Inner City Heights

Let’s try a different song. Words, but not music, by an OldPlaidCamper.

I’ve been crossstown, downtown, and uptown onto the heights here in the city the last week or two.

An early morning downtown walk – the quietest time of day

It’s a different soundscape and landscape to what we’ve grown used to out on the coast. The sirens! Not the sort trying to lure me onto rocks with their enchanting song. Nope, these are the blaring city sirens, and it isn’t a tune I much enjoy. Previously, I wouldn’t have taken much notice of the noise, sirens being a part of the sonic background along with clanking transit trains, bottles being tipped into dumpsters, and the buzz from cars on Memorial a couple of blocks away. I sure have noticed the noises for this stay in the city, and it’s caused me to wear headphones and listen to music when enjoying my morning coffee on our little balcony.

I think I’m ready for a return to Ucluelet! By the time this is published, I should have arrived back on the west coast, and I’ll be complaining about all the quiet keeping me awake…

Mrs PC loves a cappuccino in the heights

Back in Calgary, one favourite place for good coffee is in an Italian market near Crescent Heights. Oh my strange little brain. Being in the heights had me warbling Wuthering Heights – probably my favourite Kate Bush tune. Don’t worry, the warbling was in my head. And I didn’t try the dancing. But I did play the tune quite a bit back on the Calgary deck. Once I’m reminded of a song, I’ll play it to death until my butterfly mind alights on another.

Very little crosstown traffic here – but I scurried across anyway

I was heading across town the other morning, striding along purposefully, and waiting my turn at the crosswalks. The tune in my head? Crosstown Traffic as performed by Jimi Hendrix. Pretty sure he wasn’t singing about walking in traffic, but my mind goes where my mind goes. Yup, onto the morning coffee playlist it went. Bye bye, Kate.

It can be challenging being in the city, as a whiny post I wrote a couple of weeks ago suggested. All those obstacles. Yes, there’s a song for that (in PlaidCamper world) and this one was Obstacle 1 by Interpol. I love their first album, Turn on the Bright Lights, mostly because it sounds like so many other performers I like – Talking Heads, The Smiths, New Order, and various other gloomy-sounding-but-really-quite-jolly musicians.

An easily negotiated Inner City obstacle!

I think it’s time to turn the sound down. Thanks for reading, and I wish you a wonderful and quiet weekend, hopefully listening to whatever is the best soundtrack for you!

August already?

Well, this summer is flying by! We’re starting August with a sneak preview of autumn, expecting somewhere between 100-150mm of rain Thursday through Friday. By the time this piece is posted, the front will have blown through and gentle sunshine will reappear, enough to warm things up and kick start Fogust. It’s always meteorologically interesting on the west coast!August/Fogust

Last weekend saw the Ukee Days celebration, a fun acknowledgement of life at the end of the road. Saturday started with a parade – every vehicle with a siren seemed to participate, much to the delight of the children lining the route. There were some amusing sights to go with the sound. The parade went down Seaplane Base Road to the fairground and a field of tempting deep fried foods and a beer garden. As you know, I’m quite an avid gardener and did peruse the beer garden. The Tofino Blonde was thriving…

After an afternoon of logger sports – axe throwing – and a talent show, Saturday night ended with a more musical noise, four local-to-the-island bands entertaining the crowd. There were more kids and families and less marijuana than last year, and call me an old fuddyduddy, but this seemed better. Maybe it was too many visits to the beer garden, but for the life of me I couldn’t understand or hear the words being sung by Illvis Freshly – Back It Up – but they were energetic in their delivery.

We recovered from Saturday by taking a long beach hike and our dinner out to Wick Beach late afternoon/early evening, enjoying the long stretch of sand and all the quiet. Moderate Pacific waves rolling in at the turn of the tide, with sandpipers scurrying and bald eagles swooping and gliding. Best of all, an osprey dropped into the surf and came up with a fishy prize. As it turned back to shore, it had to evade a bald eagle intent on a share – or all – of the treasure. The osprey got away.

