Free CAOC Presentation: The Great Divide Trail
The Great Divide Trail, or GDT as it is known by, traces the continental divide between Alberta and British Colombia and crosses it no fewer than 30 times. The trail wanders through the vast Canadian wilderness beginning at the US/Canadian border in Waterton National Park where it connects to the Continental Divide Trail and ends 1200 km later at Kakwa Provincial Park north of Jasper National Park. We will discuss the origins of the trail in the 70s, the challenges of maintaining the trail, the re-instatement of the Great Divide Trail Association, and the future vision of making it Canada's premier long distance hiking trail.
Guest Speaker: Mr. Dave Hockey
When: Monday, May 6, 6:30pm
Where: Calgary Area Outdoor Council, 1111 Memorial Drive NW (second floor of the old fire hall building at Memorial Drive and 10th Street NW)
To register for this free presentation simply let us know you are coming by contacting the CAOC office at (403) 270-2262 or email@example.com. When registering please provide us with your name and phone number.
Free CAOC Presentation: The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan
The upcoming South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (draft due out on late May) will include strong measures to restore and protect our foothills and Eastern Slope drainages that have become increasingly impaired by industrial-scale logging, uncontrolled off-road vehicle abuse and other activities.
The plan will have legislative weight and is intended to guide land use for the next few decades, so it’s important to get it right.
Come and learn about our Bow River headwaters and how we could get their management right, to the benefit of water supply, wildlife, trout and those of us who value wildland recreation.
Date: Monday May 13, 2013
Where: Calgary Area Outdoor Council, 1111 Memorial Drive, NW, Calgary
To register for this free presentation simply let us know you are coming by contacting the CAOC office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (403) 270-2262.
(When registering please provide us with your name and phone number.)
Off-road landscape abuse creating erosion sites
Treat our Headwaters like the Treasures they Are!
By Kebin Van Tighem
All southern Alberta’s water comes from a narrow headwaters zone along the western edge of the province: the Rocky Mountains and foothills.
The Bow and Oldman Rivers gather up the flow of dozens of small creeks draining out of some of the most spectacular and wildlife-rich landscapes in North America. Flowing east, they bring that water to cities, farms and industries where most of us live. And that’s all there is. We depend utterly on the health of those headwaters for every drop of water we use.
When we go to visit the source of all that liquid gold, we find green landscapes, elk, bears, the play of light on mountain faces…truly unique and special places. Water is not the only gift that high country gives us, just the most vital.
We also, unfortunately, find a legacy of damage from a century of multiple abuses. Large clearcuts, tire-ripped off-road vehicle vandalism areas, spidery networks of gas, logging and woods roads, muddy creeks that used to flow clear and sweet over clean gravel beds – this is a landscape that seems, at times, to attract more abuse than respect.
An unhealthy watershed isn’t just a depressing place to visit – especially for those of us who have been around long enough to remember the pristine glory of our high country in the mid-twentieth century – it robs us of our water security. Our rivers now bring 12% less water than they used to, and that water comes more often as damaging spring floods, leaving the streams shrunken and tepid in the summer.
Water security matters. Already, the government has put a moratorium on issuing new water licenses in the South Saskatchewan watershed: all the available water is spoken for. Yet, if headwaters damage continues to increase even as the climate warms, there will be less in future. And our region’s population is projected to double in the next 25 years. This is not a pretty picture.
But….the Alberta government is currently drafting a South Saskatchewan Regional Plan that will create new direction for land use all through southern Alberta. The plan will have the force of law. If that plan is visionary and progressive, it could be the beginning of healing our headwaters, bringing the high country back to its former health, productivity and beauty, and securing the best possible water supply for the future of our children.
The government is going to produce a plan; it’s up to us to help them produce the right plan. That’s the reason for an online petition going the rounds right now: “Treat Alberta’s headwaters like the treasure they are.”
Please take the time to log in to the petition site and register as a supporter.
