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Slow Down Tours - bits & pieces from Nature

Anna's observations, experiences and understanding

of wild places and wildlife in Western Canada

Vitamin SEA ~ SALISH SEA

From the very first time I visited the waters and lands along the west coast of British Columbia in Canada, I was impressed with the abundant vitality of natural life that flourished in the area. Images of steep Coast mountains, mighty rivers, deep forests and the powerful sea were forever placed in my memory. A land known for keystone animals such as the Pacific Salmon, Grizzly Bears and Orcas. A great land where the bears feed on salmon in the forest and the marine nutrients of the decaying salmon, in turn, become a gift to the forest, rivers and the sea: the Salish Sea.

The richness of life forms in the Salish Sea is a result of the circulation caused by the interaction of rivers with the Pacific Ocean waters. Rapidly flowing tidal currents circulate nutrients and energy, making the Salish Sea one of the world's most productive inland seas. Beneath the surface, a living treasure thrives with 1000 species of sea life ranging from, the giant pacific octopus to the picturesque glass sponge reefs.

The Salish Sea encompasses the Strait of Georgia, the Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It’s shores lay along the coasts of British Columbia in Canada, and Washington in the USA, with Seattle and Vancouver being the biggest cities within both areas. It is not only a place where the Pacific Ocean meet the nutrient-rich watershed systems of the Coast mountains, but is also a place of significant physical and cultural heritage shared by over 70 Coast Salish First Nations people, the original inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest. The name Salish Sea became the official name for this unique marine area in 2009 and was chosen to pay respect to the Coast Salish peoples, who have paddled these waters for thousands of years.

From the mountains to the rivers to the oceans to all life forms, we are all connected. The Salish Sea, as all Canadian ecosystems, require our utmost respect in order to remain “Super Natural”.

"The earth's present ecosystem represents four billion years of learning everything the hard way. Don't mess with that." Gadd, Ben (1995) Handbook of the Canadian Rockies, Second edition, p.685

The "whistler" with a thick fur

Every winter, when I see the extreme cold warnings from Environment Canada, I am thinking of how tough the critters are to make it through the winter.

A Marmot's No.1 recipe for success is: perfect hibernation. They have figured out the freezing problem by going into a deep, comatose-like, sleep. The Marmot is the largest species of ground squirrel and they are one of Canada's true hibernators. During "true" or obligate hibernation, animals will not wake up even if there is a loud noise. They are extremely comfortable in a cold habitat because they are typical ice age animals.

Beginning in October they disappear for hibernation even if the weather is still super nice. Marmots are really social creatures and like to cuddle up with the extended family for up to 7 months at a time. They are highly efficient energy savers: during hibernation their breathing, heartbeat, metabolism and body temperature are very low compared to other animals; the heart beats as low as 5 beats per minute, breathing falls to 1-3 breaths per minute and body temperature will drop to almost the same as the surrounding air temperature. During the long winter marmots survive on accumulated body fat.

In summer these mammals have an enviable life with little to do except relaxing in the alpine and eating anything green: grasses, herb, flowers. They spend 90 percent of their life underground and like to retreat to their burrows where it's cool. They also like basking on cooling rock, in this way they avoid overheating and they use the sun as a natural parasite comb. If they discover hikers or see danger, marmots stand on their back legs and call for retreat. They whistle a loud note and that's how the marmot earned it's nickname "whistler".

If you want to see the "whistler" in it's natural habitat and learn how Whistler, the mountain resort in British Columbia, got it's name, come along on our Wonders of the Coast Mountains tour.

"The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper." Eden Phillpotts

A joy shared is a joy doubled

Nature promises a lot: every day, every month and every year. We just have to go: out of the house, into the forest or up the mountain. During the winter months, I'm a big fan of snowshoeing. It can be a leisurely stroll over snow-covered plains, through hilly forests or climbing a mountain, that's the beauty of snowshoeing. It's a sport that is easy to learn and a fun way to bond with people. Take a look at nature, take your friend and get moving.

Snowshoes work by distributing a person's weight over a larger area, so that your feet don't sink completely into the snow. You will burn a good number of calories and improve your cardiovascular fitness.

Snowshoeing in the Coast mountains around Vancouver means you will exercise in excellent air. An indicator for this particularly good air quality are Lichen. These living creatures are ancient and so beautiful to look at, hanging off the trees here in the mountains and absorbing air pollutants. As an interpretive guide, I am particularly enthusiastic about bringing you to these trees showing you their vibrancy and explaining the importance of Lichen.

If you want to enjoy snowshoeing without a guide, approach new places cautiously. Go with other people, not alone. Make sure there are experienced people in the group who are able to understand the weather and lay of the land. However, with an experienced and certified guide who is trained in risk recognition, who can determine rest breaks and that the pace is appropriate for the group, you will be able to enjoy your snowshoe experience even more.

https://www.avalanche.ca/

"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery." Mark van Doren

SLOW in the Forest

We all know how good being in nature can make us feel and help us to relax. Human beings have a biological urge to spend time with “Mother Nature”, it’s primal to us. The scent of the trees, the sound of the forest, the fresh air and sunlight through the leaves - these things give us comfort and restore vitality.

Close to one quarter of the world’s temperate rain forest is in British Columbia, most of it is coastal. Everything, the rocks, the living and dead trees are covered with a thick growth of mosses. Precipitation and the low temperature are key factors in this environment. The biomass doesn’t decay as quickly as in a tropical rain forest resulting in a rich vegetation base. Everything decomposes really slowly here, the bacteria and fungi need a lot more time to do their work yet this rain forest is more productive and stores much higher levels of carbon than those in the tropics.

Truly a habitat that defines hope and tranquility.

"What a friend we have in a tree, the tree is the symbol of hope, self improvement and what people can do for themselves”. Wangari Maathai