Sounds spooky, and Hallowe’en is weeks away. What’s going on?
We had plans to hike up a good stretch of Long Beach last week, starting from the Kwisitis Visitor Centre, and continuing until legs or snacks gave out. Unfortunately, a large black bear was wandering back and forth across a narrow section of beach, and Parks Canada were there to ensure the bear was left alone, and our walk was cut short. Instead, we opted to mooch about on Lismer and South Beach, and Scout attempted to dig her way to the southern hemisphere. Time well spent.
Yes, yes, all quite lovely, but what about the surf ghosts? I can’t hear you cry.
We returned to the same beach a couple of days later, and the weather was warm, but very foggy along the shore. Bear warning signs were in place, and we were a little reluctant to head out, because we wouldn’t be able to see the bear in the mist. When we stopped to think about it, mist, fog, rain or shine, we rarely spot bears because they’ve already seen/heard us and moved along. That said, we prefer a longer view and a bit of distance where possible.
Great. The ghost surfers?!
We decided to wait out the fog, believing it would lift as the morning wore on, and start our walk with a clearer view. We settled down on a log, broke into our snack supply, and saw a couple of surfers emerge onto the beach and head to the waves. They made an interesting sight through the veil of mist. Before coming to this part of the coast, if you’d said anything to me about surfing, I’d think of Hawaii and board shorts, and a beach bar serving drinks with an umbrella in. That, or my sad and exhausting attempts at surfing off the coast of the Isle of Wight (southern UK, frigid English Channel waters) many, many years ago. If there was a bar serving drinks with an umbrella in, I didn’t see it…
Our ghost surfers were kitted out in wetsuits, sensibly enough, and took to the waters without hesitation, appearing to have a fine time in the surf. They played for nearly an hour, and when they finally came back out of the water, I hope they had something warming to drink, no umbrellas.
Eventually, the fog cleared enough for us to head up the beach, and we had a pleasant walk, spotting shore birds and no bear. After an hour, the next fog bank rolled in, and we retraced our steps back to the parking lot. As we approached the visitor centre, we saw more ghost surfers emerging in the mist. I admire the surfers out here. They are a committed bunch, and clearly appear to enjoy their passion. So much so, they even come back as ghosts…
We’ve been enjoying our time in Ucluelet, and were excited to be here for Ukee Days, a celebration of community in this little corner of the west coast. The weekend kicked off properly with a parade, and excitement was in the air. Especially from the young children who had experienced a parade here before. They knew each parade participant would be handing out candy to the young ones lining the route.
It was a noisy and colourful affair, and likely the only time we’ll see a muscle car behind a police vehicle get away with burning rubber on main street…
Parks Canada, Inland Search and Rescue, local mum and toddler groups, the Wild Pacific Trail Society, Ucluelet Aquarium, various local stores, some fire trucks, police ATVs, an ambulance and other participants made a fine spectacle.
We’d planned to meet friends from Canmore arriving to camp nearby for the week at the evening show. Unfortunately, they missed a ferry and ended up getting to their campsite just as it was dark. They were rather tired from waiting three hours for the next boat, a two hour crossing with a seasick dog, and then a longish drive across island with a puking dog on the latter winding stages, and two teenage boys getting greener each time Fido threw up. They missed the evening music and beer.
It was a good line up, particularly the headline set by Band of Rascals– guitars, drums, a bass, and a lead singer giving it all, with the volume turned up to 11. As it should be. When the light faded, and the fog rolled in, the proceedings were perfumed – heavily – by a sizeable chunk of the audience figuring they’d get away with breaking the no smoking policy under cover of darkness. Weed was in the air. Certainly added something to the atmosphere, a little extra haze and daze. We were happy enough with the Tofino Session ale from the beer garden. Quite enjoyed being carded too – I think I look as though I might still be in high school…
We did catch up with our friends in the following days, and they slowly began to unwind and relax into Ukee time. They surfed a bit, hiked a bit, ate good food and drank good beer a bit, and loved having a beach bonfire each night right in front of their campsite.
