Stephen's Summer of 2005

A personal and experimental blog about my summer travels in 2005

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Location: Yellowknife, NWT, Canada

I live, work and play in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Monday, August 29, 2005

Home again!

On Sunday i left Reggie's and Cindi's for home. Rather than taking the Yellowhead all the way from Saskatoon, i took a road less traveled passing through Asquith, Biggar, Wilkie, Unity, Wainwright and so on to Edmonton.

In Biggar... no doubt you have heard all about it, but here it is... is Biggar's famous townsign:

Biggar townsign

The next morning i left around 9:00 AM and drove straight to Yellowknife arriving before midnight... Enough said... what a drive, but i wanted to get home before my next trip on Wednesday to Inuvik... Zzzzzzz...

60th Parallel

All in alll, it was a good summer holiday even if cheesy at times. I saw old friends and new, laid under the nightsky, remembered times past and dreamed of future times...


And that is the end of this blog...

- 30 -

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Regina, Reggie, Riders

Having overnighted in Regina, i decided to look around the city and its environs as Reggie Newkirk, whom i would be visiting, would not be home until after supper.

The RCMP Museum and a tour of the training facilities was first on my agenda. The
RCMP Museum is well worth seeing if you are in the Regina area. Although not necessarily complete as it seems to present an apologetic history, nevertheless with that provisio it was quite informative. After the museum i went on an escorted tour, which consisted solely of a visit to the RCMP Chapel. There was some misunderstanding between our group of about 20 and the two tour guides as to what we were to see. We were lead to believe the tour included some of the training facilities, but after being abruptly dropped off back at the museum, upon checking with the guides it was clarified that the training facilities were off limits since 9/11. I cannot imagine what would be so sensitive about such a tour; i guess al-Qaeda has impacted tourism in Saskatchewan

RCMP Chapel

After the museum i headed south out of town and came across the Baseline Surface Radiation Network station, and looked around the site.

Baseline Surface Radiation Network, Regina Station


Late in the day i visited the MacKenzie Art Gallery. One of the paintings i experienced was Frozen Mist by Otto Donald Rogers, who is well-known as a prairie artist and to Canadian Baha'is. At day's end i was welcomed into the home of Reggie and Cindi Newkirk.

On Saturday Reggie and i went to the Riders - BC Lions game at Taylors Field. While the Riders defense was on most of the game, their offense was not... In the last ten minutes the Riders gave up 2 touchdowns to Lions for a BC 19 - 15 win. Game details here!

That night i treated Reggie to some observing time on my telescope. We found a quiet, relatively dark spot right beside St. Michael's Reteat House run by the Franciscans, and spent two hours under the celestial sky.

Clockwise from the left: Cindi Newkirk,
Lianne Wolf Ear, Reggie Newkirk

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Travel to Regina

Now normally when one travels from Saskatoon to Regina down highway #11 it takes perhaps 2-1/2 hours. Not me. I decide to do a little sightseeing along the way. I head east down highway #5.

Passing near the settlement of Mount Carmel i noticed cloud rotation and a descending funnel starting to form, so i gave chase. I headed north through the settlement but couldn't get closer than about 2 kilometers as the event was towards the east with no roads in that direction near me. The funnel never fully formed and did not touch down. I can see why stormchasers often have a navigator with them to read topo maps.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel RC in Mount Carmel, Saskatchewan

Watson, Saskatchewan lays claim to being
the "Home of the Original Santa Claus Day". Ho-Ho-Ho!

Along the highway i came across the "St. Peter and Paul Romanian Orthodox Church." The church doesn't appear to be used that frequently and a sign refers visitors to an individual in Yorkton. What i found unusual was the barbed wire around the property: was that to keep people out or to keep people in?

In Veregin i visited the Doukhobor museum, including the Veregin residence with a prayer-house on the first floor. This museum also incorporates a museum dedicated to Leo Nicholaivitch Tolstoi, the great Russian novelist, social reformer and benefactor of the Doukhobors.

And finally for the cheesy picture of the day, on the road to Yorkton i came across the "World's Largest Whitetail Deer Antlers" with a scoring of 1158-1/2! I wonder if Boone and Crockett knows about this trophy?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Travel to Saskatoon

Today i made my way to Saskatoon down the Yellowhead highway. I left Edmonton in mid-morning with rainy skies. As it turned out, it rained, drizzled and downpoured in various degrees until just before S'toon.

