New Publication: Unearthing a Story at Head-Smashed-In

Every writer savours the moment when a new development emerges on a story they are already working on. Last year I was working on a feature for the Canadian Rockies Annual about Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump when an archaeological site discovered 26 years prior was finally excavated.

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What was so significant about it? The site was an oven, deep in the earth, with a 1600-year-old meal still contained inside it. What could it tell us about the Blackfoot people who used to reside there? What does it add to the story about Head-Smashed-In?

Of course, you’ll need to read the piece to find out why (!), but here is an excerpt:

Standing amidst the tall grasses that carpet the base of the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, I close my eyes and try to imagine the buffalo stampede approaching. An inescapable dust cloud forms as their hooves pound the earth, sending a shockwave of thunder through the landscape. The herd’s panic is palpable as it is rushed to the cliff edge, driven by their hunters. Then it happens: hundreds of beasts hurtle over the cliff, cascading to their deaths in a massive heap. Soon the pungent smell of smoke, blood and flesh permeates the air as the Blackfoot work swiftly to preserve the meat for the long winter ahead.

I open my eyes. Centuries of erosion have worn away the base of the cliff, shortening the drop and burying layer upon layer of bones – 11 metres worth – beneath a jumble of soil, grass and rubble. To the untrained eye, the cliff looks… unimpressive. But time has changed the landscape. And what now appears to be a non-threatening tumble used to be an 18-metre-high fatal drop.

There is more than meets the eye at Head-Smashed-In, not only with the buffalo jump, but also with the award-winning interpretive centre constructed into the adjacent cliffside. From the exterior, the structure disguises itself well, blending inconspicuously with the exposed sandstone that extends from the grass-covered escarpment. Enter the seven-tiered building, however, and a world of discovery is revealed.

The cliffs and plains that make up this buffalo jump have an intriguing story to tell – one that continues to unfold today.

→ Read the rest in Volume 2 of the
Canadian Rockies Annual

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6 Highlights of 2016

Each year I do a round-up of some kind, whether it’s things that I’m grateful for or how my previous year’s goals panned out. For this year, my knee-jerk reaction was I don’t have time to write one, and I don’t, but that’s exactly the problem. These are the things I need to make time for so that life doesn’t feel so frantic. These are the things that keep me grounded. So, this year I’m keeping it simple and highlighting six things from 2016 – the good, the not so good, and the awesome.

1. CANADIAN ROCKIES ANNUAL HITS THE SHELVES

Back in 2014, my business partner and I sat down and dreamt up a new kind of mountain culture publication for the Canadian Rockies In May 2016, those dreams became a reality when Volume 1 of the Canadian Rockies Annual hit the shelves!  Thanks to everyone who purchased and subscribed – we are down to our last few copies. Volume 1 is still available for ordering (and pre-orders for Volume 2 are now open!) Thanks to Doug Urquhart at UpThink Lab for this awesome promo video.

2. ADVENTURES ON HAWAI’I, The BIG ISLAND

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

This year’s family trip back in March took us to The Big Island, where we enjoyed beach time, cool volcanic features, amazing coffee (a must) and time with Grammy. As I do with all our family adventures, I wrote an article over on AdventurousParents.com: Family Travel – A Short Guide to Hawai’i, The Big Island. Up next? Bermuda.

3. BERG LAKE + MT. ROBSON PROVINCIAL PARK

Photo by Meghan J. Ward.

Photo by Meghan J. Ward.

What would a summer be without some awesome outdoor adventures? This one was definitely a highlight for many reasons: a great crew, new terrain, awesome weather and some good old time alone in the backcountry. I highly recommend a trip into Berg Lake for any intermediate/advanced hikers!

4. Saying Goodbye

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This year I said goodbye to the last of my grandparents, my father’s mother, Maxine (here she is with grandpa Bill, who left us about 15 years ago). I was in the midst of finishing the magazine when she passed away, and the whole experience, including the memorial in Winnipeg in June seems to have whizzed by. But, these days I’m remembering her and missing her. She was an incredible person.

5. LAUNCHING OFFBEAT

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I feel so incredibly blessed to work with a team of creatives who strive to help others on their own creative journeys. This year my husband Paul Zizka and our friend/colleague Dave Brosha teamed up to launch OFFBEAT, a new online photo community and international photography workshops company. Through the process, I also got to meet our project manager, Camila – a woman pretty much cut from the same cloth. Be sure to tell the photographers in your life to check out OFFBEAT!