They weren’t quite as excited about the bear that had gotten into a nearby tent early one morning (to scavenge for candy a child had left in a sleeping bag) coming back when they were out and tearing a hole in the side of their tent. Sadly, the bear may have to be put down. Doesn’t seem remotely fair to the bear when it is only trying to be a bear…
It takes time to find the time to wind down and follow island or small town pace of life. Once you do, the trick is to maintain it, try to hang on to it even if you have to move on. Small isn’t dull, and slowing down doesn’t hurt – put yourself in a small town daze!
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?
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?
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:
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.
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!”
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…
…that we received way back in the summer, and I’ve been saving to share this week.
When I wrote about some of our wonderful summer highlights, I deliberately left this one out, wanting to write about it in the depths of winter, close to the solstice and this time of seasonal sharing.
One July evening, we met up with friend and fellow blogger Wayne, as he had kindly offered to take us along on one of his evening shoots. If you haven’t seen Wayne’s work, then head over to Welcome to Tofino Photography – you won’t be sorry!
Wayne was patient as his two “helpers” assisted with moving his Zodiac from the boat shed and down onto the water. I suspect it is all rather easier without our assistance…
A new boat for Wayne, it’s maiden voyage under new ownership, everything was fine until it started shipping a little water. Problem solver that he is, Wayne soon realigned the outboard motor to prevent any further water intake, and I stopped eyeing the distance to shore and fiddling with the lifejacket.
What an absolute thrill it is to be skimming across the waves (when the swell or waves are light – the choppier water gave our nether regions an unspeakable pounding), zooming up and down channels, past rocky islets on the lookout for wildlife in, on, by and above the water.
Seeing and hearing a floatplane take off and fly overhead from on the water made this little boy laugh. Is it a buzzing, droning, whirring or roaring engine? Maybe all of the above. I love it. Most of us don’t see and hear that everyday.
The further we travelled from Tofino, the fewer signs of human habitation we saw. Salmon farms, a houseboat or two, the occasional dwelling on the edge, and a few boats plying the waters. When the engine was cut and we drifted, gently bobbing up and down, the near silence was magical. A breath of wind, a small splash or two, and it was perfect.
I don’t know the waters, but I have a chart, and the names are evocative. Deadman Islets – now there’s a story, surely? Ask Wayne… What about Strawberry Island?
What a place to explore! Fortune Channel? Indeed. What a trip we had. Along Browning Passage, through the Tsapee Narrows, past Warne Island, into Gunner Inlet, and being tranquil all the way, this was a fine evening. Experienced and with an eagle eye, Wayne was quick to spot wildlife. We saw some harbour seals, a few bears, including a mama and clambering cub (so beautiful), and breathtaking landscapes and cloudscapes in the fading light.
We stopped in Gunner Inlet for a few minutes – snack time – and I’ll never forget the peace we experienced there. The silence carries weight, but it isn’t oppressive. Wild and remote, a gift within a gift.
I’ll keep this short, and let the photographs convey some small measure of our wonderful evening. Wayne is a modest man, preferring to be behind the camera, but I’ll thank him publicly here for what was an exceptional adventure. Thanks again, Wayne! Go check his website! (Allow some time for this, because you won’t want to leave…)
A summer highlight as we cross the winter solstice and start to move towards longer days and what I hope is the promise of further adventure for us all.
Thanks for reading, and all the best for the holiday season!
On the day this piece is posted, there’ll be ten teaching days until the winter break. I won’t count today, because that’ll mean eleven days, and I just can’t handle the truth. Definitely snowed under at work, and it’s been like that for a while, so last weekend we needed to go and find some snow. The real stuff.
Meteorologists have forecast a cold and snowy winter for our little corner of Canada, and that prediction has warmed an old PlaidCamper’s heart. Contrarian! A real winter? Yes please! I felt shortchanged by last winter when there were too many Chinook winds and too few flakes. Snow flakes.
