Making tracks

I’m not a hunter, never have been and it isn’t likely I’ll start hunting now – although I’ll admit it is a useful set of skills to have, come the apocalypse. (Would we be able to tell if there’s an apocalypse? I suppose the news would be a tad cheerier…)IMG_0600

Food security has been something that keeps cropping up – perhaps a growing cause for concern reflecting uncertain times? Zombies aside, I’ll stick with doing what most of us do, and track down my food in stores, hoping that the bulk of it has been produced ethically. We are currently living in an area that has, should the lights go out for the final time, reasonable food security, at least for those in the know…

The recent wilderness trip I accompanied did have a hunting component. Participants are encouraged to produce and provide for themselves and their community, learning and applying skills taught by elders and mentors, and ensuring they know how to survive and even flourish on their traditional lands.IMG_0579

I was excited and nervous about the hunting. Personally, I’d rather not be around guns, and young people with guns, even when they are being monitored closely by trained experts. However, I could see the importance of teaching and learning these skills, and the youth involved were excited to learn.

So let me get the gory part out of the way first – the only animal shot and killed on this trip was a duck. It was shot on the boat ride out to the camp. The duck supplemented a rice and vegetable dish later in the weekend. The decision was made that one duck was enough – there were plenty of other ducks in range throughout the journey, but the lead hunter emphasised this was about eating, not sport.

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Something to eat? Where?!

Students learned how to prepare it for cooking and eating. They were very respectful and thankful to the duck, and a prayer was made reflecting this. Almost everyone had a small piece of roasted duck, myself included, and the young man who made the shot was thoughtful about what he’d done. He didn’t want to kill it, but understood that to eat meat, a creature had to die. He certainly wasn’t boastful about shooting the duck.fullsizeoutput_15ab

On the morning spent hunting, we saw deer tracks, many bear tracks, and plenty of grouse tracks, but nothing else. No actual animals were sighted, but students learned how to spot likely areas for future hunts, and where to set up in these areas. Our lead hunter did draw a bead on a seal as we headed back, and I have to admit to being relieved when he said the distance was too great to be certain of a clean shot. The size and scale of the animal shouldn’t make any difference to how I felt, but seeing a duck shot and prepared was probably easier to experience than if it had been a seal.

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Tracking a scent

If the trip had been for trophy hunting, there’s no way I’d have gone along, and, as indicated above, I was (silently) rooting for the animals. That said, the whole process was fascinating and thought provoking. I’ll never be a hunter, but I can see the importance of hunting in traditional communities.

I’ll leave it there, and start to make tracks towards a long weekend. Thanks for reading and, as always, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment.

Have a wonderful weekend!

PS All the photos posted here were taken last week on a cold and sunny Sunday morning on or near Combers beach.

The storm after the calm

October was a pretty benign month, weather-wise, and I was happy about that, particularly for the recent trip spent camping in a remote location. Since the end of that weekend, temperatures have fallen slightly, and rainfall has increased a great deal.

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Oh, October sun, I’m missing you!

Ah, the rain! We kept a close eye on the sky last weekend, timing a walk out with Scout to the least rainy portion of the day. A wander along the Wild Pacific Trail revealed churning water and some scenic stops under trees.E632E49C-1F86-49C9-9F39-CB13440B10B9

Back to that bright and sunny trip. When we moored the boat, students were keen to get ashore and light a campfire. Armed with knives, a fire steel, a lighter and some backup matches, they couldn’t wait to try out their skills. Great focus and teamwork when they were lighting the fire, sticking with the task when the wood didn’t immediately ignite. They shaved feather sticks and small pieces, piling them carefully and aiming to start with the tiniest and feed the flame as it grew. A couple of unintended extinguishes later, and they soon realized patience was the key to success.

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We will make fire!

Yes, they used a match, but they know it is important to have more than one way to start a fire, and they’ll try again with the fire steel another time. I’m looking forward to how they’ll get a fire going when we return later this month. It has been very wet, so fire starting out there will be a challenge. The group spent quite a bit of time collecting and splitting firewood, stacking it in a dry location, with enough stacked for the next visit. Preparation and planning!

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I can see November on the horizon!

Those not setting the fire got busy with putting up tents and squaring away supplies –  it is amazing how much gear can be packed into a small boat, and even more amazing how much food is needed to keep teenagers fed and functioning!

