Will 2020 bring a clarity of vision?

We can hope so! But at what point does proactive vision and hope fail?

Just what kind of vision does our world need now?

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but it is nice to have a quiet afternoon to contemplate some questions such as this, some of the struggle of this past year, and look ahead to the future year.

This year marks 40 years as an accommodations destination, promoting backcountry winter adventure and all the lovely skills of sport that facilitate enjoyment. Although ostensibly a business that generates income, the real value of what we do is more of a “follow our beliefs and feed our souls” sort of reward!  By being able to live by example, and educate public and political interests about ways to live within an ecosystem of land without destroying it, is our best private joy.  We have built community around our sport and can trace the links in the chain of everything we do that makes this a good model of environmental stewardship, and we hope, inclusivity for community and those who find us.

Sadly, we have not been as successful with the political will as we have been with the personal. After 40 years of constant cooperation and community involvement with our local Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, (MNRF)…it is painfully obvious that stakeholders in Crown forests have no ability to change the mindset of an archaic and industry-led corporation.

As members and original instigators of a citizens committee who supposedly have a legislated active voice in timber management,  we have responsibility in identifying, promoting, and preserving tourism and recreational values. Our business depends on these values and our participation supports several other local partner organizations with the same interests. Other examples of users that have a larger provincial or regional platform includes ongoing events such as Crank The Shield  Race, local independent users in all seasons and the proposed Sault Cycle Club bicycle access trails and plans.

We advocate for better Areas of Concern (AOC) for vulnerable species and activities, and better harvesting logistics, the lack of which is often underscored by public fact-finding information sessions such as workshops which come from the provincial legislation such as the recent Forest Desireabilities and Benefit Values Workshop, undertaken for non-timber forest products.

During that workshop, the “Objectives” board we all worked on resulted in tourism and recreation values as the most agreed upon priority objectives, to be recognized and implemented in the 2030 Timber Management Plan (TMP).

In the TMP process, the area maps are highly accurate, of very high quality, and constitute a legal document once approved in the TMP. The planning process of mapping the areas, and accessing the information of all users is invaluable and is all pertinent within the legal document of the final TMP.

However we had serious issues with the implementation of the 2019 Annual Work Schedule within Block 75 on Bellevue Mountain, Vankoughnet Twsp., an area we have had paid fees for on an annual basis for 30 years as part of an existing and planned further expansion trail map.

In the recognition of values, i.e. existing trails, the MNR was immutable in modifying the present AOC’s, quoting “legal reasons”, and they refused our request to set aside a small part of the allocation that our trail ran through.

Clergue Forest Products recognized the forest trail values, and agreed on a non-disturbance implementation of harvest, but without any AOC, and a promise of best practices.

The follow-through was very disappointing, and we feel betrayed by our local MNRF and the people we have worked to educate for 30 years. They chose to use us as an example of what kind of reaction to expect if you ask for considerations of other forest users. Many mitigations could easily have been arrived at –  the harvest could have been a winter harvest, as in the adjacent management unit, and/or the harvesters could have waited until wet weather conditions cleared, to allow minimal disturbance. What did happen was that our minimal trail on Bellevue Mountain was used as a skidder trail in extremely wet conditions, and an entire hillside has been destroyed, and many far reaching impacts such as siltation of a wetland, and massive erosion.

The only reason the forestry companies even insisted on this cut was to make an example of us, and insist on business as usual just in case anyone else out there saw a better value in a chunk of forest rather than a few loads of pulp and waste wood.

Even if the harvest was warranted, the severe rutting of hundreds of yards in the existing trailheads, and in the landing areas could have been prevented, by adherence to the rules laid out in the bible of Ontario Forestry Standards, the Stand and Site Guidelines,  Section 5.2.c – in particular, 

1.Guideline #4, Criteria for Work Stoppage to Mitigate Impacts

2. within Best Management Practices, Item #6 – Selection of Season

3. within Table 5.2.d, under Erosion, Best Management Practice, Item #7, Rehabilitate areas where soil has been deposited etc.

Considering the amount of work that went into the implementation of the harvest with the assistance of ALL the users and the protocols that were available to be applied to the actual harvest, it is very disturbing that such a situation has resulted in the final outcome of this block. It has been denigrated for all other users, and will need serious remediation and many years to repair.