Along the way i stopped by Vegreville to see
world's biggest Pysanka (Easter Egg)

Not much to see along the route with all the rain. At Maidstone, an early Black settlement on the prairies, i came upon what seemed like a fellow drowning in the descending torrents, who was hitching his way to Saskatoon. I picked up Brian Myshak, who not wanting to wait for an evening bus decided to hitchhike as his wife was admitted to a Saskatoon hospital. I hope she gets well soon.

Brian Patrick Myshak

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Two low-key days... Monday morning was a little busy: had my car's 12 month servicing done in Calgary; had a VHS tape converted to DVD; bought coffee and donuts for the workers striking against Telus on Heritage Road; shopped at Chapters; had lunch with Ravan. In the afternoon i travelled to Edmonton for some down time, although i did visit with Les and Bessie Beasley and their son Christopher.

Tuesday was unhurried... I spent some time at the local Harley-Davidson dealership checking out the bikes. Hmmm...

Sunday, August 21, 2005


I leave Creston Saturday morning for Calgary to visit Ravan and Sean. En route i cross the Rockies via Vermilion Pass in Kootenay National Park. After having travelled most of the Rocky Mountain passes Vermilion continues to be my favourite for scenery.

Upon arrival Ravan, Sean and i go out to a Japanese resturant for supper -- its sushi for me! Later i meet up with an old friend Pei-Zhong and we attend the Baha'i Feast of Names in the northwest sector of Calgary (Calgary's 600-member Baha'i community is administratively divided into several sectors), and Sean and Ravan attended his brother's 33rd birthday party. At the Feast we meet two old friends of mine, Navid and Susan Nafisiyazdi, who invite us back to their home for refreshments. As Navid and Susan lived in Kazan, Russia as Baha'i pioneers in the early 1990's, we had much to share. It has been years since i have seen any of these folks; what a delightful evening.

Susan, Navid and Pei-Zhong

Kicking around on Sunday, Sean, Ravan and i go to Calgary's Heritage Park for the afternoon. Later Ravan made an excellent supper of delicious stuffed red peppers (ask her for her recipe) followed by a quiet evening of visiting. I also got to briefly meet Jerry Skinner, Sean's father -- too bad his visit could not have been longer.

Here are some pictures taken from Heritage Park:

Friday, August 19, 2005


Leaving the Sunshine Coast with the 12:50 p.m. ferry i retrace my path back to the Kootenays. Actually it was only near Chilliwack after contacting an old friend in Creston and confirming that he was available the next day for a visit, that i decided to head back to the Kootenays rather then take the faster Trans-Canada to Calgary to visit my daughter, Ravan. The winds were with me and the traffic was light: i entered Castlegar after 9 o'clock.

I had another welcome visit with my sister, Katya, which included a fine morning walk down to the river with Grommet. While the Okanagan is a wonderland, the Kootenays is a paradise.

Katya and Grommet

Friday afternoon i drive the short distance over to Creston and book into an excellent bed and breakfast called the Hill House B&B (actually 5 km north of highways #3 and #3A junction) overlooking the valley. Without reservations i highly recommend this B&B which apparently doesn't get as much business as the B&B's located right in the town. NOTE: i received no compensation for this promotion :-).

Hill House B&B

This evening i visited Larry Rombough. I have known Larry since i was two years old and living in the town of Aultsville, one of the lost villages of the Seaway development. I haven't seen him for some 35 years. One of my earliest memories, from age three, is playing with Larry at his house when his large dog, King, attacked me gripping the top of my head and under my chin in his jaws. I was lucky that his brother Garnet pulled the dog off.

Larry took me to the top of a hill near the American border for a spectacular view of the valley, and talked about his love for the valley, the West, his mountain-trained horse, and the hunting and fishing in the area. He threw a couple of steaks on the barby. We talked about old times, the troubles we got into, our friends some long deceased, our earlier hunting days (including the time we tried to spit-roast a pair of blackbirds but couldn't bring ourselves to eat the cooked remains), old friends, girls and girl-friends, school days, St. Lawrence valley days, and lazy summer days. We plan to stay in touch and not let another 35 years pass.

Larry Rombough

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sunshine Coast

This early Thursday morning i look back on my few days spent on the Sunshine Coast visiting old friends. Carol and David Bowie were the first couple i visited in their secluded down-to-earth home in Halfmoon Bay. I have known the Bowies since i was a wee lad in Ingleside, Ontario where they briefly lived, and we have remained good friends over the years.

