Photos of the Day

I've had the dream of traveling around Canada and the United States following the warm weather since I met someone doing it 15 years ago. The dream has become reality. I'm hoping to be on the road for a year or more and staying in touch with all of you throughout, sharing what I'm learning.

I left home May1, 2024

May 6, 2024
Ucuelet, Vancouver Island

My friend and I travelled to Ucuelet on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island. There we found the Ucuelet aquarium, Canada’s first catch and release aquarium. Each February the staff and volunteers go out into the nearby waters and collect live animal specimens along with their ecosystem (rocks, plant life etc.) They bring the whole thing into their salt water tanks which are continually pumped through with sea water. 

Over the season, the animal and plant life grows and at the end of the season around November they put everything back exactly where they found it based on the detailed notes taken.

This method enables scientists to study the plants and animals while increasing the chances of survival of the life collected. There is one tank which is not catch and release. This tank started with a cement slab (fake rock) in an empty tank. As sea water was pumped in, tiny eggs and spores entering the tank have grown into a complex indoor ecosystem with a multitude of species. It was a breath of hope that maybe the Earth has the capacity to regenerate if we stop doing so much harm.

May 19, 2024
Jasper Alberta

Whenever in Jasper I love to go for a bike ride on the trail that passes by Jasper Park Lodge. This year, passing through on my way east from the coast I went for my customary ride and saw this little critter on the road in the forest near the lodge. It didn’t seem at all worried to see me and was preoccupied with something on the road.

When it finally moved on, it ambulated in a very odd way kind of jumping from front to back feet and hopping away into the brush. I have never seen this animal before. It is about cat size with a catlike face but is clearly not in the cat family. I looked it up online and think it may be a pine marten. Do any of you know for sure?

May 25, 2024
Vegreville Pysanka (giant Easter egg)

Vegreville, a town of 5000 people, 1 hour east of Edmonton was settled by French (hence the name) and Ukrainians (hence the giant Ukrainian Easter egg). Vegreville is the home of the impressive Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village and an annual Ukrainian cultural festival.

At the village, one can see the original and reconstructed dwellings of the earliest settlers – attracted to central Alberta because the landscape and climate are similar to those in the Ukraine. Most of the early settlers became farmers. Many of their descendants still live in the area and some still farm – no surprise there as the land is very fertile. Due to the war in Ukraine, new Ukrainian settlers have been arriving in Alberta joining the 300,000 Albertans of Ukrainian descent.

They're apparently fitting right into the culture of Vegreville which has gone over and above to make them feel welcome (think 12,000 pierogies dinner fundraiser). However, it turns out that Ukrainian language and customs have evolved over the past 100 years and now differ in some ways from the language and customs of the descendants of the early settlers. It’s a great reminder that culture like medicine constantly evolves. The newcomers can only boost the already strong Ukrainian culture of Vegreville.

June 10, 2024
Lake of the Woods and
Rushing River Provincial Parks, Ontario

I have seen so many beautiful vistas it’s hard to post. The Lake of the Woods area in western Ontario is particularly scenic – not in small part because after almost 6 weeks of rain, the sun came out! Two days ago, driving east in Manitoba on the Trans-Canada Highway I passed the sign that proclaimed the geographical midpoint of Canada. I don’t feel as if I’m halfway through the Canadian portion of my trip. I plan to stay in Canada until October when the weather will entice me to turn south.

Yesterday I crossed from Manitoba eastward into Ontario and for the first time judged the water where I was camping warm enough to swim in. A mother and daughter were in the water and they weren’t yet blue or shivering so, I did my first cold immersion of the trip at Rushing River Provincial Park near Kenora Ontario and it was very invigorating. Apparently, the temperature was about 55°F or 13°C just about at the upper limit needed to induce health benefits (colder is better). Given that I’ve been teaching the benefits of various types of adaptive stressors, I felt some pressure to get back to cold immersion.

And I did have a very good day – I saw turtles and some colorful snakes.

Does anyone know what type of snake this is?

June 12, 2024
Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital
(now closed for several years)
 

I arrived in Thunder Bay, the largest community north of Lake Superior (on the Canadian side at least). Thunder Bay has a very speckled reputation with regards to relations between settlers and indigenous people. Many students from remote reserves come to Thunder Bay for high school and tragically many have been found dead in the Current River.

The book 7 Fallen Feathers by Tanya Talaga tells the story of some of them including the grandson of famed Ojibwe artist Norville Morrisseau.

I didn’t know any of this when I spent a month in Thunder Bay 27 years ago. I took a job as a locum psychiatrist at the then Lakehead Psychiatric Hospital. Then, I was very ill and took the job because I needed the money but having no idea how I would manage to work full time. I hadn’t mentioned my health problems during the phone interview.

I remember coming into my thankfully private office every day after lunch and sleeping on the conveniently located couch for 1-2 hours just to be able to get through the rest of the day. I remember going swimming at the Canada Games Centre and barely dragging myself back to the rented apartment in an old house given to me at very low rent in return for looking after two 30-pound Maine Coon cats. And I remember that the house was at the top of an incline I could barely walk up.

Reflecting on the differences in my health then and now, I am filled with gratitude. Today (June 14) I have been up for 16 hours, drove for three of them, did some work when I had cell reception and went on a vigorous 8 km hike with a 28 year-old Dutch man I met on the trail. And I went for walks this morning and evening on the shore of Lake Superior. And I feel entirely well. Stay tuned, there is more to this story but I need to do some more research before sharing it.

July 1, 2024 Canada Day
Toronto, Ontario
 

There is Hope Everywhere

On Canada Day I found myself in downtown Toronto visiting old friends. Now that I’m on the road I routinely consult various apps to find walking trails, bike trails, dispersed camping and so on. For some reason as I did my morning meditation walk I looked at my location on All Trails and found I was very close to an extensive nature walking path system that I never knew existed despite visiting Toronto dozens of time and reading Margaret Attwood extensively. 

So, this afternoon as part of my endeavor to increase my hormetic stress (in this case to exercise more), I decided to embark on a hike near my friend’s house and it was beautiful. Like everywhere else I have visited so far, it has rained a lot here so all the gardens and trees are resplendent in bright green. All the early season flowers are in full bloom. In one city park there were some newly planted trees and around them I found hope.