The Day The Butter Melted

The beak. Or we’ll call him Ruffles. As ubiquitous as crows and ravens are, I love the rascals. This was taken with my new mobile phone from 100 yards way. Amazing!

It is one of those mornings when I am nursing a last coffee and dawdling away the last few minutes before the day’s work begins. I’ve got four projects on the go right now and I have no enthusiasm for anything. It’s just one of those days. I do understand how blessed I am to be here. I certainly miss the ocean but this country is a bit of paradise. Despite the reluctant spring weather I can think of many other places I’d rather not be. I don’t ever watch the news out here so I miss all the graphic information about the miseries around the world. An ad on YouTube extolled the wonders of a “Better butter spreader.” Really? Then there was one about how to shave and deodorize your “Man Meat.” Geez Louise! Of course I could settle for a five thousand dollar surveillance drone for only $125. Yep, I’ll just stay content in my cocoon of ignorance. Yet I can’t seem to leap into this day singing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” I know in my heart that it has to do with getting older and I left my bunny slippers at home.

This beautiful tiny old barn had me vowing to get some photos the first time I saw it. I missed the blossoms on the old fruit trees but at last I was there when the light was right.
It’s the real thing with stalls and a hayloft. It kept critters in, and out.
Let me in! Probably a bear trying to get to the apples in the tree tops.
“De arse is outta her!” A good old Eastcoast expression fits this grand old barn.

Meanwhile the lake is rising (21” yesterday) and everyone is working frantically toward the day when the houseboats are all launched and paying charter customers begin to arrive. Some are here already. One woman declared her entitlement to the washing machine because she “pays” to be here and I could “go over there”. Uhuh. Oh the answers that I choked back! Today’s temperatures are forecast to rise into the mid-thirties again and so late spring is upon us. The sun is merciless and when there is no wind even the young folk complain. As well as the dust we now have billows of thick yellow pine pollen to endure. I keep the vents on the camper closed but still there seems to be drifts of the insidious powder everywhere. When I returned after work today the butter had begun to turn to ghee. The temperature inside was in the mid thirties. A sailing friend once advised me to sail due south until the butter melted and turn left. Hmmm. Have I arrived?

Amigos at lunch.
Like bumps on a log. This is a short distance from here. Their eggs will soon be hatching. More photos to come.

I get away into the backwoods whenever I can. Spring is now in full bloom here. It is reluctant and subtle, quite unlike the boisterous explosion of colour which occurs on the coast many months earlier. The call of birds and open verdant meadows filled with fragile flowers offer a profound gentle beauty in what is a second spring for me this year. No complaints. The deer have suddenly disappeared although I see fresh tracks in the morning dust. I expect to soon see them with tiny spotted fawns close by their sides. One camera with a gawdumpous big lens sits waiting.

A new set of antlers
Last year’s fawn and mom. It’ll soon be time to move off on her own.
The country here is thick with wildlife. It is a delight to see and this once avid hunter now  has only ambitions to shot with a camera.
The ditch dammers. Along the highway in a broad ditch, beavers have taken to building dams every 100 metres or so. Their industry and ingenuity is always a wonder.

I’m without a vehicle at the moment. My old truck and camper sold to some very nice ladies and I’m now preparing my new old truck for the road ahead. It has to be inspected before it can be licensed so I have to build bits in order to extract it from beneath my new old camper. There are no dull moments in this peaceful country. Fatigue is a constant for this old fart but it’s all good. I’ll be tanned and acclimatized for a winter in Mexico. Mucho Gusto!

My new old Bigfoot and my home. More to come next blog. “Don’tcha buy no ugly truck!
“I think it needs a bit of a tune up.” It started first pull despite this filter and a tank of stale gas. I have become an ‘Organic Mechanic.’
I posted this photo a few blogs back and called it ‘Given Up’
Here it is now.
Spring in the woods
Natural old growth forest Kootenay style.
“You old fossil!” Old bones still standing.
Kerplunk, kerstump. When the big lake rises this hollow in the field fills to make a small lake. The stumps are from when the forest grew in this natural basin.
Above the stump lake subtle beauties appear all too briefly.
Thar be stories in those stones.
As the lake rises, grass on the flats greens up and cattle come down off their range to gorge themselves.
The lake also rises. The docks are awash and afloat. Soon they’ll be jammed with houseboats, raucous folks with their squealing children. There will be the howl of jet skis and powerboats. For now the peace is to be stored away. The yellow scum by the docks is pine pollen.
Magic. A Koocanusa campsite. The bright spot is a lovely oil painting someone has screwed to the tree.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” –

The Fredshed

Oh the captions:
-Wild thing!
– Old Buck
– Horny?
– Nice hat
– Deer me.

