Tug o war with a Loon and the fish who gets to fight another day!

When interviewing outdoors men and women, I usually have to interview them via the internet. With Bruce Merit, proprietor of the year round operational Osprey Lake Retreat located mid-way between Summerland and Princeton on the Princeton Summerland road adjacent to Osprey Lake and the Trans-Canada Trail, I enjoyed the real pleasure of getting to know him while at a local coffee shop in Kelowna.
After finding out about Osprey Lake Retreat online, the key motivators for this interview were the unbelievable wildlife shots that he has on his site, the array of services he offers in a backcountry setting and the incredible prices he offers them at. Osprey Lake Retreat is one Thompson Okanagan outdoor secret that I just had to learn more about…but before you rush to the phone for reservations, enjoy this entertaining and educational interview to get to know your host Bruce Merit, a little better…one more thing, ensure that you remember your camera!

When interviewing outdoors men and women, I usually have to interview them via the internet. With Bruce Merit, proprietor of the year round operational Osprey Lake Retreat located mid-way between Summerland and Princeton on the Princeton Summerland road adjacent to Osprey Lake and the Trans-Canada Trail, I enjoyed the real pleasure of getting to know him while at a local coffee shop in Kelowna.

After finding out about Osprey Lake Retreat online, the key motivators for this interview were the unbelievable wildlife shots that he has on his site, the array of services he offers in a backcountry setting and the incredible prices he offers them at. Osprey Lake Retreat is one Thompson Okanagan outdoor secret that I just had to learn more about…but before you rush to the phone for reservations, enjoy this entertaining and educational interview to get to know your host Bruce Merit, a little better…one more thing, ensure that you remember your camera!

How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?

My father was the first to introduce me to the great B.C. outdoors.
Apparently at the young age of 4 our family was camping in Yellowstone
National Park and my father had to man the fire all night and fight off the
bears.  One bear did take a swipe at the old canvas tent which required
major repairs.  At the age of 8 I was introduced to the Scouting movement
and joined Cub Scouts.  It was the 28th Thunderbirds which was the only Sea
Scout troop in Vancouver BC at the time.  Being the only Sea Scout troop we
were forced to compete in all the camporees and jamborees which really got
me outside digging latrines, making eating tables, outdoor showers and lean
2’s. I also spent the first ½ of the summers up the Sunshine Coast on Texada
Island with my grandparents and then the second ½ on my uncles farm helping
with the haying, castrating, vaccinating, and dehorning calves.  A wide
variety of activities that really opened my eyes to much of what the world
has to offer.

What has been your favourite outdoor recreations area?

Growing up there was never one area that really stood out, I do remember
many weekends we were Steelhead fishing on Silver Creek up near Hope in the
60’s but for the most part our family would just pick another lake, creek or
area to explore and go!

Please share an outdoor story related to one of the above areas.

One of my biggest Steelhead I remember catching at Silver Creek was actually
caught on the two large washers I was using for weight and not even on the
hook with the worm on it.  I chased it down creek for about 5 minutes
stumbling over rocks and boulders trying to tire this mighty fish out.  In
the end I beached it on a sandy area and was totally shocked that the fish
had gone after the flash of the washers and they had wedged themselves in
it’s mouth the whole time.  In the end I turned the washers sideways and
allowed the fish to fight another day.

Have you ever experienced a wilderness medical emergency or been lost in the wilderness? If so please describe this adventure and any lessons learned.

Being part of the Hayes Creek volunteer fire department there have been a
number of ATV accidents I have responded to which unfortunately most have
involved drinking and driving with many broken body parts and dozens of
stitches to fix.  A simple lesson that is not rocket science Don’t drink and
drive, even in the bush: it can be deadly!

The only time I have ever been lost was in the Shinjuku train station in
Tokyo Japan after just landing in Japan.  I walked around and around in the
underground tunnels for at least two hours not being able to ask anyone
where I was or being able to read signs I finally found the right train and
made it home totally exhausted and frustrated but made it just the same!
Next day I was able to remember some of the shops and eventually it got
easier and easier.  Really no different that being in the bush and you
remember a bent over tree or a pretty flower, it’s all pretty basic
navigating and being aware of where you are.  I find if you slow down enough
to enjoy the beauty of nature you will allows thing to really sink in and
you won’t get lost!

Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?

Living at Osprey Lake for over 4 years now there have been many unique
encounters with wild animals.  On many occasions I have had tug-a-wars with
the local family of loons.  Especially in the summer when the parents are
trying to teach their young to fend for themselves they really take the lazy
route.  Instead of teaching their young how to dive they will teach them how
to follow fishermen and then steal their catch.  Each year I loose a handful
of fish this way which goes to show you that even wild animals can learn new
tricks and after all we have to learn to be part of the food chain!  Just
don’t end up being a meal for a bear!

If not previously mentioned, have you ever completed a thru-hike or
multi-day backpacking trip and what nuggets of wisdom did you glean from it?

When ever I partake on multi-day events I have learned not to over pack.
Much like going on a vacation where you spread everything you think you
might want to take on a trip out on your bed and then go over it a few times
placing all the necessary items in the luggage(pack sack). See what fits and
what is really a must-have item and not a want-item.

What is your favourite outdoor website?

Has to be my own site, not only because I built it but Osprey Lake area of
BC is located just outside Princeton by 30 min, less than 90 min. from
Kelowna and less than 4 hours from Vancouver.  It has a diverse range of
outdoor activities from excellent fly fishing for wild rainbow trout,
kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing, hiking, biking and wildlife viewing
.

What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?

MEC in Vancouver, good selection and decent prices.  Trout Waters is my
favourite fishing store in Kelowna

If you are a website administrator please add your url here.

www.ospreylakeretreat.ca

Travels the best State Parks - Crawls past a Grizzly - Battles Cancer and launches Expedition Paw Prints - meet Dale E Smith

Have you ever smelled that …nasty smell. Your in the woods and you wonder if it is something rotten. hmm what is it? Read on to see how Dale, working his way (crawling) through a tough section of a Yellowstone hike, came across a bit of a surprise! Not only has Dale E Smith had close calls with grizzlies, fought with head and neck cancer and traveled spectacular back country in more than 48 states, but he has recently launched Expedition Paw Prints on www.pawprintsthemagazine.com!

It is nice to see what Dale is up to in the Expedition Paw Prints series but to also actually listen to Dale on his radio show Paw Prints Live online is very cool! Sit back grab a coffe and enjoy the tales of a man a tent and his dog Keegan…

How and where were you introduced to the outdoors?

I was raised camping every weekend at Lake Pomme de Terre in Hickory County, Missouri. My parents started us in a roomy canvas cabin tent from Sears, starting in about 1968. We graduated from the tent to a pop-up camper. When I was in high

familyfriend, mymother, Dale, familyfriend PommeDeTerre 1973

school, we switched to a motor home. It seems I spent every weekend from the age of six through my high school years at the lake. I learned to water ski at the age of six. I was hunting as soon as I was big enough to walk a field. We spent a couple of two week vacations at the lake. Our home for that two week period was our tent and our recreation was water skiing and fishing. When we weren’t spending our vacations at the lake, we were off traveling cross country. I had relatives on both coasts of the US. If we weren’t camping our way west through Rocky Mountain National Park, The Badlands, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park to make it to our west coast destination in Oregon where we would stay for a week in Hermiston with my Great Aunts and Great Uncle, then we would head off to Mount Hood, and Crater Lake before swinging south and east to make our way back to Missouri. We were headed East traveling through the Smokey Mountains making our way to Connecticut and Rhode Island. I was fortunate as a child to have traveled through or camped in 47 states in the lower 48 plus Canada both east and west. The only state I missed growing up was Maine.

