Welcome back to the first day of school!

There are lots of exciting things going on this year.

Personally, I am hoping to plan a school trip to Belize, and to Thunder Bay to see Dr. David Suzuki.

Be sure to follow DHS Eco Schools on twitter and facebook 

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Belize; March 2015

Travel to Belize with DHS in March 2015

That’s right; DHS has wrapped up an eco-tour to Costa Rica last school year, and is planning on traveling to Belize for March Break 2015. It is not too late to sign up and you can travel with us.

Check out the EF site to learn more about this trip;

To learn more about this trip come out to one of the parent / student information meetings on;

Tuesday September 9th @ 7pm in room 107,

or Monday September 15th @ 7pm in room 107

For more information contact Mr. Mitchell by phone (807)216-8106 or e-mail; ted.mitchell@kpdsb.on.ca

(Here are some pictures from the group that travelled to Costa Rica)

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A Night with David Suzuki?

What do you think DHS?

Should we send some students to spend a night with David Suzuki?

Tickets are slightly cheaper for Thunder Bay on Monday 20 Oct 2014 than Winnipeg on Friday 24 Oct 2014.   But I am guessing the bus/hotel would be cheaper for Winnipeg?

http://bluedot.ca/

 

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Wrapping up a year off…

It’s hard to believe that my year off has come to an end.

I’ve posted a lot about it below, and I hope that if you haven’t  been following me that you take some time to read about my adventures.

It started by working at Penhold, a trip to Italy, a trip to South America (where I injured myself), some healing, working in southern Ontario, and back to Penhold to work for this past summer and round off my year.

The past two weeks have been spent with family.   There is never enough family time, but I did get to spend some quality family time, with a majority  of the family.

Trips to see Thomas, and to Grand Forks were great…

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There was some canoeing, boating, camping, food, sleepovers and watching some movies.

All in all , the past two weeks were a great way to finish off my year off.  I really did have a lot of fun, visited lots of people and places.    I’ve learnt lots about myself and the world, and am excited to bring that learning back into the classroom.

I feel rested, rejuvenated, and am excited to be getting back to the great and rewarding career of teaching.   I’ll continue to post some of my trips and adventures here, but am guessing that most of my posts will change back to school related science news, and articles that I find interesting.

Thanks to those who have followed me and my adventures, and I look forward to seeing just what this year brings!

From me to you,

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Mr. Mitchell!!

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Some Last Adventures at PACSTC

Hello,

Well my time in Alberta for the summer is quickly comming to an end.   On the 6th of August I had my last day off, and the plan was, of course, an adventure.   The original plan was to just go to Drumheller, but as I was reflecting back on my last trip, I decided I couldn’t leave only doing 9 of the 10 top things to do in Alberta, if I could peg off the last one.   So I ammended the trip to include a stop at Dinosaur Provincial Park, another UNESCO world heritage site.   I wonder how many UNESCO sites I’ve now visited…   I’ll have to look into that one (and get back to you).

I must say my drive to Drumheller was the most scenic, prairie drive that I’ve ever taken.   I decided that instead of just driving along the highway, taking the most direct and quickest route, that I’d explore some of the ‘back roads’.   I charted my course; and ta da…

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The drive from Red Deer to Drumheller was not much longer than if I would have stuck to #2, but it was so beautiful.   I should have stopped to take some pics along the way, but there is no way the camera could have captured the beauty; and I had worked all day, so just wanted to get to a bed…   Lol

There were rolling hills, there was bad land, it was just all together beautiful.

I also got to ‘visit’ my second buffalo jump this summer (although I did not stop to explore, just; drove close).   Dry Island Buffalo Jump Provincial Park, is something that I think I’d like to go back and explore.   I also think maybe I’ll have to canoe along the river from Red Deer through to Drumheller, or maybe even Dinosaur Provincial.   Ginger are you game?

Most of the drive I felt that I had no idea where I was.   I was beautifully lost, without really being lost.   I caught myself saying a few times “Where the F# am I?”

As I got closer to Drumheller I did stop to take some photos…

The badlands…

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One of the reasons I picked this route was so that I could experience one of the seven ferry’s that are operated by the Province of Alberta.    The Bleriot Ferry crosses the Red Deer River just north of Drumheller on the Dinosaur Trail.   It is a 105 m crossing which takes only moments.   It was something unique to be on a cable ferry, of such a short span.   I really enjoyed talking to the ferry operator.

