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…

Looking back to look ahead

With the long Easter weekend almost upon us – life has turned into one long weekend if you’re one of the many staying close to home right now – I thought I’d post a few past pictures taken around this time of year. Sort of heartening and disheartening at the same time…

Take the long view

Aiming to be positive, it’s nice to think that next Easter, or maybe the one after, most that choose to do so will be able to celebrate with their friends and families close by, rather than on FaceTime etc.

Maybe next year?

On a lighter, borderline trivial note, and perhaps somewhat worryingly, I have a trove of beer photographs dating back many, many years. Hmm, now why is that? Well, don’t some adults take pictures of trains and write down the engine numbers? Not that I’m being defensive or anything. The real reason is one of my brothers doesn’t like beer (you remember, he only drinks Peroni, proving he doesn’t like beer) so whenever we’re out and find ourselves – and this is rare – trying new beers in a microbrewery or bar, or a friend’s house, or at home, or on a day ending in a “y” – like I said, rare – then I’ll take a photo and send it to my brother. It’s ok, he likes getting the photographs, he really does. Anyway, seeing the photo below of North Coast Brewing’s Red Seal ale reminded me we haven’t tried that in quite a while. This is clearly an issue for me, because there’s still the important research needed to catch up on the past three years of AB new beers before revisiting old favourites. Looking back to look ahead. Clutching at straws, but maybe that’s a lockdown silver lining…

Not Peroni…

I’ll finish this one as I did last time. I do hope you’re keeping well. The current crisis is very serious, and frightening for so many. I admire and thank all the people who are doing all they can to keep what is necessary going. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful long weekend.

Positively strutting! Striding forward, that’s the way.

Today’s soup is…

Beer?! No! Not yet…

Soup, of course! More about the soup below. I know, you want to bail out now – but then you’ll never know about the soup. It’ll eat away at you…

Did you really think it was beer? It’s not like this blog posts a seemingly endless stream of beer photos.

Oh. Erm, a hop forward soup?

We walk past this chalkboard at least once a day, and if the current specials aren’t too inspiring, I find the soup of the day makes me smile.

Why not?

At PlaidCamper Towers, yesterday’s soup was a rather good homemade tomato and lentil, cooked from scratch with love and care, and the need to do anything except read another online article about how to improve oneself during the enforced sabbatical. I mean, if I read one more thing about how making your own soup from scratch with love and care will help you cope with hours indoors, and help me reach my potential, why, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll start writing about how making soup can help while away hours spent indoors. Is it too early for beer yet?

This blog is meant to be about the adventures of an almost outdoorsman, but given the current situation, I may have to rename it. Ooh, rebranding, isn’t that a thing, like conservatives suddenly loving public health, and finding the magic money tree is actually a magic money forest?! Time to start over, a new identity. Maybe, the adventures of a confirmed indoorsman? Indoorsman – is that a word? Adventures in dusting behind the books, vacuuming the baseboards twice a week, sweeping the little deck, and some updates on how the paint is drying where we’ve fixed a couple of drywall dings. I might even start some deliberate dinging of drywall just so I can fix it, and then write about it. Did I mention yesterday’s soup already?

A brief escape for the indoorsman

Anyway, I’ll leave it for this week, as I’ve got to go and find the hammer, plaster, paint and brushes Mrs. PC hid while I was writing this.

I do hope you’re keeping well. The current crisis is very serious, and frightening for so many. I admire and thank all the people who are doing all they can to keep what is necessary going. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend.

Pandemic! Epidemic! Endemic! I need a medic…

What a noisy week it has been. Well, I suppose it’s been noisy for a touch longer than that. Still, Super Tuesday (or was it Thursday? Oops!) and all the primary excitement. Joementum! Feeling the Bern! Racist slurs and insults on Twitter! Don’t forget the virus! We’re all going to die. True, but not right now, and not all at once. Is there a cure for this March madness? Health warning: this post contains many questions, and few answers!

Taking the cure

Not sure it’s a cure, but the Pacific provided some respite for us recently, on our own little Super Tuesday. We decided to take coffee and a second breakfast to Florencia Bay. Sunshine and an empty parking lot greeted us, as well as a falling tide. Barely a breath of wind, and the noise came from washing waves, the cries of gulls, and a pair of singing bald eagles. Ah, blessed harmony…

The canine question mark!

Florencia is Mrs PC’s favourite beach, and on a bright late winter day, it’s easy to see why. Coffee in a quiet place, sitting on a log overlooking the ocean? Could this be the cure? Dark roast and a berry muffin – a medical miracle. Perhaps not, but in the moment it certainly felt like a soothing specific Pacific balm for the epic epidemic of modern madness. I enjoyed writing that last sentence, but I wouldn’t want to repeat it three times. Or sing Happy Birthday twice (oh if only the cure for what ails us was so simple!)

Hush now, politicians, step aside, put your money where your mouths are, and listen to and support the proper experts – nurses, doctors, healthcare workers, underfunded and overworked yet doing their level best to keep all of us ticking along.

A Super Tuesday

Keeping it brief this week. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Dead Calm

The lake equivalent of the doldrums – is that a thing?

Personally, we’re not really in the doldrums, in fact, far from it, especially when we’re out and about. Mind you, current political storms aren’t showing any signs of receding. Peering ahead, trying to find a positive glimmer in the gloom somewhere on the future horizon, it can seem genuine calm and a sense of things improving globally is all a bit far off, a bit difficult to discern. The doldrums wouldn’t be so bad compared to a storm. Although a sailor never wants to be in either…

A glimmer

A sailor? Me?! I should probably leave the nautical terms and conditions well alone! Anyway, we all know the seas are stormy at the moment.

