A lake coffee break (LCB)

Taken early, on the way to a meeting yesterday morning.

I found myself on the road between Ucluelet and Port Alberni, heading to a committee meeting scheduled for a 10:00 start. The round trip is three hours on a good day, but those days are rare due to a large construction project on Kennedy Lake Hill.6CD30665-7293-49FF-8F20-A103D2AE1C39 The road is being made safer, widening it to prevent larger and taller vehicles on the cliff side moving across the dividing line and scaring oncoming traffic into a choice between a lakeside plunge or a head on collision. Currently, the road is often closed for a number of hours each day, and when it is open, it is single lane and flag controlled, potentially adding quite a delay to your journey.

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Coverage

All this is a long winded way of saying I’d left plenty of time to make my meeting, and the traffic gods were beaming down on me as I experienced the briefest of stoppages. This left me time to make a stop before Alberni at Sproat Lake, take a short wander under the trees and along the shore, sip my travel coffee (prepared in anticipation of a long flag stop!) and gather my thoughts, such as they were.

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Productive

I could tell you about the dozens of new education acronyms I’ve encountered but as yet have failed to decipher, or about some of the policy initiatives to be discussed, but I won’t. Was there cell coverage to check work messages? Nope! Instead, I’ll share that the parking lot was empty, as were the trails and shore. Rain was trying and failing to fall, with barely a patter to be heard on the turning leaves. The chattering squirrels and angry-sounding crows had the place to themselves, or they did once I finished my coffee and remembered I should be working, or at least on the way.

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Work stoppage

I made it to the meeting fashionably early, left with a head full of new and exciting information, and some more acronyms. I’m happy to report there were no chattering squirrels or angry crows on this committee, so that went well.

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The woods and the trees – an LCB stop

Best of all, I was back in time to join a homework zone and hear from a confident young man sharing his experience about becoming an outdoor leader to his peers. He was eloquent in his expression of how he wanted to further his outdoor leadership skills and continue to mentor younger students in wilderness and traditional activities.

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Stumped

The success he was sharing reminded me that a lengthy round trip, coffee stops (LCB) and all, is a worthwhile use of time. It is heartening to witness new policies being shaped by representatives from the communities searching for better ways to educate and engage their youth. As I wrote last week, and hope to write again and again, young people can and want to be engaged in their communities and in their natural surroundings. That’s pretty good news (and it’s real!)

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Branches…

…of government? What a couple of weeks in the news it has been! The OldPlaidCamper post this week is sponsored by the power of nature. He’d like to thank nature for being there, and quite understands how she might be a tad annoyed by certain executive branches…

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A branch reaches out, offers support and shelter – it isn’t a bully stick
In all seriousness, I hope you are safe and secure in the face of a looming and/or happening hurricane. At least you know any federal emergency response will be awarded a chief executive A+, if not higher.

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A bit fuzzy, a bit woolly – like a PlaidCamper thought process…
My goodness, some days, the news does not ever seem to get any better, or any more believable, and leadership responses that are thin-skinned and narcissist leave me slackjawed. Yes, this is where the healing power of nature is just the thing in our very strange and complicated socially constructed world. I’ve written it before, and I’ll write it again: If more people went outside (and hugged a tree) then the world would be a happier place. More of us might care for the land that is our mothership…

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Complex, but not so complicated
Being back in a working environment is fine, particularly when I can stop, take a walk during a break and find myself by the water or in the trees. Sometimes both! Then, at the end of day, or on the weekend, it is back outside we go, sometimes in need of a lift because I was foolish enough to scan the headlines, and even read on. When will I learn?!

Deep breath in, slow release out, and repeat until equilibrium is reestablished, or a bored Scout drags me off to explore more.

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“I welcome my imbeachment!”
Thank goodness for energetic dogs, understanding partners, and space to unwind. The other title I was thinking about for this piece was “Imbeachment or Impeachment?” but I thought better of it, mostly because imbeachment isn’t really a word, and because impeachment, fun though it might be to watch, isn’t really the answer. Do the right thing, midterm eligible people!

