On hold…

…or holding on?!

What a week! We lost electrical power briefly on Monday, and then for longer through Tuesday. It wasn’t so bad, once the 100kmh+ winds died down. Cooking and coffee on a camping stove, and enough supplies in our store cupboard kept us chugging along just fine.

The calm after the storm

The storm wrecked the work week, and the blogging week, so I’ll apologize here and say I promise to catch up on your blogs over the coming weekend, and also respond to comments left in the past week.

As well as the storm, sadly, we had our first confirmed case of COVID-19 in our little community. That’s a big splash in a small pond, and the ripple effects have been considerable. It’s looking increasingly likely we’ll be working from home pretty soon, and my contacts with the schools and students will be heavily reduced.

Ripple effects

As a small coastal town, we’d hoped for the best, so fingers crossed we’ve planned for the worst, and now we’re in a similar situation to many other places, and we’ll see what unfolds. Life back on hold? Most likely, until effective treatments become widely available.

Life back on hold? In that case, make mine a double!

A very brief piece this week, and I’ll finish by hoping you are well, that you stay safe, and you have a wonderful weekend!

Some calm

I’m writing this on Thursday, debating whether I’ve got the patience to watch the next and, mercifully, last debate. Debate? Did you see/hear the last one? Then you’ll know what I mean!

Thursday morning, outdoor calm – this was our transport last time out

Anyway, debate viewing or not, at least we’ll continue to enjoy some outdoor calm. We’ve had a few blustery days of late, but we’re in a slightly more settled period right now. Morning and afternoon walks with Scout have been pleasant. Calm water, a few clouds, a touch of fog, and colourful leaves holding on for now.

Hints of acceptable orange

Holding on for now. I hope our southern friends and neighbours can hold on for just over another week, and then find it within themselves to vote for some calm, even if not so inspired by Uncle Joe. I mean, look at the current fellow and ask yourself if that’s really what the world would enjoy the next four years?

So, if all goes well, perhaps the future will be a lesser shade of angry orange? It’s the hope that kills you, isn’t it? Please, please, please, please…

Cool, calm and a boat collection

A brief post this week, as we’re busy preparing for a weekend away with a collection of trainers and mentors. Our wilderness destination awaits, with a promise of overnight temperatures dropping to just below zero, but sunny daytime skies. We’ll be camping in the (allegedly) second wettest spot in Canada, if not the universe, so a dry weekend will be a bonus! More to follow.

I hope your weekend is a sunny and calm one – thanks for reading!

A medical history

Things of a medical nature have been all over the news cycle the past few months, and particularly the last week or two. A helicopter for an ambulance? A healthy glow?! Immunity! Don’t worry, this won’t be a PlaidCamper rant about miracle cures and inequalities in health care as personified by mango-hued tax dodging toddlers. Although it might have been, had the last sentence run on any longer.

No. No ranting. This is a post full of true and nearly true stories. Almost cinematic, full of visual poetry, and likely requiring a Terence Malick, Jane Campion, or Peter Weir to capture the moving intensity and subtle dreamy drama. A tale of a man at a crossroads in life. Cue voiceover: In a world…

Dreamy – one of the recent Planet of the Apes was filmed near here

Cut! Too much? Ok. Cut. Take two. This will be a post full of the brave exploits of a young-to-early middle-aged PlaidCamper, a potential boon to the medical world if only he would consider yet another mid-to-very-early life crisis, and switch careers. Montage! A white coat? Nice. A stethoscope? Yes please. Rugged calmness in the face of death and disease? Oh, yes doctor. Cut! Stop! Enough of this.

Sorry, I don’t know what came over me. I almost swooned, understandably enough, at the thought of me in a white coat. Imagine a cross between George Clooney and Dr. Fauci, only many decades younger, and you’d be close. No? Assisted by soft lighting, and no close ups? And a wig? Not even? Where were we? Poor scriptwriting on this one. This is like Apocalypse Now, but medical. Let’s start with basic training.

Ongoing basic training, almost essential

Did I mention I participated in a Wilderness First Aid course? A week of skills and scenarios, designed to replicate real life situations, complete with all too convincing fake broken bones, buckets of blood, and stick on wounds and injuries too disgusting for The Walking Dead. All in a rainforest setting, and directed by a first aid trainer who looked nothing like Francis Ford Coppola. I think a young Martin Sheen, slightly too old for the part, yet fortunate enough to bear a certain resemblance to an OldPlaidCamper, will play me in the following scenes.