If you want to really help, please consider sending the web address for this petition to all your friends and family so they can add their names too.
Think of how those mountains and foothills have enriched our lives. Our headwaters deserve our support.
A healthy headwaters creek
The Ridege - most of our river flows come from
winter snows and
spring rain in the headwaters
Who You Gonna Call?
By Calgary Search and Rescue Association
Well, if you are lost in the woods or injured in the outdoors, there is a good chance that it will be the volunteer members of Calgary Search and Rescue Association (CALSARA) (http://www.calsara.com/). Becoming lost can be a terrifying experience for anybody and considering Calgary’s weather, time is of the essence for a lost hiker in the wilderness, a child at a City Festival or an older person who has become disoriented on their daily walk. CALSARA volunteers are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and stand “ever ready” to respond to emergencies.
Not only do the volunteers search for and rescue missing individuals, they are often called upon by the Calgary Police Service (CPS), the RCMP, the Calgary Fire Department, the City of Calgary Emergency Management Agency, the MD of Rockyview and Alberta Conservation to assist in searching for crime-scene evidence or when a disaster strikes.
CALSARA is an all-volunteer, registered charity with over 110 members. It has been inexistence since the early-1990's. All volunteer members are trained in first aid, wilderness navigation, outdoor survival and ground search and rescue (GSAR) techniques. They come from all walks of life. Many CALSARA members have over a decade of GSAR experience and have participated in hundreds of searches for missing persons and crime-scene evidence. These searches have taken place throughout Southern and Central Alberta, from Crowsnest Pass to as far north as Edmonton, and in mountainous, wooded and prairie terrain. Often working in conjunction with other ground search volunteer organizations from nearby communities such as Cochrane and Turner Valley, these ground searches can involve over 75 searchers plus a search management overhead team of 10 to 15 experienced search managers. Utilizing state of the art radio communication equipment, global positioning and mapping systems, as well as a full suite of first aid and medical recovery equipment, CALSARA can provide searchers on foot, mountain bicycles or all-terrain vehicles. Some members have received specialty training in rope rescue techniques, civil emergency management, swift water rescue, helicopter operations, wilderness first aid and avalanche awareness which provides the depth within the organization to handle virtually any search or rescue scenario.
During 2012, CALSARA participated in 27 searches of which approximately half were missing person searches and the other half were evidence searches associated with major crimes. During these 27 searches, CALSARA volunteers logged 3,500 search hours. An equal or greater number of volunteer hours were devoted to administering its all-volunteer organization; training its personnel, and maintenance of its extensive inventory of vehicles, radios, first aid and navigation equipment.
Serving the broader community, CALSARA volunteers have assisted at numerous community events including: The Calgary Stampede Parade, The Calgary Folk Festival; Canada Day celebrations; Child Find's Missing Children’s Day; Marda Gras in Marda Loop; Calgary Emergency Management Agency's Disaster Alley, and the Kensington "Sun & Salsa" Festival. Education and loss prevention is provided through the "Prevent a Lost Child" booth at these events. CALSARA volunteers teach many public safety programs including "Back Country Awareness" and "Hug a Tree & Survive Outside" to outdoor enthusiasts of all ages, but particularly to children in schools and to youth groups such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. Every year CALSARA volunteers participate in training and workshops to improve and maintain their Search & Rescue and Civil Emergency skills.
At present, CALSARA is equipped with a fully operational Command Post, 3 rescue vehicles, mountain bikes with trailer, a Rhino all-terrain vehicle with trailer, rope rescue equipment, a First Aid Emergency shelter, 2-way radios with bases, GPS, and other emergency-related gear that enables CALSARA to immediately respond to any situation.
CALSARA recruits new members each year beginning in about February. Information booths are set up at a number of outdoor centres and exhibits throughout the Calgary area. A prospective member information night is held at the CALSARA operations base in Foothills Industrial Park for those interested and interviews are held shortly thereafter. Candidates must have a valid driver's license; be qualified in Standard First Aid; be able to pass a CPS security clearance, and are required to purchase their own uniforms and supply their own outdoor gear. Initial SAR Basics training of new members involves several weeknights and a full outdoor weekend during the period from May to mid-June. For further information on CALSARA's recruiting program go to website.
