I was sailing under a watercolour sky the other day! The happy travels of a nautical PlaidCamper – it all sounds rather lovely…
Sadly, or wisely, I haven’t bought a yacht, and the vessel I’d boarded was a car ferry, the “Coastal Inspiration”, operated by BC Ferries. Perhaps not the most romantic boat on the water, but if you board early, as I did, your car ends up parked up front, with splendid views ahead.
We’ve always been lucky whenever we take a BC Ferry – the weather has been kind. Given the amount of fog and rain the PNW receives, by now we should have had a murky or wet crossing or two, but so far, not too bad. Well, that’ll change next time, now I’ve gone and written that…
Although it was blustery up top and in front, the sea and sky scapes were pretty amazing as we left Duke Point and headed for Tsawassen. Once again, the photos this week were taken on my camera phone. I have got to get back to carrying my camera – getting forgetful with the passing years.
What was I saying? Oh yes, the views from on board. Mountains on the island, and mountains on the mainland. The British Columbia coast is beautiful! Last week it was full of soft blues, greys, oranges, and pinks that made it seem like we were sailing in a watercolour. A little fanciful, but very enjoyable as we bobbed about on the Salish Sea. Truthfully, there was not that much bobbing, it being a large car ferry and in calm conditions, which was a good thing. The last time I was out in a whale watching zodiac, everything was wonderful when zooming along, but the rise and fall of the lightish swell when we stopped to observe whales left me feeling somewhat queasy and green – I almost made the water colour. Enough about that.
Anyway, a brief post this week to share a few shots of the sea and sky from last week. Back in the city now, and not particularly enjoying the round of chinooks and associated slush. Drip, drip, drip, and then overnight freeze, freeze, freeze, so the following morning we can all slip, slip, slip. Ah, all is well – a PlaidCamper with something minor to complain about.
I think it is time for a suitably seasonal travel tale. How about a mighty mountain road adventure? All that follows is (mostly) true. If it helps, I hear the voice of Brian Blessed in the parts where there is a weather god laughing. I hope you know what I mean, there. Where is this going? Where were we going? Read on, if you have the time. We certainly had an interesting time as we travelled across Western Canada earlier this week.
If you’ve read one or two of the more recent posts, there’s a chance you have spotted a recurring theme. Theme is too strong a word – it is more realistic to describe it as a repetitive sulk – where I might have mentioned a distinct lack of snow the past six weeks? So of course the day we decided to leave a little earlier than planned (due to the lack of snow, why stick around any longer?) and head to the coast, was the day the snow gods decided to heed one man’s whining:
“Is that another snow prayer from the plaid clad little man? We cannot and should not put up with his incessant complaining any longer – it’s headache inducing, and I already have a slight hangover and blurred vision. That new mead with the lavender honey is quite delicious, and rather potent too. Just look at all this snow we’ve made, it needs using. We can’t keep it in the house, erm, I mean the great hall, any longer, there’s no room for our new barrels of craft mead. That checked-shirted irritant drives a black Jeep. He was packing the car last night, so when he leaves later, let’s point the snow cannon at his vehicle. He wants snow? Then snow he shall have, hahahaha!”
You have to love the snow gods, they’ve got a great sense of humour. Snow gods do exist, don’t they? Not too sure about all the craft mead – and adding honey/drinking from a cup in the shape of a horn doesn’t make for a better beer. Still, I guess if you’re a weather god, you get to drink what you like from any cup you choose. Lavender, though? Shudder…
Our trip got off to a great start! Approaching the mountains on Highway 1, we could see there had been snowfall. When we passed through Canmore, there was fresh snow! Yes, we did stop at Le Fournil to top up our coffee and buy a pastry for later…
When we paused to pee in Field – my goodness it was cold there – they had received fresh snow. It looked properly wintry.
On we went to Revelstoke, stopping to gas up the car, and refill the travel mugs – Tim’s dark roast – and the first few real flurries of the day were starting to fall. Clearly the snow gods were recovering from their hangovers, and their blurred vision was clearing – the aim on our car was much better.
By Salmon Arm the flakes were really quite impressive, and along the valley towards Kamloops, the weather gods let loose with their celestial snow cannons! Big flakes in what we are more used to seeing as summertime high desert country.
