The internet in my hotel room was very temperamental and instead of staying in the air conditioning longer than necessary the Canadian contingent went out and basked in temperatures well above freezing late into the night. As a result the post for Day 2 is a day late, like the post for Day 1, but because I haven’t slept yet it is still Day 3! Feel this post needs a disclaimer of some sort since it is fuelled by peppermint tea, Timbits, and 5 hours to kill at YVR before I can go through security for the final leg of the trip back to Edmonton (where I hear is snowed, again).
The Cronon/Sustainability post is coming. The talk was so good I want to do it justice and not rush it out in the wee hours of the night.
Day 2 – Field Trip Day!
One of the many things that make environmental history conferences and workshops great is there are field trips. Maybe it is because most of us study topics that require research outside the traditional archive. Maybe it is because we never out grew the inability of school children to sit still and pay attention for extended periods of time. Either way, field trips are a fantastic part of any EH gathering.
I started the day in a round table on teaching global environmental history, which was so interesting that it was accidentally included in the Day 1 post. At noon we were herded onto a number of buses for field trips that included kayaking, birding, horseback riding, urban exploring, and my choice the Sears Kay Site in the Tonto National Forest. Choose it because it was an afternoon in the desert and it was free! It was also a mind-blowing environment to be in – similar to standing in the middle of the Frank Slide or the moraine leading up to the Plain of Six Glaciers. The warnings from the Forest and Park Rangers were bring water, put on sunscreen, and do not stick you hands anywhere you cannot see into, you will get poked or worse from a plant or animal. The Sears Kay are Hohokum defensive fortifications on hill tops that were used in siege warfare and part of a system of hill top stations that provided an uninterrupted line of sight signals all the way to the Grand Canyon. That is where my knowledge ends because I kept wandering away from the group to look at the landscape. It payed off too because near the end of the walk we found – and with the permission of a ranger – caught a horny toad!
The field trip took up most of the afternoon and there was barely time to run to the outdoor pool for a refreshing dip before meeting up with the Canadian contingent for drinks at the hotel lounge. This was followed by a minor adventure that included getting lost, over priced corn dogs, fireworks, palm tree climbing attempts, and cotton candy instead of mints at the end of dinner.
Day 3 – The Last Day…
Bright and early (7:30am) there was a grad meeting in Starbucks to see if there was interest in building the ASEH graduate student section into something more active, something more like the New Scholars of NiCHE. Hopefully having a NiCHE new scholar as the ASEH graduate representative will help build better connections between the organizations and between graduate students on both sides of the border.
After a breakfast of huevros rancheros at The Matador restaurant, I went to a session on Modernities in the Alps. It was interesting to hear about highways and ski hill building there because it is so similar to what happened in the Canadian Rockies and down into Colorado — though it seems the lack of national parks in the Alps has created an even more extreme commodification of the ski landscape and experience than is found in North America.
The second session was a personal urban adventure to Stinkweeds for Record Store Day. I like to experience the parts of cities that are not on the regular tourist radar and this was definitely on of those things. The trip on the Phoenix metro gave me in interesting view of the urban environment and the urban sprawl that seems to define American cities post-1945. The little corner that is Stinkweed, Sweets, and Frances was worth skipping the session on National Parks. To celebrate Record Store Day, the shared parking lot was transformed into a space for a free BBQ and live local music. It was a really friendly atmosphere and it was nice to spend just a little more time in the sun. The trip also resulted in the purchase of 5 new pieces of vinyl and one live CD. Sadly, I was too late to get the Fleet Foxes but did manage to find a few interesting side-by-sides (Jenny and Johnny/Gram Parsons, The Fallen Angels and Emmylou Harris; The Ramones/Red Hot Chilli Peppers; ZZ Top/Mastodon), classic Americana in the Boss, and one lucky find which can not be disclosed here because it would ruin the surprise.
The last session I attended was titled “Smoke, Scenery, Snow, and Science: New Perspectives on Railroads and Environmental History” just to see Elsa Lam’s presentation From Castles to Cabins: The Canadian Pacific Railway and the Making of the Canadian Rockies, 1885-1929. It did not disappoint and is one of the best I’ve seen recently on the topic of Canadian Pacific tourism activities in the Rockies. The only thing I wanted more of was for her to draw out, or acknowledge, the subtle ways locals working for and with the CPR were part of shaping the ways the different architectural styles were incorporated into tourist leisure and recreation — it is an unfair critique because as a local I always want that aspect to be stronger.
Was forced to miss the last session to catch a poorly planned flight back to Edmonton and that brings me back to where this post began – killing time in YVR.
In case you missed it, here is the beautiful poster about Place and Placelessness Will Knight and I presented today. Any questions about the 2012 edition of the virtual workshop can be directed to Andrew Watson awatson[no spam]yorku.ca.