CALSARA is a registered charity (CRA# 891284747RR0001) and receives no on-going federal, provincial or municipal funding. CALSARA funds its annual budget of more than $80,000 through standard fundraising sources used by all charities including casino's, grants and personal donations. The Northeast Calgary Eyeopener Lions club has been a major supporter of CALSARA for the last several years through its annual, fundraising golf tournament. All those interested in helping to support this vital community resource can do so by donating to CALSARA and receiving a tax-deductible receipt. Simply go to the CALSARA website at http://www.calsara.com/ and click on the Donate Now button.
Introducing CAOC’s New Outreach Program
By Calgary Area Outdoor Council
In recent years the Calgary Area Outdoor Council (CAOC) has introduced three free programs: Wilderness First-aid Training, Avalanche Safety Training and Bear Safety Training. These are great programs, as we have learned, because we’re routinely overwhelmed by demands from the outdoors community that far exceed our ability to supply those programs. We refer to those three as “big ticket” items, meaning we make substantial financial investments for a limited number of seats available in each program. However in one respect that can be considered a good thing because, at least from a program subject matter perspective, it accurately reflects the requests we’ve received from the outdoors community, and that we’ve done our research well and subsequently made some correct decisions on what kind of free programs CAOC should offer.
Meanwhile we continue to be guided by feedback from the 2011 CAOC Members Survey. That survey showed we needed to do more, especially with developing a fourth free program which would simultaneously: (a) be easier on our limited budget, (b) have less intensity and time commitment for participants (e.g. our Wilderness First-aid Program is three full days of constant learning), (c) contain a wider variety of subject matter, and (d) also allow for greater numbers of people to attend these free learning opportunities. So we’re doing that now, in the form of CAOC’s new Outreach Program.
In contrast to our three big ticket items, the CAOC Outreach Program is designed to provide a regular series of free presentations on a more casual basis. These presentations will usually be about two hours long and are generally scheduled for the evenings here at CAOC. The process for attending an OR presentation is also way more relaxed (just let us know you are coming). In fact you may have noticed that we’ve already started this program, with recent presentations on topics such as the wild horses of Alberta, animal tracking, safety in avalanche terrain and an overview of Alberta’s landscapes. We hope to provide two OR presentations a month which, as mentioned, will mean easier access to a wider variety of program subject matter for more people. We've already lined up some OR topics for the next few months, and you will see their announcements in our monthly newsletters. In fact you’ll see our April OR presentations on pages one and two of this newsletter.
Meanwhile we would now like to request your input, especially from the CAOC members, on ideas for future Outreach Program topics. What kind of subject matter would you like us to provide? Learning to read a map? Identifying wildflowers? Choosing backcountry gear? Organizing a hike? Tying knots in ropes? A particular guest speaker? Weather forecasting? Leadership training? Something else? Please give this request some thought, perhaps consult within your own organizations, and then let us know your suggestions when you’re ready.
A final note: We’re prepared to deploy our funds towards providing the outdoors community with this new program, but we do need to ensure reasonable levels of attendance at the OR presentations. We would therefore kindly ask you - especially CAOC’s members - to please help spread the word of our upcoming presentations. Please consider forwarding our newsletters to the people in your own clubs, mentioning this program to your colleagues, or letting your social networks do the leg work. With your assistance we can be certain that our program funds are being well spent, and that the outdoors community gains the most from the new CAOC Outreach Program. Thank you very much; we’re very grateful for your help.
For more information please contact the CAOC office at (403) 270-2262 or email@example.com.
