Virtual camping?

Can that be a thing? Not too sure it’ll work, but here’s what I’ve been thinking. Thinking?! I’ve gotten very close to setting up my little solo tent on our tiny balcony. If I thought Mrs. PC would let me in again the next morning, I’d probably take that trip. This week is a bit of a repost, or perhaps a remake? Redo?

This time last year was the last time I went on an off grid trip. Over thirty young people plus elders and mentors set off in two boats, in high spirits, low temperatures and steady rain. The smaller boat was a zippy number, speeding ahead and stopping every now and then to drop a line, see what could be hooked. We had time. This was because the second boat was a larger slow boat, carrying most of the group and all of the supplies. A steady steamer that probably felt smoother in the roughish seas.

The slow boat

I was on the small boat for the outbound voyage, “enjoying” those roughish seas and the chance to stop and fish. The fishing wasn’t a huge success, unless you count snagging a surprised sea slug. Or was it a cucumber?

Beware, sea cucumbers!

The weather improved over the three days we were away, so that by the time we were ready, if not willing, to return, we completed the trip under blue skies. I took the slow boat back – anything to prolong the fun.

Another picture of the slow boat

Out at camp, we rebuilt trails that had taken a battering from a couple of spring storms. Everything was tidied and spruced up, ready to present to and welcome a group of elders coming out to see the area, for some, the first time in years. After the first night, I reset my tent properly in daylight. I’d really rushed the set up, doing the best I could in strong winds and rain in the dark. Besides, who wants their untidy tent letting the side down?

The small tent

What I didn’t report in my first piece about this year ago trip was that on the final afternoon – the day before we were leaving – I turned my ankle over. It was jolly painful, and my left foot turned all sorts of jolly interesting colours.

Since then, the recovery of the high ankle sprain has taken many months. It’s unlike me not to have complained about this sooner, but as I’ve time in this pandemic, and because you’re interested, let me share that I couldn’t ride my bike, and really struggled with walking up anything with much of an incline. My dreams of shimmying past the last defender and scoring a beauty of a World Cup winning goal have had to be put on hold. Again. I know, I know, it’s a loss for sport.

The small boat

All of this slight moping and retelling and reminiscing is simply a way of me wishing we could all go camping again soon. Not all at once, and not in the same place. I love you dearly, but there are physical distancing issues that we need to respect. Still, until we can be out in our favourite places and with our favourite people, there’s always the virtual camping and old stories to share. Again. Did I mention my ankle?

Off grid inlet. Soon?

Thanks for reading, enjoy the long weekend if you have one, the regular one if you don’t, and stay safe and well! Now, where’s the spare back door key, and let’s see if that solo tent will fit on the balcony…

PS I’m told those seas really weren’t that rough, or roughish – even the sea slug laughed at me. Or was it a cucumber?

Light and dark

Day and night, morning and evening, good and bad, lager and stout.

I could almost leave it there (I know, but I won’t!) as this about describes our trip to Victoria last weekend.

Distant (somewhat hidden) mountains

If you’re going to spend some time in a city, then Victoria is a pretty good one. Much is made of the relatively warm and dry climate, and we were lucky enough to have a mostly dry weekend. Not sunny, but dry. Other Victoria plus points? Waterside location, distant mountains, not too big, a mostly walkable downtown, many coffee shops and microbreweries, and the rather lovely Royal BC Museum.

BC Parliament building, Victoria

We stayed at Spinnakers over in Esquimault because it is only a short waterside walk from the downtown. At night, the lights reflecting on the water was a sparkly sight, and by day there’s always a floatplane taking off or landing, as well as various marine craft large and small. Spinnakers claims to be the oldest craft brewery in Canada, producing decent beer since 1984. I believe Mrs PC suggested we stay there, and after much protest, I agreed.

Oh alright, if I have to…(but not the cider or sours)

The beer menu is quite substantial, although once I’d ruled out sours and ciders, it all became manageable. Mrs PC enjoyed their Pilsner, I preferred the Original Pale Ale. And the Scottish ale. And the PNW ale. And the imperial stout. And the nut brown. Anyway, enough about breakfast.

Really?! Looks chilly.

Should you find yourself in Victoria, can I recommend the First Peoples gallery at the museum? Excellent displays depicting life pre and post European contact, with thoughtful and thought-provoking exhibits. Many items included original language as well as English explanations, and it was a joy to hear the language out loud. I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but the connection to – and respect for – land and sea came over as common sense time and again. We’ve lost so much, yet could still look back to find a model to help us move forward, environmentally speaking. Oh, and while we’re using common sense, let’s include total respect for ancestors and elders. Who’d have thought?

Taxi!

