Oh no, is this going to be a review of the terrible Stallone/Schwarzenegger movie from a couple of years back? Nope, although as we are talking about it, don’t tell anyone, I actually quite enjoyed it, a movie guilty pleasure in a throwback to the 80s sort of way. Let’s keep that to ourselves…
Two of our younger visitors this summer, early teens both, expressed how much they love western Canada, and one is planning to come back in her gap year – or gap life, as she’d have it – to stay for longer. The other lives in Canmore, has a busy life, but actually fancied the idea of a little place to retreat to. I thought of him earlier, when we hit the water one morning and paddled past this floating delight:
He was into the idea of cabins, and of going fishing, and I think this floating shed would be ideal! It wasn’t here before this summer, but I do remember seeing a very similar building drifting about in the channel just outside the outer harbour last autumn after a heavy storm. Has some enterprising soul salvaged and restored it? I hope it is the same shed, and I hope it is used for fishing.
I’m still a bit hooked on the idea of having a little boat (you already do, it is your kayak – Mrs. PC) and moored a short distance from the dream floating cabin is this little beauty:
I enjoy bobbing about in between the boats and buildings, it seems to keep us young at heart. I like that young people aren’t totally devoted to electronic activities, and when they unplug and look up, they are captivated by outdoor pursuits and beautiful locations. There is still hope for the future…
Keeping it brief this week, as I’m off to raid the piggy bank, see if there’s enough for a floating fishing platform. (Nope, there’s not – Mrs. PC)
A short piece about trails a short hike away from the Salt Spring cabin. We had to get out hiking before we forgot how, and staying near Tsawout Band lands meant we had some great trails to explore.
At the trailhead is a beautiful welcome and interpretive sign, inviting visitors to enjoy the land past the notice. If you follow this link, 13 Moon Calendar Sign, you’ll see a digital copy of the artwork and words – I have to say, the message is simple and clear, and more necessary than ever…
Our first afternoon in the woods was hot and humid, but under the canopy oh so green and lush. The trail was simple enough to pick out, sometimes rocky underfoot, sometimes grassy, and sometimes earthy, with changes in the terrain every few metres. Exposed slopes and clearings were bug free with a slight sea breeze. In these open areas, golden grass was almost like straw in the strong sun.Into the trees and away from the bluffs overlooking the sea, it was not as hot, the air was still and rather humid, with the whine of an occasional mosquito. I wasn’t bitten, so Mrs. PC was spared the whine of an old PlaidCamper.
Relative to steepness of slope, soil coverage and the presence of large rock outcrops, the trees were a mix of short and gnarled to tall and gnarled, growing in tight groups with dense undergrowth, or further apart with little brush beneath. Pacific Madrones, Garry Oaks, and Western Red Cedars – a wonderfully varied yet cohesive green, grey, rusty and yellow landscape to wander through (yup, I’ve been reading my tree books!)The Tsawout trails got us up and out in a series of wonderful hiking afternoons. Tramping through the woods, coming across little coves, stopping to admire views, tree shapes, and textures, it was a special place, and we had a very happy time exploring it.Salt Spring Island is a splendid location to be on holiday! One (or two?) more Salt Spring posts in the next week or so, and then we’ll have to leave, sniff.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Huh? To be more accurate, not that I know much about these things, it’s beer bottle tops and bullet casings. Or is that shell casings? I’m way out of my comfort zone here (well, not entirely, I might have opened a beer bottle or two every now and again…)
I was almost cleaning out our car the other day, not because it needed it (but it does), more because when I was driving along, each little bump in the road caused a jingling and tinkly sound somewhere near the dash. Mechanically minded as ever, I ignored it until I couldn’t take any more, and tried to track down the cause. Turns out there was a small pile of (brass?) bullet casings and rusty bottle tops in the change compartment atop the dash.
PlaidCamper has guns and ammunition? I hear you ask with a gasp! PlaidCamper has bottle tops? Perhaps less of a gasp there…
No! No guns for me. I grew up in Britain, back when the police were armed with those funny hats and asked you nicely to stop being unlawful or they’d be forced to ask you again. Not much of a gun culture, although I do realize things have changed since then. Nevertheless, no guns for me. With my recent eyesight history, it would be foolish indeed – I’m a danger to myself and those around me simply wielding a spork. They’re not that user-friendly you know.
