Heading back…

…to school? Normality? Civilized discourse in politics?

The lead photograph this week is sadder than it looks. If you’re me. And I am. Me. I was in the office, busily counting paperclips and preparing for the new school year, when my phone rang.

“Can you see us?”

“Hey! Old man? Look out your window – can you see us?”

Two colleagues were puttering down the channel and out to the ocean, heading to a remote camp, to pick up a skiff and tow it back so we’d have another little boat to use for brushing up our nautical skills. Definitely education related, so why wasn’t I on board, heading out to the Broken Islands and beyond, on a warm and sunny day? Good question, so I asked it:

“Picking up the skiff and towing it back so we’ll have another little boat to use to brush up nautical skills? Definitely education related, so shouldn’t I be on board?” – in a whiny voice, because that always works.

“Is it your turn again? You grabbed the kayaking gig last week, remember? Oh stop snivelling – if you can swim out to us before we go past, you can come!”

Earlier in the week

I could have done that, and easily, but, you know, paperclips…

I was so happy to hear they had a brilliant day, picking up the skiff, stopping for a picnic lunch at the camp, then heading back escorted by four – four! – orcas. I organized the red and blue paperclips, and I’m totally prepared for the new school year.

Oh yes, the new school year. All pandemic plans are in place, with gallons and gallons of hand sanitizer situated in strategic locations, signage has gone up, arrows have been laid down, instructions have been printed and distributed. What could possibly go wrong? Young and not so young students will learn to follow bus and class seating plans, use appropriate mask etiquette and remain suitably distanced until a vaccine is ready, because, well, it’ll be good to try and have something resembling normal. For as long as it lasts…

Also taken earlier this week

Setting fears of a second wave to one side, I’m impressed by the effort and dedication educators have put in, in trying to meet this pandemic moment. If things go awry, it won’t be due to a lack of caring or commitment. Hats off. Let’s not use educators or children as a pandemic political football.

Right, I’d best leave it here. Four orcas! Four! I’ve dropped a paperclip, a blue one since you were wondering, and I know there’ll be a situation down the road that’ll stand or fall for the want of a paperclip.

If you’re about to return to school, have returned, or find yourself connected to folks working in schools, I hope it’s going well for you. Take care out there. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend.

A patch of blue

Last week ended very well, with an unexpected opportunity to paddle and splash about for a couple of hours. A summer building the trail, learning new skills, and not chopping or shooting off toes has been great, but I’ve missed spending time on the water, and I’ve missed hanging out with younger community members. That was all put right last Friday.

Teamwork!

At a meeting earlier in the week, where I was nodding along and looking interested behind my mask, a colleague mentioned she was one adult paddler short for her planned kayak activity. Being a considerate almost outdoorsman, I waited an appropriate amount of time for someone else to volunteer. When almost half a second had passed, I shouted out, “Me! Me! Pick me! I’ll do it! Pick me!” – I was going to volunteer sooner, but it’s best to give everyone a chance.

To my astonishment, I got away with this appalling behaviour – I’m sure it had nothing to do with colleagues wanting me far from the office on a Friday afternoon – and the next day found myself part of a group of three 8 year olds and three adults. Two and a half adults? Three adults on paper.

Three 8 year olds and two and a half adults

I had a lovely time catching up with L, T, and L. I hadn’t seen them in nearly six months, since schools closed and we all disappeared into our small bubbles. We paired off in three kayaks. L sat in the front and instructed me on how hard to paddle and which way to steer us. She helped by doing the opposite and seeing how wet I’d get from her enthusiastic paddling. Teamwork. I couldn’t have been happier!

Spotting sea stars clinging to Lyche Island

We paddled along the shore, admiring the big fishing vessels, waving at fishermen and pleasure boaters, and gradually improving our synchronized paddling. We crossed the inlet, circled Lyche Island, spotting sea stars, watching the bald eagles overhead, making our way to Port Albion, then Hitacu Dock, smiling at the wading blue herons and at another bald eagle standing in the mud flats.

Patches of blue

All this took place under grey skies, all grey apart from a small patch of blue. Our kayaks were also small patches of blue, but as we laughed and splashed our way up and down the channel, we were anything but blue. It’s great to be young. Or almost young.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have an enjoyable weekend!

Down time

A few photos posted this week from lots of sitting down time a weekend or two or three ago. This week has been busy, so I’ve kept this brief. You’re welcome!

Must be Fogust…

We are making the most of sunny days, particularly now Fogust is well and truly with us. To be fair, even when many mornings have started foggy, most days have ended with warm afternoons and sunny evenings.

Is that fog rolling in back there? No…

The work on the trail has been moving along, and we can’t decide if we like the slightly cooler damp mornings – not too hot, but the mosquitos still come out to play – or do we prefer the warmer afternoons with fewer mosquito friends, but more wasps and a sweatier environment?

