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Fam vac

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S: Ecozone to Ecozone


FC: My Family Vacation | By: Hayley Gronlund | 23 May 2012

1: Vancouver | We left the Toronto Pearson Airport at 3:25 am (not a time I would have chosen to leave). Our destination was Vancouver, British Colombia, I have heard so much about Vancouver, about how diverse the ecozone is and that its a major tourist attraction! When we arrived in Vancouver I was told that I was going to be traveling through a Montane Cordillera in order to get to the Yukon. I was so lucky that my parents hired a tour guide to join us throughout our adventure, his name was Wray. The first thing I noticed before we set out was all of the frosty mountains around us for as far as we could see, they were so towering! Wray informed us that they were formed by the erosion of the plate tectonics, how they scraped against each other and then the mountains were formed by faulted sedimentary rock (Wray explained the formation of the Rockies in much more detail, right then I knew that my parents hired a good guide and that theres more to come!). The valleys between the Rockies were very glacial as well. | The Montane Cordillera | Landforms

2: Map of British Colombia

4: As we drive along I wondered why there was so much natural vegetation on the plains as opposed to the peaks of the mountain, Wray explained that the soil in British Colombia was so fertile because of the interaction from the farmers irrigating the soil so that their crops will have better quality. Even though the un-irrigated vegetation is slightly lacking in some areas, the soil quality is very high and fertile, especially where a lot of precipitation is received (such as near coastlines). He also explained that the soil is more acidic near the peaks of the mountains; therefore there is rarely any natural vegetation in those areas. Driving by all these different places that either have a lot of green or barley any at all has brought a question to mind; why is there such different plants growing in certain areas? Well, Wray explained that the plants are varied due to the landforms associated with them. Vegetation could be very popular in one area, but then as you keep driving, you can tell that the vegetation is missing. If you look closely you can see the popular plants in the BC are Sagebrush, Mountain evens, Pine grass, and Bluebunch wheat grass. Another thought that came to mind was all the different trees that I saw; I could pick out the Alpine firs, Engelmann spruce, Paper birch, Western hemlock and interior Douglas fir. Its amazing how many trees are here, Wray also mentioned that wildfires maintain the forest growth. | Natural Vegetation

6: While tugging on another sweater, Wray notices and tells us all about the climate in BC. The mountain ranges affect the climate in three different ways; the mountains on the coastline pushes the air up high and it then cools, causing all the moisture to be removed this is called orographic precipitation. Another effect is when the air blows over the remaining mountains; it becomes drier, affecting the precipitation moisture in the air. While the Western Rockies capture the moisture, bringing all the precipitation to the western side. This ecozone has very dry summers with very wet and mild winters. As you increase in elevation the temperature lowers. Since BC is a neighbor to a vast body of water, which contains glaciers, the climate has resulted in global warming which has put the country in danger of floods due to the melting of the glaciers. My mom asked what the average temperature is during the summer and Wray answered that it is usually around 15c in June which is the warmest month, and -3.5c in January which is the coldest month. But the overall temperature is 11c in summers and 11c winters. Annually the precipitation is 800mm on the north side and 1200mm near the BC/Alberta border. | Climate

8: Water | All of a sudden a stunning view of the pacific ocean comes into view; I only thought oceans were in Florida! Wray said that in flat areas, such as lake and river beds, farmers irrigated the beds for hay production. Meanwhile, pulp and paper mills are stationed throughout the ecozone; on the Fraser-Thompson river system, at Prince George, Quesnel, Williams Lake, and Kamloops. Another is on the Columbia River in Castlegoar and Skcokumchuk.

9: Castlegar | Pulp and Paper Mills | Fraser -Thompson River | Williams Lake | Kamloops

10: Wildlife | Let me tell you about my favourite part about traveling through BC, the wildlife! BC has by far the most diverse ecozone in the country! We drive by many Caribous, a white-tailed deer, a mule deer, and then there was even a Californian bighorn sheep! Of course there were squirrels, marmots, and lemmings. SCREEEECHHH! Wray just swerved out of the road to dodge a big Grizzly Bear sitting right in the middle of the road! Then we heard a howl, oh I know what that one was, it was a coyote. Swooping up and down in the sky are a variety of different birds such as, the turkey vulture, short-eared owl, burrowing owl, Blackbilled magpie, sage thrasher, and Lewis’ woodpecker.

11: Wray stops the car so that we can take a better look at what lives below the human eye. Hopping on by is a spotted frog, probably on its way to get the boreal spittle bug! And then there goes a long-toed salamander, chasing after a migratory grasshopper. I hear my mother scream and I’m about to ask what happened but then I see it, a western rattle snake slithers on by, my mom is deadly afraid of snakes, but I run out into the nearby field, finding a garter snake and running back towards everyone with a grin on my face and terror in my mom’s eyes.

