Hazy, lazy, low tide mornings

After last week, and all that aiming to be swift, this week I’ve remembered it’s best to take my time, because life’s a marathon, not a sprint. Plus, I’m too old to be sprinting. It would end badly. People would look and laugh, and say, “He thinks that is sprinting?” I’m sensitive like that…

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Hazy, grainy, but these runners aren’t lazy

What actually happened was the Ucluelet Edge To Edge marathon held last weekend. It was great to watch the runners, young and old, pass by with smiles on their faces. I think they were smiling, although my first vantage point was the top of a hill, so perhaps there was a grimace or two. If I’d run up a hill and there was a man and his dog sat there drinking coffee and eating his breakfast (the man, not the dog, although she will eat and drink almost anything, including my breakfast) I’d throw a grimace his way. If the runners had looked behind them, there was a lovely view down to the water and the low mountains on the far side.

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Is this – gulp – the end?

Once the last of the several hundred runners had gone by, we upped sticks – downed sticks? – (Scout, not me, I don’t chew sticks, although I’ve been known to get through any number of matches “starting” a campfire) and wandered slowly to the finish line. Given what’s awaiting us all at the end of our journey, I’ve always been a firm believer in strolling to the finish, rather than pelting at it full tilt. You’re going to get there in the end…

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More my pace

Both mornings last weekend were lazy, slightly ocean hazy, and the tide was low. Aside from the Sunday morning energy of all those runners, things were generally quiet. Quiet, but not entirely inactive. Fishing boats puttered past, and groups of kayakers were gliding by, enjoying barely a breeze and calm water. Ucluelet Aquarium had plenty of visitors, the young children excited on the way in, and excited on the way out.IMG_20180616_101107

Warm, but not too warm, quiet, but not too quiet, the lazy and hazy mornings were just right, and the perfect contrast to recent busy city life. The weather, paddling, fishing, and running has reminded me to get into summer mode. (Does that mode have to include running?)IMG_20180618_095008

If you were wondering, my brother should be out on the coast by the time this is posted, if not at the time of writing. I won’t go into details – oh alright, I will. He went to the wrong airport (huh?) and missed his first flight. The following day, he got to the right airport – progress – and flew to the next destination. Unfortunately, his flight to Vancouver was delayed, so he missed the final short hop flight to Tofino. En route to the hotel he booked to wait 24 hours and the next available flight, the shuttle bus blew a tyre. I think he’s somewhere in Vancouver right now, and I’ll hope to see him disembarking at Tofino in the next day or two. Or three.

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“Will your brother be quicker than you, old man?” Nope.

Like I told him, life’s a marathon, not a sprint. His reply can’t be repeated here. Anyway, I enjoyed watching the race, and it made me think about next year. Inspired by what I saw, all the training, the preparation, the dedication to being one’s personal best, I’ve decided I will definitely watch the race again next year.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

The Spray Lakes shake

You’ll know it if you’ve ever driven the road to the lake. A splendid mix of potholes and gravel, with a sprinkling of rocks scattered on a corduroy surface, it is a track to test suspension and loose fillings. My brain is still shaking, like it belongs to an old time hockey enforcer at the end of game seven. Are all routes to lakes like that? Read on for a near miss, and a misspelt curse word.

A trip to the lake is worth taking on a warm day when it is too hot to stay in the city. A reservoir stop in Spray Valley Provincial Park became the end destination as we drove past crowded parking lots closer to Canmore. Cars spilling out at the Grassi Lakes trailhead, and at Goat Creek persuaded us to drive on, never mind the dust and the pinging of rocks underneath.