David and Carol, outside of her studio

The next couple i stayed with was Don and Nedra Greenaway, whom i have also known for some 30 years when they lived in Iqaluit (then Frobisher Bay), where Lynn and i looked after their children and home for a month while they went on Baha'i pilgrimage. They are now retired to the Sunshine Coast.

Nedra and Don, embracing and embraced by the trees
Last night several friends went out on the Roberts Creek pier to observe the night sky. We observed Jupiter and its moons (extremely low on the horizon), the overhead constellations, M13 (a gobular cluster), the ET cluster (an open star cluster), Mizar and Alcor, Albireo (beta Cygni), the Andromeda galaxy (M31), Bode's Galaxy (M81), Cigar Galaxy (M82), the Ring Nebula (M57, the remnant shell of a supernova explosion), and good old Luna in its full phase (Tycho crater and the lunar limb).

Intrepid Sunshine Coast observers

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Towards the Coast

Another late morning start after a night's observing! The weather has been beautiful, sunny and in the mid-30's. With no set destination in mind, i start for Chilliwack in the BC lower mainland. Driving into Osoyoos i stop at the top of the mountain, where highway #3 descends into the valley, to look at the developments there. Jack Newton and his wife set up an astronomy B&B in 2000. Now several other private houses / cabins for observing have been established as well.

En route i visited the
Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory (DRAO) near Okanagan Falls. This was my first visit to the observatory and was treated to a very enthusiastic and complete tour by staff member, Wendell Shuster. DRAO operates several programs at the site, including the very successful Canadian Galactic Plane Survey (CGPS) which is studying the interstellar medium in our galaxy.

I finished my trip for the day in Chilliwack with the intention of reaching the Sunshine Coast tomorrow.

Saturday, August 13, 2005


I had a late start Friday morning for Castlegar in the Kootenay's. The previous evening i was up until 2:00 AM in the morning, on a darkened hilltop east of Vernon, to view the Perseid meteor shower with the music of Susan Lewis-Wright playing in the background. A weaker showing this year, but nevertheless some very good meteors in a good sky.

On the Crowsnest, highway #3, i picked up Nate who was heading for the
Shambhala Music Festival at Salmo. Originally from Arizona, Nate and his companions from Victoria suffered a vehicle breakdown and were each individually making their way to the Shambhala. I have not seen many hitchhikers on my travels -- a rare event these days compared to the early 1970's when Pierre Trudeau was our prime minister and encouraged young people to stick out their thumbs and see the country. Nate reminded me of those days and my younger self.

Nate, Shambhala or Bust!

My two days in Castlegar were spent with my dear friend Katya Soloveoff, a Doukhobor Baha'i, and her family. I was privileged to first meet Katya on a teaching trip to the Soviet Union in the late summer of 1990. My Kootenay visit was a busy time. One of my favourite memories will always be picking plums near the Mir Centre for Peace, with Katya noisily announcing our presence to any bears who might be feasting by calling out Mishka (the Russian equivalent of Teddy Bear). We also visited a local Doukhobor bookshop / museum; her father in Grand Forks; and a Doukhobor cemetery; and Verigin's Tomb, the tomb of Peter "The Lordly" Verigin, an early Doukhobor leader.

Verigin's Tomb

As a grand finale, on Saturday night we headed to a viewpoint overlooking Castlegar and spent a few hours observing the night sky with telescope and binoculars. Gobular clusters, star clusters, binary stars, Mars, galaxies, nebulae and asterisms all came together for an astonishing protrait of the heavens.

Katya, with her daughters Rachael and Sarah

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Leaving Valemount this morning for the Okanagan i stop by Avola to visit my old Cambridge Bay friends, Margo and Howie Kadlun-Jones. Margo, whom i affectionately call "Maggie", and her daughter Caley, will long be remembered for their labour of love in recording the Inuinnaqtun Baha'i CD titled "O Paniuyuhi Irniuyuhilu Atanguvium" (O ye daughters and sons of the Kingdom). Click title for the CD's free download page. I worked with Margo for several years at the local social housing organization in Cambridge Bay.

Howie and Margo outside their Avola home

After arriving in Vernon for the evening i visited Florence and Wilfrid Lynch, two Baha'i friends whose home is a true home of kindness, hospitality and loving encouragement. It is not uncommon to find guests in their home and this time there were guests from Toronto and Edmonton.

Wilfrid and Florence Lynch with Julia (their great-niece-in-law?)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Today i headed west to British Columbia with the propsects of staying in beautiful Jasper. Of course, by the time i drove into Jasper around 4:00 PM there was not a room to be had, unless one is willing to shell-out $250; not i. So after supper i continued on my way across the Divide to Valemount, BC.