It has been over a month since I arrived and unloaded my tools. Already! I set up camp and named it Fredville, then moved another one hundred metres to a better site. That involved nearly losing my old camper. It had to be raised to move the truck back underneath. Extended to the top of their travel, the four spindly jacks began to bend as one leg gave way, probably because of the powdery silt everything sits on here. For a few minutes the wobbling apparition looked a bit like an odd dog trying to pee with one hind leg in the air. Fortunately all’s well that ends. With some quick and adroit help the camper survived unscathed. I was amazed that the corners had not torn out of the camper under the extreme abuse. A thorough inspection reveal only minor repairs were required. She’s one tough old box!

My move was also into a new (to me) old camper and truck, much bigger and with more conveniences, like a bathroom. Yep it’s fixity fix all over again. However, I can see this camper on a newer truck eventually and the old Ford diesel truck presently under it has some life in her yet. She’s also the perfect vehicle for Mexico, nothing sexy about it to scream “Shiny Uppity Gringo.” So life progresses and I don’t have to go outside to change my mind anymore. Of course I already need a little more space but a regular workaday life would have been nearly impossible in the smaller unit which is now for sale. Wonderfully there have been many happy moments crammed (I guess that’s a pun) into the short time I’ve had it.

Wanna buy a truck and camper?
She’s a fine old ride.

Spring has finally arrived here. We haven’t had a frost for two weeks. The alder trees burst into leaf and then one day the Tamarack, otherwise known as Larch, have suddenly burst into a full rich chlorophyll green. No longer black in their winter nudity the next transformation will come in autumn when the needles will turn a wonderful golden colour. That is a time of year when the sky is a special deep blue, an incredible contrast above the larch needles and capped with the shivery sound of bugling bull elk. But now it is spring becoming summer here among the mountains. It’s best to pay attention because it all goes very quickly.

Tamarack came back.
What a shade of green!
The trees are green again and the road is flooded but still passable. I saw a lovely cinnamon bear a little further along.

While working I lifted far too much weight in a moment of foolishness and blew out my old back. I could barely walk. Through a friend I was referred to a local man who describes himself as an Osteopathic Practitioner. I will only say that he fixed my back through an interesting process completely new to me and suggested ideas that other doctors have previously and abruptly dismissed. I am very cynical about many practitioners of various disciplines, especially Western medicine, but heartily recommend this man to anyone. He is tucked away in a quiet rural setting, is neither arrogant or ostentatious. He is known as a healer. People come from far and wide to see him. I’d be happy to give more information to anyone who is interested.

The Fredshed. I built the porch and steps which double as an outdoor work bench. The rocking chair wasn’t salvageable. Can’t find a corncob pipe nor a banjo.
The Fredshed hammer.
Just bring it back!
Everything here gets used to the last gasp.
I’ve got my working fingers back and yes they’re painful. It’s even hard to type at times. No cream or treatment seems to work.

Life goes on here as we optimistically advance toward what is fully booked as a very busy season. We’ll see how the Covid Culture and policing evolves in the next few weeks. We may yet be unemployed for the summer. The workers and the business owner’s family all get along quiet well with mutual respect and tolerance. It is grand to feel this positive camaraderie, especially after some of the dark situations I’ve known previously. After renovating and organizing a small work shed it has been named the “Fredshed”. Folks are happy to be able to find hardware and tools. And meanwhile I’m enjoying a second spring this year after coming from the coast. I’m looking forward to discovering more local magic within a short radius. I’ll keep you in the picture.

