Buzzing

Last week was a noisily productive week. I’d say we were buzzing. And roaring, cursing and sweating through a few days of chainsaw training. By “we” I mean me. The cursing and sweating part anyway.

Looks messy! What would help here?

If you’re familiar with gas powered chainsaws, you’ll know you have to yank a cord to get the saw fired up. Looks easy when a professional shows you. And, the first time I tried, hey presto, the chainsaw roared into life. Mostly because the chainsaw was new, and had warmed up. I like those new ones.

Starting the community winter wood pile

You should have seen me later, on a cold start older saw. Could I get it going? Nope. Must have been a really old saw, one of the ones that runs not on gas, but something from an earlier era. Coal? Dinosaur poop?

At the end of the day, after you’ve worked up a chainsaw sweat. Or even if you didn’t.

I’d paid attention during the basic maintenance and upkeep session. It was probably dirty, clogged up and needed cleaning. Oh yeah, I can handle some basic maintenance and pre-op checks. And on the chainsaw too. It was totally clean. So, probably a major repair was required, something that couldn’t be fixed in the field. Yeah, that was it.

J, one of the young people I was learning alongside, offered to take a look.

“Seems alright – let’s give it a go!”

Well, you can guess the rest… I must have warmed it up.

“What’s he talking about? Seems alright!”

My sweating, cursing, and weedy biceps aside, we had a great – and safe – few days. No fingers or toes were lost, and we’re better equipped to tackle some of the more challenging sections on the trail being built. We are back to that next week, and I’ll be there, ready to fire it up and get buzzing – if someone passes me a chainsaw that has been running recently.

“Chainsaws? Nah, I’ll use this!“

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

The forest

The past week has been the most enjoyable for quite some time. I’ve got bruises and scratches, I ache almost everywhere, and I’m writing this at the second attempt, having dozed off previously. Hmm. I’m awake now, drool wiped from chin, so let’s share a little of the last few days.

A group of youth and young adults have been learning from two trail-building teachers. They were so good, teaching us that how a trail is built is its own story, then trails are used to retell old stories and create new ones. Walking in places where the spirit of ancestors reside, and where predecessors walked in times past, certainly fired up the youth. They’re excited about creating community paths to allow easier access to the local lake. Improving and replacing sections of an old boardwalk, as well as building a couple of new trails is what they’ll be doing over the course of the summer.

A shovel didn’t go into the ground for the first day and a half. The time was spent bushwhacking, searching for likely routes and places to see, using the terrain and marking out possibilities. This was fun stuff, and somewhat harder for one or two of the older folks accompanying the young crew. Yup, me.

Old boardwalk, new tools

It turns out I’m not as nimble as I thought when it comes to jumping up on to (or off) a log. And gaps in dense thickets get smaller when I’m in them. At one point I got stuck pushing up and over an old log, completely caught in the tangle of smaller branches. Couldn’t go forward, couldn’t go back, and couldn’t lose (any more) face. I ended up using my COVID kilos, and simply let myself “fall” forward, counting on gravity and a heavy backpack (or those COVID kilos) to pull me through. It sort of worked. Probably not in any training manual…

Digging it

Anyway, older folks were recovered, plausible routes were marked out, and we’ve spent three sweat and mosquito filled days breaking new trail. The young ones are so strong, and so ready to learn. After months of mostly indoor time, the hours in the forest are wonderful. Purposeful activity, great company, lots of learning, kilos to lose, and all under the watchful eye of bears, spirits, leaders, and spirited leaders-in-making.

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

Happy Campers

It’s Canada Day next Wednesday, a day we like to stop and think about how fortunate we are to be living and working where we do.

Warmer than it looks

For almost everyone, the year so far – are we only six months in?! – has been challenging, so it’s good to pause and be positive.

A different sense of time

Canada is very far from perfect, but I choose to believe that it’s a nation trying to progress towards greater inclusivity, aiming to ensure what comes next for all Canadians is an improvement on the past. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else, in good times or tougher times, and I’m looking forward to Wednesday. Peering ahead, I’d like to think every day is Canada Day for all who live here.