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“Don’t worry, Scout, you won’t face imbeachment alone!” “Yeah, ok, but promise me you’ll shut up about that stuff now…”
Time to stop – past time in fact – thanks for reading, have a wonderful and safe weekend, and if you find yourself imbeached, or imforested etc. then that’s a good weekend!

Cedar view

A little earlier this week we found ourselves sitting under a cedar tree and enjoying the view. The day was warmer than we’d had for a while, and the morning fog had burned off, leaving blue skies and a touch of breeze. Driving out of Ucluelet, we made a last minute change of plans, and decided to skip the beach and find a different quiet place. The wild spontaneity of early middle age and having time on your hands!

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Sticks, stones, and a log for old bones

We were on the inlet side in the Tofino botanical gardens, away from the rush and roar of the Pacific, and enjoying the sheltered calm of the mud flats. The tide was high, so no mud, but shallow water ruffled into ripples by the breeze, or the wake of distant passing boats.DSCF7603

Every now and then we could hear the faint roar of floatplanes taking off and landing further down the shore and just around the bend. Our shaded spot was bug free, and the air was a mix of cedar, salt and drying sea weed, punctuated with an extra waft of whatever Scout happened to be chewing – usually the largest deadfall branch she could manage. She’s yet to concede that some logs are too much for her…

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Too much branch? Never!

A pair of herons flew past at one point, and a single bald eagle flapped over the island in front of us and disappeared from view. Behind us, the voices of other garden visitors exploring the trails could be heard from time to time, and we would sit quietly, hoping they wouldn’t discover “our” place on the shore. I know, not very friendly, or very mature, but then the spell would have been broken. Early middle-aged, not grown up.

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“Our” hiding place

The distant view was fine, the close up details were pretty, and we were in no hurry to leave, so we didn’t.

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Details

However, an energetic dog, and pins and needles from sitting on a log too long eventually had us up and moving on. We headed back to Ucluelet, and yes, we stopped at a beach to give Scout the run around she always needs. Or she gave us the runaround and we tried to keep pace.

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A longer view

Is summer almost over already? Here’s hoping for a warm and dry September! Maybe we will be sitting under the same cedar soon enough, perhaps sheltering from the autumnal rain…

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful (long) 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!

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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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!

Tsawout Trails

A short piece about trails a short hike away from the Salt Spring cabin. We had to get out hiking before we forgot how, and staying near Tsawout Band lands meant we had some great trails to explore.

At the trailhead is a beautiful welcome and interpretive sign, inviting visitors to enjoy the land past the notice. If you follow this link, 13 Moon Calendar Sign, you’ll see a digital copy of the artwork and words – I have to say, the message is simple and clear, and more necessary than ever…

DSCF5328Our first afternoon in the woods was hot and humid, but under the canopy oh so green and lush. The trail was simple enough to pick out, sometimes rocky underfoot, sometimes grassy, and sometimes earthy, with changes in the terrain every few metres. Exposed slopes and clearings were bug free with a slight sea breeze. In these open areas, golden grass was almost like straw in the strong sun.IMG_20170720_174227Into the trees and away from the bluffs overlooking the sea, it was not as hot, the air was still and rather humid, with the whine of an occasional mosquito. I wasn’t bitten, so Mrs. PC was spared the whine of an old PlaidCamper.

IMG_20170722_164241Relative to steepness of slope, soil coverage and the presence of large rock outcrops, the trees were a mix of short and gnarled to tall and gnarled, growing in tight groups with dense undergrowth, or further apart with little brush beneath. Pacific Madrones, Garry Oaks, and Western Red Cedars – a wonderfully varied yet cohesive green, grey, rusty and yellow landscape to wander through (yup, I’ve been reading my tree books!)DSCF5333The Tsawout trails got us up and out in a series of wonderful hiking afternoons. Tramping through the woods, coming across little coves, stopping to admire views, tree shapes, and textures, it was a special place, and we had a very happy time exploring it.DSCF5339Salt Spring Island is a splendid location to be on holiday! One (or two?) more Salt Spring posts in the next week or so, and then we’ll have to leave, sniff.

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

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Hard to leave…