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!

Going coastal…

It’s time to go coastal! This will have to be a swift post, like my travels, and like the soundtrack in the car. Huh? Your soundtrack will be Swift? Taylor Swift? You don’t seem the type…DSCN6981

Well, really! Of course I like Taylor Swift songs. Just not so much when she’s singing them. I’ll be listening to 1989, but the reimagining or reworking created a couple of years ago by Ryan Adams. No, Ryan, not Bryan (Bryan, you are still loved in Canada, but not for that Robin Hood song…)

Ryan Adams put on his Bob Dylan/Bruce Springsteen/Roy Orbison hats for the vocals, got the guitars to sound a bit like Johnny Marr, and turned 1989 into something an old fart like me can enjoy. Full of space, drama and echo, with the highlight being Shake It Off – if you give it a go, you might like it.

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I fell off trying to look up at a bald eagle just a few seconds later…but shook it off
What else is on the soundtrack? Well, one singer parts of 1989 reminded me of (you wouldn’t necessarily think of her when listening to the Swift album) is Tracy Chapman. Her first album is as relevant today as it was 30 years ago, and that is both a good and bad thing if you are familiar with her themes on that record. We should be Talkin’ ’bout a Revolution – maybe November?

Finally, and for two reasons, virtually anything by AC/DC will also be playing. One, it’ll be a slight contrast to all the sensitivity of the other two artists, and two, Mrs. PlaidCamper won’t be in the car for this trip, so here’s my chance to play it loud. Maybe this one? Thunderstruck – turned up to 11. Oh dear…

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Why are we paddling uphill?
Oh no, where is Mrs. PC? She’ll be following on a little later, and also for two reasons. One, she is not quite finished teaching the academic year, and two, my brother is visiting us out on the coast for a couple of weeks, and she’s letting us get on with it for the first week. The “it” being falling off paddle boards, falling out of kayaks, falling over rocks and logs, playing anti-social music from the late 70s and early 80s, drinking a beer (or two), and staying up past our bedtime. Or that’s what we’ll say we did if our other two brothers ask. Might even find time to watch a game or two where England’s bid to win the World Cup is doomed yet again. We will tidy up before Mrs. PC arrives. Luckily, Scout is with us because we have to have a sensible member in the party.

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Probably shouldn’t try to land a small plane here
My main priority this week is to get to Tofino Airport in time to pick up my brother when his plane lands. It’ll take him almost as long to make his trip out from the DC area as my little road trip. He’s changing planes about a gazillion times, and he’s not too happy that each one is smaller than the last. For the short hop from Vancouver to the coast, I’ve told him to tie the straps on his hat tightly under his chin, and then his head will stay warm. He knows I’m going to write “LAND HERE” in the sand, so that’s also reassured him…

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“Here I am, the sensible one!”
If anything interesting occurs, it’ll make it onto here at some point, but two middle aged gentlemen falling over a few times isn’t all that exciting. I’ll write about it even if relatively little occurs. I know, I know, the suspense is too much…

Brief, as promised. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

The Living Mountain

Oh how I wish I’d thought of that post heading, but I borrowed it – the title of a new favourite book, “The Living Mountain” by Nan Shepherd. A wonderful little volume, I’d never heard of it until a few months ago. There’s a story behind that…fullsizeoutput_5cb

Back in late January, Junior announced she’d applied for a chef position with the Fairmont group. Fair enough, a good company to work for by all accounts, and a chance to learn and refine her skills in a different environment, with hotels in beautiful Alberta and BC locations. All true, but the position she’d applied for was in St. Andrews, Scotland. Also beautiful, but somewhat further afield! Two weeks after her announcement, she was on a jet plane heading for new adventures, and has been having a lovely time the past few months, so well done, Junior!fullsizeoutput_545

How does this connect to “The Living Mountain” mentioned at the start? The day Junior was on her way, I came home from the airport, rinsed my contact lenses – seemed to be having an issue with welling up – and started to read The Guardian paper online. Would you believe, that very day, they had an article suggesting the top ten books about wilderness Scotland? An interesting mixture of fiction and non-fiction, and because it was about books, I was brave enough to venture BTL and read comments and suggestions. It was there I saw Nan Shepherd recommended over and over, so I managed to track down a copy.fullsizeoutput_56f

What a find! Nan Shepherd’s slim volume is wonderful, a love letter to the beauty of the Cairngorm mountains, a place she explored her entire life. Her writing is outstanding – intense, detailed and meditative, describing the mountains using all her senses to bring them alive. She loves her mountains, and cannot quite believe their beauty. On describing the clarity of water:

Water so clear cannot be imagined, but must be seen. One must go back, and back again, to look at it, for in the interval memory refuses to recreate its brightness. This is one of the reasons why the high plateau where these streams begin, the streams themselves, their cataracts and rocky beds, the corries, the whole wild enchantment, like a work of art is perpetually new when one returns to it. The mind cannot carry away all that it has to give, nor does it always believe possible what it has carried away.

