Some Dad stuff

With a tip of the hat to this coming Sunday, let’s say the photographs and some content this week is slightly Dad biased. That said, you don’t have to be a Dad to enjoy old trucks and good beer. My Dad does enjoy old Land Rovers and Range Rovers, and he will drink a beer if there’s nothing else, but he’s more partial to a full bodied Rioja.

Full bodied

Before we moved away from the UK, each summer my Dad, brother and I would meet up for a few days and play three rounds of golf. That’s not quite true. My Dad would play golf – he’s a very good golfer, toyed with the idea of turning pro – and my brother and I would go for a long walk trying to find our errant golf balls. My Dad was referee/coach/guidance counsellor/man mercilessly taking the piss out of our monumental sporting struggle. My brother and I were playing to win a penny. It’s true! We even called it the penny trophy! (I’m not the current holder…) My Dad had tremendous patience in the face of our (mostly my) inability to remotely master the game, and if you could have seen how bad we were (I was), his restraint has to be admired. We’d enjoy a glass or two of something good after each round, recounting the highlights and lowlights, and I do miss those fun summer meetings, even if I was often a miserable so and so on the course. I know, that’s hard to believe!

Summer 2019 release – cheers!

Anyway, cheers to my Dad, and to Dads, and cheers to everybody, because it’s fun to raise a glass if you’re so inclined, and I will for almost any reason, but maybe not on a school night.

School nights? Not too many of those between now and the end of the academic year! Lots to keep us busy between now and then. I was at a celebration of Nuu-Chah-Nulth learning earlier this week, one where some beautiful murals were unveiled and blessed at a high school. A collaboration between local indigenous artists and high school students, the three paintings were stunning depictions of local history, nature and culture. To see so many people of all stripes come out and celebrate, enjoying the artwork, singing, drumming and dancing was wonderful to see. The accompanying feast was also a highlight, with multi-generations present.

On the way home, I saw this green truck parked up, and I had to stop and take a picture. They do look good in green, don’t they? It probably isn’t what’s meant by going green. Old man dreams?

Going green?

At a cafe the other day, Mrs. PC spotted a weighty tome she thought I’d like to look at. It was a picture book – she knows me so well – with great photographs of pick up trucks past and present. Perhaps her thinking is if I look at the pictures, that’ll be more than enough to be going on with, no need to actually buy an old wrecker. Good strategy, bound to work, and anyway, the real thing is too expensive to maintain. Far better to buy a cup of coffee at that cafe every now and then, and look at the book.

Low maintenance? I think so!

The following day, we were leaving the grocery store when I spotted this old pink-wheeled delight. Imagine being the proud owner of a truck like this. I bet it doesn’t need that much maintenance. After all, it’s been going this long, it’s bound to have many years left in it. Way more fun than looking at a book. Probably even has cup holders?

I’ll leave it here for now, as I’ve got to head over the bay, put some hours in on the forthcoming education celebration we’ll be enjoying next week. You’ll be interested to know I always slow down when I’m passing this beige beauty:

A beige beauty? Perhaps not

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Wolf Willow

Let’s head away from the coast and into the interior this week. A title borrowed from Wallace Stegner, a recommendation to read the Stegner title, and some Saskatchewan memories. What brought this on? Friends from Alberta emailed us last week, catching up on recent events and checking in to see if we had plans to be in Alberta over the summer. Likely yes, and I hope we can mesh our summer schedules and meet up face to face. We’ll have to time it so we see them before or after their planned camping trip to Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan!

I have fond memories of a Saskatchewan road trip and cabin stay we did during our second summer in Canada. Big skies, long distances, empty roads, and the biggest bugs ever. Ever! Also, the week we had in our cabin provided me with some of the most restful sleep I can ever recall. Ever! It was quiet and the backroads cycling was easy. Apparently, parts of Saskatchewan are quite flat. That summer had been rainy just before we set off, so the prairies were a vibrant green and gold – and the abundant insect life was big and bold. The dragon flies were enormous, or so it seemed when cycling through them.

The following year we camped a few nights in the Cypress Hills area, a windswept and beautiful location straddling the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. We had a fun time camped down by the water, aside from some of the biggest mosquitoes ever. Ever!

A different cabin

So what about the title of the post? Wolf Willow? It just so happens I’ve been reading Wallace Stegner’s remarkable book about plains life around the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth century. It is a spellbinding account of the trials and tribulations of settlers heading west. It also acknowledges the terrible devastation wrought by those early settlers, on people and place.

Storms, wind, fire, hard winters, dry summers, near starvation, genocide and environmental destruction – this is not a cheery account of that life and those times. Yet Stegner loved the several years he spent there as a child. His account of being a “sensuous savage” running pretty wild with his peers is quite a contrast to the experiences of many children today. There might be an argument made for the rough and tumble of his childhood being a more meaningful experience. Many true and a few tall tales are told, the secondary heading of the complete piece being “a history, a story, and a memory of the last plains frontier.” He had many exciting and striking memories, that’s for sure.

