Sea legs? Maybe…

Yes, maybe. I can’t claim to be much of a sailor. In fact, any vessel over the size of a kayak or canoe is way beyond my abilities, unless I’m driving onto a ferry – you might have read before about how I like to park at the front of an open car deck and pretend to be the captain. No? Oh. Let’s pretend I didn’t say that…

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Nahmint 5

Last weekend I got to spend quite some time on the water, in the sturdy Nahmint 5, and in a police launch. These were the two vessels used to transport excited youth, elders, mentors, and a slightly nervous PlaidCamper out to remote tribal lands, a camping spot that felt far from the modern world, and all the better for that.

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Our departure point – hope it clears…

The day had dawned with quite a bit of cloud cover and a real chill in the air. Our destination is reputed to be one of the rainiest places in Canada, and it appeared as though we’d be experiencing some of that soon. Fortunately, the cloud and mist burned off by midday, and as we pulled away from Ucluelet and headed towards the Broken Islands, the day warmed up and everything was a glorious blue, punctuated by island jewels of green and grey, with the distant mountains of the main island reaching up above cloud cloaked shoulders.

What a ride, with smooth, smooth water all about. My nerves over being in a small craft on open water were soon as calm as the  almost mirror flat surface we moved across.

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Fuel

Honestly, I’d not been too sure about the boat ride, having felt rather green about the gills in a heavy swell a couple of years back, but last week was fine. Sea legs? My sea legs were behaving, and we enjoyed a magnificent hour or more, fuelled by strong coffee, bright sunshine, and excited chatter.

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Smooth

I’ll write about the days spent camping, and some of the adventures we experienced over a few posts in the coming weeks, but thought I’d start with this, the short voyage to reach our destination. And, because I’m a little boy, I couldn’t resist including the police launch used for the trip back. What fun it was, getting my non-existent locks wind-tossed and wet in the sea spray thrown up by a fast-moving boat – far better than me fast-moving to the side and throwing up…

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Can I go in this one? Can I? Can I? Please?!

I’ve never been in the back of a police car (being a law-abiding sort) but now I can say I’ve been hauled into the back of a police launch (my initial clamber in wasn’t so elegant…)

I’ll leave it there, happily pretending to be an almost salty sea dog, and continue the tale another time.

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The Nahmint in one of the rainiest places in Canada – we were so fortunate to be completely dry our entire trip

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

Thanksgiving!

There is so much to be thankful for (and you might be thankful I’m keeping this one brief…)

I had an enjoyable evening earlier this week, foraging for chanterelles with a group of young people learning from an elder about traditional harvesting. Once one mushroom had been found, they all seemed pretty handy at knowing where to look, and there was no stopping them. Excited shouts cut through the trees, signalling each discovery. This was going to be easy…0B56EEE2-A7E6-4A94-AD0C-E715D21EC61D

On an overcast and muggy evening, the light was fading fast in the dusk, and mosquitos were beginning to find me with rather more success than I was having finding chanterelles. They are distinctive, but this OldPlaidCamper was not very adept at unearthing chanterelles, and almost every other type of mushroom I found was a poisonous variety.FE15B0D1-766E-47CE-832B-D50F59E19089

A trait being taught was persistence, so I stuck with it, hoping old eyes might fall upon elusive prey. After nearly 45 minutes of hot and humid searching, I did find two lovely chanterelles. Excellent – my status as an almost outdoorsman remained intact! As I was about to call it in, a young man I’d been guiding through the dense forest slipped on the mossy log he was climbing over and landed on his butt right next to my find. “Found some!” he cried, clambering to his feet with a wide smile.DC0D26ED-8975-4E33-9270-FB1EE452DA07

The forest was becoming very dark, and time was called on the search. Light from the channel shone through the trees and up the slope, so we (I) tripped down the hill towards the water and out onto the shore, escaping the worst of the biting insects.

The chanterelles were to be shared with the community, and you could see how happy the foragers were at making their contribution. As we made our way back along the shore, it became clear that every member of the party had found some chanterelles – well, almost everyone. I did get a couple of consolation pats on the back, and some words about maybe next time.170A9F91-8A78-4F57-AC16-9F75804E8129

So much to be thankful for, and I’m particularly thankful for the fine young people I’m working and learning with. Times are troubled in the wider world, but there are reasons to be hopeful about better times ahead, especially when you see young people expressing enthusiasm for their natural surroundings.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend. If you are celebrating Canadian thanksgiving, I hope it’s a good one!

