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!

Canada!

This coming weekend, many Canadians will be celebrating Canada Day (July 1st) and feeling fortunate to be living in the True North.

My US brother is still with us, and he has been experiencing the cool and rainy coastal temperatures. They are a far cry from the sunny, hot and humid conditions he insists he enjoys in his Maryland/West Virginia home. I’m just as adamant that not too hot, and a little (!) cloud and rain is perfectly fine. Sibling rivalry, and completely absurd, as if we have any say in the weather of our current homes.

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“Should I bring him back?”

Brother PC has enjoyed bobbing about on (cold) water, taking long (chilly) hikes on the beaches and forest trails, and sitting (shivering) on a trip out of Tofino to spot bears wandering the shore.DSCF7130 His closest bear encounter was from the safety of the Jeep last weekend, when we took a bumpy and juddering series of muddy forest roads to Mussel beach and Salmon beach. After seeing the bear strolling and browsing along the road, he was a little less insistent on needing to stop the car and pee behind a tree…IMG_20180624_133041

He has enjoyed his time here on the coast, and we’ll be sorry to see him board the little plane that carries him off on his lengthy journey home. Before then, he has this coming weekend to enjoy the Canada Day celebrations in Ucluelet. He is a trifle concerned that if more than several people take part in a parade, who will be left to watch it and cheer it on? I’ve given him an old red Canada Olympic hoodie (apparently, it was a tad chilly earlier) so he can line the streets singlehandedly, and wave people on, clad in the red and white. (There won’t be a parade exactly, more a small yet warm gathering, but I haven’t the heart to tell him. We’ll give him a flag to wave…)

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Real beer (Tofino Blonde), and a hint of blue sky. Cheers, Canada!

If you are Canadian, know some Canadians, are in or near Canada, or prefer real beer over Bud (yes, we covered that) then Happy Canada Day, and have a wonderful weekend!

Saddleback

Sounds painful, but it really wasn’t. This piece includes a Western (Canada) tale about a man who is tall in the saddle. Or a man telling tall tales. And there’s a saddle.

dscf4309We were on the Saddleback trail a little while ago, and it is a fine place to be. Searching for some outdoor peace on a crowded January weekend near Lake Louise, we watched where most folks were heading from the parking lot, and then went in the opposite direction. We are wily PlaidCampers…

That was a good decision. The Saddleback is a bridle trail in warmer months, and they can sometimes be very muddy and rutted for hikers. In the winter though, they are often wonderful snowshoe trails, and so it proved to be along the Saddleback. The snow was deep on either side of the path, but previous snowshoers had created an easy enough set of tracks to follow – I know, we are contrary PlaidCampers, wanting a quiet trail but happy enough to benefit from previous users. Contrary? Or wily?

dscn7413With the narrow track winding through tall trees, there was an almost tunnel like effect at times, with branches overhanging the trail and dumping clumps of heavy snow if we disturbed the dangling limbs. Dump clump? Well, alright! Ahem. The heavy blanket muffled most noise, so there was a real stillness and quiet to the forest.

dscn7388Plodding along and enjoying the walk, I got to thinking about taking a trail ride in the summer. Would I enjoy it? The few horses I’ve ever ridden always appear to have a tremendous time. They’ll take a route under the lowest boughs, and close to rough trunks simply to see if I can hang on. I can. Last time out, I slipped just a little in the saddle. Or from the saddle. My butt was lower than my knees but I think that’s a riding style. A slight twist on side saddle? Definitely didn’t fall off. It’s not falling off if you don’t touch the ground.

dscn7399Maybe I’ll stick to hiking. Supposing I’m out riding on a narrow mountain path and we meet a bear? The horse would rear up, I’d fall off – the last couple of feet or so, being close to the ground already – and then there’d be headlines. Nope, sticking to hiking. I’m a wily (and news shy) old PlaidCamper.

dscf4306We enjoyed the Saddleback, and would take it again. It’s a quiet spot in a sometimes crowded part of Banff National Park. Recommended, certainly in winter, and if you’re a brave soul, perhaps you’d enjoy it on a horse in the summer?

Thanks for reading this tall (short?) tale from the trail. As always, please feel free to share a story or comment, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

 

A gift…

…that we received way back in the summer, and I’ve been saving to share this week.

When I wrote about some of our wonderful summer highlights, I deliberately left this one out, wanting to write about it in the depths of winter, close to the solstice and this time of seasonal sharing.

One July evening, we met up with friend and fellow blogger Wayne, as he had kindly offered to take us along on one of his evening shoots. If you haven’t seen Wayne’s work, then head over to Welcome to Tofino Photography – you won’t be sorry!

dscn6902Wayne was patient as his two “helpers” assisted with moving his Zodiac from the boat shed and down onto the water. I suspect it is all rather easier without our assistance…

dscn6914A new boat for Wayne, it’s maiden voyage under new ownership, everything was fine until it started shipping a little water. Problem solver that he is, Wayne soon realigned the outboard motor to prevent any further water intake, and I stopped eyeing the distance to shore and fiddling with the lifejacket.

dscn6921What an absolute thrill it is to be skimming across the waves (when the swell or waves are light – the choppier water gave our nether regions an unspeakable pounding), zooming up and down channels, past rocky islets on the lookout for wildlife in, on, by and above the water.

