Rite And Rong

Welcome To Campbell River. This aged Beaver CF-GBV is mounted on a pylon and marks the entrance to town.
In the colours of British Columbia Airlines, this beauty has survived the years and lumps and bumps without any apparent modifications.

Back in the jungle again. You know the tune, sing it Willy. The home front had enough of me, and I of it. Without much contemplation here I am back in Naka Creek with the whales and other urban refugees, and as it turns out, some international ones as well.

As I left town a great wall of smoke rose rapidly from the south, America is burning I hear. To add an apocalyptic touch, someone turned hard right and rammed head-on into two rows of vehicles waiting for a traffic light. There was a heap of carnage, a muddle of arriving emergency vehicles and a herd of geriatrics in spandex on bicycles running in dithering circles waving their arms. We make movies in Ladysmith. We’ll call this one ‘No Fault Insurance.’ You can be part of the problem or part of the solution. I let the wall of smoke chase me northward. It found me by next morning.

By the next day the smoke from US forest fires surrounded us.
BUMP! Floating just on the surface this old loader tire would definitely grab a sailor’s attention if they hit it.

I arrived at Naka Creek, my favourite place on Johnstone Strait just in time to see three southbound cruise ships returning from another Alaska jaunt. I remember meeting these gleaming behemoths in these waters when I worked on the tugs. It is an incongruous sight in the deep dark of an upcoast night. I imagine the passengers trying to dance their arses off after yet another gourmet buffet dinner all the while oblivious to the incredible natural world sliding by in the dark, but then endless miles of wilderness is not really what they came to see. It makes a lovely background for the ‘binderdundat’ mug shots they’ll proudly show back home in Donkey Shin Kansas or wherever their bombers takes them. By the time they’re home they will be crawling with viruses they’ve found on the cruise or the homeward flight but that strawberry creme flambe was worth it all. Laugh damnit, all humour is cynicism.

My old bush ape eyes spotted a strange fungus on this pine tree over the water’s edge. It proved to be a single remaining insulator. There must have been hundreds at one time carrying telephone or telegraph wire. Yet another coastal mystery lost to time.

My prefered spot was taken by an expedition vehicle with German license plates. It was one of those monstrous offroad boxes with the big wheels, too big really to squeeze along many of our roads. Still, I fancy them and wanted to chat with the owner. He pulled away and left. Incredibly another German RV pulled in to the same site a short time later. Soon the new neighbour befriended me. He and his wife were from Berlin. Their motorhome was built on a Citroen cab and chassis, powered with a Fiat diesel. The rest of the unit was built in Slovenia. It had a German license plate. How exotically European is that? With over 160,000 nautical miles of sailing offshore catamarans he, and she, who works as a wedding videographer in Quatar, had some interesting yarns to share. Avowed vegetarians, they declared that they ate “nothing that had parents or eyes.” And so the day passed with something else to consider.

An Adria, a European beauty. He couldn’t find any 240 v trees to plug into.
Gotcha! Berry pie a la road. Ursus Thumpus. Mounds of bear droppings on the road prove an excellent year for wild berries. Hit too many of these you’ll need some front-end repairs.

On Monday morning the day comes with overcast smokey skies. A dry rasping call of a solitary crow announces the stealthy arrival of his cousin, a brilliant blue Stellar jay. Fog rolls and curls along the water. It is quiet, it is peaceful… until an hours-long yuckfest developed on the beach and overwhelmed everyone else. Other campers clearly do not come for the same things I do. Tranquility, solitude, the music of nature; I prayed for rain. It did not come. I launched my dinghy and left. I powered north into the flooding tide and switched the engine off to simply drift and dream. The water was calm and the thin sunlight soothing. Soon I could hear voices. I could see nothing but eventually a flotilla of kayaks appeared from the far shore. The wilderness tranquility they came to absorb eludes them. Despite my persuasions, peace is not part of the urbanites agenda. The reason they see few whales and little wild life is beyond their grasp.

Out of the sunset a brilliance doth approach.
So where are the regulation navigation lights?
‘Grand Princess’
In the daylight they look like this…still out of place.
Yuk. Yuk Yuk, Yuk. Yuk.
Getting away from it all.
My beloved window. It is why I bought this old camper.

A call home on my mobile that evening informed me that an emergency was unfolding. I needed to return south quickly. I broke camp and stowed everything in the trailer. My friends had left earlier and so I went to nurse a beer alone on the beach as the last of the sunset faded. There was a roar, a blaze of light and grinding of gears. I refused to turn and acknowledge this latest intrusion. Yet another expedition vehicle! And yes, once again, more Germans! This machine was a monster military green box with a huge Mercedes emblem on the grill. As the growling diesel shuddered into quietude a thick German accent shouted at my back, “Are you vatching ze orcas?” Oh sigh! Isn’t GPS with backroad maps a wonder?

I left at 04:30. In the impenetrable darkness, fog swirled in heavy banks. Visibility was down to twenty feet in places. Over the mountains, into the valleys, across narrow bridges, around switchback corners I finally arrived on the main road out and began meeting loaded logging trucks with their bright lights. Their dust mixed with the fog. There is no headlight that deals with that. By the time daylight arrived I was back on the pavement, southbound for home by noon. All’s well that ends.

Jackson
Vinny meets Ayre
Covid Beetle or government drone?

Soon the rain and darkness of autumn will settle over this island. Perhaps I can go into the woods and be alone then.

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Home Again

Hey, that’s me! No, not the squirrel. I found this amazing work in a live red cedar in Sayward. The detail is great and the theme is perfect. The carver deserves  huge recognition.
This eagle with a salmon is incredible too. Well done, Greensides.   Glenn Greensides is a local carver in Sayward. His work is widely distributed. He has a website, just look up his name.

Muh dog’s gonna eat yers!” Ever have a period in your life when every little thing just seems weird? You begin to question your own sanity. If I’m a common factor it’s got to be something to do with me. Right? On Sunday, I tried to pleasantly ask a neighbour about an unfamiliar car apparently abandoned in our common property. I was met with a resounding shout, “Fuck Off Asshole!”

