“You busy?”

A very short piece this week – I’ve been busy…

I was sat in my office yesterday morning, toiling away on reports no one was likely to read, and wondering where had it all gone so right for me to be indoors on an unexpectedly sunny day? The drive to work had been about perfect, with the sun breaking through light mists, illuminating the low mountain tops and giving the bay a silver-pink- blue glow. Even the usually tetchy kingfishers appeared happy, and ducks were splashing prettily in the shallows outside the door. Yes, poor me. Still, lucky ducks, hey?

Yesterday morning – too nice to be inside

As I began a scintillating paragraph to get page 578 rolling, my phone rang. Oh no! An interruption, and just when I was getting to the interesting bit. “Hey old man you busy?” “Yeah, got to finish these papers today, can’t miss a deadline, you know how it is!” “Oh, ok. We’re in R’s truck, a few of us are heading up Mt. Ozzard to check on the new mountain bike trails, and thought you’d like to see what the young ones have created. But if you’re busy…”

Ozzard on the right (picture taken Wednesday evening)

Fifteen minutes later, I was in the back of a pickup, bouncing along logging roads to the foot of Ozzard. What can I say, I’m dedicated. To getting out and seeing what our youthful charges have been up to. I was almost finished anyway…

Ride a bike down here? No thanks!

As we climbed the trail, slipping and sliding on a mix of mud and snow – yup, the snow had stuck under the trees and in the shade – I delighted in having the freedom to be able to slip away from the office, walk up a mountain, and call it work. Like I said at the top, where did it all go so right?

Hard at work…

Anyway, a short post as promised. Did I finish those reports? Do you really need to ask? Of course – hold on, let me finish – of course I can get them done by Monday. I’m not specifying any particular Monday…

Thursday morning. Easily distracted (silver-pink-blue? I think so…)

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

Thursday afternoon – sun setting on what turned out a pretty good day

A descent

We have been past the turning to Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park countless times in the last ten years. Little? Nah, not stopping for anything little, not when we’re surrounded by big western Canada. Well, weren’t we shown to be a little(?!) silly…

Before the drop

We had to be in Qualicum Beach for an afternoon appointment, and the combination of never wanting to be late and having to get through before the daily construction closures (completion Summer 2020, budget $30 million) around Kennedy Lake, meant we had time on our hands. Alright then, let’s check out the Little Qualicum Falls.

Fall at the falls

We parked in an almost empty lot and headed up the trail marked Upper Falls. I do like to let gravity do the work later in a hike whenever possible. The trail was muddy but not impassable after a week of heavy rain, and we could hear a distant roar of cascading water up ahead. Promising!

Promising

The falls were spectacular! Huge volumes of water crashing down narrow chutes, throwing up mist and spray glinting in the late morning sun. What a sight and what a sound, and not little at all! Cascades of water, churning and tumbling and completely exhilarating!

Delighted we saw the falls, our descent after was decent, as we smiled all the way down, wondering why we hadn’t stopped there sooner?!

Noisy!

When we got home, having been held up by construction closures (new completion date late Fall 2022, new budget $58 million) we decided we must try a bit harder to explore the little delights closer to home, and not to pass turnings signposted to “Little” anything unless we promise to visit inside ten years…

Exhilarating!

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

Fine dining

Last week, witnessing the eagles tucking into fresh – or not so fresh as the week wore on – seal, I hinted I’d follow up with a dessert course.

I want to be true to my word, and present more fine dining. The snag to putting the final seal of approval on a great gastronomic experience was the carcass disappearing not long after I published the ready meal post. I guess a bear or wolf, one of the four legged OldPlaidCamper readers, recognized a tender seal steak and snuck down there when the eagles weren’t watching. No dessert on that beach.