Anyway, where did I get the bullets? I picked them up. The beer bottle tops? I picked those up too. From the ground, and no, I didn’t drop them. They were strewn on the grassy area in front of Little Bear cabin. We’re not talking one or two accidentally missed items. Over a few days, I picked up hundreds of casings. I kept thinking that I must have found them all, and then I’d spot another, and another. Don’t ask Mrs PlaidCamper, but it’s possible I may have gotten a touch obsessed about finding them. At that point in time, post eye surgery, I was really quite happy at even being able to spot them. But if I could spot them, well wouldn’t that mean the shooter (is that the correct term?) could find them? Still, it kept me quiet, and Mrs PC finished a couple of long novels.
It did get me thinking, why all the bullets up there at Little Bear? Was the Parks Service not letting on how dangerous it could be? There was the usual literature and warnings about bears, and I shouldn’t (and honestly don’t) make light of the risks with animal encounters, but it is called Little Bear cabin. Not Rabid Slavering Bears Only Want To Eat You So Bring Your Guns cabin. We’d still stay there even if they change the name. Bottle tops and bullets. Hmm. Beer and bullets? I don’t know, is it just me…?
I tried to imagine the scene when the previous gun toting occupants were at the cabin. Beer in one hand, gun in the other, whirling this way and that way, blasting at anything moving. Anything moving? While we were there, that would have been swaying trees, crickets, a hiker or two, and the occasional small squirrel. Oh, and many – unarmed, though – birds flying overhead and from tree to tree. Plus, there was a deer that gave me a funny look one morning, but probably because I was peeing behind the woodshed, being too lazy to tramp down to the outhouse so early. (Oh c’mon, give me a break. I was unarmed, and there might have been squirrels about…) Well, on that evidence, best lock and load then.
I don’t want to get into the whole gun control debate (because what’s to debate when the solutions are so obvious – you know, fewer guns, more sporks?) I don’t understand shooting, although I know many enjoy the sport. Fair enough, fire lead balls into straw mounted paper targets and pretend you’re ready to defend yourself (maybe in the unlikely event of a paper target or clay pigeon invading your home?) I certainly don’t understand the sport behind hunting animals for fun. It can’t be that much fun for those gangs of scary squirrels and herds of deadly deer, or even fair, not if they can’t shoot back.
I’d best stop soon, and get back to cleaning out the car. Just one request before I do? The noise pollution is bad enough, but if you do feel the need to be heavily armed with beer and bullets, and to blast away because animals are out there, could you at least pick up your trash? Please? Yes? Thank you!
And thank you for reading! As ever, please feel free to leave a comment (are you proficient with a spork?) or share a story, and have a wonderful weekend!
Last week was about disappearing, so to balance that out, it’s time to reappear. Our break is about over, and we’ve had a very pleasant summer. I wrote last week about the temporary need to check out, suspend membership of the human race, and it did reflect how I felt at the time of writing. However, having had the good fortune to be able to sit, read, write and reflect with few disturbances the past week, I thought that this week I’d share one or two of the great people we’ve met on our recent travels. They were previously unknown to us, but each interaction affirmed that people are, by and large, pretty decent – it seems that when we escape group or mob mentality, humans get it right…
Where to start? How about Daryl, the tree surgeon we met a few weeks ago at Green Point campground on Vancouver Island? When we arrived at our designated spot, a large silver pick up full of chainsaws, ladders, ropes and climbing equipment was blocking the entrance. Daryl came over and introduced himself, explaining that he and his work partner were spotting trees, ensuring that those with weak roots, rotten cores, or loose branches weren’t about to come tumbling down on an unsuspecting camper:
“Don’t worry, we’re talking about in the next couple years. That said, don’t pitch your tent there, don’t tie a tarp on this one, or that one, and maybe not that one either!”
Looking around, we could see Daryl had been busy, with little blobs of red dye on trees that were going to require action. It was good to know he was out there keeping things safe. We stood and chatted for a while. Daryl loved his work, and he loved living on Vancouver Island.