No bugs! Or sun. Or horizon. Or- ok, I’ll stop now.

Ha, they’re both pretty good, so it’s not really a choice, and with the rain staying away and progress being made, we can’t complain. Those mosquitos though…

A partial harbour view

When the weekend comes around, quiet spaces on the dock or on the beach are just fine, with nothing much to bug us in our down time.

Another partial harbour view. What a sight!

Well, that was brief, as promised. Thanks for reading, 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?

Good morning!

Inner Harbour, Outer Harbour, Eagle’s Nest, Whiskey Landing, Whaling Station, Crow’s Nest, Foggy Bean (on a weekend) and home. This is the recipe for a good morning, and it happens to be the route Scout insists on for our first walk of the day. She’s a sensible canine counsellor, leading me in the right direction, and she knows her subject well. The route isn’t the longest in distance, but there are often detours and visits to make along the way. From Scout’s perspective, routine doesn’t mean boring, so we stick with the tried and tested, and she’s right in this.

Leaving the harbours

Scout always checks her p-mail for messages, and ensures she leaves a reply – these are left at particular and precise patches of grass, ground and undergrowth, and she’s pretty happy with her communications.

Canine counsellor!

Recently, we’ve been forgetting to remember there is a grumpy heron hanging out under the Outer Harbour. It reminds us we’ve been a bother by taking off with a series of croaks and squawks, and it never fails to make me jump. Unfortunately, because I’m not so sharp on these early morning walks, I forget the heron is there and we do it all again the next day. My apologies to the harassed heron, and we’ll try to be less intrusive – if we remember.

Grumpy heron

It’s dark now when we set off, so the photos I’ve included this week were mostly taken last month. The sunrises and morning light have been quite beautiful, and we’re missing seeing these delights during the week. The plan is to force ourselves to wake up later on a weekend to catch sun up. The only catch to that is there might be a weekend line up at The Foggy Bean if we arrive later – last Saturday the line was two people, if you include me but not Scout. Life is good when line ups are that short.

Outer Harbour

Should you find yourself in the Foggy line, can I recommend their short Americano? Mrs PC says that’s good, but the cappuccino is even better. Choices, choices. Life is good if your biggest decision is cappuccino vs. Americano, and Scout still has a few dog biscuit treats left to distract her from your almond croissant. Go on, have the croissant, it’s the weekend.

Passing the whaling station

So there you have it – a morning routine as recommended by Scout, and one that will set you up for a good morning and beyond. It never gets old, and presently it rarely stays dry, but it works to keep this OldPlaidCamper more or less in his right mind and moving along.

Near the Eagle’s Nest

Inner Harbour, Outer Harbour, Eagle’s Nest, Whiskey Landing, Whaling Station, Crow’s Nest, Foggy Bean (on a weekend) and home.

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

Digging it

Really digging it. And no stone left unturned. A little more detail this week to follow up on last week. This one is a bit preachy – that’s a heads up, not an apology…

Digging it

The students I was with were really digging being scientists. From a plankton tow, to measuring sea salinity and water temperatures, to searching for intertidal wildlife, the young ones showed they really, really care about the place they live, even if some of the creatures they were looking for can’t easily be seen with the naked eye.

Sooo cute?! I think so…

Plankton! Phytoplankton! Zooplankton! These little plants and critters are sooo cute (not my words, but I understand the sentiment) and utterly astonishing when viewed under a microscope. We all – quite rightly – get alarmed by the rate at which forests are clear cut, slashed and burned, and generally mistreated in the name of resource extraction, worried that these acts of destruction are steadily ruining the “lungs” of the planet. Last week, students learned from their instructors that forests contribute approximately one third of the Earth’s oxygen. The other two thirds? Yup, you guessed it, from marine plants, and particularly or significantly from phytoplankton. The larger lung of the planet, absorbing carbon and producing oxygen, the all important base of the aquatic food chain, these tiny plants perform a mighty task. Good thing we’re being so kind to the oceans…

On the ocean, in the ocean

Students enjoyed seeing aquatic life through microscopes, in laboratory touch tanks, and even better, out on and in the ocean waters. By exploring, seeing, touching, drawing, identifying and naming a variety of marine life, the students came to care (more) about their local environment, and see how what is local and necessary for them is also local and necessary for everywhere else and everything else.

Think green, go on, dive right in

These young ones, they see the connections, can follow a line from the smallest creatures to the largest, from the bottom of the ocean floor to the high edge of our atmospheric envelope. Lofty stuff, and here’s hoping their caring example is enough to maintain, restore and protect our precious planet. Forget about the childish adults denying a climate crisis and belittling those (young and old) who care to hear the truth of science and dare to suggest solutions. Instead, aim to support the next generation of scientists and activists, the young people inheriting our woeful environmental legacy, and hope for them that they have enough time to act to secure a sustainable future.

