British stuff

A few years ago, back in Calgary, I taught a wonderful young man, MW, and he had a real talent for drawing funny cartoons. Before he was born, he and his mother suffered terrible abuse at the hands of his biological father, and as a result, MW’s brain ended up wired differently.11F3020D-222F-406B-9F5E-80F66078F30F

MW sees the humorous side of life, and he enjoyed some work we did reading “A Christmas Carol” and watching the movie version starring Jim Carrey. MW drew a cartoon strip retelling the story, and one frame he drew was of Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past flying over the wintry British countryside. MW labeled this panel “British Stuff” and I always smile and think of MW when back in Blighty.

899FCE7B-81E9-4723-B76A-3A6BDE179E21
“Hello? Hello? Operator, could you please connect me to a sensible politician? Hello?”

Last I heard, MW is still drawing funny cartoons, and still making his teachers and peers laugh when they read them. He’s in high school now, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if, one day, he has his cartoons published for a wider audience.

8A6B773E-BC5C-49EF-B294-A0B79A6B47CA
We fort (spoken with a Sarf London accent) this Roman remnant was rather wonderful – a link to an early European past (no doubt, rabid Brexiters would ask “Well, what did the Romans ever do for us?” and complain about subjugation and taxes. And then not mention stone buildings, central heating, good roads, different food, new ideas, and short skirts for men. Yes, we’re British dammit, through and through. Not a mix of Vikings, Goths, Visigoths, Normans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Indians, Africans, Jamaicans and many other groups I can’t even remember. Oh stop it PlaidCamper. Brexit means Brexit. Hey ho…)

Anyway, all of the above serves to explain the title for this week, and the few random photographs I’ve chosen from our recent British trip. Away from the noise and nonsense of Brexit, we were able to be charmed by little glimpses of “British stuff” on our travels. (Goodness me, doesn’t that last photograph have a long and incoherent caption? It’s like I’m tired, tetchy, and jet lagged…)

2A965827-EEB9-41A4-9DCE-C5C7048BE40B
Our next vehicle? If only…

A brief post as I struggle with some of the worst jet lag I’ve ever experienced – making sense at work this week has been something of a challenge! Still, it’s great to travel and visit with friends and family, and it’s also great to return home and calm things down a little. I won’t describe the teary eyed reunion we had with Scout the other day, but I will say it was a joy to see her again. Obviously, I must have had grit in my eye.

D2914065-95DF-4958-B30B-107CA1BD9EF6
British institution

I’ll unpack my bags properly in the next day or two, and I’ll unpack some more of our trip on here in the next week or two. Yup, be warned, there will be a bit more British stuff to come, and perhaps it will be a bit more coherent…

B17A167A-4BCE-4FB9-A99E-275CCBF811A1
A drop or two of good British stuff

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

Eskdale exertions

Exhausted after our extreme Eskdale exertions? Yup, it wasn’t easy going up hill and over dale in somewhat wet conditions, but we enjoyed every step, every minute of our Lakeland experience. Even the soggy socks after getting sucked into a deep bog…

C27C80F4-ED13-4F7E-94AA-A5FD117042CA
Up and over

A brief post this week, written in haste and hopeful that a pub internet connection will see this one get out. Still staying in pubs? You bet, and we’ve enjoyed every minute and every pint in hospitable hostelries. It’s going to be hard to tear ourselves away, but for the good of our waistlines, we will soon be heading back to Canada.

B8B3FEC3-390F-479E-A0DC-7AEBB233BBD7
Never rains here…

I’m letting the photographs tell the story this week, and I hope some notion of the very best hillwalking we’ve enjoyed comes through. Unless it is obviously a stream, most of the water in these pictures is actually flowing along the trail. We splish-splashed across, into, through and over, and it was all the same – completely exhilarating!4DE0D5D4-9B43-4187-B2D1-1610205C0461.jpeg

We were very fortunate on our two hiking days up there, getting a short sharp rain shower in the first hour of each morning, and then it remained dry. Always threatening another downpour, this only added to the dramatic landscape, and made us feel very content when we made it back down (mostly) dry.

A1F4BB7B-3DA2-4F0C-8306-83AED2E5245E
Lunch stop

We stayed at The Woolpack Inn, and if you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend this pub. Hearty breakfasts set you up, and good food and great beer do just the job when you return. From the front door, there are any number of trails to take, ranging from easy strolls to full on scree-scrambling and routes more akin to climbing than hiking.