The spring flowers here seem shy and well hidden. This little beauty was about 3/8″ wide.
More tiny blossoms.
Wot? Me shy? Wild sunflowers are random and nearly everywhere.
Each grocery run allows me to indulge in a meal out. Next door to the old firehall pub is the police station. There was some impromptu live entertainment as a dramatic “domestique” unfolded on the street complete with mother-in-law and two burly constables. The food and service were fine.
A Kootenay moment at a roadside stop on the way to town.
The new front desk.
I built the desk from rough lumber, or “barnwood.” It was a worthwhile challenge.
And here it is at work. Roxy the dog keeping an eye on things.
They visit regularly and although completely wild will tolerate a close interaction with people.
They’ll soon be birthing their fawns. Check this one’s Walkman/ tracking gadget.
Koocanusa lonesome. This lovely little houseboat sits alone waiting for the water level to rise. One of our staff lives here.
Here’s a better look at Malcom’s houseboat. Although she’s not salty, she’s well kept and a lovely wee floating home. The water continues to rise.
A Koocanusa wind damnit. The powdery silt is a gritty fact of life.
May 20th. The wind is bitterly cold as snow squalls march down the far side of the valley.
When the lake reaches it upper levels it will lap at the top of these banks.

It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke

Trails to Two cities

(Sod’em and go for more)

Austere and foreboding this abandoned smelter sits at Wardner on the banks of the Kootenay River. Like many towns it met its demise when a new highway was built two kilometers upstream.

For the summer seasons this year I’m living and working for Sunshine Houseboat Rentals and Marina. It’s located on the West side of Lake Koocanusa at Gold Bay. We are located only a few kilometres north of the border with Montana. Although I desperately miss the ocean it is beautiful here. One of the things I enjoy is its remoteness. The two nearest communities where you can buy groceries and the things you need are Fernie and Cranbrook. They are each about an hour away on paved roads, longer if you choose to admire the scenery and also watch out for the copious herds of deer and elk.

If you meander northeasterly from here you come to Fernie. An hour and a few minutes to the west is Cranbrook. Both are nice friendly places with their own personalities. Cranbrook is the larger town with plenty of box stores and industrial suppliers. It has an airport regularly served with flights from both Vancouver and Calgary. (well, it used to in pre-covid times) The railway, mining, logging, ranching and tourism appear to be the mainstays of the local economy. The lakes and ski hills draw people year-round.

Here is a photo essay of the two communities (I don’t know whether to call them small cities or large towns) I used to worry about what I’d find to photograph but I doubt now there’ll seldom be a cold camera.

The Elk River just downstream of Fernie from the west. It’s stunning country even in early spring.
Catholics! A grand edifice built in a small town. It seems a bit vain with glistening mountains towering all around.
The church and then the law. Across the street from the mini-cathedral an imposing courthouse.
Passenger rail service has gone the way of the Dodo bird. This old station has been converted to shops and a museum of sorts. It would have once been the center of the community.
In Cranbrook the former train station from Elko has been moved and reinstalled as part of a large rail museum.
Enough said
Not today
I remember when these locomotives replaced steam power; a lifetime ago. It makes me feel old.
Old like this. It reminded me of a favourite childhood book ‘The Little Engine That Could’   “I think I can, I think I can.”
I’ll be back, it’s quite a museum.
Just look for the old watering tower
Closed. Definitely! Manana. Not today.
The Tin Elephant
I had to cross the highway and check this out.
The rest of the story
Trust me to head into the back alleys of downtown to find the pulse of a place.
I found this sitting in an older neighbourhood filled with beautiful little old homes
The Sammy
Clearly a residential hotel
The drama of life, an emergency vehicle tends an alley crisis.
A cosmopolitan brunch on the street at the Mt. Baker Hotel. At first glance, Cranbrook appeared to be little more than a monster strip mall, but it has depth, culture and lots of friendly, helpful people.
“Eat here and get greased” I couldn’t resist the unintentional humour of this sign.
Across the street, town deer have a fully organic lunch. They appear to be completely oblivious to the traffic whizzing past.
Back to Wardner again. This photo shows the old bridge in use shortly before a new one was put into service. The information is displayed on the location of the remaining footings about where the Texaco sign once stood.
Posted beside the photo is this excellent map of the Kootenay/Columbia Rivers and dam system. It is an amazing balancing act, conserving water for winter use yet addressing the needs of various fish stocks and sometimes using calculations for flow rates of millions of cubic feet of water per second.
There’s no math required to see what a beautiful place it is living on the banks of the Kootenay River
A peek upstream from the footings of the old bridge. More fresh snow is on the mountains beyond the roll of low cloud. 
Back to the old smelter for a few final shots. This corner with the chain left me with a sense of a former prison.
The walls have stories
What wonderful childhood memories must come from this place.
The Wardner’s wife?
A Kootenay window