Cut, cut, cut! Sorry, Martin, we won’t be needing you. Haven’t you heard, PlaidCamper? Cinema is another victim of the virus. And Martin at any age looks nothing like you.

In truth, my never entirely realistic dream of becoming a doctor soon evaporated in the heat of simulated medical battle. I’m not a particularly good first aider, certainly not compared with how well our young participants coped in testing situations. They’d be elbow deep, or at least, gloved hands on, treating the injuries while I was still reciting lessons and trying to remember how to tie a sling. Fluffing my lines. Let’s just say I won’t be in any reboot of ER…

…unless it is in the patient role. I excelled! Lie down and grumble about aches and pains? Check! Fake a heart attack? I’ll do it! Food poisoning due to mushroom picking stupidity? I can fake that! Make up a medical history to confuse trainees? No problem! Wander off, pretend to pee in the woods, be startled by a bear and shoot myself with bear spray? I did that! Pretending, not for real. I was meant to do this! I’m a natural.

No bears in this scene

I really have had a near miss with bear spray, and know what it feels like. Method actor, that’s me. I search for the truth in stories and inhabit the characters I portray. I have to get under the skin of a role. Or under the skin of anyone nearby.

You’d like to hear my bear spray true story? One of Nature, red in tooth and claw? A terrifying tale of one man alone in the wilderness? Nope, it was none of that. I was in a supermarket parking lot, and walked round to the passenger side of the car to get my wallet out of a backpack. The pack was in the passenger footwell. I pulled on it to pick it up, when a strap got caught under the seat. Instead of slowing down and releasing the pack gently, I simply pulled harder, somehow breaking the trigger guard on the bear spray attached to the pack, delivering a dose all over the car radio and hand brake. Customers in the parking lot were treated to my first performance of man almost shoots himself with bear spray and scrambles backwards on all fours. If you’ve seen The Exorcist spider scene, you know how it went. Like that, but faster and with more swearing. It made my head spin, and some of the onlookers too.

I love the smell of bear spray in the morning

It took weeks to clean and remove the remnants. I’d be driving along, sipping a cup of coffee and changing the radio station, and a few moments later get a bad burning sensation around my mouth. It wasn’t how I made the coffee. A few particles of weeks-old bear spray really pack a punch…

Fascinating insight into the craft, don’t you think?

Yes, I brought all my experience to the patient role. I certainly tested the patience of fellow first aid participants. I drew the line at letting them volunteer me for staging a drowning recovery after falling off a dock incident, although it was kind of them to think of me. It’s an honour just to be nominated.

Under the dock

I got an email from Francis, our first aid trainer, just the other day. Imagine my surprise that it contained confirmation I passed the course! It was like winning an Oscar. If I had them, I’d like to thank my manager, my agent, the producers, my personal trainer, personal chef, accountant, my personal trainer’s personal trainer, the wig maker, George Clooney, Dr. Fauci, and the bald one in ER. Also, commiserations to Martin, but come on, only I could play me in this movie…

Oh, the monstrous ego. Cut! That’s a wrap. I’ve got to wait by the phone, be ready to take the calls from Hollywood. Fade to black.

Monstrous ego indeed. Enough of that guy. I’ll finish by acknowledging how well our young participants did in the WFA course, and how safe we’ll all be out on the land in the future. They learned so much in a relatively short time, and showed real leadership and an ability to act and think clearly in stressful situations. Nothing fazed them!

A screen presence! Planet of the Dog

Well, thankfully none of the plotless nonsense you’ve just read will ever get a theatrical release. Are you still here?! Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Go with the flow

A brief post this week, written in haste as I prepare for a Wilderness First Aid course. If I don’t post anything next week, you’ll know I muddled slings with knots, tarps with triangle bandages, and ended up tied to a tree. Hopefully without an impalement injury, and dressed for the weather to avoid hypothermia…

Ready for any weather and all adventures!

I’ve not done a 40 hour WFA course, so this will be an interesting experience. I’ve heard stories about participants getting injured, especially during nighttime scenarios, so given my ability to slip, trip and fall in daylight, I hope my fellow participants and I can limit the after dark damage.