When looking at examples such as this I feel increasing despair about ANY clarity for the planet. How is it we can’t even work cooperatively on a tiny area of crown land that is supposed to be available to all users – and  30 years of intent and effort, annual fees and many hours and weeks of time that went into the creation of the activity on that land base, and the education of the why and how ….. all gets thrown out the window in a pissing contest about who has the right to use the land.

It is becoming increasingly obvious even to the children that the wild spaces we all thought were self perpetuating are a fallacy and fable. The corporations own it all and we as humans are tossed about on the waves of greed like so many plastic cups in the ocean.

Perhaps the hope of clarity, and information on how to positively impact the future of our dear diseased planet is only available once we see the limitations – and the last pieces are fenced and sucked dry.  I guess my 2020 vision is not being assisted by rose coloured glasses – but by the reality of experience; our own attempts to make it work on a community level, and the reality of trying our best to educate and lead by example and cooperation, and failing.

Robin

New Years Day, 2020

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Safe Returns – April 20th 2017

Even before I opened one bleary eye at dawn this morning, I heard him.  – “Eeee – oh-layyy! bup bup -…..Layoieeee! ….bup bup EEEoh layyy, …Leee ohieeEEE!”

Nothing means spring has arrived as much as the call of the wood thrush.  Even though every morning now brings a welcome song that means an old friend has arrived back home.  It was the excitable little eastern phoebe a few mornings ago – flicking his tail and calling repeatedly, “SqueeeGEEE!” ….causing me to regret a late night and little sleep.  The rousing dawn chorus of all the feathered ones has declined greatly in my lifetime,  but there is still a fevered pitch of sound to greet the start of the spring day.   There’s nothing you can do except give in to the clarion call and go outside to listen – and once the dogs hear you sigh and don your clothes, they are happy to reinforce your awakening, and accompany you!

The flutebird – (as I call him), and I have an uneasy relationship.  I love his ethereal song, and the fact that this plucky little bird comes back to our woods each spring, migrating along one of the longest routes of all the neo-tropical songbirds, from the central americas of Panama to the mixed deciduous forest at the far reaches of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence range.  This bird and his family seem invincible, migrating at night, all that distance, using the stars and the earths’ magnetic field to orient their flight.

But I worry about him, on several fronts.  Firstly, his species is in decline, and have been on the near-threatened list since the 1960’s. When I was a front line environmentalist, my hearts’ focus was on forests, and the need to retain large tracts of the landscape from fragmentation through road accesses and harvest.  The wood thrush is one of the first birds to suffer when their woodland habitat is altered.  Their absence from a supposed “habitat managed” forest is as strong an indicator of illness as the dead canary is in a coal mine.  They return to the same home in each region every spring and winter, where they need a canopy forest and a leafy floor to forage. Any home they have to subsist in, other than this, decreases their food supply and leaves the birds vulnerable to predators; both those that kill the adult birds, and in the case of the ubiquitous cowbird, predate their nests. As we loudly decry the fragmentation of forests in Central America,  we are as guilty of the same crime here in the north of the continent.

So even though my flutebird is a welcome spring blessing I wish I knew less of the story, which tempers hearing his song with a hint of sadness.

A more immediate anxiety I have once I hear this silly little bird each spring comes from being aware of the dangers I am directly responsible for.  I say “silly” – because if this bird has one detrimental attribute, it would be that of owning an aggressive and reckless nature – it flies as if shot from a cannon, banking around obstacles and aero-planing in top-speed and exceedingly low glides through the forest.  It delights to shortcut sharp corners and has no regard for buildings and windows. Thrush are territorial and will chase each other until totally winded and unable to fly,  and they show off to each other in reckless flight even more.

You would think after that huge journey the agenda would designate some R and R for a few days? Huh! …..no chance of that, they puff out that dual vocal chord, sing their hearts out, and terrorize the other feathered foes with some kamikaze hazing.