Um, ok?” Two days later there was a timid apology, which I accepted. This woman’s mother, my neighbour, had suddenly died and I understand the unpredictable emotions. What was bemusing was a man who appeared immediately after my rebuff. He refused to give his name, determined to stand belly to belly announcing that he was “The executor, ya know? The EXECUTOR!” Weird!

Last night at a campground in Sayward, just after arriving, little Ayre ran next door to greet two fuzzy little dogs. A trailer door opened a crack, a corpulent female figure appeared and roared out my opening sentence. I wanted to reply, “I see you’ve snacked down a few puppies yer own self.” but I’m learning to curb my own quick tongue. This morning, yet again, there was another apology. Geez Louise, is it my cologne? I keep having these strange encounters so hopefully the guy in the mirror comes up with an answer. It was a new moon last night, is that it?

Hey neighbour! This former German firetruck is an expedition vehicle capable of going nearly anywhere.

We’ve just arrived back at the Naka Creek campsite. Ahhh! Despite a light rain, the birds are singing, the neighbours here are friendly and I feel like I’ve come home to a sanctuary in the backwoods.

Home! Let it rain. Beautiful downtown Naka Creek.

I soon discover that I have managed to leave the power cord for this laptop at home. So, after doing some photo editing I’m down to my last giga-doodles of battery. The weather is wet but I’ll have to live a few days without life depending on my computer. It is lovely to just focus on the waves lapping on shore and all the birds exchanging insults with each other. Three northbound orca whales passed a few minutes ago and there may be more to come.

Ayre soon found herself a dancing partner. They could have waltzed all night.
Ayre  quickly found a way to launch herself up into the bunk. The view fascinated her.

Life without a computer, fancy that!    Well we’ve survived a week living together in a camper and now we’re home again with no more weird encounters of any kind.

There’s a hot spell ahead. You can feel it first thing in the morning. Heat domes we call them these days. I’ll bite my tongue and refrain from further comment. We’ll survive, like it or not.

Another Johnstone Strait sunset
Hope springs eternal.
There are a few places where the real old growth timber still stands as it always has. These Douglas fir are 12 to 15 feet in diameter at the butt and well over 200′ tall. These venerable grow with signs are any human interference. I won’t tell you where they are, you have to find them on your own.
Magic!
Look high, then look low.
Ripe.
Outstanding in the brush.
Sayward taxi.
Downtown Cumberland.
Stay cool.

Without deep reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people.” Albert Einstein

North

Nothing like the peace a nice little camp fire brings. The wind break marks my preferred spot on the beach at Naka Creek Camp
Ready for another night. The axe shows the wear of over fifty years of proud ownership. I bought it at the Squilax General Store, on the side of the Shuswap Little River BC

Sunday morning, Naka Creek. I sit inside my camper with a fresh, stout black mug of coffee beside this keyboard. It is chilly. I couldn’t be bothered to stoke up my propane furnace so instead I wear a heavy flannel shirt. Outside a low overcast races before a westerly wind and balls of drizzle wash over my campsite. I had the happy foresight to stow things away while it was still dry. Soon I’ll be on my way.

The view from my bunk.

Across Johnstone Strait a sail advances in the murk, westbound into the wind. It is bucking against the wind and tide. When the tide turns fully and the ebb begins to run in the boat’s favour, but against the wind, the seas will rise and those lumps will continue to hold him back. The boat is fast but for every six miles it tacks the position on the chart advances only a mile. I used to do that long ago, just to feel manly and salty but I eventually gave it up and motored directly toward my destination, having decided to bring a gun to the knife fight. Still I ache to be out there, cold and wet though it may be, it is in some people’s blood to suffer for the religion of the ocean. I am one. I think this boat is a participant in the R2AK motorless race to Alaska. Whoever is out there bashing along deserves full kudos for their drive and spirit. Puget Sound to Alaska is one bloody long way, I’ve done it often enough in a tug boat and even that was wearisome. Travelling the coast in my own sailboat was a dream. There was a time when the globe was being discovered by Europeans. This coast was explored entirely by wind power and muscle alone.

Then came the night again.

From where I sit I can see northward to Blinkhorn Pennisula, beyond famous Robson Bight and marking the entrance Beaver Cove. Past that are the radio towers of Cormorant Island and Alert Bay. In the far distance are the shoreline humps near Port Hardy, where the island shoreline turns sharply to the northwest. I know these waters with their labyrinth inlets and archipelagos. I ache to own a boat once again so I can vanish into secret anchorages.

The hard slog northward racing in the R2AK. The expanse and distance of our coast is overwhelming. At this point, after several days enroute, the race is not yet a quarter complete.
The big easy, southbound. One salmon says to the other “Look at all the canned people!”

Advancing from behind the sailing boats and passing quickly out of sight ahead is a gleaming white motor yacht. I wonder how many barrels of fuel per hour it burns. Powering along, level, warm and dry I wonder at other perspectives on manliness. Then I nod off, my thick old fingers on the keyboard produce two pages of ppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppp’s. Time for a walk. I clamber up to the secret waterfalls which are as beautiful as ever. I muse that on my last visit here my beloved companion, Jack the dog, was with me and I plunge myself into momentary sorrow. He will always be with me and I try to cheer myself with recollections of all the happy moments. He loved this place. Once again I can see him rolling happily on his back in the long grass and daisies as well as the smug look on his face when he had returned from running off on his own to visit other campers and their dogs. He never made an enemy. Today I have some lovely neighbours and new friends. I am grateful.