Adventure Racing at Night
By: Mike Melnick, Race the Rockies
One of the most interesting aspects of longer races is the need for teams to operate at night. Teams inherently slow down while moving in the dark and this combined with the difficulty navigating can make the night portions of a race a real wild card for unprepared teams. However, if the participants plan ahead and stay cognisant of their progress, they can minimize mistakes and turn the night portions into a significant advantage.
Even outside of racing, travelling in the backcountry at night has aspects about it that need some attention to increase safety and to make more manageable. The trouble is that night time travel off road isn't a common activity of recreational backcountry and thus isn't practised a lot. Typical scenarios usually involve getting caught out on a longer-than-expected hike, or being up early to knock of some miles in the forest before getting to an objective. Either way, some of the ideas in this article may help.
Race Specific Considerations
A lot of what this article talks about applies equally to hiking or biking at night. There are only a few things that are unique to adventure racing when talking about night travel.
Race start at night
Starting a race in the day time is difficult enough. With the rush of adrenaline and the surge of competition at hand, it's easy for team members to run or bike hard off the start line and separate themselves from their team. This is especially easy at night when everyone is wearing a blinkie light and a headlamp that makes seeing faces difficult. You may think that heavy breathing behind you is your partner, but unless you are calling out their name and they are answering, or you look back to see them or their jersey number, you don't know for sure. Keeping tabs on your teammates during this phase of the event is the only way to prevent getting separated. Have a set call plan and use it often for those first 20 minutes or so. Once the teams start to spread out, it'll be easier to stay together.
Sleepiness creeps up on participants more readily at night than during the day. This is a consideration when engaging in general back country travel, but in a race, people tend to push the fatigue a lot farther. There's no easy answer to combating fatigue. Drinking little sips of water, or snacking on something small help. Thinking and talking help. Navigating helps. All of those things will keep you going for a while, but if the race is long enough, it's likely that a pit stop to grab some sleep will be needed. Fatigue introduces several issues towards staying mobile.
First, a sleepy team slows down. It's not hard for this situation to rob more time from a team than if they stopped and slept for 20-30 minutes and then resumed the event. If everyone is stumbling around and dragging their feet, it might be time for that power nap.
Second, a sleepy team makes more mistakes. Navigation mistakes are more prevalent (as if navigating at night wasn't hard enough) when tired. If the navigator has been turned around for more than an hour, maybe a quick nap will help the brain function better.
Third, a sleepy team is more prone to injury. Dozing off while walking isn't too bad, but you could still walk off a road and into a ditch, spraining a leg or breaking an arm. Worse yet would be to be dozing off while on the bike going down a hill. That's a recipe for a broken collar bone.
The only real way to beat fatigue is to sleep. Being strategic about when a team sleeps means recognizing that if all of the team is tired at the same time, then it's time to sleep. Or timing the sleep such that getting up from the nap is timed in conjunction with sunrise. And finally, metering the amount of sleep a team gets depending on the length of the race. A sprint race, get extra sleep the night before and you can probably skip the nap whereas for a multi-day race, expect to get 4 hours a night average.
Night Travel Considerations
Regardless if you're racing at night, or if you're setting out from camp for an early morning scramble, there are a number of things to keep in mind while travelling at night in the back country.
When you're in the back country, you are sharing the space with the wild critters in the forest. There are two factors that make wildlife encounters more likely at night than in day.
First, a sleepy team will tend to not talk as much. This silent walking through the forest sets the scene for a surprise encounter with a bear. Do your best to keep talking. Mumble about work, or complain about your spouse. The bears want to hear it.
Second, animals are more active at dawn and dusk. They aren't expecting to encounter humans at those times of the day. Because most humans are still snug in their warm beds (try not to think about that when you're bushwhacking in the dark)
When it's dark out, seeing what you're walking on becomes harder, no question. For hiking, this means paying attention to where you're placing your footsteps. Fallen logs, potholes, ruts, stones, and any number of uneven surface can give you a jolt. Having a good headlamp will go a long way to avoid these issues. If the moon is bright enough, you could try watching where you step by moonlight.