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Because I had previously been to Drumheller (You can read about it here; and see pics) and wanted to go to Dinosaur Provincial, I decided just to spend the night, and not take any more pics.    The next morning, I was up bright and early and on my way to Dinosaur!

 

 

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My sister, always liked Dinosaurs growing up, and I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty being here without her.

I was really disappointed how much more was offered in the park than what was described on the parks website.   I really did only have about 4 hours in the park, so when I was trip planning on the website; I decided that I’d hike the 5 self guided trails.   They were not too long in length; aprox 5 Km all together.   I had a good opportunity to explore and see some different terrain, and think about the discoveries that have been made in the park.   The trails were beautiful, and rather desolate.  I only saw a few people while on the trails; although there were lots of people in the park.

 

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Susan’s favourite dinosaur was always the triceratops.   So I took a few pics for her of the triceratops displays inside the discovery centre.

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Outside, they had a few protected; partially exposed, excavation sites.   These were cool, to stop and think this is the process in excavating the many fossils and specimens throughout the park, in Drumheller (most of them come from Dinosaur Provincial) and elsewhere.   Maybe I’ll have to bring Susan back on an excavation tour, as they do these…

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Again, what is a trip with me, without a plant pic.   This little pine made me very happy.   Can we say ‘Natural Bonsai”?

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This tree was really impressive.   It was monstrous huge.

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I had a great drive back and felt rejuvenated for the last 13 days of work.

There were lots of great activities to end the summer training and commemorate the closing of Penhold Air Cadet Summer Training Centre.

The Sunset Ceremony, Wings Parade and Graduation Parade were the highlights for me.   The Commander of the Royal Canadian Airforce; Lieutenant-General Blondin was the reviewing officer for the final grad parade of PACSTC.   I left the grad parade feeling humbled and honoured.

It’s hard to believe that cadets have trained here for 48 years.   I can not even fathom the number of cadets that have come through the doors of Penhold in those years.   The number of people who experienced excellence in training.   The number of people who went off, as better Canadians because of that training, because of the experiences gained, and the friendships made.   However, as ‘one door closes, another opens’ and I can’t wait to see what exciting opportunities are offered next.

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24 Hour Adventure

Well what do you do with 24 hours off when you’ve worked for the last 13 days? Hopefully you choose to go on an adventure! At least that’s what I did.

I had decided that I wanted to try and hit 3 of these Top 10 places to visit in Alberta, that I hadn’t visited before. I’m proud to say that I’ve now visited 9 of the 10. I wonder how I’d measure up in other provinces. Something I’ll have to look into.

Anyways this adventure meant 1200 km of travel (roundtrip), but was so worth it.
First stop was to overnight in Milk River. I did not take time to look around and see what all was there.

I was surprised on my drive south how great the mountain range to the west was. I knew I could see mountains when in Calgary in the past; But did not expect to see them as I continued further south for some reason.

I was amazed at the bridge in Lethbridge, but did not stop to take a picture. I’m sure you could google that if you are interested.

As I got closer to Milk River, I noticed two mountains to the east. Little did I know, that tomorrow I would be heading towards the foot of these mountains.

Morning came early, after all, I had some lofty goals. It was a 42 km drive to my first destination Writing-On-Stones Provincial Park. As I drove, I could see signs indicating different bridges, off the main road that crossed the river I was following. I could also see that I was getting closer to the mountains, I had seen the night before. I really have no idea how close I got.
As I got closer to the park, I saw a number of ‘Campground Full’ signs, and thought ‘oh, gee, it is going to be busy’. However, I did not see any people on the main trail while hiking, the silly people had no idea what they were missing. Maybe it was because I started out on the trail at 7:30am, but maybe not.

The park is a special place, like all parks should be. It is a partnership between the Alberta Government and the First Nation people of the area protecting not only a geologically unique and diverse area, but also a place of cultural importance to the First Nation people. The blackfoot people had been visiting and using the area for thousands of years. It is a place of spiritual importance to them. Also as the name indicates has some of the finest petroglyphs in North America.