Our secret waterfall. It is about eighty feet high.
The fool’s caravan.
“Got a horse in there?”
“Naw, just a friend.”
Nuts!
The view from my camper side window. The crows were picking my old corn cobs out of the fire pit.
Here’s a story. How does a very old brake shoe end up in the gravel on the beach?
A burger tree. Actually it is a fungus. When baked dry then lit to smoulder, the smoke makes an excellent insect repellant.
An organic nose flute. Just more fungi growing on a stick. It is amazing to see what is under the leaves.
Organic camping, becoming one with the earth again.
I wonder about the child who rode this. Grown now, with children weary of tales about Naka Creek.
The Mack Attack
I’ve been driving by this truck for nearly forty years. I reason that one day this North Campbell river landmark will be gone. A simple photographer’s tip is to take the photo while it’s there.
From when men were men and their arses were sore. Note the lack of stereo, air conditioning, air bags and upholstery. You hooked one arm through the steering wheel and used both hands to shift those three levers in unison with much double-clutching. If you blew a shift you had no gears to hold you back on a hill. The brakes would soon overheat and the pedal sank to the floor.. What a feeling!
Be still my redneck heart. Ain’t she a beauty? Someone has done a wonderful job on this restoration. I wannit!

The weather evolves from winter-like conditions to a flawless summer day in a few hours. I change costumes and emerge with my fluorescent shanks sticking out of old camo-patterned work shorts. How have military motifs ever become high fashion? That bemuses me, the old poster boy of the thrift stores. I’m “stylin’.”

Home again it is time for tinkering on my little circus caravan. Minor repairs, some upgrades and I’ll be back into the woods somewhere on this magic island.

Ayre my new little dog put on a very happy face for my return home.

Let’s have a moment of silence for all those North Americans who are stuck
in traffic on their way to the gym to ride the stationary bicycle.h Earl Blumenauer

It’s Official

Last Camas. To see more come back next spring. Life rolls along no matter how we feel.

After a continuum of applications, fees, phone calls to yet another number, then another, emails and dictums ad nauseam (Computer wanted to respell that as nutcase) I am officially accepted as the BCbogtrotter.com. It’s signed, sealed and delivered. Now here I sit on the first Saturday of June, and yes it’s raining a little more. I wonder where to go from here. Funds have run out. I’ve done some repairs on the truck and am trying to set up the new old trailer for my specific needs.

Then comes the Lupins

Meanwhile there are moments of delicious hot sunshine before the next front creeps overhead. The media is determined to predict massive flooding and devastating wildfires. I just want to get out there and perhaps get flooded out for a few weeks. At home, life is a wade through suburban mediocrity. Ayre the wee beast is in my lap as I type. The din of a small town waking up is amazing, if you listen. There is the hum, roar and howl of the highway passing below the town. There are often sirens. Often we don’t even hear them they are so common. Is it an emergency or another run to Tim Hortons? A large murder of crows nearby argues over some point of bird decorum and then the neighbour fires up his lawnmower. In the distance an excavator with a chattering rock hammer gouges out the footings for another million-dollar bungalow and from that white noise emerges the clatter of a passing helicopter.

My name is Moses. This old Min Pin is nineteen years old and still has lots of light in his eyes.

Doggy now sits in the window of Jill’s office howling like a little wolf trying to will her Alpha human to come home again from her day’s work.

Ayre the backwoods marauder. She is discovering the big world out there and loving it all.

Well now! Near-silence. Several days after I began this blog I now sit on the shore of Johnstone Strait at Naka Creek Camp. If you have enough out-of-town savvy to find this place, you too deserve this little piece of heaven. I’m sipping hot mint tea at noon after a lazy morning and a late brunch. A US Coast Guard cutter powers its way southward against the last of the morning ebb. The throb of its engines is clear above the mild clatter of my tiny generator, charging up camera and laptop batteries. Soon there’ll be only the twitter of birds, the lapping of water on the shore, the gentle whisper of the wind in the trees, and the eternal hope of seeing more whales.

A Maple Flower
Mountain Lilies, strangely growing by the beach. There is only one clump and it blooms briefly each spring.
By all means. Spring turns into summer and thequest to survive goes on everywhere. This little folwer took root in a niche in an old piece of driftwood.

This place is an old logging camp. The forest is trying to take it back. Slowly it wins. It is essentially maintained by the users and although much loved by these folks, the jungle is creeping back to claim its own. I can see the progress since last year. Jack, my old dog, loved it here and I miss him dearly. I remember his joy exploring here and visiting with new dogs and their owners. This was a place I held hope of bringing my daughter but that is never going to happen. My wife is busy with things only she can do. I try not to feel sad or lonely but I watch couples and families and groups and yes there is an ache. Thankfully, the area is occupied with few this weekend and those folks all seem to hold a reverence for this oasis of peace and sanity. Kindred, even if we never speak.

“Honey, we’re getting down on eggs!” At a farm market Ladner.
“Whazzamatta? Never seen a pig on a roller skate before?”
In the belly of the whale. Yep, that’s my tiny piglet parked in with the hawgs. I’m thinking of having a vest embroidered that says “Hardley A Davidson.”
Old, tired, rotten and cracked but centered and well-spoken.

At night the camp fire burns reluctantly, the wood is damp. The sea air seems to suppress any defiance to its eternal shroud of dampness. Still I nudge the fire, my feet to the warmth while holding a partial mug of rum.

There are worse ways to spend an evening.

It’s all in how you look at things.
  • “If you are depressed you are living in the past, if you are anxious you are living in the future, if you are at peace, you are living in the present.”            —Lao Tzu

Away

Every pole tells a story. This is some native art along the way in Port Alberni.
The back side, facing the sunset.
Beautiful whale totems tucked discreetly away.

Nothing! No light in the overcast sky, none anywhere around. Without illumination from the Hemoth there would only be blackness. No sound, no wind. There is only a damp, penetrating cold. It is just past five pm. A long night lays ahead, daylight won’t begin to appear for another fourteen hours. How did the indigenous people survive winter? Were they simply tougher than we are? They had no wool underwear, no hi-tech winter clothing, no heat pumps, or anything else that came at the turn of a switch. Their homes had no insulation and their roofs probably leaked.

Bark whale. A perfectly proportioned effigy of an Orca made apparently, from bits of beach flotsam.