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Near…

About twenty minutes past Goat Creek, we turned off the Smith-Dorrien “highway” onto a side road leading down to a parking lot and boat launch. We pulled up under a tree, and couldn’t believe there were only two other vehicles parked – it might have been only one car and I was still seeing double…

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…and far

Why so quiet? Was there a bear warning and trail closures? Nope. Well, alright then, and off we went in search of a suitable spot for a picnic. I’m happy enough to lean against a log, or perch on a rock, but lucky us, there were several picnic tables spread along the path overlooking the lake, and they were all empty. IMG_20180527_121542

As the name suggests, Spray Valley is long and wide, the lakes created by a dam, and with a steady breeze rippling the lake, it was very pleasant for a picnic in the shady trees. We spent a lazy couple of hours mooching up and down, admiring the view, eating lunch, and filling in the holes Scout felt she absolutely had to dig. Wondering, but not complaining, about the lack of other people enjoying the immediate surrounds. We saw a couple of canoes and a small fishing boat down on the lake. A family stopped to walk their dog for a few minutes further up the shore, and then left. Two cyclists were startled by Scout, believing her to be a bear at first sight, but they pedalled on, reassured to see she was a friendly wolf.

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Digging it

As much as we’d have liked to stay all day, we had an important appointment to keep at the Canmore Brewing Company. We headed back to Canmore, offering up a prayer of thanks when a speeding red truck sliding around a bend narrowly missed us, and the spray of gravel didn’t put a chip in our new windshield. I have a limited reservoir of patience for dam fools in racing pick ups. Let us spray he made it down to the lake without incident, and perhaps with a little less pedal to the metal. Yikes…

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Take your time, it’ll still be here

A pleasant afternoon, quiet, as hoped for, and a destination definitely worth going the extra bumpy mile or so.

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Parked up on the dam road, dusty, but remarkably chip and ding-free – phew

Oh, I almost forgot – and I’m sure you wanted to know – yes, the Railway Avenue Rye IPA and the Ten Peaks Pale Ale were excellent. I’ll have to let you know about the stout, and the brown ale another time.

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Later that day…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Woodland walks and Sunnyside strolls

After a couple of busy and beery town and city weekends, fun ones and all, it was good to get back to something a little quieter with a weekend walk in the woods. Other days spent in the city meant sidewalk strolls, and with all the lilacs and late spring tree blossoming and blooming, pounding the city pavements hasn’t been too bad.IMG_20180522_090552

Fresh greens, soft pinks, clean whites, and the strong scent of lilac. All the sights and smells laundry detergent makers want you to think about when purchasing their products. They should make one called Sunnyside Streets. Tide, Persil, or (preferably) biodegradable detergent manufacturers, I’m available for further excellent advertising ideas…IMG_20180522_090515

Last weekend, it felt like spring was leaning heavily into summer. The usual Alberta transition from winter to spring seems to have been as speedy as ever, with temperatures accelerating past expected averages, and spring almost in the rearview.DSCF7036

Walking in the semi-shade of newly leafy aspens and poplars out at Glenbow Ranch was very pleasant, and the snow kept us cool. Snow? Oh, ok, it wasn’t real snow, but the cottony fluff of seeds floating in the air and gathering in little banks on the sides of the trail. It was funny watching Scout snap at the breeze-blown seeds, but she tired of that game pretty quickly – deadfall sticks and branches are easier prey, especially on a hot day.DSCF7054

Exiting the patches of wood, we spotted a pair of red tailed hawks high above, riding the thermals in lazy circles. When we stopped at the top of a small hill to admire the view, two flashes of blue indicated what might have been mountain bluebirds, but we couldn’t be absolutely sure. Returning to the parking lot, we heard the call of a white-crowned sparrow, one of the few bird calls I can readily identify, coming from a nearby stand of aspens. I like to think it was calling us back, saying it wasn’t time to leave just yet.DSCF7051

No worries, we’ll be back, although we’ll be waiting for a cooler day or for when the calendar turns over to fall. In the meantime, there is more shade, scent, and evening cool to be found in those Sunnyside Streets ™.

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“Please, no more fluffy stuff!”

A little aside, for those interested in our research from last week – we might have found a store selling Half Hitch beer within walking distance. It’s going to take the edge off watching the Stanley Cup final without a Canadian team once again. We should thank the Winnipeg Jets because they kept Canadian hockey hopes up for a little longer than usual…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Farewell to Winter?

