Departure (and letting things go)

It’s good to let things go. If you read on, a word of warning – this might not be about what you think it could be about. Just saying…

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Departure point

A departure from my recent regular schedule as Mrs. PC and I head off for a visit to dear old Blighty. Life on the road and in the air is generally fun, and access to internet permitting, I’ll aim to have something to post each Friday. Most of our time over there will be spent in the wild and woolly west of the country, so lots of hill-walking, pubs, old buildings, pubs in old buildings, coastal scenery and pubs for rest and recuperation. And rain. The real reason to be there is catching up with family and friends, and that means a bit less hiking and a lot more pubs. Oh, ok, if we must.

Last week was rain free, and the weekend out in the forest was a cold, dry and sunny one. We had over thirty boys, youth and young men, active and eager to learn land based traditional practices away from the distractions of the modern world. These fine young people are shaping up to be the leaders, protectors and providers for their communities in future years, drawing on skills and teachings shared by present day elders. It was a delight to be there and see the growth in esteem and abilities.

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We had to stop archery on the beach – too dark to find the arrows!

These boys looked out for and after each other, showing great responsibility in the boats, setting up camp, sharing the cooking, or teaching and learning archery. It’s something of a cliche, but it’s true to say eyes and faces were shining all weekend long. Even when one of the boats broke down as we were heading back, and there was a possibility of being delayed and stranded on a small island! These guys took it in their stride – I don’t think they wanted to head back as soon as we had to…

There was much laughter, singing and drumming around the fire, and stories from previous outings and experiences were shared, with a strong thread of humour running through many of the tales told.

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Story time

I’ll leave you with one story shared by J. He’s a quiet young man, growing into his role as a leader, and becoming more comfortable with using his voice in a group situation. He is rarely in a rush to speak, but when he chooses to, he’s a wonderful deadpan storyteller. He told me the following:

“I was invited to a gathering by another nation. We went by boat to their island and stayed in their longhouse. The food was good, and there was plenty, so I filled up. I am lactose intolerant and hadn’t realized how much cheese I’d eaten until my belly started to tell me. I couldn’t ignore the rumbling and asked a neighbour for directions to the outhouse. It wasn’t far, but it was dark, and I couldn’t find it. My need grew so great that I had to let things go before I found the outhouse. Luckily, I seemed to be in a small clearing with leafy trees all around. I needed many leaves.

The next morning, I joined a group setting off to explore some of the nearby trails. We went around a corner, and there, in the middle of the trail was a large pile of poo and leaves. It wasn’t left by a bear. Everyone was horrified. Who would do such a thing when the outhouse was so close? I was horrified as well, but I did not say why.”

J was laughing when he told this story, and then he started to grimace. His belly was beginning to rumble right then.

“It’s ok! This is better than an outhouse!” he cried, grabbing a shovel and heading away from the fire, a man on a mission.

There are plans to build an outhouse one day, along with a longhouse to make the traditional camp more appealing and accessible to all who visit, but until then, it’s grab a shovel and dig.

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Heading home

I think J is right about how it is good to let things go. I’ll stop there, and you’re probably quite relieved about that.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Inspiration Point!

A name like that deserves an exclamation point! Or two!8EE130C4-12E4-4E77-A9AA-CF4A6BBF7FEE

A very short post this week, as I’ve mismanaged my time and I’m now scrambling on Thursday evening to prepare for a wilderness weekend away with youth. Fortunately, I’m not the main planner for the coming weekend. I just have to remember some spare socks and a bottle of water. Well, perhaps a few items more – like the new lightweight solo tent I’ll be trying out, one that is rated for winter yet still weighs little more than a pair of socks. I’m excited about that. The tent, not the socks.

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Inspiration Point was where Scout insisted we go last weekend. After a morning of showers, we made the most of a weather window to hit the coastal path. Scout dragged me through brush and over rocks, around trees and across streams, and almost over a rainbow. We had a great hike, resting up on different overlooks and sunny spots around Inspiration Point. It was rather inspiring, warming ourselves in the sunshine, listening to the crash of waves below, watching the bald eagles and other bird life getting on with their lives.

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Yes, inspiring, exhilarating and hard to drag ourselves away. Not so hard for Scout because she was in full adventure mode, whereas I knew I was supposed to be sorting myself for the trip away, but was happily engaged in doing nothing in the sun as a displacement activity. It’s an effort to gear up, but a worthwhile effort.

