Short days and sunsets

A short post to go with the short days. I know the days aren’t shorter in hours and minutes, but the decreasing daylight is a disappointment this time of year. You’d think, after all these decades, I’d have come to an accommodation with less light by now…

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Sunday

What we have enjoyed is being out and about as the sun starts to set early afternoon. Oh alright, I’m exaggerating – not early afternoon, more like late afternoon. Given the fairly sunny spells we’ve mostly had the past few weeks, there have been some very colourful sunsets and I’ve included a few shots here. We’ve been fortunate to be on beaches and tramping trails in glorious weather, huffing and puffing to keep up with an enthusiastic canine hiker. Or is that jogger?

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“Keep up!”

Since last weekend it has been rather rainy in this little corner of the PNW – as it should be – and the wind got up quite a bit yesterday, so it is looking like too much of a risk this coming weekend to take a youth group out in boats to their remote camping spot. Like the young ones, I’m disappointed not to be camping, but also like the young ones, not entirely disappointed to be avoiding camping in what looks like a weekend of prolonged rainfall. Instead, we will be crabbing in a sheltered bay, and trail building more locally – plenty of outdoor time and, thankfully, no chance of swell-induced Salish seasickness.

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Thursday

Any suitable crustaceans will be distributed to elders in the community, and if firewood needs chopping and stacking, then the youngsters will get to that as well. It’s a delight to see them connected, community-minded and caring.

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Saturday

If you celebrate US Thanksgiving, I hope it’s been a happy holiday and continues to be so into the weekend. Thanks for reading, it’s always appreciated!

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Any day

Making tracks

I’m not a hunter, never have been and it isn’t likely I’ll start hunting now – although I’ll admit it is a useful set of skills to have, come the apocalypse. (Would we be able to tell if there’s an apocalypse? I suppose the news would be a tad cheerier…)IMG_0600

Food security has been something that keeps cropping up – perhaps a growing cause for concern reflecting uncertain times? Zombies aside, I’ll stick with doing what most of us do, and track down my food in stores, hoping that the bulk of it has been produced ethically. We are currently living in an area that has, should the lights go out for the final time, reasonable food security, at least for those in the know…

The recent wilderness trip I accompanied did have a hunting component. Participants are encouraged to produce and provide for themselves and their community, learning and applying skills taught by elders and mentors, and ensuring they know how to survive and even flourish on their traditional lands.IMG_0579

I was excited and nervous about the hunting. Personally, I’d rather not be around guns, and young people with guns, even when they are being monitored closely by trained experts. However, I could see the importance of teaching and learning these skills, and the youth involved were excited to learn.

So let me get the gory part out of the way first – the only animal shot and killed on this trip was a duck. It was shot on the boat ride out to the camp. The duck supplemented a rice and vegetable dish later in the weekend. The decision was made that one duck was enough – there were plenty of other ducks in range throughout the journey, but the lead hunter emphasised this was about eating, not sport.

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Something to eat? Where?!

Students learned how to prepare it for cooking and eating. They were very respectful and thankful to the duck, and a prayer was made reflecting this. Almost everyone had a small piece of roasted duck, myself included, and the young man who made the shot was thoughtful about what he’d done. He didn’t want to kill it, but understood that to eat meat, a creature had to die. He certainly wasn’t boastful about shooting the duck.fullsizeoutput_15ab

On the morning spent hunting, we saw deer tracks, many bear tracks, and plenty of grouse tracks, but nothing else. No actual animals were sighted, but students learned how to spot likely areas for future hunts, and where to set up in these areas. Our lead hunter did draw a bead on a seal as we headed back, and I have to admit to being relieved when he said the distance was too great to be certain of a clean shot. The size and scale of the animal shouldn’t make any difference to how I felt, but seeing a duck shot and prepared was probably easier to experience than if it had been a seal.

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Tracking a scent

If the trip had been for trophy hunting, there’s no way I’d have gone along, and, as indicated above, I was (silently) rooting for the animals. That said, the whole process was fascinating and thought provoking. I’ll never be a hunter, but I can see the importance of hunting in traditional communities.

I’ll leave it there, and start to make tracks towards a long weekend. Thanks for reading and, as always, please feel free to share a story or leave a comment.

Have a wonderful weekend!

PS All the photos posted here were taken last week on a cold and sunny Sunday morning on or near Combers beach.