You find yourself nodding with shared recognition at her delight in the natural world. When she describes silence at altitude, it is really about peace and quiet, rather than the absence of sound:

To bend the ear to silence, is to discover how seldom it is there. Always something moves. When the air is quite still, there is always running water; and up here that is a sound one can hardly lose…but now and then comes an hour when the silence is all but absolute, and listening to it one slips out of time. Such a silence is not a mere negation of sound. it is like a new element, and if water is still sounding with a low far-off murmur, it is no more than the last edge of an element we are leaving, as the last edge of land hangs on the mariner’s horizon.fullsizeoutput_56e

There is a lovely section about how she is like an excited dog surrounded by the scents of the mountain:

On a hot moist midsummer day, I have caught a rich fruity perfume rising from the mat of grass, moss and wild berry bushes that covers so much of the plateau. The earthy smell of moss, and the soil itself, is best savoured by grubbing. Sometimes the rank smell of deer assails one’s nostril, and in the spring the sharp scent of fire.DSCF7094

I enjoyed how she captured the animal life on and above the mountain, like the eagle rising coil over coil in slow symmetry…and when he has soared to the top of his bent, there comes the level flight as far as the eye can follow, straight, clean, and effortless as breathing. There is a description of hares streaking up a brown hillside like rising smoke – perhaps hoping to avoid becoming prey to the eagle?

Every page reveals how Shepherd increases her love for the mountain. She understands the immeasurable value and importance of time spent in nature:

Yet with what we have, what wealth! I add to it each time I go to the mountain – the eye sees what it didn’t before, or sees in a new way what it has already seen.IMG_20180225_122122

What wealth indeed. The challenges to our natural environment have increased enormously in the decades since Shepherd wrote and published. Wild places are under more and more commercial pressure, reducing the opportunities to slow down, immerse the physical (and mental) self in outdoor beauty, and stop to contemplate the treasures we have. It is splendid to have books like “The Living Mountain”, but I wonder if in the near future, her record and those like it, will be all that remains, that we’ll be reading about instead of experiencing first hand the wonders of our natural world?IMG_20180311_125558

Many years ago, we took a camping trip in Scotland when Junior was a wee bairn. It was her first time camping, and she enjoyed it, from being bathed in a washing up bowl to sleeping soundly (phew!) in a tent, despite the wind and rain outside. Sometimes sunny, oftentimes wild and woolly, it was a fun trip. We got as far as the Cairngorms, but didn’t spend any significant time up there. Better informed now, thanks to Nan Shepherd, and with Junior as an advance party, it seems as if we’ll have to arrange another trip…

I’ll stop now, because otherwise all I’ll do is continue to select passages to illustrate how much I enjoyed Nan Shepherd’s mountain musing. The best thing is to get a copy – I heartily recommend it.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

PS The photographs featured this week were all taken out and about in the past six months – not of the Cairngorms, but in our living mountains here in Alberta.

The dock days of winter

Every day of my recent stay in Ucluelet I went for a wander, rain or shine (mostly rain), and the wandering almost always included one or more of the docks dotted along the water.fullsizeoutput_515

I’ve written before about my complete lack of nautical skills, yet I’m drawn to the boats – I can’t help it. Is it in my genes? My Dad, or Old OldPlaidCamper, as he’s never called, did run away to sea when he was a boy. Imagine, a teenager in the merchant navy and seeing the world. He traveled to many parts of the globe before he met my Mum and settled down. He has told a story or two about that time, but I suspect there are many tales as yet untold.

Yes, that must be it – I’ve inherited the genetic possibility (huh?) of a life on the ocean waves. This makes sense – after all, I have almost completed Patrick O’Brian’s wonderful cycle of Aubrey-Maturin novels set in the British Navy of the early nineteenth century. Is that nautical preparation? I think so! Although, all those beautifully detailed and descriptive stories, and I still can’t tell a topsail from a topgallant, and I’m not too sure about a futtock shroud…(but I love that there are futtock shrouds – thank you, Patrick O’Brian!)IMG_20180104_100240

Back to the docks! Rain or shine! Port and starboard! Futtock shrouds to the rain, I say! The photographs this week are from a greyer day or two, when it was about to rain or had just stopped. As you can see, as well as the boats, I like the paraphernalia dotted about the vessels and docks, some of it appearing cast down at random, but it likely all has a purpose that my landlubberly eyes can’t figure.fullsizeoutput_51b

I strode up and down every walkway, eager to see it all, slowing to take in each boat, stepping over a coil of rope, or the cables plugged into the big fishing boats. Every now and then an explosive splashing and flurry of wings would startle me from my daydreams, and I’d stop to admire the low flight of a duck I’d unwittingly disturbed, watching it scoot away across the water.IMG_20180112_112557

One morning, a Blue Heron was perched atop a piling, and remained unbothered by my presence on the dock. It looked very dignified up there, magisterial and generous enough to share the space. Herons, kingfishers, mergansers, bald eagles, gulls, and other birds I can’t name, were often present – it gets busy all about the water.fullsizeoutput_516