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This weekend is meant to be below seasonal norms for temperatures, but bright and sunny. I’ll take that over a rainy forecast, and if it is dry, we’ll count ourselves lucky, as we’re heading out to a location reputed to be the second wettest for rain in Canada.79C1E966-AD1F-4563-8F8F-46853EC4B90B

Right, time to end this piece, and finish the gearing up that I never really started last weekend. Rain or shine, it’ll be fine, because I’ve already packed spare socks. Just about ready. Why, I’m almost prepared…

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Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Making tracks

I’m not a hunter, never have been and it isn’t likely I’ll start hunting now – although I’ll admit it is a useful set of skills to have, come the apocalypse. (Would we be able to tell if there’s an apocalypse? I suppose the news would be a tad cheerier…)IMG_0600

Food security has been something that keeps cropping up – perhaps a growing cause for concern reflecting uncertain times? Zombies aside, I’ll stick with doing what most of us do, and track down my food in stores, hoping that the bulk of it has been produced ethically. We are currently living in an area that has, should the lights go out for the final time, reasonable food security, at least for those in the know…

The recent wilderness trip I accompanied did have a hunting component. Participants are encouraged to produce and provide for themselves and their community, learning and applying skills taught by elders and mentors, and ensuring they know how to survive and even flourish on their traditional lands.IMG_0579

I was excited and nervous about the hunting. Personally, I’d rather not be around guns, and young people with guns, even when they are being monitored closely by trained experts. However, I could see the importance of teaching and learning these skills, and the youth involved were excited to learn.

So let me get the gory part out of the way first – the only animal shot and killed on this trip was a duck. It was shot on the boat ride out to the camp. The duck supplemented a rice and vegetable dish later in the weekend. The decision was made that one duck was enough – there were plenty of other ducks in range throughout the journey, but the lead hunter emphasised this was about eating, not sport.

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Something to eat? Where?!

Students learned how to prepare it for cooking and eating. They were very respectful and thankful to the duck, and a prayer was made reflecting this. Almost everyone had a small piece of roasted duck, myself included, and the young man who made the shot was thoughtful about what he’d done. He didn’t want to kill it, but understood that to eat meat, a creature had to die. He certainly wasn’t boastful about shooting the duck.fullsizeoutput_15ab

On the morning spent hunting, we saw deer tracks, many bear tracks, and plenty of grouse tracks, but nothing else. No actual animals were sighted, but students learned how to spot likely areas for future hunts, and where to set up in these areas. Our lead hunter did draw a bead on a seal as we headed back, and I have to admit to being relieved when he said the distance was too great to be certain of a clean shot. The size and scale of the animal shouldn’t make any difference to how I felt, but seeing a duck shot and prepared was probably easier to experience than if it had been a seal.

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Tracking a scent

If the trip had been for trophy hunting, there’s no way I’d have gone along, and, as indicated above, I was (silently) rooting for the animals. That said, the whole process was fascinating and thought provoking. I’ll never be a hunter, but I can see the importance of hunting in traditional communities.

I’ll leave it there, and start to make tracks towards a long weekend. Thanks for reading and, as always, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment.

Have a wonderful weekend!

PS All the photos posted here were taken last week on a cold and sunny Sunday morning on or near Combers beach.

The storm after the calm

October was a pretty benign month, weather-wise, and I was happy about that, particularly for the recent trip spent camping in a remote location. Since the end of that weekend, temperatures have fallen slightly, and rainfall has increased a great deal.

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Oh, October sun, I’m missing you!

Ah, the rain! We kept a close eye on the sky last weekend, timing a walk out with Scout to the least rainy portion of the day. A wander along the Wild Pacific Trail revealed churning water and some scenic stops under trees.E632E49C-1F86-49C9-9F39-CB13440B10B9

Back to that bright and sunny trip. When we moored the boat, students were keen to get ashore and light a campfire. Armed with knives, a fire steel, a lighter and some backup matches, they couldn’t wait to try out their skills. Great focus and teamwork when they were lighting the fire, sticking with the task when the wood didn’t immediately ignite. They shaved feather sticks and small pieces, piling them carefully and aiming to start with the tiniest and feed the flame as it grew. A couple of unintended extinguishes later, and they soon realized patience was the key to success.

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We will make fire!

Yes, they used a match, but they know it is important to have more than one way to start a fire, and they’ll try again with the fire steel another time. I’m looking forward to how they’ll get a fire going when we return later this month. It has been very wet, so fire starting out there will be a challenge. The group spent quite a bit of time collecting and splitting firewood, stacking it in a dry location, with enough stacked for the next visit. Preparation and planning!

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I can see November on the horizon!

Those not setting the fire got busy with putting up tents and squaring away supplies –  it is amazing how much gear can be packed into a small boat, and even more amazing how much food is needed to keep teenagers fed and functioning!

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One PC tent – very tidy

One section of the weekend was a hunting trip to try and supplement the goods brought out. Being vegetarian for the past three decades, I wasn’t too sure about hunting, but the trip wasn’t about my sensibilities. A part of being out on tribal lands was for the youngsters to learn how to be a provider beyond going to the store. I’ll write about the hunting in a future post…

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I see feathers, but no duck. Hmm…

Hatchets, axes, chainsaws and machetes were wielded with intent and to great effect, and not just for firewood. Old trails were cleared and improved, the goal being to make the camp easier to navigate for visiting elders.