 

Discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

… Marcel Proust

Bong, Bonk, Boink

Bong!
Bonk, Boing

The place on Lake Koocanusa where I now live and work is filled with those noises every morning and evening. There are over two dozen houseboats stored close together in the yard waiting for the return of summer’s high water levels on the lake. The sounds comes from the daily heating and cooling of the pontoons on these boats. As the air inside them expands and contracts, the sides of the huge aluminum containers flex according to the changing pressure. It’s a bit unnerving at first but after a couple of weeks I don’t even hear the daily percussive concert anymore. But I also do not hear sirens, traffic or any other urban din. At night there is complete silence except for the odd calling flock of migrating birds. It is bliss.

Needless to say when the occasional client arrives and cranks up their stereo I feel an instant fury. I don’t understand why folks come here to escape the impositions of their urban home environments and then impose themselves on their fellows. I understand I’ll have to endure this din all the summer long so I may as well learn to dance. Haar! Presently I awaken to the calls of redwing blackbirds, meadowlarks, the chatter of magpies and Stellar jays. Passing flocks of cranes and geese call day and night. Herds of deer graze within a few feet of my camper. My biggest joy has been to see a real mountain bluebird. Those fleeting moments of iridescent blue are indelible, what a fantastic sight. No, I did not have a camera handy.

Surprise! April 11th, returning from Alberta I found a nice place to spend the night beside the railway at Crowsnest Pass. This photo begs a moose to step into it.
It has been a long time since I’ve been near a railway. We don’t have a working one on Vancouver Island. They are fast and quiet, no more clickety-clack with all-welded rails. This is a westbound grain train.

A tribute in Sparwood to the miners who have died supporting their families and making the mine owners wealthy.

The weather here is amazingly fickle. It can be warm and calm then raining with a blasting wind and back to the former state of spring all within a half-hour. Deceived by a balmy spring day I headed off to buy groceries in Fernie wearing shorts and sandals but arrived there to find myself in a sleet storm. My fluorescent white legs were brighter than the snow on the mountains and I felt like a complete idiot. I lay awake at night wondering how this old fool ended up here so very far from the sea.

A fireless locomotive. filled with compressed air or steam this was used to haul lo ore carts out of the ground. It was crude but a huge improvement over using donkeys or women and children.
This mini behemoth sits beside the highway in Elko.
The Waldo Church. Turning off the highway at Elko the road to Koocanusa takes one by the place names of Baynes Lake and Waldo. This, I think, is the proper size for a church.

I find the work pleasantly challenging and varied. I may be bent over a boat motor one hour, then doing carpentry work for a while and then perhaps consulting about a fibreglass project all in the same day. I awake in the morning to see if there is any frost then sit with the gentle burble of the coffee percolating and wonder what the hell I’m doing here. Is this the end of the line for me or is it a window to new beginnings? That, of course, is entirely up to me. I’ve just bought a new mobile phone which is an amazing camera as well as a task master of several other abilities. We use our phones as a communication system around the eight acres where we work. To more easily charge the “device” I’ve also purchased a charger which works simply by sitting my cell phone on top of it. No plugs or brackets. It’s magic! I asked the clerk in the phone store if they sold a charger big enough for me to sit on. Struth! I need one.

‘Morning Bambi. Sitting inside my camper waiting for the coffee to percolate. She is feeding on the succulent new grass sprouting up among the carpet of pine needles.
Gold Bay morning, Lake Koocanusa

This anonymous quote was sent to me by a friend. Thank you to everyone for the tidbits you send me. They help.