Big boats, little boats, new boats, old boats, grey boats, white boats, tidy boats, messy boats, boats for work, and boats for play – they all looked rather wonderful, moored up in the rain. Am I day-dreaming escapist notions from the global news storms that seem to sweep in every day? Perhaps, but being on the coast is retreat enough, and I wouldn’t want to disengage completely (even allowing for how our present day swirling and choppy political currents make becoming entirely unmoored a rather tempting prospect…)fullsizeoutput_518

Let’s be honest here – I’m happy enough to paddle a kayak or splash about in a canoe, but it is highly unlikely I’ll ever learn to sail and head out into bigger waters. I’d need a promise of endless calm water, and I think sailing doesn’t work too well on flat seas. Oh, futtock shrouds! No, this is absolutely fine, and I’ll stick to the fun that is the dreamy wondering and wandering around the harbour in these dock days of winter.fullsizeoutput_517

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

A watercolour sky

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.

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“All aboard!”
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…

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Leaving Duke Point
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.fullsizeoutput_52b

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.

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Taken with wobble cam, grainy cam, swell cam, landlubber cam…
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.

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You were here the other day – stop complaining
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Complaints? Not on a golden day!

I hear it has been a tad chilly across much of North America. I know this because my brother sent me an email the other day, asking if we could please take back the Canadian weather that has found its way into Maryland? Actually, he didn’t ask nicely, he wrote something along the lines of “take back this #*@%ing winter weather, my thermometer is reading -5F, I don’t know or care what that is in Celsius, but it is *#@%ing cold!” Well, I couldn’t believe that language from young brother PlaidCamper.

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Not cold, no wind chill
I do like snow, but I’ve been quite happy to miss the recent cold snap in Alberta, with the -25C (before factoring in windchill. Yikes!) Young brother PlaidCamper did once visit us in Alberta in midwinter, but I can’t repeat what he said on here. Oh, alright, just a snippet:

“#*^% $#@^ *&^% @#$% your winter!” Goodness me…

We were born in Britain, so talking and complaining about the weather is part of our genetic make up. Can’t possibly talk about emotions or feelings – perish the thought! – but we can say how the weather makes us feel. In dear old Blighty, that was generally miserable due to the cold and wet. Stereotype wildly? Me? Pish! Anyway, I knew I should help him out – I simply couldn’t bear the thought of him suffering and complaining about the cold. I sent him a few pictures taken on Wednesday this week, to add a precious ray of sunshine, show some brotherly understanding, try and thaw him out just a little (but mostly to annoy him and see if he believed I was in the True North!) Pretty sure his temperature went up.

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Not cold, helpful
I couldn’t quite believe it myself. Warm sunshine and sitting on a beach late afternoon and into the evening, watching the sun set over the Pacific. Outdoors in January, in Canada, and I had to remove my toque, haha! Normally at this time of year, I only remove the toque to wash my hair or put on a snowboard helmet. My locks were blowing free in the sea breeze. Or they would have been, but male pattern baldness has put a stop to that. Yup, no hat, it was too warm. It isn’t often I can say I’m in Canada and in one of the warmest places in North America in January. I made sure young brother PlaidCamper knew that, let him bask second hand in the warm glow I experienced. I’m always happy to help.

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Not cold, warm glow, slight breeze
Young brother PlaidCamper is planning a visit to Vancouver Island later in the year. We’re going to paddle and camp and sing songs around the fire. Hold on, what about that British reserve in our genetic make up? Quite right – we’re going to paddle and camp. I’ve said we’ll be camping in the woods. Best not tell him it is a rainforest. I haven’t mentioned the rain – I only send him photographs I’ve taken on sunny days – and I haven’t mentioned the rather low daytime highs in the summer. And I think I’ll keep quiet about the fog…

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Not cold, no fog
Thanks for reading – I hope you are keeping pleasantly warm wherever you are this weekend!

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Not cold, no rain in this forest…
PS It has started to rain and looks set to stay that way for the next few days – don’t tell my brother.

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The merest, barely discernible hint of rain (and slightly chilly?) Don’t say anything

Snow cannons and craft mead, hahaha! (huh?)

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.

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A snowy Calgary? Nope. Another Chinook arch? Yup. Let’s pack the car, head to somewhere else!
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…

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Canmore had snow
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…

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Field had snow
When we paused to pee in Field – my goodness it was cold there – they had received fresh snow. It looked properly wintry.

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This wall in Revelstoke had snow (what a terrible photograph!)
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.

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“Target this Jeep, hahahaha!”
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.

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“Hahahaha, he asked for it, hahahaha…”
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.

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“Snow, hahahaha!”
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…

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A fine SN winter ale. It’s not mead.
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…

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The Coquihalla Highway, the following day
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!

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Lots of highway snow, and doesn’t it look lovely?
“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?