Talking of dark damage, how about the debate earlier this week? My brain needed a splint after that. Mentally speaking, I’m still in the recovery position. I won’t even mention my first response…

The photos this week were taken from our visit to Long Beach last weekend. You can see the debris and channels carved from the strong winds and heavy rain run off. I’m glad we moved the training from last week to this for the course – what a fortunate decision that turned out to be. The program was running whatever the weather, and the weather this week has been dry. Phew. Let’s not make my slipping chances any higher.

We’re taking some positive minded youth along for this one, and their energy and willingness to go with the flow when it comes to learning is something I’ll enjoy. I’ve heard mutterings about who they want to immobilize and carry out on a stretcher. They’ll change their minds and volunteer someone else when they think about my deadweight. “Carry him? Let’s shelter in place, he’s fine to wait it out!” I guess if they “accidentally” drop me, by later in the week they will know how to patch me up?

Stay safe, stay well, thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Sand and stone

Smoke and fog. Tree and bone. A happy dog. This is why I don’t write poetry. I couldn’t think of a title this week, or at least, I struggled to pick from these. I know, they’re all winners…

Smoke and fog, tree and log, sand and stone, that’s not a bone. And this still isn’t a poem…

What a week that was. The smoky skies gave way to wind and rain, and the fresher air was most welcome. I really, really hope there’s some weather help and rainy relief for those in need further south. I’ve been up and down, mood wise, all week. How not to be despondent if you pay even scant attention to global concerns? Answers on a postcard, or leave a comment below, if you’re so inclined. I guess it’s not all bad.

Maybe just sail away? I liked this one.

On the upside? Out here on the coast, there has been a noticeable drop in visitor numbers, enough that we ventured out to a couple of small beaches within walking distance, hoping they’d be quiet. The smoke/fog/rain appeared to have kept folks indoors. We weren’t out for too long ourselves, given the harsh taste in the air, but it was pleasant to sit at a couple of favourite places and enjoy the quiet.

A favourite small beach, our first visit here in over 6 months. Scout’s eye view.

More upside – slightly qualified? School is in, the new Premier League football season is underway, and a hockey season full of promise (unlike the current one, where the Flames sputtered. Again. Sigh…) is just around a distant corner. Welcome brief distractions from the noise and nonsense. If we’re all going to that hot place in a hand basket, then I’m going to jolly well enjoy what I can in between the bouts of worry and concern. Yes, we might be running out of time to save what’s left worth saving, and I’ll play my tiny part in slowing down the likely planetary demise, but I will also appreciate the sand and stone, mist, rain, fog, and enjoy the company of a happy dog. Otherwise, the ignorant, money grabbing hoarders and wreckers have already won. I mean, they haven’t won outright yet, have they? Hmm…

A happy dog! She supports Everton, and she’s still happy. Strange, that.

Well, there you have it for this week. Ups and downs, and some stuff in between. Like most people, I should think. I hope you’re well, staying safe, and not feeling too despondent.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Heading back…

…to school? Normality? Civilized discourse in politics?

The lead photograph this week is sadder than it looks. If you’re me. And I am. Me. I was in the office, busily counting paperclips and preparing for the new school year, when my phone rang.

“Can you see us?”

“Hey! Old man? Look out your window – can you see us?”

Two colleagues were puttering down the channel and out to the ocean, heading to a remote camp, to pick up a skiff and tow it back so we’d have another little boat to use for brushing up our nautical skills. Definitely education related, so why wasn’t I on board, heading out to the Broken Islands and beyond, on a warm and sunny day? Good question, so I asked it:

“Picking up the skiff and towing it back so we’ll have another little boat to use to brush up nautical skills? Definitely education related, so shouldn’t I be on board?” – in a whiny voice, because that always works.

“Is it your turn again? You grabbed the kayaking gig last week, remember? Oh stop snivelling – if you can swim out to us before we go past, you can come!”

Earlier in the week

I could have done that, and easily, but, you know, paperclips…

I was so happy to hear they had a brilliant day, picking up the skiff, stopping for a picnic lunch at the camp, then heading back escorted by four – four! – orcas. I organized the red and blue paperclips, and I’m totally prepared for the new school year.