The storm after the calm

October was a pretty benign month, weather-wise, and I was happy about that, particularly for the recent trip spent camping in a remote location. Since the end of that weekend, temperatures have fallen slightly, and rainfall has increased a great deal.

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Oh, October sun, I’m missing you!

Ah, the rain! We kept a close eye on the sky last weekend, timing a walk out with Scout to the least rainy portion of the day. A wander along the Wild Pacific Trail revealed churning water and some scenic stops under trees.E632E49C-1F86-49C9-9F39-CB13440B10B9

Back to that bright and sunny trip. When we moored the boat, students were keen to get ashore and light a campfire. Armed with knives, a fire steel, a lighter and some backup matches, they couldn’t wait to try out their skills. Great focus and teamwork when they were lighting the fire, sticking with the task when the wood didn’t immediately ignite. They shaved feather sticks and small pieces, piling them carefully and aiming to start with the tiniest and feed the flame as it grew. A couple of unintended extinguishes later, and they soon realized patience was the key to success.

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We will make fire!

Yes, they used a match, but they know it is important to have more than one way to start a fire, and they’ll try again with the fire steel another time. I’m looking forward to how they’ll get a fire going when we return later this month. It has been very wet, so fire starting out there will be a challenge. The group spent quite a bit of time collecting and splitting firewood, stacking it in a dry location, with enough stacked for the next visit. Preparation and planning!

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I can see November on the horizon!

Those not setting the fire got busy with putting up tents and squaring away supplies –  it is amazing how much gear can be packed into a small boat, and even more amazing how much food is needed to keep teenagers fed and functioning!

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One PC tent – very tidy

One section of the weekend was a hunting trip to try and supplement the goods brought out. Being vegetarian for the past three decades, I wasn’t too sure about hunting, but the trip wasn’t about my sensibilities. A part of being out on tribal lands was for the youngsters to learn how to be a provider beyond going to the store. I’ll write about the hunting in a future post…

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I see feathers, but no duck. Hmm…

Hatchets, axes, chainsaws and machetes were wielded with intent and to great effect, and not just for firewood. Old trails were cleared and improved, the goal being to make the camp easier to navigate for visiting elders.

Did I mention the bears? We didn’t see any the entire time we were there, but judging by the fresh bear scat all over, I hope the bears continued to enjoy the cleared trails after we left. Light-coloured birch branches and stones were used to mark the edges of the trails, and larger obstacles like fallen logs were removed, or had chunks cut out to minimize the climbing and scrambling. For parts of the trip, I was the oldest participant (that changed when a chainsaw carrying elder in his seventh decade arrived to assist) and the consensus was if the old Plaid-wearing guy can traverse the new trails without incident, then it’ll be fine for everyone else. I have my outdoor uses…

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Calm – ten steps from the tent

I’ll leave it there for this week, with a happy PlaidCamper warmed by the fire and exertions from trail-clearing (don’t worry, most of the heavy lifting was done by those far younger than me – they enjoy it!)

We are expecting a bit more rain for the next few days (weeks and months) but we’ll keep out on the trails, whatever the weather. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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“I think it is clearing – is that July on the horizon?”

Crimes and pie

Huh?! We took a very quick camping trip to Green Point a couple of weeks ago. We wanted to find out how Scout would fare in a tent – or how we would fare with her at close quarters in a tent, and if she’d be a happy camper…

Well, we needn’t have worried! Sticks and branches to chew? Check! Other dogs to grumble at? Check! Tasty tidbits that “fell” off our plates? Check! Scout didn’t wake up at the crack of dawn? Check! (Phew!)

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A happy camper

Two nights of camping, and a chance to try out a new tent. A new tent? Isn’t your old tent a recent addition? Yes, and it is/was a perfectly fine tent, but some #*@* broke into our storage locker and made off with bits and pieces of our camping gear, including the flysheet. Not sure when the crime took place, but I’m glad I was packing the day before, and not the day we set off, so had just enough time to stop and pick up a new tent. Just because somebody else made a poor choice, this wasn’t going to spoil our fun – but it did put an unwanted dent in our bank balance.

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Rain later?

Anyhow, we had a fine time, glass half full and all that. On the Saturday evening, Wayne from Tofino Photography  joined us for a gourmet meal of hotdogs, chips, and pumpkin pie. Gourmet?! Not so much, but food does taste better cooked outdoors, and I have to say, store bought pumpkin pie is one tough product. It was tossed about in the back of the Jeep for a couple of days, buried under loose gear and other edibles, yet maintained shape and flavour when we finally got round to eating it. Scout would have had several slices, but not if she wanted to share a tent with us overnight.