Taken from Mount Ozzard. Hitacu near side, Ucluelet far side

So if you’re Canadian, know a Canadian, will become a Canadian, have visited Canada, would like to visit Canada, or you’re a big fan of maple syrup, then happy Canada Day to you!

A good idea from Nelson Brewing, BC

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your weekend!

All accompanying photographs were taken this week when I was at work – what a spot to work in! (Not the beer photo – that was after work!)

Benches and beaches

Last week’s post was firmly rooted in unreality, so I thought I’d better demonstrate I haven’t completely lost the plot by writing a more grounded piece. A brief item on benches and beaches, since that’s where we’ve mostly been in between bouts of online work.

What bear? Where?

Scout has enjoyed sniffing out and rediscovering her old haunts, and many of these happen to be in front of convenient benches with a view.

Last Sunday morning, we spent quite some time lost in thought, sitting on a bench and watching bald eagles spiral and sing in lazy loops above the water. Our eyes are a bit out of focus, and at first we couldn’t be absolutely certain if we’d spotted a bear over the bay, or a rock pretending to be a bear. It was a bear. Or the rock was walking…

Could be a moving rock…

Later, we ventured out to Long Beach, uncertain about how busy it might be. We needn’t have worried. The parking lot was about half full, and most folks were surfers judging by numbers in the water. Once we’d walked down the beach for a few minutes, we were fully physically distanced by many hundreds of metres from the very few souls we saw.

Long bench or long beach?

Back on a beach, on a sunny day, it was a relief to sit on a log, watch the surf, and forget the world wide woes for a while. We smiled and smiled, and Scout decided to dig and dig. I believe the trench she created is the only dog-made construction – or deconstruction – that can be seen from space. She sure put in some effort for her beach return.

Hitacu to Ucluelet – you can almost see “our” bench from here!

Speaking of grounded (were we?) I’m delighted to say, all being well, I’m breaking out of self-isolating/work-from-home exile next week. Coronavirus grounded me – and sent me to my room young man – for over twelve weeks. Young rebel that I am, I’ll be taking the car keys, climbing down the drainpipe, and driving off into a summer of misadventures. Or going back to real work. Real work? Yes, if a summer of chainsaw courses, trail building, wilderness survival training, search and rescue skills, beach-keeping and other related learning/mentoring is allowed to be called work. It’ll be a proper grounding, working and learning alongside a group of motivated youth and young adults. We met earlier this week, and it’s going to be an effort for me to keep pace! I predict weekends full of benches, beaches and long snoozes…

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

Unmoored (2m/6ft)

We had a pretty good road trip back to the coast last week. It was strange to be traveling in these socially distant times, with caution and uncertainty over new protocols very evident. What was lovely was how considerate people were – at gas stations, the hotel, and on the ferry. Kind, friendly, creating space, and aware of each other, maybe this can continue post-pandemic?

Coquihalla Highway High

Anyway, rather than write a heavy-on-boring-details account of our Trans Canada Highway drive, I thought I’d describe it through a set of song titles from the playlist. All tracks are by my new favourite band you won’t have heard of, Gays in the Military. They hail from the PNW and here are the songs, most found on the album “Your Devoted Son, Ned”:

1. Coquihalla Highway High

2. Runaway Lane

3. Drooping Hemlock Tip (huh?)

4. ManBaby in Orange/Unmoored

5. Taking A Knee

2m/6ft

6. 2m/6ft

7. Queen of Alberni

8. Duke of Duke Point

9. Cargo Pants Capacity

10. Sovereignty/Taking Back Control (How do you like me now?) feat. Oops, I’m A Unicorn

11. French Roast Alarm

12. Green and Blue feat. West Coast Pale

13. Bonus track, Chicken Kibble Again? feat. Sad Mutt

So there you have it, a new band, some new songs, and they all seemed to fit with being on the road last week. I don’t know, does this seem likely?

