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!

Orange pop

Soda bright on overcast days, theres’s nothing wrong with a little visual pick me up.

IMG_20180322_091336I wouldn’t want to overdose on orange (or overdose on anything), but when I was looking at photographs taken on our walks around the harbour at Ucluelet, clearly I enjoy a blast of brightness.

IMG_20180322_091433It’s easy to see why, as the floats add splashes of colour on a muted day, popping out against the green and grey. These are meant to be seen, and aren’t natural in colour – I wouldn’t want to eat or drink foodstuffs this colour – but it sure does stand out. I have a vivid orange camera float, ready for the day I drop it in the water. Perhaps I should should invest in some of the rain/fishing gear that comes in a similar orange, for when I go after the dropped camera. Perhaps I should not drop the camera.

My usual Albertan raisin dry skin has enjoyed the damp warmth of the coastal environment – I look years younger, like a guy in his 50s…

IMG_20180322_091135I know, you read these posts (thank you for that!) expecting interesting tales about almost wilderness adventures, and instead, there’s a tip for healthy skin – come to the coast! Click on the link at the bottom to go directly to PlaidCamperBeauty.com.

Here’s a little something sweet that happened on the docks last week.

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“Am I in the next bit?”
Scout was exploring an interesting-smelling corner of a jetty, when a loud exhaling from the water startled her. A harbour seal emerged, looking very cute, and looking very intently at Scout. It swam a little closer, to within a couple of metres from where we stood, which was different – they normally pop up and pop off pretty sharpish when we’re spotted. IMG_20180322_091123We backed off a few metres, to give it some space, retreating down the dock, although Scout really wanted to make friends. The seal looked as if it was going to come up onto the dock, half out of the water, but then dropped back in. I was glad enough about that, because I don’t suppose dog-seal encounters are to be encouraged, and we’d have had to walk past to get back. (If only I’d had my camera with me – although I’d have probably dropped it in excitement, testing the orange float, and my willingness to put a hand into seal occupied waters…)

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The lovely Tromso is still here!
A small post this week, about small happenings – but there’s always something happening, little bursts of colour and life, very refreshing, like coastal air on dry skin…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

(If you scrolled down for the link to PlaidCamperBeauty, it doesn’t really exist, although we’re all beautiful on the inside!)

 

Lichen the details

A very short post this week, mostly because the power was out today, and also because this one is about the little things.fullsizeoutput_56d

During hikes out and about here in our small corner of Alberta, it is easy to get carried away (and I often am) by the wonderful mountain scenery we are so fortunate to have on our doorstep. But every now and then it doesn’t hurt to dial it down, and focus in a bit on what is under your nose.DSCF6631

Sitting on a log eating lunch, leaning against a tree, I was taken with the texture of the bark and the strong colour of the lichen. With such bright sunlight, the vibrant hues against the grey were quite striking – I had to try and take a picture, see if I could catch something of the beauty.DSCF6633

Not quite bronze, not quite gold, but certainly pretty, maybe a shade of ochre is a reasonable colour match for this wild treasure? I don’t know too much about lichen, but this was a detailed delight!

Scout certainly has an eye for details, in that she misses nothing (about needing to be certain something is edible) and she made a half-hearted attempt to chew on the following fuzzy plant, but gave up after the first six or seven. She might be getting a little bit older and wiser – but more probably it was the endless supply of sticks that she found to be more entertaining. Why chew fluff when there is a branch to crunch? And another, and another…

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Not so edible

I liked how the trees seemed drawn to each other, leaning together and hugging in sheer delight at the warmth of the day. Ah, how fanciful, PlaidCamper. Look again! Other details reveal something different. The shadows appear to tell a less lovely story, dark lines running away, trying to get as far apart as possible. No, I like the hugging version best.

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“Should we invite that tree over?”

Yes, the following tree was all alone (but looking ok about it):

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“I don’t want to be part of your stupid huddle, anyway… Wait! Are you talking about about me?”

I said this would be brief, and it is probably a good idea to stop now – when you hear talking trees, it’s time for a break.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend, full of entrancing detail! Perhaps the trees will tell you something, they have plenty to say…

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“Are you talking to the trees again? Don’t tell them what I’ve been chewing. Can we go now?”