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Time to fill glasses

We had great weather on Saturday, and had hoped to have a dry spell all the way through to Sunday, but it wasn’t to be. We had to break camp in steady rain, but can report our new tent, bought in something of a rush and unresearched, was very much a dry on the inside tent. Mind you, our previous not so old tent was also a sterling dry on the inside tent. Alright, I’ll get over it, glass half full…

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But no rain earlier!

Now we know Scout is a happy camper, we will plan trips further afield to quieter and more remote spots. And when Wayne joins us next time, we’ll go a few steps better than “gourmet” hotdogs – the weekend above was Canadian Thanksgiving, and I think the sausages contained turkey, but apart from the unbreakable pie, we might have committed a culinary crime…

I’m heading out to an off the grid location for a few days, and will catch up with your blogs when I get back next week. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful weekend!B7C06A23-D7C7-487C-9015-5EBDC61A0225

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!

The Living Mountain

Oh how I wish I’d thought of that post heading, but I borrowed it – the title of a new favourite book, “The Living Mountain” by Nan Shepherd. A wonderful little volume, I’d never heard of it until a few months ago. There’s a story behind that…fullsizeoutput_5cb

Back in late January, Junior announced she’d applied for a chef position with the Fairmont group. Fair enough, a good company to work for by all accounts, and a chance to learn and refine her skills in a different environment, with hotels in beautiful Alberta and BC locations. All true, but the position she’d applied for was in St. Andrews, Scotland. Also beautiful, but somewhat further afield! Two weeks after her announcement, she was on a jet plane heading for new adventures, and has been having a lovely time the past few months, so well done, Junior!fullsizeoutput_545

How does this connect to “The Living Mountain” mentioned at the start? The day Junior was on her way, I came home from the airport, rinsed my contact lenses – seemed to be having an issue with welling up – and started to read The Guardian paper online. Would you believe, that very day, they had an article suggesting the top ten books about wilderness Scotland? An interesting mixture of fiction and non-fiction, and because it was about books, I was brave enough to venture BTL and read comments and suggestions. It was there I saw Nan Shepherd recommended over and over, so I managed to track down a copy.fullsizeoutput_56f

What a find! Nan Shepherd’s slim volume is wonderful, a love letter to the beauty of the Cairngorm mountains, a place she explored her entire life. Her writing is outstanding – intense, detailed and meditative, describing the mountains using all her senses to bring them alive. She loves her mountains, and cannot quite believe their beauty. On describing the clarity of water:

Water so clear cannot be imagined, but must be seen. One must go back, and back again, to look at it, for in the interval memory refuses to recreate its brightness. This is one of the reasons why the high plateau where these streams begin, the streams themselves, their cataracts and rocky beds, the corries, the whole wild enchantment, like a work of art is perpetually new when one returns to it. The mind cannot carry away all that it has to give, nor does it always believe possible what it has carried away.

You find yourself nodding with shared recognition at her delight in the natural world. When she describes silence at altitude, it is really about peace and quiet, rather than the absence of sound:

To bend the ear to silence, is to discover how seldom it is there. Always something moves. When the air is quite still, there is always running water; and up here that is a sound one can hardly lose…but now and then comes an hour when the silence is all but absolute, and listening to it one slips out of time. Such a silence is not a mere negation of sound. it is like a new element, and if water is still sounding with a low far-off murmur, it is no more than the last edge of an element we are leaving, as the last edge of land hangs on the mariner’s horizon.fullsizeoutput_56e

There is a lovely section about how she is like an excited dog surrounded by the scents of the mountain:

On a hot moist midsummer day, I have caught a rich fruity perfume rising from the mat of grass, moss and wild berry bushes that covers so much of the plateau. The earthy smell of moss, and the soil itself, is best savoured by grubbing. Sometimes the rank smell of deer assails one’s nostril, and in the spring the sharp scent of fire.DSCF7094

I enjoyed how she captured the animal life on and above the mountain, like the eagle rising coil over coil in slow symmetry…and when he has soared to the top of his bent, there comes the level flight as far as the eye can follow, straight, clean, and effortless as breathing. There is a description of hares streaking up a brown hillside like rising smoke – perhaps hoping to avoid becoming prey to the eagle?