I think so…

You can never be too sure in the foothills and mountains, but this time, the thaw seems real, and there hasn’t been any heavy snow for nearly two weeks. We are well past mid-April, and our looping, tilted race around the sun says it has to warm up now! Surely?fullsizeoutput_5b0

Talk in town says it was a long one, but I think winter’s lingering into April was just a shift along from the late arrival. There was hardly any snow or cold until past mid-December, and then there was plenty of both the next three or four months.

Now, though, the sun is shining, and has been since the start of the week. The last winter blast is receding into memory, and a few blades of green are appearing in the brown grass. Birds are singing, and there is a forecast of temperatures hitting 20C and more by the weekend. (And a plummet down to less than 10 and rain by Monday, but that is ages away…)fullsizeoutput_5b1

We headed into the foothills last week, from where we could see upper mountains cloaked in snow, but huge swathes melting lower down. Rivers rushed, and streams splashed. Ranch horses and cattle were out once more, enjoying the sunshine.IMG_20180422_130240

Stopping above the Highwater River, we climbed down the banks to look at the fast flow. My left foot was sucked into deep mud hidden under a thin layer of snow, and extracting the boot caused a satisfying squelch and slurp. Mrs. PC and Scout didn’t take my short cut, and negotiated the way down with clean boots and paws.

Geese were honking over on the far bank, and we saw deer and beaver tracks on our side. A short walk upriver uncovered a beaver lodge, and felled trunks with fresh tooth marks. The beaver has been busy. We retreated, not wanting Scout’s mad spring scampering to further disturb the residents. I’m sure they had no notion we were there…

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“These guys are professional chewers!”
We paused for gas and coffee in Longview, and the relief at the end of winter, and start of mud season seemed to be the main topics of conversation in the coffee shop. “Even the skiers passing through here are over winter this year! I’ll be washing this floor three times a day what with all the mud!” I stepped closer to the counter to hide my boots.fullsizeoutput_5b2

I do like winter, but it’s good to feel warm sun, and to drive with the windows down. Any slip and fall will be due to mud, not ice, and the birdsong means blossom is about to appear. Thanks, winter, for letting go, and let’s say a warm welcome to an Albertan spring!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

To the lighthouse

I’ve never read it. I believe it is a favourite of Old Ma PlaidCamper, and I remember seeing this title on the bookshelves when I was a child, but was never tempted – I thought they’d misspelled wolf. Oh dear… It had a gloomy cover, and Ma told me it was not really about a lighthouse. Now I’m older, and almost ready to read a story that might not be about a lighthouse, maybe I should give it a go? Also, I’m ready to believe Virginia wasn’t a wolf.

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A good point
In between the rain showers and strong and stormy winds earlier this week, we went for a walk to the lighthouse. Our walks don’t always have a point, other than to enjoy being out, but this one did, Amphitrite Point! Who wouldn’t want to visit a location named for a Greek sea goddess? For once, it was the destination, not the journey, man.

Initially, the lighthouse wasn’t the reason for the walk, but it turned out all the trails and little beaches on the ocean side of Ucluelet were closed due to heavy seas washing onto the shore. Oh no! What to do? There’s a dog needing a walk! So to the lighthouse we went, to take in the view, if not the trail.