It’s not been all beach walks and loud music music the past week. We’ve also maintained our commitment to propping up the local coffee economy with fairly frequent stops at either the Gray Whale (maybe the best coffee in Ucluelet, so let’s keep that our little secret) or The Foggy Bean (possibly the best named coffee in Ucluelet or even the universe, but it’s ok to disagree!) I particularly enjoy going to The Foggy Bean because they are located in the renovated church that is also going to house the new Ucluelet Brewing Company. Opening Summer 2018! Nope, opening Summer 2019! Nope, opening October 2019. We’ll see. I like to press my nose up against the window pane to check on the progress inside. I can say they are currently a staircase short of a riser or two. No, really. October seems optimistic, but here’s hoping.Coffee stop – four coffee shops two minutes or less from here (but keep that quiet)

I’ll leave it here for this week. As I look out of the window, I can see the “atmospheric river” (thank you, Weather Network) is currently flowing over Ucluelet, and there’s a very pleasant drumming of raindrops on the roof. I can’t make out the words, but the rhythm is great.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Rain – The Cult

The fish were jumping…

…well, three or four made a splash near our kayaks as we paddled in the bay earlier this week. The fish, eagles, bears and other birds have been a welcome distraction from the unicorns frolicking in the sunny uplands of Brexit Britain – all will be well there if the new PM is to be believed. Politically, it all seems so depressing on both sides of the Atlantic. Racism and xenophobia aiming to be the new normal, and if you disagree you’re unpatriotic or a pessimist… No wonder we decided to stay away from the news and head out onto the water. Better use of time and all that.

Sparkling

We spent a couple of very enjoyable warm and sunny mornings on the water, the first chance we’ve had this summer to bob about a bit, and very calming it was too. You know, if we needed calming.

Winds were light, almost nonexistent – they tend to pick up into the afternoon out here, so a morning paddle is often best. Away from the relative hustle and bustle of the kayak launch – there is a small campsite nearby, and sometimes there are as many as four or five people – we found ourselves paddling along the shore at the foot of Mt. Ozzard, with splashing fish and singing birds for company, and no need for unicorns.

Paddling

I love the way a bald eagle floats across a line of trees. From the water, it looks like the eagle will disappear into the forest or over and out of sight, but often it’s the angle playing a trick on my eyes. Or it’s my eyes. The eagle flaps once or twice and then glides along just below the tree tops. Always a wonderful sight.

Splashing

The fish were splashing, birds were singing, eagles were gliding and a floatplane was buzzing. Eventually caught sight of it lining up for a smooth landing further down the bay. They are noisy, but I have to admit to liking the buzz of a floatplane, and I think of the passengers inside, a lucky group who have just seen the coastal islands from high above on a sunny day.

Buzzing

I expect we’ll be paddling a few more times in the next little while. We plan to bring a lunch and haul ourselves out onto the shore somewhere, rest up on a log and eat before a bear chases us off. Or a unicorn. We’ve scanned the far shore and picked out a couple of likely looking spots. More to follow…

Unicorn friendly

Thanks for reading, here’s hoping for some light news days, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Summer snaps

Oh no, please don’t let this be a slideshow of an OldPlaidCamper summer vacation, akin to those endured by some in the 1970s. You remember, where your neighbours invite you round to see their holiday snaps projected onto a wall, and there’s a bowl of peanuts and a glass of warm flat lemonade for refreshments. Yikes/shudder. Slightly sweaty after writing that, a disconcerting flashback to a happy childhood. Stranger things in an earlier decade…

Mrs. PC took this excellent summer snap. I’m certainly looking my best here…

No, nothing like that. A brief post because I should be packing and finding my passport for the lightning trip to northern Britain starting Friday. Instead of getting that organized, we’ve been enjoying the start of our summer, spending time on the beach, on the trails and in the hammock. The hammock is thanks to US Brother PlaidCamper, sent to us after he stayed last summer and endured the disappointment of our little balcony sans hammock. It’s lovely to have, but sure does take up some space. A bit like having your brother visit. I’ll be paying it forward by visiting UK Brother PlaidCamper. I hope he has a hammock.