669D3E9B-3BE1-4589-9BB2-EB296CCB3B1A
Splendid stout

What a wonderful place! Might stay here next time:A590A11B-1855-4622-A2B8-D46ABCC885C6Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend!

img_2440

Summer Golden

We took a short stroll down to the outer harbour then past the small campground overlooking the water. We needed to stretch our legs and shake off the disappointment of England missing out on a golden opportunity to make it to the World Cup final. Beaten in extra time by a determined and more skillful Croatia team, we could only commiserate and also celebrate the tournament success of an England team most thought wouldn’t get as far as they did. Maybe next time…fullsizeoutput_60f

Anyway, our little stroll found us ending up on the outside deck of the Eagle’s Nest pub, Mrs PC’s first visit up there, with a fine view across the water to Mount Ozzard. Often, the low mountains opposite Ucluelet are swathed in mist and fog reaching down to just above the first layer of trees. There are days where if you didn’t know, you’d swear there were no mountains. Not this past week, where the weather has been fine, and the evenings summer golden.fullsizeoutput_60b

Summer golden? That calls for a glass of Tofino Blonde ale, and we couldn’t ignore the call. A perfect match, unlike the game earlier. Mrs PC seemed slightly bemused by Scout knowing her way about the place, the way the bar staff seemed to know her, almost as if she’d been to the Eagle’s Nest many times before. That’s a mystery to me…

IMG_20180711_092836
“This is empty. Can we go to the Eagle’s Nest again? Oops, should I have said that? We’ve never been there before, they don’t know me…”

We sat and sipped, enjoying the beer and the view. A pair of bald eagles circled overhead, occasionally swooping down and disappearing behind Lyche Island, and we’d wait for them to reappear above the trees, their cries clear in the calm evening. A few folk were busy on fishing vessels below, finishing up the day, preparing for the next, and in the deeper channel, a larger boat or two chugged past slowly. Nearer the shore, colourful kayaks paddled by, and they were a pretty sight in the soft light. A good evening to be on the water.

fullsizeoutput_60e
Tofino Blonde – a golden ale for a golden evening

A small glass of Okanagan Spring pale ale (not as good as the Tofino Blonde, but we had to see) and then back to the outer harbour to catch the last of the sun falling behind the trees up channel.fullsizeoutput_60d

A very pleasant stroll on a summer evening. Well done to Croatia, here’s hoping for an exciting final this coming Sunday, and because it was our home for a few years, Allez les Bleus!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

IMG_20180711_200951
Mount Ozzard on the left, Lyche Island on the right

The Spray Lakes shake

You’ll know it if you’ve ever driven the road to the lake. A splendid mix of potholes and gravel, with a sprinkling of rocks scattered on a corduroy surface, it is a track to test suspension and loose fillings. My brain is still shaking, like it belongs to an old time hockey enforcer at the end of game seven. Are all routes to lakes like that? Read on for a near miss, and a misspelt curse word.

A trip to the lake is worth taking on a warm day when it is too hot to stay in the city. A reservoir stop in Spray Valley Provincial Park became the end destination as we drove past crowded parking lots closer to Canmore. Cars spilling out at the Grassi Lakes trailhead, and at Goat Creek persuaded us to drive on, never mind the dust and the pinging of rocks underneath.

DSCF7079
Near…

About twenty minutes past Goat Creek, we turned off the Smith-Dorrien “highway” onto a side road leading down to a parking lot and boat launch. We pulled up under a tree, and couldn’t believe there were only two other vehicles parked – it might have been only one car and I was still seeing double…

DSCF7082
…and far

Why so quiet? Was there a bear warning and trail closures? Nope. Well, alright then, and off we went in search of a suitable spot for a picnic. I’m happy enough to lean against a log, or perch on a rock, but lucky us, there were several picnic tables spread along the path overlooking the lake, and they were all empty. IMG_20180527_121542

As the name suggests, Spray Valley is long and wide, the lakes created by a dam, and with a steady breeze rippling the lake, it was very pleasant for a picnic in the shady trees. We spent a lazy couple of hours mooching up and down, admiring the view, eating lunch, and filling in the holes Scout felt she absolutely had to dig. Wondering, but not complaining, about the lack of other people enjoying the immediate surrounds. We saw a couple of canoes and a small fishing boat down on the lake. A family stopped to walk their dog for a few minutes further up the shore, and then left. Two cyclists were startled by Scout, believing her to be a bear at first sight, but they pedalled on, reassured to see she was a friendly wolf.

