Canadian Thanksgiving

A brief post this week as we head into a very welcome long weekend.

Lighthouse after sunset

So much to be thankful for! Living in western Canada is something we appreciate every single day. A remarkable location, an exciting diversity of people, and it rarely rains or snows out this way. Two out of three isn’t bad, and actually, the rain and snow make the landscapes what they are.

Whiskey Landing fire water

We always enjoy celebrating this holiday. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but that won’t stop me writing it again – we first arrived in Canada just before the Thanksgiving weekend, and were completely unfamiliar with this holiday. We ventured out from our Calgary hotel into the downtown, and couldn’t understand why it was so quiet everywhere. A city of one million, but it didn’t seem anything like it. Where was everybody? At home with friends and family, giving thanks for being in Canada? Perhaps.

“Didn’t you say that last Thanksgiving?!”

Back at the hotel, our room was upgraded, because the person who showed us to the room had thought we couldn’t possibly spend any amount of time in such a small space. Small? It was bigger than some apartments we’ve lived in! A wonderful introduction to Canadian hospitality, we were made to feel welcome over and over.

Ucluelet – derived from Nuu-Chah-Nulth for “safe harbour”

Canada has a poor history when it comes to indigenous peoples, but it is working to acknowledge past wrongs and create a better future for all – old and new Canadians alike. There’s a long, long road to travel, but we’re very happy to share at least a part of that journey. So much to be thankful for!

Pretty bright ahead

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

On hold…

…as we wait for an internet connection. Your call is important to us. Really.

We’ve just got back to Calgary, and you know how it is in the big city compared to living in more isolated locations. Yes, big city life and all the conveniences, like reliable internet, functioning remotes to parkade doors, no lineups in supermarkets due to a high level of staffing, and happy, happy people. (Apparently, I’ve forgotten how to drive, at least that’s what fellow urban road users appear to think. Maybe that chap in the shiny red pickup was waving a fond hello?) All invisible modern problems, but my goodness, being back in the city might have raised my resting heart rate just a touch.

I’m missing this

As I’m in cheerful rant mode, I’ll continue. I’m writing this on my phone out and about, and since the paragraph above took about 3 hours, and I can barely read the screen, this will have to be brief. Please excuse any typos, but no need to excuse the incoherence – it’s all good, and I’m quite enjoying myself.

Yup, been chasing my tail, but I do believe my call is important, and being on hold is so much fun, and, and

Hopefully, the photos I’ve included are reasonable – again, it’s hard to see when viewing on the small screen, at least for my tired old eyes. Plus, I’m on high alert due to being in an urban setting full of fashionable young people, and I’m sure they’re all looking at me, wondering what he’s doing, sitting in the corner and muttering at his phone. Have I mentioned my inner city induced paranoia? (Calm down, PlaidCamper, you’re in Calgary, not exactly high on any list of no go areas!)

“Yeah man, totally calm down…”

I’m going to have to stop now, this is too exhausting and I might have outstayed my welcome in this cafe – how long can one cup of coffee last before having to order another? I will quickly mention we enjoyed our road trip from Ucluelet to Calgary, and it was very pleasant to be driving through big mountain spaces. We’re planning a weekend in Canmore soon, a favourite mountain town, so I will write about that in the near future, once a sense of calm and the internet at home have been restored. Might need to decaffeinate as well…

This looks promising! Should be open just after we get back – might be needing a West Coast pale ale by then!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

PS Hoping this gets posted on Friday morning as usual, and very much hoping we’re online somewhere over the weekend, and I can get caught up on all your posts I’ve not seen the past few days.

Singing the winter greens and blues

For the past decade and more, we have been used to (and very much enjoyed) a snowy December and beyond, sometimes in a blanketed city, and often in the mountains. Still, change is good, and contrast is good. Winter on the coast is very different!

e0e96e23-0f55-41dc-a3ac-9b436db54fd8
Vibrant

There are so many colours and moods – vibrant green on the trails, but also blue and grey. It can be dry, grey and cold, or gold, warm and sunny, or blue, cold and sunny, or windy and rainy, just rainy, and very, very rainy.  Every now and then it can be extremely stormy. Exhilarating stuff, and always with so much green. (PlaidCamper, you do know you live in a coastal rainforest, don’t you?)