The 5 km hike (2.5 there, and then back along the same trail) was not a quick hike and took me close to 90 minutes. Although not technically difficult, it is a challenging hike due to the rock formations that you are walking through and around. I had also heard of the prairie rattle snakes that are in the area, so was being a little extra cautious, although I never did see/hear one.

More than a few times in my life, I have found myself truly appreciating geography, geology, and earth sciences, which I think was one of the few things drawing me to this unique destination. Last year, I really enjoyed the hoodoo’s that I visited near Drumheller. When I heard there were hoodoo’s here as well, I wanted to explore.

I really enjoyed meandering in and around the hoodoo’s. The landscape, and rock formations were beautiful, inspiring, and I tried to capture some of it’s beauty. I’ve said this before that the human eye is an incredible invention, and a camera, cannot capture the true beauty that our eye takes in. So as you enjoy these pictures, think about what the camera didn’t capture, take time to zoom in on some pictures, as it really was something else to behold. Don’t just think of yourself as looking at pictures, but instead joining me on this adventure, walking in, through and around these great structures.

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Although I didn’t see any rattle snakes, I did see lots of fauna. I saw a total of about 10 mule deer. This one, although a little far away and across the river, was just smiling and chilling, grazing on some of that great prairie grass. I did come up on a number of other deer, but they bounded away too quickly for my camera. I also saw a number of rabbits, and tonnes of birds.

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And you should have known I’d have some flower shots. I even got to see some prickly pear cacti, but they weren’t too impressive to capture, but I was excited to see some cacti way up here in Canada, EH?

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It was the thistles that I was most excited for. I think I may have even taken some of my best thistle shots. I’m not sure where my fascination for this plant comes from, but I like buying thistle souvenirs for some odd reason; Pictures, cufflinks, and I’m sure the list goes on.

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This valley would not be here if it wasn’t for the river that flows through it. The river I’m sure helped in depositing some of the materials needed to create the geological features, as well carving out the valley. The park is well known for a number of it’s Cooley’s, which would have also been formed by a number of tributary streams, creeks, and rivers. Some of which can be explored with day use ‘back country’ hiking by wading across the river. Maybe one day it means a return trip. But the river was great, and provided some beautiful scenery. Water truly is important, and I think too often we take it for granted. I did not take time to step into the water, as I wanted to keep moving along the trail of this adventure.

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And we need to talk about the name of the park. The first stone carving I saw was a medicine wheel with buffalo horns coming off of it. I’m not sure about the authenticity of this carving and was wondering if it is modern day graffiti, which is illegal in the park (and I must say there was very little of).

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I did make to the ‘Battle Scene’ carvings, which were remarkable. The Battle Scene depicts a great battle and you can see men, teepees, guns, and horses in the fading carving. According to Blackfoot tradition, it depicts a great battle that took place in 1866 and is believed to have been carved sometime in the late 1800s. It is comprised of over 250 characters and separate carvings. There are many more carvings in the park, but they are protected in restricted areas. You can go on tours of these restricted sites, but they take a lot of time, so maybe when I have more than 24 hours I’ll come back to take a tour of the other carvings.

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One Last View of the park, and the rocks…

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Next stop was the, The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden. It was an hour and a half drive back to Lethbridge, so I was ready to stop when I got there. The Garden was not what I was expecting. It did not have the size, the wealth of plants, and generally was not grandiose. However, it was exactly what I needed. It wasn’t long after I stepped into the gate that I was reminded that often, peace is truly found in the most simple things. Although I could have powered through and seen everything in about 5 minutes, I decided to take my time, to slow down, and to enjoy life. Altogether I spent a little over 30 minutes here, listening to the babbling brooke, and enjoying the well-manicured trees. I also enjoyed taking time to ring the bronze Friendship Bell, which hangs in the bell tower, which was commissioned specifically for Nikka Yuko and cast in Kyoto, Japan. The bell’s deep tones ring a friendship call to all visitors. For me it also rang out peace. I have a hard time turning on the news this summer, and I think more than ever we need peace. Peace of mind, Peace of body, but also Peace for the world. There is a lot of turmoil in our world today, and I hope that people will stop and listen to the bells that ring and call for peace.