Chicken Kibble Again? OK!

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

All the right notes, wrong coast

PS Alright, I’ll come clean. When the ferry unmoored from the Tsawassen dock, my own mind untethered from reality as I sat in the sun watching the mainland recede. An unhinged mind, free from the shackles of whatever was shackling it, came up with a make believe band and their first album. If they were real, they’d be huge, in an understated indie scene way. I’m thinking a modern day sound influenced by Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan, with a hint of plaid commentary and I’ll play the drums. Sounds good, eh? How modest of me. If you’d like further liner/sleeve notes, feel free to ask in the comments below. Every song title has a story…

Green and Blue

PPS I think it’s clear I should return to some proper employment. I start back next week, and my only regret is I won’t have time to focus on the often difficult second album. I agree, a musical loss. Perhaps a future project…

PPPS Imagine my surprise when I checked to see if there is/was a band called Gays in the Military. Well, confirming there is rarely anything new under the sun, they already exist, with an album released in 2005. Having played a couple of tracks, you’ll be happy to know I think my future project is still a go.

Upbeat

I’ve a cheerful face, with movie star good looks best suited to radio. When I stand on my head, I appear to be smiling. Appearances can be deceptive, as I’m actually quite a happy soul, a glass half full person, especially when my glass is half full. Keep me away from the daily political and environmental news, and you’ll see a happy chappy.

Glass half full – this was an excellent IPA!

Having said all that, like many of us, I’ve had days when the current crisis has dented a positive outlook. How couldn’t it? What a time we’re all going through. Initially, there were aspects of stay at home social distancing that were quite welcome for this introvert. I didn’t mind the extra quiet that befell the city, especially at the start of the shutdown. Reduced traffic and hushed streets were rather enjoyable. Vehicle use is picking up again now, noticeably so, and I’m looking forward to when we’ll be able to return to the less noisy coast. It’ll happen.

Fresh

The city is brightening up, greenery more abundant, and the first blossom starting to show. Scout and I stood under a tree the other morning, sheltering from the rain and breathing in the fresh fragrance. Heady stuff, and we’d have stood there longer, but people were starting to stare…

Staying dry

We’ve missed being able to hang out with mates, so when we were invited by mountain friends to go have a physically distant beer on their deck, we jumped at the chance. Calculating we’d all been in isolation (aside from a weekly supermarket run) for over two months, and hadn’t had any significant interaction with anyone outside of our respective households, we rolled the dice and said let’s meet.

Colour!

The weather didn’t cooperate, with intermittent rain and low cloud cover obscuring the mountains. Never mind, and it was coffee rather than beer, sheltering under the deck instead of up on top.

It was so good to catch up, to sit (together but apart) and chew the fat, make plans for a camping trip to be taken… well, who knows? But it’ll happen.

It’ll happen

The best part of the day wasn’t for the humans, it was for the dogs. Our friends have taken in a rescue pup, a delightful little dog called Ponyo. Part husky, part beagle, all fun, Ponyo and Scout had a wild time. They wrestled and rolled in the backyard, ran and ran in the dog park, then wrestled and rolled some more. We’ve never seen Scout so tired!

Wrestle and roll

All in all, we aim to remain positive, maintain an upbeat outlook, make plans for the summer and beyond, and keep our glasses half full. And beyond.

Ponyo!

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

Virtual camping?

Can that be a thing? Not too sure it’ll work, but here’s what I’ve been thinking. Thinking?! I’ve gotten very close to setting up my little solo tent on our tiny balcony. If I thought Mrs. PC would let me in again the next morning, I’d probably take that trip. This week is a bit of a repost, or perhaps a remake? Redo?

This time last year was the last time I went on an off grid trip. Over thirty young people plus elders and mentors set off in two boats, in high spirits, low temperatures and steady rain. The smaller boat was a zippy number, speeding ahead and stopping every now and then to drop a line, see what could be hooked. We had time. This was because the second boat was a larger slow boat, carrying most of the group and all of the supplies. A steady steamer that probably felt smoother in the roughish seas.

