A theft!

When I think about it, maybe theft isn’t quite the right word. I otter know, because I was a witness to the alleged crime. With that said, if gang related incidents cause you distress, it’s best you stop reading.

Marina in front of the Eagle’s Nest

Not so long ago, we were sat up on the sun deck at The Eagle’s Nest, enjoying the view across the bay, and enjoying a glass of Tofino Blonde. I think our reason for an early afternoon beer was that it was sunny and early afternoon. We’d been out for a wander around the harbours, had sat and observed a bear foraging along the far shore, and perhaps thought we’d better sit down some more somewhere else.

The Dixie IV observing a bear

Anyway, from the deck you can observe the small craft coming and going, keep an eye on the bald eagles flying to and fro, and witness the total bird commotion caused when a fishing boat, large or small, passes by with a catch. There’s a small processing station just in front of the pub, and it was here the crime took place.

We like to watch the planes

A fisherman was taking care of his haul, and it looked like he’d had a pretty good day, with several fish in a cooler by his feet as well as the one he was dealing with on the table. Gulls were taking a keen interest in his work, and perhaps they distracted the poor chap. While he was looking over at the gulls, a river otter popped up onto the dock, enticed by the catch in the cooler. Bold as you like, the otter grasped a large fish in its jaws and pulled it across the deck towards the water. The fisherman caught sight of the movement at his feet, and hesitated, one hand on the fish at the table, and the other holding his filleting knife. This hesitation – was he concerned the gulls would pounce as he dealt with the otter? – proved costly, and when he took a step towards the otter, it was too late. Splash! A few ripples and then nothing. The fisherman smiled and shrugged, put a lid on the cooler, and went back to filleting his catch. He did stop every now and then to take a look over his shoulder.

Tough guy (in the middle) coming back for more – get a lid on those fish…

I don’t know much about gang life, I’ve heard of the Bloods and the Crips, and seen motorcycle gangs out on the highways, but the Ucluelet River Otters are a whole different kind of notorious, particularly around the docks of Ucluelet. You keep your bait and tackle box closed when these fellows are about, and maybe don’t go down the gangways by yourself.

As we finished our drinks, we saw the otter come back up onto a different floating dock behind the filleting station. Was he going to have another go?! Then another otter popped up, and another, and another. The whole gang was there! They scurried towards the cooler and then back, testing to see if the fisherman had noticed them. Oh, he was wise to their ways, and quickly completed his tasks and made off home, one fish lighter than he’d hoped for. The Ucluelet River Otter Gang loitered for a few more minutes, looking tough and territorial, before slipping back into the water. They were probably cruising round to check out the Inner Harbour…

I like the pint, and I like the view. A good pint of view. Cheers!

We sympathized a little with the fisherman, but mostly we were rooting for and applauding the opportunism and silky skills of the otter. If we’re called to testify, we’ll say we saw nothing. I’m not messing with the River Otter Gang.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

The Fog (based on real events)

The following tale of terror should only be read with all the lights on. Unless it is daytime, then you should turn the lights off and stop wasting electricity. But it is scary. The story, not electricity – unless you’re being careless. Here we go:

Yes, we’re into the fog and dog days of August out on the west coast!

You can never be quite sure what the day might bring weather wise. We’ve started in thick fog first thing in the morning, only for it to burn off by midday and enjoyed warm and sunny afternoons. We’ve also woken up to thick fog, gone out for a mid morning coffee in thick fog, thought it might be lifting, and it does, to just above the tree line. Sometimes, you can see a line of blue sky over the bay and behind Mt. Ozzard, where you know the sun is shining down on Salmon Beach. It never feels chilly in the fog, it’s a warm and humid blanket, and on the beach it makes for an eerie atmosphere. No, not chilly at all, unless…

Last weekend we stopped at Long Beach for a walk before heading on to Tofino, and it promised to be a pleasant stroll in the mist. Before setting out, we could see the tip of Lone Cone just above the fog, and on the drive along the coast, tendrils of pale mist curled out of the trees and over the road. We’d drive from a clear patch into a misty patch and then out again. We wondered if the fog would keep visitors off the beach and the answer was yes. The parking lot was quiet. Maybe too quiet.

Who knows what lurks nearby?

Perhaps prospective beach hikers were concerned about wild encounters in the wooly conditions? I wouldn’t want to run into a bear or a wolf in the fog, but then we’ve likely passed many a wolf and bear without catching sight of them, and that’s in clear conditions. However, after last weekend, a wolf or a bear encounter would seem mild…

We strode down the beach at a good pace, assuming we were alone, although it was hard to tell, visibility in all directions being reduced to a few metres. Scout was happy, bouncing and loping ahead of us, restricted only by her long leash. She’d disappear into the fog bank, but no worries as I could could feel her straining and pulling to keep us moving. Suddenly, the leash went slack. Oh no! Had she slipped off? We followed the line of her leash into the murk and there was Scout, standing, hackles up and teeth bared. What was wrong? Peering past her and into the gloom we could see someone. Or something. We moved forward slowly. A strange figure emerged from the grey. It was tall, too tall, impossibly tall, spectral, and with a hint of menace about it. It appeared locked onto us – an unblinking stare and arm raised and pointing. My mind raced. Was this it? A shiver ran down my spine and my heart rate rose as we got closer and closer to the looming creature. We were caught in its spell, unable to break free. My life flashed before my eyes, mostly images from middle childhood, hours spent watching black and white B movies about alien bodysnatchers, swamp creatures and killer robots. Scout lunged toward the mighty beast… and peed over the base of the washed up log. (It was tall, too tall – honest!)

Anyway, we had an enjoyable walk in the fog on the beach last weekend.

Scary monster, or too many B movies in childhood?

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

Brave Scout!

Surf Ghosts

Sounds spooky, and Hallowe’en is weeks away. What’s going on?

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The tiny blob is a bear (sure looked bigger when we first saw it!)

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.

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The large blob is Scout, checking a bear won’t fall into the hole she is digging

Yes, yes, all quite lovely, but what about the surf ghosts? I can’t hear you cry.

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Warm, but not so sunny…

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.

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A hanging about place

Great. The ghost surfers?!

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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…fullsizeoutput_66d

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.DSCF7403

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…

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Were they really there?

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Small town daze

Not quite right, should be small town days.

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…IMG_20180728_105335

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.IMG_20180728_104431

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.

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Tuff session

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…

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Turned up to 11

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.IMG_20180801_185630

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!

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Ukee evening summer haze

Thanks for reading, and 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!

A gift…

…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!

dscn6902Wayne 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…

dscn6914A 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.

dscn6921What 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.

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Taken earlier in the day – inner child heaven

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.

dscn6923-version-2The 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.

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Remote – fine beer in a fine location, so tranquil – thanks for humouring me, Wayne!

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?

imageWhat 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.

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Just caught a shot of the cub – I was so excited! (Mum is disappearing on the left…)

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.

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Full zoom from the Zodiac, and close enough for me – magnificent!

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…)

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Quiet

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!dscn6936

Snowed under? Take a hike!

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.

Chocolate advice

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…

Put on your 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.

Fresh

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.

Along the Bow

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! 

Beautiful Baker Creek

Unexpected!