It’s hard to imagine. Jack and I are in the camper tonight somewhere between the beaches of the open Pacific and the shore of Kennedy Lake. We’re at an intersection of logging roads deep in the boggy desolate second-growth woodlands near the extreme Western edge of Canada. Being a tight old sod, I did not want to pay a ridiculous nightly rate for a spot in a campground. It now costs more than twice what I once paid for a decent motel room. And what sort of nutter goes off rambling with his dog in December? I am supposed to be at home absorbing global gloom and consuming my bottom off; or on as the case may be. Truly, I prefer the deep silent darkness of the swampy black forest. I know being here would probably terrify the average urbanite. Jaded as I be, Consumermass holds little appeal.

“Ya want me to eat that bowel of yuk?” Roughing it, camper style.
“Mind the gap” Jack sniffs out the jeep that awoke him.
Deep in the boggy backwoods. The stumps are all that remains of the old growth forest. The re-gen timber, or second-growth , desperately needs to be thinned if it is ever going to become anything like the ancient forest was. Even these small trees can be turned into valuable forest products.
Looking into Kennedy Lake from the back side where it drains into Staghorn Creek.
Staghorn Creek becomes a small lake becomes the short Kennedy River. It has a stark beauty and is not hospital country.
Winter looms

Round about midnight, snugly cuddled and deeply asleep in our comfy bed, there was a sudden blaze of light. I thought I was dreaming. Someone in a Jeep needed to pass on the road I was partially blocking. I recognized that particular engine sound as it crept by within inches of the camper. Being an old farm boy I know to always latch the gate behind me and never block a road, any road. I’d parked in the most level spot I could find while leaving passage space and out here in the back of beyond… who’da thunk? What the hell was anyone doing out here at that time? I spent the rest of the night waiting for the next vehicle.

Morning arrives with a tatter of blue visible beyond the blanket of fog overhead. The day turned out to be perfect. After touring neo-Tofino I realized that the camp ground prices were a bargain by local standards. They’ve jammed paved cycling paths through the rain forest jungle leaving heaps of shattered vegetation and stumps along the sides of the asphalt. A center line has been painted. It’s quite contrary to the surfer spirit which helped advance Tofino to it’s present gaudy self. The old school, when loggers and fishermen and hippies were the mainstay, has been driven out of town. Nevertheless, Jack loved the beach and for a short while the sunny sands helped him forget his old bones. But oh lawdy, the cold wind sure clutched at mine. I’ll let my photos tell the story.

What we came for! It may be weeks until anyone sees a sunset again.
A glorious afternoon in Cox Bay.
Bliss
Phodographer
Surfers. They now populate the surf, in all weather, like flocks of seabirds. In my passion for the sea, unfortunately I can only wish I were young again and will never know that particular intimacy of dancing with the waves.
An old familiar friend
It’s called progress but it is certainly not the flavour of the Tofino I remember.
Nor this!
Even the RCMP have gone for the glitz.
Yes really! There are now miles of paved paths with centerlines carved into the rainforest. It completely destroys the feeling of the place. There are at, least, no fast food outlets. Kudos on that.
The V Dub van museum. Struth! It is in immaculate condition, completely unlike any that the first wave of surfers drove. Perhaps next door they’ll put up a tree museum.
Roughing it. I could see why the fee was up there. Their map shows over 600 spots, each with dead-level graveled parking, a steel fire pit, picnic table, drinking water, electrical supply and sewage hookup. Yes, there’s internet. The beach is a short walk away and there is even a dog shower. There was not one sign about dogs…what a treat!
The central washroom facility. It IS very impressive. There are others around the perimeter. Someone has made a huge investment.
The only highway in and out of the Tofino-Ucluelet peninsula is experiencing a massive upgrade. It is long overdue and will be ongoing for a good while yet. The drive to Port Alberni is breathtakingly beautiful.
May you never lose your urge to fly.

 

 To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.” – Isaac Newton 

A Happy Day

The dawn on the day in question. There were no gaily frolicking dolphins, it was even too wet for them.

Driving in the coastal morning dark can be hell. During a hard rain the sucking gloom becomes a black hole, like the inside of a bear. The wet slashes down and sticks to the windshield like thin, cold oil. It will not wipe away. Some other cars hurtle madly past on the lemming highway and promptly vanish as if sucked into a celestial black hole. Headlights in the spray become a blinding, impenetrable fog. Yet we arrived safely. I walked into the glare of the Duke Point ferry terminal.

But sometimes a day becomes a celebration of life, like it or not. It can happen even when the weather is apocalyptic. The day I’m writing about was one of those doomy days in New Westminster. The rain had persisted all the way from Vancouver Island. Thick heavy dark clouds scudded overhead only fifty feet up. The incessant cold rain hammered down and bounced back knee-high, chilling wet and bloody miserable. Full daylight never appeared.

My old truck and camper, now named the “Hemoth” is a dreadful daily driver. Lurching around town is a challenge and finding a place to park is never fun. Angle parking on main street is risky business. The truck, with dual rear-wheels is useless on wet hills without the weight of the camper and I want to keep the two together as a single unit ready to go south at the first possible moment. Its monster diesel engine likes to warm up and do some work, which can’t happen putting only a few blocks at a time. I don’t have enough money to get away at the moment so I decided to acquire a cheap “Winter beater.”

Beater World with dozens more inside. There was no razzle dazzle or any expensive suits, just simple decency and integrity.

I’d been questing a rough-road capable scooter but they’re incredibly overpriced, even with high mileage. For a few dollars more one can buy a new one. So I thought I’d apply that same budget to a small used automobile. Mission impossible. During my quest, I did discover a Rolls Royce SUV, (a mere $450,000.) just the ticket to drive up the mountain in hope of finding a grouse for supper, cheap meat old chap!

Eventually I found a vehicle for my pittance and off I went into the rain of the back waters of an old industrial park in New Westminster. There was a labryinth of twisting streets leading onto the far end of Lulu Island in the Fraser River. Even when the taxi arrived it took a minute to realize I was in the right place. It was a yard jammed with cars, no more than six inches apart. In the rain, you could not walk between the dripping fenders without soon becoming soaked. Still the folks were all congenial and I sensed that they operated with a rare integrity.

