Adventure Journal

Friday, 26 December 2008

Eramosa Karst Park 200812-26

Friday, December 28 – 2008
10:00 – 16:00
Start: 12:00
Roads: Ice / Snow
Visibility: +10km
Temp: -2C
Area: Eramosa Karst
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Overcast
Trail Conditions: Mud / Ice / Snow
Hikers: Wolfmaan, Wolfsgrrl, Deciduous Rockwell, Luka
Plan: Visit the Nexus Cave
GPS: 43.187394 -79.809049

When most people think of Hamilton Ontairo Canada they think of big industries. Steel production being the largest product of the city from companies like Stelco and Dofasco.

What is unbeknownst to most of the residents of the area is that there is a good sized cave system sitting on the top of the Niagara Escarpment, right in the middle of a housing development.

The Niagara Escarpment is a massive ridge of fossil rich sedimentary rock which began its formation 450 million years ago as the outer rim of a shallow sea known geologically as the Michigan Basin, it soars 510 metres at its highest point and stretches 725 km from Niagara to Tobermory. It has a rich mosaic of forests, farms, recreation areas, scenic views, cliffs, streams, wetlands, rolling hills, waterfalls, mineral resources, wildlife habitats, historic sites, villages, towns and cities and includes some of Ontario's best skiing, camping, swimming, fishing, boating, hiking and viewing. The Escarpment is also home to Canada's longest footpath, the Bruce Trail which was established in 1967.

The cave system is well hidden, and was quite difficult for us to find. We rounded the park several times before seeing the parking area, because as noted before – it's in the middle of a housing development. The caves were discovered in 1999 and the Toronto caving group investigated and explored the system and got Canada's outdoor watchdog, the Ministry of Natural Resources involved in a plan to preserve the 32 hectare area.

In 2008 the park was officially recognised as the Eramosa Karst Conservation area by the Hamilton Conservation Authority.

I visited the park on a cold December's day with my partner Wolfsgrrl and fellow adventurer Deciduous Rockwell. We arrived in the area around 11:30 but could not follow the directions we had gotten from the web, and asked a local police officer who stated she had no idea where the park could be located. We resolved to visit an electronics store called Best Buy and use their demonstration computers to have another look at the google maps. Shortly thereafter we arrived at the park using directions cross-reference by a map from Wolfsgrrl.

The park was empty except for a single car and our black sunfire. There cold, windy day was too bleak for most to take to the trails. There were several pavilions with information boards posted on them explaining how important this area is as well as some of the people who helped initially explore the caves and get the park preserved, up and running.

All around us were vast sheets of ice, recent temperature fluctuations had caused the snow to melt and freeze, making the trails a bit challenging for us, although my Husky Luka had no trouble.

We got a small printed map from one of the pavillions, and made our way down the ice and snow covered trails to our first destination which was the Potruff Homestead. The ruins of the homestead were covered in ice and snow and not really visible to us on this particular visit. We continued on to find the Blue Hole. Other than what appeared to be a partially frozen marsh, we could not find the Blue Hole. We passed a marker post which was clearly labelled "Blue Hole" but still could not find anything, we pressed on.

To ensure we were going in the right direction, I took a compass bearing using Deciduous's compass/whistle combination to find we were indeed on the right track and headed towards the Nexus Cave Window.

Arriving at the Nexus Cave Window, we saw a large tree, with a few rocks piled at the base, and a gaping hole in the ground. Upon closer inspection we could see the marker post stating this was the Nexus Cave Window. As we approached we could hear the distinct sound of running water. The entrance was quite large, we approached with caution.

Descending into the cave we could see it was fairly shallow at about 1.5m in depth, and had shallow water maybe 20cm deep flowing through it. We could smell sulphur deposits in the rock, and the distinct earth smell as the cave was not frozen over.

Light penetrated into the opening and we didn't require torches except to examine some of the deeper sections of the cave which had frigid water flowing through them. We decided in the interest of safety not to venture into the cold waters to explore the caves until summer where the temperatures would be slightly warmer and water levels hopefully lower. Someone had discarded a set of red gloves in the cave with the name "Buck" written on them in black indelible marker. We decided to remove them and dispose of them properly.

Deciduous decided to head along an old field line and head on out to visit some of the other sinks and windows in the park. Shortly thereafter we came upon the Stewart Creek Sink and decided to loop back and visit the Nexus Cave entrance.

Arriving at the Nexus Cave entrance we saw what appeared to be two large stone fingers protruding out of the snow covered ground, like that of giant who had lost his fingers to a butchers knife. Between the giant rock fingers lay a large, black hole – the Nexus Cave.

Slowly entering the Nexus cave over the packed snow, again we heard water flowing and the distinct earth smell as we entered the depths of the cave. After a brief inspection we decided to brink Luka into the cave for some huskysploration – a term coined by a Toronto based Urban Explorer with an affinity to huskies.

The primary entrance to the cave was small, again only about 1.5m high, not enough to stand up in, only to crouch and look around. We could see the water flowing into another area of the entrance which would require a belly crawl to pass through. Cold waters and frigid temperatures made us decide to stay as dry as possible, so we could explore the rest of the cave entrances in the park.

Spending some time examining the entrance to the Nexus Cave, we took some photographs and then returned to the surface to take a compass bearing and head back to the Stewart Creek sink, which this time of year was iced over, although we could hear the creek dropping underground to some unknown depths.

Following the snow packed pathways we passed the Potruff Blind Valley and headed to the Potruff cave which even in winter, was impressive on our approach.

The Potruff cave had a beautiful earth smell, and the sound of a gentle waterfall rushing and cascading to some unknown depths. We took some photographs and did our best to stay dry, there didnt' look like any deep cave access here at this point in time, perhaps in summer.

We headed back to the trail passing the Amphitheatre and Potruff Springs, which we could not see due the cold icy blanket of snow which covers the park at this time of year. We rounded the bend and headed back towards the car, where Wolfsgrrl fell on some large boulders and whacked her knee good. The next day she had quite the bruise from her fall.

We stripped off our boots, gaiters, outer shells, backpacks and stored them in the boot and headed back towards the Niagara Region where we came from earlier in the day.

The experience at this park was phenomenal. The cave system which runs through here defiantly warrants a return trip in warm weather with proper caving gear. These caves are small and shouldn't be attempted by anyone without proper caving experience or equipment.

The area is cared for by the "Friends of Eramosa Karst" which is a non-profit organisation dedicated to fighting to keep the area clean, pure, and preserve it for future generations to explore. Although the caves have been designated an Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) as well as Environmentally Significant Area (ESA), The biggest challenge they face is to ensure that the water which flows through the caves does not become contaminated and prevent safe exploration.

Eramosa Karst is a great area to visit and enjoy, even if you are not a caver. hopefully enough people will care about the caves to ensure the government of Canada acts to protect this cave system for future generations.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

MySpace Profile Fraud

It's amasing that some people have such time on their hands, and lack direction in life that they have nothing better to do with their time but to create fake profiles.

I admit I find it flattering someone finds so much pleasure in photos of me, that they must create their own using my photograph.

However this kind activity spoils MySpace for real people, wastes time and money for the admin staff of MySpace by having to employ people to go around and delete fake profiles.

It's too bad the individuals who keep stealing photographs, sending inappropriate e-mails don't take themselves up a hobby such as rock climbing or building model cars and channel that energy into something useful and progressive live their lives in such a self-destructive and non-productive manner.

Only men of low moral character devoid of success in their own lives behave in this manner.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Weekend Affective Disorder

Weekend Affective Disorder

Thousands of people around the globe are affected by a form of depression which has been brought about by modern times.

The disorder, known as Weekend Affective Disorder or W.A.D. is found in patients who are forced by their job to work one or more days of the weekend. Weekend Affective Disorder, a term coined by Doctor Richard Oaks of the University of Belford while studying forms of depression seen in the workplace. "We are seeing more and more of this disorder" states Oaks.

"I saw all my friends going out and having fun on the weekends" says David Smith, a participant in a study of WAD at the University of Belford. "I like my job, but working weekends was starting to effect my entire well being" Smith goes on to say. "It was like I started to feel a deep sense of gloom and doom coming over me as Friday approached."

Symptoms of WAD include a genuine fear of working on Saturday or Sunday, restless sleep on or around the weekends, reduced performance at work during the weekend shifts. People who are experience more severe forms of WAD may also suffer from anxiety attacks which occur when thinking of working on the weekend.

WAD is a serious condition which is often misdiagnosed and has even caused the loss of careers for individuals who are affected by it. "We noticed one of our employees constantly rang in sick for his Saturday and Sunday shift" stated Charlene Bennett, a supervisor at W1 Office, one of the largest outsourcing call centres in the United Kingdom. "After the employee was formally reprimanded for persistent ringing in sick, we learned he was literally afraid to come into work on the weekends." Richard Doleman was then sent to the University of Liverpool, and it was learned that he was experiencing severe anxiety attacks, and lack of sleep on Fridays which led to him being unable to function properly to fulfill his duties as a representative of the company.

Doctors at the university narrowed his condition down to flaring up on Thursdays and Fridays. Doleman was then given weekends off for a period of one month to see if his condition improved. "It was like a weight had been lifted off me" Doleman said in the weeks to follow. "I felt like I could breathe again, I could go clubbing Friday night and have a good time, go to Church on Sundays and still hold down my job" In the months to follow, Dolemans performance at work was significantly better, and he has not missed a day of work in over six months.