I’m assuming mama bear was close by – I didn’t hang around to find out

Bears and bald eagles have been our major wildlife sightings, as well as a wolf – yes, at last, a wolf! The wolf was spotted by Mrs. PC a couple of weeks ago, lurking outside a restaurant just up the road, a place called Howlers. It’s like the wolf knew. Then I saw it a few days later, again just outside Howlers. In the end, we’d convinced ourselves perhaps it was a large wolf-dog hybrid, as there are a fair few locally, and the animal we saw didn’t seem too bothered by the people about. On Wednesday, there was a public message posted, warning residents of a wolf in the vicinity of Howlers, so a wolf it probably is. I wish I’d been able to take a photo. Maybe I’ll head over to Howlers after writing this. They do a good veggie burger, decent fries, and they have Tofino blonde on tap – a good evening even if the wolf stays (wisely) away! Displacement activity from packing? Yup.

Warmer than it appears

The weather has generally been gusty, grey and dry, with occasional bursts of sunshine in between low cloud, some murk and almost fog. Never too cold, and never too hot, always comfortable enough when we’re out and about. And comfortable enough for some hammock time.

“Forget the hammock – we have the beach!”

The snaps included with this piece were all taken in the past week, and if you’re desperate for something to do this weekend, please feel free to use them in a wall-projected slideshow presentation – viewing enjoyment is enhanced with flat lemonade and a bowl of peanuts…

Cold, no peanuts required

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Canada

It’s almost Canada Day already?! Monday July 1st, if you were wondering…

Sunny ways!

Canada! It’s not a perfect country, not by a long way, but in the years that we’ve lived here, it’s always seemed like a country striving to improve. Much more needs to be done related to environmental concerns, and more to eliminate poverty and raise the standard of living for all residents and citizens. There is a challenge in achieving a successful and sustaining economy that isn’t simply a resource extraction economy. Why further erode the land, air and water that sustains us just to make more money than a person could possibly need, and at the health expense of fellow citizens?

Not always sunny…

Warts and all, I can’t imagine living anywhere else, and Canada Day is a time for us to feel grateful about being Canadian. Our citizenship here is something we don’t take for granted.

It can sometimes seem the world is falling into madness, what with demands for walls, the deliberate undermining of alliances that were originally made to prevent conflict, and what feels like an unhappy lurch to the right and a tendency to blame everyone else at the same time as failing to take responsibility or action for planetary woes. Goodness, long sentence there. In that light, Canada makes a sort of sense to me. As I said, not perfect, but not likely to cause global ripples – or worse – due to destructive childish tantrums designed to fulfil the narcissistic need for attention at any cost. I’d better stop with these long sentences, and the content, not good for anyone’s wellbeing.

Medicinal, take after reading news…

Yes, enough of all that. Every day is Canada Day around here, and that makes me (a bit of a curmudgeon from time to time) smile. All the photos are images from the past week, and they have a Canadian flavour – mostly because they were taken in Canada!

Canadian flavour – it has been so dry, we resorted to breeze blocks for the salmon berry stakes! Rained the day after, but wonderfully sunny for lunch in the school garden.

If you’re Canadian, know a Canadian, have been to Canada, want to live in Canada, or simply enjoy hockey and maple syrup, then happy Canada Day to you for Monday!

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

Wolf Willow

Let’s head away from the coast and into the interior this week. A title borrowed from Wallace Stegner, a recommendation to read the Stegner title, and some Saskatchewan memories. What brought this on? Friends from Alberta emailed us last week, catching up on recent events and checking in to see if we had plans to be in Alberta over the summer. Likely yes, and I hope we can mesh our summer schedules and meet up face to face. We’ll have to time it so we see them before or after their planned camping trip to Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan!