Dessert? I’m listening…

So, what about dessert OldPlaidCamper? I’m glad you asked, and it’s coming. A properly prepared meal can take a little time…

A group of youth, elders, and mentors went out last weekend to share wilderness and land based learning time. The weather had been fine all week, sunny, not too hot, perfect for being on the water and traveling up to the remote camp. We climbed aboard boats and it started to rain. We sailed for about an hour through the Broken Group islands and through the rain. We disembarked and pitched tents in the rain. We spent the first night enjoying the soothing sound of rain on canvas, but hoping it would ease before dawn. We woke to rain. Then, at midday, it stopped raining.

No more rain

Yup, yup, it rained, we get it, but dessert? Ah, you spotted the filler, some blogging hamburger helper… On with the story of dessert. A few hardy swimmers went out to harvest sea urchin, and to my great disappointment, weren’t able to find any. Phew, I thought secretly, I can look forward to that another time. No sea urchin, but the sea cucumbers were abundant. Yup, dessert is sea cucumber. It’s even more enjoyable if you’ve had a lesson in how to prepare it. For me, it tasted as good as the previous time I tried it, when I made (and clearly forgot to remember) a mental note never to eat it again. I chewed and chewed and wondered if perhaps week old seal might not be a better choice? I was very much in a minority of me, as all my companions, young and old, tucked in, and so what else could I do except hand over my share?

It’s all in the preparation

Dinner has been served! No more foodie pieces for the foreseeable future, not until I’ve forgotten once more how much I enjoy fruits from the sea. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Space dragons

I don’t know about you, but I’m quite happy this year is drawing to a close. We’ve had to wait many months for positive news, and from early November on, it has felt like things have been slowly improving.

“What are we waiting for?”

The wait for reliable vaccines has been long, and it is good to see and hear there are options on the horizon, and an end to the pandemic is growing closer. A weight lifted – or is it? Brace yourselves, here come the space dragons…

Oh those conspiracy theorists are having a fine old time telling us that Bill Gates will be able to track us post-vaccine, with the aid of 5G unicorns, mini-robots, and space dragons. Bear with me, I’m warming up and a little hazy on the specifics.

Hazy? Space dragon brain beams will do that…

Don’t worry, we all know space dragon brain beams can’t penetrate your tinfoil hat to read your thoughts. Actually, I imagine that the thoughts of conspiracy minded folks aren’t worth the attention of most space dragons, but then I’ve been brainwashed by and under the mind control of the nurse who administered the measles jab I received many years ago. Remember the inoculations you got at school? And pre-school? Well, due to those, I am, like you (if you’ve had your vaccinations and choose to believe the anti-science conspiracy nut bars) an unwitting biddable agent of evil, presumably being forced against my will to be do bad things, all because the school nurse gave me booster jabs forty-something years ago. That nurse, and her malevolent hench nurses, are part of a giant plot to, to, well, I don’t know what the plot is exactly, but it is bad. Are you saying I’ve lost the plot here? Hold on. Gathering thoughts. Adjusting tin foil hat. Vaccinations! Developed by evil medical people to rig life against you. You don’t believe me? That you don’t believe me is obvious proof you’ve been got at by vaccine wielding deep state operatives. Is that clear?!

Phew! That’s a long time, long term conspiracy to be worried about – can a tin foil hat get rusty? I’ve enjoyed writing these last few paragraphs. There’s a strange freedom in not having to stick to annoyingly inconvenient stuff like science, facts, details, evidence, responsibility or common sense.

Keep your balance!

Back to reality! We enjoyed a long beach hike the other day. Sea air and salt water will rust things, but we felt quite the opposite of that last week. Buoyed by positive vaccine news, and feeling lighter with each passing day as January 20th approaches, we almost skipped down an empty beach. Scout was going full steam ahead, determined to get to a favourite spot of hers. Sticks, snacks, logs and rocks? That’s her kind of morning, and ours too. A second breakfast and extra coffee? Yes please!

