August already?

Well, this summer is flying by! We’re starting August with a sneak preview of autumn, expecting somewhere between 100-150mm of rain Thursday through Friday. By the time this piece is posted, the front will have blown through and gentle sunshine will reappear, enough to warm things up and kick start Fogust. It’s always meteorologically interesting on the west coast!August/Fogust

Last weekend saw the Ukee Days celebration, a fun acknowledgement of life at the end of the road. Saturday started with a parade – every vehicle with a siren seemed to participate, much to the delight of the children lining the route. There were some amusing sights to go with the sound. The parade went down Seaplane Base Road to the fairground and a field of tempting deep fried foods and a beer garden. As you know, I’m quite an avid gardener and did peruse the beer garden. The Tofino Blonde was thriving…

After an afternoon of logger sports – axe throwing – and a talent show, Saturday night ended with a more musical noise, four local-to-the-island bands entertaining the crowd. There were more kids and families and less marijuana than last year, and call me an old fuddyduddy, but this seemed better. Maybe it was too many visits to the beer garden, but for the life of me I couldn’t understand or hear the words being sung by Illvis Freshly – Back It Up – but they were energetic in their delivery.

We recovered from Saturday by taking a long beach hike and our dinner out to Wick Beach late afternoon/early evening, enjoying the long stretch of sand and all the quiet. Moderate Pacific waves rolling in at the turn of the tide, with sandpipers scurrying and bald eagles swooping and gliding. Best of all, an osprey dropped into the surf and came up with a fishy prize. As it turned back to shore, it had to evade a bald eagle intent on a share – or all – of the treasure. The osprey got away.

It’s not been all beach walks and loud music music the past week. We’ve also maintained our commitment to propping up the local coffee economy with fairly frequent stops at either the Gray Whale (maybe the best coffee in Ucluelet, so let’s keep that our little secret) or The Foggy Bean (possibly the best named coffee in Ucluelet or even the universe, but it’s ok to disagree!) I particularly enjoy going to The Foggy Bean because they are located in the renovated church that is also going to house the new Ucluelet Brewing Company. Opening Summer 2018! Nope, opening Summer 2019! Nope, opening October 2019. We’ll see. I like to press my nose up against the window pane to check on the progress inside. I can say they are currently a staircase short of a riser or two. No, really. October seems optimistic, but here’s hoping.Coffee stop – four coffee shops two minutes or less from here (but keep that quiet)

I’ll leave it here for this week. As I look out of the window, I can see the “atmospheric river” (thank you, Weather Network) is currently flowing over Ucluelet, and there’s a very pleasant drumming of raindrops on the roof. I can’t make out the words, but the rhythm is great.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Rain – The Cult

The fish were jumping…

…well, three or four made a splash near our kayaks as we paddled in the bay earlier this week. The fish, eagles, bears and other birds have been a welcome distraction from the unicorns frolicking in the sunny uplands of Brexit Britain – all will be well there if the new PM is to be believed. Politically, it all seems so depressing on both sides of the Atlantic. Racism and xenophobia aiming to be the new normal, and if you disagree you’re unpatriotic or a pessimist… No wonder we decided to stay away from the news and head out onto the water. Better use of time and all that.

Sparkling

We spent a couple of very enjoyable warm and sunny mornings on the water, the first chance we’ve had this summer to bob about a bit, and very calming it was too. You know, if we needed calming.

Winds were light, almost nonexistent – they tend to pick up into the afternoon out here, so a morning paddle is often best. Away from the relative hustle and bustle of the kayak launch – there is a small campsite nearby, and sometimes there are as many as four or five people – we found ourselves paddling along the shore at the foot of Mt. Ozzard, with splashing fish and singing birds for company, and no need for unicorns.

Paddling

I love the way a bald eagle floats across a line of trees. From the water, it looks like the eagle will disappear into the forest or over and out of sight, but often it’s the angle playing a trick on my eyes. Or it’s my eyes. The eagle flaps once or twice and then glides along just below the tree tops. Always a wonderful sight.