I have fond memories of a Saskatchewan road trip and cabin stay we did during our second summer in Canada. Big skies, long distances, empty roads, and the biggest bugs ever. Ever! Also, the week we had in our cabin provided me with some of the most restful sleep I can ever recall. Ever! It was quiet and the backroads cycling was easy. Apparently, parts of Saskatchewan are quite flat. That summer had been rainy just before we set off, so the prairies were a vibrant green and gold – and the abundant insect life was big and bold. The dragon flies were enormous, or so it seemed when cycling through them.

The following year we camped a few nights in the Cypress Hills area, a windswept and beautiful location straddling the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. We had a fun time camped down by the water, aside from some of the biggest mosquitoes ever. Ever!

A different cabin

So what about the title of the post? Wolf Willow? It just so happens I’ve been reading Wallace Stegner’s remarkable book about plains life around the end of the nineteenth and start of the twentieth century. It is a spellbinding account of the trials and tribulations of settlers heading west. It also acknowledges the terrible devastation wrought by those early settlers, on people and place.

Storms, wind, fire, hard winters, dry summers, near starvation, genocide and environmental destruction – this is not a cheery account of that life and those times. Yet Stegner loved the several years he spent there as a child. His account of being a “sensuous savage” running pretty wild with his peers is quite a contrast to the experiences of many children today. There might be an argument made for the rough and tumble of his childhood being a more meaningful experience. Many true and a few tall tales are told, the secondary heading of the complete piece being “a history, a story, and a memory of the last plains frontier.” He had many exciting and striking memories, that’s for sure.

Tough country

There is much on the nature of nature forging identity and character, how a landscape can define a person, even years after they have moved on. For all the tough times and challenging living conditions, Stegner has a real love for his brief – yet formative – years on the prairies, his family scrabbling to survive on what felt at that time like the last frontier. Or the end of the last frontier in North America.

There are any number of wonderfully descriptive prairie passages in the book. The wind is a constant companion:

“Across its empty miles pours the pushing and shouldering wind, a thing you tighten into as a trout tightens into fast water. It is a grassy, clean, exciting wind, with the smell of distance in it, and in its search for whatever it is looking for it turns over every wheat blade and head, every pale primrose, even the ground-hugging grass. It blows yellow-headed blackbirds and hawks and prairie sparrows around the air and ruffles the short tails of meadowlarks on fence posts. In collaboration with the light, it makes lovely and changeful what might be otherwise characterless.”

No need to hurry

The central part of Wolf Willow tells the story of a cattle drive undertaken just as winter approaches. This fictional account is utterly compelling, a tremendous piece of writing about fighting to stay alive in a snowstorm and do a job of work. The main character is a fresh faced romantic recently arrived from England, and he is desperate to be recognized as being stoic and hardbitten like his work colleagues. A few days of driving cattle in plummeting temperatures forces a reassessment of what he saw as a romantic life, and as for achieving the stature he believes his colleagues have? Well, you’ll have to read Wolf Willow to find out. If you do, you won’t be disappointed, although you might find some of the attitudes and prejudices from the time of writing a touch off putting. Maybe treat it as a history lesson on past social attitudes, and then enjoy the tales told.

A welcome thaw

From when we were road tripping in Saskatchewan all those years ago, a strong memory is of how friendly people were. One morning we found ourselves in the tiny town of Tisdale, a few hours northeast of Saskatoon. (As an aside, I delight in writing or saying Saskatoon or Saskatchewan. Even better, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan!) Anyway, we were lost, which is hard to do in a small rural town, but soon knew where we were when we inadvertently turned onto a street and found ourselves driving at the head of a parade. Oops. For a few minutes, we headed the floats and marching band. Those friendly townspeople clapped and cheered as we drove on up the street, and was I ever happy to turn off as soon as possible. I’d love to visit again, but I don’t want the townsfolk feeling pressured about putting on a parade…