For the time we were out, the weather got brighter as the morning wore on, with low cloud and grey skies clearing, and patches of blue appearing. I wouldn’t say it was warm, but it was warm enough. Shoulders back, deep breaths, longer strides, and goodness, can’t you just feel some of the mental weight drop away for a while?

Deep breaths!

Thanks for reading. Remember, there be space dragons, so stay safe, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Positives?

Well, wasn’t that quite the week?! As I write this, late in the day Thursday, it would appear that by January, there’ll be a change in White House occupancy – phew! Even if a blue wave didn’t quite appear, I’ll settle for being able to listen to a presidential press conference without wincing. That’s a positive.

A blue ripple

Bigger picture? More to be done, but please let’s enjoy the hope that steps are being taken towards repair, and an opportunity to build, not tear down. The restoration of a more civil political discourse? Maybe? That’s a positive. Instead of denial, working as a collective to arrest the worst of a looming climate disaster? You have to hope…

Things are looking up

I’m keeping it very brief this time. I’m exhausted, but enjoying the notion we can breathe a little easier, politically speaking, if only due to the reduction in noise that ought to happen as a result of the tight result. We can welcome a greater reliance on accepted facts and shared understandings, instead of alternate facts and divisive lies. Now wouldn’t that be nice?

Space

The photographs this time are all from our wilderness trip a couple of weeks back, and they were chosen for their sense of space, scale, and a pleasant bigger picture. Of course, given the way this year has offered up too many unwelcome surprises, maybe next week I’ll be writing about how the results all went the wrong way after Thursday evening, and the White House occupant remains the same after January 2021. No, surely not? Let’s stay positive!

Bigger

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

Thanksgiving!

There is so much to be thankful for (and you might be thankful I’m keeping this one brief…)

I had an enjoyable evening earlier this week, foraging for chanterelles with a group of young people learning from an elder about traditional harvesting. Once one mushroom had been found, they all seemed pretty handy at knowing where to look, and there was no stopping them. Excited shouts cut through the trees, signalling each discovery. This was going to be easy…0B56EEE2-A7E6-4A94-AD0C-E715D21EC61D

On an overcast and muggy evening, the light was fading fast in the dusk, and mosquitos were beginning to find me with rather more success than I was having finding chanterelles. They are distinctive, but this OldPlaidCamper was not very adept at unearthing chanterelles, and almost every other type of mushroom I found was a poisonous variety.FE15B0D1-766E-47CE-832B-D50F59E19089

A trait being taught was persistence, so I stuck with it, hoping old eyes might fall upon elusive prey. After nearly 45 minutes of hot and humid searching, I did find two lovely chanterelles. Excellent – my status as an almost outdoorsman remained intact! As I was about to call it in, a young man I’d been guiding through the dense forest slipped on the mossy log he was climbing over and landed on his butt right next to my find. “Found some!” he cried, clambering to his feet with a wide smile.DC0D26ED-8975-4E33-9270-FB1EE452DA07

The forest was becoming very dark, and time was called on the search. Light from the channel shone through the trees and up the slope, so we (I) tripped down the hill towards the water and out onto the shore, escaping the worst of the biting insects.

The chanterelles were to be shared with the community, and you could see how happy the foragers were at making their contribution. As we made our way back along the shore, it became clear that every member of the party had found some chanterelles – well, almost everyone. I did get a couple of consolation pats on the back, and some words about maybe next time.170A9F91-8A78-4F57-AC16-9F75804E8129

So much to be thankful for, and I’m particularly thankful for the fine young people I’m working and learning with. Times are troubled in the wider world, but there are reasons to be hopeful about better times ahead, especially when you see young people expressing enthusiasm for their natural surroundings.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend. If you are celebrating Canadian thanksgiving, I hope it’s a good one!

Mother Earth

Mother’s Day is celebrated this coming Sunday in many parts of the world.