The single biggest thing I learned was from an indigenous elder of Cherokee descent, Stan Rushworth, who reminded me of the difference between a Western settler mindset of “I have rights” and an indigenous mindset of “I have obligations.” Instead of thinking that I am born with rights, I choose to think that I am born with obligations to serve past, present, and future generations, and the planet herself.”

The Corner Of Seemore And Didless

The Corner of Seemore and Didless

Exploring the Indian Graves Road, just north of Chain Lakes. It was beautiful despite the mud and fresh spring snow.
Beaver spring. The fat furry rodents are thriving and prolific in the foothills.
Alone. Security in obscurity. Imagine a winter night alone with a tiny wood stove and a flickering lantern. Coyote’s howl as the wind moans around your tiny abode. But, first came the tiny home…
…Then came the little red barn.
A view to die for
In the lee under a cold front

After my boat inspections were complete and truck repairs were finished I sallied forth hoping to take a day or too just for being and taking some photos. I love the foothill country of Alberta and actually concede to a growing affection for the wide open flat country and the big blue sky overhead. I also hold a delight for old buildings and there are still a few of those standing. Eventually I found a place to park for the night where I could see for miles in all directions. I hunkered down to watch the ever-changing light and the sun setting through an approaching storm. The next day I poked about in the Old Man River area. The weather flipped between snow squalls and exquisite warm sunny spells. It was an exquisite day. Here are some of my photos.

It’s about a lifestyle
Apparently a local tradition that goes for miles.
Set for the night at the corner of Seemore And Didless
In the morning
Bitter cold a breathtaking light
At that corner the winding moaned in the poles and wires
Storm’s end
An hour later
A split decision
To my great delight I found the Cowley Sailplane Airfield. Once again I was a child at a grass airstrip, and the memories came flooding back.
Says it all
Many sailplane altitude records have been set from this field.
The launching winch. It is parked at the upwind end of the active runway and the line is hooked to a sailplane at the opposite end. On a signal the aircraft is winched forward at high speed. By the time the the sailplane releases the line it can be at 2000′ when it passes above the winch.
A rare find, it still works…and I know how to work it.
The water was sulphurous.
Great faded pen art.
The old horse shed. Note the gnawed board on the stable gate.
Hay the modern way.
The ubiquitous symbol of modern Alberta. Up and down, round and round, sucking raw crude out of the ground.
Earth, wind, sky, horses.

What a thousand acres of Silphiums looked like when they tickled the bellies of the buffalo is a question never again to be answered, and perhaps not even asked.”
― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There

Razorbacks And Pit Bulls

Razorbacks and Pitbulls

Country roads and April dust

The mission, which I chose to accept, was to drive to central Alberta and inspect some boats for a potential buyer. I have never before driven through the Crowsnest Pass. It was beautiful and dramatic. The mountains capped with an entire winter’s load of glistening snow towered dramatically. Wildlife bounded all around and driving required open eyes. I emerged to turn north onto highway 22 which leads toward Calgary and all points beyond. I braced myself for the dull prairie drive ahead. I was heading for a town near Red Deer well into the belly of the province. It is a long way and I thought I’d be driving on and on, consumed with white line fever. But I did stop, repeatedly. There are winning photographs everywhere. Eventually you concede that you’ll have to leave most of them behind. This drive must be among the most beautiful in Canada, with the Rockies in the background, peaks peeking up behind the foothills and the rich ranch land in this rolling country. For me, it is the quintessential Canadian cowboy West. Perhaps all those rolling vistas remind me of being out on the open ocean. In any case I was driving in country new to me and I loved it.

Into the mystic brown prairie spring

I finally arrived just before dark at a motel near where the boat was supposed to be and settled in for a night. The long forgotten sounds of a nearby railway kept my weary head awake for a while but those rumblings and hootings are the anthem of the prairies. I drifted off with snatches of ancient cowboy songs about trains drifting through my brain.

A crow’s nest
Which way to the 7-11?