Everyone works together with a rare feel of harmony. There is an exotic air to the place, in part because the language they speak among themselves is Parsi which fascinated me. All seem truly interested in the customer’s best interests. Every vehicle I wanted to see was parked in a back row so there were other cars to move around first which required even more shuffling to find room to put them. And, of course, every vehicle needed its battery boosted. The prices were fair, there were no rip-off documentation fees and there was no argument when the vehicle I came to see proved to have too many problems. In fact the owner offered me a very fair price on another vehicle, which I ended up buying. It is an innocuous little silver car with plenty of miles but it runs well and was driveable without any repairs needed. My experience was quite pleasant and not at all like a “Big Slick” operation most of us have known. Some folks still understand the ‘golden rule’ and I can confidently recommend this place to anyone.

I’ll go back there again and heartily recommend Tala Auto Select if you need a low-price vehicle. You’ll find them online. By the way, should it matter to you, there was a large inventory of assorted BMWs and a large private collection stored inside. That is guarded by five feisty little dogs.

An oasis in the rain.
Going fast. I thought I should take a photo before I inhaled the whole thing. There was no need for supper.

Next door to this business is Rozzini’s Restaurant. They advertise an Italian, Greek and Indian menu. Their fare is superb, the prices are great, the service was grand. They’re online too and well worth the out-of-the-way drive for a positively unique experience. I was at the ferry terminal and sailing back to Vancouver Island before evening darkness fell, my belly full of roast lamb. The rain never stopped.

I should also mention that during weekdays, seniors travel on BC Ferries for free. I walked off the ferry, stepped right onto a bus and one transfer later I found myself at the Scott Road Station, in less than an hour from the ferry, for the lofty sum of $3. Bitch all you want, we’re doing fine. This old grump is truly pleased with all my experiences on Coastal BC public transit systems.

As I drove back to the ferry that afternoon, in the weaving traffic and endless rain, I realized that for the same money I could be out there wobbling along on a used scooter, raincoat flapping next to some cement truck’s wheels. Yep, it was a good day. Now all I have to learn is how to find such an ordinary little car where I left it in a big parking lot.

A morning with better weather…our local dog park.
Thazzal for now folks. The wind and the rain are beating the leaves from the trees.
Jack has always loved little boats. He did not leave this piece of flotsam easily.
A golden pond.

 

Fish rise within the reflections.
They’re baaack!
A never-ending drama that is never diminished in wonder when the salmon return each year.
Autumn low tide
Dogpatch, nothing ever changes. Abandoned boathouse and sailboat beside old pilings that I think would make a grand base for a new marine pub.
An explanation among the garbage on the beach.
Halloween rose
November Suckle
A local blueberry farm. It’s for sale.
Solitude
The municipal hanging tree
No-one could say when it began but slowly an ancient castle emerged from the ground in the forest.
The ‘Swell.’ This beautiful old wooden tug was launched in 1903 as the last steam-powered tug built on the BC Coast. I remember talking to her on the VHF through the years from various tugboat wheelhouses when she still worked as a Tug for Westview Dredge and Dock. After an extensive rebuild and refit she reappeared as she looks now, a fabulous mobile fishing lodge.

Electric cars aren’t pollution-free; they have to get their energy from somewhere.

Alexandra Paul

An Omen?

A friend, recently arrived in San Carlos Mexico, sent me a photo. He thought it was an interesting co-incidence that he’d found a boat named ‘Seafire.’ It was in fact, my old boat!

The photo that stirred all the memories. I instantly recognized every bolt, sliver and line after all these years.                                                                                                                 Photo is courtesy of Cliff  Robb

Here’s the rest of the story. When I arrived on Vancouver Island, I had a tiny trailerable sailboat called a Northwest 21. It was poorly built, not particularly pretty and certainly not intended for rugged upcoast sailing. Guess who sailed it to the top of Vancouver Island in March. Yep! “Smart as he looks.” This coast is still definitely in winter at that time of year but can switch back and forth between seasons in minutes. As spring comes sniffing around there are some huge battles between the elements of wind, rain, snow and very troubled waters where the massive North Pacific gyre collides with the mountainous coast of British Columbia.

That little boat was never intended for voyaging; anywhere. It had no insulation inside the thin, sweating fibreglass hull, no real heat, no cook stove, had only squatting head room and little sensibility aboard. Driven as I was I spent my days cold, wet and even terrified bashing slowly northward. I had a small propane catalytic heater which produced more water vapour than warmth. There was a tiny one-burner propane camp stove and I ate generally tepid, half-raw, half-burned muck. My nights, (long and dark) anchored in some black bubbling backwater were spent huddled in damp bedding wondering what the hell I was doing. Yet I was driven to get out on the ocean and so I ventured onward.

Late one soggy afternoon, (I think it was in Potts Lagoon) a couple on another boat took pity and invited me over for dinner. They were young newlyweds on their way to Alaska to skipper tour boats for the summer. They were then planning to cruise down to the Marquesas at the end of their work season. Their vessel was a gorgeous and immaculate wooden 38’ Atkin ketch. My life was forever changed when I went below into the soothing warm ambience of their Dickinsen diesel stove. I can still remember the inspiration of their mutual dreams and the encompassing sense of well-being aboard that cozy boat. The vessel’s name was ‘Seafire.’ I returned to the dank chill of my own little pisspot later that night transformed with a new awareness of who I was and what I wanted to do. Suddenly I understood the magic of the coastal labyrinth where I trespassed. I was not the only character playing with my needle out of the groove. The coastal back waters were loaded with the likes of we.

I learned the following year that on their southward trek that fall, the crew of ‘Seafire’ had allegedly been attacked and sunk by Orca whales somewhere to the west of Panama. The crew had survived but I heard no more of them. The memory of those few hours spent aboard with them is indelible. Almost forty years later I am still infused with their inspiration. I became familiar with, and fell in love with, a sailboat design known as a ‘True North 34.’ Ones built in Asia were known as ‘Noon Oceans.’ They were a Stan Huntingford design, a traditional heavy displacement boat intended for long passages. Their bigger brother was known as a ‘Rafiki 37’ Many folks mistook the True North as a Westsail 32,’ a standard of offshore cruising boats for decades.