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Back in the car and off to a UNESCO world heritage site. #3 off my list of the top 10 things to see in Alberta. The Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump was also beautiful and humbling. I started my trip off with watching a short film that teaches about the buffalo hunt and re-enacts how important this was to the people. It also talked about how much work and preparation was needed to survive the harsh winters that made this buffalo hunt so important. At different times in my life I’ve enjoyed learning about TEK (Traditional Ecological Knowledge). In order to hunt a heard of buffalo’s without any weapons, the First Nation people must have understood a lot about the buffalo, and their way of knowledge. This TEK was passed down from generation to generation. It wasn’t written down, but instead was learnt through teachings and experiences. As we move forward with science it is important to remember that there is more knowledge out there than what science knows, and we should be consulting with those people that hold local and traditional knowledge. After the video, I went on top of the jump site. The hike is short, and the trail is paved. There were many people on top taking pictures. Back inside the impressive 7 story building built into the cliff, I quickly took in some of the exhibits but I wanted to get out on to the 1k trail below the jump site. Again for all the people on top and in the building the trail was not busy and was void of other people out for the hike. It was great to be on the ground and think about what life would have been like, oh so many moons ago; when this was a necessity, a way of life. The history of this site is well known, but what about others? The views of the prairies, the grasses and shrubs growing along the trail, the history beneath my toes, and the views of the ‘jump’ were all spectacular.

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Well mission accomplished. 1:30pm and I’ve visited these three remarkable sites in Alberta, but I still had to make the drive back to Red Deer.

On the drive down the night before I had noticed the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton, AB, and because I have made good timings so far today, decided that I would try to stop here as well. I’ve had a great year for aircrafts, including seeing a Halifax in Trenton, flying in a B-25 in Red Deer, and now, my other favourite bomber a Lancaster, which can be viewed at the museum. Thus, in the last 2 months I’ve seen 3 bombers and flown in one of them. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it wasn’t long into my stop that I realized that I could spend a few days here going through this small hanger. However, I was going to only spend about 15 minutes.

The Lanc was much larger than expected. What a monster of an aircraft, for a world war II bomber.

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One of my favourite aircrafts (by name) is the DeHavilland Mosquito. I’ve never seen one and haven’t yet. But I was excited to learn that the City of Calgary owns a mosquito, and plans on restoring it with the help of the Bomber Command Museum in Nanton. I’m thinking I should become a member of the Calgary Mosquito Society to help support this project. http://calgarymosquitosociety.com/
In the museum they had a replica of nose artwork for the “F is for Freddie” DeHavilland Mosquito LR-503. The mosquito was unique because of it’s wooden frame, just like the picture of this replica nose artwork. “F is for Freddie” flew some 213 operations in WWII. It returned to Canada where it later crashed and burned in a display of it’s capabilities. There is a more complete history of “F is for Freddie” here; http://www.bombercommandmuseum.ca/s,freddie.html

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Well I made it back to work, and started working at 6:00 pm. What a great 24 hours, thanks for joining me…

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A Weekend in the Mountains…

Well, What can I say?

Last Year, I used my leave to go to the Canadian Rockies with my friend Ginger.   (Read the blog entry here.)  I thought it would be good to repeat the experience, but planned a slightly different trip.   Instead of visiting Banff National Park and Yoho National Park, the plan was to do a loop visiting Edmonton, Jasper National Park, the Icefields Parkway, Banff National Park, and Calgary.

The trip started by going to Edmonton, Thursday Night.   Spent the night there and had some opportunities to visit some great friends, including a visit to The Buckingham (a cool place that everyone should visit).   On Friday there was a visit to Newman Theological College/St. Joseph’s Seminary, as I had just heard that they had built a new campus.   I didn’t get much of a tour, but did get to see the new chapel.   It was great, although, I was a little disappointed with the acoustics.

A highlight of being in Edmonton included driving along ‘Wayne Gretzky Drive’, seeing Rexall Place, and driving along ‘Mark Messier Trail’.  As a young kid, I had a bit of a thing for the Oilers, back when these legends played for them…

I had hoped to exchange a pair of boots on the base, but clothing stores was closed, so off to the mountains I went.

The drive to Jasper was awesome.   It took awhile to get to the park, and mountains, but was well worth it when we did.    Once in the park, I quickly saw the largest male Elk that I have ever seen.   But there was much more wildlife for the day, a big horn sheep, a young grizzly bear, and a mama bear and her cubs, and a few other elk.