6. YOU WOn’t remember this

Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Taken on the Redearth Creek trail on the way home from Shadow Lake Lodge, 2015. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

Last month I got a few hard copies of a new anthology I wrote for called You Won’t Remember ThisIt is my first official book authorship! With four tourist books in the works this year, and plenty of ideas down the pipeline, I feel like I’m finally embarking on my ultimate goal which is to work more in the book world. Thanks to Sandy for the opportunity to be part of her book!

Happy New Year, everybody!

All good things,

-Meghan

My Favourite Things From 2015

I resisted writing this post today for various reasons. Busyness. Fatigue. Repetition. Mainly, I wondered if these more personal reflections are better kept in a journal.

But, as usual, my keyboard called me back.

I have been doing a year-end review online for nearly ten years, in one form or another. And every time it forces me to sit down and count my blessings, to recount the moments that made me smile. I have also enjoyed reading the annual reflections that other people are posting and think it’s silly to keep these thoughts to yourself. Putting them out there helps to spread positivity in this world, and I think there can never be too much of that. 

I recently heard that it’s in being grateful that we find joy and not the other way around. So, call this year-end round-up my way of expressing gratitude for yet another year of memorable, sometimes miraculous, things. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but sometimes the ‘top-of-mind’ items stand out for a reason. In no particular order…

My Husband.

If you’re wondering who inspires me, it’s my husband, a guy who chases his dreams with relentless passion. Seriously. I don’t know anyone else who, among many other things, stays up all hours of the night waiting to shoot dramatic and innovative photos of the Northern Lights, plans photography workshops in his dream destinations like Greenland, keeps up with a massive social media community, and manages to find an amazing amount of time for his wife and daughter.

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Paul under The Milky Way over the mountains in Mount Assinboine Provincial Park, British Columbia.

My Dream Job.

A “dream” job does not imply that everything is easy. While it’s quite the opposite, I am grateful for the opportunity to use my skills in a meaningful way and sink my teeth into an exciting project. Many of you have already seen a bit of what Crowfoot Media is up to, but I can’t wait to release the first volume of the Canadian Rockies Annual, our beautiful print magazine (if you’d like to have it, order a copy!).

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This is a mock up. Yeah, we make you wait for the real thing. ;)

My Daughter.

This little rock star is growing up to be a beautiful human, inside and out, with the most vibrant and vivacious personality in 100-square-kilometre radius. She calls me to be my best self each and every day and opens my eyes to new ideas and possibilities I often overlook. I love her spirit and can’t wait to create some new memories with her in 2016.

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This Quilt.

My mother sewed this quilt for my daughter for Christmas this year. It makes me grateful for the family ties and the love that flows through the generations. I don’t take this lightly as I have a number of people in my life who don’t share in this privilege. So here’s my shout out to anyone who has (or is married to someone with) Ward or Moore blood running in their veins, including my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law and nephews.

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Our Trip to Belize.

It was an ‘easy’ trip by our standards, in that we didn’t rough it or explore as much as we usually do. But it was exactly what we needed. We learned the hard way that on previous trips we had pushed our little girl a bit too far past the limits of her temperament. (On that note, you can read about that in The Difference a Year Makes).

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Biking to The Split on Caye Caulker, Belize. iPhone snap by Paul Ziza.

My Business Partner. 

The very term feels a bit too stifled since I’m lucky my Crowfoot Media business partner and I work insanely well together and we get along! Dee Larosa (Medcalf) is one of the most talented designers I know (check out Phaneric.com), and I am eternally grateful for her attention to detail and self-motivation. Knowing we can lock ourselves up for hours on end for a work retreat or take off in the backcountry for four days and come out still talking is totally awesome!

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Me and Dee (left) and our volunteers at the Spindrift Sessions back in June. Photo by Kurtis Kristianson/Spindrift Photography.

Mountains!

It has been a long journey back to this point, and one I’ve written about in depth over on AdventurousParents.com. This past year, I went on three backcountry trips (to Lake O’Hara/Abbott Pass Hut, Skoki and Egypt Lakes) and climbed Mt. St. Nicholas, Mt. Cory, Mt. St. Piran, Fairview, Mt. Lawrence Grassi, Lesser Pharoah Peak, Cirque Peak, Wastach Peak (am I forgetting a bunch?). The best thing was I fell right back into my stride as if I’d never taken a break.

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Coming down from St. Nicholas Peak. Photo by Paul Zizka Photography.

 

And to complete the list…

I am grateful for my house, my friends (who shall go unnamed so that I don’t forget anybody!), my writing nook, the gym with the awesome views, cappuccinos, chocolate, hiking, biking with my little girl, yoga, skiing, Paw Patrol, gluten free baking,  Wild Women Magazine, Aventura Clothing, our Crowfoot Media contributors, the last light on Cascade Mountain, and everything else, even the ugly stuff that made me stronger.

Have a Happy New Year everyone!