The slow boat

I was on the small boat for the outbound voyage, “enjoying” those roughish seas and the chance to stop and fish. The fishing wasn’t a huge success, unless you count snagging a surprised sea slug. Or was it a cucumber?

Beware, sea cucumbers!

The weather improved over the three days we were away, so that by the time we were ready, if not willing, to return, we completed the trip under blue skies. I took the slow boat back – anything to prolong the fun.

Another picture of the slow boat

Out at camp, we rebuilt trails that had taken a battering from a couple of spring storms. Everything was tidied and spruced up, ready to present to and welcome a group of elders coming out to see the area, for some, the first time in years. After the first night, I reset my tent properly in daylight. I’d really rushed the set up, doing the best I could in strong winds and rain in the dark. Besides, who wants their untidy tent letting the side down?

The small tent

What I didn’t report in my first piece about this year ago trip was that on the final afternoon – the day before we were leaving – I turned my ankle over. It was jolly painful, and my left foot turned all sorts of jolly interesting colours.

Since then, the recovery of the high ankle sprain has taken many months. It’s unlike me not to have complained about this sooner, but as I’ve time in this pandemic, and because you’re interested, let me share that I couldn’t ride my bike, and really struggled with walking up anything with much of an incline. My dreams of shimmying past the last defender and scoring a beauty of a World Cup winning goal have had to be put on hold. Again. I know, I know, it’s a loss for sport.

The small boat

All of this slight moping and retelling and reminiscing is simply a way of me wishing we could all go camping again soon. Not all at once, and not in the same place. I love you dearly, but there are physical distancing issues that we need to respect. Still, until we can be out in our favourite places and with our favourite people, there’s always the virtual camping and old stories to share. Again. Did I mention my ankle?

Off grid inlet. Soon?

Thanks for reading, enjoy the long weekend if you have one, the regular one if you don’t, and stay safe and well! Now, where’s the spare back door key, and let’s see if that solo tent will fit on the balcony…

PS I’m told those seas really weren’t that rough, or roughish – even the sea slug laughed at me. Or was it a cucumber?

The wheels have fallen off!

Hmm, what could that mean? In so many different ways, and in so many places during the current crisis, it seems wheels have been falling off. If you’ve been here before, you’ll know I (mostly, haha) steer clear of matters controversial. So let me say, when the wheels are falling off, I mean the wheels are falling off…this:

What a find!

A weekend or two ago, the walls were starting to close in a bit more than usual. Like many, we’ve been missing time on trails, and our usual visits to wide open spaces. For me, like many, positive mental health can be boosted by time spent in green and blue outdoor places. Alberta in late winter/early spring isn’t renowned for vibrant greenery, so we did the next best thing, and went to the gold and brown prairies – under vast blue skies.

Gold? Brown? Blue!

Phew. A sneak trip out of the city, a drive along empty back roads, windows down, cold fresh air, and space, space, space. From above, our car bouncing along dusty ridge roads would have looked like a little black socially distanced insect. One badly in need of a wash.

This vehicle is cleaner than our Jeep. Really.

We didn’t see many other people, but we did see a couple of red tailed hawks, numerous waterfowl bobbing on icy cold knob and kettle ponds, hundreds of geese overhead, and maybe best of all, a herd of bison up on a distant ridge.

We did stop to enjoy our cup of coffee and small(ish) bar of chocolate. Wondering where would be a good place for this, with great timing we came around a bend and saw a rusting relic sitting in a field. What a beauty, an old Mercury (I only know that because the rear badge was still visible) stranded in golden grass. The remains of a failed getaway, perhaps? There’s a good story here just waiting to be told.