After a few trial and errors I have finally arrived at a seemingly effective way to keep them from knocking themselves out on one particular window, the one at the corner of the house that seems to present an attractive shortcut.  I have laced a cobweb of light twine across each section of the glass in a random pattern, and after many other options this has worked to keep the thrush family from diving into it.  I reasoned that if birds dislike to fly through cobwebs, this lacing of twine would look like a huge malevolent one, and so far my theory seems to hold.  It’s fairly invisible from the inside, but presents a no-fly zone for these little fearless featherbrains.

So of course, once that clarion call comes through the dawn, sleep has no power to hold me in thrall.  I have to go out into the dawn to listen and count all who have returned with last night’s spring wind, and check all my contrived cobwebs to keep them as safe from harm as I am able.  And those are the touchstones that let me sleep well at night, if I get to bed early enough!

It would be a shame to miss tomorrow’s dawn chorus.

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Winter’s Passing

While many of the local folks are huffing out a big sigh of relief at the thought of warmer weather and snow melt, I feel a huge sense of loss.

I love winter, and everything that is entailed in living in a cold climate. Granted, it has been a busy few months, with visitors, snow sports and home chores, and I do feel grateful for some time to relax and reflect on this past season. However, along with the loss of routine, the cessation of winter brings on a nervous hesitation about what comes next. Change is in the air. Our world is ripe with possibilities … should we ignore the rain, chase the snow and head to the mountains for a last ski-hurrah? Rip off and replace the front porch? Get out the canoes and bicycles? Get out the taxes? Gods forbid – go to town??  … Suddenly, so many choices. Many of them influenced by March madness – A.K.A. cabin fever. Which along with getting high on too much maple syrup leads to a vacation in another way … but sorry, I digress.

No matter how distracted,  I know every season has it’s merits, and besides, the comforting reality is that in six months my world will narrow to a cozy white womb once more. 

Tempering all this emotional and physical disruption brought on by the ending of winter is my general awareness that society does not like to be affected by seasonal climates, and prefers to dumb us all down to a common denominator of the same generic physical activities and social strata. Since when did activities such as skiing and skating become outside the norm?  Since multi-national insurance companies decided so, is perhaps the answer. And Ontario’s winter cities, although few and far between, are not identified in the media for their differences, and applauded as winter destinations, even though cities in the province of Québec have been a success in this field.

Local reporters in the media take every variable of our ordinary weather as a disturbance to personal comfort, a shrieking chance to warn us all of the horrible risks of venturing out the door. On world-wide media, when our community is impacted by winter weather, the public face that we present to the world is negative, reactive and embarrassing. “Power out!” “Freezing in the Dark!” “Ice Storm!” “Whiteouts!” “Road Closure!” The public and highly exaggerated threat to the continuation of all necessary social services! ….Oh MY, how terrifying!

No wonder we northerners are regarded with pity when we travel anywhere south. It’s all in the way we are presented as a society; as needing to be kept safely inside, needing to take Vitamin D, needing to escape the dark and cold!

The provincial and regional government has a mandate to support and promote the tourism assets of Algoma. With the assistance and leadership of many positive advocates and business owners within the tourism sector, acclaim and awareness of what our region has on offer for outdoor activities is slowly being recognised. However, the City of Sault Ste. Marie fails miserably to support and acknowledge seasonal resources and established outdoor activities for its occupants. Even hockey is an indoor sport in this city! Recently the mayor of Sault Ste. Marie, Christian Provenzano, questioned the Economic Development Corporation, (a public NGO which supports economic diversification projects) about their partnership purchase of Searchmont Resort, which lies just outside the jurisdictional boundary of Sault Ste. Marie. Mr. Provenzano said that the E.D.C. should not have the approval for that venture from the city council. He also went on to make several very disparaging remarks about the village of Searchmont as well.

Such a partnership project should be supported and sought out, not questioned.  Attitudes such as this make our city fail in their intent to be a healthy society. Designating geophysical boundaries of city interests and attributes, ignoring outlying regions and refusing to acknowledge the value of the outdoor activities they offer to the city, such as park use, skiing and snowboarding, keeps this city from competing on the map as a world-class destination. It teaches our youth to be insular and cliché about what should interest and support them. Worse, our citizens and in particular, those children suffer poor health and limited resources for learning how to enjoy a full and active life in a location that has a variable and wide-changing climate.