Enough of the preaching, because you’re probably desperate to know which beer was my favourite? Being a decisive sort, and after much consideration, I think it was the Original Pale Ale. No, the PNW ale. No, the stout, or was it the nut brown? The Scottish? My memory is failing me here, so I’ll have to go back for another visit, put in some proper research time. I think Mrs PC will insist on staying there again. Oh well…

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

Royal BC Museum

Spinnakers

Dawn Patrol

I have to say, we are very happy to fall back for a little while! It means we have an early morning walk during the week where we will see a few more sunrises.

Dawn patrol!

Yes, we’re on dawn patrol, and it’s been chilly enough to warrant a toque, and it’s a sure sign of shorter days and longer nights when a baseball cap just doesn’t cut it early in the day. I do don the cap in time for work though. I didn’t wear one the other day, and a student nearly fell off his chair, amazed that the little amount of hair on display was a touch grey.

“Oh, you’re quite old!”

I wasn’t too sure what this meant. Surprise? Disappointment? Disbelief? I wore a baseball cap the next day, as clearly the youth are convinced I’m young and vital, and the grey hair(s) remains hidden.

The fog is lifting

Speaking of youth, we had a fine evening earlier this week, when the older warriors taught the new young warriors some archery skills. Seeing the youth teach the children, and the young ones looking up to their older brothers and sisters with respect and a touch of awe was wonderful to see. Us really old youth – each mentor just happened to be wearing a baseball cap – had relatively little to do except take our turn and deliver arrows with unerring accuracy. I was deliberately aiming left, and anyway it was getting dark. And some of us young’uns don’t see so well as we used to.

Another good morning

Getting back to the dawn patrol, I’ll end by saying I can declare Tofino Brewing Dawn Patrol Coffee Porter worthy of five eagles and a salmon. Yes, it’s that good! I thought it would be, but since Wayne suggested the beer rating system I’ve had to wait for this particular beer to reappear on shelves, and it is as good as I remembered. If you like a porter, then this is very highly recommended. A fall/winter fireside sipper.

Did I mention I quite like this one?

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

PS Apologies for the “Leave a reply” section not working last week. No idea why it didn’t appear, and here’s hoping there are no glitches this week…

Good morning!

Inner Harbour, Outer Harbour, Eagle’s Nest, Whiskey Landing, Whaling Station, Crow’s Nest, Foggy Bean (on a weekend) and home. This is the recipe for a good morning, and it happens to be the route Scout insists on for our first walk of the day. She’s a sensible canine counsellor, leading me in the right direction, and she knows her subject well. The route isn’t the longest in distance, but there are often detours and visits to make along the way. From Scout’s perspective, routine doesn’t mean boring, so we stick with the tried and tested, and she’s right in this.

Leaving the harbours

Scout always checks her p-mail for messages, and ensures she leaves a reply – these are left at particular and precise patches of grass, ground and undergrowth, and she’s pretty happy with her communications.

Canine counsellor!

Recently, we’ve been forgetting to remember there is a grumpy heron hanging out under the Outer Harbour. It reminds us we’ve been a bother by taking off with a series of croaks and squawks, and it never fails to make me jump. Unfortunately, because I’m not so sharp on these early morning walks, I forget the heron is there and we do it all again the next day. My apologies to the harassed heron, and we’ll try to be less intrusive – if we remember.

Grumpy heron

It’s dark now when we set off, so the photos I’ve included this week were mostly taken last month. The sunrises and morning light have been quite beautiful, and we’re missing seeing these delights during the week. The plan is to force ourselves to wake up later on a weekend to catch sun up. The only catch to that is there might be a weekend line up at The Foggy Bean if we arrive later – last Saturday the line was two people, if you include me but not Scout. Life is good when line ups are that short.

Outer Harbour

Should you find yourself in the Foggy line, can I recommend their short Americano? Mrs PC says that’s good, but the cappuccino is even better. Choices, choices. Life is good if your biggest decision is cappuccino vs. Americano, and Scout still has a few dog biscuit treats left to distract her from your almond croissant. Go on, have the croissant, it’s the weekend.

Passing the whaling station

So there you have it – a morning routine as recommended by Scout, and one that will set you up for a good morning and beyond. It never gets old, and presently it rarely stays dry, but it works to keep this OldPlaidCamper more or less in his right mind and moving along.

Near the Eagle’s Nest

Inner Harbour, Outer Harbour, Eagle’s Nest, Whiskey Landing, Whaling Station, Crow’s Nest, Foggy Bean (on a weekend) and home.

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

Digging it

Really digging it. And no stone left unturned. A little more detail this week to follow up on last week. This one is a bit preachy – that’s a heads up, not an apology…

Digging it

The students I was with were really digging being scientists. From a plankton tow, to measuring sea salinity and water temperatures, to searching for intertidal wildlife, the young ones showed they really, really care about the place they live, even if some of the creatures they were looking for can’t easily be seen with the naked eye.