"This isn't simply not liking to work on the weekends" Oakes states. "it goes deep into the psyche." Normally the largest reason for the anxiety attacks and restless sleep with W.A.D. are caused by the patient thinking of how much he or she is missing while being at work while everyone else is having what they perceive as fun. "It's not just that Mr. Smith doesn't like to work weekends, it's that working weekends has started to interfere with his entire well being" Oakes goes on to explain. "When we loose the ability to visit with our friends, go to the mall, have a drink at the pub, and other simple activities we take for granted on a daily basis, it effects some people so profoundly that it makes it difficult for them to function"

What's worse than the disorder itself is it's difficulty in recognising it. Often times doctors fail to narrow the symptoms down to only happening near the weekend itself. "Just putting someone on medication only helps part of the problem" states Oakes. "The real issue is to get the patient into a situation where he or she can have the weekends off, and go back to living a normal life".

When asked to describe his life before he was diagnosed with W.A.D., David Smith shakes his head with eyes lowered and says "dark times

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

A Trip to the Adirondacks 200810-29

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Our plan is to leave Canada around 16:00hrs on Wednesday, October 29th and head South towards Rochester, NY and spend the night at the service station in Scottsdale, NY. We got held up and inspected at customs mostly because of the large quantity of supplies, food, and equipment we were bringing over. After a brief search of our gear, we were let go without any problems. We arrived in Scottsdale, NY at 19:28 and relaxed and went to bed early to be prepared for the next day.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

We awoke early and did a quick circle check of the truck and hit the road to get to our first destination, Mount Hope Cemetery, in Rochester, NY.
Arriving around 09:40, we stopped at the florist across from Mt. Hope Cemetery and purchased a rose which I will lay at the gravesite of one of the slave girls, owned by the Rochester Family in the 1800's. She was so loved by the family that she was allowed the "privilege" of being laid to rest in the family plot with a tombstone errily inscribed "We called her Anna".
After driving around the cemeteries large 5km area, meandering through Lords, Lady's, Dames, and soldiers of the Civil war, Spanish American War, and of course 1st and Second World Wars, we arrived at Anna's grave to see someone had previously adorned it with a beautiful purple and yellow lei. We spent some time in the older section of the cemetery and came across a lost Leatherman Wave tool, which had been there for quite some time as it had some rust spots on it. I retrieved it and put it in our pack as it may be a valuable tool for the future.
Before leaving the cemetery, Tori wanted to visit the graves of Captain Thomas BOYD and Sergeant Michael PARKER, two soldiers who were captured, tortured and killed by the Indians in 1779. When doing so, we came across a lady in a gold Impala who said that she was here to remember her daughter who was murdered in 1995 and buried closeby. We felt really bad for the lady as her daughter was murdered.

12:30 We left Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester and hit the I-90 to the I-81 towards Lake Placid, NY. A nice, 6hr drive. Sadly, the temperature dropped from +8C to -5C during the drive towards Lake Placid. Snow soon appeared along the roadways and in the forests that lined the highway.

18:00 After a relaxing and beautiful drive through some breathtaking snow covered vistas, we ended up just outside Lake Placid, at the Adirondack Loj. We took some time to admire the stars, listen to the total silence of the hills and talk to some of the people staying at the lodge (spelled loj). We returned to our truck, unrolled our sleeping bags and prepared for a 2nd night of sleeping in the truck. The outside Temperature was -10C. Thankfully we have cold weather down-filled sleeping bags. I spent some time with my red-lens LED lamp and completed my journal before heading to bed early again, to get an early start on the summit of Mount Marcy on Halloween.

Friday, October 31, 2008
We awoke relatively early at 09:00hrs and checked our gear, suited up and made our way to the base camp of Mt. Marcy.

We made our way to the trailhead and signed the logbook and made our way into the beautiful pine forests covered in snow. It was so quiet here. The backdrop of the towering mountains poking through the trees at every turn was quite an amasing sight.
Sadly an hour or so into the trip, Tori's pack began to trouble her as it was very heavy with all the extra winter gear and somewhat ill fitting. She started to require several rest breaks per 1/2hr and we decided it was best to abort the hike, and try for Mount Marcy during summer with a better fitting, lighter pack.
We returned to the Adirondack Mountain Club Lodge to relax, warm up and decided since the area was very snow covered and we were hardly prepared for continuing in this manner to head back to Canada and cross at Kingston. There were several sights of interest in the Peterborough area we could check out.

Around 13:30 we decided to Head out from the Adirondack Loj and return to Canada

13:40 We observed a moment of silence and reflection as it was exactly 7 days since Lupis died.

17:00 Kingston, Canada. We got a thorough inspection from Canada Customs. Before the inspection the customs agent asked me "Any hunting knives, folding knives or needles in your gear?" I responded "yes" she said "which one?" I responded "all of the above" which led to a few more questions and about ½ of Customs Canada rummaging through our personal items invading our privacy.

18:43 We passed 1,000 driven km on our trip.

19:30 Arrivng at Ferris Provincial Park, we entered through the gates and the park was completely empty. We slipped into Campsite number 2 located at 44 17.20N by 77 47.42W for the evening, set-up camp and relaxed to spend Samhain in a deserted provincial park. It was a beautiful setting, lots of stars and a surprising amount of desolation. We could hear some traffic off in the distance, but in this modern world, it's sadly too common. Tori and I relaxed after setting up the tent for the evening and paid homage to the creator for allowing us to be so desolate and warm this Samhain eve. We were supposed to be at the base of Mt. Marcy tonight, but were still happy as at least we were warm.

Saturday, November 01, 2008
We woke fairly early to the sound of several chipmunks inspecting our campsite, hooting, chirping, and clicking. We had some freeze-dried eggs and bacon at the campsite, packed the camp and decided to head out of Ferris Provincial Park towards Peterborough to visit a place we have read about called Petroglyph Provincial Park. Unfortunately the park was closed in the 2nd week of October for the year when we arrived around 11:45.
We decided at this point to enjoy the sights of the Trent Severn Waterway and the head for home. We ended up picking up a hitchhiker who we took all the way to Oshawa with us as we were headed that way in our big Suburban anyway.
Arriving home around 15:00hrs we had clocked almost 2,000km on our truck and had a great time doing a big loop around Lake Ontario and visited some places we really want to go back to.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The Life and Times of Lupis

The Life and Times of Lupis.

January 04 – 1995 to October 24 – 2008

It was a fateful day in summer 2004, I was married to a wonderful lady by the name of Charlene, living on York Street in St. Catharines. I took a trip to the local SPCA, and decided to view the dogs which were available for adoption.

Amongst all the dogs, a young dog, about 6 or 7 months old with a beautiful upturned tail, and wolf-life appearance stood out amongst the crowd. He barked and barked his head off. I decided to take a look at him and requested that he be brought to a private room where both my wife and I could have a closer look. With a glint in his brown eyes, he did not stop barking. The agents there advised us that he will be a "barker" if we decide to take him. Already having one brown shephard mix at home, we decided to adopt him, and call him Lupis as he looked like a wolf.

Lupis was very well behaved, although very loud and barkey. Upon examination by a vet, we were informed he was indeed part Wolf. He spent several years with us in our home on York street until 1997 when Charlene and I split up, and I moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Sadly due to some medical complications, Max had to be put down in late 1997.

Lupis enjoyed the farm and spent many hours outside, as well as travelling around with me in my 1986 Jeep CJ-7 camping, hiking, and canoeing in places like Algonquin Park, and Frontenac park.

Once Lupis managed to escape his leather harness when my Jeep was parked outside a store, and got loose in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was a hot summer day in 1997 and through his exploits managed to burn his feet badly and had to be treated by the vets, wearing socks with ointment for several weeks after the incident.

Being outdoors, even in the cold, harsh winters in Northern Ontario where temperatures routinely reached -40C, was where Lupis was happiest. He had is own backpack fitted just for him as well as special boots called "muttlucks" which kept his feet from freezing and icing. Instead of a collar, Lupis had a "halti" which was similar to a horse halter to protect his neck.

Whether it was in deep winters, or climbing the peaks of Killarney Park Lupis was happiest outside as a trail dog. He spent many, many nights under the stars in his natural environment with me camping in remote wilderness areas in Ontario.

In the year 2000 my wife Tori and I decided to get our transport truck drivers license and start driving long distance for a living. As a love of travel, Lupis was in his prime. He got to do the things he enjoyed the most. Sit in the passenger seat and watch the world go by. He has travelled from east to west, and North to south. Lupis set foot in the Gulf of Mexico, and the deserts of Texas, travelling to almost every state and province in North America. He spent many nights sitting in the front seats of our truck watching the other trucks and dogs at truckstops all around North America.

His last big trip was through Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia in summer 2007 where we managed to go and climb some of the mountains in the Bridgetown Nova Scotia area where we own some land.

As time went on, he was plagued by the ravages of time and had several operations for various things, including removal of large lumps, etc. In early 2008 his hips started troubling him and he started to have difficulty walking. He still participated in gentle hikes and lots of canoe trips around Ontario as it was easy, low-impact work.

On Thursday, October 23rd Lupis was going for a hike in WoodEnd conservation area and had difficulty breathing, and started throwing up, and could not walk. We aborted the hike and he had difficulty breathing throughout the night.

On Friday, October 24th, 2008 we took him to the Martindale Animal Clinic at 08:30hrs where they weighed him in and again he vomited on the scale. They rushed him into the back room to find that part of his throat muscles had spasmed and collapsed. He was unable to survive without a breathing tube, and had fluid on his lungs.