Oh yes, the new school year. All pandemic plans are in place, with gallons and gallons of hand sanitizer situated in strategic locations, signage has gone up, arrows have been laid down, instructions have been printed and distributed. What could possibly go wrong? Young and not so young students will learn to follow bus and class seating plans, use appropriate mask etiquette and remain suitably distanced until a vaccine is ready, because, well, it’ll be good to try and have something resembling normal. For as long as it lasts…

Also taken earlier this week

Setting fears of a second wave to one side, I’m impressed by the effort and dedication educators have put in, in trying to meet this pandemic moment. If things go awry, it won’t be due to a lack of caring or commitment. Hats off. Let’s not use educators or children as a pandemic political football.

Right, I’d best leave it here. Four orcas! Four! I’ve dropped a paperclip, a blue one since you were wondering, and I know there’ll be a situation down the road that’ll stand or fall for the want of a paperclip.

If you’re about to return to school, have returned, or find yourself connected to folks working in schools, I hope it’s going well for you. Take care out there. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend.

A patch of blue

Last week ended very well, with an unexpected opportunity to paddle and splash about for a couple of hours. A summer building the trail, learning new skills, and not chopping or shooting off toes has been great, but I’ve missed spending time on the water, and I’ve missed hanging out with younger community members. That was all put right last Friday.

Teamwork!

At a meeting earlier in the week, where I was nodding along and looking interested behind my mask, a colleague mentioned she was one adult paddler short for her planned kayak activity. Being a considerate almost outdoorsman, I waited an appropriate amount of time for someone else to volunteer. When almost half a second had passed, I shouted out, “Me! Me! Pick me! I’ll do it! Pick me!” – I was going to volunteer sooner, but it’s best to give everyone a chance.

To my astonishment, I got away with this appalling behaviour – I’m sure it had nothing to do with colleagues wanting me far from the office on a Friday afternoon – and the next day found myself part of a group of three 8 year olds and three adults. Two and a half adults? Three adults on paper.

Three 8 year olds and two and a half adults

I had a lovely time catching up with L, T, and L. I hadn’t seen them in nearly six months, since schools closed and we all disappeared into our small bubbles. We paired off in three kayaks. L sat in the front and instructed me on how hard to paddle and which way to steer us. She helped by doing the opposite and seeing how wet I’d get from her enthusiastic paddling. Teamwork. I couldn’t have been happier!

Spotting sea stars clinging to Lyche Island

We paddled along the shore, admiring the big fishing vessels, waving at fishermen and pleasure boaters, and gradually improving our synchronized paddling. We crossed the inlet, circled Lyche Island, spotting sea stars, watching the bald eagles overhead, making our way to Port Albion, then Hitacu Dock, smiling at the wading blue herons and at another bald eagle standing in the mud flats.

Patches of blue

All this took place under grey skies, all grey apart from a small patch of blue. Our kayaks were also small patches of blue, but as we laughed and splashed our way up and down the channel, we were anything but blue. It’s great to be young. Or almost young.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have an enjoyable weekend!

Buzzing

Last week was a noisily productive week. I’d say we were buzzing. And roaring, cursing and sweating through a few days of chainsaw training. By “we” I mean me. The cursing and sweating part anyway.

Looks messy! What would help here?

If you’re familiar with gas powered chainsaws, you’ll know you have to yank a cord to get the saw fired up. Looks easy when a professional shows you. And, the first time I tried, hey presto, the chainsaw roared into life. Mostly because the chainsaw was new, and had warmed up. I like those new ones.

Starting the community winter wood pile

You should have seen me later, on a cold start older saw. Could I get it going? Nope. Must have been a really old saw, one of the ones that runs not on gas, but something from an earlier era. Coal? Dinosaur poop?

At the end of the day, after you’ve worked up a chainsaw sweat. Or even if you didn’t.

I’d paid attention during the basic maintenance and upkeep session. It was probably dirty, clogged up and needed cleaning. Oh yeah, I can handle some basic maintenance and pre-op checks. And on the chainsaw too. It was totally clean. So, probably a major repair was required, something that couldn’t be fixed in the field. Yeah, that was it.

J, one of the young people I was learning alongside, offered to take a look.

“Seems alright – let’s give it a go!”

Well, you can guess the rest… I must have warmed it up.

“What’s he talking about? Seems alright!”