Sooo cute?! I think so…

Plankton! Phytoplankton! Zooplankton! These little plants and critters are sooo cute (not my words, but I understand the sentiment) and utterly astonishing when viewed under a microscope. We all – quite rightly – get alarmed by the rate at which forests are clear cut, slashed and burned, and generally mistreated in the name of resource extraction, worried that these acts of destruction are steadily ruining the “lungs” of the planet. Last week, students learned from their instructors that forests contribute approximately one third of the Earth’s oxygen. The other two thirds? Yup, you guessed it, from marine plants, and particularly or significantly from phytoplankton. The larger lung of the planet, absorbing carbon and producing oxygen, the all important base of the aquatic food chain, these tiny plants perform a mighty task. Good thing we’re being so kind to the oceans…

On the ocean, in the ocean

Students enjoyed seeing aquatic life through microscopes, in laboratory touch tanks, and even better, out on and in the ocean waters. By exploring, seeing, touching, drawing, identifying and naming a variety of marine life, the students came to care (more) about their local environment, and see how what is local and necessary for them is also local and necessary for everywhere else and everything else.

Think green, go on, dive right in

These young ones, they see the connections, can follow a line from the smallest creatures to the largest, from the bottom of the ocean floor to the high edge of our atmospheric envelope. Lofty stuff, and here’s hoping their caring example is enough to maintain, restore and protect our precious planet. Forget about the childish adults denying a climate crisis and belittling those (young and old) who care to hear the truth of science and dare to suggest solutions. Instead, aim to support the next generation of scientists and activists, the young people inheriting our woeful environmental legacy, and hope for them that they have enough time to act to secure a sustainable future.

Passing through, like we all are…

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

Wizard Island

This isn’t a post about elves or unicorns (or hobbits) – phew – but how about some magic? I will, due to being rather tired, be very brief this week, and I promise to write something a bit more detailed next week.

Leaving Bamfield, and we’re off to Wizard Island

I was on Wizard Island – yes, really – earlier this week, learning alongside a small group of students, splashing about in the intertidal zone, slipping on seaweed and scraping hands and knees on barnacles. We were being scientists, uncovering then sharing our discoveries, beaming our explorations live to students at UVic, and generally having a fine old time in the middle of Barkley Sound.

As far as these students were concerned, we were in (on?) the best possible classroom, transported there in a small aluminum boat, past bald eagles, basking seals, foraging bears, and with the prospect of a humpback whale sighting. We were lucky enough to spot three humpbacks spouting on our trip back, and I wish you could have seen the students when this happened! Such excitement, because we were relatively close, and this excitement from young ones quite used to spotting whales from the shore.

Barkley brilliance

All this and their first ever media appearance before 10 o’clock in the morning. Not that I couldn’t keep up – I did, just about – but I am mighty tired in the best possible way after three full days of marine activity. I will sign off this week with a few more photographs from Wizard Island. I don’t know about magic, but I do believe there are magical places…

More to follow. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

“We’re media stars!”

Early morning whiskey…

…on the rocks and the docks! Seems a bit early in the day.

It’s ok, I’ve not actually taken to having something extra with my cereal to kick start the day. If I did, my day would be very short, and, full disclosure, I don’t really like whiskey. Craft beer on cornflakes just doesn’t work. So I’m told. Anyway, the following is a short shot, sort of a briny pick-me-up – if needed.

I like this whiskey – Whiskey Landing

So what’s with the early morning whiskey? Why, the view from Whiskey Landing, and also from the harbours. There’s always the view to take in, or a boat to admire, heading out or heading in. Fishing here isn’t ruled by the sun coming up or going down, it seems to be a 24/7 activity, most weathers permitting.

Ucluelet Outer Harbour

We’ve had all the weather this week, from misty mornings, to warm and sunny afternoons. For the last couple of days we’ve enjoyed some heavy and overdue rain. The river levels will be up, which is good news for the salmon run.

Early morning light, with a promise of (some) sun later

I’ve not seen many bald eagles the last week or two, and I hear it’s likely they’ve headed out to the salmon streams, with a promise of a good feed. On feeding, we’ve seen plenty of bears and bear scat this week. My most frequent sighting has been of a mama and cub over the bay, foraging for crabs and other tasty morsels along the shore. I keep meaning to take my camera, but what with it being early morning and all that whiskey, I keep forgetting. Maybe next week, and I’ll snap a bear…

On the rocks!