The university of Guelph could have performed an operation on him which would have repaired the muscles in his throat, however he would have to have a tracheotomy and be transported from St. Catharines to Guelph unconscious. The doctors at the university felt that with his age, he may not have survived the operation, and it would simply "buy some time" before other complications caused the inevitable. No amount of money or operations could save him at this point.

On Friday, October 24th, 2008 at 13:40est it was with a heavy heart we decided to have the throat tube removed, and Lupis passed from this life peacefully while being held by myself and Tori.

It happened so fast. One day our happy-go-lucky and long-time companion was as healthy as ever, and within 24hrs he had succumbed to his affliction and passed away in our arms.

Lupis was my friend, loyal companion and confidant for almost 15 years. His memories will be treasured and he will be deeply missed by everyone whose life he touched. He will be cremated and his ashes returned in an urn, to stay with us for the years to come.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Like his toes, Henry "Barefoot Stew" McDonald’s spirit was free

TAMPA — He had size 11 feet, wide like paddles. Heels sullied and cracked. Toes calloused by pavement and carpet and sand and whatever. Soles thick like, well, shoe leather.

"Oh, he could grind a cigarette out with his feet," said his brother, Duncan McDonald.

Henry "Barefoot Stew" McDonald died Tuesday after a battle with vascular problems. He was 83.

He never had much use for shoes. He had a couple of pairs he wore to funerals and church when his family insisted. Once, a flight attendant infuriated by his dogged insubordination thrust him knitted booties to wear on the plane. They didn't fit.

Shoes didn't make sense. Check your hands, he theorized. Your fingernails aren't trapped up all day. Don't they look healthier than your toes? And furthermore, why should anyone even care?

It came down to freedom.

"Take a look at a baby sometime," he told the St. Petersburg Times in 1988. "You put shoes on a baby, and the first thing the baby does is take them off. It's a natural thing."

He grew up during the Great Depression, a time when many of his friends didn't have shoes. Rather than make them feel bad, he dumped his under a bush before school and let his piggies fly free. His mother never knew.

In the Army Air Corps, he flew bombers sans shoe. Later, he worked as a general's aide. The general insisted Mr. McDonald wear shoes with his uniform. He compromised — he'd wear them through the parking lot and into the office. Once he was through the door, the shoes were a goner.

Eventually, the general stopped wearing shoes, too.

In the 1950s, he raced stock cars on the NASCAR circuit. It's where he earned the nickname "Barefoot Stew," because, well, you know.

"He could hook his foot over the accelerator panel," said his brother, 79. "The last guy that came off the gas into the first turn won the race."

Feet aside, he was not a sloppy dresser — quite the opposite. He dined shoeless at Bern's Steakhouse, the Don Cesar and Studio 54 in New York, sometimes in tuxedos. Once, he deboarded a plane clad in a decadent gray three-piece suit, white button-front shirt, camel hair coat and tie. No shoes.

It was snowing.

He found talents that suited him. Mr. McDonald was one of the first people to ever waterski barefoot.

He was strong and handsome, a towering 6 feet 4. He wowed crowds by lifting tiny female performers in the air at Cypress Gardens, heels skidding along the surface at high speeds.

Waterskiing gave him notoriety. He found work doing sports commentary on ABC's Wide World of Sports. He got bit roles in movies and commercials. He modeled as a Marlboro man and for Vitalis hair tonic.

He taught waterskiing in Tampa and judged national and international barefoot waterski events. In 1992, he was inducted to the Waterski Hall of Fame.

The film industry always interested him. He once served as president of the Florida Motion Picture and Television Association. He scouted locations for major motion pictures like Parent Trap II and H.E.A.L.T.H.

His North Tampa house was cluttered with stacks of newspapers and documents reaching the ceilings. He tiptoed around piles, but he knew where everything was. And, really, he didn't care what anyone thought of it.

He rode motorcycles without shoes, getting tickets and appearing in court several times, always defending his right to naked toes. People who were grossed out needed to loosen up, he figured.

Once, when a woman asked why he didn't wear shoes, he asked her why she didn't wear a bra. It wasn't to be rude — he just wanted to make a point about freedom.

Admirers everywhere looked on, toes cramped and bound by leather and laces.

"A lot of people come up to me and say, 'I hate shoes, too. I wish I could do that,' " he once told the newspaper. "I just tell them they can."


Henry "Barefoot Stew" McDonald
Born: Feb. 20, 1925.
Died: Aug. 26, 2008.
Survivors: brother, Duncan and his wife, Sandra; sister, Kate McDonald Meier and her husband, Robert; brother-in-law, Donald S. Beyer; several nieces and nephews.

Services: none planned.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Journey to Mowhawk Island Lighthouse 200808-02

Saturday, August 15 - 2008
10:00 – 15:00
Start: 10:10
Roads: Dry / Clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +30C
Area: Lake Erie
Vehicle: Blue GMC Suburban
Weather: A Few Clouds
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hikers: Wolf, Chuck
Plan: Visit Mowhawk Island
GPS: 42.833162 by -79.522047

For several years now, we have seen a small lighthouse off the coast of Lake Erie, which appeared to be abandoned and have a house attached to it. We researched the island to find out that it was known as Mowhawk Island and was about 2km off the North shore of Lake Erie. It was abandoned in 1932.

10:00 Chuck arrives at my home in N.O.T.L. And we put the old Sportspal aluminum canoe on the trailer load supplies into a large backpack in the event we somehow get stranded on the island. Extra food, water, strobe lights, and a tarp. While driving to the launch we noticed some kayakers who appeared to be ending there day. Wolf suggested they may have started at dawn or in the early morning Chuck suggested that this was uncalled for as the only advantage to starting so early would be to smell the stench from the seaweed and at that very moment we drove by a very bad smell coming from the shoreline. We laughed for quite some time.

10:30 We arrive at the end of Dikhout road and observed the lighthouse off in the far distance on the lake. The water was calm, the weather was nice and clear. We unloaded the canoe and placed the backpacks into it and made our way down the steep, muddy embankment towards the water. Thankfully the mud was fairly dry and did not present too much of a challenge to navigate.

10:50 We set sail into the wind heading south in a canoe in Lake Erie with the Mowhawk Island lighthouse in full view. There was a green patio chair to our left which we figured we would use as an exit marker en-route home (provided no one moves it beforehand) The calm waters were easy to paddle through, although this was only Chuck's 2nd time paddling. We made our way past a few small motorboats. We had planned on landing on the windward side of the island, but there were several jet-skis out on the water and decided to stay on the leeward side to keep away from them.

11:50 As we approached the island, we could see thousands of sea birds. Their calls were very audiable even at quite a distance from the island.

12:00 We arrived on the North Side of Mowhawk Island and carried the canoe far from the water. The birds flew all around us and complained bitterly as they swooped and dive bombed us. The island was flat and covered in bird poop and zebra mussels. The large abandoned stone house and attached lighthouse stood tall over everything. The dead bird bodies, zebra mussels and bird poop made moving around in my usual bare feet on the island a bit of a challenge, although there were no real sharp objects to injure myself on. The sound of sea bird calls was deafening, and the smell of bird poop was quite overpowering in some sections of the island.

There was a sign posted on the island which stated it was not allowed to be visited from April 1st to July 31st due to bird nesting. Thankfully we are here just after that time. We took the time to take a few photographs and make a couple of short videos about the island, including a humorous, nonsensical video by Chuck.

As we approached the old Light Keepers house it was apparent that there would be no troubles investigating the house. The roof and all windows were missing, leaving only a large stone skeleton of a building connected to the large rough-hewn stone lighthouse towering over the island.

We entered the ruins through a window on the east side, and climbed into the ruins to see there was a set of scaffolding erected on the east wall. The floor of the old house was overgrown with weeds which had found shelter from the harsh lake conditions. Sadly, the floor was also covered in dead bird carcasses. There also was a very large population of flies who took shelter in the ruins.

The lighthouse itself was a large, empty, tubular structure. The stench of bird poop was very overpowering as the poop was several centimetres deep at least. We took a few photographs of the interior of the lighthouse, and made our way back out to the island.

As I sat on the island to write in my journal and Chuck went off to explore and photograph, I was covered with hundreds and hundreds of tiny flies. Even a thick coating of deet spray did not keep them off me. Thankfully none of them bit either of us. They proved only to be a minor inconvenience on our trip thankfully.

13:30 Off to the North we saw thick cloud cover rolling in and Chuck felt it best if we packed up and got off the island to ensure we did not get trapped here during a storm as we came by canoe, not by powerboat. We packed up our gear and hit the water to head back to the mainland.

The storm moved over us and the waves picked up. We got in some small swells and could feel the aluminum canoe twisting from the waves. We were fortunate to get our paddling in sync and push off to get the most forward motion when the waves peaked.

Approaching shore around 14:40hrs I used my binoculars to spot the green patio chair on the shore, and we headed towards it. We beached the canoe just after being hit by a couple of whitecap waves which thrust a bit of water into the canoe.

14:45 We pulled the canoe far onto the shore and ambled up the steep embankment with our packs and paddles to stow them in the truck. We then pulled the canoe up the embankment and secured it to the trailer, just as we could see lightening bolts to the North and hear thunder. Thankfully we were safe in the truck when rain started.

15:00 head for home.