In the meantime, as we wait for common sense to reappear, what can be better than a trip to the lake? We enjoyed Sproat Lake early one morning last week, a day that started with fog and frost. When we stopped at the Kennedy Hill construction, the flagger said our wait would be 15-20 minutes. Excellent! A chance to pop down to the edge of Kennedy and take a quick photo. The water was silvery-blue, and on the far side, trees were topped with a layer of fog, and poking out of this fog were the heads and shoulders of low mountains. Quite magical. What a splendid view, worth hanging around and snapping a shot.

Sproat Lake, not Kennedy. Dead calm.

“Hey Bud? They just cleared it ahead, and I can let you through! Good eh?!”

Well, darn! My all time scenic shot of Kennedy will have to wait for another day! By the time we reached Sproat, after a pretty and winding drive up and over Sutton Pass and down through the Snow Creek area, the fog had closed in.

Happy enough!

It was cold, and we walked at a brisk pace along the shore. Often, crows and ravens give us a squawk and a nod, and we sometimes see a heron in the reeds, but not much was stirring. The surface of the lake was still, and in places we couldn’t see where the water gave way to fog. It was very quiet, very calm. Dead calm, and no bad thing if you’re happy with that.

Pretty chilled

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

Apocalyptic!

An attention-grabbing heading, even if the reality was somewhat less exciting.

How about Ukeepocalypse? Or the UkeeVeggieFamine? We survived both, you know…

If you’ve read along for the past couple of years, you might remember that just up the road from us a road construction project is ongoing. A small project in many other places perhaps, but actually quite a big deal here, and quite an impactful one at that.

Rainfall? Here?

The twisting highway really narrows at Kennedy Lake, and in poor weather with low visibility, it is a dangerous spot for drivers. Sadly, there have been fatalities in the past. The Kennedy Hill project will eventually result in a wider and safer road. For almost two years, construction has caused many planned and unplanned highway closures. Rock blasting has sometimes taken out the power lines to the coast, rainfall has caused mudslides, and just over a week ago, blasting caused a fall that took too much rock and ended with a part of the road collapsing and falling into the lake below. Oops.

Questions started to fly. Will the road reopen today? Tomorrow? Before the weekend? After the weekend? Ever? What about emergency services if needed? Deliveries of food and gas to the stores? That essential gadget from Amazon? Will we be abandoned? Cut off from civilization? (One can hope…) Wasn’t the snow last week enough? Was that an earthquake? Yes it was. What next? Locusts?

Snowmageddon?! Hardly

Locusts? Some did get a little overexcited, and shopped like it really was the apocalypse. Although, if it really is the apocalypse, isn’t the deal one goes looting, rather than lining up to pay for dwindling goods and services? So not completely out of control then.

Living out here, there is an expectation households can manage for themselves for 72 hours should there be a tsunami evacuation or power outage. This allows emergency services to focus on priorities. The local store really was emptied out of fresh produce rather too quickly. Why panic buy? Do you love broccoli that much? Really? Maybe events will have prompted some to be a bit better prepared for the future…

There were some amusing posts on the community pages

In the end, a temporary bridge was put in place over the yawning chasm, and I’m looking forward to driving over it once some heavier vehicles have made it through safely. The road reopened – as much as it has ever been open in recent times – before the end of the weekend, and what passes for normal service has been resumed. Broccoli is once more in store, and the local deer population looks much relieved. Yawning chasm?! Dramatic, just like the apocalypse should be.

Yawning chasm? Well, I wouldn’t get too close to the edge – and there is not much underneath

I survived the Ukeepocalypse…phew! I hope there’s a t shirt coming.

Calmer days ahead?

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend.

“I want it to snow and snow…”

“It’s snowing! It’s snowing!”

Really? I waited for a few seconds, and looked very, very carefully. There! On my sleeve, was that a snowflake? Yes! And then another and another. Snowing? Maybe.

“See? It’s snowing! It’s snowing!”

“Well, there are some flakes falling from the sky, so, yes, it’s snowing!”

“Yes! Can we build a snowman?”

“Erm, let’s wait, see how much snow falls…”

“I want it to snow and snow and snow!”

Several hours later.

“When will it actually begin to, you know, pile up?”

“Maybe overnight. We’ll check it out tomorrow, ok?”

“And build a snowman?”

“And build a snowman!”

It snowed and snowed! A bit.

The following day.

We built snow caves for our toy wolves. We re-enacted the plane crash from “Hatchet” (yes, the story takes place in high summer, but if you’re pretending to be a small bush plane crashing in the northern wilderness, snow is ideal for a soft landing – I mean, crash) and we built a snowman.

We also created a scene showing Brian being bitten by a swarm of mosquitoes, and this seemed a very strange thing to be doing in swirling snow. The results looked like something from a Nordic noir crime scene:

A boy covered in mosquitoes? If you squint…

The next day.

“Can we go inside now? I’m cold. We could stay indoors, read some more of the book. I don’t like snow that much. Is it going to rain tomorrow? I like the rain!”

“Would you like it to rain and rain and rain?”

“I like the snow!”

It has rained. Rain. Rainy-sleet. Sleety-rain. Snow. Snow-rain. Rain-snow. Back to rain. Then more rain. Brian washed away.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Sunshine and snow