As I became a young adult I started downsizing my camping gear to what I could carry on my back. You must remember that this was the late Seventies, early Eighties. The gear we had wasn’t

Moose in Yellowstone 1979

what you may be used to today. At that time you couldn’t run down the street to the outdoor gear supply and pick up quality equipment, there wasn’t a gear store down the street. I still remember when I got my first pair of boots that had this new invention called Thinsulate lining. I was in high school at the time. To keep our feet warm was simple, one pair of thin wool athletic socks, (yes I said wool athletic socks), and over that you wore a THICK pair of wool boot socks. We waterproofed our boots with a product known as snow seal. There was no such thing as Gortex. There was also no such thing as a gusseted tongue on your boots. If the water was higher than the first eyelet, your feet were swimming. This was when we wore a pair of jeans or jean shorts on our legs. No zip off’s and no cargo shorts or pants unless they were military issue, then still not, you didn’t want someone to think you were in the service.

Yellowstone Moose in 1979

What has been your favourite outdoor recreations area?

I have always been a huge fan of our national parks and forests here in the US. My favorite is still, probably due to childhood memories, Yellowstone National Park. I still remember as a six year old child watching the idiot in the car in front of us feeding the black bear sow and her cubs from their passenger window. I also remember having to wait for hours in the car while a grizzly slept in the middle of the road. Finally the first car would slowly roll up and give the bear a nudge with the bumper. OH MY, if we new then what we know now.

Yellowstone followed by Glacier National Park, then Rocky Mountain National Park.

Please share an outdoor story related to one of the above areas.

My last trip to Yellowstone was the spring of 1999. I was working selling advertising to hotels and

Elk in Yellowstone 1999

was staying at the Ramada Inn that faced the park in West Yellowstone, MT. My business trip was slated for being in West Yellowstone for two weeks. I would work all the shops Monday through Friday and on the first weekend, I put my suits and ties in the closet and tossed my backpack on my shoulder. I had a back country permit I applied for when I found out this trip was a go and I planned on using it. I still remember me leaving my hotel, walking down the street, making a left hand turn at the first street and walked straight ahead. All I could see was the towering pines lining the street on both sides and the West Entrance to the park about 250 yards ahead. I stopped in at the Ranger Station and mapped out my trip. It was just the second weekend in May, so there were no tourists to be seen. One day would be 70 degrees and that night it would be 15 below and 17 inches of snow coming down. It made for a very interesting weekend of camping.

South Dakota Badlands 1969

South Dakota Badlands 1969

Have you ever experienced a wilderness medical emergency or been lost in the wilderness? If so please describe this adventure and any lessons learned.

I have been a bit turned around once or twice but never lost. I have been fortunate that I have not ever had to deal with a medical emergency in the field. I will say for those who don’t venture out often, if you do go in the wilderness, be prepared. You are a visitor in an untamed environment and bad things can happen. Learn to use a map and a compass. That way even if your GPS is lost, broken, etc. you can still find your way. If you are going on a day hike in the wilderness, take supplies that will last you a couple of days just in case. I’m the type that doesn’t want to be that guy on the news that starved to death because I went for a day hike with my store bought bottle of water, got lost, fell off a cliff and was found a week later dead. That’s just me though.

Can you share any unique encounters with wild animals?

The scariest happened in 1999 in Yellowstone. If anyone has been to Yellowstone since the fires in

2 Coyotes Yellowstone May 1999

1988 you know the forest is still trying to come back. Many of the trees that were burned are still lying on the ground like toothpicks. I was making my way up a fairly steep incline. Steep enough that I was on my hands and knees, I was crawling my way up the hill. One leg over the log, belly on it, crawling my way to the next. I came up to one down tree and the smell was so bad I thought I had crawled through a pile of bear scat. I sat up on the downed tree checking myself to see where the scat was on my person when I looked over the next log or two and noticed what I thought was a log ahead moved a little. I took a closer look and noticed that the log had an eye that opened. I quickly realized that the smell was bear scat and it was attached to a black bear that was about 20 feet from me. He had tucked himself underneath a downed tree for an afternoon nap. I slowly backed down the hill I had just spent the last hour and a half crawling up.