Tough country

There is much on the nature of nature forging identity and character, how a landscape can define a person, even years after they have moved on. For all the tough times and challenging living conditions, Stegner has a real love for his brief – yet formative – years on the prairies, his family scrabbling to survive on what felt at that time like the last frontier. Or the end of the last frontier in North America.

There are any number of wonderfully descriptive prairie passages in the book. The wind is a constant companion:

“Across its empty miles pours the pushing and shouldering wind, a thing you tighten into as a trout tightens into fast water. It is a grassy, clean, exciting wind, with the smell of distance in it, and in its search for whatever it is looking for it turns over every wheat blade and head, every pale primrose, even the ground-hugging grass. It blows yellow-headed blackbirds and hawks and prairie sparrows around the air and ruffles the short tails of meadowlarks on fence posts. In collaboration with the light, it makes lovely and changeful what might be otherwise characterless.”

No need to hurry

The central part of Wolf Willow tells the story of a cattle drive undertaken just as winter approaches. This fictional account is utterly compelling, a tremendous piece of writing about fighting to stay alive in a snowstorm and do a job of work. The main character is a fresh faced romantic recently arrived from England, and he is desperate to be recognized as being stoic and hardbitten like his work colleagues. A few days of driving cattle in plummeting temperatures forces a reassessment of what he saw as a romantic life, and as for achieving the stature he believes his colleagues have? Well, you’ll have to read Wolf Willow to find out. If you do, you won’t be disappointed, although you might find some of the attitudes and prejudices from the time of writing a touch off putting. Maybe treat it as a history lesson on past social attitudes, and then enjoy the tales told.

A welcome thaw

From when we were road tripping in Saskatchewan all those years ago, a strong memory is of how friendly people were. One morning we found ourselves in the tiny town of Tisdale, a few hours northeast of Saskatoon. (As an aside, I delight in writing or saying Saskatoon or Saskatchewan. Even better, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!) Anyway, we were lost, which is hard to do in a small rural town, but soon knew where we were when we inadvertently turned onto a street and found ourselves driving at the head of a parade. Oops. For a few minutes, we headed the floats and marching band. Those friendly townspeople clapped and cheered as we drove on up the street, and was I ever happy to turn off as soon as possible. I’d love to visit again, but I don’t want the townsfolk feeling pressured about putting on a parade…

Captivating country, and never characterless

Ah, Saskatchewan! Land of Corner Gas, a show that told us all we needed to know before heading out on that particular vacation. Corner Gas shows that life has changed on the plains since Stegner’s day! I have to say, prairie life is still a tough business, maybe not Stegner period tough, but there is something so attractive about it nonetheless. Honestly, I’m as hopelessly romantic about it as that young Englishman in Stegner’s story…

Wolf Willow was one of the first prairie shrubs I learned to recognize when we moved to Alberta. One freezing November evening, a kind botanist walked me through a river valley in the prairie edge lands as preparation for a school field trip. The Wolf Willow and Red Osier Dogwoods were a delight, each standing out, even in failing winter light. I’ll be honest, it’s easy to remember a plant with a name as captivating as Wolf Willow. (A quick search earlier revealed it isn’t a willow at all, but that’s okay…)

A good read (Image from Goodread.com)

I think I’ll leave it here, otherwise there’s a danger I could meander on like a slow and muddy river flowing in a summertime prairie valley. In Saskatchewan!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

All the photographs this week are from Alberta prairie visits in previous years. I have photographs from our SK trips, but couldn’t find them this week. Maybe we need to plan another SK trip…

Saddle up!

No, we haven’t headed back to Alberta – no plans to visit before the summer – but I am feeling a touch saddle sore. A short but very fast post this week. You’ll have to be quick to catch this one as I race by in a blur…

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I raced very slowly down this lane

The local community has been geared up with encouraging as many people as possible to ride their bikes this week. Well, I have found out that it’s a good idea to ride a bike a bit more frequently than I have been. Ouch. Still, complaining muscles (and complaining about muscles – or lack of) and a wobble or two have all been part of the fun.

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Bikes!

What a sight it was on Monday at school to see over 110 bicycles out front, and only one vehicle in the parking lot. On Tuesday, the bike count was almost 140. That day, I felt terrible for riding home at lunchtime and coming back in the Jeep. I had work to do later in the afternoon over the bay, and I would have been very late if I’d cycled. I’m all about the journey, not the destination. I like to say that, it sounds better than “I can’t pedal very quickly!” Maybe an e-bike is the answer? Pedal assist on the hills, and self-propelled on the flat. I’m fairly sure I’d end up deciding it was all hills and require a lot of assistance…

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Time to stop and smell the roses – and I was tired

I’ve included a few photographs from my pedalling travels this week. You’ll understand I was only stopping to take a picture, and not because I’d ridden up a small hill or slight incline and needed a quick rest.