Fall frolics…

…on Florencia beach. We hit the bay as the tide was falling, figuring that most surfers head in as the waves diminish, and this seemed to be the case last Saturday afternoon.

There is a small parking lot at the end of the road, and we squeezed into the last remaining space. Had we arrived even a few minutes later, we’d have parked up more easily judging by the steady stream of smiling surfers and paddle boarders returning to their vehicles.fullsizeoutput_6df

They’re a squelchy and happy bunch in shining wetsuits, an even mix of family and friends, young and old, girls and boys, and men and women. (I met a charming surf instructor at a community event last week, where we were supposed to be discussing education issues for Indigenous youth, but ended up with him almost – almost – convincing me he could teach me to surf. Maybe more to come later…)

We negotiated the rickety wooden staircase down to the beach – no easy task when an enthusiastic Scout has the sea scent in her nostrils – and tottered onto the wide expanse of sand. Fifteen minutes earlier, after a rainy morning, the skies were grey, and there was still a hint of moisture in the air. Now, looking out over the ocean, there was a distinct line of blue, and it seemed to be getting closer.fullsizeoutput_6de

By the time we had wandered down the beach a little, to get away from the “crowds” – maybe a half dozen other people – and found a log to perch on with an enormous array of chewable sticks nearby, the afternoon was turning warm. Yes! An autumnal day that still held a touch of summer. Jackets off, and sleeves rolled up, we set to the task of watching the remaining surfers try to catch waves, and a couple of paddle boarders beyond the surf racing in on the swell.DSCF7680

Soon enough, the promising patch of blue sky pushed back the clouds, and we were sitting in the sunnier half looking across to the cloudy and mistier half of the bay. Scout dug holes like her life depended on it, and we moved back and brushed ourselves off like we didn’t enjoy being showered with sand.fullsizeoutput_6d8

The receding waters defeated the final frolicking surfers, and uncovered a rock strewn area to our right. We strolled down to take a closer look, breathing in the fresh seaweed and wet sand smell. Scout chose to be a little braver than in previous beach visits, venturing into water nearly two centimetres deep. Not spectacular, but just enough to make certain we’d be enjoying extra wet dog aroma on the journey home.fullsizeoutput_6dc

We were there for almost three hours, stumbling and splashing about, fun on a fall afternoon. As we dragged ourselves away, the bay was empty of people, and briefly, we had the wild crescent all to ourselves. A single bald eagle flew over our heads and towards the rocky section. I like to think, as we heaved ourselves back up the steps, bears and wolves were nosing out onto the beach, ready to feed and frolic now they had the place back to themselves.fullsizeoutput_6d5

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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“I’ll dip a toe, and then back to the car…”

Cedar view

A little earlier this week we found ourselves sitting under a cedar tree and enjoying the view. The day was warmer than we’d had for a while, and the morning fog had burned off, leaving blue skies and a touch of breeze. Driving out of Ucluelet, we made a last minute change of plans, and decided to skip the beach and find a different quiet place. The wild spontaneity of early middle age and having time on your hands!

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Sticks, stones, and a log for old bones

We were on the inlet side in the Tofino botanical gardens, away from the rush and roar of the Pacific, and enjoying the sheltered calm of the mud flats. The tide was high, so no mud, but shallow water ruffled into ripples by the breeze, or the wake of distant passing boats.DSCF7603

Every now and then we could hear the faint roar of floatplanes taking off and landing further down the shore and just around the bend. Our shaded spot was bug free, and the air was a mix of cedar, salt and drying sea weed, punctuated with an extra waft of whatever Scout happened to be chewing – usually the largest deadfall branch she could manage. She’s yet to concede that some logs are too much for her…

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Too much branch? Never!

A pair of herons flew past at one point, and a single bald eagle flapped over the island in front of us and disappeared from view. Behind us, the voices of other garden visitors exploring the trails could be heard from time to time, and we would sit quietly, hoping they wouldn’t discover “our” place on the shore. I know, not very friendly, or very mature, but then the spell would have been broken. Early middle-aged, not grown up.

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“Our” hiding place

The distant view was fine, the close up details were pretty, and we were in no hurry to leave, so we didn’t.