As we set off for the mountains last week I was feeling flaky, maybe slightly anxious with my high hopes for some real snow – the bright blue skies and a warm westerly wind didn’t add up to winter. Still, it was the weekend, we’d made our plans, and I’ve tremendous faith in weather forecasters. Also, if I only step on the white tiles (not the blue ones) along the hallway from my classroom to the exit, then the snow will fly. Scientifically speaking, this only works on a Friday afternoon, and I must be wearing my favourite toque…
The science behind the white tile approach to meteorology is very hard to explain, and I struggle to understand it – it is enough to know that it works every time (except for the times it doesn’t) – and it worked once more last weekend. The deeper we traveled into the mountains, the lower the temperature dropped. By the time we arrived near Louise, reasonably heavy snow was falling, and it continued to snow well into the next day. Yup, it had to be the white tiles.
We opted to take a hike, taking delight in leaving fresh tracks across the first snow, all along Baker Creek and down to the Bow River. The snow wasn’t deep, but it was enough to change the landscape and create something new. What a relief to be out in the snow, tramping back and forth along the river bank, and recharging instead of feeling snowed under. Snowed under? No, no, we were under the snow! Winter is almost upon us, a season to embrace, and it’s almost always a perfect time to take a hike. Feels good.
I’ll keep this short, and, like the snow last week, not at all deep. Thanks for reading, avoid the blue tiles, and have a wonderful weekend!
…on a cool morning in the PNW. Another brief post, hopefully uploaded successfully from a motel room somewhere in BC. Have to say, we were pleasantly unplugged for a few days, and haven’t enjoyed tuning back in. The world we share…oh boy. Anyway, here’s a soothing balm from a quiet corner if needed:
We signed up for a morning boat tour, leaving Tofino early on a wet and misty day. Sometimes the rain fell in sheets, sometimes it was a light mist, and sometimes it had stopped raining just before beginning again. No worries – wet it was, cold it wasn’t! We were promised sightings of bears, bald eagles and harbour seals, but to be honest, simply heading up an inlet or two and gazing at the grey-green scenery was more than enough. OK, seeing some wildlife is never a bad thing. Each bear, bald eagle, harbour seal, sea otter, or new angle along the shoreline is cause for excitement. It is a beautiful place to find and then lose yourself, dreamlike if you are so inclined.
I always seem to end up in something of a trance state, head emptying as I fall under the spell of the surroundings. Slowly look left, slowly look right, up, down, and repeat. Fortunately, my eyes are touch more focused than my mind, and we were able to spot all sorts of wildlife. Regrettably, I’m almost unable to speedily focus a camera, being all overexcited at spotting a bear, and sometimes I forget I have a camera and could take a picture. Between that, the bobbing boat, and having little clue, I’m pretty happy with the pictures.
Anyway, a brief post once more – I’ll let the photographs convey something of the atmosphere. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and please feel free to share a story or leave a comment. Have a wonderful weekend!
(We did enjoy a magical ride in a Zodiac with a friend later during our time in Tofino, and drifted wonderfully close to a few bears – when we get home and I’ve sorted the photos, I’ll share some of that story in a later post…)
…and an old guy rant. I wasn’t sure about posting this piece, as it is not exactly the usual. I enjoy taking an upbeat and positive approach to OldPlaidCamper, because there are plenty of other places to find a downbeat and negative approach. I try to be an optimist, but was somewhat challenged to find the positive on a recent camping trip. Anyway, be warned, and read no further if you’re after regular PlaidCamper fare…
You work hard enough all week, in a job you enjoy, but when the weekend comes along you might be good and ready to clock off, and get out camping for the weekend. The previous couple of evenings have been spent dusting off the necessary gear, sorting provisions, and tracking down the bear and bug spray. It’s the first time out for camping this year, and the weather forecast says fine. Alright! Into the car, and off to the Elbow Valley in Kananaskis country.
There are a fair number of smallish campgrounds strung out along the valley, so getting a spot on a Friday by heading out early shouldn’t be an issue. First campground, full. OK, moving on. Sorry, full. Will we find a spot? Not looking good, but let’s go on just a little further. Yes! One walk in spot left, and we’ll take it, thank you very much!