1a424bd6-ae0d-4bea-a918-068ba5b1895b
Energy

Being by the ocean, it always feels fresh, and there’s usually a breeze. Last weekend, we met up with Wayne and took a wander along Chesterman’s Beach. Fresh? Yup! A breeze? And then some! We took shelter in the lee of some rocks overlooking Lennard Island lighthouse (for shots of the lighthouse taken by Wayne over the years, look on his website here) and tucked into delicious soup and cornbread – thanks, Wayne – and a mince pie. We didn’t know Scout was such a fan of soup and mince pies, but perhaps that’s no surprise…

b29819d7-7620-42b6-b522-1c13df6d6093
Not the Lennard Island lighthouse – Amphitrite Point lighthouse, Ucluelet

The ocean wasn’t calm – we saw the coastguard zodiac and cutter both riding some pretty big waves, and it looked as though they were searching the coastline. It would be nice to think it was an exercise and all was well, but the search looked quite intense.

The grey skies gave way slightly, and there was a hint of warmth from a few weak rays, but eventually we had to head back. Scout chased Wayne, or Wayne chased Scout along the beach, and it was a good game to play, because the breeze had a bite to it. We had a great time, and Scout wanted to go home with Wayne, but eventually she relented and came home with us, even though we can’t promise daily soup and mince pies.

2769a816-3cc2-4528-b3ac-9d8bfb348802
Colour

Winter blues? We’re not singing that song, not yet. And I’m sure at some point we’ll find some time for a visit to snowy and wintry mountains – blow the dust off the snowboard and snowshoes – but until we do, I’m loving the winter greens.

cd49cdcb-c1e3-48ad-bffb-4e685acf887a
Last weekend – a colourful winter warmer

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

 

Summer Golden

We took a short stroll down to the outer harbour then past the small campground overlooking the water. We needed to stretch our legs and shake off the disappointment of England missing out on a golden opportunity to make it to the World Cup final. Beaten in extra time by a determined and more skillful Croatia team, we could only commiserate and also celebrate the tournament success of an England team most thought wouldn’t get as far as they did. Maybe next time…fullsizeoutput_60f

Anyway, our little stroll found us ending up on the outside deck of the Eagle’s Nest pub, Mrs PC’s first visit up there, with a fine view across the water to Mount Ozzard. Often, the low mountains opposite Ucluelet are swathed in mist and fog reaching down to just above the first layer of trees. There are days where if you didn’t know, you’d swear there were no mountains. Not this past week, where the weather has been fine, and the evenings summer golden.fullsizeoutput_60b

Summer golden? That calls for a glass of Tofino Blonde ale, and we couldn’t ignore the call. A perfect match, unlike the game earlier. Mrs PC seemed slightly bemused by Scout knowing her way about the place, the way the bar staff seemed to know her, almost as if she’d been to the Eagle’s Nest many times before. That’s a mystery to me…

IMG_20180711_092836
“This is empty. Can we go to the Eagle’s Nest again? Oops, should I have said that? We’ve never been there before, they don’t know me…”

We sat and sipped, enjoying the beer and the view. A pair of bald eagles circled overhead, occasionally swooping down and disappearing behind Lyche Island, and we’d wait for them to reappear above the trees, their cries clear in the calm evening. A few folk were busy on fishing vessels below, finishing up the day, preparing for the next, and in the deeper channel, a larger boat or two chugged past slowly. Nearer the shore, colourful kayaks paddled by, and they were a pretty sight in the soft light. A good evening to be on the water.

fullsizeoutput_60e
Tofino Blonde – a golden ale for a golden evening

A small glass of Okanagan Spring pale ale (not as good as the Tofino Blonde, but we had to see) and then back to the outer harbour to catch the last of the sun falling behind the trees up channel.fullsizeoutput_60d

A very pleasant stroll on a summer evening. Well done to Croatia, here’s hoping for an exciting final this coming Sunday, and because it was our home for a few years, Allez les Bleus!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

IMG_20180711_200951
Mount Ozzard on the left, Lyche Island on the right

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.

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.

DSCF7079
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…

DSCF7082
…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.

IMG_20180527_130619
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…

DSCF7069
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.

fullsizeoutput_5c6
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.

fullsizeoutput_5ca
Later that day…

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…

IMG_20180422_130741
“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!