12: Banff National | Park | Wray starts the truck up again and we hop in, he tells us that he is taking us to visit one of the National Parks, called The Banff National Park. The Banff National Park is Canada's 1st National Park, and the worlds 3rd! It is located near the Rocky Mountains. Weather in this park is -15c in the winters, but surprisingly its 22c in the summers! Wray mentions how many activates there are to participate in while staying at the National Park such as, fishing, swimming in the hot springs, biking, hiking, camping, bird-watching, scuba diving, mountaineering and photography (there are a lot of bears, many hang around before hibernating). My brother asks Wray if there is a lot of snow because of the run off from the mountains, he explains that Banff receives a lot of snow in the spring and in the autumn there are avalanches in the mountainous areas of the park.

15: destinations | THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS | After leaving this breath-taking park, we drive to where I've wanted to go since I first heard that we were going to BC. Its ‘The Rocky Mountains!’ The Rockies (as they have been nicknamed) is a major mountain range that was formed around 55-80million years ago. Erosion was the main cause of the appearance of the mountains including peaks and valleys. The Rockies are a huge tourist attraction for hikers, campers. Fishing, and of course skiing and snowboarding! Wray was telling us that the mountains were formed during the Mesozoic and Paleozoic eras, and the mountains' the highest peak is standing at 14,440 feet (Mount Elbert).

16: Osoyoos | BRITISH COLOMBIA | Our next stop is the exceptional Osoyoos. The Osoyoos is the closest place to a desert that is found in Canada. It resides the only scorpions in the country! (I never ever dreamed that we had scorpions in Canada! Oh my gosh, my mother was wrong when she told me when I was little that they are in deserts, which relates to no where in Canada, yet when she heard this she almost jumped out of her seat in the truck (it was very, very funny). The Osoyoos experience very hot summers and it reaches the highest temperatures in Canada, along with the warmest temperature comes the warmest lake. Osoyoos Lake takes the title for the hottest lake in Canada! While visiting, we saw many golf courses, beaches and parks to further our experience of this amazing city.

18: The Muskwa-Kechika Management Area was the next stop on our very long voyage. This area contains 15 million acres of wilderness and there is a series of breathtaking glacial mountain peaks. It is called the Serengeti of The North because it is a huge wetland which is home to a huge variety of wildlife. Some of the wildlife includes; Elk, Grizzly bear, black bear, moose, deer, and bison. A few of the activities available to participate in are horseback riding, photography, hunting, hiking, and canoing. | The Muskwa-Kechika Management Area

20: Well, next on our agenda is Brackendale, BC. Brackendale is north of the Squamish River Valley. This area is home to thousands of bald eagles during the winter, and it is truly an amazing site to see. A program called “Eagle Run” is available to photographers as well as bird watchers for a chance to visit the mystical birds for a winter experience! | BRACKENDALE, BRITISH COLOMBIA

22: Finally the truck rolls through Ghost Valley, Sandon, BC. I’ve come to notice that British Columbia has a lot of ghost towns. We were so excited that my mom and dad had booked this added adventure on our journey. Sandon was once a prime mining community, the best in the valley. An interesting fact about this community was that its main street was placed over a part of the Carpenter Creek, but it was washed away by floods. A flood in 1955 destroyed majority of the town and it was never fully reconstructed. Come explore the valley of ghosts in Sandon which was once a town that was home to around 5000 people, and is still a home to a couple dozen today. View the old buildings and abandoned casinos that were once crowded and occupied by pioneers. | SANDON, BRITISH COLOMBIA

25: THE BOREAL CORDILLERA, Whitehorse, Yukon

26: Map of The Yukon Territories

28: THE JOURNEY BEGINS | After crossing the border into the Yukon I couldn't believe that I could already notice a huge difference from our travels in British Columbia. There are still mountains that occupy the space and the lowlands and valleys separate them. But debris and deposits from the glaciers cover most of the plateaus and valleys separating the mountains. Lower parts of the mountains also have deposits from the glaciers. Unlike the Rockies, the mountains here are much lower. | Landforms

30: Wray points out that there isn’t a lot of vegetation because of the soil quality. Near the wetlands and water bodies the soil is fertile and rich, but there are very low amounts of soil on higher elevations like the mountains. He says that there are indeed forested soils on the lower elevations, but the majority of soils in the Boreal Cordillera tend to be more acidic than the Montane Cordillera because of the acidic pine needles that are on the coniferous trees. The needles fall into the soil and cause the soil to be acidic. | Soil

33: Many trees grow in the lowlands and also in areas on the low slopes of the mountains. But the natural vegetation above the tree line consists of shrubs, lichen, moss, and herbs such as mountain Aven, Eriacaceous shrubs, sphagnum moss, and mountain hemlock. I remember learning in school about different trees and can name them, white and black spruce trees as well as white bark pine, trembling aspen, balsam poplar, and Bebbwillow. Wray was impressed with my knowledge of trees, ha ha. (Personally I was as well). In this ecozone, wildfires are not common unlike the Montane Cordillera. Much of the area is really lacking in vegetation due to the soil and climate, and it consists of mostly ice, rock, and snow. This is no place Id wish to live. | Natural Vegetation