At Kamloops, the overhead traffic signs warned that the highway ahead was closed beyond Merritt due to heavy snow. Thanks, Drive BC, that was good to know. (There was no mention of annoyed snow gods targeting the route – essential information, but there isn’t enough room on the signs to include all the details or hahahas…) What to do? Stay in Kamloops or push on? We decided to press on – our motel room in Merritt was booked, and if the route beyond was closed, we could worry about that the next day.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Next time we’ll stop in Kamloops! Poking the sleeping – drinking? – snow gods is not a good idea. The Coquihalla Highway between Kamloops and Hope is a high mountain road that can get snow any time of year. On a clear day, the drive from Kamloops to Merritt is less than an hour. If the weather gods have you in their snow sights, it’ll take well over two hours, and it won’t be fun. I like driving, and I like snow, but sometimes it turns out you don’t want both. What kind of fool would offer up a prayer for snow?
The light was fading – it hadn’t exactly been bright all afternoon – and the snow was very heavy. Yikes, that part of the journey was a white-knuckle whiteout! I am forever grateful to the driver of the white pickup just in front of us. S/he had their hazard lights flashing, and from time to time, if they hadn’t been on, I’m not sure I’d have picked out the road quite as well in the snow and dark. We were stopping in Merritt anyway, but even if the road had been open further ahead, there was no way I’d have continued. It was a scary ride, and not helped by the occasional brain dead driver hurtling past in the unploughed lane. Hey, you brain dead drivers? Thanks for throwing up the extra snow, because honestly, it wasn’t challenging enough already. Do you have sight that allows you to see through a snowstorm at night? You do? Oh, my apologies, and what a gift…
Anyway, we made it to Merritt, and after checking in and eating that pastry from earlier, I popped into a beer store and bought a horn of craft mead. Isn’t that something, mead by the horn in Merritt – who knew? Stepping outside into the cold and snowy night air, I raised it to the skies, and gave thanks for our safe arrival. I also put in an apology for all those pesky snow prayers, and made a request for clear skies the next day. No harm in asking. Then I hurried back to the motel. People were staring…
What do you know, dawn revealed clear skies and an open road all the way to the coast. Thank you snow gods, and gods of weather and travel in general – I knew you were real, and you’re the best!
“Hahahaha, that little fellow in the patterned shirts won’t be bothering us for quite a while, hahahaha! Ooh, the lavender honey really works in a horn of mead, doesn’t it? Fragrant! Is there any more?”
Thanks for reading, and if you celebrate Christmas, enjoy the coming weekend and beyond. Perhaps you’ll drink a horn of mead, hahahaha?
Just love them! And if the small town is also a mountain town, so much the better!
We went to visit friends in Canmore last weekend. Oh, wait a moment – before we get to that, what about the newish weekly PlaidCamper weather report/complaint? You really want to read that? OK, I’ll get it out of the way early – yes, there was some mountain snow, but it was all at higher elevations, nothing new lower down, and still no sign of snow here in Calgary. On the afternoon we headed for Canmore, the city afternoon high was 16C. Hmm.
Not as scorchio! as that in Canmore, but when we went for a short wander, it was still rather warm for the time of year. Luckily, Canmore made up for the lack of winter by being a small mountain town. Almost wherever you are in town, look up and around and you’ll see mountains, a constant reminder you’re nestled in the big outdoors.
If the weather isn’t cooperating for your hoped for adventures, Canmore has the right ingredients for spending time in a small town. Micro-brewery? Check! Visit The Grizzly Paw, either at the pub on Main Street or at the brewery on the Old Canmore Road. I wasn’t a huge fan a few years ago – many of their beers seemed too sweet and sticky to me – but when they opened their new facility and launched the Rundlestone session ale, I was a convert. (Also, I’m going to have to find a bottle or two of the seasonal Larch Valley porter before it sells out – oh no, another trip to Canmore seems in order!)