“I hardly ever leave the island – why would I? My wife and I like to go kayaking and camping most weekends, and it’s all within a couple of hours of our home. It’s all here!”
Indeed it is. Daryl was knowledgeable, friendly, and not too busy to stop and say hi and talk about what he was doing. He had a good sense of humour, too. As he was leaving:
“You know how I said these trees were okay for two years or more? Well, if it gets windy, that’ll change. You might want to move your tent. Or not. It should be alright. Sleep well!”
When we got to Little Bear last week, we’d about unpacked our kit, and were just wondering if it was too early for a cold one when we heard voices drifting down from further up the mountain. People? At “our” cabin and on “our” mountain? Oh no – we were meant to be disappearing…
A young boy, about twelve or so, and his grandparents hiked into view. They waved “hi” and apologized for disturbing us. They seemed surprised the cabin was occupied. It turned out the grandfather hadn’t been up this way for more than a decade, and had wanted to show his grandson and wife the cabin, and the tremendous view across the valley. They pointed out distant mountains they’d hiked with their grandson earlier in the summer. The couple had first come to Bozeman from Minnesota in the 1960s, to work at the university:
“And we never left. We love it here, working and now retired. This area is special. Can we show our grandson the inside of your cabin?”
Well of course. The boy was completely taken with the cabin, eyes and face lit up with excitement. He was still young enough not to be too cool about old stuff. It was clear he hero-worshipped his grandparents, hanging on their every word. When we told them where we’d booked the cabin and the modest cost, the grandson looked absolutely thrilled when his grandfather suggested he might come up sometime:
“When you’re a little older, with your own friends, for a few nights?”
It was late in the afternoon, and they had to get back to their vehicle and head down to Bozeman. Waving farewell, they disappeared from view, but we heard what they were saying:
“Isn’t it great that old cabin is being used? What a place! We gotta come back sometime!”
Isn’t it great that there are plenty of friendly folks out and about? It’s easy to be suspicious, or wary, particularly when you are relatively far from home. It’s easy to generalize (that’s why I do it!) about how humanity is going to hell in a hand basket, especially if you take all the bad news stories as the only stories out there. But that’s not always true – it’s just that the good stories don’t always get heard or the same air time. Sometimes, having a little time out to reflect can help me remember that.
We’ve been spending the week at Little Bear cabin, Montana, disappearing for a while. Our days have been fast paced; books, small wanderings, sitting, books, sitting some more, and maybe a beer by the fire. Maybe.
One book I’ve really enjoyed is “Canoe Country” by Roy MacGregor. It’s a delightful account where MacGregor argues the canoe made Canada, and his argument is supported with tales and anecdotes about well known and less well known paddlers in Canadian history. If you’re even slightly intrigued by the canoe, you’ll like the book. Sitting outside a cabin up a mountain, it was like catnip for an old PlaidCamper. Mrs PC has been right to point out we have nowhere to store a canoe…
In a book full of memorable passages and quotes, here is one MacGregor uses that particularly appealed:
Every so often a disappearance is in order. A vanishing. A checking out. An indeterminate period of unavailability. Each person, each sane person, maintains a refuge, or series of refuges, for this purpose. A place or places, where they can, figuratively if not literally, suspend their membership in the human race.” (John A. Murray, Colorado naturalist)
Most of the time, being a member of the human race is just fine, and I maintain that most people are well intentioned and propose no ill will to their fellows. However, the weight of bad news headlines prefacing endless appalling atrocities and scandals are apparently the only stories worth telling, and this can take a toll. Thank goodness for Little Bear, and all the other natural refuges available to those lucky enough to reach them. And perhaps there’s still time this summer, for those so inclined, to find a new place or two – maybe even traveling there by canoe…(don’t worry, Mrs PC, we’ll rent it!)
Thanks for reading, and have an enjoyable weekend!
Reading a book about firewood whilst sitting by a wood stove is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two. Especially when you are feeling sorry for yourself (I was) because some lovely student was overly generous with their germs. Fortunately for Mrs PlaidCamper, I suffered in stoic silence. Not true, I was simply engaged in the book she gave me, and it has certainly confirmed my almost outdoorsman status. Still so much to learn!