On the rocks? We hadn’t been on an oceanside trail for quite some time, so when we did, Scout was insistent on dragging me onto the rocks. With some nimble footwork (her) and some slipping and cursing (me) we remembered our way to a favourite perch overlooking the ocean. Once there, we opted to stay awhile, topping up our glasses and toasting our good fortune. Not a bad recipe – a little isolation, a peaceful location, a dash of favourable weather, combine to enjoy a well balanced mix. I’ll drink to that!

“What’s he talking about? Getting here was easy!”

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

Not with your cornflakes. Cheers!

We ramble on (somewhat dazed and confused…)

Can it really be September already?! Not too much has changed, weather wise, it being misty in the mornings and then sunny later in the day. Yes, it’s September because I find myself back in school, almost working for a living, and my time isn’t quite all my own…

Early morning silver glow

Not to worry, and it’s not too bad, because Scout and I have taken to our new time shifted routine, and we’re very much enjoying our early morning plod and pee about Ucluelet. I know, it’s easy on the early morning walk when the weather is fine, just wait until it’s dark, PC, and the rains have started. Oh, I should probably say it’s Scout doing the peeing on these walks (it’s not dark enough for me, yet…)

We like how the climbing sun glows through the early morning mist and fog, creating pockets of warm humidity, and we stand there sweating lightly and quietly, with me realizing I’ll have to change my shirt before setting off to work.

Warmer than it looks – we sometimes do a misty mountain hop just here

Apologies for the rather damp post this week. As you can see, my mind will ramble on. Ramble On! This has been the tune playing in my head as we’ve been out and about, and it’s a favourite, apart from the closing lines referring to hobbits or whatever. I’m not anti-hobbit – I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings several times as a young one, but after the first time always skipped the hobbity songs and stuff.

“What is he rambling on about now? Look, it warms up later!”

Clearly, having to be back at work has left me a little weary, at least if this piece is anything to go by. It’s a communication breakdown! I’ll leave it here, rest awhile, perhaps enjoy a second breakfast, before picking myself up and rambling on into the weekend and next week.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

A theft!

When I think about it, maybe theft isn’t quite the right word. I otter know, because I was a witness to the alleged crime. With that said, if gang related incidents cause you distress, it’s best you stop reading.

Marina in front of the Eagle’s Nest

Not so long ago, we were sat up on the sun deck at The Eagle’s Nest, enjoying the view across the bay, and enjoying a glass of Tofino Blonde. I think our reason for an early afternoon beer was that it was sunny and early afternoon. We’d been out for a wander around the harbours, had sat and observed a bear foraging along the far shore, and perhaps thought we’d better sit down some more somewhere else.

The Dixie IV observing a bear

Anyway, from the deck you can observe the small craft coming and going, keep an eye on the bald eagles flying to and fro, and witness the total bird commotion caused when a fishing boat, large or small, passes by with a catch. There’s a small processing station just in front of the pub, and it was here the crime took place.

We like to watch the planes

A fisherman was taking care of his haul, and it looked like he’d had a pretty good day, with several fish in a cooler by his feet as well as the one he was dealing with on the table. Gulls were taking a keen interest in his work, and perhaps they distracted the poor chap. While he was looking over at the gulls, a river otter popped up onto the dock, enticed by the catch in the cooler. Bold as you like, the otter grasped a large fish in its jaws and pulled it across the deck towards the water. The fisherman caught sight of the movement at his feet, and hesitated, one hand on the fish at the table, and the other holding his filleting knife. This hesitation – was he concerned the gulls would pounce as he dealt with the otter? – proved costly, and when he took a step towards the otter, it was too late. Splash! A few ripples and then nothing. The fisherman smiled and shrugged, put a lid on the cooler, and went back to filleting his catch. He did stop every now and then to take a look over his shoulder.

Tough guy (in the middle) coming back for more – get a lid on those fish…

I don’t know much about gang life, I’ve heard of the Bloods and the Crips, and seen motorcycle gangs out on the highways, but the Ucluelet River Otters are a whole different kind of notorious, particularly around the docks of Ucluelet. You keep your bait and tackle box closed when these fellows are about, and maybe don’t go down the gangways by yourself.

As we finished our drinks, we saw the otter come back up onto a different floating dock behind the filleting station. Was he going to have another go?! Then another otter popped up, and another, and another. The whole gang was there! They scurried towards the cooler and then back, testing to see if the fisherman had noticed them. Oh, he was wise to their ways, and quickly completed his tasks and made off home, one fish lighter than he’d hoped for. The Ucluelet River Otter Gang loitered for a few more minutes, looking tough and territorial, before slipping back into the water. They were probably cruising round to check out the Inner Harbour…

I like the pint, and I like the view. A good pint of view. Cheers!

We sympathized a little with the fisherman, but mostly we were rooting for and applauding the opportunism and silky skills of the otter. If we’re called to testify, we’ll say we saw nothing. I’m not messing with the River Otter Gang.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!