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!

Racing green

I loved watching motor racing when I was a child – apparently I cried when my driving hero, Jackie Stewart, couldn’t get past another car due to the side-to-side manoeuvring of the driver in front. To my young mind, that wasn’t racing to see who could drive faster, it was blocking the track. I’m welling up now at the unfairness I still feel from that distant memory…

IMG_20180111_120118All that has absolutely nothing to do with anything, except that it came to mind as I started writing. We will be in the Jeep, a vehicle not noted for speed or aerodynamics, and racing across Alberta and BC, within the posted limits, so we can arrive on the coast in time for the long weekend. There, we will be seeing and soaking up the greens and blues (and cloudy/rainy greys) and signs of real spring.

fullsizeoutput_573By the time this is posted, our trusty Jeep will be shiny and black, dripping with rainwater and looking cleaner than it has for months, rather than the road salt and mud covered motley look it normally has for most of winter.

fullsizeoutput_57bWe are looking forward to brisk sea breezes, the cries of bald eagles, and the barking sea lions from down near the boat launch. If the sun appears, then the blue and gold of Long Beach will beckon, and if the sun doesn’t shine, we’ll go anyway and get wet. We’ll warm up later by the fire, with a glass of something good from Tofino Brewing.

fullsizeoutput_570A ferry, then fishing boats and kayaks. Dancing daffodils and bright tree blossom. Fresh air, full of the heady scent of wet cedar. Are we there yet? Keep it under the limit, PlaidCamper – who do you think you are, Jackie Stewart?

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“Yeah, I like the heady scent of the trees and all, but the best thing is sticks are bigger here!”

A very short post this week, as we are busy racing (safely) towards the green!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful long weekend!

 

Whiskey Landing

An old man and a young dog were out exploring on a fine sunny morning. In search of whiskey, they landed at an old wooden dock, stopping to rest for a few moments, when they were attacked from above by a mighty bald eagle…

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Early morning, looking east from Whiskey Landing
Stop, stop, stop! You can’t say that, that’s not what happened – you’ve got some of the words right, but c’mon, please be honest, and tell the truth. What is this nonsense you started with? Are you muddying the waters? Playing Chinese whispers? Creating fake news? Uh oh, don’t say that, don’t get me started – aargh, too late!

How I love to hear “leaders” cry “fake news!” I’m not listening, fingers in my ears and eyes screwed shut, la-la-la, fake news, fake news. Yeah, that seems a pretty adult leadership style, doesn’t it? (That’s adult as in grown up, not adult as in Stormy you-know-who…)

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Early morning, looking west, from Whiskey Landing. Calm, not stormy…
Why is it suddenly so hard for some to hear the truth these days? Why pretend to be so sensitive, finding it easier to take (fake) umbrage about what we hear, instead of listening? It’s spoiling my fun in being a human expecting other humans to show some decency and compassion. Let me guess? I’m a snowflake? That’s ok – this time of year, we’re knee deep in snow, so yes, I’m surrounded by snowflakes, and I love it.

And while I’m having this gentle rant, here’s something else. I feel so sorry for the trolls. There, I’ve said it. Once upon a time they lived under bridges, getting into trouble every now and then for wanting to snack on passing goats, but today being a troll is just the worst – blamed for so much of the comment on the web, and it isn’t even real trolls doing the trolling! (There’s no way – have you seen a troll’s hands? Far too big and clumsy to keyboard properly, so it can’t possibly be the real trolls. I hope this gets exposed, like an internet dark net deep state conspiracy thingy…#therealtrolls #trollrhymeswithknoll)

What a complicated world we’ve fabricated. Clearly, I’m getting old, possibly past it, when I’m wishing that trolls can just be trolls, and snowflakes simply fall prettily from the sky. All the partisan vitriol and name-calling. It’s enough to turn a person to drink. Ah, drink! Whiskey! Back to the story, and back to Whiskey Landing. Are you still here? Thank you, and apologies – the aside is longer than the story – oops, not story, I meant to say truthful and factual account. Let’s try again:

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RCMP pa-troll boat. Sorry.
A few weeks ago, I was out walking Scout, and we decided to stroll onto Whiskey Landing, trip-trapping over the bridge and onto the dock, and choosing to sit awhile. She likes to chew on any loose wooden boards, I like to pretend she isn’t doing that, and get my breath back, admiring the view and getting ready for wherever Scout wants to drag me next.

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Lovely spot to sit for a while
On a sunny day, and it was, it’s a fine place to watch the fishing boats heading up and down Barkley Sound. There are large commercial fishing boats, trawler size, and plenty of smaller boats too. Depending on the time of day, you can see quite the flotilla, setting off or returning. Very often, large numbers of squawking gulls follow the inbound boats up the channel, hopeful for a fishy morsel or two. We’ve seen harbour seals pop up and then dive down, wonderfully smooth and sleek. When they disappear, I watch the water carefully – I like to try and guess where they’ll reappear.

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There was a seal, honest! That’s part of the processing plant back there.
There is a fish-processing plant up channel from Whiskey Landing, and that attracts the gulls, crows, ravens and others. We’ve often seen bald eagles swooping over the plant; they fly across from the far side of the sound, singly, and in pairs. There’s hardly a visit to the dock where we haven’t seen at least one eagle, either circling, or perched in a tree, or up on the roof of the building overlooking the landing. Such beautiful big birds!

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“This is a good place to sit, but can we go now? I’ve eaten that plank…”
How big? Big! On the day in question, I’d spotted several bald eagles flying low over the processing plant, out of sight behind large buildings and then up into view, zooming back across the channel, presumably after snagging something to eat. Other eagles were much further away, small specks against the distant low mountains. I was quite content, watching and hearing all the bird activity, and enjoying the warm January(!) sun on my face.

Suddenly, several gulls appeared from beneath the yellow wooden raised edge, screaming and flapping just over my head. Yikes! They were being chased by a bald eagle! He shot up from below the parapet and whooshed over our heads. Scout jumped up and into me, almost knocking me off and into the water. Yikes again! The eagle gained height and landed up on a nearby roof. Wow!

What a thrill to have been so unintentionally close to a magnificent bald eagle. Scout could see the eagle was on the roof, and poor dog, she was trembling and whimpering. I wasn’t, but only because I needed to show Scout it was all ok. My heart rate might have gone up, just a little bit. Not enough to send me to the whiskey bottle though. (After all, it was still morning!) When we had both calmed down, we set off for home, trip-trapping back off the dock, past the eagle and over the bridge, being very careful not to disturb the water trolls under our feet.

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This is the bird! Taken on my phone, with shaky hands and a dog pulling on the leash as we walked away.
There you go, a true story. What with the opening aside (should you even open with an aside?) and the fact I’m evidently easily distracted, it’s amazing the story got told at all. I suppose I could have kept it a bit shorter? We went for a walk and a bird startled us.

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Taken a week earlier, a different eagle in a different location, and beautiful!
Thanks for reading, and feel free to share a story – have you ever been startled by a bird? Do trolls live under bridges? Have a wonderful weekend!

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“Psst! Are trolls real?” “Seriously? You haven’t heard about #therealtrolls?”