If you can get hold of a copy, you might like to read “Norwegian Wood – chopping, stacking, and drying wood the Scandinavian way” by Lars Mytting. I know, sounds a bit nerdy, yet this slim volume is quite wonderful, and strangely heartfelt, given the title. The approach is sometimes scientific, sometimes mathematical, but the overall effect is lyrical and philosophical. Apparently, the book has been a bit of a hit, striking a chord – a cord? – with a wide audience. Could it be that some are crying out for a simpler life? Maybe. It kept me quiet for a while.
To the book. Until relatively recently, almost all humans have warmed themselves with fire, and the primary fuel was wood. This necessitated a set of skills and knowledge fundamentally attached to being outdoors. In many places, the need for these skills has diminished in the last 60 years, with the development of other heating and energy sources. Perhaps more of us need to rediscover the skills and possibilities of wood for a fuel. Mytting’s book explores our changing relationship with firewood through pictures, poetry, history, and anecdotes that delight and engage. (If you don’t have a tear in your eye after finishing old Ottar’s story – his woodpile tale bookends it all – I’d be amazed, and you’d be cold…)
Mytting details how wood grown for heating can be one part of a national energy plan. It isn’t a magic bullet, but he is persuasive on how burning wood is comparatively environmentally friendly. Modern stoves are very efficient, and there are regions where wood growth supply can outstrip demand. It can’t work everywhere, but the ideas are intriguing. Large (or small) scale tree farms seem preferable to large scale power stations, nuclear plants, hydroelectric projects, and all the associated infrastructure required to deliver the energy. It’s not romantic or beautiful like an old growth forest, but it is clean. And no, I’m not advocating mass logging/deforestation to heat our homes.
The book isn’t all about national energy policy and planning, although the ideas presented are thought-provoking. Much of the book is more personal in nature. There’s an amusing foreword detailing the various types of wood chopper. Are you the stoic type? The neurotic hoarder? The poet? The standard bungler? How about desperado, melancholic or psychopath? If you’ve ever had to chop wood then you know there’s a little of each in all of us. Or if you’re me, quite a bit of the bungler.
When we lived in the western Perigord, the downstairs of our house was heated by two wood burning stoves, one in the kitchen, and one in the living room. In winter, we’d live in the kitchen most of the day, let the stove burn low, and then dash to the front room for the evening. Those stoves were efficient! If only I’d been as efficient.
The first autumn/winter, I enjoyed stacking the delivered firewood and chain sawing and chopping through the colder months. Manly work! Wielding dangerous equipment with purpose, skill, and aplomb. Or so I thought in my happier moments. The truth was, the novelty wore off by the end of each winter, and the enthusiasm didn’t really return with the next wood delivery the following September. I quite enjoyed the sense of purpose and productivity, but sometimes it seemed endless.
Having a ton of logs dropped onto your front yard on a sweltering September day isn’t too bad. Not when your Dad and brother are visiting, and likely to help shift and stack it. Except they suddenly developed all manner of ailments and a pressing need to prop up the local bar…hmm. I know, firewood is great. It warms you three times – chopping, stacking and burning. My planning (and help) was all wrong!
Having read Mytting, I know now that I should have received the delivery in spring, and then split and stacked the wood to get it dry over the summer – in artfully and scientifically arranged woodpiles (you’ll admire the many photographs of woodpiles Mytting has included. No, really, you will!) I honestly hadn’t given much thought to storing the wood. I was pleased enough to have arranged to get any at all given my terrible schoolboy French. Still, once you have it, all firewood burns the same, doesn’t it? Wrong again, PlaidCamper. See Mytting. I was the bungler, making mistakes that would get a seasoned Scandinavian feller hot under the collar. Although I have to say my homemade sawhorse was a thing of beauty – or perhaps splendid utility over beauty, but I promise you, it worked. Mind you, I never took a photograph (or patented the “design”…)
On to the hardware. If you read it, and you don’t already have them, you’ll be off looking at chain saws and axes (even if you don’t need one, or is that just me?) Axes! The names in the book are poetry: Oyo, Hultafors, Gransfors, Wetterlings, Fiskars and Vipukirves.