IMG_20180527_130619
Digging it

As much as we’d have liked to stay all day, we had an important appointment to keep at the Canmore Brewing Company. We headed back to Canmore, offering up a prayer of thanks when a speeding red truck sliding around a bend narrowly missed us, and the spray of gravel didn’t put a chip in our new windshield. I have a limited reservoir of patience for dam fools in racing pick ups. Let us spray he made it down to the lake without incident, and perhaps with a little less pedal to the metal. Yikes…

DSCF7069
Take your time, it’ll still be here

A pleasant afternoon, quiet, as hoped for, and a destination definitely worth going the extra bumpy mile or so.

fullsizeoutput_5c6
Parked up on the dam road, dusty, but remarkably chip and ding-free – phew

Oh, I almost forgot – and I’m sure you wanted to know – yes, the Railway Avenue Rye IPA and the Ten Peaks Pale Ale were excellent. I’ll have to let you know about the stout, and the brown ale another time.

fullsizeoutput_5ca
Later that day…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Woodland walks and Sunnyside strolls

After a couple of busy and beery town and city weekends, fun ones and all, it was good to get back to something a little quieter with a weekend walk in the woods. Other days spent in the city meant sidewalk strolls, and with all the lilacs and late spring tree blossoming and blooming, pounding the city pavements hasn’t been too bad.IMG_20180522_090552

Fresh greens, soft pinks, clean whites, and the strong scent of lilac. All the sights and smells laundry detergent makers want you to think about when purchasing their products. They should make one called Sunnyside Streets. Tide, Persil, or (preferably) biodegradable detergent manufacturers, I’m available for further excellent advertising ideas…IMG_20180522_090515

Last weekend, it felt like spring was leaning heavily into summer. The usual Alberta transition from winter to spring seems to have been as speedy as ever, with temperatures accelerating past expected averages, and spring almost in the rearview.DSCF7036

Walking in the semi-shade of newly leafy aspens and poplars out at Glenbow Ranch was very pleasant, and the snow kept us cool. Snow? Oh, ok, it wasn’t real snow, but the cottony fluff of seeds floating in the air and gathering in little banks on the sides of the trail. It was funny watching Scout snap at the breeze-blown seeds, but she tired of that game pretty quickly – deadfall sticks and branches are easier prey, especially on a hot day.DSCF7054

Exiting the patches of wood, we spotted a pair of red tailed hawks high above, riding the thermals in lazy circles. When we stopped at the top of a small hill to admire the view, two flashes of blue indicated what might have been mountain bluebirds, but we couldn’t be absolutely sure. Returning to the parking lot, we heard the call of a white-crowned sparrow, one of the few bird calls I can readily identify, coming from a nearby stand of aspens. I like to think it was calling us back, saying it wasn’t time to leave just yet.DSCF7051

No worries, we’ll be back, although we’ll be waiting for a cooler day or for when the calendar turns over to fall. In the meantime, there is more shade, scent, and evening cool to be found in those Sunnyside Streets ™.

IMG_20180520_123551
“Please, no more fluffy stuff!”

A little aside, for those interested in our research from last week – we might have found a store selling Half Hitch beer within walking distance. It’s going to take the edge off watching the Stanley Cup final without a Canadian team once again. We should thank the Winnipeg Jets because they kept Canadian hockey hopes up for a little longer than usual…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Good beer, a good book (and a good question?)

Beer and books! Two of my favourite things, and who doesn’t like a good read with a glass of beer at hand? Throw in a campfire, and all is well. (The good question is buried – and then raised – further down. Read on if important questions matter to you…)

Research is vital, and with the weather improving, and campfire season pretty much here, I forced myself to go to two beer festivals two weekends in a row, as well as a tasting at our local beer store to search out new favourites. Research is hard work, but it is work I take very seriously, and I’ll even put in a little overtime if necessary, to get the job done. An unpaid and overworked PlaidCamper. Preparation, preparation, preparation. I know you feel my pain…

IMG_20180517_094459
Exhaustive (exhausting?) research…

So, that is something about the beer part, with more to follow. The book part? Read on!

