Thank you Hannah Clarke

Thank you Hannah Clarke

Monday, September 19, 2011

A big start to a big new season!

Well, schools back in and rolling in full force, which means a change in focus; my focus and effort on a bike go to the University of Guelph Cycling Club! For those who aren’t familiar, we have a superfantastic club here at the university with a very driven and talented race team component! There is a series of four races run by the University of Toronto (specifically Dave). UoG has been quite a powerhouse race team since its establishment (some 8 years ago) and we just keep gaining momentum every year. Our success is undeniably a function of how awesome friends we are our ability to help eachother out at races and with training, and the drive of the individuals in the club to train, and to achieve.  I am so excited to see so many new faces out this year at the events we hold and racing!

Half of the team here, cheering for the brave racers on the course!

The first race in the University Cup mountain bike race series is at Mansfield, and in my opinion it is one of the best races of the year. Mansfield is a two day event with three races; a criterium (an incredibly short course that you do two laps of), a time trial (another short course (about 3.5km) which each rider completes on their own as fast as they can), and Sunday is the typical cross-country mountain bike race.
We arrived on Saturday in the morning, set up camp, and registered for the races, fixed bikes, and then raced!

This tent needed some fixing, green wood and a roll of electrical tape got it up though!

The criterium is such an awesome event to compete in and to watch, because from the middle of the loop you can actually see the whole race. Riders are let out 3 or 4 at a time and must complete 2 laps; the top two of each heat move on to the next round. Shoving 4 racers at a time on a trail and telling them to do it as fast as they possibly can makes for a bit of a gongshow and some close calls – but everybody survived. Guelph had some really awesome results, with our boys Scott (a varsity Nordic skier) and Mark finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively. By the end of this event I was already losing my voice from yelling, cheering and heckling to the best of my ability. Next up was the time trial, which was a beautiful course of almost exclusively singletrack. After finishing Scott and his twin from Queen’s Brett came out to the biggest hill on the course with me to cheer people on. Weekends like these make me want to cheer more than I want to race sometimes, and we were told afterwards that it was very helpful to the riders.

Just a blurry streak of gold flying by in the crit!

After all the racers were done and everyone was either packing up for the night or setting up camp, a few of us guys from Guelph as well as a couple of U of T riders went out to the race course and cleaned it up. We cleared sticks, fallen logs, and half fallen trees (you should see Scotty W. with an axe!). I was pretty stoked that the guys from Guelph helped out with this (even our Alex, who hadn’t raced U-cup before was raking the trails with his bare hands), and it earned us free dinner from U of T. It’s so great that we can all camp and help each other out with absolutely no animosity between the teams.

Scott, later at the campfire while trying to wipe a smudge off his face ended up with a very smudged face

That night was one of the most fun nights that I’ve had in a while. We were camping out in a cleared area on the property along with University of Toronto, Trent, and maybe some other small university groups as well. One teammate in particular made the effort to ensure a great camping experience for everyone; our perpetual Rookie Dan. He brought bacon, trailmix, sportsdrinks, chips, and possibly most importantly, an axe and a saw. I don’t know where the energy came from, but soon I was out in the bush sawing fallen trees, balancing on fallen trees and sawing their branches, and chopping trees down. Dan was dragging the fallen branches out to near the fire pit would be, and soon more guys jumped in. Kelsey, Kyle, and our new first year Alex (who is dangerously fast) came out for the fun. Between us we demolished a bunch of dead trees, made a vine rope swing, and chopped through a log that was almost two feet in diameter (which took a few hours and about 10 coordinated guys to drag out). I have no idea where any of us got all of that energy from after racing twice that day, and how we managed to race the next day either! Once a substantial pile of wood was taken out, a tepee was set around a decrepit picnic table, and a fire was light both below the table and on top of the table. Needless to say this had flames greater than ten feet high, kept all that were near nice and warm, and brought the schools all together.

The camfire, and the bench that we chopped, and dragged out.

