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…

Blue and green

And many spring shades in between…

Oh, a more than welcome long weekend, and a chance to slip from the city and head for the hills. Or mountains, once past the foothills. Yoho was calling, a cabin was booked, and report cards will get written. Eventually.

The week before, the forecast was predicting a snow-rain mix and single digit temperatures, so we packed accordingly. Mountain weather is immune or exempt from the dark arts of weather forecasting. Snow-rain mix? That’ll be blue skies, fluffy clouds and temperatures into the teens. Haha, and ok, this made my weekend, already a long one, and now with better than expected outdoor weather. I know, a grown man, and still easily pleased or displeased by the weather…I do love the reliably unreliable mountains!

As we were about to set off towards the Kicking Horse and a short hike, we noticed a hummingbird had settled on a small bush outside the cabin. No way it’ll stay there while I reach for my camera in the backpack I thought to myself, reaching into the backpack for my camera. Well, it did, and the photograph posted is about the best I’ll ever get. What a colourful character! Made my morning even better, having been buzzed by several hummingbirds over morning coffee earlier. Caffeine buzz and hummingbird buzz, a pretty good start to the day.

To the Kicking Horse! Lots of cars, RVs, and a tour bus in the parking lot didn’t bode well. We did the usual, and went in the opposite direction, heading down the trail and wondering as we wandered about bear activity, thinking they’d be far from the noisy crowds. The trail grew quiet as we walked away, and the sun was pleasantly warm on our happy little faces. Fresh air, blue skies, dark evergreens, and bright deciduous spring greens all worked their soothing magic as we strolled along. A few steps off the main trail onto a side trail afforded us slightly precarious but lovely views of the Kicking Horse galloping and tumbling down the valley. Sounds, scents, and sights to delight.

Back on the main trail, we continued descending, still wondering about bear activity. I always find, when in bear country, the further you go the more every large boulder or dark shadow in the trees looks like a bear. It’s all in my head. As the trail snaked down and around a corner in front of us, I spotted another bear like shadow. Nope, it wasn’t moving, carry on. A few steps forward, and a little closer, and the shadow was moving, and so were the two smaller shadows my tired old eyes had missed. A mama bear and two cubs! They’d seen and heard us, likely way before I finally saw them, and as we stood still, they scampered across the trail and up the bank out of sight. What a thrill! What a grip Mrs PlaidCamper had on my arm. She didn’t see the bears – they were quick – but she dragged me away, quite rightly, before my curiosity outweighed my common sense, and we headed back the way we came.

We passed through the crowded parking lot at the trailhead and attempted to wander away from the throngs gathered at the natural land bridge. It is a pretty spot, but best enjoyed early or late, and we were neither. I took a few photographs of the rushing river as we stopped to enjoy the views, and it was all very pleasant, but too busy. We should have arrived far sooner. Never mind – there’s always another day!

We returned to the cabin happy enough, and enjoyed the chance to sit in the warm sun and reflect on our brief bear encounter and the blue green mountain spring.

Thanks for reading, I always appreciate you taking the time, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

I like this because it has a bit of everything – blue water, whitewater, sand, rocks, trees and a sense of depth.

Washed up

Like an old PlaidCamper feeling his age? Maybe not, although the aches and pains I’ve been enduring in recent months…I could go on about that, but I won’t. Not this week, anyway! A few final photographs in what has turned into a short and unplanned series about our recent Vancouver Island trip. This time, it’s centred around a collection of storm tossed logs we rested by, or on, when we were hiking Long Beach. You’ll see these wooden wonders strewn all along the coast, fringing the beach and in front of the forest.

On the fringe

They are quite huge when you get up close. I can barely roll one of the smaller ones (why did I even try, given my aches and pains? Oops, I forgot – not going there!) so it’s something to imagine the power of the ocean when you see large logs seemingly casually flung up on rocks, or piled atop each other.

An invitation to your inner child, it’s hard to resist scrambling and climbing up them, so I didn’t (resist) and the years fell away and I didn’t fall off. Ship’s spars, broad beams, and possibly logging lumber (?), all evidence of natural forces and cycles greater than our human schemes, and all washed up on the shore for us to ponder and beetle over. PlaidCamper playtime…

A strange figure?

It may be the inner child imaginings, but it didn’t take much to think some of the shapes could be sea monsters or beasts from a different time. An overactive imagination, or a lack of caffeine?

Prehistoric?

Smoothed by the seas, the texture is pleasing, and warmed by the sun, the scent is resiny, slightly oily and medicinal – pleasant enough as we sat and surveyed the beach, the forest, and the surf. An enjoyable pause in our hike, a chance to embrace the elemental and feel alive – and a little less washed up!
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

The case for colour!