“Norwegian Wood” made me miss my wood chopping days. It would have been wonderful to have had some of the knowledge and skills back then. Still, as an almost outdoorsman who generally prefers to look forward, I now feel better prepared than ever, and maybe one day in the future I’ll be back in regular wood chopping action, heating a little cabin and getting it all done the Scandinavian way!
I’ll finish with a quote about the smell of a woodpile Mytting recites from Hans Borli’s “With Axe and Lyre”:
“It is as though life itself passes by, barefoot, with dew in its hair…When the veil finally starts to fall, the scent of fresh wood is among the things that will linger longest…”
Thanks for reading! Are you a chopper of wood? If so, what type are you? Please feel free to share a story or leave a comment, and keep your guy ropes secure.
For many of us this past week, our determination to view the world positively has been tested, but perhaps a solution to this problem can be found outdoors.
I’m aiming to be in a happy place mentally and geographically this weekend (do you find the two are inextricably linked, or is that just me?) We will be snowboarding at Louise, our first outing of the new season, and I’ve only been looking forward to this for about six months. The snow pictures this week come from the previous season or two.
I’m likely getting on a bit to be so excited about stepping onto a plank of wood and launching myself down steep snowy slopes, but what can I say? I love it! Don’t go thinking I’m some sort of daredevil riding a snowboard (only in my head), it’s more like a slower version of Driving Miss Daisy, where Miss Daisy is shaking a fist and yelling at me to move over. I get down the mountain…
It’s definitely not the adrenaline rush. I find that when I’m on the board, being on the board is all I’m thinking about, if thinking is the right word here. Everything else has to drop away, and there’s the balance, the movement – leaning one way then the other – and all the little adjustments made on the fly as you navigate the terrain. Finding equilibrium. If you’re lucky enough to be first out on a powder day, and the sky is blue and the scenery is sparkling, then so much the better.
I smile on a snowboard – it may look like a grimace, but honestly, that is a smile. I love how fellow riders and skiers all appear to be happy. Faces are lit up, stories are shared in lift lineups, and the mood of the day is upbeat. I know there are risks and accidents, and some can be severe, but life is about risk and exploring boundaries (without trampling over your fellows along the way), so enjoy it as best you can while you can. If that means being an elderly(ish) snowboarder, well, off you go!
A bit of a selfish post here, so I’ll keep it brief. A weekend in the mountains riding my board at Louise – fresh air, good company, a cabin at the end of the day – definitely a happy place!
Thanks for reading! Do you find happiness and equilibrium on a snowboard? Maybe somewhere elsewhere? Please feel free to make a comment or share a story, have a happy weekend, and keep your guy ropes secure.
…in one place! A short piece about the changing environment, and uncovering a forest preference.
We were out at Yoho recently, enjoying a long weekend away from the city. The weather was pretty changeable over these few days, ranging from cold and damp to very cold and heavy rain. The ceaseless drumming of rain upon the cabin roof was initially calming, but we weren’t sorry when it stopped! Cabin fever…
The grey weather lifted a little, and we made for Emerald Lake, enjoying the sporadic beams of warm sun as the clouds broke up.
The stroll (hike is too strong a word for this one) around Emerald Lake isn’t too far, perhaps just shy of 6 km. The fun is in how the view changes when the trail zips in and out of the trees lining the lakeshore, and enjoying how the sunlight brightens the surface, illuminating the water. Mountains appear to shift their bulk as your perspective changes, and cloud shadows race over the slopes.
The more exposed side of the lake is familiar alpine territory, the evergreens and undergrowth not too crowded, with open views up the sides and across the water. Following the shore to the end of the lake, you cross an open area of alluvial plain, the sediment of thousands of years being deposited slowly into the water, ensuring it will one day disappear, one little flood at a time. Now that is a long term, yet inevitable event.
I’m not overly fond of the alluvial plain; it seems a dismal place compared to the majesty of the mountains around. But it is this contrast that lends the vistas their grandeur…so I should be happy really! It is a unique, important, and changing environment. The changes can barely be seen in our brief lifetime, but they are speedy by mountain measures.