A morning rendezvous lead me up rolling dusty gravel roads to where the boat sat. Water is a far more precious commodity than the copious supplies of oil and gas in this province. I was amazed at how dry everything was for early April. But then, they’re having a drought and I’m a coastal boy. All the dry brown and sepia tones unsettled me but there is a stark beauty everywhere. At the end of a long country road there sat the boat, high and dry, looking incongruous and sad. The young man brokering this amazing find from Lake Diefenbaker in Saskatchewan had it towed to his uncle’s Alberta farm. He had apparently traded it for some Harley Davidson motorcycles and then hauled the old classic the hundreds of miles on a beautiful trailer which had no working brakes and jury rigged tail lights. I commended his temerity and he said that he reckoned folks would be “So amazed at seeing Noah’s ark rolling across the prairies that they’d never notice the trailer.” Uhuh!

The mission: 1999 Trojan 37′ mahogany-hulled former beauty queen. Her lines are still evident but rebuilding her to her former glory would be an expensive career.

The farm itself was a rambling collection of old trucks, farm machinery, a jumble of shipping containers, and a few mobile homes jammed together. The inhabitants I met were a few young men in steel-toe boots and baseball hats who were surrounded by a swirling mob of large pitbulls. Despite those boy’s angst I was easily able to befriend their four-legged pals and soon learned that their “Pig farm” raised giant razorback hogs which were then sold to various groups who liked to release them and then hunt them down. Sport? They are infamously vicious critters, (both the hunters and the hogs.) The boar was easily three hundred pounds and stood staring me down with his tiny pig eyes and clacking his six inch tusks. I asked if I could photograph them and after glances among themselves, the young fellows reluctantly agreed. I was told that they do not go inside the fence with these infamous creatures without a stout stick and someone standing by outside with a rifle. I began to remember the movie ‘Deliverance’ and remembered the part about being asked to squeal. Much to everyone’s relief, including mine, I left. I mused that maybe this could pass for a movie set of a meth lab. The place did not have a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Fat ladies with tiny feet.
They called her Cuddles. I wonder if there are any pig whisperers? Razorback hogs are not known to be good house pets.
A room with a view. This elevator apparently stores barley.

After a sojourn to Calgary to inspect some more boats that day I found myself in Cochrane, about thirty miles to the West. It had been a very long day. The slogan on the community’s welcome sign says “The West as it is now.” That is very sad. Endless rows of enormous shit-brindle brown houses are jammed together in a way that is reminiscent of old industrial English row housing. Eeech! Each house id large and verey comfortable but Geez Louse! There’s a whole prairie out there. There are many long beautiful hiking trails, moose are often seen in local parks, the mountain views are spectacular, but I repeat, eeech! I remember this place as a quaint little old cow town of less than five thousand folks. Now God knows how many people have swelled its borders and continue to infect it like a virus. A bedroom community for sprawling Calgary, the downtown of Cochrane has been made-over with a faux western theme now that lends a Disneyland effect to what was once a real cow town. Now everything is about impressions. Malls with all the box stores, car dealers, industrial parks and pretentious clone-box suburbs spread like cancer across rich farming country.

Big houses on the prairie. Even the lake is man-made.
Yes really!
The gas plant says it all. It was  farm land not so long ago.
This is how I remember Cochrane
A morning view from a dining room. A great way to sit with a morning coffee. Even this sailor found it incredible.
Got it?
Calgary in the distance. It is growing beyond anyone’s belief.

It was splendid to visit with some very dear friends who live in one of those boxes. They, at least, have a spectacular view from their corner lot. The light and the clouds change incessantly. That panorama is mesmerizing but they want to move. Folks in their area have an aggressively friendly manner. They peer into windows as they walk by and wave at you inside. They lean over the fence and gormlessly speculate on what my friends are doing in their own yard. Everyone means well I’m sure, but it’s hard to live with after a while especially if you treasure your privacy.

After a wonderful visit it was time to move on. My truck was reloaded, final hugs and promises were made. The starter on my truck decided to expire right there in their driveway. My finances are tight and it was certainly not what was needed but instead of being parked in a distant backwoods mud puddle, or a razorback hog farm, there I was on a dry concrete slab, among friends, in town. Their very gracious help allowed me to make repairs right there in the driveway. By that time late in the day they were stuck with me for another night. You’ve got to wonder how the god’s minds work. I’m not complaining. Thank you so much Ann and Randy.