Last week, it was all about grey (In defence of grey…), and I mentioned that I’d put in some colourful photographs this week. True to my word, and because time has been tight once more, here is a brief post with a few brighter pictures from our recent west coast trip. (In defence of grey? The case for colour? Next week, PlaidCamper pleads guilty to the charge of failing to pay due care and attention to post titles…)

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I love looking out this way!
I have to say that the west coast is a place I’m happy to hang about whatever the weather, or at least in the conditions we’ve been lucky enough to experience. Haven’t witnessed a true fall/winter storm there, but maybe one day…

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A favourite place to sit and drink coffee, and stare and stare…
For our recent trip, we were in rain jackets, then shirtsleeves, then back to a jacket with a toque up top – and often all in the same hour! It was very refreshing, and a pleasantly mild contrast to the mountain/prairie winter weather in and around Calgary.

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Mild! (We’ll see these in Calgary as June approaches!)
Pottering about in Ucluelet and Tofino, and wandering up and down quiet beaches gave us time to breathe in and out deeply and slowly. Overcast or bright, rain or shine, this little corner of western Canada is wild and wonderful – a positive Pacific mood enhancer!

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Mood enhancer
It was only a couple of weeks ago we were there, but the call of the Clayoquot region is hard to ignore. Maybe we’ll head back in the summer…

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Ucluelet Small Craft Harbour
As always, thank you for taking the time to read this, and have a wonderful (and colourful) weekend!DSCF4607

DSCF4610PS In need of a Tofino fix? Head over to Welcome to Tofino Photography where the photographs will amaze and delight you. Go on, you’ll be glad you did!

 

In defence of grey…

Grey can get a bad rap. Colourless, dreary, my hair when it was there. Really – and you might think I’m biased being a bit of an old greybeard – as we slowly transition (up here, anyway) from winter to spring, grey is pretty cool. I know we can get impatient this time of year for some bright colour, but let’s show some appreciation for grey…

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Pretty grey, and pretty cool.
I’ll keep it very brief – when you’re getting a little grey, focus can be a problem – and post a few grey pictures from our short west coast trip last week.

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Island grey
We spent most of our time in Ucluelet and Tofino, and the beaches between. The sun was sometimes out (perhaps I’ll post colourful pictures next week as a contrast?), but even when clouds and rain rolled in, the views were lovely. Or so we thought.

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Maritime grey?
A few days unwinding on the wild side of Vancouver Island was just what the doctor ordered. Dr. PlaidCamper knows what is necessary to keep a grey PlaidCamper right in his head – get him out of the city, if only for a short while. And an old PlaidCamper knows he should listen and take his medicine.

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Adventurous grey! Better than medicine…
Grey is cool. It’s the new not quite black, and oddly perfect for restoring positive mental health. What do you think, is a little grey really so bad? Probably not…

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Soothing grey?
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend, whatever the colour!

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Moody grey (quite a good mood!)

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PNW coastal grey

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What’s with this guy and all the grey? Look at me strut – black is the new grey…

Snow on bare bones

Really, PlaidCamper? What horrors have you endured?

No, nothing grisly here, quite the opposite! A post about bones, snow, quiet, and a book you might enjoy.

We were on snowshoes down by the Bow and Baker Creek a short while ago. Snow was falling, and the trees had a good coating. The wind had less teeth in the trees, and although temperatures were low, conditions were just right for tramping. And there were bare bones everywhere…

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Decent snow

Maybe the roads were still relatively difficult to make travel out of the city an easy prospect, but returning from Yoho we saw no other traffic on the Bow Valley Parkway, other than a snow plow, and we parked up and had the trails to ourselves. Always an introvert, with a tendency towards being a touch anti-social on my time off, this was a special morning. Two PlaidCampers, deep snow, empty trails, and a backpack full of snacks? Let’s go!

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Quiet enough here

Having spent a few winters lumbering along in snowshoes, I’ve developed a (slightly sad?) obsession with types of snow. There is a difference in what falls where in the mountains. On the BC side, the snow is almost a given – or as close to a given you can get in these post truth global warming days. It will often be deep, and it will often be wet and heavy. On snowshoes, heavy snow is fine if you’re second on the trail, but if you’re first – and if you’re me – it’s a workout. I’ve been known to hang back at a trailhead because I’m anti-social or quiet, but the other truth is I’m letting fellow hikers do my heavy lifting. I know, I know.

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Powdery

On the Alberta side of the mountains, snowfall isn’t as certain compared with further west, but when it falls it is light and powdery. Yes, I prefer to snowshoe through the powder. I’ll hit that trail and cheerfully blast a brave path through unbroken snow, leading the way and selflessly helping those who are to follow later in the day. It’s a workout, but I’m happy to help. I know, I know.