Tent up – we remembered how – and coffee on, fire pit prepared, a cold beer for later, and everything is groovy. It’s only a small loop, all walk ins, and no loud music playing, so better than groovy. (I’ve been listening to quite a bit of Big Star and Neil Young recently. What can I say? Groovy!) Tall trees, light breeze, and the faint sound of the river not too far away. A mountain retreat, and peaceful pine delight. Oh yeah.
A little further up from our site, a couple joins another couple, loud welcomes, but why not? It’s the weekend and time to meet up with good friends. Then a group of four joins the first four, and more loud welcomes are exchanged. Gets a little louder, but hey, friends with friends, and on the weekend and all. You’d be pleased and excited, out in the sunshine. Then another couple arrives. And is that another couple? Hold on. An f-bomb is dropped. Ouch! Not necessary. Not cool. But maybe it was a one off, a bizarre ritual designed to establish maturity credentials…Beers are cracked, and why not have a cold one on a warm evening? We intend to. Another f-bomb, then another, and a few more beers. Oh dear. Bombs away.
Hey! Stop with the language! Thank you!
Well, that worked for a short while. After a few more beers, the volume of the conversation went up as the tone went down. On went the music. My earlier plea appeared to have fallen on deaf ears. Did I mention the two unleashed dogs? I’m not bothered if they’re well trained, but these were running all over, and dogs do like to chase squirrels if they can get away with it. They sure were getting away with it. It must be hard to keep an eye on your dog when you’re busy exchanging witty banter, using words that rhyme with itch, duck and hit. Heady stuff.
Writing this is sending my blood pressure up. Just a little. I’m no shrinking violet, and I scowled, glared and stomped my way about. Quiet time, according to the bulletin board, is between 11pm and 7am, so technically, too bad, PlaidCamper. Here are a few gems:
Sara, can you see my dick? (Huh? No. Is it very small?)
A butterfly. A f*#king butterfly. F*#king nature! (Huh?)
F*#king European tent! I hate f*#king European tents! (Huh? Just European tents?)
F*#k me? F*#k you! (I know, isn’t that a zinger?)
Bear bait, bear bait, bear bait! (This was chanted when trash was dropped. How I wished – sort of – for a bear, but that’s not fair on the bear…)
These were the good ones…I could go on, give you more details, but my heart isn’t in it. I’ll simply share the fact that quiet time meant nothing to this particular group. 2am and the jollity finally stopped.
Ok. I’ll be the old so and so, the miserable old fart who simply doesn’t get it. Whatever the it may be. Here I go:
Why? Why bother coming out to a beautiful forested campground located in a stunning river valley flanked by mountains, a place you’ll be sharing with other campers, if you don’t appreciate it? Is it actually a location screaming “get blind drunk and be obnoxious!”? Is it really possible for a group of human beings to be so out of touch with their surroundings? With their fellows? Is it a lack of self-confidence, an inability to express appreciation, or fear, that causes such inane behaviour? The witlessness and callous disregard for people and place was truly astonishing.
I’m perfectly happy to be labeled a miserable old so and so, out of touch or just not with it, but really, is there a need to be so self-absorbed, entitled, and, well…brattish, to the point where you cannot care for the planet you live on? Or the people around you? I don’t get it, this behaviour, and I’m hoping it isn’t a growing trend:
I do understand people have differing agendas and ideas about how the outdoors should be enjoyed, but surely it can’t be too hard to see what ought to be acceptable in our treasured natural spaces? There are far worse problems facing our world, but honestly, when you hope for a pleasant weekend, what a disappointment. I’m going to leave the negativity here, I think, and hope for happier camping trips ahead.
Time to get back to being positive. I love camping, and although I enjoy quiet, that isn’t an expectation at a shared campground. I’ve sat by the fire late at night many a time, nursing a beer and smiling in the dark as the flames from other campfires flicker through the trees. I like to imagine all these different campers by their fires, mostly strangers to each other, but, across Canada and the US, joined in a similar delight, connected by the experience of being outdoors on a warm weekend, and appreciating their good fortune. Now, that’s not too hard, or too much to expect, is it?
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to share a (happier?) story or leave a comment – it’s always appreciated – and have a wonderful weekend!