The return portion of the hike is my favourite. We stepped from the plain and back into forest. And such a forest! A complete contrast to the other shore, this forest feels like a coastal rainforest. We were just remarking on the change and how it felt, when we arrived at an interpretive sign explaining the local differences. (If I need a teaching break, maybe I’ll write interpretive signs; PlaidCamper interpretations of the clearly evident…) It’s ten hours or so to the Pacific, yet because of the relative lack of sunshine, and higher rainfall this side of the mountain, the environment really does have the feel of coastal rainforest about it.
Cooler, darker and much, much wetter overall. The forest floor is carpeted with beautiful moss, and the mushrooms were everywhere.
The heavy rain left the trail muddy and puddle strewn, adding to that coastal feeling. It only lasts a couple of kilometres, but it is so wonderful, and such a pleasant surprise – especially as landlocked, semi-arid Alberta is just down the road. I think I prefer this side of the lake…not that it is necessary to choose! It’s probably the contrast, and my delight at finding it in such close proximity.
A changing environment to be found in a few short kilometres – this is why we love Emerald Lake. So much to enjoy and appreciate, particularly after a cabin feverish couple of days!
Thanks for reading. As ever, please feel free to comment or share a story, and keep your guy ropes secure.
This won’t be the most thematically coherent post I’ve written (why change things now, PlaidCamper?), it’s more an attempt to link what can be overlooked with being thankful (be warned – it might get a little saccharine, or even maple syrupy…)
There’s always so much to be thankful for, and it isn’t always the big things. Maybe it is about being thankful and grateful for the small things, and realizing that the truth is these little items are what really matter. They are the big things!
Before we went off on our lengthy Taylor Lake hike last time out, we had a shortish hike along the Bow River, a few steps from our tent, and walking downstream away from the busy Lake Louise townsite. I enjoy Louise, but as I’ve mentioned before, it is worth getting to certain places early and enjoying them before the crowds arrive. So we didn’t bother heading up to the famed lake, choosing instead to take a wander along the riverbank. I’m so happy we did! We got to enjoy the season in small ways, uncovering little delights instead of the usual – always appreciated – large scale grandeur.
The views were up and downstream, and to be fair, still rate as pretty spectacular, even on a grey and overcast day.
The autumnal delights were fine in their own more modest way, splashes of muted colour made brighter by the dark background and low light.
Finding patches of beauty, items to marvel at in their own right, instead of being distracted by the epic and sometimes overwhelming landscape, was really quite delightful, and rather restful. Being outdoors in mountain regions is always good for recharging and recalibration, never unwelcome, but the afternoon ramble wasn’t about the monumental, and was restorative for being lower key. We were more than thankful for that.
The second Monday in October is when Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated, and it’s a special time for us – this was when we arrived in Canada! We were excited to arrive, bemusing friends we left behind in sunny SW France, having chosen to switch long summers for long winters. We stayed in a pleasant downtown hotel amid the towering skyscrapers, thrilling to how different it was from the tiny hamlet we’d left behind. Difference is often exciting. We wandered out to explore, and were mystified by how quiet it was – nothing like a big city at all! Where were all the people? Quieter than a French village on a Sunday?! We didn’t know it was Thanksgiving weekend, and that many people had gone away to be with family, or were at home with family.
We’ll be away ourselves this Canadian Thanksgiving, staying in a little cabin in Yoho. Quiet places, shared with special people, hidden retreats that are reachable from the city, well, these can be added to a long and wonderful list of what we can be thankful for. Family, friends, the students we teach, and colleagues we learn from. A warm and welcoming country, where diversity and multiculturalism is generally celebrated, a mostly successful mosaic spread across a rugged land and in a challenging climate. The little/big things that can all too easily be taken for granted when you have them.
So, if you’re in Canada, from Canada, wishing you could be in Canada (if for only a little while), or have Canadian friends, I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! And if none of the previous applies, no worries, have a wonderful weekend anyway (and maybe add a little maple syrup!)
Thanks for reading! As ever, please feel free to comment or share a story (another small thing to be thankful for – the warm, witty and creative people to be found here), and keep your guy ropes secure.