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Taken earlier in the day – inner child heaven

Seeing and hearing a floatplane take off and fly overhead from on the water made this little boy laugh. Is it a buzzing, droning, whirring or roaring engine? Maybe all of the above. I love it. Most of us don’t see and hear that everyday.

dscn6923-version-2The further we travelled from Tofino, the fewer signs of human habitation we saw. Salmon farms, a houseboat or two, the occasional dwelling on the edge, and a few boats plying the waters. When the engine was cut and we drifted, gently bobbing up and down, the near silence was magical. A breath of wind, a small splash or two, and it was perfect.

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Remote – fine beer in a fine location, so tranquil – thanks for humouring me, Wayne!

I don’t know the waters, but I have a chart, and the names are evocative. Deadman Islets – now there’s a story, surely? Ask Wayne… What about Strawberry Island?

imageWhat a place to explore! Fortune Channel? Indeed. What a trip we had. Along Browning Passage, through the Tsapee Narrows, past Warne Island, into Gunner Inlet, and being tranquil all the way, this was a fine evening.  Experienced and with an eagle eye, Wayne was quick to spot wildlife. We saw some harbour seals, a few bears, including a mama and clambering cub (so beautiful), and breathtaking landscapes and cloudscapes in the fading light.

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Just caught a shot of the cub – I was so excited! (Mum is disappearing on the left…)

We stopped in Gunner Inlet for a few minutes – snack time – and I’ll never forget the peace we experienced there. The silence carries weight, but it isn’t oppressive. Wild and remote, a gift within a gift.

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Full zoom from the Zodiac, and close enough for me – magnificent!

I’ll keep this short, and let the photographs convey some small measure of our wonderful evening. Wayne is a modest man, preferring to be behind the camera, but I’ll thank him publicly here for what was an exceptional adventure. Thanks again, Wayne! Go check his website! (Allow some time for this, because you won’t want to leave…)

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Quiet

A summer highlight as we cross the winter solstice and start to move towards longer days and what I hope is the promise of further adventure for us all.

Thanks for reading, and all the best for the holiday season!dscn6936

Snowed under? Take a hike!

On the day this piece is posted, there’ll be ten teaching days until the winter break. I won’t count today, because that’ll mean eleven days, and I just can’t handle the truth. Definitely snowed under at work, and it’s been like that for a while, so last weekend we needed to go and find some snow. The real stuff.

Chocolate advice

Meteorologists have forecast a cold and snowy winter for our little corner of Canada, and that prediction has warmed an old PlaidCamper’s heart. Contrarian! A real winter? Yes please! I felt shortchanged by last winter when there were too many Chinook winds and too few flakes. Snow flakes.

As we set off for the mountains last week I was feeling flaky, maybe slightly anxious with my high hopes for some real snow – the bright blue skies and a warm westerly wind didn’t add up to winter. Still, it was the weekend, we’d made our plans, and I’ve tremendous faith in weather forecasters. Also, if I only step on the white tiles (not the blue ones) along the hallway from my classroom to the exit, then the snow will fly. Scientifically speaking, this only works on a Friday afternoon, and I must be wearing my favourite toque…

Put on your favourite toque

The science behind the white tile approach to meteorology is very hard to explain, and I struggle to understand it – it is enough to know that it works every time (except for the times it doesn’t) – and it worked once more last weekend. The deeper we traveled into the mountains, the lower the temperature dropped. By the time we arrived near Louise, reasonably heavy snow was falling, and it continued to snow well into the next day. Yup, it had to be the white tiles.

Fresh

We opted to take a hike, taking delight in leaving fresh tracks across the first snow, all along Baker Creek and down to the Bow River. The snow wasn’t deep, but it was enough to change the landscape and create something new. What a relief to be out in the snow, tramping back and forth along the river bank, and recharging instead of feeling snowed under. Snowed under? No, no, we were under the snow! Winter is almost upon us, a season to embrace, and it’s almost always a perfect time to take a hike. Feels good.

Along the Bow

I’ll keep this short, and, like the snow last week, not at all deep. Thanks for reading, avoid the blue tiles, and have a wonderful weekend! 

Beautiful Baker Creek
Unexpected!

Beer bottle tops (and bullets)

Huh? To be more accurate, not that I know much about these things, it’s beer bottle tops and bullet casings. Or is that shell casings? I’m way out of my comfort zone here (well, not entirely, I might have opened a beer bottle or two every now and again…)

I was almost cleaning out our car the other day, not because it needed it (but it does), more because when I was driving along, each little bump in the road caused a jingling and tinkly sound somewhere near the dash. Mechanically minded as ever, I ignored it until I couldn’t take any more, and tried to track down the cause. Turns out there was a small pile of (brass?) bullet casings and rusty bottle tops in the change compartment atop the dash.

Clean this car!