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Bike to work, not bring your bike to work

I have enjoyed getting back on the bike, and I’m committed to cycling whenever my work is in Ucluelet, and only driving for the trips over the bay or to meetings in distant places. Have you seen the price of gas? Yikes! Perhaps the wobbling will diminish, the hills will seem flatter, and I’ll be a speedy two wheeled PlaidCamper. So please take care as you overtake that grizzled geezer on his bike – he’s doing his best and going as fast as he can!

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Stopped to look at the boat, not stopped for a rest

Speedy as promised – thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend!

Proof of bike

Boats, bows, rods, reels and traps

Yup, the last long weekend was a busy weekend. About 40 youth and associated mentors heading out and away for a few days of camping, fishing, trail-building, archery and anything else that seemed like a good outdoor idea.

The larger vessel

We set off in two vessels, one a speedy affair with room for nine, and the other a larger, more sedate boat with room for all the gear and space to spread out above and below. Going out, I was in the smaller boat, coming back, I traveled in the larger. Both were fun, with the voyage out being busier. As the larger vessel was cruising slowly and steadily toward our destination, the smaller boat zipped about, looking for favourite (previously successful) spots to fish, and to pick up and drop prawn and crab traps.

Two traps contained many prawns, and these were a mainstay for an almost midnight feast later that day. We ended up eating so late because the zodiac and tin boat transfer from the tiny offshore dock to the beach near base camp took quite a few journeys. All that gear and all that youth – thank goodness for young people when it comes to pitching tents and stowing gear in the rain and near dark.

Very comfortable

The rods and reels proved far less successful over the weekend, with very little success in hooking a fish. A large sea cucumber got a bit of a surprise and was no doubt mightily relieved to be returned to the deep. The prawn and crab traps did not deliver either. Oh well.

“Nothing! You?”
“Nope…”

The rain fell from the moment we left Friday afternoon to just before dawn on Saturday, when the skies cleared and warm sunshine was an almost constant companion through Saturday and Sunday. A fair number of mosquitoes were also near constant companions, but not unbearably so.

Very bearable

The weekend was visibly bear-free, aside from frequent scat sightings, and some splashing in the early hours from across the narrow channel. Nothing to be alarmed about. I alarmed a bald eagle that was perched atop an old stump at the point of the spit – I think it may have been my early morning pee break that startled her, causing her to fly off somewhat sooner than she may have been planning. A magnificent sight (the eagle, not me peeing…)

The dry and near windless days allowed for perfect archery conditions, and it was good to see the young ones honing their technique and improving their accuracy. They were able to display their skills to a group of ten elders who visited for the day on Sunday.

Prior to the arrival of the elders, much effort was put into further improving the trail through the forest from the beach to the camp. And you’ve never seen a tidier base camp than how it looked for that afternoon – when grandmothers and grandfathers visit, it had better look right!

When the elders arrived on the beach, they were welcomed with a song sung by a young warrior. His voice was strong and steady, and his song echoed back from the low mountains surrounding the inlet. A memorable moment from a trip with many fine moments.

We awoke on Monday to low cloud and a threat of rain. After the warmth of the previous two days, it was something of a relief to be able to pack up and shift all the gear back to the beach and on to the boats in cool conditions. And would you believe it, once we cleared the inlet and headed out into wider waters, the clouds fell behind us and we sailed under blue skies. A certain OldPlaidCamper might have dozed off up on deck, lulled to sleep and pleasantly tired after a very good long weekend.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Departure

Look out, look out, the bridge is out

A few weeks back, we arranged to have another gourmet cookout with Wayne from Tofino Photography. Our destination was Second Bridge, and if you need to find it, go down that logging road after the junction, bounce and jolt up past First Bridge, and then…

…well, if I told you where precisely, then it might get crowded in the future. But rest assured it’s out there, and you’ll know you’re close when the road comes to an end because the bridge is out.

Look out, look out!

A quiet spot – we were told it can get busy, and certainly used to be a touch rowdy with party people on long weekends before the road was closed – it made a good place to have a fire and roast some hot dogs. The weekend had been warm and sunny the day before we went, but a change came, with grey skies, lower temperatures, and even a hint of rain. This seemed to have kept people away, and we only encountered a handful of visitors.