Checked in at the HI-Jasper Hostel, and decided to go explore the mountains.   First stop was Maligne Lake, it was a bit of a drive, but well worth it.   I was quickly mesmerized my Medicine Lake.   It was getting late when I arrived to Maligne Lake, but not too late for a hike.   The Mary Schäffer loop, was the perfect length, only 3.1 Km to get the legs warmed up for the next day.   It was a great quick hike to stop and see some of the highlights of the area, exposing hikers to many different micro ecosystems along the way.

 

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It was still light, when I had finished the walk, so there was some quick photo stops on the drive back, and a chance to do some exploring near the Maligne Canyon, and its many bridges.   This made for some nice photo’s, including some flower shots.   Always time for some flowers!

 

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It was a good night.   Jasper is one of the largest dark sky reserves, and with the hostel, being outside Jasper, I thought I’d get a good view of the stars.   I stayed up till it was dark, but the sky didn’t look too different from what I was used to.  The next morning I was up early and it was off to Maligne Canyon.   I hiked from the first bridge to the fifth bridge, about 2.5 km, along the canyon, then I decided to go high above the canyon for a different view.   While in the canyon, the trails were busy although it was early enough there weren’t too many, but on the high trail back, it was fairly quiet.   Which is great.

 

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Back in the car and off to Mount Edith Cavell.   The drive was as beautiful as the hike.   I was surprised how many people were in the parking lot, and also hiking to the Angel Glacier, however, the Cavell Meadows Trail, was just busy enough.   It was also a difficult 8 km hike, with an increase in elevation of more than 500 meters, climbing to 2288 m above sea level.   Not as big as last years hike, but big enough.

 

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It was great to realize that in one year, I had went from the Rockies in North America, to the Andes of South America (even if it was a bit of a rough trip) back to the Rockies.   The year really did have a lot of ups and downs.

The hike was great, but the day was not over.

The drive to the Columbia Icefield Glacier Discovery Centre, was long but beautiful, and included a stop at Athabasca Falls.

 

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I wanted to stop and hike a few other places, but wanted to get to the discovery centre, as I knew it would be busy and had reserved tickets for the Glacier tour/walk as well as the Glacier SkyWalk.   I was guessing this would be touristy, but had no idea what to expect.   WOW what a tourist trap.   Although, the activities were pre booked, it was unknown if I’d be able to do both.   But I did manage.   Although touristy, I’m glad to be able to say that it is something I did.   Once you got out off of the discovery centre, there were fewer people, and it became more manageable.

The Columbia Icefield Glacier Adventure was Awesome.   I learnt a lot about glaciers, went for a ride in an ice buggy, got to walk on a glacier, and drink glacier ice water.   It was pretty cool!  Literally!

 

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The Skywalk, was also just as touristy, but I needed to use the bathroom so bad (and none there), that I really didn’t take the time to enjoy it and take in the sights and the full tour.   But I did take time to lay on a glass floor, that overhangs the valley below.

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When I got back, I did use the bathroom, and it was far later than I thought.   I had just sat down to eat supper when I started to overhear different people talking about the road being closed.   Sure enough, it was.   The road ahead to Banff had been closed due to smoke from a nearby forest fire.   I decided to jump in the car and head back north.

I had heard that there wasn’t a hotel room left in the parks, nor a campsite.   I guessed there would be no rooms left in Hinton, and I’d be lucky to find one in Edson.   As soon as I had cell service, I employed some family help to look for a room.   They were able to book me a room at the McCracken Country Inn, in Hinton.   Although a big change to my plans, I made the best of it.

The next morning, I hit a few geocaches to remember Hinton, and was off, back to Penhold.   I cut across some back roads down to Red Deer, and made some great time, thanks to the lady that was running the McCracken Inn, for suggesting the ‘short cut’.

All in all, what an awesome weekend in the Mountains.

I look forward to the next time, we get to spend time together!

Canada truly is a gem, with so much to offer.   I was glad to visit a National Park, and even happier to see so many park users!

Have a great summer, get out there, and enjoy some nature!

Well, it almost took me a week to write this update…   But hey, I’m a working man!

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