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Peeking
Well, we were fortunate. As it sometimes does on a day forecast to have incessant rain, the skies cleared, and sun emerged for over an hour. We could see the clouds amassing to the southwest, and a grey wall was creeping towards us from way out west, but that didn’t arrive until we were ready to depart. It wasn’t really creeping, as we found out when the raindrops hit us later, hard and fast, and we would have been soaked had we stayed any longer.fullsizeoutput_58b

Did I mention the trail was closed for safety reasons? Don’t tell anyone, but we did head south of the lighthouse, for barely a hundred metres, to a rocky outcrop high above the busy ocean. From there, you can lean out and peek back to the Broken Islands, and across to the lighthouse itself. Again, don’t tell, but there is a bench off a short side path, and it is completely hidden from the main trail and sheltered by trees and shrubs. Facing west, it is a perfect little sun trap, and often warm even on overcast days. There we sat, protected from the buffeting winds, admiring sea birds battling the weather, and watching the waves crashing against the rocks. A bald eagle flew just over our heads. For a few seconds it seemed almost motionless, hanging there, facing into the wind before disappearing behind the trees further south. (Sharp as ever, I pulled out my camera and took a fabulous picture of the trees it flew beyond…)fullsizeoutput_594

The colours shifted from blue to grey as the afternoon wore on, and the heavy weather started to be felt. It was a real treat to sit and watch the changes. I tried to zoom in and capture the glints and curl of green inside a wave before it collapsed under its own weight and onto the shore. The constant heave and swell of the water further out was mesmerizing and unpredictable. Just when I thought I’d figured out a wave pattern, the ocean shifted and remade itself, tidal pull and undertow, crashing in and washing out with a roar, the booms and hissing audible above the rush of wind.

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Changing…
It was an exhilarating hour or so, full of natural energy, and sights and sounds to thrill the observer. Drawn to the ocean, my gaze barely went to the lighthouse, but it is quite the sight. Small and stocky, planted firm among the black rocks, it isn’t a grand construction, but it looks purposeful, doing an important job on the point.

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Departing
We left when we realized that it was more than ocean spray getting our faces wet, and when the sea had no more hints of green or blue, but was as grey as the wall of cloud just offshore. The wind had never died down, and was now beginning to shake the trees with increasing ferocity – time to wander back, picking up the pace, but with one last glance back to the lighthouse. Perhaps I’ll give the book a go, now it is on my mind. Have you read it?

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Nope, haven’t read it. I’m a dog.
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Orange pop

Soda bright on overcast days, theres’s nothing wrong with a little visual pick me up.

IMG_20180322_091336I wouldn’t want to overdose on orange (or overdose on anything), but when I was looking at photographs taken on our walks around the harbour at Ucluelet, clearly I enjoy a blast of brightness.

IMG_20180322_091433It’s easy to see why, as the floats add splashes of colour on a muted day, popping out against the green and grey. These are meant to be seen, and aren’t natural in colour – I wouldn’t want to eat or drink foodstuffs this colour – but it sure does stand out. I have a vivid orange camera float, ready for the day I drop it in the water. Perhaps I should should invest in some of the rain/fishing gear that comes in a similar orange, for when I go after the dropped camera. Perhaps I should not drop the camera.

My usual Albertan raisin dry skin has enjoyed the damp warmth of the coastal environment – I look years younger, like a guy in his 50s…

IMG_20180322_091135I know, you read these posts (thank you for that!) expecting interesting tales about almost wilderness adventures, and instead, there’s a tip for healthy skin – come to the coast! Click on the link at the bottom to go directly to PlaidCamperBeauty.com.

Here’s a little something sweet that happened on the docks last week.

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“Am I in the next bit?”
Scout was exploring an interesting-smelling corner of a jetty, when a loud exhaling from the water startled her. A harbour seal emerged, looking very cute, and looking very intently at Scout. It swam a little closer, to within a couple of metres from where we stood, which was different – they normally pop up and pop off pretty sharpish when we’re spotted. IMG_20180322_091123We backed off a few metres, to give it some space, retreating down the dock, although Scout really wanted to make friends. The seal looked as if it was going to come up onto the dock, half out of the water, but then dropped back in. I was glad enough about that, because I don’t suppose dog-seal encounters are to be encouraged, and we’d have had to walk past to get back. (If only I’d had my camera with me – although I’d have probably dropped it in excitement, testing the orange float, and my willingness to put a hand into seal occupied waters…)

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The lovely Tromso is still here!
A small post this week, about small happenings – but there’s always something happening, little bursts of colour and life, very refreshing, like coastal air on dry skin…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

(If you scrolled down for the link to PlaidCamperBeauty, it doesn’t really exist, although we’re all beautiful on the inside!)