34: Its freezing in the Yukon! Wray laughs as I pull on my winter jacket which I didn't expect id need, thanks mom! He explains that the winters are long and cold and that the summers are short and cool. Usually there are violent storms during the summers due to the moist air from the Pacific Ocean. But then to break the cold spell, there are warm Chinook winds in the winters. This ecozone is cold, windy, and snowy. There is a very low temperature during their growing season, and its a very dry area, one to two thirds of the precipitation falls as snow. Wray tells us that June has the highest temperature which is 10c and the Yukon's lowest temperature is -18c in January. Annual precipitation is 460-700mm, but 35-60% of the precipitation falls as snow. | Climate

36: The Boreal Cordillera ecozone has portions of the Yukon, Liard, and Alsek drainage systems within it. There are rapid stream currents due to all the melting of snow in the warmer months, such as spring, this is maintained by the summer rainfall. Also, since the ecozone is located very north, the warming of the atmosphere is resulting in the melting of glaciers which is putting the Yukon in danger of flooding its ecozones. | Water

38: Unlike BC, the Yukon is not very diverse, especially when it comes to my favorite part of the trip, a lack of wildlife. I catch the occasional caribou and moose and then I see an arctic ground squirrel running across the road, but we've seen plenty of these in BC. Wray stops the truck, but this time I’m not quite sure why because when we get out the ground is very stiff and even if I look closely I don't see any evidence of amphibians or reptiles, I ask Wray why. Well, he said, the climate here is way too hostile for any amphibians or reptile species to life in, but there is one kind, the Wood Frog can be found if you look hard enough. I look up in frustration and I can see that there are birds flying above us, I glance at the snowy owl gliding through the air, and a raven tweeting its tune, and then there is the faint sound of a downy woodpecker pecking away on a tree. Wray sighs in disbelief and says that the only insects that live here are black flies, mosquitoes, and wood ticks. | Wildlife

41: We all pile back in the truck and we're back on the road again Wray tells us how there used to be a large mining industry here but the mines had shut down because some of the mining caused some water bodies to be dammed which threatens the wildlife and water quality. Also, there are toxins from the mines that are polluting the environment, having long-lasting effects. Forestry is small, it mainly focuses around Watson Lake, and the north-eastern lakes in BC. The forestry business is growing and is said to be major in the near future. Recently there had been rumor's that the mining could be starting back up. | Human usages

42: We pull in to another National Park; this one is called the Kluane National Park & Reserve, located near the Haines Junction. Wray explains that the summer days are very long in the Yukon Territory and is called the “Land of the midnight sun”. Winter days, on the other hand, are short but the Yukon is notable for its northern lights. This National Park is very popular for camping and traveling because of its vast array of highways. Some activities to participate in is, hiking, camping, mountaineering, mountain biking, fishing, boating, canoing, and rafting! (But I'm sorry you wouldn't dare catch me doing any of this if its this cold, these people must be crazy.) | Kluane National Park & Reserve

44: First off is the Chilkoot Trail which is a national historic site because it played a huge role in the movement of the people in the Yukon during the gold rush. The trail protects the historic entrance to the Yukon, by showing what trail was used by the pioneers and the Klondike Gold Rush Stampeders and prospectors. This trail has breathtaking scenery, with its lovely water bodies and mountainous trails. Activates include, hiking (of course), guided tours, day running, fall/winter hiking, geocatching. | Chilkoot Trail

45: Stampeders traveling up the Chilkoot Trail during the Gold Rush.

46: Next we have Dawson City, this city is very cultural and historic, it‘s located right in the middle of the Yukon’s wilderness. In the summers the city is a carnival during the day, and a circus during the night. It was once called the “Paris of the North”. Dawson City has a lot of literacy, art, history festivals, and music. Many places to visit while visiting are the Berton house, Dawson city museum, Klondike institute of Arts & culture, and the Diamond Tooth Gertie’s. | Dawson City

47: Dawson Museum

49: THE GEORGE JOHNSTON MUSEUM | The George Johnston Museum is the next stop, this museum is dedicated to George Johnston who was an inland Tlingit, and it is also dedicated to the other residents of the Teslin Lake. This is located 2 km north of the Nisutlin Bay. You can tour the historic museum, watch a show about the Teslin people, walk through the gallery of amazing paintings and look at the artifacts. This was one of our prearranged stops and it really was fun and interesting.

50: The astonishing Takhini Hot Springs is where you can take a dip in a pool, even if its in the middle of December! The natural hot pools came from deep inside of the earth, it is odorless, and its main minerals are calcium, magnesium, and iron. The water is 40c and cools to 35c over time. Don't worry about germs because the pool is drained and disinfected every day and its drained 3 times every week in the winter. Activities include: hiking, a climbing tower (which is just like rock climbing on a wall), and witnessing the northern lights. | The Takhini Hot Springs

52: Finally we have the Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm. You can visit this amazing family-owed farm where a family raised their very own reindeer! I thought they only came once a year, didn’t you!? If you fall in love with one of these mystical creatures, you can buy one and take one home! | The Northern Splendor Reindeer Farm

54: Route of travel

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