The next morning I sallied forth with a few days to point my cameras at whatever I liked. And so I have. Eventually that day I parked on a level patch within the void between an intersection between two gravel country roads. These roads are smoother than many paved ones in BC and the locals hurtle along them at amazing speeds. They’d slow right down to ponder the spectacle that I must have presented. “Git the shotgun Doreen, there’s a stranger squattin’ down on the corner of Seemore and Didless! Dang tourist I reckon. Need to run him off afore more turn up. Goldang it anyhow.” I slept in the camper feeling as if I were in a boat, the wind buffeted and moaned all night. In The morning greeted me with a skiff of snow and dramatically changing light. It was wonderful.

A room with a view. Note the windmills in the distance.
Morning!
A sailor is called in Longview Alberta

I ambled along the back roads in a sort-of homeward direction contentedly taking photos and chasing windmills. This is a notoriously windy area and there are spinning windmills in all directions for many miles. Don Quixote rides on!

The purple towel hung by the front gate whenever her husband was away on another trip. A small store converted to a tiny downtown home.

Throughout the day, several snow squalls blew out of the north. In one place I hiked a kilometer from the truck to video a row of whirling windmills. I returned to the truck as another vicious squall struck and realized that I’d dropped my glasses, somewhere. I hiked back, bent into the wind and worried they’d be covered in the pelleting snow. Exactly as far back as I had first gone, I found them winking at me.

After one final stop in Pincher Creek I drove westward looking for a good place to park for the night. I’m writing this near noon of the next day parked beside the CPR mainline in Crowsnest Pass. It has snowed several inches overnight and more flurries continue. I’m in no hurry.

The tin yurt. a herd of white tail deer watched from from the distance beyond the aspens.

I’ve edited my heap of photos and videos and sit writing while wondering what to do with the remains of the day. Perhaps I should drive back up the hill to the highway before it snows more. Did I mention that it is April eleventh?

I have far too many photos for one blog so the next few will be a series of photo essays. I will be able to fill my evenings posting them while I settle into my new fate at Lake Kookanusa. Happy trails indeed.

The way we were
CLOSE THE GATE!

Instead of my usual ending with a quote here is a link to the time-worn sound of Wilf Carter singing ‘Springtime In The Rockies.’ It’s corny, but Wilf was a father of Canadian country music and his songs are the sound of a life much simpler. I, for one, miss it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpPIDiUt2ec

Greenwood

Greenwood

Rotting decorative corners make a home for birds. Just a bit of fading former glory.

My recent peregrination along the most southerly highway in British Columbia offered many delights. I am fascinated with old farms, mines and towns along the back roads I love to travel. Bittersweet feelings fill my head at times about the tremendous industry which goes into building dreams that eventually fall into decay and ruin. I marvel at how all that effort is so easily abandoned. But then that has always happened with civilization and someday our endeavours will merely be another mound to be explored by future archaeologists.

Mainstreet Greenwood, Saturday afternoon. Park anywhere.
Greenwood skyline
More skyline
It still works
What’s a Linely?
A busy moment. Gringo parked in front of liquor store under the old Sears sign. Sears: the
Amazon of the past.
A social opportunity
On a main street store door
The devil is in the details
City Hall and communal internet
Across the street
Good old growth wood
A faded dignity
The original, still-functioning fire hall appears to be a fire hazard itself
Lazier than flies on a warm tin door
Poor planning “Safety First”
There’s a newer hose truck inside… I hope
Old Spokey

This blog is a simple photo essay on the town of Greenwood. Once a bustling wealthy mining center with a smelter it is now a quiet, remote community struggling to stay alive. Photos of Greenwood are usually of its smelter and huge hideous slag piles. I chose to share a few minutes on a Saturday afternoon strolling around the main blocks of its downtown, where people lived. It typifies a lot of small North American communities stubbornly clinging to a time which was very different and is rightfully cherished. Have a look, maybe find an ice cream and get a tattoo. Then drive on.

An old store on main street was filled with ancient electric stoves, toasters and appliances. an odd and interesting collection.
Hot dog!
Flip toasters row on row
Original boxes
Signs of the times
Breakfast of Champions
Meat Draw
Look up.
You’ve always wanted a sailing ship tattooed on your…!