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Details

However, an energetic dog, and pins and needles from sitting on a log too long eventually had us up and moving on. We headed back to Ucluelet, and yes, we stopped at a beach to give Scout the run around she always needs. Or she gave us the runaround and we tried to keep pace.

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A longer view

Is summer almost over already? Here’s hoping for a warm and dry September! Maybe we will be sitting under the same cedar soon enough, perhaps sheltering from the autumnal rain…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful (long) weekend!

Escape Plan

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:IMG_20180731_095644

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.

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It’s a palace!

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:IMG_20180731_100345

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…fullsizeoutput_645

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)fullsizeoutput_64a

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Logging on and logging off

A very quick post this week, dashed out in between visits from family and friends, about a little place we like to sit and stare from when we need a short break.IMG_20180802_155702

Life is going along just fine out on the coast, a blend of warm and sunny days mixed with warm and foggy days, and, so far, just a hint of rain every now and then. We never need an excuse to head outside, but it is great to log off (I must spend less time reading online newspapers – isn’t it all fake anyway?), put down our books, avoid any household chores, and choose instead to get up and get going to a beach or trail.

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It’s not here

The pictures included this week were taken from a spot just off the Wild Pacific Trail. You know the place, where you have to push through a tangle of salal and other bushy undergrowth, and then scramble down some rocks to get onto a tiny pebble and shell beach. Yup, that place, but don’t tell anyone. Anyway, it doesn’t exist…

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Our last couple of visits there, the grey skies and grey seas were very soothing. In truth, I think on a sunny day we would find it almost too hot to sit out there on a log. Scout prefers it not too hot, and we are doing all we can for her by brushing out her shedding coat – so far, she has shed ten times her own body weight in fur this summer. (That probably isn’t true, but let’s embrace the current fashion for saying anything and insisting it is true because I said it and you didn’t – isn’t that how it works?) It is fun to watch her leap from log to log, her own version of logging on and off. Sensible dog.

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Logging on

Yikes, and I think I’ll leave it here, saying thank goodness for favourite quiet places just off the trail. Thanks for reading, I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and it’s one where you’ll find yourself in your own soothing spaces.

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Surf Ghosts

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

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

We had plans to hike up a good stretch of Long Beach last week, starting from the Kwisitis Visitor Centre, and continuing until legs or snacks gave out. Unfortunately, a large black bear was wandering back and forth across a narrow section of beach, and Parks Canada were there to ensure the bear was left alone, and our walk was cut short. Instead, we opted to mooch about on Lismer and South Beach, and Scout attempted to dig her way to the southern hemisphere. Time well spent.

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

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

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Warm, but not so sunny…

We returned to the same beach a couple of days later, and the weather was warm, but very foggy along the shore. Bear warning signs were in place, and we were a little reluctant to head out, because we wouldn’t be able to see the bear in the mist. When we stopped to think about it, mist, fog, rain or shine, we rarely spot bears because they’ve already seen/heard us and moved along. That said, we prefer a longer view and a bit of distance where possible.

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A hanging about place

Great. The ghost surfers?!

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Ghost surfers!

We decided to wait out the fog, believing it would lift as the morning wore on, and start our walk with a clearer view. We settled down on a log, broke into our snack supply, and saw a couple of surfers emerge onto the beach and head to the waves. They made an interesting sight through the veil of mist. Before coming to this part of the coast, if you’d said anything to me about surfing, I’d think of Hawaii and board shorts, and a beach bar serving drinks with an umbrella in. That, or my sad and exhausting attempts at surfing off the coast of the Isle of Wight (southern UK, frigid English Channel waters) many, many years ago. If there was a bar serving drinks with an umbrella in, I didn’t see it…fullsizeoutput_66d

Our ghost surfers were kitted out in wetsuits, sensibly enough, and took to the waters without hesitation, appearing to have a fine time in the surf. They played for nearly an hour, and when they finally came back out of the water, I hope they had something warming to drink, no umbrellas.DSCF7403

Eventually, the fog cleared enough for us to head up the beach, and we had a pleasant walk, spotting shore birds and no bear. After an hour, the next fog bank rolled in, and we retraced our steps back to the parking lot. As we approached the visitor centre, we saw  more ghost surfers emerging in the mist. I admire the surfers out here. They are a committed bunch, and clearly appear to enjoy their passion. So much so, they even come back as ghosts…

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Were they really there?

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!