Busted getaway? Busted headlight, busted taillight, busted windshield, busted…

What was slightly strange was seeing a set of what looked to be reasonably ok tires, one at each wheel arch. The car looked distinctly undriveable, but maybe someone out there on the prairies has plans to ensure the Mercury isn’t in its final rusting place? That would be cool. Next time the walls close in, maybe we’ll take another spin out there, see if the car has been saved. Wheels fallen off? Doesn’t have to be a permanent state of affairs…

Busted, yeah – but sort of beautiful?

Thanks for reading. I hope you’re well, please stay safe and enjoy the weekend ahead!

Show pony shutdown

Time to saddle up! Be warned, it’s a rambling piece this week, detours and tangents aplenty as we take an armchair slow ride to nowhere in particular. That being said, with no topic or destination in mind, how will we know there’s been a detour? Anyway, I’m allowed to be off topic and tangential – squirrel – I’m not a president. Just saying…

High noon, Kneehill County

I got an email from a friend yesterday morning, describing how he’s coping with lockdown in London. Some brief background? Ok. My buddy is a young man, only a year older than me. We met over 30 years ago, when I started my first proper job, working for a government department in central London. I can’t say exactly where, or name the department, all very hush hush. Regular readers know I can be trusted with the truth. Hank (not his real name, but one he wishes was) still works for a government department, and he’s currently plotting, I mean working, from his small apartment in North London. He’s fine, the evidence being he’s taken to dressing up in C&W clothing, complete with Stetson, and is listening to “Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels” by Whitey Morgan and the 78s. (Good cover there of a great song – what do you think?) Cowboy duds and country music – that’s normal for North London these days, isn’t it? He’s doing this as preparation for a (now postponed) road trip we were due to take this summer. I might have dodged a bullet there…

High plains drifting

Sticking with the Western theme, Scout and I were moseying down the middle of 10th Street at high noon yesterday. As with all good, and not so good, Westerns, townsfolk scurried indoors as we passed, shooing their children ahead of them and peering out through the gap in the curtains. Showdown! Hairy and mean looking varmints (squirrels) moved from tree to tree, trying to get the high ground and a clear view of the sheriff (Scout) and her good looking and trustworthy young deputy (me, of course – how could you even ask?!) We faced them down, made it out of there.

The sheriff, tracking

‘Scuse me while I take a moment, spit my chewin’ baccy into the ol’ tin at my feet. Well sh*t, now I gone done made a mess on my boots. Shee-it. New old timey story? Ok. Okey dokey. You bet. I pardnered up with a law-abiding school master from Red Deer a few years back. He was principal of a Junior High School that had even more than the usual share of middle years miscreants, rebels, and wannabe outlaws. Education badlands, allegedly, but in truth, not at all bad, these were spirited and lively young people. Sheriff Duane was excellent at his job, corralling and educatin’ his young steers with great good humour. He was never overly fond of a meeting, preferring to be in the field teaching, rather than pushing darn papers. He’d always start a meeting with “Let’s get this dog and pony show on the road!” This young buck never quite understood what that meant, but I do think of Sheriff Duane every time I drink a Last Best Show Pony pale ale. Yup, all that just so I could use this photograph:

No dog, all pony. Cheers, Duane!

Well, I think that’ll ‘bout do it for now. I gotta get me a glass of something to sip slow and steady as I sit on my rocking chair, watch the sun set, dog at my feet, with Whitey Morgan and his boys crooning quietly in back. So long!

Goodness, what is going on? Where did all that come from? You’re doing something similar, yes? Or is it just me? Is this what happens when an old PlaidCamper is in a long term shut down. Or decline? Neural pathways rewiring themselves in new and not so interesting ways, and make believe takes over. It’s not all make believe. I am actually growing (or trying to grow) a fine “sad cowboy” moustache, for when Hank and I finally take that Western road trip. We’ll look (and sound, haha) completely authentic. You have been warned, small town bars of Alberta, Montana and Wyoming. That fast moving cloud of dust on the outskirts? Two thirsty show pony buckaroos riding into town…

Thanks for reading, I hope you’re well, safe, sane enough, and ready to enjoy your weekend!