In retrospect Chuck and I really could not believe we made such a long journey across the open water using a canoe. Over 2km of open water travel was quite a different experience from the usual flat waters of small lakes and rivers which the canoe is designed for. Thankfully we are both strong paddlers and the wind was at our backs which made no trouble going through the harsher waves on our return trip.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Video Of Mowhawk Island

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Wainfleet Quarry Dive

Wednesday, July 16 - 2008
13:45 – 15:00
Dive Number 133
Start: 13:30
Roads: Dry / clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +30C
Water Temp: +18C
Area: Wainfleet Quarry
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Partial Clouds
Visibility: 2m
Divers: Wolf & Chuck
Maximum Depth: 5m
Plan: Exploration

DISCLAIMERAlthough this journal will seem humorous – it was written that way. It is intended to show the lighter side of scuba diving. All parties involved are highly skilled and trained divers with hundreds of dives under their belt, most of them unlogged. These journals are just like fun stunts you see on television, done after much practice. This is a journal of two adventurers who go out to have fun on a sunny day. If you read anything other than that into this blog, you are sadly mistaken. Read, Laugh, Enjoy, and please comment!

We arrived at the dive site around 13:30, parking on the street just beyond the "no parking" sign and started to kit up. There were many other people here, mostly young girls in bikinis enjoying the quarry. We met up with an elderly man who introduced himself as a good Christian man and a diver from many years ago who used to deal with a local dive shop in St. Catharines until he lost his certification card, and the dive shop would not assist him to get a duplicate copy. He offered to help us with our gear, but we politely declined.

Entering the quarry it seemed rather clear today, and we have been waiting for the area to clear up as the first time I dove here was Sunday, September 08 – 2002. The water was murky and cloudy and we really couldn't see much at that time. I had about 200 bar in my large 14L steel tank.

We did our gear check and slipped into the water – Chuck used a crowd-pleasing giant stride, and I did a graceful belly-flop entry into the water (an advanced technique!) and checked our gear one last time before slipping beneath the surface of the water into the unknown world below.

The water was beautifully clear here, until we hit the 3m thermocline and the visibility went to pea-soup. We ascended a little bit to keep over some of the thermocline and ended up swimming through massive forests of freshwater kelp and weeds which blanketed the floor of the quarry.

With visibility so poor, Chuck held onto my tank with one hand, and the dive float with the other which ended up with him collecting large amounts of weeds, (affectionately known as "salad" by divers) caught in his arms. I wondered why I was kicking and kicking and not making any headway in the water, but quickly realised it was Chucks might hand-grip on my tank, coupled with massive amounts of drag created by our new underwater swamp-thing attire. Chuck also was practising his "Pirate Diver" technique as one side of his masked had fogged up and he could see out of one eye only.

As we trudged our way along the bottom we found all the usual discarded refuse of civilisation including lots of old pop tins, beer bottles, and other rubbish. We did find an arrow which was kind of an unusual find. We also found an upside down bicycle which was only days old. We could still operate the pedals and make the read tyre spin! (However this kicked up much silt and did not assist the already poor visibility in any way)

I noticed at one point Chuck was floundering slightly in the water, and upon closer inspection, he had managed to get his weight belt up under his arms. What a spectacle to see! After a few moments of floundering and shaking about under the water, he managed to right the position of the belt to be able to safely continue the dive.

Moving along through the underwater forest, collecting many specimens on our tanks, faces, and equipment, we eventually came along to a great discovery – a sunken automobile! A very old blue automobile which was very large, and had two big tail fins on the back to show its age. All the doors, boot, and bonnet were open, it was providing shelter for some of the many bass, carp, and rock bass in the quarry.

A few more metres along we came to another pile of sunken, discarded automobiles. We identified one as a 1980's era Mustang hatchback with a broken windscreen. The rear windscreen was intact and Chuck wanted to see how stable it was after all these years. He removed his dive knife and with all his might, stabbed the rear windscreen. Although this was intended to be a powerful force from his point of view, from mine it was a grimaced, slow motion swing with a gentle "tick" sound when the knife touched the glass. Needless to say the rear windscreen remained intact after several attempts to check it's aged stability with the tip of a dive knife.

We continued on along to the west side of the quarry wall when I realised my Suunto dive computer was advising me that I had less than 50 bar in my tank, it was time to ascend and head back to our entry point in the quarry.

As we fought through the heavy kelp beds which reached the surface of the quarry, we slowly reached the entry point which was filled with on-lookers.

Reaching the entry point, now with both of us looking like the swamp thing, covered in all the weeds we had collected on our equipment, towing a large yellow inflatable buoy with the words "DIVER BELOW – KEEP AWAY" an onlooker called out to us. He asked "Hey, were you guys just scuba diving?"

I started to grin wildly, and Chuck turned away so the bloke couldn't see him. Both of us trying our hardest not to laugh out loud at an honest, serious question. The onlooker must have seen our reaction and said "Oh, I guess you are" in a lowered voice. Getting asked that question never gets old. It always makes us laugh. We always wonder how two grown men, covered in weeds, with large metal tanks on our back, towing a buoy that states in big letters "Diver Below" could be asked such an odd question.

All in all it was an excellent dive at this location. If the visibility were greater this would be a superb dive spot! It is well worth the trip, even though it was poor visibility.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Paddle from Charles Daley Park

Tuesday, July 15 – 2008
11:00 – 14:45
Start: 08:00
Roads: Dry / Clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +29C
Area: Charles Daley Park
Vehicle: Blue GMC Suburban
Weather: A Few Clouds
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hikers: Wolf, Tori, Lupis, Merlin, Morgana
Plan: Paddle to some of the islands in 16 Mike Creek
GPS: 43 09.98N by 79 19.88W

08:00 Woke up early and backed the backpack with all our gear placed inside garbage bags to keep them relativly waterproof in the event of a tip-over with all the dogs in the old aluminum sportsman canoe we have. I hitched the truck up to the trailer and attached the canoe with two red tie-down ratchet straps. I packed our life jackets and paddles. Tori got up, dressed and made herself ready wearing only a black string bikini. I had a black shirt and black nylon pants.

08:30 We packed Lupis and the little ones into the truck and headed out on the highway.

08:50 We arrived at a nearly empty Charles Daley Park, put the canoe in the water and headed out on the large pong. We made our way under a narrow, rocky area under the Queen Elizabeth Highway and saw a large Blue Heron perched on some of the rocks. The paddle went smoothly as the water was smooth as glass. The edges around the pond were full of algae and floating green much, but as the water got deeper and we moved away from shore, it dissipated. The water in this waterway was thick and green, with zero visibility beneath the surface.

09:50 A small island came into view and we headed starboard around the island to the windward side.

10:00 We ran the canoe aground on the beach and got everyone off. The paddle went well and although this was Merlin and Morganas first time in a canoe, they stayed still. We climbed up the hill and the dogs were lucky enough to be off-leash as they couldn't go anywhere on this small island. The desolation of this area caused Tori to question whether or not she even required her small black bikini.

We spent some time with Morgana throwing the ball off the small island into the water for her to recover several times which she really loved. We came across two large Canada Goose eggs on the island and were careful not to disturb them. The eggs were very dirty and covered in ants, possibly abandoned.

12:15 We had some freeze-dried Chicken Polynesian food and some Rice crackers. We had some food for the dogs to enjoy while we ate.

13:09 A mother and her three children arrived in a red fiberglass canoe to check on the egg nest while we were here. We decided to pack-up and head back to the truck.

13:20 We stowed up our gear and Paddling into the wind for the return trip, we headed back to our launch point at Charles Daley park.

14:00 We arrived back at the park to find dozens of people there enjoying the nice weather, including some attractive, heavily tanned bikini bodies!

14:10 We stowed our bags in the truck and put the canoe on the trailer and headed for home after a great day in the 16-mile creek.

14:45 Arrived home safe and sound to put away the trailer and canoe.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Paddling in the 16 Mile Creek 200807-12

Saturday, July 12 – 2008
11:00 – 14:45
Start: 10:00
Roads: Dry / Clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +30C
Area: Charles Dailey Park
Vehicle: Blue Pontiac Grand Prix
Weather: Mostly Cloudy
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hikers: Wolf, Chris
Plan: Find an island in the 16 mile creek
GPS: 43 09.98N by 79 19.88W

08:00 Wake up early to get all packed and rady for the day. Packed a lunch and gear for our trip

10:00 Drop Tori off at her new job and head to Dereks mothers house to pick up our aluminium Sportsman canoe and head to Charles Dailey Park.

11:00 After unhitching the canoe, we set-sail southbound under the Queen Elizabeth Highway towards the Island I read about in Paddling Niagara, a book I bought at a local outdoors shop in St. Catharines. I checked out the area on google maps before the trip. The paddle went well except in the beginning we had a few hard rocks which were barely submurged in the murky, green waters of the massive creek. We had to paddle into the wind heading Southbound.

12:00 We arrived at the small island and beached the canoe on the windward side and hiked up the island to get set-up for lunch. I turned on the GPS unit to get a reading of 43 09.98N by 79 19.88W. After some fighting with the new portable coleman single-burner stove we had some freeze-dried Chicken Polyneisian and relaxed in the unusual quietness of this area, which is right in the middle of the Niagara Region. After lunch we took a few photos and headed out of the quiet solitude of the area. Sadly the stove needed some adjustment but for some reason I only had my Smith and Wesson S&R knife and not my swiss army knife. The single-burner stove did cook, but very slowly as we could not properly adjust the burner. Chris said we should have a flag made with our family crest on it and plant it on the highest point in the island and claim it as ours. I assured her that this is not the 1500's and that would be frowned upon in the 21st centure.