Coffee shops? Check! Whenever we are passing through, we often (always?) stop at Le Fournil Bakery. Here you will find some of the best flaky pastries outside Quebec – that could be an exaggeration because we haven’t tried all the pastries in or out of Quebec, but the mission is ongoing – and excellent coffee. A quick stop often turns into a longer stop, and you might as well buy a baguette or a croissant or two for cabin breakfast the next day…
If you’re heading to a cabin, won’t you need something to read when you’re sipping your evening session ale by the wood stove? Independent bookstore? Check! If you’re down to the last chapter or two of your current read and didn’t pack another book, no worries. After your coffee, stroll over to Cafebooks and choose your next great read. It’s comfortable in there, and perhaps you’ll pause for (another!) cup of coffee, or tea. Go on, the cabin isn’t going anywhere, you’ve got time…
Hungry? Maybe more time passed in the bookstore than you realized, and you fancy something to eat before moving on? Great restaurants? Check! I’m biased on this one, because Junior trained and worked at The Crazyweed Restaurant, but even if she hadn’t, I’d recommend lunch or dinner here. Great menu, good beer and wine selections, and an easy walk from where our Canmore buddies live, so no short straw game for choosing the designated driver. There are many great dining options in Canmore, but they didn’t train the next big thing in the culinary arts, so no mention for them…
Alright, maybe that’s enough – I’m not being paid or sponsored by the town tourism board – but I really like Canmore! It is a lovely example of a small mountain town, and fun to visit in any season. Biking, hiking, climbing, paddling a canoe, clinging onto a raft in whitewater, skiing, snowshoeing, snowboarding, xc skiing, camping, horse riding, or simply wandering about the town, Canmore is a great base for Rocky Mountain adventures. (I get pleasantly exhausted just reading that list!) You could spend a week or two, make it a weekend visit, or a quick stop on a longer trip, and you’ll always want to return. You might even want to make Canmore your permanent home – this is what our friends did after many years of vacation visits. Good choice!
Thanks for reading, and if you’ve a favourite small town to recommend, mountains or not, feel free to share it in the comments. Have a wonderful weekend!
A strange blog post title – what’s going on? Best answer these questions, PlaidCamper.
I thought I’d write this a few months early, as winter appears to have come and gone, and Calgary is gripped by an early spring. Temperatures hitting 12C (!) the next couple of days, and last time I checked the 14 day forecast, the seasonal daytime high of 0C won’t be happening until late December. If this keeps up, expect a photograph of a daffodil next week…
Calgary has spring, and I’ve had man flu – very disappointing to have a winter affliction when it isn’t even winter outside. Doesn’t seem fair. Luckily, I’d never complain about the weather, and likewise, I’d never complain about feeling under the weather. Nope, I may be gripped by man flu, or worse, but you won’t hear a peep. Perhaps a sniff, sneeze, cough, and a small whimper, but that’s about all.
Having been confined to my sick bed (or sofa), I thought I’d recommend a couple of movies where winter does make an appearance. It’s the only snow we’ve seen for a while.
Let’s start with Wind River (dir. Taylor Sheridan, VVS 2017), one of the few decent movies for grown ups (they let me in) released since the summer, worth your time if you enjoy a slow burn story, arresting scenery, and great performances. Sheridan wrote this, and he wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water, also good movies. If you’ve seen the others, you’ll know Sheridan enjoys a stand off. The characters he creates aren’t always the most immediately accessible or likeable, but you’ll care about them when the stand off occurs.
In Wind River, we start with death on a reservation, followed by death in the past, then more death on a reservation, and finishing up with a bit more death high above a Wyoming reservation. It isn’t the most cheerful of movies, although there are glimmers of hope in the troubled lives of key characters. The story touches on family grief, notions of justice, wasted lives, greed over resource extraction, racial tension, friendship and duplicity. Fortunately, there is also a sprinkling of deadpan humour. And lots and lots of snow. All this in less than two hours, and it is a taut little mystery.
Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner are convincing in their roles, Renner as a hunter, Olsen as a rookie FBI agent. We can thank Sheridan as writer for avoiding what could have been a horribly cliched relationship between these two. The smaller roles are well cast and well acted, and the snowy mountain landscapes are beautiful. When the mystery of what happened to the original victim is revealed in a long flashback, it adds to the drama of what happens next. Great storytelling.
If all the gloomy death and despair of Wind River isn’t for you, then let me recommend a different movie. Be warned, it also features death, but there is far more fun to be had in Murder on the Orient Express (dir. Kenneth Branagh, 20th Century Fox 2017), if you are ok with watching a retelling of a story told countless times before.
I wasn’t too sure about seeing this one. I’d seen a trailer, and it was a touch off-putting. That moustache! The hammy-sounding Brit accents (I have one of those) and ‘eavy Belgian prrro-nun-cee-ation. Hmm – cliche and scenery-chewing alert!