PlaidCamper has guns and ammunition? I hear you ask with a gasp! PlaidCamper has bottle tops? Perhaps less of a gasp there…

No! No guns for me. I grew up in Britain, back when the police were armed with those funny hats and asked you nicely to stop being unlawful or they’d be forced to ask you again. Not much of a gun culture, although I do realize things have changed since then. Nevertheless, no guns for me. With my recent eyesight history, it would be foolish indeed – I’m a danger to myself and those around me simply wielding a spork. They’re not that user-friendly you know.

Little Bear, early morning

Anyway, where did I get the bullets? I picked them up. The beer bottle tops? I picked those up too. From the ground, and no, I didn’t drop them. They were strewn on the grassy area in front of Little Bear cabin. We’re not talking one or two accidentally missed items. Over a few days, I picked up hundreds of casings. I kept thinking that I must have found them all, and then I’d spot another, and another. Don’t ask Mrs PlaidCamper, but it’s possible I may have gotten a touch obsessed about finding them. At that point in time, post eye surgery, I was really quite happy at even being able to spot them. But if I could spot them, well wouldn’t that mean the shooter (is that the correct term?) could find them? Still, it kept me quiet, and Mrs PC finished a couple of long novels.

Is it dangerous here?

It did get me thinking, why all the bullets up there at Little Bear? Was the Parks Service not letting on how dangerous it could be? There was the usual literature and warnings about bears, and I shouldn’t (and honestly don’t) make light of the risks with animal encounters, but it is called Little Bear cabin. Not Rabid Slavering Bears Only Want To Eat You So Bring Your Guns cabin. We’d still stay there even if they change the name. Bottle tops and bullets. Hmm. Beer and bullets? I don’t know, is it just me…?

Put ’em up! (Your feet, you must be exhausted…)

I tried to imagine the scene when the previous gun toting occupants were at the cabin. Beer in one hand, gun in the other, whirling this way and that way, blasting at anything moving. Anything moving? While we were there, that would have been swaying trees, crickets, a hiker or two, and the occasional small squirrel. Oh, and many – unarmed, though – birds flying overhead and from tree to tree. Plus, there was a deer that gave me a funny look one morning, but probably because I was peeing behind the woodshed, being too lazy to tramp down to the outhouse so early. (Oh c’mon, give me a break. I was unarmed, and there might have been squirrels about…) Well, on that evidence, best lock and load then.

Squirrel’s eye view

I don’t want to get into the whole gun control debate (because what’s to debate when the solutions are so obvious – you know, fewer guns, more sporks?) I don’t understand shooting, although I know many enjoy the sport. Fair enough, fire lead balls into straw mounted paper targets and pretend you’re ready to defend yourself (maybe in the unlikely event of a paper target or clay pigeon invading your home?) I certainly don’t understand the sport behind hunting animals for fun. It can’t be that much fun for those gangs of scary squirrels and herds of deadly deer, or even fair, not if they can’t shoot back.

I’d best stop soon, and get back to cleaning out the car. Just one request before I do? The noise pollution is bad enough, but if you do feel the need to be heavily armed with beer and bullets, and to blast away because animals are out there, could you at least pick up your trash? Please? Yes? Thank you!

Pick ’em up!

And thank you for reading! As ever, please feel free to leave a comment (are you proficient with a spork?)  or share a story, and have a wonderful weekend!

Seals, bears, and bald eagles…

…on a cool morning in the PNW. Another brief post, hopefully uploaded successfully from a motel room somewhere in BC. Have to say, we were pleasantly unplugged for a few days, and haven’t enjoyed tuning back in. The world we share…oh boy. Anyway, here’s a soothing balm from a quiet corner if needed:

We signed up for a morning boat tour, leaving Tofino early on a wet and misty day. Sometimes the rain fell in sheets, sometimes it was a light mist, and sometimes it had stopped raining just before beginning again. No worries – wet it was, cold it wasn’t! DSCF2830We were promised sightings of bears, bald eagles and harbour seals, but to be honest, simply heading up an inlet or two and gazing at the grey-green scenery was more than enough. OK, seeing some wildlife is never a bad thing. Each bear, bald eagle, harbour seal, sea otter, or new angle along the shoreline is cause for excitement. It is a beautiful place to find and then lose yourself, dreamlike if you are so inclined.DSCF2872

I always seem to end up in something of a trance state, head emptying as I fall under the spell of the surroundings. Slowly look left, slowly look right, up, down, and repeat.DSCF2814 Fortunately, my eyes are touch more focused than my mind, and we were able to spot all sorts of wildlife. Regrettably, I’m almost unable to speedily focus a camera, being all overexcited at spotting a bear, and sometimes I forget I have a camera and could take a picture. Between that, the bobbing boat, and having little clue, I’m pretty happy with the pictures.DSCF2895

Anyway, a brief post once more – I’ll let the photographs convey something of the atmosphere. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and please feel free to share a story or leave a comment. Have a wonderful weekend!DSCF2824

(We did enjoy a magical ride in a Zodiac with a friend later during our time in Tofino, and drifted wonderfully close to a few bears – when we get home and I’ve sorted the photos, I’ll share some of that story in a latepost…)DSCF2904

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