Learning to ski is not an elitist sport, it is the privilege of every child that lives in a winter landscape. It is a necessity. Children should know that living in a winter city allows for enriching opportunities and activities that set us apart in advantage over more southerly cities.

All these things I ponder today as I watch the snow melt away, and I see the gradual erosion of an individuals’ own experience of place being replaced with indoor climate control and second-hand screen stories.  If there is such a thing as the collective unconscious, perhaps this also has effect on climate change. The more we present a hateful and frightened attitude towards winter, perhaps the less winter we will have to enjoy. And all those negative attitudes, held by insulting and insular city officials, and reactive weather forecasters, just works to make people feel they are apart from the environment, and at odds with the world we inhabit.

Our loss (of enjoyment and experience). Our collective sadness (at denying our culture). Our failure (to enjoy what our environment makes available for us).

…maybe I do need a little Vitamin D after all.

 

 

Waaaahh! …it’s over!

The 20th Annual Snowflea Telefest has been, and gone – yet we are still basking in the great bounty…of friendships, food, music, laughter, and the deep contented tiredness that comes from the physical challenge of donning a largesse of gear to co-exist with the elements of nature.

Kudos to all the happy, stalwart and impervious skiers, snowboarders, and snowshoers who joined in for a mix of the above, and did not even complain about the incredibly strange and awkward medium we were all playing in.

Synonyms mentioned in passing reference included meringue, mashed potatoes, drywall paste, oatmeal, creme brulé (with glazed top), The Blob, slushies, and wet concrete. At no time did the material warrant being called “snow”! Yet the challenging conditions did not stop you from traversing this amazing backyard of viewscapes and verticals, using your own high speed quads and the occasional avalanche to move you on.

Many thanks to all participants, and our local retailers who gave us such incredible prizes to award your efforts with.
The Duke of Windsor Sport Shop, Algoma Bicycle Company, Velorution Bike and Ski, Searchmont Resort, and The Outpost at Searchmont. We are very grateful!

Katherine Wheatley entertained us musically with great style and skill and gave us an excuse to sit down for an hour after dinner on Saturday….. thanks also to Permafrost band members Rick Charbonneau, Kevin Lucas, Jason Willet and Jeffrey Hinich who carried the show onwards.

So many people help us in creating this fun event – last but not least I would like to thank Teija Aspegren who cooked up a tasty storm, Michelle LeDuc Fitton who pitched in on Saturday to save my day, Conor and Kim Mihell who led the tour, and Lyle Robinson, whose help this week has been indispensable.

…and thank you, Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick, for these sweet pictures!

2016 – 30 years!?

Oooomph!! That’s a hard thing to believe!

30 years since this little guy showed up in our long winter’s night dreams, and helped us embark on this interesting venture. And …

“what a long strange trip it has been”! Telegraphic!

As Enn and I head into our 30th year as keen ambassadors for back country telemark skiing – (all right, it’s an obsession!) we are a little surprised to find ourselves still here! Well, of course there have been a few close calls, and yes, we’ve lost some dear souls from the slopes along the way, but … really? How incredibly lucky we are, even with this kind of behaviour out there in the wilds! Kudos to us!

Oh, hey, remember it wasn’t all easy like it is now, you young ‘uns have it all handed to you on a board now – we had to make our own gear up as we went along!

Skinny noodle wood skis…

 

…in Enn’s case ones he made himself, while working with Mauri Luomeranta at The Superior Ski Company.

…and these really REALLY long poles were needed to fend off the snow snakes and keep wild porcupines at bay … all sadly now extirpated from the woodlands …and the extensions also helped to test the depth of the snow in those deep drifts.

However there was this one time they weren’t long enough! – my pole was extended as far as it would go beneath me and there was no ground to be found! …if not for a trusty dog friend that came under my armpit and rescued me I would have suffocated. 😦 It’s every man (and woman ) for themselves out there – and laughter is the best medicine they say! Even at the risk of your friends’ precious lives and limbs…

snowy grave….anyways maybe that will help you understand my mantra “Levity gets you up, and gravity gets you down”!

Oh, and what about those wonderful little leather slippers that were all the rage for backcountry? About as useful to a telemark turn as a plastic spoon is to ice-cream … the old leathers

But back then, things were simpler.