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One PC tent – very tidy

One section of the weekend was a hunting trip to try and supplement the goods brought out. Being vegetarian for the past three decades, I wasn’t too sure about hunting, but the trip wasn’t about my sensibilities. A part of being out on tribal lands was for the youngsters to learn how to be a provider beyond going to the store. I’ll write about the hunting in a future post…

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I see feathers, but no duck. Hmm…

Hatchets, axes, chainsaws and machetes were wielded with intent and to great effect, and not just for firewood. Old trails were cleared and improved, the goal being to make the camp easier to navigate for visiting elders.

Did I mention the bears? We didn’t see any the entire time we were there, but judging by the fresh bear scat all over, I hope the bears continued to enjoy the cleared trails after we left. Light-coloured birch branches and stones were used to mark the edges of the trails, and larger obstacles like fallen logs were removed, or had chunks cut out to minimize the climbing and scrambling. For parts of the trip, I was the oldest participant (that changed when a chainsaw carrying elder in his seventh decade arrived to assist) and the consensus was if the old Plaid-wearing guy can traverse the new trails without incident, then it’ll be fine for everyone else. I have my outdoor uses…

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Calm – ten steps from the tent

I’ll leave it there for this week, with a happy PlaidCamper warmed by the fire and exertions from trail-clearing (don’t worry, most of the heavy lifting was done by those far younger than me – they enjoy it!)

We are expecting a bit more rain for the next few days (weeks and months) but we’ll keep out on the trails, whatever the weather. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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“I think it is clearing – is that July on the horizon?”

Sea legs? Maybe…

Yes, maybe. I can’t claim to be much of a sailor. In fact, any vessel over the size of a kayak or canoe is way beyond my abilities, unless I’m driving onto a ferry – you might have read before about how I like to park at the front of an open car deck and pretend to be the captain. No? Oh. Let’s pretend I didn’t say that…

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Nahmint 5

Last weekend I got to spend quite some time on the water, in the sturdy Nahmint 5, and in a police launch. These were the two vessels used to transport excited youth, elders, mentors, and a slightly nervous PlaidCamper out to remote tribal lands, a camping spot that felt far from the modern world, and all the better for that.

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Our departure point – hope it clears…

The day had dawned with quite a bit of cloud cover and a real chill in the air. Our destination is reputed to be one of the rainiest places in Canada, and it appeared as though we’d be experiencing some of that soon. Fortunately, the cloud and mist burned off by midday, and as we pulled away from Ucluelet and headed towards the Broken Islands, the day warmed up and everything was a glorious blue, punctuated by island jewels of green and grey, with the distant mountains of the main island reaching up above cloud cloaked shoulders.

What a ride, with smooth, smooth water all about. My nerves over being in a small craft on open water were soon as calm as the  almost mirror flat surface we moved across.

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Fuel

Honestly, I’d not been too sure about the boat ride, having felt rather green about the gills in a heavy swell a couple of years back, but last week was fine. Sea legs? My sea legs were behaving, and we enjoyed a magnificent hour or more, fuelled by strong coffee, bright sunshine, and excited chatter.

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Smooth

I’ll write about the days spent camping, and some of the adventures we experienced over a few posts in the coming weeks, but thought I’d start with this, the short voyage to reach our destination. And, because I’m a little boy, I couldn’t resist including the police launch used for the trip back. What fun it was, getting my non-existent locks wind-tossed and wet in the sea spray thrown up by a fast-moving boat – far better than me fast-moving to the side and throwing up…

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Can I go in this one? Can I? Can I? Please?!

I’ve never been in the back of a police car (being a law-abiding sort) but now I can say I’ve been hauled into the back of a police launch (my initial clamber in wasn’t so elegant…)

I’ll leave it there, happily pretending to be an almost salty sea dog, and continue the tale another time.

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The Nahmint in one of the rainiest places in Canada – we were so fortunate to be completely dry our entire trip

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

Crimes and pie

Huh?! We took a very quick camping trip to Green Point a couple of weeks ago. We wanted to find out how Scout would fare in a tent – or how we would fare with her at close quarters in a tent, and if she’d be a happy camper…

Well, we needn’t have worried! Sticks and branches to chew? Check! Other dogs to grumble at? Check! Tasty tidbits that “fell” off our plates? Check! Scout didn’t wake up at the crack of dawn? Check! (Phew!)

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A happy camper

Two nights of camping, and a chance to try out a new tent. A new tent? Isn’t your old tent a recent addition? Yes, and it is/was a perfectly fine tent, but some #*@* broke into our storage locker and made off with bits and pieces of our camping gear, including the flysheet. Not sure when the crime took place, but I’m glad I was packing the day before, and not the day we set off, so had just enough time to stop and pick up a new tent. Just because somebody else made a poor choice, this wasn’t going to spoil our fun – but it did put an unwanted dent in our bank balance.