My sweating, cursing, and weedy biceps aside, we had a great – and safe – few days. No fingers or toes were lost, and we’re better equipped to tackle some of the more challenging sections on the trail being built. We are back to that next week, and I’ll be there, ready to fire it up and get buzzing – if someone passes me a chainsaw that has been running recently.

“Chainsaws? Nah, I’ll use this!“

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

The forest

The past week has been the most enjoyable for quite some time. I’ve got bruises and scratches, I ache almost everywhere, and I’m writing this at the second attempt, having dozed off previously. Hmm. I’m awake now, drool wiped from chin, so let’s share a little of the last few days.

A group of youth and young adults have been learning from two trail-building teachers. They were so good, teaching us that how a trail is built is its own story, then trails are used to retell old stories and create new ones. Walking in places where the spirit of ancestors reside, and where predecessors walked in times past, certainly fired up the youth. They’re excited about creating community paths to allow easier access to the local lake. Improving and replacing sections of an old boardwalk, as well as building a couple of new trails is what they’ll be doing over the course of the summer.

A shovel didn’t go into the ground for the first day and a half. The time was spent bushwhacking, searching for likely routes and places to see, using the terrain and marking out possibilities. This was fun stuff, and somewhat harder for one or two of the older folks accompanying the young crew. Yup, me.

Old boardwalk, new tools

It turns out I’m not as nimble as I thought when it comes to jumping up on to (or off) a log. And gaps in dense thickets get smaller when I’m in them. At one point I got stuck pushing up and over an old log, completely caught in the tangle of smaller branches. Couldn’t go forward, couldn’t go back, and couldn’t lose (any more) face. I ended up using my COVID kilos, and simply let myself “fall” forward, counting on gravity and a heavy backpack (or those COVID kilos) to pull me through. It sort of worked. Probably not in any training manual…

Digging it

Anyway, older folks were recovered, plausible routes were marked out, and we’ve spent three sweat and mosquito filled days breaking new trail. The young ones are so strong, and so ready to learn. After months of mostly indoor time, the hours in the forest are wonderful. Purposeful activity, great company, lots of learning, kilos to lose, and all under the watchful eye of bears, spirits, leaders, and spirited leaders-in-making.

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

Benches and beaches

Last week’s post was firmly rooted in unreality, so I thought I’d better demonstrate I haven’t completely lost the plot by writing a more grounded piece. A brief item on benches and beaches, since that’s where we’ve mostly been in between bouts of online work.

What bear? Where?

Scout has enjoyed sniffing out and rediscovering her old haunts, and many of these happen to be in front of convenient benches with a view.

Last Sunday morning, we spent quite some time lost in thought, sitting on a bench and watching bald eagles spiral and sing in lazy loops above the water. Our eyes are a bit out of focus, and at first we couldn’t be absolutely certain if we’d spotted a bear over the bay, or a rock pretending to be a bear. It was a bear. Or the rock was walking…

Could be a moving rock…

Later, we ventured out to Long Beach, uncertain about how busy it might be. We needn’t have worried. The parking lot was about half full, and most folks were surfers judging by numbers in the water. Once we’d walked down the beach for a few minutes, we were fully physically distanced by many hundreds of metres from the very few souls we saw.

Long bench or long beach?

Back on a beach, on a sunny day, it was a relief to sit on a log, watch the surf, and forget the world wide woes for a while. We smiled and smiled, and Scout decided to dig and dig. I believe the trench she created is the only dog-made construction – or deconstruction – that can be seen from space. She sure put in some effort for her beach return.

Hitacu to Ucluelet – you can almost see “our” bench from here!

Speaking of grounded (were we?) I’m delighted to say, all being well, I’m breaking out of self-isolating/work-from-home exile next week. Coronavirus grounded me – and sent me to my room young man – for over twelve weeks. Young rebel that I am, I’ll be taking the car keys, climbing down the drainpipe, and driving off into a summer of misadventures. Or going back to real work. Real work? Yes, if a summer of chainsaw courses, trail building, wilderness survival training, search and rescue skills, beach-keeping and other related learning/mentoring is allowed to be called work. It’ll be a proper grounding, working and learning alongside a group of motivated youth and young adults. We met earlier this week, and it’s going to be an effort for me to keep pace! I predict weekends full of benches, beaches and long snoozes…

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