Old growth green

“To make a bigger parking lot, they should cut down some of these trees. Then there would be more visitors!”

It was quite an effort, but I managed to pretend I didn’t hear this. The would be park ranger was correct, and following his logic, hiking in the mountains would be less strenuous if we levelled a few – and the view would be unblocked.

DSCF6969A few weeks back, I stopped our Big Muddy Taxi at Cathedral Grove, a small patch of old growth forest located a few minutes east of Port Alberni on Vancouver Island. Whenever we pass through, the time has never been quite right to make a stop. A ferry to catch, it is dark, the rain is heavy, or the small angled parking lot by the side of the road is full. This trip, I’d left time for the ferry, the rain had stopped, and there was a space for the car.

DSCF7002What a beautiful spot! A glimpse into what Vancouver Island must have looked like before it was logged. A lovely place, MacMillan Provincial Park is not a particularly large park, but the spot that makes up Cathedral Grove is full of enormous Douglas firs and huge Red western cedars. A “tree museum” without charge, and a reminder to appreciate what we have…

Dense and green – so green! Mossy and dank, a complex ecosystem full of life, and one I couldn’t capture accurately with a camera. I settled for choosing a few details to try and convey the majesty of this special place. The greens in the photos aren’t as vivid or strong as those I was seeing, but they give an idea.

DSCF7014Next time, we’ll try and visit early in the morning, on a dry day when the sun rises high enough to penetrate the valley and start burning off the mist. I drove through on a morning just like that one October, in a hurry to catch a ferry. Looking back, I wish I’d stopped, not worrying about missing the ferry. There’s always another ferry, but perhaps there won’t be another morning quite like that? It can’t hurt to hope.

DSCF6988If you get the chance, and have the time, stop at Cathedral Grove to wander under the mighty trees and wonder at the beauty of it all. Get there early, and you’ll find a parking spot – no need to suggest making the lot larger at the cost of cutting down some of the giants. If that is what you think, maybe keep it to yourself, keep your voice down…

Old growth green – I feel all spruced up just looking at it. We don’t really want to be paving paradise, do we? I bet you were humming this already:

Big Yellow Taxi

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

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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!

The tiny tree (and an Earth Day story)

A tree so small, I almost missed seeing it. A story so short and lacking in plot, it isn’t a story at all. The story is further down, after a bunch of asides and padding.

A very short post about a very small tree I have been walking past on and off for five years (it would have been a very, very small tree five years ago, and that is why it took me so long to notice it…)

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The tiny tree
Almost Earth Day! Hooray! As we live here, how about every day is Earth Day? This year, the focus is on the terrible pollution problems caused by plastic. I won’t go into the statistics – they are shocking – but here is a good place to look if you are so inclined.

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Not the tiny tree
Back to the tiny tree! Growing on the side of a trail on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island, seeing this tree has me thinking the same old thoughts. (I’ve written along these lines before, so feel free to skip this, and look at the pictures!) If one tree, large or small, is incredibly beautiful, then a stand of trees is incredibly, incredibly beautiful. A forest must be incredibly, incredibly, incredibly beautiful. I agree with me. Sometimes, all the beauty can be almost overwhelming – no bad thing, and I’d rather our world was almost impossibly beautiful than almost impossibly polluted.IMG_20180406_155114

Anyway, if it all seems overwhelming, step back and look at just one tree. Isn’t it lovely? Okay, story time.

On Earth Day, we all picked up a single piece of trash, some garbage somebody else overlooked or dropped by mistake (because in this story, littering is never deliberate…)  And then we all did the same thing the next day, and the next! One wonderful day, we were unable to find any garbage, because it had all been picked up, and no more had been dropped. The end.

Yup, a short story with a happy ending. It’s crazy, but we’d be making some progress. Oh goodness, I sound like one of those mad old tree huggers. It couldn’t possibly work.

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My favourite colour – tree hugger green
Back to the tiny tree! I love this little tree. All brave, perched on the end of a log jutting out over black rocks, where the wind and waves come crashing in. It seems so unlikely, and yet there it is, getting on with being a tree in a precarious looking situation. One tough tree – it’s survived many storm surges and mighty winds.