Splashing

The fish were splashing, birds were singing, eagles were gliding and a floatplane was buzzing. Eventually caught sight of it lining up for a smooth landing further down the bay. They are noisy, but I have to admit to liking the buzz of a floatplane, and I think of the passengers inside, a lucky group who have just seen the coastal islands from high above on a sunny day.

Buzzing

I expect we’ll be paddling a few more times in the next little while. We plan to bring a lunch and haul ourselves out onto the shore somewhere, rest up on a log and eat before a bear chases us off. Or a unicorn. We’ve scanned the far shore and picked out a couple of likely looking spots. More to follow…

Unicorn friendly

Thanks for reading, here’s hoping for some light news days, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Summer snaps

Oh no, please don’t let this be a slideshow of an OldPlaidCamper summer vacation, akin to those endured by some in the 1970s. You remember, where your neighbours invite you round to see their holiday snaps projected onto a wall, and there’s a bowl of peanuts and a glass of warm flat lemonade for refreshments. Yikes/shudder. Slightly sweaty after writing that, a disconcerting flashback to a happy childhood. Stranger things in an earlier decade…

Mrs. PC took this excellent summer snap. I’m certainly looking my best here…

No, nothing like that. A brief post because I should be packing and finding my passport for the lightning trip to northern Britain starting Friday. Instead of getting that organized, we’ve been enjoying the start of our summer, spending time on the beach, on the trails and in the hammock. The hammock is thanks to US Brother PlaidCamper, sent to us after he stayed last summer and endured the disappointment of our little balcony sans hammock. It’s lovely to have, but sure does take up some space. A bit like having your brother visit. I’ll be paying it forward by visiting UK Brother PlaidCamper. I hope he has a hammock.

I’m assuming mama bear was close by – I didn’t hang around to find out

Bears and bald eagles have been our major wildlife sightings, as well as a wolf – yes, at last, a wolf! The wolf was spotted by Mrs. PC a couple of weeks ago, lurking outside a restaurant just up the road, a place called Howlers. It’s like the wolf knew. Then I saw it a few days later, again just outside Howlers. In the end, we’d convinced ourselves perhaps it was a large wolf-dog hybrid, as there are a fair few locally, and the animal we saw didn’t seem too bothered by the people about. On Wednesday, there was a public message posted, warning residents of a wolf in the vicinity of Howlers, so a wolf it probably is. I wish I’d been able to take a photo. Maybe I’ll head over to Howlers after writing this. They do a good veggie burger, decent fries, and they have Tofino blonde on tap – a good evening even if the wolf stays (wisely) away! Displacement activity from packing? Yup.

Warmer than it appears

The weather has generally been gusty, grey and dry, with occasional bursts of sunshine in between low cloud, some murk and almost fog. Never too cold, and never too hot, always comfortable enough when we’re out and about. And comfortable enough for some hammock time.

“Forget the hammock – we have the beach!”

The snaps included with this piece were all taken in the past week, and if you’re desperate for something to do this weekend, please feel free to use them in a wall-projected slideshow presentation – viewing enjoyment is enhanced with flat lemonade and a bowl of peanuts…

Cold, no peanuts required

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Canada

It’s almost Canada Day already?! Monday July 1st, if you were wondering…

Sunny ways!

Canada! It’s not a perfect country, not by a long way, but in the years that we’ve lived here, it’s always seemed like a country striving to improve. Much more needs to be done related to environmental concerns, and more to eliminate poverty and raise the standard of living for all residents and citizens. There is a challenge in achieving a successful and sustaining economy that isn’t simply a resource extraction economy. Why further erode the land, air and water that sustains us just to make more money than a person could possibly need, and at the health expense of fellow citizens?

