“It’s a lifer!”

I finally glued and sewed my ‘official’ Bruce Trail badge onto my pack today.  Curiously, that’s as big a personal action for me as having sent off my first re-supply package, or as having packed all my food into component bags.

Bruce Trail badge on pack.jpg

the Bruce Trail badge is now glued and sewn on!


Citizen Science as a personal way of giving back to the Bruce Trail Conservancy

I’ve also committed to gathering (and submitting) two kinds of ‘citizen science’ data as I Trace Spring Northwards. As an amateur botanist, I’m going to be using my sit-down breaks to observe and record phenological information about the flowers around me at the time. I’ll be recording what’s in bloom, and at what stage in blooming the flowers are in, i.e., bud / flowers just opening / pollen being shed / flowers senescing / fruits forming / fruits ripe / and other observations as appropriate. I’ve settled on submitting my data to PlantWatch, so I’ll be using their format to keep matters standard and simple. Keeping it easy also means probably using their spreadsheet on my iPhone — which has implications for battery usage … (Everything is connected …) I will also be carrying a waterproof notebook and pen in case tapping on an electronic form is too restrictive out on the Trail — but that makes data submission more complicated because I’d have to transcribe everything.

I recently also discovered a simple citizen science project that’s actually close to what I had initially wanted to do at the time that I actually decided to go into teaching instead of continuing on as a plant ecologist. I’ll be joining in gathering data on the anther and pollen colour of Erythronium americanum, Trout Lily. The post-doctoral researcher at the University of Ottawa is seeking data on the geographic and temporal distribution of E. americanum pollen colour as part of her research into the ecological understanding of that widespread species. The part that interests me is that she’s working to correlate the pollen colours with what actually pollinates the plant. Pollination ecology was my interest if I were to have gone on to do graduate work at university!


trout lily stamen colours.jpg


“Data, however useful, is not the same as experience”

I’m remembering that roots of my interest in backpacking go back to the early 1970s when I read Colin Fletcher’s formative book, The Complete Walker. I long ago donated that original book to charity, but coming back to being excited about backpacking led me to buy his fourth update to The Complete Walker (2002), this time co-written with Chip Rawlins. Of all the backpacking books I’ve read over the past seven months, and despite this being one of the oldest I’ve read, this continues to resonate most strongly with me.

In light of my thoughts above about participating in citizen science as a way of giving back for my experiences along the Bruce Trail, I am also mindful of Fletcher’s assertion that “data, however useful, is not the same as experience”. I will still ‘smell the flowers’!

Erythronium at MC.jpg

trout lily at MCOEC with brick-red anthers and pollen


More to come …

I’ve got several more blog posts in my head, somewhat ready to write before I actually set foot on the Bruce Trail in less than nine days.  May 3rd? Oh my!!!

  • I’ll post some stuff about the food I’ve put together, as well as my process of packaging and organizing that food into various re-supply bags.
  • I also feel compelled to post my gear list and some of the details about what I’m actually carrying.
  • I’d like to anticipate my Leave Minimal Trace practices.
  • I’m wondering about how to indicate my tentative itinerary. I’m thinking I’m not posting a detailed calendar, though I have communicated parts of that to those of you who are hopefully going to join me along the way. (I’m excited to have as many as six of you actually stay overnight me with along the Trail — wow!)
  • I’ve so many of you to thank for your wonderful support and encouragement in this whole gambit! How can I do that?


“Enjoy your walk — that’s a lifer!”

One of the most meaningful comments came yesterday from one of the botanists and ecologists I most respect. He said to me “Enjoy your walk — it’s a lifer!”  Thanks, John!


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