For cycling, this means getting a bright bike light or headlamp. Typically, you'll want a halogen bulb unit that throws a powerful enough beam that can create shadows on the surface you're riding on. From experience, the LED based headlamps/bike lights don't seem to be bright enough to meet this requirement. This is surprising given how bright they seem when your teammate burns your retinas when they look at you. Nonetheless, the light they emit seems to be a smooth, shadow-less light. Without that contrast, it's difficult to move your weight on the bike to facilitate going over obstacles smoothly.
For hiking sections in the dark, it's common to be in some heavier woods and at night this has a tendency to cause participants to stare at the forest floor. While that's great for avoiding scraped shins, it does leave your eyes primed for a low hanging branch. Remembering to look up frequently is easy to forget when racers get tired. To help deal with that, it's a good idea to wear clear glasses. Getting a stick in the face sucks, but at least you won't poke your eye out at the same time.
At night, the temperature falls. And unless you're racing in Northern Australia or Costa Rica (or some other tropical place), the temperature is going to dip down. When this happens, teams must be ready that if they stop, they will cool down rapidly. The best defence against cold is sugary food and continued physical effort. Keep moving and eat another chocolate bar. If you do stop, pile on the layers before you get cold or you'll be doing your jack-hammer impression in a few minutes.
By far, the most significant consideration when travelling at night is staying on track. Reduced visual clues, fatigue and self-doubt make it much easier to take a wrong turn. Here's a few tips on how to slay this challenge.
First thing to do to stay on track is always follow your team's progress. That means you have a finger on the map and you're telling your team that the next thing that they are looking for is a river, or a bridge, or a fork in the road. Pre-marking the map with kilometre markers will help you estimate the distance from your location to these landmarks.
One caveat to this is be cautious about staring at the map while moving. The headlamp's light on the map will knock out your night vision, so when you look up again, you'll need a few seconds to re-adjust. They tell us not to drive distracted, well, if you race while looking at the map, you'll find out why pretty quick.
Know your pace
Knowing how far you are from that next landmark is good, but you can really help out your team if you can translate that into how long. It gives them a goal to watch for and it gives you a time bracket to use such that if you don't come across the mark by that time, you'll know something may be amiss. Getting the pacing sorted out is tricky at night because the way the shadows move, gives the illusion that you are moving faster than you actually are. Overestimating your speed will give you shorter time estimates and cause more self doubt when those time estimates elapse and there's no sign of the expected turn.
The best answer is to practice. Get a feel for how it feels to travel at 3 kph, 5 kph, or 20 kph on a bike. Use that in your estimate and always guess your speed lower than you think. If you have a bike odometer, trust it. Even if it's not calibrated (which it should be, otherwise, what are you doing?) it will give a better estimate of distance than your feeling.
Another trick for staying on track day or night, is the use of handrails. Having a river on one side of you, or a mountain ridge on the other will ensure that your team is going in the general direction intended. Moving water is great because you ca hear the handrail.
Trust the Compass
There's a danger that aviation pilots need to be aware of at night called vertigo. The inner ear is doing its best to keep track of how they are oriented and which way is up. For racers, keeping upright isn't too hard (with enough Red Bulls), but trusting your feeling for which way is north is difficult. This is where you need to watch the compass and keep track of your direction while the team makes progress. In a bushwhacking situation or on open water in a canoe, the compass becomes the only way to stay on course.
Despite the darkness, if there is a relatively clear sky, then there are visual cues that might be identifiable. Watching for the landscape's silhouette against the sky can show hills, mountains and valleys. Additionally, cutlines can be picked out from the break in the trees. The more prominent the break, the more closely the team is on the cutline. With a little elevation, lakeshores can be examined via the reflection of the sky in the water. Noting islands, bays and peninsulas will allow correlation to landmarks on the map.
Racing at night is definitely a unique experience. While the rest of the world sleeps, you and your team will take on terrain and distances that seem unfathomable to most people. In doing so, teams will see places that few people see and in a shorter time span than would be normally possible.