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Just fine
I won’t hug this one. It is independent and managing just fine. And I’d look really stupid falling off a log into the ocean or onto the rocks because I’m so needy and pretending the tree requires a hug. Not a happy ending.

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“Why hug ’em, when you can chew ’em? Is that off message?”
Short, as promised. 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!

Racing green

I loved watching motor racing when I was a child – apparently I cried when my driving hero, Jackie Stewart, couldn’t get past another car due to the side-to-side manoeuvring of the driver in front. To my young mind, that wasn’t racing to see who could drive faster, it was blocking the track. I’m welling up now at the unfairness I still feel from that distant memory…

IMG_20180111_120118All that has absolutely nothing to do with anything, except that it came to mind as I started writing. We will be in the Jeep, a vehicle not noted for speed or aerodynamics, and racing across Alberta and BC, within the posted limits, so we can arrive on the coast in time for the long weekend. There, we will be seeing and soaking up the greens and blues (and cloudy/rainy greys) and signs of real spring.

fullsizeoutput_573By the time this is posted, our trusty Jeep will be shiny and black, dripping with rainwater and looking cleaner than it has for months, rather than the road salt and mud covered motley look it normally has for most of winter.

fullsizeoutput_57bWe are looking forward to brisk sea breezes, the cries of bald eagles, and the barking sea lions from down near the boat launch. If the sun appears, then the blue and gold of Long Beach will beckon, and if the sun doesn’t shine, we’ll go anyway and get wet. We’ll warm up later by the fire, with a glass of something good from Tofino Brewing.

fullsizeoutput_570A ferry, then fishing boats and kayaks. Dancing daffodils and bright tree blossom. Fresh air, full of the heady scent of wet cedar. Are we there yet? Keep it under the limit, PlaidCamper – who do you think you are, Jackie Stewart?

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“Yeah, I like the heady scent of the trees and all, but the best thing is sticks are bigger here!”

A very short post this week, as we are busy racing (safely) towards the green!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful long weekend!

 

Lichen the details

A very short post this week, mostly because the power was out today, and also because this one is about the little things.fullsizeoutput_56d

During hikes out and about here in our small corner of Alberta, it is easy to get carried away (and I often am) by the wonderful mountain scenery we are so fortunate to have on our doorstep. But every now and then it doesn’t hurt to dial it down, and focus in a bit on what is under your nose.DSCF6631

Sitting on a log eating lunch, leaning against a tree, I was taken with the texture of the bark and the strong colour of the lichen. With such bright sunlight, the vibrant hues against the grey were quite striking – I had to try and take a picture, see if I could catch something of the beauty.DSCF6633

Not quite bronze, not quite gold, but certainly pretty, maybe a shade of ochre is a reasonable colour match for this wild treasure? I don’t know too much about lichen, but this was a detailed delight!

Scout certainly has an eye for details, in that she misses nothing (about needing to be certain something is edible) and she made a half-hearted attempt to chew on the following fuzzy plant, but gave up after the first six or seven. She might be getting a little bit older and wiser – but more probably it was the endless supply of sticks that she found to be more entertaining. Why chew fluff when there is a branch to crunch? And another, and another…

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Not so edible

I liked how the trees seemed drawn to each other, leaning together and hugging in sheer delight at the warmth of the day. Ah, how fanciful, PlaidCamper. Look again! Other details reveal something different. The shadows appear to tell a less lovely story, dark lines running away, trying to get as far apart as possible. No, I like the hugging version best.

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“Should we invite that tree over?”

Yes, the following tree was all alone (but looking ok about it):

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“I don’t want to be part of your stupid huddle, anyway… Wait! Are you talking about about me?”

I said this would be brief, and it is probably a good idea to stop now – when you hear talking trees, it’s time for a break.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend, full of entrancing detail! Perhaps the trees will tell you something, they have plenty to say…

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“Are you talking to the trees again? Don’t tell them what I’ve been chewing. Can we go now?”

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.