13:00 We headed out towards the car this time with the wind at our backs. The island was very nice and desolate. Heading back under the Queen Elizabeth Highway was easier this time as we kept to the right to avoid the rocks we had hit badly on our way out earlier.

14:08 We arrived back ar shore at 14:08 and packed up. I wore my ESS v12 goggles, adventure hat, beige shirt and MEC green pants I got for my birthday.

14:45 We arrived home safely with the canoe on the roof of Chris's car held down with three red tie-down ratchet straps.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Brain region for adventurousness reported found

"Long before it's in the papers"
July 01, 2008

Brain region for adventurousness reported found

June 25, 2008
Courtesy Wellcome Trust
and World Science staff

Sci­en­tists have iden­ti­fied a brain re­gion that they say en­cour­ages us to seek ad­ven­ture.

Lo­cat­ed in a prim­i­tive part of the brain, it's ac­ti­vat­ed when we choose un­fa­mil­iar op­tions, the re­search­ers said. This sug­gests try­ing out the un­known of­fered ad­van­tages to our ev­o­lu­tion­ary an­ces­tors, they added.

It may al­so ex­plain, they went on, why re-branding of fa­mil­iar prod­ucts en­cour­ages to pick them off the su­per­mar­ket shelves.

Re­search­ers showed vol­un­teers a se­lec­tion of cards, each with an im­age the vol­un­teers had al­ready seen. Each im­age was as­so­ci­at­ed with a spe­cif­ic chance of a re­ward.

Par­ti­ci­pants were al­lowed to choose some im­ages over oth­ers in hopes of the prizes. As the game went on, the play­ers could al­so fig­ure out which choice would pro­vide the high­est re­wards.

But when un­fa­mil­iar im­ages were in­tro­duced, the re­search­ers found vol­un­teers were more likely to take a chance and pick one of these than go on with fa­mil­iar—and ar­guably safer—op­tions.

Bian­ca Witt­mann of Uni­ver­s­ity Col­lege Lon­don and col­leagues used brain scan­ners that mea­s­ure blood flow in the brain to high­light which brain ar­eas were most ac­tive dur­ing the game. They found that when the sub­jects chose a new op­tion, an ar­ea of the brain known as the ven­tral stria­tum lit up.

The prim­i­ti­vity of this brain re­gion sug­gests ad­ven­ture-seek­ing is com­mon to creat­ures rang­ing from hu­mans to sim­pler an­i­mals, Witt­man ar­gued.

"Seek­ing new and un­fa­mil­iar ex­pe­ri­ences is a fun­da­men­tal be­hav­iour­al ten­den­cy," she said. "It makes sense to try new op­tions as they may prove ad­van­ta­geous in the long run. For ex­am­ple, a mon­key who chooses to de­vi­ate from its di­et of ba­na­nas, even if this in­volves mov­ing to an un­fa­mil­iar part of the for­est and eat­ing a new type of food, may find its di­et en­riched."

When we do some­thing that turns out to be ben­e­fi­cial, we're re­warded with a flow of spe­cial neu­ro­trans­mit­ters, or sig­nal­ing chem­i­cals, in the brain that cre­ate a good feel­ing. A key neu­ro­trans­mit­ter as­so­ci­at­ed with re­ward is known as dopamine. The feel­ing of sat­is­fac­tion en­cour­ages us to re­peat the ad­van­ta­geous be­hav­ior.

The ven­tral stria­tum is one of the key ar­eas in­volved in pro­cess­ing such re­wards, Witt­man and col­leagues said. Al­though the re­search­ers couldn't tell from the scans how nov­el­ty seek­ing was be­ing re­warded, Witt­mann said it's probably through do­pa­mine.

Our taste for ad­ven­ture may al­so make us vul­ner­a­ble to ex­ploita­t­ion, Witt­man warned. "I might have my own fa­vour­ite choice of choc­o­late ba­r, but if I see a dif­fer­ent ba­r re­pack­aged, ad­ver­tis­ing its 'new, im­proved fla­vour,' my search for nov­el ex­pe­ri­ences may en­cour­age me to move away from my usu­al choice," said Witt­mann. This "old wine" in a new bot­tle syn­drome, she added, "is some­thing that mar­ket­ing de­part­ments take ad­van­tage of."

Re­ward­ing the brain for nov­el choices could have a grim­mer side ef­fect, ar­gues Na­than­iel Daw, now of New York Uni­ver­s­ity, who al­so worked on the stu­dy. "In hu­mans, in­creased nov­el­ty-seek­ing may play a role in gam­bling and drug ad­dic­tion, both of which are me­di­at­ed by mal­func­tions in do­pa­mine re­lease."

The re­search uti­lized the brain-scan­ning tech­nique known as func­tion­al mag­net­ic res­o­nance im­ag­ing, at the uni­ver­s­ity's Well­come Trust Cen­tre for Neu­ro­im­ag­ing. The find­ings ap­pear in the June 25 is­sue of the re­search jour­nal Neu­ron.

Friday, 27 June 2008

A Week At Elora Gorge 200806-23 to 200806-27

Monday, June 23 – 2008 to Friday, June 27 – 2008
09:00 – 22:00
Start: 09:00
Roads: Dry / Clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +25C
Area: Elora, Ontario
Vehicle: Black Toyota Matrix
Weather: Mostly Cloudy
Trail Conditions: Damp from rain
Hikers: Wolf, Tori, Brian
Plan: Spend a Week Camping in Elora
GPS: 43 40.50N by 80 26.97W

200806-23: We woke up early around 07:00hrs and Brian arrived around 08:00hrs and we loaded his Toyota Matrix more full than it had ever been, full of tents, sleeping bags, food, and other camp gear we'd need over the week. We left the dogs at home with me mum so we could have a week without them. We arrived at the campsite around 10:00 and set-up our tents and then head into Elora to buy a few food supplies. With my back still very sore from the injuries of last week at camp, We went on a bit of a slow hike around the gorge and got some great photographs. After the short hike we went back to camp and Tori massaged my back for a while, and we made a nice campfire, sat around and talked the night away. We headed to bed around 23:00hrs

200806-24: We got up around 09:00hrs and headed into Elora for Brian to get some supplies for himself, then went back to the campsite and decided to go on the tube ride. It was a blast going through the rapids barefoot with just a shorts, a lifejacket and innertube! We had a wild time, followed by some easy floating to the end. The scenery in the gorge was phenomenal. There were a few rough spots in the gorge, and both Brian and I fell out of our tubes at one point but none of us got any serious injuries, but it sure didn't help my sore back. After the tube ride we returned the tubes to the rental place and went back to camp and relaxed for the rest of the evening and exchanged stories and ate marshmallows and hot dogs cooked over the campfire. We went to bed around 22:30hrs

200806-25: We woke up and relaxed for a bit and went to head out to renew our campsite for the rest of the week. Unfortunately Brian's car had picked up a nail or something and had a flat tyre on the rear drivers side. We limped into town and got it repaired at a local shop, then Brian went into town to buy some more supplies for himself and Tori and I explored some of the little shops in the area who were all barefoot friendly. We bought a few small things like a dragonfly necklace for me at a store called "Jammed Lovely". We also visited a very cool Japanese Tea Shop. After our visit to town we had a quick lunch and then went out for a hike around the gorge itself. We'd been on the hike before, but with my back still troubling me, we took our time to poke around and relax and grab some great photographs. We also met a very cool tattooed couple. The girl had full bangs and blue streaks in her hair, but the rest of her head was shaved! After our long hike we headed back to the campsite to have dinner of roasted hot dogs and marshmallows as well as some freeze-dried camp food. We relaxed by the fire and headed to bed around 23:00hrs.

200806-26: We woke up around 09:30hrs and decided since it had been 4 days, we really need to seek our some showers. A quick drive to the shower facilities made us realise that even at $27.00 per night, the showers were PAY showers! We decided to not shower here and try to go out and find some hiking trails. We ended up finding Ontario's last covered bridge just outside of Elora, as well as a few parks, but no real trails to enjoy. We went back to camp and sat around enjoying the solitude as we were the only ones in the area at the time. I had a chance to rest my back and read Tom Browns Guide to Living With The Earth – a book on bringing spirituality to survivalism, and listen to my iPod. As night came upon us we had a fire and had freeze-dried food for supper then headed to bed around 23:00hrs

200806-27: We decided as there was not much in the way of hiking in this area, we'd pack up and head home. We packed up all our gear, cleaned up the campsite as well as cleaned some of the rubbish left there by previous visitors which included a damaged barbecue unit which we put into the dumpster. We took one last check of the camp to ensure we had not forgotten anything and left camp around 10:00hrs and arrived home in a little more than an hour and a half with Brian at the helm.

It would have been a much more enjoyable week had my back not been still troubling me since camp, at some points I could not properly stand. The hard ground under the tent was a big help in straightening it out. It would have also been a much better trip had there been some hiking trails more readily available to us. The first thing we did after unpacking all our gear from Brians car was go and shower.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

An End To Working At Summer Camp - 200806-19

Thursday, June 19 - 2008

During routine exercises and prep-work, practicing CPR techniques and back-board strapping at the camp, somehow I must have pulled some muscles in my back and could hardly move.