The next morning was cold, and I am very glad that when I finally did get out of my tent, there was bacon already cooked (courtesy of Danno) and the fire was still nice and warm. That day it wasn’t the race that I was really looking forward to; it was the totally awesome fun of cheering the racers up the hill. Guelph had a great showing, and the competition was stiff. For some reason the Men’s A field is now packed with elite men (almost all of which seem to be engineers; who I guess need some outlet and relief from school), and the other categories are quite serious as well. At the end of the weekend Guelph had two racers on the podium, and I am very proud of everybody. We did it all this weekend, we camped, we raced, and we built a stronger team. Looking forward to next weekend’s race at Boler Mountain in London! I dare some riders from Western to come out!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A seriously good kickstart to my fall semester!

Why am I an environmental scientist? It’s not because I’m a treehugging hippie, not because I really think that I’ll save the world with my science, and it’s not because I love to do schoolwork. I am an environmental scientist because I love the outdoors. I want it to stay the way that I can remember it when I was a kid, and I want everybody to have the opportunities and experiences that I have been lucky enough to experience myself. I also believe that anybody can make a difference, and that I can have an influence for the good.
One of the compulsary components of my program (Bachelor of Science in Environmental Sciences, majoring in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences) is a field course component. I chose to do the geology field course which involves a week up north in a small place called Espanola living out of tents and mapping the rock formations up there.
Which was awesome!
We all arrived early in the morning to meet out behind the Earth Sciences building on Monday and crammed our gear into the vans. We are a group of 21 students, a professor, a lab coordinator, and a teacing assistant. Upon loading the vans (mine was full of 7 guys) we found that ours had a flat tire. We arrived at the rental place with a caravan with a flat tire, and left in a gigantic Chevy Suburban. All it took was for me to make a comment to the guy in charge there and he upgraded our vehicle free of charge! Even in the suburban though it was a tight squeeze; I was sitting on a bench seat with my friends Kent and Scott (who is about 4 inches taller than I am). At least Kent was a good sport and took the middle seat.
When we got to the campground, I was thoroughly impressed! A beautiful campground on the shores of Lake Apsey, a few km from town and at the end of a dirt road.

One of the sites we camped at

 We had a great group of people, everybody camped, cooked together, swam together, socialized, and played games. Nights were eventful, but we all got lots of sleep and kept it together for the full days of hiking through the rocky northern terrain. We got to subdivide ourselves into groups of three, each group was designated an area to map. Me and my buddy Peter managed to convince another geologist friend who spends his summer in the Yukon working to be in our group, and we all worked well together splitting the jobs (strike guy, map guy, and diary guy).

Pete and Chris on Penguin Island

Our group got the most beautiful area to map; some would say an island, some a peninsula – depending on how long your legs are and how far you can jump. Our site was the furthest from the drop off point, and just hiking out there was a job, we had to use landmarks like the elephant rock, and avoid swampy areas. When you get out to where the island (Hereby known as Penguin Island), all that you can see is rocky shores, with few trees – most of which are jackpine trees (which I found especially endearing because they remind me of family camping trips when we lived in Thunder Bay). Not only were the rocks interesting in composition; but they were amazingly shaped as well. These are almost all sedimentary bedrock, which is prone to weathering (being worn down easily). The last glaciations carved pipes between the bottom of the ice and the rocks to let meltwater out which left half-pipes, tubes, quarter-pipes, and interesting striations everywhere.

Glacial pipes

 I would have a field day there with my bike for sure. The best part of all is that you couldn’t see any people or buildings out in the field. The east side of the island had some cool cliffs to jump off of, and to enjoy the view of the surrounding features from.

East side off the cliffs

Our group had a good dynamic; we kept up lively conversation the whole time. These guys have some senses of humour and after a three days in the field you wouldn’t believe the conversations that were taking place! It was tough slugging through the bush which is good because I consider that great training for the upcoming University Cup race series, so I have nothing to complain about! The weather was fantastic, however almost too fantastic. Unfortunately I’m covered in heat rash, but oh boy am I ever nicely tanned!

Looking up onto the island

I think I’m a bit weird compared to my colleagues though. Personally I can’t get enough of camping, and being away from society. The nice calm feeling of independence and the open possibilities of exploration that I feel when I’m camping is just phenomenal. I could live like this. When I mentioned this, everybody said it was about time that they got back to Guelph, and were getting sick of “roughing it” I guess. It took us three full days of mapping to get that island mapped (rock types, contacts, dykes, faults, etc,). And I’d do it all again!