Well, it was a blast! It’s hard to complain about a wonderfully familiar cast of good actors clearly enjoying themselves. Branagh is confident marshalling his players, giving each just enough space to shine.
The train is rolling through striking mountain scenery when a disaster strikes! It is stuck on a huge trestle bridge suspended over a deep, deep gorge after an avalanche blocks the track, derailing the steam engine. There is lots and lots of snow. There is a murder! Poirot has to solve the case before the avalanche is cleared, the engine restored, and the train is able to continue.
In what is essentially a one set movie after the murder occurs, the delights are in the encounters Branagh’s Poirot has with character after character. The movie isn’t derailed and the story doesn’t run out of steam, even if you know what happens. Branagh himself gives a distinctive performance as Poirot, humanizing him behind the huge whiskers and sharp detective intellect.
This movie is good to look at! As well as the colourful period costumes, the train’s interiors are glorious, all cut glass, wooden sheen, crisp tablecloths and gleaming silverware. This is a throwback movie, old-fashioned yet revelling in subverting an age that wasn’t as golden or glamorous as it appears. A fun film, if a story about murder is allowed to be fun.
There you have it, a couple of deeply different movies to enjoy on a dark winter (fake spring?) evening if you are feeling sorry for yourself with a bit of a cold. Thank goodness I was able to get a winter fix, even if it took a murder or two and some CGI…
I got all excited a few weeks ago because there was an early blast of winter at the start of November. Since then it has been somewhat disappointing (if you enjoy snow) with barely a flurry and higher than average temperatures. Several Chinooks have eaten what snow there was, and the forecast for the next couple of weeks doesn’t hold much promise. Still, being so close to the mountains, that could change…
Oh yes, the mountains, there’s snow out there! A few weeks ago we took a little detour in Mount Revelstoke National Park, and drove up the Meadows in the Sky Parkway, wondering if there’d be snow up top in early October, and looking for a place to eat a picnic lunch. We didn’t see snow, but we did have expansive views and fall colours to enjoy, and there was a hint of snow on higher peaks all around.
The Parkway is a very pleasant drive. In summer there are meadows of wildflowers, but I’m told there are also large crowds, so go early or late in the day. Or go in the shoulder seasons, when flowers aren’t likely, but it’ll be quiet, as it was on the day we were there. At midday, there were only a few other cars sharing the winding switchback road to the top. There is a change from cedar rainforest on the low slopes to alpine fir and spruce, and at the top you’ll find fragile high alpine growth. There are a few short loops and there and back trails to explore. The summit trail was closed due to a bear in the area. It’s lovely up there, and home to a few happy bears, not that we saw any.
A quick trip back to earlier this fall, and a time when we were anticipating snow. Let’s hope December delivers – once the fall colour is gone, it’s best to put on some snow!
Sounds like a prison sentence, but it wasn’t confining, far from it. A short piece this week, about a short walk taken a short distance from home.
We’ve had fluctuating temperatures and a few more bits and pieces of snow, so the freeze, slight thaw, and refreeze has made some of the back roads slightly slick already. I like the slip and slide of tires as the car searches for grip, it means winter is truly upon us.
We went to an open stretch of space, one of the nearest to where we live in the city, Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. Only a half hour trip by car, and we were treated to a long stretch, mentally, and a short stretch, physically. What a sight! Rolling foothills with a light dusting of snow, and beyond the hills, the mountains reaching up in the distance.
The day was windy to start, and even more blustery out of the city and on exposed hillsides, but the brisk cold and long views underneath blue skies were invigorating.
Close up, under our noses, the view was pretty good, with patches of red berries, and clumps of golden grass poking through the snow. Small beauties to smile over. Then there was the big picture, with the snow both smoothing the landscape and highlighting the contours away and away and away. How can a view like this be contained in a camera phone image? I couldn’t do it!
Face west, reach out and stretch wide to the south, and the mountains recede into the distance, beyond fingertips. Do the same to the north, and the same thing. So much to embrace, more than you can hold. What a range!
There was a search and rescue team out in the park, wonderful people, training and honing their essential skills. They were stopping to study tracks, looking for signs of their “missing” person, and asked if we’d seen anyone in difficulty? We hadn’t, although it was difficult to return to the car – it wouldn’t have been too bad to stay out a bit longer, be just a little bit lost.
