Category Archives: environment

An epic journey with Journey: 35.1

I wouldn’t say, actually, that the journey itself was epic, but the local certainly was. This past spring break, my family and I ventured south of the 49th into Arizona to visit friends and to explore the vast wilds of  the Grand Canyon. Despite being raised on the Canadian prairies, where there is a lot of flat and dry world, despite my exposure to the rich and amazing beauty of British Columbia’s coastal rain forests and mountain ranges, nothing had prepared me for the quality of the Grand Canyon: truly epic.

Along one of our many daily hikes, I hauled out Room, 35.1 ‘Journey’ and read passages to my hiking companions. ‘Mom you’re strange…’ was only uttered once, other than that they listened and rationed water. Journey was a great read on our adventure. Hope you enjoy it too.

We also spent a few days at the Historic Kane Ranch. Amazing … quiet…


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Filed under British Columbia, environment, lorrie_miller, Room Magazine, writing

When Vancouver kids Visit Moose Jaw (Saskatchewan)

Twenty years ago I came to Vancouver to go to grad school at UBC.  I never left, Vancouver that is (I did, however, finish my graduate studies). To me, Vancouver was a postcard perfect place, so why would I ever leave? The weather is warm(ish) all year round, so much so that parkas are relegated to skiing or snow-shoeing. Cold is ten below, not thirty … No one has to plug in their car, unless it is electric. So there is no need to dangle an extension cord from house to tree to parking spot to attach one’s block-heater; our cars don’t have block-heaters. There are almost no mosquitoes, not really, not prairie mosquitoes who feast like starving vultures on unsuspecting children. And the wind … well, it’s light, predictable, and infrequent. But what about the rain, people ask … it makes things green, I say, and besides you don’t have to shovel rain.

The first week of our summer vacation, I took my two youngest children aboard a very small and movie-barren flight to Regina where my parents greeted us and drove us all back to Moose Jaw, the city I grew up in. The first night it was thirty-three degrees, the wind shrieked around the trees and lightning lit up the night sky in a blaze of fire-works. It was fantastic. Far more drama than what we are used to at home, and for me, it smelled and felt like my childhood. For the kids it was a great and fantastic show.

All that was familiar to me, is exotic to my children … a giant concrete moose …

… wind that drives the leaves of a tree sideways,

And horizons and sky like no other.

New to them were pocked roads, insect spray, and gopher holes. Finn found three gophers too, but they wouldn’t sick around for a photo. And then they walked my dad’s dog Twinkle.

We took them to the Natatorium where I’d cool off as a child on scorching summer days.

But mostly, being there was about the people, not about the landscape, the weather, or tourist attractions (which they have quite a few). This trip to the ‘Jaw’, was about connecting with our prairie roots, reminding them where some of their people are from.

It is good to be from Moose Jaw, from Saskatchewan; just as it is good to be home here in Vancouver.

(A link to more 2011 Moose Jaw Photos here.)

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Filed under environment, family, kids, lorrie_miller, saskatchewan, vancouver

Family Camping on Clayoquot Sound’s Cow Bay

Cow Bay is a rather perfect stretch of fine sandy beach on Flores Island, the largest island in Clayoquot Sound, and for a week this summer, on a spot between a tidal creek and the shore, was our family’s home.

Now this home wasn’t ours exclusively, by no means; we shared it with two haughty pairs of King Fishers, a rather talented Raven, a few million mice (from the number of footprints they left), three sizeable wolves, and one other human family.  The only critters we managed to get photo were the very slow moving, non-hiding variety: sea-stars, sea anemone and people…

(Note:  the feet above are size 5.  There was a dog on the beach, a very large dog, and it’s prints were about 2/3 the size of this print, but more than that the depth of the print was much more shallow.)  We never saw these wolves, just their tracks.

Cow bay is named such for the grey whale cows and their calves that frequent the area.  We were not disappointed.  Daily we saw whale boats bringing deck loads of tourists keen on spotting spouts and tails in the wild Pacific.  All we had to do was to watch the boats and sure enough we got the show from the shore.  On our first full day there, our daughter and niece spotted three grey whales feeding amid the bull kelp off the rocky point, a short clamber away from our camp.  For about twenty minutes they watched a show of jumps and sprays, before they pulled themselves away to come tell the rest of us, which turned out to not be too late.

For all the wildlife and exploring that the outer coast offers, the biggest hit with the children this summer was the fact that we gave them each a knife and let them start the campfires.  (note:  despite there being a fire ban elsewhere in British Columbia, it was permitted within 2 kilometres of the outer coast)

Then of course, we allowed them to play with it…

Until late into the night when sleep was easy, we’d sit around the fire and share stories both ancient myths we knew,  and stories from our own lives.  The children shared as much with us as we did with them.  It was these moments that will cling to my memory like the carefully woven webs holding firm the images of paw prints and toes, smiles and slivers.   It wasn’t just that we have done something special, or memorable, but that we’ve done it together.