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Rain later?

Anyhow, we had a fine time, glass half full and all that. On the Saturday evening, Wayne from Tofino Photography  joined us for a gourmet meal of hotdogs, chips, and pumpkin pie. Gourmet?! Not so much, but food does taste better cooked outdoors, and I have to say, store bought pumpkin pie is one tough product. It was tossed about in the back of the Jeep for a couple of days, buried under loose gear and other edibles, yet maintained shape and flavour when we finally got round to eating it. Scout would have had several slices, but not if she wanted to share a tent with us overnight.

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Time to fill glasses

We had great weather on Saturday, and had hoped to have a dry spell all the way through to Sunday, but it wasn’t to be. We had to break camp in steady rain, but can report our new tent, bought in something of a rush and unresearched, was very much a dry on the inside tent. Mind you, our previous not so old tent was also a sterling dry on the inside tent. Alright, I’ll get over it, glass half full…

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But no rain earlier!

Now we know Scout is a happy camper, we will plan trips further afield to quieter and more remote spots. And when Wayne joins us next time, we’ll go a few steps better than “gourmet” hotdogs – the weekend above was Canadian Thanksgiving, and I think the sausages contained turkey, but apart from the unbreakable pie, we might have committed a culinary crime…

I’m heading out to an off the grid location for a few days, and will catch up with your blogs when I get back next week. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend!B7C06A23-D7C7-487C-9015-5EBDC61A0225

Surf Ghosts

Sounds spooky, and Hallowe’en is weeks away. What’s going on?

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The tiny blob is a bear (sure looked bigger when we first saw it!)

We had plans to hike up a good stretch of Long Beach last week, starting from the Kwisitis Visitor Centre, and continuing until legs or snacks gave out. Unfortunately, a large black bear was wandering back and forth across a narrow section of beach, and Parks Canada were there to ensure the bear was left alone, and our walk was cut short. Instead, we opted to mooch about on Lismer and South Beach, and Scout attempted to dig her way to the southern hemisphere. Time well spent.

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The large blob is Scout, checking a bear won’t fall into the hole she is digging

Yes, yes, all quite lovely, but what about the surf ghosts? I can’t hear you cry.

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Warm, but not so sunny…

We returned to the same beach a couple of days later, and the weather was warm, but very foggy along the shore. Bear warning signs were in place, and we were a little reluctant to head out, because we wouldn’t be able to see the bear in the mist. When we stopped to think about it, mist, fog, rain or shine, we rarely spot bears because they’ve already seen/heard us and moved along. That said, we prefer a longer view and a bit of distance where possible.

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A hanging about place

Great. The ghost surfers?!

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Ghost surfers!

We decided to wait out the fog, believing it would lift as the morning wore on, and start our walk with a clearer view. We settled down on a log, broke into our snack supply, and saw a couple of surfers emerge onto the beach and head to the waves. They made an interesting sight through the veil of mist. Before coming to this part of the coast, if you’d said anything to me about surfing, I’d think of Hawaii and board shorts, and a beach bar serving drinks with an umbrella in. That, or my sad and exhausting attempts at surfing off the coast of the Isle of Wight (southern UK, frigid English Channel waters) many, many years ago. If there was a bar serving drinks with an umbrella in, I didn’t see it…fullsizeoutput_66d

Our ghost surfers were kitted out in wetsuits, sensibly enough, and took to the waters without hesitation, appearing to have a fine time in the surf. They played for nearly an hour, and when they finally came back out of the water, I hope they had something warming to drink, no umbrellas.DSCF7403

Eventually, the fog cleared enough for us to head up the beach, and we had a pleasant walk, spotting shore birds and no bear. After an hour, the next fog bank rolled in, and we retraced our steps back to the parking lot. As we approached the visitor centre, we saw  more ghost surfers emerging in the mist. I admire the surfers out here. They are a committed bunch, and clearly appear to enjoy their passion. So much so, they even come back as ghosts…

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Were they really there?

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Mists and drizzle (and a bear or two)

We’ve heard from various sources that parts of North America and Europe are suffering some extreme heat. My brother returned home to the borders of sultry summer WV and Maryland earlier this week after a great visit with us. Well, we thought it was great, but I swear he was muttering something about Canadian cold weather and asking why he couldn’t have had mist or drizzle, but not mist and drizzle? Is there a distinction? He got to hug a mountie – no photos, I wouldn’t do that to him – and that must have thawed him out a little?