The boat I bought was hull #1 out of the mold at Tradewind Yachts in North Vancouver. It had been the home for seventeen years to a fine fellow named Frank Poirier who was the caretaker at Malibu Lodge. That was far up Jervis Inlet, located on a neck of land beside a tidal rapids which one transits at slack water to enter Princess Louisa inlet. The lodge was built by a man named Hamilton. To this day a totem pole stands there and on its base is carved a three-bladed aircraft propeller. Hamilton was the inventor of the constant speed aircraft propeller and his timing coincided with the beginning of WWII. He made a fortune and built a retreat for the rich and famous. There’s the rest of the story. Frank had finished building the boat himself and his work was “rustic” but the boat held a certain charm in part due to the hundreds of books which filled its shelves and of course it had a Dickinsen oil stove with its wonderful cozy heat. The trip to pick up the vessel and bring it home was unforgettable. My brother came with me. We had been separated for over twenty years. The journey was a great way to bond and all these years later we still talk about it.

I ripped and tore and rebuilt that boat in a manic surge that went on for years. The name was changed from ‘Sunward II’ to ‘Seafire’ in honour of my inspiration of that young couple. Getting the vessel to Mexico was my ambition but alas it was not to be. My wife and I chartered her, hosting guests from Europe. I reluctantly decided to sell and build a bigger vessel more suited to chartering and living aboard. The plan was to have a boat that could earn her way as she travelled.

Isn’t she gorgeous? Little has changed since I last stood on her decks. The original wooden mast still stands. The dodger, the boomkin, the bowsprit, the trail boards, the gallows, and all the other things I built, they have all endured.
Flattery indeed.                                    Photo courtesy of Cliff Robb

The years hurtled past. Plans and fortunes changed. Several boats later I’d found an ideal motor sailor to take from the West coast to the Baltic and on through Europe. Once again I embarked on an odyssey of refitting another boat. One of the first steps was to remove the vessel from US registry and re-document her as a Canadian vessel, home port Victoria. When I walked into the Transport Canada office in Victoria I was greeted as “Mr. Seafire.” They had come to recognize me from all the different boats I’d owned. I was told that my timing was co-incidental. One of the names available, because a routine registration renewal document had not been filed was, believe it or not, ‘Seafire.’ The boat had gone to Mexico and vanished.

It seemed, to me, like an omen and so the name ‘Seafire’ sailed again. That boat was my home for several years and our adventures up and down this coast are many. Then in bitter regret I had to sell her, my finances had crumbled and I had no choice. The day I last stepped off her decks, it seemed my life had ended. It still does. A friend has told me “If you ain’t been aground, you ain’t been around.” Perhaps a high spring tide will yet float me free of the reef where I find myself stranded. I can tell you that life is mighty dry without a boat. I can also tell you that the old mantra about “Go simple, go now” is struth indeed. This moment is all we’ve got and what we regret most is what we don’t do. Just do it.

I know that if I found a rewind button for my life I’d make a whole new set of mistakes, but if I retained any knowledge from this life it would be an acute awareness of the “NOW” factor. All I can hope, is that even in its tiny way, and things ‘Seafire’ whisk through my being, it is indeed another omen of good things ahead. Have I come full circle? Perhaps, somehow, this blog will again be known as the ‘Seafire Chronicles’… part three.

This has been a signature photo for decades. I shot it aboard old ‘Seafire’ close-hauled on a port tack northbound past Thormanby Island.

A photo of my second ‘Seafire’ is in the right hand sidebar.

One of the great cosmic laws, I think, is that whatever we hold in our thought will come true in our experience. When we hold something, anything, in our thought, then somehow coincidence leads us in the direction that we’ve been wishing to lead ourselves.” Richard Bach

In Passing

In Passing

Photos in my last blog of the Squilax General Store inspired a surprising response from some readers. Assuming that no one would relate to the old brick building I was surprised it had been part of other’s lives as well. Go figure! The little store sat in the shadow of a high, long wooden bridge which took travellers over the Little Shuswap River to the upper reaches of big Shuswap Lake and also to Adams Lake and remote locations beyond. Place names like Scotch Creek, Celista, Anglemont, and Hard Scramble come to mind. There was a spattering of summer homes and a marina. It was an area essentially undiscovered to the outside world… then.

What’s in a memory?

I had come to the area due to a strange series of circumstances. I found myself working on a ranch belonging to a religious organization. I soon moved over to a neighbouring ranch and have indelible memories of life and all that I learned up in Turtle Valley. I sometimes wish I’d never left. At the bottom of the steep dirt road was the location of Squilax Station on the CPR mainline. The ranch family I worked for had bought the old station building, put it on log skids and dragged it behind the ranch bulldozer all the way up into the valley and set it on new foundations. That was over fifty years ago and other ranchers are still peeved about ripped-out portions of fence, wandering cattle and general mayhem. Country folk are often quite parochial and that event is part of the fabric of local legend. The old building is still there so far as I know, still in it’s very faded, peeling railway burgundy paint. There is a novella lurking about my rich experiences there. Looking back, everything seems larger than life, including the Squilax Store.

Imagine all that has been seen through these windows

At the bottom of the Turtle Valley Hill was a looping ramp which rose from the Trans-Canada highway and made a three-quarter turn to the long wooden bridge across the Little Shuswap River. There was a traffic light at either end of the single-lane bridge. Invariably there was a long wait for the light to turn green. I drove a ‘64 Buick like a maniac on the daily trip to work at the Holdings Sawmill on Adams Lake. A co-worker had financed a brand-new Datsun 240Z and insisted on pushing his sports car to the limit. He rolled it over on that approach to the bridge. The old abutments are all that remain of that bridge now. They stand beside the replacement bridge, a two-lane concrete affair with no character but a necessary concession to modern times and a growing population.