Your mom made you a hat, based on your favourite design Robin with Emme hat on …..and if you had lots of hair –

well,  then you didn’t need one!Enn with HAIR

Of course that was back in the day when it would snow for forty days and forty nights, and the power would go off for a week and there were no roads, only skis and horses…..and all the men had hair.

The one thing you do always need; to keep the mantra going around, the trails navigable, and remind you what you looked like back then – is your FRIENDS!

So hey out there, everyone – hope you’ve enjoyed this little celebration of the path we’ve been on together. Perhaps you can come on out to the 20th Annual Snowflea Telefest, February 19-21st 2016!  We will spin some yarns and tell tall tales of all the routes we’ve taken and the ones that we did not , still out there for us to discover.

Ski you on the slopes!

 

 

 

Trail Clearing October 24th, 20th Annual Snowflea coming soon!

 

 

 

October 8th, 2015the overlook, Goulais River

 

Dearest ___________,
I regret to say I have not dropped by this blog in a while.

Time not only slips – He stomps! …and all those quick links, like Facebook and tweets and Messenger are sad but useful substitutes still able to keep up to those seven-league boots that Time stomps around in.

So “here’s to” this obsolete yet good ol’ Lodge Blog. Please pretend it’s an honest to goodness letter, one with a stamp and a faint scent of the northern woods hovering about it. The mysterious stain at one end of the envelope is from being dropped in a puddle en route to the mail ladies’ van. You can even see where I started to write “CAN” instead of “USA” under your street address. That was your first clue that within lies a chain letter, mimeographed with a space left blank where I have written your name in by hand. That personal touch, you know! 😉

However, even while aware that others are reading these same words, you are pleased to belong to an appreciated and important group of people who are friends of this little piece of paradise, home of Bellevue Valley Lodge. And Enn and I hope you are still interested in hearing our news; we relish yours, even if the postcards are few, and far between arrivals!

There is a cold wind in the air today – and rain, beautiful rain. The grey skies and mist are enhancing the palette of crimsons and flame orange of the forest, at peak colour right now. Our fall season is a month late, and I apologize for blithely telling people who inquired in the summer that the best colour to view this wonder is in September. I’m so sorry, but for thirty years it WAS! As well as slow in changing, this season has been gentle, no storms or wind to tear the trees apart, or make log-jams of the trails.

We have been taking advantage of these halcyon days, and working on many repairs and upgrades to the buildings and immediate yard. We are replacing the upper deck on the main house, and have installed a full cooking range in the chalet. Good news for the squirrels and the chefs! ….new front stairs, and a more gradual approach to the pond will make the sauna crowd happy, and new cupboards, counter and sink in the main kitchen make me a happier breakfast host! We’ve built a bonfire and seating area where Clancy used to hang out. Some other 21st century improvements include a better HearthStone wood stove in the chalet, and the ability to take payments by credit card or debit, instead of those paper things that came in a book… what was that called, anyways?
I still have to repair this website, but being outside is more enticing. We are excited to be going into the winter months mostly prepared and rested, anticipating our snow friends, old and new, and continuing to add to the ranks of the Telemark Tribe! Even Searchmont has caught the Tele-ski virus, the new management has great plans unfolding for the mountain, and is creating off-piste glades for the powder-lovers.

And appropriately, here at Bellevue Valley Lodge, the 20th Annual Snowflea Telefest is planned for February 20th, 2016. (…synchronistic or WHAT? 😉
Reserve early, it’s a milestone for sure. It has been 20 years, and we are still counting …!
Coming up even sooner – at this time of year we go tromping the woods, clearing downfalls, branches and other snaggy things to make this incredible trail network for backwoods skiing one of a kind.
Please join us if you can in two weeks time – Saturday October 24th for our Lopp-It-Good weekend! Wield a saw, axe or armload, and we’ll provide the bed and board in return.

…and if you want a real life report – call or email ….we would love to hear your news in real time too! Until then, thanks for reading!
Have fun, keep well, and prepare for the snow flies,
Yours,
Robin and Enn (with Suvi and Heikki)Enn steps into spacerobin and suvi