Did I mention the bears? We didn’t see any the entire time we were there, but judging by the fresh bear scat all over, I hope the bears continued to enjoy the cleared trails after we left. Light-coloured birch branches and stones were used to mark the edges of the trails, and larger obstacles like fallen logs were removed, or had chunks cut out to minimize the climbing and scrambling. For parts of the trip, I was the oldest participant (that changed when a chainsaw carrying elder in his seventh decade arrived to assist) and the consensus was if the old Plaid-wearing guy can traverse the new trails without incident, then it’ll be fine for everyone else. I have my outdoor uses…

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Calm – ten steps from the tent

I’ll leave it there for this week, with a happy PlaidCamper warmed by the fire and exertions from trail-clearing (don’t worry, most of the heavy lifting was done by those far younger than me – they enjoy it!)

We are expecting a bit more rain for the next few days (weeks and months) but we’ll keep out on the trails, whatever the weather. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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“I think it is clearing – is that July on the horizon?”

Sea legs? Maybe…

Yes, maybe. I can’t claim to be much of a sailor. In fact, any vessel over the size of a kayak or canoe is way beyond my abilities, unless I’m driving onto a ferry – you might have read before about how I like to park at the front of an open car deck and pretend to be the captain. No? Oh. Let’s pretend I didn’t say that…

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Nahmint 5

Last weekend I got to spend quite some time on the water, in the sturdy Nahmint 5, and in a police launch. These were the two vessels used to transport excited youth, elders, mentors, and a slightly nervous PlaidCamper out to remote tribal lands, a camping spot that felt far from the modern world, and all the better for that.

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Our departure point – hope it clears…

The day had dawned with quite a bit of cloud cover and a real chill in the air. Our destination is reputed to be one of the rainiest places in Canada, and it appeared as though we’d be experiencing some of that soon. Fortunately, the cloud and mist burned off by midday, and as we pulled away from Ucluelet and headed towards the Broken Islands, the day warmed up and everything was a glorious blue, punctuated by island jewels of green and grey, with the distant mountains of the main island reaching up above cloud cloaked shoulders.

What a ride, with smooth, smooth water all about. My nerves over being in a small craft on open water were soon as calm as the  almost mirror flat surface we moved across.

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Fuel

Honestly, I’d not been too sure about the boat ride, having felt rather green about the gills in a heavy swell a couple of years back, but last week was fine. Sea legs? My sea legs were behaving, and we enjoyed a magnificent hour or more, fuelled by strong coffee, bright sunshine, and excited chatter.

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Smooth

I’ll write about the days spent camping, and some of the adventures we experienced over a few posts in the coming weeks, but thought I’d start with this, the short voyage to reach our destination. And, because I’m a little boy, I couldn’t resist including the police launch used for the trip back. What fun it was, getting my non-existent locks wind-tossed and wet in the sea spray thrown up by a fast-moving boat – far better than me fast-moving to the side and throwing up…

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Can I go in this one? Can I? Can I? Please?!

I’ve never been in the back of a police car (being a law-abiding sort) but now I can say I’ve been hauled into the back of a police launch (my initial clamber in wasn’t so elegant…)

I’ll leave it there, happily pretending to be an almost salty sea dog, and continue the tale another time.

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The Nahmint in one of the rainiest places in Canada – we were so fortunate to be completely dry our entire trip

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

Mists and drizzle (and a bear or two)

We’ve heard from various sources that parts of North America and Europe are suffering some extreme heat. My brother returned home to the borders of sultry summer WV and Maryland earlier this week after a great visit with us. Well, we thought it was great, but I swear he was muttering something about Canadian cold weather and asking why he couldn’t have had mist or drizzle, but not mist and drizzle? Is there a distinction? He got to hug a mountie – no photos, I wouldn’t do that to him – and that must have thawed him out a little?

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Mist and drizzle? Or drizzle?

On our various trips out and about, he saw a fair number of black bears from the car. Just as well, because on the bear sightseeing tour we took out of Tofino, for a long stretch of the trip it appeared that bears were not going to make an appearance. My brother huddled inside the bright red Canada hoodie I gave him, looking the picture of happiness (again, not a photo I dared to take) and staring out at the blissfully cool (cold?) conditions we’d been blessed with. OK, it was throwing it down, and a bit chilly with the viewing windows open, but if you won’t wear the proffered toque (he still has hair to worry about) how can you stay warm?

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Where are the bears?

Eventually, bears were spotted and the rain eased enough to get a photograph or two. My brother shot a short video of a bear running along a log to cross a small channel that he’ll enjoy showing to friends and other family. I’ve no video, but here is that bear:DSCF7234

I love heading out on the bear spotting tours – not a patch on an adventure we had a couple of years back with Wayne at Tofino Photography, but always fun, rain or shine. The trees, the water, the mist, the mountains, the bears and eagles, are a delight every time, and a chance to soak up the special atmosphere and sense of place this corner of the PNW has.DSCF7174

Once my brother was safely perched at a bar counter after the bear trip, he was a happy boy. He returned the unused toque, and the rain heavy hoodie that had soaked up a fair bit of atmosphere – it was dripping with it – and asked why we were sitting in a place called Wolf in the Fog? “How would you know there was a wolf? Should be called Is there a Wolf in the Fog? It’s too bloody foggy to really know!”

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Too foggy to spot a wolf? No! Have to come back another day…

He’ll just have to come back for another visit, and we’ll look that much harder. The hoodie will have dried out by then…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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!