If you're looking for some races with a night component, check out the following races:
Medicine Hat Massacre
Race the Rockies Nordegg
CAOC Member Reaching Out
By Greg Shyba, Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area
There is growing concern in Calgary’s outdoor community of a declining interest by the public in outdoor activities and an even greater concern that new arrivals to Calgary feel nervous about engaging in the outdoors outside of urban areas.
As a result of those concerns, representatives of several groups recently met to discuss ways to encourage the public to engage with the outdoors. Representatives of Scouts Canada (Mike Bingley, Outdoor Program Manager, Chinook Division), the Canadian Wildlife Federation (Wade Luzny, National CEO and Daniel Vallee, National Director of Operations), Parks Canada (James Bartram, Director of Education, Jasper National Park), Jack Schneider Sr. (Division President, Duke of Edinburgh Awards) and myself, Greg Shyba (CEO of the Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area) met in Calgary to determine if there are ways we could work together to encourage more children and adults to interact with the outdoors.
We collectively agreed to undertake, as a pilot, “an urban outdoor camping experience.” An example of what we are proposing can be found in the link below from The National Wildlife Federation in the United States (the CWF’s sister organization) which has been successfully running this program for a few years. Their strategy was to start in the backyard and it has been gaining great momentum ever since.
From the success of this program in the United States, it appears that introducing people to an urban camping experience will increase their awareness and interest in the outdoors and also increase their comfort level when participating in outdoor activities.
We are hoping to start this program, in Calgary, this June 22nd and if it is successful, it could be rolled out as a national program in Canada as well.
The Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area will host a small group of campers with special programming that evening. Besides back yards, we are hopeful that camping might take place in some other public venues and facilities such as the Calgary Zoo.
We are seeking funding and other help to kick the program off this year. Some funding has been made available through the Calgary Foundation but to insure success, we require $5,000 more. Please contact me if you can help in any way.
Greg Shyba, CEO
Ann & Sandy Cross Conservation Area
Site 23, Comp20, RR#8
Calgary, Alberta T2J 2T9
Office: (403) 931-4070
Cell: (403) 612-5526
Fax: (403) 931-1045
Waxwings: Bandits and Drunks
By Jenna McFarland, Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society
The beautiful waxwing is named for the red wax-like droplets of colour on the tips of its wings; reminiscent of the wax used to seal letters long ago. As if these beautiful splashes of red were not enough, the rest of its feathers dazzle with yellows, peaches, and greys, all accented with a striking black mask over its eyes, reminding us of a bank robbers and bandits from old movies. We see two different species of waxwing regularly in the Calgary area, the Cedar Waxwing and the Bohemian Waxwing.
The Cedar Waxing is the smaller of the two species and is distinguished by a light grey body and lemon yellow underbelly. The Bohemian Waxwing is larger, has a darker grey body, and a rust coloured patch of feathers under its tail.
At the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society, waxwings are a common admittance in the late fall and early spring. They are brought in to the clinic after hitting reflective windows or are rescued by members of the public after sustaining injuries during the fledgling stage of development. It is during this fledge that well-meaning members of the public, often mistake the birds’ awkward flapping and attempts at flight as distress.
For birds this is just a natural stage in their development where they must learn to fly through trial and error. This stage is also the most vulnerable in a bird’s life; they are often taken by domestic cats, attacked by other birds, or hit by cars. With waxwings in particular, the most interesting medical condition seen at CWRS is intoxication. In the fall, right before their southern migration, waxwings fill up on leftover Mountain Ash berries off the trees and on the ground. Often by this time of the year, the berries are fermented and though still nutritious, can cause the birds to become quite drunk. These “drunken sailors” need a little time and lots of fluids to sober up at the rehabilitation facility before they can be released to finally embark on their long journey.
If you encounter any wildlife in distress please call the Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society on their wildlife hotline at (403)239-2488 for advice and instructions.