The store sat beside the highway on the south bank of the river. I do not know who had built the red brick construction but it stands as solidly as ever. Fifty years ago it already looked as if it had been there forever. Old Mr Herring claimed that he had been a young man working on a British whaling vessel off the coast of Kamchatka. That was where he had met his wife. I recall how everything was priced by hand and all sales were recorded in a ledger. She wrote in cyrillic alphabet which to me was an exotic mystery. She was an elegant silver-haired lady, always in a bright flowered-print dress. He was a bald old man with tiny round-rimmed glasses and sparkling eyes.

One last look before we drive away…if we bothered to stop at all. I can still hear the tinkle of the bell as the door opened.

They lived in the back of the building, the store in the front was very small but offered a wide variety of goods and obviously they had enough trade to provide themselves with a living. There were accounts of another store which they first operated in Fort St. John. I so wish I’d paid more attention. The Squilax store was lined with glass cabinets which had rows of wooden kegs sitting in in front of them. A hinged plank covered the kegs of nails and other hard ware, foodstuffs sat inside the cabinets. You could not buy a piece of cheese from one of the huge blocks without first being offered a sample. The product was cut, weighed and wrapped in brown paper and then tied with string which hung from a spool suspended from the ceiling. The price was carefully marked in cyrillic on the package and also in the ledger. Even then, it was a step far back in time which I did not appreciate. It is long-gone, forever.

The house where I lived back in the day. It’s hard to comprehend that half a century has passed since that age of innocence.

I remember the tinkle of the bell whenever the door was opened and closed and believe I recall a small round wood stove in the storefront. For years I treasured a telescopic fishing rod which travelled with me in my backpack and I still have a splendid axe which has served me well through the years. They both came from that store. One day Mr Herring took a phone call. (Yes, it was one of those old crank-up style phones) There had been a suicide on the Shuswap reserve across the river and the inquiry was for some muslin cloth to prepare the body. There was none in stock but the old shopkeeper had cheesecloth and assured the caller that it was perfectly acceptable to use what was on hand. That led him into a story about a too-small coffin in their former store and how they managed to cram the body into it by sitting on the lid so it could be screwed down.

Looking southward from Turtle Valley, over my old home into Paxton Valley, the location this year of a dreadful wild fire. The pasture in the foreground was once forest. I cleared it as I learned to be a logger.

Well, that’s not much for memories from over half a century ago. Maybe with more dredging I’ll come up with more. I’d love to hear other’s accounts of the Herring’s and their business. Whomever the owners now are, they have heaped the old store with junk and clearly do not appreciate what they have. Such is life. The traffic whizzes by on the highway, and as is so often the case, few appreciate the significance of one obscure place.

I used to have a peaceful life until you came home and started dragging me out in the rain.
arbutus berries and wet bark
They bloom every fall
Another sure sign of the cool damp of autumn. Some of these fungi are nearly the size of plates

At home I’m settling in while I make repairs and upgrades to my RV. There was a tremendous welcome from Jack but it is hard to admit how he is aging. He still has a sparkle in his eyes but his old body is clearly worn out. He can barely walk. I took him to visit friends. A spectacular lunch was prepared and say waiting on the table while we visited. Through the corner of my eye I caught Jack, slowly but deliberately, pulling on the table cloth and inching lunch off the edge of the table. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

What would Squirelly think of this? The back fence is a highway to the hazelnut tree. It’s nuts!

Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.

Franklin Pierce Adams

The Frost Before The Dawn

A kind of hush. Like a steaming kettle, the lake gives up its summer heat. Soon it will freeze over.
A beach all to myself
Jack was with me on a previous visit and loved this pond. Suddenly I missed him desperately.
Simplicity and complexity
Breathe

The title is just not a pliable metaphor, it’s a fact. I’m sitting in my camper watching the day’s sunrise. As so often happens, a while before the first golden rays poke through the trees a hard frost suddenly forms. I sit inside beside the furnace, hot black coffee in hand watching the day evolve. I drove out of my way to be here, Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park. It is a special place to me for its chain of small crystalline aqua lakes. I thought I’d have it to myself. Fool! It’s a holiday weekend and there are RVs everywhere. Worst of all, they’ve paved the road in to the park and there is heavy machinery and mud all over. There goes the ’hood. Why the hell we can not leave things alone is a compulsion I don’t understand. If you’re coming out to a place like this to get a taste of the edge of wilderness, why urbanize it to be just like home? The missionary complex! I suppose there will soon be a McDonalds. Bugga!

I could hear Joni Mitchell singing “they’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
For the tree museum.
Roughing it. Perhaps the road was paved so these behemoths would not be damaged while hurtling out to relax. Perhaps those beautiful pines should come down. They may interfere with satellite dish reception.
Says it all

A few days ago I awoke to the smell of cowshit and the sound of a nearby rooster. It was thoroughly pleasant, a vignette from my long ago farm boy past. I was at a friend’s home on the banks of the Shuswap River where it passed through the hamlet of Grindrod. While I put the coffee on, the first vehicle over the bridge was a bulk milk truck headed off to local farms for its morning collection. Places like this still exist despite the encroachment of condos, subdivisions and gentrified hobby farms. Some days I am happy to be the age I am.

End of fire season. One of the joys of driving in BC is the ever-changing geography. This was taken a few miles east of Revelstoke.
Beautiful downtown Grindrod
…And daughters
The Shuswap River from downtown Grindrod, two doors upstream from the pub. The idyllic  setting is punctuated often with the thunder of Harley Davidsons leaving and arriving.
The feed mill at Grindrod. This has been a landmark for a very long time. It was there over fifty years ago when I used to deliver logs to a nearby portable sawmill from the ranch where I worked.
Looking up from downtown Salmon Arm. A few miles over that mountain was “Old Grassy” the summer range land of the ranch where I worked. I used to ride my horse up there, checking our cattle and also hunting. It was another lifetime.
A glimpse into the way I remember things. Beautiful ranchland everywhere is being encroached upon with sub-divisions, trailer parks, storage yards and ostentatious country manors. Sadly the original buildings are disappearing.
Another memory. At the foot of the road down from the high valley where the ranch was, this was the store one passed. i have fond memories of the 1880’s-style general store and the colourful old couple who where the proprietors; Old man Herring and his Russian wife.
I remember passing beneath this sign when it was in perfect condition. This sight leaves me feeling very old. The Squilax Store was located beside a high single-lane wooden bridge which crossed the Little Shuswap River. The bridge was replaced long ago. This site is where paddle-wheelers travelling from Kamloops to Sicamous once stopped to take on more firewood.
Hostile Hostel?
No mail today
A wooden monument to the past probably on the endangered list. This one-lane bridge at Pritchard where it crosses the South Thompson River. I have spent many wonderful afternoons above the grassy plains over the bridge at places like Pinantan Lake.
From the bridge, looking upstream to the east. The river has a system of buoys as it is considered a Canadian navigable waterway from the days of the paddle wheelers. It is hard to believe when the river is so shallow at this time of year.
Quilchena Lake moment. A jewel in the middle of some gorgeous country.