Captivating country, and never characterless

Ah, Saskatchewan! Land of Corner Gas, a show that told us all we needed to know before heading out on that particular vacation. Corner Gas shows that life has changed on the plains since Stegner’s day! I have to say, prairie life is still a tough business, maybe not Stegner period tough, but there is something so attractive about it nonetheless. Honestly, I’m as hopelessly romantic about it as that young Englishman in Stegner’s story…

Wolf Willow was one of the first prairie shrubs I learned to recognize when we moved to Alberta. One freezing November evening, a kind botanist walked me through a river valley in the prairie edge lands as preparation for a school field trip. The Wolf Willow and Red Osier Dogwoods were a delight, each standing out, even in failing winter light. I’ll be honest, it’s easy to remember a plant with a name as captivating as Wolf Willow. (A quick search earlier revealed it isn’t a willow at all, but that’s okay…)

A good read (Image from Goodread.com)

I think I’ll leave it here, otherwise there’s a danger I could meander on like a slow and muddy river flowing in a summertime prairie valley. In Saskatchewan!

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

All the photographs this week are from Alberta prairie visits in previous years. I have photographs from our SK trips, but couldn’t find them this week. Maybe we need to plan another SK trip…

Boats, bows, rods, reels and traps

Yup, the last long weekend was a busy weekend. About 40 youth and associated mentors heading out and away for a few days of camping, fishing, trail-building, archery and anything else that seemed like a good outdoor idea.

The larger vessel

We set off in two vessels, one a speedy affair with room for nine, and the other a larger, more sedate boat with room for all the gear and space to spread out above and below. Going out, I was in the smaller boat, coming back, I traveled in the larger. Both were fun, with the voyage out being busier. As the larger vessel was cruising slowly and steadily toward our destination, the smaller boat zipped about, looking for favourite (previously successful) spots to fish, and to pick up and drop prawn and crab traps.

Two traps contained many prawns, and these were a mainstay for an almost midnight feast later that day. We ended up eating so late because the zodiac and tin boat transfer from the tiny offshore dock to the beach near base camp took quite a few journeys. All that gear and all that youth – thank goodness for young people when it comes to pitching tents and stowing gear in the rain and near dark.

Very comfortable

The rods and reels proved far less successful over the weekend, with very little success in hooking a fish. A large sea cucumber got a bit of a surprise and was no doubt mightily relieved to be returned to the deep. The prawn and crab traps did not deliver either. Oh well.

“Nothing! You?”
“Nope…”

The rain fell from the moment we left Friday afternoon to just before dawn on Saturday, when the skies cleared and warm sunshine was an almost constant companion through Saturday and Sunday. A fair number of mosquitoes were also near constant companions, but not unbearably so.

Very bearable

The weekend was visibly bear-free, aside from frequent scat sightings, and some splashing in the early hours from across the narrow channel. Nothing to be alarmed about. I alarmed a bald eagle that was perched atop an old stump at the point of the spit – I think it may have been my early morning pee break that startled her, causing her to fly off somewhat sooner than she may have been planning. A magnificent sight (the eagle, not me peeing…)

The dry and near windless days allowed for perfect archery conditions, and it was good to see the young ones honing their technique and improving their accuracy. They were able to display their skills to a group of ten elders who visited for the day on Sunday.

Prior to the arrival of the elders, much effort was put into further improving the trail through the forest from the beach to the camp. And you’ve never seen a tidier base camp than how it looked for that afternoon – when grandmothers and grandfathers visit, it had better look right!

When the elders arrived on the beach, they were welcomed with a song sung by a young warrior. His voice was strong and steady, and his song echoed back from the low mountains surrounding the inlet. A memorable moment from a trip with many fine moments.

We awoke on Monday to low cloud and a threat of rain. After the warmth of the previous two days, it was something of a relief to be able to pack up and shift all the gear back to the beach and on to the boats in cool conditions. And would you believe it, once we cleared the inlet and headed out into wider waters, the clouds fell behind us and we sailed under blue skies. A certain OldPlaidCamper might have dozed off up on deck, lulled to sleep and pleasantly tired after a very good long weekend.

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

Departure