A short walk a short distance from home that provided long, long views – it’s no stretch to say we are lucky to be where we are.
Thanks for reading – I hope you get a chance to stretch outdoors – and have a wonderful weekend!
Yes, I got held up on a return to Calgary recently. Now that sounds exciting – a highway robbery? Stand and deliver! You’d best stop reading now if that’s your hope for this piece. This is about a different sort of hold up.
The highway was closed due to a rock fall and wasn’t scheduled to reopen for a few hours. Fortunately, if fortune is a feature of travel delay, I was in Revelstoke, BC, and that’s never a bad thing. I love the situation of this little town, nestled along the Columbia River with towering mountains all around. We’ve enjoyed camping nearby, exploring the beautiful area around and about. In the small downtown there are stores catering to all season outdoor activities, a few coffee shops and eating houses, and a realtor or two reminding us we can’t really afford small town mountain living.
Anyway, here was an unexpected opportunity to spend a few hours in a favourite place. But did I venture into the little downtown to while away my waiting time in an independent coffee shop? Take the opportunity to browse the gear and flannel shirts in those outdoor stores? Enjoy a short rainy hike along the picturesque river banks? I did not! Having filled up the car for the last leg back to Calgary, and resigned to a wait of uncertain length, I used my bonus Revelstoke time by sitting in Tim Hortons drinking their dark roast coffee.
You did what, PlaidCamper? Tim Hortons?! Aren’t you a staunch defender of independent coffee shops, a bean hound willing to take lengthy detours – “I’m sure there’ll be an espresso shack just up here” – and a slightly annoying coffee snob?
Coffee snob? That doesn’t sound like me! Well, there was that time when we (I) went a little way off route (somewhere in one of the Dakotas, I think) to find the Cowboy Coffee Cabin, but it was well worth it. Mighty fine coffee. When you have all day, what’s another hour or so? I liked that place, and if it was a Dakota coffee franchise, places on the prairies are so far apart that by the time you reach the next one, you honestly can’t remember if you’ve been to one before. “Hey, this looks new!” Could this explain the Tim Hortons success in Canada?
I know, I know, Tim’s isn’t exactly the definition of small town, small batch, artisanal coffee roasting, but big doesn’t have to be bad, does it? Have you had their dark roast? What can I say? I love it, quite dark and aromatic, a decent caffeine hit, and with an odd hint of cardboard flavour that is strangely delicious. Tim’s is a Canadian institution, and it isn’t a road trip unless there’s a sticky box of Timbits keeping driver and passengers full of unnecessary calories. All the Timbit flavours are fine, except old fashioned glazed – they taste like pork scratchings, the type sold in an English pub in the early 1980s. Not yum. (The part about Timbit calories? Not true. I’m pretty sure there are studies proving that if you eat Timbits in a car, you don’t put on weight. That’s right, car Timbits are free of calories. Amazing! I can’t seem to find a link to the scientific evidence, but you can take my word for it…)
You’d think the Tim Hortons in Revelstoke that day would have been full of miserable customers, all irritated they were held up. Yet the truck drivers (usual order, a double double), pensioners (double double), parents of preschool children (double double), students missing classes (large mocha, a Boston creme, please don’t tell my parents I’m skipping) and the coach load of Koreans (long order, the bus driver stepped in to help) couldn’t have seemed happier. Is this the power of TH doughnuts – that aren’t, let’s be honest, all that good – or is the strange cardboard flavour really an active happiness agent?
When we first came to Canada, I didn’t really get the national affection for Tim’s, although now it seems perfectly obvious a coffee and doughnut joint started by a hockey player would become a fixture of the Canadian coffee landscape. If I remember rightly, it took less than six months and another waist size up for me to fall under the Timbit spell. I thought it was a mandatory part of citizenship preparation, and I studied hard.
So, I didn’t go for a hike, or buy a plaid shirt. Instead, I read a bit, wrote parts of this post, drank a medium dark roast, got another for the road, and headed happily on my way once the highway reopened. Oh, and maybe there was a small box of Timbits in the centre console. It was empty long before reaching Calgary (except for the solitary old fashioned glazed I so thoughtfully saved for Mrs PC…)
Enough of these caffeine-fuelled ramblings. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!