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Without getting too far into some of the current ills, you have to think we’d be in better shape overall if more mothers were in charge. There’d be a bit more talking with the intent to communicate and resolve problems – without resorting to violence, or bullying, bragging, and bluster. Nurturing and maternal, rather than destructive and accumulating. Well, it’s a thought…

fullsizeoutput_78Anyway, be good to your mother. Remember her, thank her for all she has done, and do that because it is the right thing to do all the time, not because there is a date on the calendar! Amongst many things, my parents taught me to love reading, value formal and informal learning, and respect the natural world. (Oh, and if everything looks a bit shit, you might as well laugh about it, and at yourself, even if it is very, very serious. In the current global climate, that little lesson goes a long, long way!)DSCF4051In Calgary, trees and shrubs have started to show some green, and the first hints of blossom. It is a long wait here, from when the leaves start to turn and fall in late August, to when the next signs of growth and renewal are seen.IMG_20170514_140235 I’ve gone the tree hugging and landscape loving route here, and included photographs taken over previous years, highlighting the wonderful variety I’ve experienced of Mother Earth, the mother supporting us all every single day of our lives. It would be wise to treat her with kindness, love and respect, given that she shapes our very existence. If we take, then we must give back.

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My mother used to live near here…

Thanks to mothers and mother figures everywhere, thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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…and now she lives a short walk from here!

Old growth green

“To make a bigger parking lot, they should cut down some of these trees. Then there would be more visitors!”

It was quite an effort, but I managed to pretend I didn’t hear this. The would be park ranger was correct, and following his logic, hiking in the mountains would be less strenuous if we levelled a few – and the view would be unblocked.

DSCF6969A few weeks back, I stopped our Big Muddy Taxi at Cathedral Grove, a small patch of old growth forest located a few minutes east of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Whenever we pass through, the time has never been quite right to make a stop. A ferry to catch, it is dark, the rain is heavy, or the small angled parking lot by the side of the road is full. This trip, I’d left time for the ferry, the rain had stopped, and there was a space for the car.

DSCF7002What a beautiful spot! A glimpse into what Vancouver Island must have looked like before it was logged. A lovely place, MacMillan Provincial Park is not a particularly large park, but the spot that makes up Cathedral Grove is full of enormous Douglas firs and huge Red western cedars. A “tree museum” without charge, and a reminder to appreciate what we have…

Dense and green – so green! Mossy and dank, a complex ecosystem full of life, and one I couldn’t capture accurately with a camera. I settled for choosing a few details to try and convey the majesty of this special place. The greens in the photos aren’t as vivid or strong as those I was seeing, but they give an idea.

DSCF7014Next time, we’ll try and visit early in the morning, on a dry day when the sun rises high enough to penetrate the valley and start burning off the mist. I drove through on a morning just like that one October, in a hurry to catch a ferry. Looking back, I wish I’d stopped, not worrying about missing the ferry. There’s always another ferry, but perhaps there won’t be another morning quite like that? It can’t hurt to hope.

DSCF6988If you get the chance, and have the time, stop at Cathedral Grove to wander under the mighty trees and wonder at the beauty of it all. Get there early, and you’ll find a parking spot – no need to suggest making the lot larger at the cost of cutting down some of the giants. If that is what you think, maybe keep it to yourself, keep your voice down…

Old growth green – I feel all spruced up just looking at it. We don’t really want to be paving paradise, do we? I bet you were humming this already:

Big Yellow Taxi

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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Farewell to Winter?

I think so…

You can never be too sure in the foothills and mountains, but this time, the thaw seems real, and there hasn’t been any heavy snow for nearly two weeks. We are well past mid-April, and our looping, tilted race around the sun says it has to warm up now! Surely?fullsizeoutput_5b0

Talk in town says it was a long one, but I think winter’s lingering into April was just a shift along from the late arrival. There was hardly any snow or cold until past mid-December, and then there was plenty of both the next three or four months.