Unfortunately during the swim section of the next exercise I couldn't do the 1km swim due to my pulled muscles.

I was quickly notified by the camp director that if we are injured and will take more than 2 days to recover, we are dismissed from our responsibilities at the camp.

The camp director and waterfront director felt that it was in my best interest to go home for the season and come back next year as a result of my hurt back muscles. Tori decided she didn't want to be here by herself and she would also go home.

That really sucks, but I'll get to spend the summer scuba diving and hiking when my back gets itself back into shape.

With a heavy heart, Tori and I will be leaving the peace and solitude of the camp, and taking the Via Rail back to the Niagara Region shortly, never to see our beloved camp again this year.

The camp stated they will pay me two weeks full wages plus train fare home as a courtesy since this was circumstances beyond anyone's control.

What makes it worse than having to leave the camp, is that I was fortunate enough to be granted a 3 month L.O. A. (leave of absence) from my job and they were so happy that Tori and I had the opportunity to go out and make a difference in the world. Work and both Tori and my family were so supportive of this opportunity and were all rooting for us to be a success.

Although it's hardly anyones fault what happened - it's still frustrating, and angering to be unable to fulfill my duties to the children of the camp, as well as have to return home after little more than a week.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Crotch Lake Excursion 200806-14

Saturday, June 14 - 2008
07:30 – 22:00
Start: 09:00
Roads: Dry / Clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +20C
Area: Crotch Lake, Ontario
Vehicle: Old Blue Camp Van
Weather: Overcast, Light rain
Trail Conditions: Damp from rain
Hikers: Wolf & camp waterfront staff
Plan: Get to site 19 on Crotch Lake.
GPS: 44 55.76N by 76 47.23W

We awoke early and had some fun before heading to the office for breakfast with the rest of the waterfront staff. We got a great nights sleep in the air conditioned cabins. After 09:00 breakfast we piled all of our gear in the van and made the 1hr trip to crotch lake. I spent the time getting to know some of the girls who I was going to spend the summer with, Adrienne, Alex, Bronwin, Cricket, Max and Jo who was driving us all there.

We arrived and unloaded the canoes and set sail. 3 Canoes and Jo in her Kayak.

We explored a good percentage of the campsites and a few island campsites. We stopped at Stormy Point to eat. I'm really not used to these healthy foods, and my body is still adapting.

It was strange to see motorboats on the lake, instead of canoes only. Crotch Lake allows motorboats on it.

Around 15:00hrs we arrived on a small island campsite – 19, and all went for a swim. I realised very quickly that I am not very good at swimming without mask, fins and snorkel as I am so accustomed to. Everyone swam to a small rocky island, and I joined them. I had a great time relaxing on that island but was exhausted by the time I made my way back to shore.

We sat around at camp for a while as well as used the sat phone to ring camp. I used my GPS unit to get a reading of the campsite at 44 55.76N by 76 47.25W. We sat around and relaxed in the pristine wilderness and as the night progressed I learned of the large responsibilities I would incur. I must admit I felt overwhelmed at stories of having to change children's diapers (here we call them Attends) and puree foods and insert and change feeding tubes and tracheal tubes. I sort of missed Tori a little as I was surrounded by young, attractive women bogged down by my new responsibilities and being so far from home for 3 months.

A lot of the girls here complain about the no bare feet rule, although very few follow it. As the night progressed and the camp games such as "black magic" finished up we made real smores with marshmallows, chocolate chips and graham crackers. The mosquitoes around 22:00 became so bad we could hear them humming and roaring around us. I went to bed in a tent with Jo and Cricket, put in a set of ear plugs and fell asleep right away.

Friday, 13 June 2008

First day at Summer Camp! 200806-13

Friday, June 13 - 2008
07:30 – 22:00
Start: 09:00
Roads: Dry / Clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +20C
Area: Perth, Ontario
Vehicle: Silver Toyota
Weather: Clear and Sunny
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hikers: Wolf & Tori
Plan: Get ourselves to Summer Camp
GPS: 44 52.00N 76 07.92W

07:70 Wake up and clean the fishtank and fluval filter before leaving for camp. Tori's dad arrived around 08:30 and we hit the road around 09:00hrs. We arrived at the camp at 16:00hrs in Perth and met the Waterfron Director and director of the camp. We got a tour of the camp, it was large, spacious aith skylights, automatic doors and air conditioning. To our surprise Tori and I will be staying together in the same cabin. This place is very modern and right now, very peaceful. There are only about 10 people here. I am the only guy. We had supper – pizza and salad, then sat around and joked for a while, and all sort of split up around 18:00hrs. I went to lay on the dock and get a GPS reading of the camp which was 44 52.00N by 76 07.92W. I filled out my journal and did a gear check for our camping trip tomorrow. We headed to bed around 22:00hrs to get a good sleep for our first official day working at camp for the summer.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Gone For Summer 2008...

Recently I was recruited by an outdoor camp in Ontario Canada which needed an outdoor educator.

From mid-June to early September of 2008 I will be off to teach underprivileged and disabled children white water rafting, canoing, and other fun stuff.

If anyone needs to get in touch with me for an emergency, please get in touch with Brian on my friends list here on MySpace and he will get a message to myself or Wolfsgrrl

Have a great summer everyone, I'll miss you all!

This will be my last blog for quite some time.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Welland Canal Dive 132 - 200806-07

Saturday, June 07 - 2008
15:00 – 16:00
Dive Number 132
Start: 15:15
Roads: Dry / clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +30C
Water Temp: +18C
Area: Welland Canal Recreational Waterway – Train Bridge
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Mostly Cloudy
Visibility: 2m
Divers: Wolf & Chuck
Maximum Depth: 10m
Plan: Exploration

We parked at the small parking lot near the Old Train Bridge and kitted up, entered the water and did a quick gear check. This time Wolf had fins, and Chuck had a dive float. We started our descent to 10m and headed southbound. There was a lot of rubbish all over including sign parts, beds, roto-tillers, and a new white Rexall trolly. The area go boring very quickly and we found a couple of mud puppies to play with and later we had some fun with some beer bottles we found.

We found a large upside down bucket but in turning it over, stirred up the visibility in the immediate area so bad we had to move along.

When we surfaced there were a few other divers topside sizing up the area. We packed our gear and headed out.

Strangely later in the evening I went to wash all my gear down with a product I use called Nikwax Tech wash. Tech Wash is a completely eco-friendly inert substance that is safe to use in delicate waterways, and even safe to ingest.

I loaded my DUI Drysuit into the bathtub with my BCD, and sprayed the Nikwax Tech Wash on them as I always do after every day of diving to keep them clean and dirt free.

To my surprise, when I sprayed the NikWax from the original NikWax atomiser bottle onto the BCD and drysuit, it fizzed and made a gas! I accidentally inhaled the gas and it made me cough and burned my eyes! I rang the poison control centre and they stated it's nearly impossible for Tech Wash to react as it is completely inert.

The next day I e-mailed NikWax which has it's head office located back home in England and they stated that Tech Wash is inert, and sent me the safety data sheet on the product, and then advised me after a couple of days their R&D department stated they have no idea what substance could have made the Tech Wash react. They also made a recommendation we refrain from diving in that water if something in it can make an inert substance react.

Lake Ontario Dive Number 131 200806-07

Saturday, June 07 - 2008
10:56 – 12:08
Dive Number 131
Start: 10:00
Roads: Dry / clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +32C
Water Temp: +15C
Area: Fort Mississauga Golf Course
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Overcast
Visibility: 3m
Divers: Wolf & Chuck
Maximum Depth: 2m
Plan: Go Left

We arrived at the small parking lot near the Golf Course and kitted up. We did a brief gearcheck and made our way down to the waters edge which was a lot higher this year than normal. We finished our gear-up and began our dive. Wolf realised that for the first time in many years, he forgot his fins! We also had no dive float!

We decided to continue the dive and head away from the Fort, towards Port Dalhousie, and came across lots of rocks and kelp and large fish like Bass. We found a few steel rods and a railroad spike. The water was nice and cool at 15C. We had great visibility for this spot at 3m.

Using peak buoyancy, Wolf managed to swim using his hands and occasionally use bare rocks on the bottom to pull himself along the bottom as diving without fins was very difficult, but the water was shallow and easy to navigate.

We used up about 1/3 of our air supply and started heading back towards shore and both Chuck and I were surprised to be charged by a Longnose Gar. We hadn't seen a fish like this before! The fish was long and slender, beige colored with black spots. It was surprisingly aggressive and repeatedly charged at us. We figured we must have been close to a nesting area. We did not harm the fish, but had to gently push it away from us during its several assaults on us.

Chuck and I exited the water together, doffed our gear and went to a local restaurant to eat and prepare for another dive. This dive was kind of boring as the depth was shallow and there wasn't much to do here.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Niagara Gorge Day-Trip 200805-25

Sunday, May 25 - 2008
10:00 – 16:00
Start: 10:20
Roads: Dry / Clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +18C
Area: Niagara Gorge, Ontario
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Some cloud
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hikers: Chuck, Wolf, Brian, Sharon
Plan: Hike to the old Helipad
GPS: 43.1214 x -79.0734

Chuck arrived around 10:00 and Brian was kind enough to pick up Sharon for me, and we all met at my place in Niagara-on-the-Lake. We went to take the Suburban but Tori was angry at this and insisted we don't take the truck. We decided to take Chuck's car. Sharon had not really hiked in many years and we could not th ink of anywhere to go, but ended up at the old wooden stairs in the Niagara Gorge.

