May 19, 2011

A Big Birthday in the National Parks

Today is the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada, the oldest national park service in the world.  How big a deal is that?  Well, Canada Post issued a stamp to mark the event, the Royal Canadian Mint put out a commemorative silver dollar, and the two of us woke up this morning and realized that we've been living and working  in the national parks for 20% of that time!

We both started our naturalist careers (in 1991 for Joel, and 1992 for Nadine) with what used to be called the “Dominion Parks Service,” and we still work part time for the park now.  Being “parkies” was a very formative part of our lives.  It's where we learned the interpretive craft, where we fell in love with Rockies (and each other), and where we met many people who feel the same way about the environment as we do.

For these reasons alone, we feel grateful for the presence of the parks, but it's also a good time to think about what an incredible set of places are protected in our 42 national parks – from Arctic islands to the southernmost point in Canada, and from coast to coast.

And that's something worth celebrating.  So raise a glass for the parks, and if you want to know more, here's a link to Parks Canada's centennial website.  They've got lots of special events planned for the summer:

May 9, 2011

A Trail Guide Celebration

As hiking guides, we are expected to know the trails like the backs of our hands.  But we were once newcomers here and had to find our way around for the first time, just like most visitors to the Rockies.  And for that, we have hiking guidebooks to thank.

Joel with Brian and Bart
We're not the only ones to give thanks.  A week ago, I (Joel) joined at least 100 people who attended the opening of a new exhibit at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies that celebrates hiking guidebooks.  If you own any of the main hiking books for this neck of the woods, you might recognize the names of the authors who were in attendance – Graeme Pole, Don Beers, Kathy & Craig Copeland.  Also present were the duo who started it all 40 years ago: Brian Patton & Bart Robinson.  The first edition of their  “Canadian Rockies Trail Guide,” hit the shelves in 1971 (at $3.95 a copy!), and eight editions later, it has sold almost a quarter of a million copies.  For a regional non-fiction title in Canada, this is astounding – it's like “The Da Vince Code” of the Canadian Rockies.

Eight editions on display
Having known Brian since my first year in Banff, and Bart for a dozen years, I couldn't miss going to hear the stories of how they got inspired, how they met, how they hiked hundreds of trails, and how a new publishing house was created just to get their book to press.

On display at the Museum until the end of May is a collection of the best hiking guides of the Rockies (including the rare early editions), plus Brian & Bart's famous measuring wheel (which looks like a bicycle wheel crossed with a divining rod).  This wheel has rolled over several thousand miles, giving all of us grateful hikers the very first accurate distances for all the trails in the parks.

Happy Birthday to “The Canadian Rockies Trail Guide.”