PS I’ve just finished listening to “Honky Tonks and Cheap Motels” for the second time. It might (or might not) be a great way to plan a road trip, but it is definitely a fun old school country album. You’ll be growing your own sad cowboy moustache, or drawing one on. My thanks to Hank, the North London urban cowboy, for the recommendation.

“Oh no, elephants!”

I was out with Scout earlier this week, tramping the neighbourhood streets, enjoying the nonappearance of spring, and laughing at the squirrels laughing at us. We came across (another) patch of ice, frozen snowmelt, a perfect mini-hockey rink spread over the sidewalk, and another opportunity for me to reenact and explain to Scout how Iginla and Crosby combined to score the gold medal winning goal at the 2010 Olympics. Given the number of icy patches out there, various hockey moves happen quite a bit. To mix things up, I’ll sometimes charge the net, and Scout also appreciates my ability to score on the wraparound. I’ll admit that Scout’s stick handling is the best…

Wednesday, no spring

The picture of sporting excellence I’ve painted in your mind is, obviously, quite something to see, so now it’s going to hurt me (and you) to come clean, tell the truth. Ready?

We came across (another) patch of ice, and I muttered to Scout “Oh no, elephants!” She did what she always does when she has no idea what I’m going on about, wagged her tail and looked expectantly at my coat pocket that has the extra kibble. She’s a well fed dog.

Scout, lots of spring!

“Oh, no, elephants!What are you going on about, PlaidCamper?

Good question. Let’s take a time travel trip, back to the distant, distant past, to an era when young PlaidCampers roamed the earth, wearing NHS spectacles and terrorizing the neighbourhood when playing out on bikes for hours at a time.

We would build ramps so we could perform death defying leaps across canyons filled with (toy) trucks, pedalling furiously to gather up enough speed so when we hit the ramp it would fall apart before any chance of lift off. Looking back, it’s strange none of that group of friends and family ever became engineers or involved in construction projects.

Anyway, back to the elephants. I think we came to the conclusion that jumping over toys wasn’t sufficiently dangerous, that we somehow lacked motivation, the necessary element of danger. The solution? We didn’t need to leap over toys, what was needed was for the smallest of us to lie down in the canyon. It was at this point someone said “element of danger” and it became, because we were young and silly, the elephant of danger, a kind of shorthand for when we were doing things we shouldn’t. Not that that ever happened. Riding down Langley Hill, a steep, busy and pot holed road, a speeding stream of (poorly) self maintained bikes, wobbling madly in an attempt to keep up with the fastest kid, the guy with a speedometer, shouting out “32mph!” No elephant of danger there. How about climbing up onto the garage roof, leaping from garage to garage, knowing the construction was little more than balsa wood and tar paper? Yup, one of us fell through the roof, stuck at the waist and shouting for help to get free. It’s hard to help when you’re practically peeing yourself laughing, and looking around hoping there were no adults ready to give us what for.

Tall can, tall tales (The truth? This one is excellent – you can believe that…)

Yes, the elephant of danger. There are other stories, but if I told them, I’m quite certain there’d be a knock on the door, and the long arm of the law would finally catch up. There are untold reasons behind why I keep moving on…

Back to the present day. I’d forgotten all about the elephants of danger until confronted by the ice sheet earlier this week. Did I really reenact the Iginla to Crosby Olympic golden goal? The truth? The long forgotten elephants phrase popped into my head as I flailed wildly, skating and slipping to reach the other side and the safety of drier pavement, as if being chased by the Hanson brothers. Less Olympian, and more Slap Shot. It’s probably the glasses…

Yesterday, signs of spring?

Yes, that’s why the squirrels were laughing. As for spring and safer sidewalks, rumour and the Weather Network has it that we are due a warm, sunny and dry spell the next few days, which is great news, as I’m not as young as I was, and certainly far more cautious around elephants.

Thanks for reading, stay safe, and have a wonderful weekend! Must go, I can hear a knock at the door…