 

Long views, silvery blues (and slippery trails)

The colours and trail conditions in mid-March on a sunny day in Alberta. Big risks and huge rewards for the willing…DSCF6627

I might be slightly exaggerating above, but we were picking a nervous path down some wooded slopes last weekend. The temperatures for the past few days had been perfect for being outdoors and active, rising from below freezing in the early morning, to a relatively balmy 5-8C in the late afternoon sun. Stay on the move, and the layers come off, down to shirtsleeves and a lightweight toque. Sunblock, sunglasses and YakTrax kept everything mostly comfortable – the frozen lumps and bumps of an icy trail underfoot keeping us on our toes and, hopefully, off our butts. It must have been very deep slush the day before.IMG_20180311_125621

The parking lot at Glenbow Ranch was less than half full, the chilly early morning deterring most folks, leaving the park to be enjoyed by the brave few willing to risk the slippery trails. The happy miserabilist in our little party chose the most icy trailhead, figuring it would be the quietest path. He enjoyed the subsequent series of smiles, nods, and short conversations with other hikers and dog walkers who had no doubt chosen the same path searching for solitude. There’s not much that’s quieter than a collection of outdoor introverts slightly disappointed to be meeting each other on the trail (I’m not actually a miserabilist, but if you ever run into me out there, I sure do look like one – don’t be too put off,  I will stop and chat – if you really want to…)DSCF6624

On the flatter parts, and along the valley bottom, like an amiable PlaidCamper the trails were hardpacked and easy going. As is almost always the case, the further on we went, the fewer people we met, and aside from the scrape of YakTrax on ice, it was pretty quiet. And pretty! Alberta blue overhead, silver trees on each side, and golden grasses poking up through the snow. Barely a breeze to be felt or heard, and the occasional snatch of birdsong from the branches above.DSCF6626

We threaded our way through a pleasant valley, stopping to eat our lunch at the bottom of a wooded slope. The trees leaned in and over on either side of us, offering a sense of shelter and quiet companionship. Fanciful I know, but maybe they were expressing a hint of concern? Scout was doing quite a number on the exposed roots of a felled tree, thoroughly engaged in her dogged pursuit of “is this edible?” The answer, in her mind anyway, is always yes.fullsizeoutput_56a

We climbed out of the little valley and stopped to enjoy the far-reaching views of the not so distant Rockies. They looked wonderful in the strong afternoon sun, sharp-edged, snow dusted and gleaming, stretching along the entire horizon. What a sight! Closer in, stands of trees made stark patches of black shadow against the brilliant white snow. An unseen train sounded a horn down below, and then appeared from between the hills, chugging slowly through the foothills, a child’s toy from way up top.fullsizeoutput_579

Sitting on a log in the snow, feeling the warmth of the sun under an ocean of blue sky on a bright March day, I can happily put spring on hold for a little while longer. Yes, the paths are treacherous, in and out of the city, and yes, there’s still more snow to fall (it’s falling heavily once again as I write this!) but days like last weekend are treasures, and enough to make an old misery smile at passers-by as they quietly acknowledge their shared delight.IMG_20180311_125521

A rare day? Maybe, maybe not, depends how you look at it. I like days and places for finding perspective. Glenbow Ranch seems to be our nearest natural recharge point at the moment. I hope you have an outdoor trove of special places you feel good about, where you can soak in and soak up natural wonder. Locations you don’t have to travel too far to experience, where everyday concerns can be shrugged off, at least for a while. fullsizeoutput_56d

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!fullsizeoutput_57a

PS Just got back from a quick trundle around the neighbourhood (can’t resist being out in the snow) and it is slick on those sidewalks – so take care out there if you are still in the (weakening?) grip of a snowy winter.