Passing through, like we all are…

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

Wizard Island

This isn’t a post about elves or unicorns (or hobbits) – phew – but how about some magic? I will, due to being rather tired, be very brief this week, and I promise to write something a bit more detailed next week.

Leaving Bamfield, and we’re off to Wizard Island

I was on Wizard Island – yes, really – earlier this week, learning alongside a small group of students, splashing about in the intertidal zone, slipping on seaweed and scraping hands and knees on barnacles. We were being scientists, uncovering then sharing our discoveries, beaming our explorations live to students at UVic, and generally having a fine old time in the middle of Barkley Sound.

As far as these students were concerned, we were in (on?) the best possible classroom, transported there in a small aluminum boat, past bald eagles, basking seals, foraging bears, and with the prospect of a humpback whale sighting. We were lucky enough to spot three humpbacks spouting on our trip back, and I wish you could have seen the students when this happened! Such excitement, because we were relatively close, and this excitement from young ones quite used to spotting whales from the shore.

Barkley brilliance

All this and their first ever media appearance before 10 o’clock in the morning. Not that I couldn’t keep up – I did, just about – but I am mighty tired in the best possible way after three full days of marine activity. I will sign off this week with a few more photographs from Wizard Island. I don’t know about magic, but I do believe there are magical places…

More to follow. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

“We’re media stars!”

Early morning whiskey…

…on the rocks and the docks! Seems a bit early in the day.

It’s ok, I’ve not actually taken to having something extra with my cereal to kick start the day. If I did, my day would be very short, and, full disclosure, I don’t really like whiskey. Craft beer on cornflakes just doesn’t work. So I’m told. Anyway, the following is a short shot, sort of a briny pick-me-up – if needed.

I like this whiskey – Whiskey Landing

So what’s with the early morning whiskey? Why, the view from Whiskey Landing, and also from the harbours. There’s always the view to take in, or a boat to admire, heading out or heading in. Fishing here isn’t ruled by the sun coming up or going down, it seems to be a 24/7 activity, most weathers permitting.

Ucluelet Outer Harbour

We’ve had all the weather this week, from misty mornings, to warm and sunny afternoons. For the last couple of days we’ve enjoyed some heavy and overdue rain. The river levels will be up, which is good news for the salmon run.

Early morning light, with a promise of (some) sun later

I’ve not seen many bald eagles the last week or two, and I hear it’s likely they’ve headed out to the salmon streams, with a promise of a good feed. On feeding, we’ve seen plenty of bears and bear scat this week. My most frequent sighting has been of a mama and cub over the bay, foraging for crabs and other tasty morsels along the shore. I keep meaning to take my camera, but what with it being early morning and all that whiskey, I keep forgetting. Maybe next week, and I’ll snap a bear…

On the rocks!

On the rocks? We hadn’t been on an oceanside trail for quite some time, so when we did, Scout was insistent on dragging me onto the rocks. With some nimble footwork (her) and some slipping and cursing (me) we remembered our way to a favourite perch overlooking the ocean. Once there, we opted to stay awhile, topping up our glasses and toasting our good fortune. Not a bad recipe – a little isolation, a peaceful location, a dash of favourable weather, combine to enjoy a well balanced mix. I’ll drink to that!

“What’s he talking about? Getting here was easy!”

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

Not with your cornflakes. Cheers!

We ramble on (somewhat dazed and confused…)

Can it really be September already?! Not too much has changed, weather wise, it being misty in the mornings and then sunny later in the day. Yes, it’s September because I find myself back in school, almost working for a living, and my time isn’t quite all my own…

Early morning silver glow

Not to worry, and it’s not too bad, because Scout and I have taken to our new time shifted routine, and we’re very much enjoying our early morning plod and pee about Ucluelet. I know, it’s easy on the early morning walk when the weather is fine, just wait until it’s dark, PC, and the rains have started. Oh, I should probably say it’s Scout doing the peeing on these walks (it’s not dark enough for me, yet…)

We like how the climbing sun glows through the early morning mist and fog, creating pockets of warm humidity, and we stand there sweating lightly and quietly, with me realizing I’ll have to change my shirt before setting off to work.

Warmer than it looks – we sometimes do a misty mountain hop just here

Apologies for the rather damp post this week. As you can see, my mind will ramble on. Ramble On! This has been the tune playing in my head as we’ve been out and about, and it’s a favourite, apart from the closing lines referring to hobbits or whatever. I’m not anti-hobbit – I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings several times as a young one, but after the first time always skipped the hobbity songs and stuff.

“What is he rambling on about now? Look, it warms up later!”

Clearly, having to be back at work has left me a little weary, at least if this piece is anything to go by. It’s a communication breakdown! I’ll leave it here, rest awhile, perhaps enjoy a second breakfast, before picking myself up and rambling on into the weekend and next week.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!