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?

Small towns, and mountain towns

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.

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The road to Canmore!
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!)

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Above Canmore
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…

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Main Street
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…

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Fifteen minutes from Canmore
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…

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Bow Valley
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!

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Hanging out above Canmore
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 Trans Canada hold up

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.

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Above the Columbia
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? 

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Walked 45 minutes across Victoria (passing two Tim’s) to find this place 
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?

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Be prepared
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…)

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Storm’s coming. Best stop, wait it out somewhere with a coffee!
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?

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Mrs PC loves a cappuccino
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.

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Jasper coffee stop – and fine baked goods (I’m told…)
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!

A big little bird

A little ball of feathers that sure was a fun shore bird to watch. This week, a short post about a tiny bird (one of Mrs. PC’s favourites – we have framed prints and tea towels to prove it!)

We were wandering along Terrace Beach, Ucluelet, enjoying the day, and keeping an eye out for a pair of bald eagles we’d seen earlier that week. Spotting a bald eagle is always a thrill, and if you’re out on the west coast of Vancouver Island, you’ll often see one or more most days if you’re looking. Or even if you’re not.DSCF5855

We sat down on a log – we seem to do a lot of that – to listen to the waves wash up onto the shore, and eat a small snack. We seem to do a lot of that, too. He was well camouflaged on this particular part of the shore, but we eventually spied a little Western Sandpiper – he had probably been there quite a while before we saw him. Well, once he was in our sights, what fun he was to observe.

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Sat on this one
He scurried on busy little legs just ahead of and across each set of waves, foraging for food in the sand and seaweed. Unperturbed by our presence, he worked the shoreline mere metres from where we were sitting, back and forth with admirable intent, stocking up for a lengthy flight to come. Tiny in size, but huge in heart! (I know, an overactive imagination and anthropomorphism, but I can’t help it…)

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Irresistible!
On previous days, we had most often seen these sandpipers in small flocks. I like the flash of white as they speed along the beach, making fast turns and flying in short bursts. For the time we saw this one, he appeared to be a solitary bird. Maybe it needed some down time away from the hustle and bustle of flock life? Maybe we simply missed the other birds or they arrived later? No, he was the lone ‘piper, out on a purposeful mission. There I go again…DSCF5855

We arrived searching for big birds, but left happy (a particularly happy Mrs. PC) having seen this big-hearted and beautiful little bird!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Sea and sky…

…and a pop of colour! A short post this week, and mostly focused on…a lack of focus that has been very pleasant.

On our rambles around the coast, we’ve been lucky enough to enjoy warm weather and clear skies. So far, we’ve been caught in the rain just once, and that’s fine by us. When skies haven’t been clear, and the mist and fog has rolled in, or there’s a bank just offshore, it has been hard to see where the water stops and the sky starts.

Staring out into the ocean, it is all blurred, no precise definition. The horizon disappears from view, the visible world shrinks, and feels more immediate.

When we’re out in the mountains, the long views and far reaching vistas are one of the many delights of that particular geography. Here on the coast, the fog and mist limit your view, creating something shifting – and fun to photograph – a land and seascape that is captivating to experience.

The photographs this week were taken on different days, and all were an attempt to find the line between sea and sky. It is there, somewhere, but indistinct, and we enjoyed not seeing it. We took our eyes off the horizon, became unfocused and walked on the edge. Unfocused and on the edge – sounds dangerous?! Not really. Look at what’s in front of you. It’s alright, you won’t fall off.

Sometimes, there is too much attention paid to being sharp, defined, and having clarity. Those big ideas and far reaching vision. Not too much of that here this week (or most weeks) – let go, don’t zoom in, drift, dream, and be a bit wooly. Life can be all the better for that, from time to time, he says, somewhat vaguely…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!