Every page reveals how Shepherd increases her love for the mountain. She understands the immeasurable value and importance of time spent in nature:

Yet with what we have, what wealth! I add to it each time I go to the mountain – the eye sees what it didn’t before, or sees in a new way what it has already seen.IMG_20180225_122122

What wealth indeed. The challenges to our natural environment have increased enormously in the decades since Shepherd wrote and published. Wild places are under more and more commercial pressure, reducing the opportunities to slow down, immerse the physical (and mental) self in outdoor beauty, and stop to contemplate the treasures we have. It is splendid to have books like “The Living Mountain”, but I wonder if in the near future, her record and those like it, will be all that remains, that we’ll be reading about instead of experiencing first hand the wonders of our natural world?IMG_20180311_125558

Many years ago, we took a camping trip in Scotland when Junior was a wee bairn. It was her first time camping, and she enjoyed it, from being bathed in a washing up bowl to sleeping soundly (phew!) in a tent, despite the wind and rain outside. Sometimes sunny, oftentimes wild and woolly, it was a fun trip. We got as far as the Cairngorms, but didn’t spend any significant time up there. Better informed now, thanks to Nan Shepherd, and with Junior as an advance party, it seems as if we’ll have to arrange another trip…

I’ll stop now, because otherwise all I’ll do is continue to select passages to illustrate how much I enjoyed Nan Shepherd’s mountain musing. The best thing is to get a copy – I heartily recommend it.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

PS The photographs featured this week were all taken out and about in the past six months – not of the Cairngorms, but in our living mountains here in Alberta.

Complaints? Not on a golden day!

I hear it has been a tad chilly across much of North America. I know this because my brother sent me an email the other day, asking if we could please take back the Canadian weather that has found its way into Maryland? Actually, he didn’t ask nicely, he wrote something along the lines of “take back this #*@%ing winter weather, my thermometer is reading -5F, I don’t know or care what that is in Celsius, but it is *#@%ing cold!” Well, I couldn’t believe that language from young brother PlaidCamper.

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Not cold, no wind chill
I do like snow, but I’ve been quite happy to miss the recent cold snap in Alberta, with the -25C (before factoring in windchill. Yikes!) Young brother PlaidCamper did once visit us in Alberta in midwinter, but I can’t repeat what he said on here. Oh, alright, just a snippet:

“#*^% $#@^ *&^% @#$% your winter!” Goodness me…

We were born in Britain, so talking and complaining about the weather is part of our genetic make up. Can’t possibly talk about emotions or feelings – perish the thought! – but we can say how the weather makes us feel. In dear old Blighty, that was generally miserable due to the cold and wet. Stereotype wildly? Me? Pish! Anyway, I knew I should help him out – I simply couldn’t bear the thought of him suffering and complaining about the cold. I sent him a few pictures taken on Wednesday this week, to add a precious ray of sunshine, show some brotherly understanding, try and thaw him out just a little (but mostly to annoy him and see if he believed I was in the True North!) Pretty sure his temperature went up.

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Not cold, helpful
I couldn’t quite believe it myself. Warm sunshine and sitting on a beach late afternoon and into the evening, watching the sun set over the Pacific. Outdoors in January, in Canada, and I had to remove my toque, haha! Normally at this time of year, I only remove the toque to wash my hair or put on a snowboard helmet. My locks were blowing free in the sea breeze. Or they would have been, but male pattern baldness has put a stop to that. Yup, no hat, it was too warm. It isn’t often I can say I’m in Canada and in one of the warmest places in North America in January. I made sure young brother PlaidCamper knew that, let him bask second hand in the warm glow I experienced. I’m always happy to help.

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Not cold, warm glow, slight breeze
Young brother PlaidCamper is planning a visit to Vancouver Island later in the year. We’re going to paddle and camp and sing songs around the fire. Hold on, what about that British reserve in our genetic make up? Quite right – we’re going to paddle and camp. I’ve said we’ll be camping in the woods. Best not tell him it is a rainforest. I haven’t mentioned the rain – I only send him photographs I’ve taken on sunny days – and I haven’t mentioned the rather low daytime highs in the summer. And I think I’ll keep quiet about the fog…

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Not cold, no fog
Thanks for reading – I hope you are keeping pleasantly warm wherever you are this weekend!

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Not cold, no rain in this forest…
PS It has started to rain and looks set to stay that way for the next few days – don’t tell my brother.

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The merest, barely discernible hint of rain (and slightly chilly?) Don’t say anything