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Tree bones

What about the bare bones that were everywhere? Tree bones! The light and the snow last week seemed to reveal the beauty of the trees in sharp, near black and white. We could see the tree bones laid bare. Alright, perhaps an overactive imagination here. I’ll admit to borrowing tree bones from Peter Wohlleben, and his wonderful book, The Hidden Life of Trees, written in part about the forest in Germany he attends to.

imageHighly recommended as a thoughtful and off centre read about trees, I thoroughly enjoyed Wohlleben telling how, over many years, he redefined his relationship to the trees he works with, evolving from logger to conservationist. His notions about trees being a “wood wide web” of communicating and social entities, beings that taste and smell, are a challenge to conventional thinking. He isn’t a sentimental tree hugger, he acknowledges trees have a commercial value, and he explores and explains different, less destructive approaches to harvesting.

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Beautiful

It’s a great book to read if you enjoy thinking about other ways of looking at the world, and different ways of measuring time or wealth. Preaching to the choir here, but when you consider the beauty and complexity of a single tree, and how that single tree impacts the environment of thousands of other living creatures, then how wonderful is a stand of trees? A woodland? A forest?

As Wohlleben says, trees ought to be beyond the status of inanimate objects like stones or boulders, but because in human measured time they appear static (beyond seasonal shifts), we mistake them as slow or unchanging and ripe for (poorly thought out) commercial exploitation. Well, you might enjoy the book.

dscf4363We certainly enjoyed our deep powder snowshoe hike along the riverbanks and through the trees. As we retraced our steps, I was hoping to spot the dipper we’ve seen several times along this stretch. I’d just told myself to be content with the day, dipper or no dipper, when I caught sight of it out the corner of my eye. Splashing and bobbing upstream, then dipping below the surface to pop up a few metres downstream, this was a fine way to complete our walk. No dipper photos, but a happy memory.

dscf4359Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a story, and have a wonderful weekend!

The Otterhead – fresh air and fresh tracks

Sounds lovely, and it was.

Our escape from the madness last weekend proved to be just that. (Little did we know how jawdroppingly awful the madness was. Nor did we think it would get worse this week. Depths are being plumbed at an astonishing rate. Walls of hate, barriers to common sense and human decency – and it has only been a week…)

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The Kicking Horse River
Back to last weekend and the sound of silence. We took a tour on the Otterhead trail, slipsiding away on an easy and freshly groomed cross country ski track. It wasn’t really silent, but it was serene. Skies were blue, mountains were majestic, and rivers were sparkling. That’ll be the Emerald, Amiskwi and Kicking Horse rivers. We crossed the first two partially frozen streams on bridges over untroubled tributaries, and then sped alongside the last, the lovely Kicking Horse.

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Speeding along? Um…no
Sped along? That’s not strictly true. Cautious skiers, we were quite happy to find the fresh tracks to be sticky and slow – that suited us on the downhill sections, and kept us heading on up the steeper sections. Overall, the Otterhead is a delightful trail for a skier wanting to focus on scenery rather than technique. (What technique?)

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Scenery
And such scenery! The Kicking Horse valley in Yoho is stunning. It has fewer visitors compared to the nearby and well known Banff National Park. Over the course of an afternoon, we saw nine other skiers or snowshoers on the trail (I really was keeping count – is that a bit sad?) As we descended the first part of the trail, a couple climbing back up on snowshoes smiled and said we were in for a treat at the bottom. They were so right! The track emerges from trees into a wide valley with beautiful views in all directions.

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The Amiskwi River
Being at the valley bottom might encourage an OldPlaidCamper to think he knows what he is doing on xc skis. Oh yes, I can kick and glide, kick and glide and really cover the ground. Look at me go! I might even catch up with Mrs. PlaidCamper.

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Waiting for OldPlaidCamper
I do enjoy the easy rhythm of skiing along on the flat parts. It’s preferable to my crabbed and hunched nervousness on the downhill sections, what with a helpful mantra of goingtofall, goingtofall, goingtofall playing in my head. Oddly enough, I often fall.

But on the flat parts you’d think I was a natural. My mind wanders, usually into a heady mix of appreciation for the surroundings and a strange conviction I might have a Nordic gene or two from way back, ‘cos look at me go. For whatever reason, last week little clips from Simon and Garfunkel kept popping up. Oh look, a clearing, is there a boxer? No. Then I fell over – there’s nothing like a face full of snow to bring you back.

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I’m catching up…
Homeward bound. The Otterhead is delightful, and I can’t wait to visit again. Maybe to ski, maybe to hike in spring and see the greens of summer, but we’ll be back. And no more escaping the madness, that can’t be done. Time to reframe and be positive – we’re going there (and other wild places) to embrace what is good and to feel good.

Imagine feeling the need to build a wall to keep people out. You’re in your own prison and you’ve already failed. You’re building a physical monument to your own feeble thinking and evident mental imprisonment. You’ve already lost. I won’t carry that with me everywhere I go. I don’t want to dwell on the awfulness all the time. I’m not ignoring it either, but there are times when bigger and better subjects should occupy our thoughts, if only for a while.

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Mental freedom and better things
Here’s hoping this weekend you find some peace and quiet, mental freedom, and you have a wonderful time!