One couple had been camping overnight just down the beach. They chatted a bit, and Wayne shared a few stories, and some tips in the event of a cougar encounter (there had been some sightings elsewhere along the lake) and mere minutes after that, the young couple had packed up and disappeared. I don’t think it was the cougar info…

It left an empty beach for us to enjoy, and we had a fine time cooking and eating. Wayne brought high end hot dogs and slices of key lime pie from SoBo. Excellent choice, and we had to be quick about it, because Scout sure seemed to take to the pie.

“Pie?!”

We didn’t see a cougar, or a bear, and thankfully the black flies didn’t follow us down to the beach. They were lurking when we parked up, but there was enough breeze to keep bugs at bay.

A wildlife feature for the afternoon? The hundreds and hundreds of geese passing over in long skeins high above us. We honestly could not count them, but what a sight to see – and hear! Wave after wave after wave.

Wayne knows the area pretty well, and he told us about the great camping spots to be discovered along the shore, and how they can only be approached from the water. They sound rather wonderful, and a compelling reason to return, drop a canoe with camping gear into the water, and spend a little more time out by the bridge and beyond.

Further exploration required…

I don’t know when our next cookout adventure will be or where, but it’s something to look forward to, likely after the summer visitors have headed home and it’s a bit quieter. I do know Wayne has set the gourmet bar pretty high with that key lime pie!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Messing about…

…in boats! Oh, alright, we don’t have a boat, but ever since the courses last week, I’ve been keeping a beady eye on boats around here – more so than usual…

Too big?

I’m very pleased to report all the participants passed the other two courses, the Marine Emergency Duties on Friday, and the Restricted Operator Certificate (Maritime) for VHF radio, on Saturday. Now all we need is a small vessel to put theory into practice!

Too old?

We’ve been enjoying glorious weather, and Scout has insisted we stop and look at all the boats in the harbours. She’ll take me up and down the docks early in the day, then absolutely insist we go back later with Mrs. PlaidCamper, to show her our favourites. It’s quite a long list.

Lovely colour!

I give Scout a pat on the head for being a good dog on the docks, especially when we see harbour seals and river otters, and Mrs. PC gives a gentle shake of the head whenever we slow down at a particular vessel. The head shaking is a bit more emphatic each time we approach the Tromso. To be honest, I’m always surprised – and delighted – she’s still afloat. I don’t know if the price is falling in line with her water position. There’s a little less freeboard each passing season…

“Lovely colour?! Seriously? She’s no Tromso… Ooh, is that a seal I can smell down here?”

A very brief piece this week, as I scramble to catch up with myself after a week away from regular duties, and then start to get items sorted for an upcoming long weekend away off the grid. Yup, we’ll be heading to our destination in small vessels. Perhaps one of them needs a vastly inexperienced maritime OldPlaidCamper at the helm?

Any of these? Nope.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

All at sea?

Me? Maybe, maybe not. This will have to be a very brief post this week. My excuse? I’ve been back to school (Back? Don’t you work in schools most days, PlaidCamper? Well, yes, but this time I’m one of the students, and the classroom isn’t in a school, but in the community and well, perhaps I’d best just get on with the post?) Evenings have been very busy, reading up/doing homework for a course that continues into the coming weekend. It’s been quite intensive, and I’ve felt very tired at the end of each day, so much so, the fact it is May already almost passed me by. There are “learning celebrations” as our lovely instructor likes to say when talking about tests and exams. Will I pass? Maybe, maybe not…

Small vessels

The courses lead to theory qualifications for Small Vessel Operator Proficiency. I say theory because we are in a classroom, not a boat, and the learning, whilst important, is no substitute for practical experience – hours at sea!

I’m learning alongside a group of youth, and any one of this group has many more hours of practical experience in small vessels than I’ve had over a somewhat longer lifetime. They are often applying some theory to quite a body of practical knowledge. The aim this week is to give a basic safety foundation to these students, add the theory to their experience. I have to say the learning has been illuminated by many family stories being shared – sad, funny, frightening and thrilling. The West Coast roots and love of the ocean shows.

“This sort of log?”

It’s been great fun learning together, and I’m delighted to report everybody passed the first couple of exams. I’m not looking for a new career, but in a day and age where certificates and qualifications are needed along with developing experience, the young ones are positioning themselves very well for post secondary opportunities, in and out of school.

I know I wrote above about how tired I’ve felt, but in truth it hasn’t hurt to experience and be reminded that this is often how many learners in our schools feel day after day. Yes I’m tired, but I’m enjoying this learning – sometimes (often?) what we are asking our children to learn may not be all that relevant or engaging in terms of curriculum – how tiring must that be?

Small vessel

I’ll leave it there, as I’m off to refresh my memory about the finer points of coastal navigation, or I will if I stay awake long enough. Perhaps I should give myself some latitude, or even a little leeway, and have a beer, take the night off? Oh, that was bad.

Navigational aide memoire?

The photographs this week were taken last weekend, when April mistook itself for May, and we weren’t complaining. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Almost May