I’m driving a circuitous route homeward, savouring old haunts at a beautiful time of year. Unfortunately my little circus train cannot always stop for the best photos I see; the roadside is too narrow, the traffic too heavy. All the government camp grounds are closed, most private ones too. Spots where I assumed to be able to just find a place off the road seem very hard to find. I drove on and on finally finding myself in the swirling madness of the lower mainland and travelling westward into a setting sun beaming through a filthy windshield. Once aboard a ferry I crawled into the bunk in my camper and slept through the whole crossing. I parked for the night in a secret place and arrived home in the morning.

The ocean! Home!

It was raining lightly when I pulled up in front of the abode and to my horror there was a trail of rainbows behind me on the damp pavement in glowing LGBTQ colours. Of course that would offend someone. I had a serious oil leak and was very lucky to not have run my engine out of oil. I braced myself for the inevitable acid strata council letter. Sure enough! It arrived. Welcome home. You can guess what my plans are. Due South. Open the border por favor.

All is well!
Thanksgiving Sunday in the park.
Home Port, Ladysmith
One of two happy old dogs reunited.

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou

Finally

Gold Creek. A final glimpse of local summer haunts. Now the whole Kootenay summer is in the rear view mirror.

It is October first, a stellar Kootenay autumn day. The sky is a deep blue, the leaves are turning shades of rich bronze, yellow and red. The tamarack are beginning to turn an amazing gold. The colour comes to the top of the trees and then settles downward until half the forest is brilliant with autumn. A few more cold nights and the bull elk will be bugling. There are indelible sounds I’ve heard in the woods such as the call of elk challenging other bulls and the scream of cougars. The howling and yipping of wolves can never be forgotten and this morning I awoke to a serenade of coyotes. Familiar and comforting, to me it was a fitting song of farewell. I’m leaving, going back to Vancouver Island to reckon out what comes next.

Fred’s travelling circus.

Even my little buddy Squirelly seemed to know I was leaving. He came closer to me than ever before and was not, for once, skittish when I moved. It would not be long before he’d be sitting on my knee taking nuts from my hand but he’s best off to remain wild and self-reliant. After a day and a half of packing, my tools and most of my other belongings were stowed into the truck camper and trailer. I have acquired no new “stuff” but could not fit in all that I had brought with me in the spring. I cannot explain it. I’ve left behind my barbecue and my deck shelter, aka the wedding tent. There is just no room. Both are well-used, they owe me nothing but an explanation about the mystery of expanding stuff. My little trailer is groaning under its burden, the axle and drawbar are bowed from their load.

Don’t laugh, it’s all paid for…. And it does everything for me that $200,ooo. of mortgaged shiny RV does!
Feel free to feed the Sasquatch!

I’ve finally driven northward from the Newgate area. Wistful about departing I did not look back. The Kootenay region has a flavour which I love but the job went sour (or was it me) and I’m now eager to discover what lays ahead. At the moment I feel old and tired, my body is complaining about all the young man work I’ve been doing, but my projects are complete, the best is next to come, out there, somewhere around the bend. Tonight I’m sitting in some open meadows along a back country road beside the marshland along the Kootenay River just downstream of the village of Wasa. I could here the loud calls of migrating birds as the sun set. Now there is only the distant howl of tires on the highway and the throb and clatter of trains passing along the transcontinental mainline, about a kilometre distant. It is a moonless night. The stars throb and pulse in a black velvet sky. G’night.

The Kootenay River above where it becomes a man-made mess.
The Wardner Bridge. This is where the Crowsnest Highway crosses the Kootenay River and where the upper reaches of Lake Koocanusa come. In the name of progress a very beautiful river and valley have been turned into a smelly ditch for the benefit of others who never come here. A playground for Calgarians who live in a bleak prairie city, this reservoir cannot begin to compare to the Pacific Ocean.

In the morning I’m up with a fresh-perked black coffee watching as the world emerges from the dark. Despite a forecast of clear skies there is low cloud catching a tinge of pink. A bad sign, “Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” Yet the subtle colours are a visual feast. I move on. 

Lost on the highway of life, something I’m good at writing about.

Sometimes you’ve been too beat up

or haven’t healed enough

to know a good thing when you’ve found it.

Sometimes you just gravitate to the pain,

it’s what you’re used to

it’s how you recognize yourself.

It feels like home

it feels more familiar to you than love.

So that’s where you go.

You don’t know how to hold on to love, but you know how to hold on to hurt.”

…Bruce Springstein

Welcome to the swamp! A morning near Wasa.

Did I mention the wolves? I learned about a wolf sanctuary near Golden and drove a long distance out of my way to see it. It tears my heart to see beautiful wild creatures pacing incessantly behind chain link fences yet it is a necessary evil to inform the public about the incredible ignorance imposed on wolves both by government and various organizations who choose to cling to fairy tales about these magnificent and misunderstood creatures.  These were difficult photos to take through the metal fencing. The wolves are well cared for and clearly loved as they pay the price of lost freedom to hopefully improve the plight of their fellows.

A Red Wolf
“Perhaps if I lay low and blend in, he’ll go away.”
“Maybe if I give him some stink eye.”
“Just ignore him, damned human.”
A Grey Wolf
Yum! Fresh Elk roadkill.
Elk again! Elk, elk, elk!
To freedom.