Coyote in Yellowstone 1999

The same trip, about 4 hours later I was gingerly trekking along through a long narrow valley. I looked up at the tree line on the hill in front of me and thought I had spotted movement. I stopped and got my binoculars so I could take a closer look. When I focused in, I saw a Bison carcass lying

Bison in Yellowstone May 1999

in the snow. The next thing I saw was a Grizzly that stood on his hind legs and I just knew he was looking straight into my eyes through the binocular lenses. The big old Grizz started to pace back and forth behind the carcass, then in the blink of an eye he flipped that bison over with one swipe of his paw. I took the signal that I was an unwelcomed guest at dinner. Step by step I walked backwards out of the valley, never taking my eye off of the bear. I must have walked backwards for a half mile, seemed a lot further than that. Needless to say I decided to take the long way around to my campsite. I didn’t get much sleep that night. Every sound I heard made me think I was in danger. Very seldom do you run in to a bear but two in the same day gave me the jitters.

If not previously mentioned, have you ever completed a thru-hike or multi-day backpacking trip and what nuggets of wisdom did you glean from it?

I have had several multi day adventures over the years. The best wisdom I could give you is always be prepared. The wilderness is a forbidding foe if you aren’t ready for it. Even if you are ready for it nature will test us in every way possible. Nature can battle your endurance, strength, mental toughness and plain intestinal fortitude. The difference between us and nature is that nature NEVER quits, EVER. You have to be ready for that.

What is your favourite outdoor website?

I usually spend most of my time on nps.gov, the National Park Service, fs.fed.us, the US Forest Service or any of the state park websites here in the US.

What is your favourite outdoor hiking gear store?

I am pretty much a gear nerd. I love reading about new equipment. I also know that I am not a professional climber, etc so I tend to favor stores that carry decent equipment at a decent price

Dog Pack Gear

point. Depending on the adventure, I will frequent different stores. For basic outdoors and car camping, I shop Cabela’s. They have a location not far from my house and an enormous selection. For more technical gear I like to shop at two places here in the Kansas City metro. One is Dynamic Earth, you can find them at dynamicearth.net and the other is Backwoods, they are at backwoods.com

Now that I am 48 years old, (January 25th), my adventures and outlook have changed a little. I guess I should say a lot.  I spent much of the last 15 years not getting out as much as I would have

Breakfast time for Keegan and Dale

Breakfast time for Keegan and Dale

liked. In 2004 my wife and I started our own business. It keeps us busy almost every moment of every day. I will say however since we are in the media and we cover the pet industry and animal community that it is fun and doesn’t seem like work. In 2007 I was diagnosed with late stage 4 cancer of the head and neck. I received the diagnosis on my 45th birthday. What a birthday present that was. We battled through it and for 18 months my wife was my nurse. I spent my days with zero energy, sleeping and nauseous. I noticed during that time that my Border Collie, Keegan was at my bedside day and night. I was now cancer free and in October of 2008 my wife begged me

Fly Fishing with Keegan

to get away for a weekend and go camping. She isn’t much of a camper. So I started calling friends to see if they wanted to go on a fly fishing trip with me, they said yes until it was a few days before we were to leave. For various reasons they started bailing out on me. My wife, seeing that I was a bit upset with my friends said, she had contacted a company that made outdoor gear for dogs and they were going to send it to us if I did a product review. She asked me to take my Border Collie with me, go have fun and do a review on this companies dog gear. I, for the first time went not only camping, but fly fishing with my dog. We had such a great time it spawned a new adventure series we are doing called Expedition Paw Prints; me camping with my dog as my only helper. Since the fly fishing adventure we have been car camping a few times, done several gear reviews and to make sure and keep my wife happy, we are also going

Dale and Keegan enjoying the outdoors.

and staying at pet friendly cabins, hotels, and resorts doing reviews on those properties. My dog and I are gearing up for a three day winter backpacking trip to Mark Twain National Forest. I guess the challenge cancer presented made me realize that life is short so do what you love. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and say “if I only had done this”. Live every day as if it were your last. Leave everyone you come in contact with the impression that you want to be remembered by.

If you would like to follow my adventures and Expedition Paw Prints go to our website www.pawprintsthemagazine.com and click on the Departments tab and go to our Travel Tails section. In the mean while, get out there and enjoy the outdoors and blaze a trail that you will be proud of.

Trans Canada Trail - Ontario - GPS Track

Trans Canada Trail – Ontario – GPS Track. The Trans Canada Trail can be downloaded to your GPS via the link located at the bottom right of the map.