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Mist and drizzle? Or drizzle?

On our various trips out and about, he saw a fair number of black bears from the car. Just as well, because on the bear sightseeing tour we took out of Tofino, for a long stretch of the trip it appeared that bears were not going to make an appearance. My brother huddled inside the bright red Canada hoodie I gave him, looking the picture of happiness (again, not a photo I dared to take) and staring out at the blissfully cool (cold?) conditions we’d been blessed with. OK, it was throwing it down, and a bit chilly with the viewing windows open, but if you won’t wear the proffered toque (he still has hair to worry about) how can you stay warm?

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Where are the bears?

Eventually, bears were spotted and the rain eased enough to get a photograph or two. My brother shot a short video of a bear running along a log to cross a small channel that he’ll enjoy showing to friends and other family. I’ve no video, but here is that bear:DSCF7234

I love heading out on the bear spotting tours – not a patch on an adventure we had a couple of years back with Wayne at Tofino Photography, but always fun, rain or shine. The trees, the water, the mist, the mountains, the bears and eagles, are a delight every time, and a chance to soak up the special atmosphere and sense of place this corner of the PNW has.DSCF7174

Once my brother was safely perched at a bar counter after the bear trip, he was a happy boy. He returned the unused toque, and the rain heavy hoodie that had soaked up a fair bit of atmosphere – it was dripping with it – and asked why we were sitting in a place called Wolf in the Fog? “How would you know there was a wolf? Should be called Is there a Wolf in the Fog? It’s too bloody foggy to really know!”

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Too foggy to spot a wolf? No! Have to come back another day…

He’ll just have to come back for another visit, and we’ll look that much harder. The hoodie will have dried out by then…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Hazy, lazy, low tide mornings

After last week, and all that aiming to be swift, this week I’ve remembered it’s best to take my time, because life’s a marathon, not a sprint. Plus, I’m too old to be sprinting. It would end badly. People would look and laugh, and say, “He thinks that is sprinting?” I’m sensitive like that…

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Hazy, grainy, but these runners aren’t lazy

What actually happened was the Ucluelet Edge To Edge marathon held last weekend. It was great to watch the runners, young and old, pass by with smiles on their faces. I think they were smiling, although my first vantage point was the top of a hill, so perhaps there was a grimace or two. If I’d run up a hill and there was a man and his dog sat there drinking coffee and eating his breakfast (the man, not the dog, although she will eat and drink almost anything, including my breakfast) I’d throw a grimace his way. If the runners had looked behind them, there was a lovely view down to the water and the low mountains on the far side.

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Is this – gulp – the end?

Once the last of the several hundred runners had gone by, we upped sticks – downed sticks? – (Scout, not me, I don’t chew sticks, although I’ve been known to get through any number of matches “starting” a campfire) and wandered slowly to the finish line. Given what’s awaiting us all at the end of our journey, I’ve always been a firm believer in strolling to the finish, rather than pelting at it full tilt. You’re going to get there in the end…

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More my pace

Both mornings last weekend were lazy, slightly ocean hazy, and the tide was low. Aside from the Sunday morning energy of all those runners, things were generally quiet. Quiet, but not entirely inactive. Fishing boats puttered past, and groups of kayakers were gliding by, enjoying barely a breeze and calm water. Ucluelet Aquarium had plenty of visitors, the young children excited on the way in, and excited on the way out.IMG_20180616_101107

Warm, but not too warm, quiet, but not too quiet, the lazy and hazy mornings were just right, and the perfect contrast to recent busy city life. The weather, paddling, fishing, and running has reminded me to get into summer mode. (Does that mode have to include running?)IMG_20180618_095008

If you were wondering, my brother should be out on the coast by the time this is posted, if not at the time of writing. I won’t go into details – oh alright, I will. He went to the wrong airport (huh?) and missed his first flight. The following day, he got to the right airport – progress – and flew to the next destination. Unfortunately, his flight to Vancouver was delayed, so he missed the final short hop flight to Tofino. En route to the hotel he booked to wait 24 hours and the next available flight, the shuttle bus blew a tyre. I think he’s somewhere in Vancouver right now, and I’ll hope to see him disembarking at Tofino in the next day or two. Or three.

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“Will your brother be quicker than you, old man?” Nope.

Like I told him, life’s a marathon, not a sprint. His reply can’t be repeated here. Anyway, I enjoyed watching the race, and it made me think about next year. Inspired by what I saw, all the training, the preparation, the dedication to being one’s personal best, I’ve decided I will definitely watch the race again next year.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!