Along the way, the Yellowhead highway passes Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at better than 3900 meters, and it is rarely cloud free.

Upon checking into Valemount the power went out from Kamloops all the way up to McBride. Some of the guests were actually getting nervous and considered driving out of the area. A young family got out a small refractor for its first light, looking at the setting Moon. I was able to show them a few lunar features, and Jupiter which was also setting. Around 9:00 PM the power came back on and i retired for the evening.

A small mountain east of Valemount

Sunset at Valemount

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Return to Edmonton

Leaving Cypress Hills on Monday morning, i reflect on the wonderful weekend just pass and all my observer friends from Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Regina and further afield. And the staff at Cypress Hills and the Resort are great... i highly recommend a vacation here.

This is Mackenzie, one of the pleasant servers at the Resort, whose name means "son of Ireland". Mackenzie says that her mother wanted to name her Morgan Rene, but her father felt Morgan was for horses and so he counterproposed calling her Swanaka Louise. They settled on Mackenzie Rae-Don. While she disliked her name as a kid, she has grown fond of its distinctiveness. Mackenzie plans to get her nursing degree, offer service in Africa, and then settle back in small town Saskatchewan as a nurse. Great goals, and good luck to you, Mackenzie!

A few more guests who agree that the Resort food is delicious!

On the way home, i took the Trans-Canada Highway west, and then highway 36 North all the way to Viking (didn't see any dragon boats). As i headed north i noticed a greenish tint in the overcast clouds. Driving towards the source of the green discharge i discovered that it came from the Sheerness Generating Station, a coal-fired thermal generating station. Against a blue sky the stack emits a fairly colourless vapour, having seen it before, but against the clouds it is quite noticeable. A local sign advises that the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide(?) are regulated under license! That is not very comforting considering that in 2002 the Sheerness plant released 43,680,040 kilograms of chemicals considered toxic under the Canada Environmental Protection Act. Sheerness made #14 on the Top 25 list of such pollutors in Canada.

You may not be able to notice the green tint above the highway 36 North sign, but it's there.

The Offender, Sheerness Generating Station

What really irritates me is the obscene attempt to portray this polluter as green-friendly, in the model of Prairie Oasis Park, the Frankenstein offspring of TransAlta Utilities Inc. and Atco Power. Everything is made to seem so wonderful, so green, so in harmony with nature -- so simple-minded. The companies even have the temerity to say, to the effect, that the people of Sheerness work hard to produce electricity for Albertans. Yeah, sure , they're the ones behind it all!!!

Enough of my rant... i spent the next day in Edmonton sleeping, doing laundry, cleaning the car and getting ready for my continuing trip.

Monday, August 08, 2005

2005 SSSP

This year's Saskatchewan Summer Star Party (SSSP) was awesome. Starting on Thursday evening, we had three very good nights of observing, and a fourth on Sunday for stragglers until clouds started moving in at 1:00 AM (Monday morning). After the early-bird wiener roast and seeing plenty of old and new acquaintances, the skies started calling out "Look at me, seek me, touch me!" I found myself lost in stars and wonder. Not following any disciplined approach, i simply delighted in my friends in the sky and on the ground.

The following nights i was more disciplined. Sure i drank deeply of many, many gobulars, star clusters, doubles, galaxies and other astronomical fare. But i also took a disciplined approach to observing the Messiers (hoping to observe all 110 by next year) and several variable stars. Mars observing was not very good due to atmospheric turbulence.

We had some excellent speakers at the SSSP. Alan Dyer offered a brillant presentation on astrophotography, or actually astrovideography, and included highlights from this spring's solar eclipse in the South Pacific. Paul Campbell of Edmonton presented on his SID observation of SGR 1806-20, the magnestar that briefly ionized the Earth's ionosphere from 50,000 light years distance. It is amazing what an amateur observer can do with ingenuity and effort. Ivan Semeniuk gave the Father Lucien Kemble keynote talk, which he called "Seven Worlds in Seven Days" about the 7 celestial moving worlds of ancient times and our study of them today with our space technologies.

Larry Wood helping Donna-Lee May with her scope, Doug Billy's attention is diverted(?).

Sherry and Paul Campbell, recently-weds

Bob Casgrain, a friend who i have seen at several star parties

Garry Stone, Winnipeg, with his home-build wooden refractor
A Happy Couple!
Sunday morning sunrise photo!