing we decided to take our hiking boots off, put on our sandals and cross the river in our sandals. The current was strong and the glacier water literally made my feet hurt.

Now the third crossing was done in our bare feet. By this time the ritual of taking off our boots was becoming burdensome, so when we had to cross the river on the fourth, fifth and sixth occasion we just kept our boots on. The current was strong so there were times when I had to hang onto my son, age 12 at the time, to prevent him from being swept downstream by the current. We stopped at a trailhead leading to Mystery Lake to ring out our wet socks and dried our boots as best we could. We eventually made it to the Sulphur Skyline with one of the most spectacular views I have ever had the privilege to appreciate. The chipmunks on top of the skyline were brave creatures as they would come right up to your fingertips looking for food.

In 2009, nine of us spent three hours hiking the 7 kilometre (4.3 mile) trail to Celestine Lake in Jasper National Park. A friend of mine and I were the last to arrive at our campsite as the younger ones of the group were much quicker than us older ones. What made this adventure so memorable was the fact that when my friend and I arrived at the campsite, we were told that we had to go back as there was a forest fire nearby. Now we didn’t believe them, of course, until we saw the warden’s helicopter take off. Apparently, the park warden arrived in a chopper and called to my brother in law saying, “I have some bad news guys. You have to leave as there is a fire in the area.” So it turned out that we were told the truth. We had to spend the next three hours returning to our starting point.

2013-07-13 01.19.38Now I have been asked over the years why I would go into the back country where there is no contact with the outside world; where there are bears and cougars and it can sometimes get to below freezing at nights. Those are good questions. My first response to those questions is always that it is quality time with my son. But it is more than that. I do it for the adventures. There is nothing like being in nature and the experience of standing on top of mountain with the wind blowing through your hair. The beauty that Mother Nature has to offer is far-fetched until you see it, and even then it can be surreal. For me, being in the wilderness is a chance to touch the divine. It is during those times that I feel closest to God or the Universe.

According to the article, How Does Nature Impact our Wellbeing, put out by the University of Minnesota,

“Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality, according to scientists such as public health researchers Stamatakis and Mitchell.”

Maybe that’s why I do it. Without knowing why, it made me feel better. So, go out into nature and reduce your stress. Speaking from experience it works. It is so easy to get so wrapped up in our daily urban lives that we forget what nature has to offer. Visit Mother Nature to de-stress. When you do you will discover that she is worth protecting.

 

Judge Not!

Now that I have some time, I spend some time perusing the internet reading interesting articles.  I recently read an article titled, We’re all the Same.  Basically, the article says we as humans are quick to judge others.  It makes bold statements like:

  • Let’s face it. We all do it. We judge.
  • We like to label others and shove them into this box.
  • We don’t like ”undefined” people.
  • We assume we know who someone is based on our interactions and observations.
  • Judging makes us feel safe and comfortable.
  • It gives us a sense of control.
  • But despite our best efforts to judge, we all know deep down inside, we can’t and shouldn’t really judge another person.

Now my initial reaction was, “Not me!  I don’t judge people.”  But who am I kidding?  So I thought about it.  Do I judge others or not?  If I am honest with myself, the answer of course is “Yes”.

The year 2015 was a year of change for my wife and I.  I retired from teaching.  My eldest daughter moved to a different apartment which is closer to her work.  My youngest daughter returned to university, so she is moved back to the city after living in the rural community she grew up in.  And my son, who has been going to the local college, is moved to the city to continue his education at university.  My wife is the only stable one (in more ways than one) as she is continuing with the same job.

JudgeSo a few months ago, my wife and I were helping our eldest daughter find furniture for her new apartment.  She had been getting some used stuff off of Kijji, an online garage sale site.  She had looked at a media unit with an electric fire-place and decided to purchase it.  She gave the young man $40 to hold it, and arranged to pick it up when I could bring up the truck. On a Saturday morning we arrived at this person’s apartment complex at the agreed upon time only to find that he was not there.  My daughter texted him and called him only to discover his voice mail box was full. Being the Dad that I am, I immediately jumped to conclusions. As far as I was concerned this guy had ripped off my daughter.  My daughter and wife, on the other hand, kept reminding me that maybe he had a family emergency or something.  I, on the other hand, was convinced that he had swindled my daughter out of  $40.  After an hour of waiting and me “steaming” we left and continued with our day.

Now it turns out that this fine, young man did indeed have a family emergency. His explanation to my daughter alluded to perhaps a death in the family.  This man felt very bad about the incident and returned my daughter’s $40 to her.   I had totally misjudged the situation and the young man involved.  Now I am the one feeling bad and guilty that I had so little faith in people. This was not the only time recently that I had jumped to conclusions and misjudged a situation.

As I mentioned earlier, I just retired from teaching.  The school that I worked at submits a weekly newspaper column in the local papers.  Well, at the end of June, I was all “bent out of shape” because my school (so I thought) did not even care that I was leaving after 26 years of service. They didn’t even have the decency to acknowledge my exit in the school column.  I was feeling sorry for myself.  I had convinced myself that my colleagues didn’t even care that I was leaving.

The next week the local papers arrived at our house and I my wife pointed out that I, and the other colleagues that retired with me, were acknowledged in the school column.  Lesson learned (I hope); Do not be so quick to judge people and situations. Once again, I felt bad and guilty that I  had so little faith in my colleagues. I know I could just blame it on “human nature”, but that is still not an excuse.

As a former school teacher I can recall numerous occasions where I prejudged students based on hearsay around the staffroom, only to discover that my experiences with those students were different from the prejudgements. It is so important to resist judging.

So, what is wrong with judging? I’m sure someone is wondering. The late Earl Nightingale, an American radio personality, writer, speaker and author who dealt mostly on the subjects of human character, once said, “When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself.” That is so true! Judging others is about our need to feel safe and comfortable. When we judge others we feel better about ourselves because judging others occurs when we believe we are better than the people we’ve judged. Really, we have no right to judge anyone unless we know everything about that person, which is impossible. There is a native American proverb that says, Don’t judge any man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” As I learned from my experience with the young man who I believed conned by daughter out of $40, you never really know what is going on in that person’s life, so as in my case, most often our judgements are based on ignorance or misinformation.

So remember, things are not always what you perceive them to be or believe them to be.  Don’t be so quick to judge a situation. Michael J. Fox, best known for his role as Marty McFly in the Back to the Future movie trilogy, once said,  The least amount of judging we can do, the better off we are.” He is right! I am going to try to follow Fox’s advice from now on, or at least that is the goal.