10:30 We kitted up and headed down the wooden stairs. It's been a while since we were here, if at all this year yet. The stairs were still badly unkept and dilapidated from last year. It looks like Niagara Parks has made no effort to repair them.

10:40 We made our way down the stairs and Sharon said when she was younger, she spent a lot of time in the ravine behind her house in Burlington – which this reminded her of.

10:55 We hit the bottom of the gorge by the whirlpool and I showed Sharon the large helipad here they built to rescue people from here and we headed out on the west wall trail. The trail was nice and dry, and the rocks were cool under my bare feet. The trail had a sheer climb on the one side, and a steep drop off to water below filled with big boulders.

We came to a large waterfall – the ½ way point between the starting point and our destination, and all rested a while. Sharon soaked in the sheer beauty of this place.

After a long break, we headed out along the treacherous trails, Sharon marveling at how my bare feet could walk over the jagged rocks, harsh terrain, and occasional beer bottle glass without even feeling it.

14:00 We arrived near the end of the whirlpool and some fantastic but deadly rapids began. Chuck examined a lot of the debris which washes up on shore here to see if there was anything fun or useful. There were piles of flip-flops, wood, foam, and other garbage here. I found two bald tennis balls and gave them to Sharon to hold, then proudly exclaimed "hey! Sharon is holding my balls!" which made us all laugh.

14:20 We sat at the edge of the mighty and heavy flowing Niagara River, marveling at the raw power of nature here. We relaxed for a while and sun bathed on the rocks at the old helipad, which now had some large boulders on it as well as lots of old weeds. This helipad was marked with a large yellow circle painted on the flat rocks. Now it would appear it is not maintained. We watched as across the river – in the United States of America, hikers came and went on the trails as well as the cable car came and went over the gorge.

Brian took some photos with his new Nikon L14 camera, although the batteries died and he could only get a few shots.

We packed up and started to head out when we found a black, childs life vest pop up out of the water and eerily float by. Chuck searched the area to see if there was a body, with negative results.

We started to make the long climb back to the wooden stairs when Sharon collapsed and said she ahd sprained her ankle again. She advised us that 2 weeks ago she had torn all the ligaments in her left ankle and thought it woul have healed by now. Sadly I did not bring my medical kit with me and could not drug and tie Sharon. What we did instead is take her back to the waterfall at the ½ way point of the hike and have her remove her sock and shoe and soak her ankle in the cool water. This helped her a little and gave Brian and Chuck a chance to rest as well. Chuck was still recovering from his injury at Crooks Hollow yesterday.

After soaking her food, we made it back to the dreaded wooden stairs. We kept Sharon between Chuck and I and Brian ran up ahead quite a ways.

Eventually we ended up at the the new concrete helipad and began our slow ascent. Part way up the stairs we came across some young ch ildren calling us names and carrying on. Chuck ran up the gorge walls after them, but could not catch them. Sharon had to rest several times. It was nice to see all the fellow hikers stop and make sure she was all right and ask if they could lend assistance.

A long, and drawn out ascent up the seemingly endless wooden stairs brought us to the top. The barefoot Wolfmaan seemed to be the one who faired best and came out unscathed from the hike. Next time we must not forget our medi-kit on any hike.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Visit to Crooks Hollow, Ontario 200805-24

Saturday, May 24 - 2008
10:50 – 16:50
Start: 12:00
Roads: Dry / Clear
Visibility: 24km
Temp: +13C
Area: Crooks Hollow, Ontario
Vehicle: Black Sunfire
Weather: Sunny & Bright
Trail Conditions: Dry
Hikers: Chuck, Wolf
Plan: Explore some ruins
GPS: 43 16.60N x 80 00.39N

10:50 Chuck picked me up in his back sunfire around 10:50 and headed up the QEW to Dundas .

12:00 We arrived by the Dundas School – supposedly the most haunted school in Ontario and parked nearby. I put on my new Vibram Five Finger shoes and MEC pants and Jeep shirt and we hit the trails. We followed the stream to the old train tunnel and grabbed some photos, including some great ones of Morganna and headed back to the car. Then over the bridge and into the ankle deep water and up-stream back to the few waterfalls that were there and got some great and interesting photos. This was Chucks first barefoot outdoor experience and he found the moss in the water squishy and very cold. Morgana had a fun time navigating the thick rapids and we headed back. Chuck got shod and we arrive back at the car around 13:00hrs. From the there we went to the nearby town of Crooks Hollow.

13:20 Arrived at Crooks Hollow and explored the supposedly haunted ruins of the Grimely grist mill. We took some photos and explored inside the old mill. We found a secluded area and took a few photos. Morgana did not seem to like it here. We took the GPS unit and got a reading of 43 16.60N by 80 00.39N and an elevation of 235m above sea level.

14:00 I slipped on my Vibram five fingers and we headed up the stone path towards what google maps showed was an old stream or quarry. We ended up at a really nice dam.

14:20 We walked across the dam and ended up seeing hundreds and hundreds of catfish hovering near the edge of the dam, in the murky waters. Even feeling ill, and pumped up on dayQuil, they were a spectacular sight to see. If we ate fish, we could have fed here all summer. This was a nice, unexpected surprise.

14:30 We headed back to the car, and I could not believe how well the Vibram FiveFingers performed. They are amasingly transparent on my feet.

14:40 We arrived back at the car and headed out. As we left for the town of Dundas, we crossed several nice marked trails at the side of the road. Unfortunately Chuck somehow pulled a muscle in his thigh when we were under the bridge in the shallow stream earlier.

15:00 We left Crooks Hollow and stopped at the Dairy Queen in Dundas which was poorly serviced and took a long time to get our food – particularly Wolf's french fries.

15:30 With Chuck's leg still troubling him, we decided to head out after checking out the British store where Chuck picked up some cookies.

16:10 We stopped at the end of Prince William St. in Jordan to show Chuck an old set of rail bridges there which were well suited for climbing purposes. We took some time to enjoy the scenery and headed back to the ar around 16:50 to go and wait to pick Tori up at 18:00hrs from her job.

For a full photo set of the adventure click here

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Jeanie Peterson - Barefoot Hero

Hilltop Hero

Jeanie Peterson is tough. She's smart. She's committed to improving her Tacoma neighborhood. So what if she goes barefoot? "I'm not the kind of person who's afraid of things."
Published: May 25th, 2008 01:00 AM | Updated: May 25th, 2008 06:44 AM
It's 2 a.m. on a Saturday, cloudy but dry. Forty-eight degrees. Perfect for a barefoot walk through the Hilltop.

Jeanie Peterson takes off down South Grant Street wearing a sweat shirt, shorts and no shoes. She's in search of knuckleheads.
• Related video: Meet Jeanie Peterson

Drug dealers. Gangbangers. Car prowlers. Drunken hooligans. Derelict landlords.

They're all "knuckleheads" to Peterson, a short, stout woman who learned how to fight as a young girl in Montana and has been honing the craft ever since.

Peterson, 54, is director of community initiatives for the Hilltop Action Coalition. Before that, she was the volunteer board president of the HAC, one of the oldest and most effective citizen groups in Tacoma.

The group is one of the reasons the Hilltop is no longer a war zone, according to police. In 1989, Tacoma made national news when a shootout erupted on South Ash Street between people at a crack house and a group of residents that included U.S. Army Rangers. No one was hit.

Today, neighbors and police agree the neighborhood's dramatically improved.

And Peterson is one of the reasons that the HAC has survived and


She's an unusual citizen activist, not only because of her frequent lack of footwear and a flair for theatrics. She once lugged a garden cart full of empty liquor bottles into City Hall to make a point. But she also stands out because while other activists often work behind the scenes organizing citizens, Peterson is willing to be out front, walking the neighborhood and doing research on her computer into the wee hours of the morning.


Peterson walks quickly this morning, pulled along by her large dogs Took and Mia, scanning for anything that's out of place.

A broken traffic sign. A stream of water in the gutter – a sign of a broken water line at a vacant house. A car that looks abandoned.

She jots notes about these things in a pad she wears around her neck. She'll fire off e-mails to the proper officials when she gets home to her computer. She walks less often these days than she once did, maybe a couple of times a week.

It's a quiet morning. In an hour and a half of walking, Peterson encounters just three knuckleheads – a teenager shouting vulgarities up the street, and a pair of young men with no apparent destination. Drug dealers, she figures, waiting for a car to come along with a buyer.

"Evening," Peterson says as she passes them on the sidewalk.

One of the men mutters something about keeping her dogs away. There's a touch of fear in his voice.

"Pooches," Peterson calls to her dogs and tugs at the rope.

The men cross the street and keep walking.

Peterson stops and stares. There's nothing discreet about her surveillance, and she shows no sign of fear when the men reverse course and begin walking back toward her, passing her again but from the other side of the street.

Peterson waits a moment and begins following them, watching to see what happens.

Nothing. The streets are empty this morning except for Peterson, her dogs and the aimless knuckleheads.

The streets are quiet a lot more often now than when Peterson arrived in 1993.

In the '90s, drug dealers who figured out that Peterson was helping drive them out of the neighborhood retaliated by poisoning three of her cats, Peterson said. A man with a gun once parked in front of her house and yelled threats as she stood on her porch.

Peterson threw up her hands and yelled back, "I'm right here."