Now, though, the sun is shining, and has been since the start of the week. The last winter blast is receding into memory, and a few blades of green are appearing in the brown grass. Birds are singing, and there is a forecast of temperatures hitting 20C and more by the weekend. (And a plummet down to less than 10 and rain by Monday, but that is ages away…)fullsizeoutput_5b1

We headed into the foothills last week, from where we could see upper mountains cloaked in snow, but huge swathes melting lower down. Rivers rushed, and streams splashed. Ranch horses and cattle were out once more, enjoying the sunshine.IMG_20180422_130240

Stopping above the Highwater River, we climbed down the banks to look at the fast flow. My left foot was sucked into deep mud hidden under a thin layer of snow, and extracting the boot caused a satisfying squelch and slurp. Mrs. PC and Scout didn’t take my short cut, and negotiated the way down with clean boots and paws.

Geese were honking over on the far bank, and we saw deer and beaver tracks on our side. A short walk upriver uncovered a beaver lodge, and felled trunks with fresh tooth marks. The beaver has been busy. We retreated, not wanting Scout’s mad spring scampering to further disturb the residents. I’m sure they had no notion we were there…

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“These guys are professional chewers!”
We paused for gas and coffee in Longview, and the relief at the end of winter, and start of mud season seemed to be the main topics of conversation in the coffee shop. “Even the skiers passing through here are over winter this year! I’ll be washing this floor three times a day what with all the mud!” I stepped closer to the counter to hide my boots.fullsizeoutput_5b2

I do like winter, but it’s good to feel warm sun, and to drive with the windows down. Any slip and fall will be due to mud, not ice, and the birdsong means blossom is about to appear. Thanks, winter, for letting go, and let’s say a warm welcome to an Albertan spring!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

The tiny tree (and an Earth Day story)

A tree so small, I almost missed seeing it. A story so short and lacking in plot, it isn’t a story at all. The story is further down, after a bunch of asides and padding.

A very short post about a very small tree I have been walking past on and off for five years (it would have been a very, very small tree five years ago, and that is why it took me so long to notice it…)

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The tiny tree
Almost Earth Day! Hooray! As we live here, how about every day is Earth Day? This year, the focus is on the terrible pollution problems caused by plastic. I won’t go into the statistics – they are shocking – but here is a good place to look if you are so inclined.

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Not the tiny tree
Back to the tiny tree! Growing on the side of a trail on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island, seeing this tree has me thinking the same old thoughts. (I’ve written along these lines before, so feel free to skip this, and look at the pictures!) If one tree, large or small, is incredibly beautiful, then a stand of trees is incredibly, incredibly beautiful. A forest must be incredibly, incredibly, incredibly beautiful. I agree with me. Sometimes, all the beauty can be almost overwhelming – no bad thing, and I’d rather our world was almost impossibly beautiful than almost impossibly polluted.IMG_20180406_155114

Anyway, if it all seems overwhelming, step back and look at just one tree. Isn’t it lovely? Okay, story time.

On Earth Day, we all picked up a single piece of trash, some garbage somebody else overlooked or dropped by mistake (because in this story, littering is never deliberate…)  And then we all did the same thing the next day, and the next! One wonderful day, we were unable to find any garbage, because it had all been picked up, and no more had been dropped. The end.

Yup, a short story with a happy ending. It’s crazy, but we’d be making some progress. Oh goodness, I sound like one of those mad old tree huggers. It couldn’t possibly work.

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My favourite colour – tree hugger green
Back to the tiny tree! I love this little tree. All brave, perched on the end of a log jutting out over black rocks, where the wind and waves come crashing in. It seems so unlikely, and yet there it is, getting on with being a tree in a precarious looking situation. One tough tree – it’s survived many storm surges and mighty winds.

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Just fine
I won’t hug this one. It is independent and managing just fine. And I’d look really stupid falling off a log into the ocean or onto the rocks because I’m so needy and pretending the tree requires a hug. Not a happy ending.

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“Why hug ’em, when you can chew ’em? Is that off message?”
Short, as promised. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!