I was strolling along the banks of the Bow the other day, and I spotted a guy in waders fishing from the gravel on the far side. Behind him, up on the bank was a cooler. Am I right in thinking the cooler could only have been for beer? The sight put me in mind of Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It.

fullsizeoutput_9a
Lovely, but where’s the beer?

What a book! If you’ve read it, then you’ll know I am seriously underselling it by saying there is a lot of fishing, family feuding, and drinking in this story. I’m being truthful, but the story includes so much more. If you haven’t read it, you’ve got a treat ahead should you so choose. Anyway, back to my tenuous book and beer stuff.

Maclean’s narrator and his brother return to where they left eight bottles of beer cooling in the river. They’ve been fishing on a very hot day, the fishing has not been too rewarding, and they are looking forward to a cold one:

“God, let’s get that beer,” I said.

Paul kept spinning a bottle opener around his little finger. We were so dry that we could feel in our ears that we were trying to swallow. For talk, we only repeated the lyric refrain of the summer fisherman, “A bottle of beer sure would taste good.”

DSCF3681
Sure tastes good

They are disappointed – to put it mildly – that their brother-in-law, Neal, and his acquaintance, have finished off all the beer. These two didn’t take the trip for the fishing, they had a different activity in mind. The brothers spy the amorous culprits asleep – passed out? – buck naked and burning in the high heat of a Montana afternoon. Backsides are red, words are spoken, and actions are taken. You’ll have to read the story to find out more. It is a colourful episode in a book full of colourful episodes.

A River Runs Through It is wonderful on many levels, full of life, death, sadness and grace. But me being shallow, like a stream in mid-summer, I’ve always wondered about that beer in the river – Maclean wrote it was either Highlander or Kessler – was it any good, and what would be a good river beer today? (I know, one of the finest stories a person could read, and that is what I’m thinking…) The brothers were pretty annoyed, and I can’t imagine they’d have been quite so upset over a missing six pack of Bud. Both the breweries Maclean mentioned went under in the twentieth century, maybe under the Anheuser-Busch onslaught, although with the recent resurgence in craft beer, the Highlander name is being used once again in Missoula.

IMG_20180505_153119
Also tastes good

Anyway, this is my question – what would be a good beer, river-cooled a la Maclean, to enjoy after an afternoon of fishing? Yup, heady stuff, and I have to find an answer. Strange to be occupied by this question, given I have hardly ever fished, and I hardly ever drink beer. One of those is true.

The beers we researched at the Calgary and Canmore BeerFests (Mrs PC and our Canmore friends were onhand to share the work – I couldn’t tackle this alone) are all relatively recent vintages. Some of the start ups are mere months old, and I admire the enthusiasm, craft and commitment all the makers have in aiming to produce excellent beer.

Up until last year, my choice for the beer in the river would have been Great Northern Brewing’s Going to the Sun IPA. Aptly, it is made in Montana, and an absolute gem for a warm afternoon. Not so hoppy as to be too dry on the finish, it is a definite river beer contender.

However, our recent research revealed many other possibilities. If the brothers could have sourced it back in the day, I believe the Papa Bear Prairie Ale from the Half Hitch Brewing Company would have hit the spot. Or the Farmer’s Daughter Pale Ale from the same brewery. And if the name doesn’t put a person off, Red Bison Brewing’s Party Pants Pale Ale is also a winner. (Regular readers recognize I love a little alliteration, but steady on there, Red Bison…)

IMG_20180505_145406
Party Pants Pale Ale on the left

Honestly, I could list and share many of the beers from our two recent BeerFest experiences that were wonderful enough to be left in a river – in a good way – or opened and enjoyed by a campfire over the coming season. Perhaps I’ll write a short follow up in the next week or two to mention and recommend some of these other beers. Be a shame to let all that research go unshared!

IMG_20180506_103144
“Beer? No thanks. I drink water from my frisbee!”

I can’t help but think if only a certain someone would simply sit down, perhaps with an optional small glass of APA, turn off the (three?!) televisions, and read a few documents and reports, the world might be a tad more relaxed.

Thanks for reading, and perhaps you have a different “beer in a story” suggestion? Or a recommendation for a post-fishing river-cooled beer for Maclean’s story? If I can find it, I promise to try it…

“A bottle of beer sure would taste good.”

Have a wonderful weekend!

Racing green

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_20180324_125054
“Yeah, I like the heady scent of the trees and all, but the best thing is sticks are bigger here!”

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

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful long weekend!