Not always sunny…

Warts and all, I can’t imagine living anywhere else, and Canada Day is a time for us to feel grateful about being Canadian. Our citizenship here is something we don’t take for granted.

It can sometimes seem the world is falling into madness, what with demands for walls, the deliberate undermining of alliances that were originally made to prevent conflict, and what feels like an unhappy lurch to the right and a tendency to blame everyone else at the same time as failing to take responsibility or action for planetary woes. Goodness, long sentence there. In that light, Canada makes a sort of sense to me. As I said, not perfect, but not likely to cause global ripples – or worse – due to destructive childish tantrums designed to fulfil the narcissistic need for attention at any cost. I’d better stop with these long sentences, and the content, not good for anyone’s wellbeing.

Medicinal, take after reading news…

Yes, enough of all that. Every day is Canada Day around here, and that makes me (a bit of a curmudgeon from time to time) smile. All the photos are images from the past week, and they have a Canadian flavour – mostly because they were taken in Canada!

Canadian flavour – it has been so dry, we resorted to breeze blocks for the salmon berry stakes! Rained the day after, but wonderfully sunny for lunch in the school garden.

If you’re Canadian, know a Canadian, have been to Canada, want to live in Canada, or simply enjoy hockey and maple syrup, then happy Canada Day to you for Monday!

Thanks for reading, and I hope you 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…

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!

Scavenging

Last Friday turned into a pretty good Good Friday. Sunshine was promised and eventually made an appearance in the early afternoon. It seemed like a beach day, so that is where we went.

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This is where we went

We hadn’t been to Wick Beach in quite a while, and it was a very pleasant stroll we were having when we saw quite a crowd of ravens hopping about a clump of something in the distance. As we approached, the ravens flapped off, and we could see the sizeable remains of – I think – a sea lion. We skirted past swiftly, not wanting to enjoy the aroma any longer than necessary, and to give space back to the ravens.

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“Ooh, just a quick peck…”

A little way beyond the body we saw a juvenile eagle sitting on a stump, no doubt waiting for us to move on, and perhaps hoping the ravens would leave a little something.DSCF8062

As we wandered by, two adult bald eagles flew past us towards the remains. We thought it was starting to get rather crowded. If it hadn’t been dead, the sea lion could have become quite irritated with all the attention…DSCF8073

We kept going up the beach, and eventually hunkered down in front of the dunes, slightly elevated on a log and amongst the long grasses. From there, the cadaver commotion was almost out of sight, and we switched our attention to the ocean, looking out for and spotting many spouting whales.DSCF8064

Once we’d finished our coffee, after Scout had demolished a fair chunk of washed up log, and given up digging a deep hole in the sand for me to fall into as I stood, we set off back down the beach. As we drew closer to the corpse, we could see quite a crowd. Three adult bald eagles, two juveniles, and a smattering of ravens were figuring out how the goodies were going to be shared.

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“Save some for me – I’m still growing…”

We stuck to the dune side of the beach, not wanting to get involved, and anyway, after coffee and chocolate, we weren’t feeling the need to scavenge. I couldn’t believe Scout wasn’t more interested in the proceedings, but she wasn’t.

The photographs I took were at the outer limits of what my camera and shaky hands could handle, and really none too sharp, but I’ve used them here anyway, in case you’re a fan of partially consumed corpses…

When we got home, I got caught up on the blogs I enjoy, and one of them was a perfect piece to read after our earlier adventure. It made me stop and think about how vulnerable many species are. Living out here, one could (but I’m not) become a bit complacent about the numerous bald eagle sightings we are blessed with. If you have the time, I heartily recommend you head over to read Jet Eliot – you won’t be sorry!DSCF8083

If the weather holds – and it has turned warm and sunny this week – then perhaps we’ll head up Wick once again over the coming weekend, check out the state of the scavenged. I doubt there’ll be much left, maybe not much more than a few picked over and pecked clean bones. That’s life, and death.

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