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Filed under British Columbia, camping, environment, family, Flores Island, kids, lorrie_miller

A Crop Circle, but Not.

A week ago I hopped a Regina bound plane to go visit my grandmothers, and my parents and other family members.   It had been a year, and that had been more than long enough.  Though I’ve spent more than half my life at the Pacific Coast, I was raised a flat-lander, a prairie girl.  I am familiar with the multi-toned hues of the summer fields, but my children are not; so I thought I’d snap a few photos from the air so they could see what it’s like.  But I was in for a surprise.  Never before had I seen fields like these.

July 2010, Saskatchewan too verdant for the season

Saskatchewan fields pocked with water, the wettest July!

They were shades of green reserved for the early days of May and June, not July.  They were pocked with water where the land dipped and drained into pools like the inland deltas of the Okavango.  These wet fields belong no where near Southern Saskatchewan.

Green Saskatchewan from the Air

I scanned the fields below me in awe.  The earth curved in the distant horizon beneath a mist of cloud as the surface water evaporated.  A storm in the distant twisted grey clouds into angry purple masses.  We would land well before any storm would threaten our descent.  And then I saw it, the circle carved in a nearby field.  It made me smile.  This was clearly not the other-worldly work of a mysterious artist, nor of energetic orbs dancing over the crop.  It was the handy-work of a farmer operating large agricultural machinery.

Several years earlier, on a similar voyage, but westward bound, I glanced out the plane window to glimpse not one, but two perfectly formed discs in a field, far from any road or farm.  I couldn’t even tell if for sure there was a crop, or if it was simply the tall prairie grasses that had been laid down into tight spirals.  I looked at them and thought, cool!  Crop circles. Then I realized what I’d just seen, and I craned my neck to keep them in my vision as long as I could as I whizzed at 450km/h through the sky.  I said nothing of it to my seat-mates, who were nodding asleep with headphone glued to their ears.  What could I have said anyway, “wake up you just missed these cool crop circles?”  No, I let them sleep.

I did tell my family when I got home, and despite not having snapped any photograph of them, they believed me.  So this time when I was privy to the swamped fields of the prairies, I snapped my digital camera for posterity.  The circle in the field that was not a crop circle, was bonus.

Not a Typical Crop Circle

Not a Typical Crop Circle

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Filed under crop circles, environment, family, lorrie_miller, saskatchewan, short story, Uncategorized, writing

Maryhill landscape

I have now had a chance to go through my several hundred photos of Maryhill WA.   It is clear that what I found interesting, or noteworthy is really quite different than what riders found worth noting.

I don’t know what other’s found particularily beautiful, or curious about the hill, but here are a few of my photos, that show the kinds of things that I like to take note of.

Here are a few photos of the distant landscape.

Subjects of interest.

Unusual close-ups.

I usually save this type of visual exploration for my section on photos… and perhaps this is where it will ultimately and, but for the time being… as a post, it will be.

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Filed under environment, events, longboard, lorrie_miller, maryhill, teens

Swimming at the Beach in February

Now most folks have heard of the annual Polar Bear swim on January 1.  Though I have not participated in the swim myself, I have allowed my kids to do the dip.  Today Finn figured he’d have his very own polar bear swim.  In this case, a polar express swim, and he’d wear a shorty rather than go in his birthday suit.

There was no point in telling my very determined child that it’s February and a long way yet from spring and proper swimming season, I said, ‘sure, if you want to go for a swim, go ahead.’  He couldn’t have been happier.  I didn’t need to tell him when he’d be cold; he’s a bright lad and is able to figure that out for himself.

Kids are too often told, ‘NO, you can’t do that,’ whatever that might be.  I believe we owe it to our children to let them take calculated risks, and push their boundaries.  It isn’t as though I him swimming on his own; there was little risk  other getting a little mucky, a lot wet and somewhat cold.

And the smiles that this outing brought was worth it!

Swimming and smiles:

So I challenge other parents to share their, sure you can moments, rather than, no–you’ll get cold, hurt yourself, or get dirty… Dirt is good! Just ask any kid;)

That was our little break from olympic fun… until tomorrow.

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Filed under British Columbia, environment, events, family, kids, lorrie_miller, motherhood, olympic, parenting, social critique, vancouver

Hornby Island Retreat

Every year we take a hiatus from our urban lives and find bits of quiet on Hornby Island. This is not where we do our wild camping; far from it  in fact, but tranquility with comfort is certainly part of it.

The terrain, community, family and activities keep us coming back.  For now, I’ll sift through my thoughts and photos and try to assemble something that represents my time there.

Whaling Station Bay

Whaling Station Bay

It is hard to believe that there was once active whaling on this beautiful beach… I couldn’t imagine the beach coloured by anything other than the seaweed.

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Filed under British Columbia, environment, family, Hornby Island, lorrie_miller