The guy probably wouldn't shoot, she figured, and if he did he'd probably miss. Knuckleheads don't know how to use handguns.


Peterson spent her early years in rural Montana. Her older brothers baby-sat while her parents hung out in the bars.

She found refuge watching John Wayne movies on TV. John Wayne saved her life, she says. He gave her a moral compass.

Her family moved to Fife when she was in eighth grade. Her father came out for a job with a chain-link fence business.

In the late 1960s, Fife High School was one of the last public schools that required girls to wear dresses. Peterson helped put an end to that. She organized a protest where 60 girls showed up in pants one day. Soon after, the School Board changed the rules and allowed girls to wear slacks. Within six months, they were wearing blue jeans.

After high school, Peterson quit drugs – she once punched a principal during an acid flashback because he stepped on an imaginary rabbit – and became active in the Pentecostal church and the larger "Jesus people" movement.

"I replaced drugs with getting high on Jesus," she said.

She did some welding for her dad for a while before moving to Rapid City, S.D., where she worked as a water-meter reader.

From there, she moved to Des Moines, Iowa, to attend Open Bible College. She chose it because it was the only Bible school she could find that offered Hebrew and Greek classes to freshmen.

In 1974, Peterson was working security at an Iowa hockey arena. Part of the job was telling young men they couldn't take their beers into the seats.

After just one year at Bible college, Peterson moved to Moline, Ill., where she worked as a police dispatcher. It was her first taste of law enforcement, and might have been a good fit. Like John Wayne, she does not tolerate criminal behavior.

She was fired from the dispatcher job after telling off the sheriff's daughter.

No one would call Peterson a law-and-order conformist. She goes barefoot whenever possible in part because her feet get hot, but it's also an act of rebellion.

Peterson moved to Tacoma when her father became sick with cancer, and she later went to work at a U.S. Postal Service bulk-mail facility in Federal Way. She worked there 10 years before she hurt her back and retired on a medical disability.

That's when she found her true calling, the setting for her moral compass.


Peterson and her roommate moved from the East Side into the Hilltop in 1993, lured by the affordable real estate. She knew about the neighborhood's dangerous reputation, and they decided the only way they could live there was if Peterson did what she could to clean up the neighborhood.

She started as a block leader, baking "friendship" bread for her neighbors and teaching them how to use tools such as phone trees to make life uncomfortable for drug dealers. Walking the streets when most law-abiding folks are asleep was another way she could help.

She's hardly ever scared. She's always had big dogs, which helps. And Peterson and others say there's an unwritten code on the Hilltop in which even the knuckleheads pay a grudging respect to people such as Peterson who are from the neighborhood.

"I'm not the kind of person who's afraid of things," Peterson said.

Peterson's housemate, Andi DuMont, said she realized they became a target when they took on the bad elements, but she knew Peterson could handle herself. That knowledge gave DuMont confidence. Her attitude became, "If you mess with me, I mess with you," she said. "I know I've got backup."

After a couple of years, Peterson emerged as a leader within the Hilltop Action Coalition. She developed a reputation as a smart and hard worker, someone who was willing to put in the time researching issues instead of popping off to city officials about cleaning up the neighborhood.

People who work closely with Peterson say that's the reason why city officials take her seriously, even if she shows up at City Council meetings in a jester hat and no shoes.

"She is very, very smart," said Sally Perkins, a Hilltop resident who's known Peterson since Peterson first moved into the neighborhood. "Do not underestimate how hard she works. She's good at digging deeper."

When police couldn't get enough criminal evidence to shut down a drug house, Peterson and the neighborhood figured out they could use code violations.

A sewer line broke, giving officials an opening to inspect the house. They ended up finding $30,000 worth of repairs that needed doing, Peterson said. City officials made a deal with the woman who owned the house, allowing her a low-interest loan if she agreed to not allow her drug-dealing son back into the house.

The Hilltop Action Coalition was instrumental in the creation of the state's first Alcohol Impact Area, which bans stores from selling certain high-alcohol beverages. The group, and Peterson, are also credited with pushing Tacoma's crackdown on properties overrun with junk and weeds.

Peterson meets regularly with City Manager Eric Anderson. They co-chair a group of city officials and neighborhood residents called Tidal Wave of Change that looks for ways to improve the neighborhood. The group was instrumental in Tacoma's recent crackdown on nuisance yards.

"She knows how to help connect the community with the city staff," Anderson said.

Peterson also has the ear of Police Chief Don Ramsdell. She speaks to new police recruits, at the department's invitation, telling them what the Hilltop neighborhood expects of them – and how the neighborhood will help them do their job. She tells the new recruits to get to know the community liaison officers – who work closely with neighborhood groups – and to take advantage of the wealth of "intelligence" that block leaders can provide.

And she warns them to not blow off a call.

"If you just drive by, your sergeant is going to get a call," Peterson tells them.


It's that kind of accountability that helped turn around the Hilltop, said Greg Hopkins, a Tacoma police officer who's worked with Peterson for years.

"We didn't like it at first," Hopkins said of the nagging. "But I think it had to happen to get us where we are today."

Peterson has gained the trust of the Police Department because she spends time researching issues, and has proved trustworthy when police give her information, Hopkins said. It's not always apparent when police are working on a problem house, for example. Police feel they can tell Peterson what they're doing, he said.

"Even though she's an odd duck, people recognize her effectiveness," Hopkins said. "The cops love her."

David Alger, executive director of Associated Ministries, called Peterson his "most unusual" staff member. The Hilltop Action Coalition is a program of Associated Ministries, although it's in the process of establishing itself as its own nonprofit.

Peterson has earned the respect of city officials because she does her homework, Alger said.

"She's real," said the Rev. Gregory Christopher, senior pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church. "She's as real as they come. She has no underlying motivation other than to make the community better."

Peterson "advocates from a position of knowledge, not just opinion," Perkins said.

Sometimes that frustrates other neighborhood activists. A few years ago when some Hilltop residents wanted the Department of Corrections to stop releasing sex offenders into the neighborhood, Peterson took a different approach. She talked with DOC officials, studied sex offender recidivism, and visited the state's Twin Rivers Sex Offender Treatment Program at the Monroe Correctional Complex.

She learned that 93 percent of offenders who successfully complete the treatment program do not commit a new crime.

Now Peterson travels to Monroe whenever a Level 3 sex offender is about to be released into one of the Hilltop's two transitional houses, and she meets with the offender.

Peterson said she listens to offenders talk about their crimes, and their release plan. The treatment program teaches offenders to be forthcoming about what they did.

She's probably made 15 trips to Monroe, and only occasionally rejects an offender. In one case, it became clear that the man's friends were all gang members and that he initially lied about it, she said.

By working with the DOC, fewer offenders end up homeless on the Hilltop, and the state is more selective about who's placed in the two transitional houses.

"People say, 'Jeanie should say no to all of them,' but if I did we wouldn't be able to say no to the ones we really don't want," Peterson said.

Herman Diers, who worked with Peterson for years at the HAC, sees the benefit in Peterson's approach, even if doesn't match community sentiment.

"She was able to strike a terrific win-win situation by confronting the DOC with the unfair number of sex offenders relocated to the Hilltop," Diers said. "She has gotten the attention of the DOC."

Hopkins admitted that he was sometimes frustrated with Peterson's approach to the issue.

"But it's realistic," he said. "She knows the offenders are coming back."

In January, Peterson began receiving a salary for the first time for her work with the HAC. She had decided to see if there was a way she could get paid for some of the work she does for the neighborhood. Government officials had stopped her disability checks four years earlier after a psychiatrist concluded her back pain was really in her head.


As the price of real estate on the Hilltop has soared, Peterson has seen some former block leaders move out because they could no longer afford the rent. It hasn't driven out homeowners yet, but she worried about some of the wealthier people moving into the neighborhood. They don't realize why it's important to be involved in the neighborhood, she said.

"We're sitting pretty cush and pretty now," Peterson said. But she sees graffiti and knows what it means. She still sees the Crips and the drug dealers in the neighborhood, even if they've taken their dealing underground or to other parts of town.

Without constant vigilance, Peterson fears the Hilltop could return to the days when there wasn't one working streetlight between Sixth Avenue and 25th Street because the drug dealers shot them all out, and when whole blocks were boarded up.

"We could be back to that in one summer," she said.

So she keeps walking barefoot in the middle of the night, and she keeps meeting with city officials to talk about things such as junk cars and derelict landlords.

It's her job now, but it's more than that.

It's something she's compelled to do.

"I believe that people should, once a year, justify their existence on this planet," Peterson said. "And on my birthday each year I have looked at my life the previous year with that type of scrutiny. If the day comes that I am not a positive addition to the planet, then I am just taking up air and should 'give up the mortal coil,' as they say."

Jason Hagey: 253-597-8542


Age: 54

Occupation: Director of community initiatives for the Hilltop Action Coalition

Born: Rural Montana, near Missoula

High school: Fife

Moved to Hilltop: 1993

Housemates: Andi DuMont and Bruce Roberts. DuMont was making porcelain dolls and met Peterson, who was doing ceramics. They became friends and Peterson offered DuMont and her son a place to live when DuMont was divorcing. "She offered me a safe haven," DuMont said.

Nickname: Pooh. (A boyfriend told her she was like Winnie the Pooh because she was into eating and her friends.)

Estimated number of Pooh items in her bedroom: 600

Hobby: Surfing the Web for nature and wildlife photographs

Estimated number of animal photos on her computer: 200,000