No child on earth was ever meant to be ordinary, and you can still see it in them, and they know it, too, but then the times get to them, and they wear out their brains learning what folks expect, and spend their strength trying to rise over those same folks.”

…Annie Dillard ‘The Living’

A Dog Named Stoppit

Home waters, a last glimpse for a while.

I was loading up my old camper when a neighbor three doors down began yelling at her dog. It’s a lovely German Shepard which never gets a walk and barks incessantly from the confines of its back yard. The owner is a woman who has a loud penetrating smokers voice, full of gravel and venom. “Stoppit, STOPPIT!” It has occurred to me that she might be shouting at her husband. This barking/shouting routine has become neighborhood white noise through the years. It may even be missed when it ends, rather like a cancelled train.

Front row seat. “When you’re being run out of town, get to the front of the crowd and make it look like a parade.” The ferry fare was a small fortune to me.
Imagine what the other guy paid for a ticket. His RV went on for another six feet and…he was towing a vehicle. And…he was from Covid Ontario.

Perhaps my presence may be missed when it ends as it does this morning. I’m leaving on my next adventure today. Ladysmith will have to struggle on without me. Yeah right! The clear sky brightens slowly with a dull pink then turns to a subtle gold. A heavy dew covers everything and this is near the moment when it may suddenly freeze. I fell into a deep sleep in front of the television last night. I awoke in the middle of a documentary about the work of Sebastiao Salgado, the renowned photojournalist. I was in a peculiar state, neither asleep nor fully awake and unable to move as a parade of stunning black and white images moved in front of me. Each shot was more dramatic and surreal, a thousand views of hell and the unspeakable cruelty and suffering of the human race. Those images are still racing in my brain this morning. I try to distract myself while I finish packing. Somewhere up the back alley more dogs bark. The dew freezes and all the roofs are suddenly white.

I drive the line. My preferred route around the lower mainland megalumpalous is along Zero Avenue. It is the forty ninth parallel and the Canada/Us border.  That’s Amurica in the ditch. Note the vertical line in the fresh snow above the road on the ridge in the distance, it goes on like for the next few thousand miles. The need for speed bumps is obvious and a reminder of Mexico.
TOPE!

A first night sleeping in the camper just east of the town of Hope is followed by a drive through the mountains and over the passes into the interior. I miss the ocean dearly, both the smell and the idea of it. Enough said. The light of the rising sun draws me on into breathtaking vistas, over passes and into dark winding valleys. There are spectacular scenes of an entire winter’s snow lining ice-crusted clear streams but snow holds no fascination for me. I’ve had more than enough in my life time. Emerging into the high open country of the Similkameen I miss a stunning shot of eagles and ravens milling around the carcass of a road-killed elk. I double back but they are gone. In a few more miles there is a puff of dust high up on a rocky slide and a herd of Big Horn rams melee about like school boys at recess. It’s a glorious day and I amble onward, the truck with its full camper and overloaded trailer a sight from a ponderous odyssey.

Boys will be boys. If they had not been kicking up dust I would never have noticed them. Big Horn Sheep.
What you get when you combine redneck sensibilities with a n old German car
Osooyos, a view from a lookout on Anarchist Hill
Ever want to be a bug on someone’s wall? This is a friend’s house in Penticton.
A splendid gift. There’s a lot of love in those jars. I must return the empties.
Just a little imagination can be a lot of fun.
Days gone by. Pirated from an old photos of former glories in Rock Creek. The dogs all wore moccasins on their front feet, except for the lost one.
Memories for me. I learned to cook on a woodstove much like this.
A hint of spring comes in the interior.
Over the keening of the wind I can hear the faint tinkle of children’s laughter.
This is in a gorgeous valley which lays beneath Anarchist Mountain. This old homestead has been a favourite on BC calendars for decades.
The old line shack. Imagine winter nights alone.

After visiting with a friend in the South Okanogan for over a day I head eastward up the steep passes and down into the next valley beyond. I’m either burning up the truck’s motor with my heavy load or trying not to cook the brakes while racing down toward the next tight bend. There is deep crusted snow near each summit and sad little towns in each valley. I drive until past another ruin of a community named Yahk where I found a good place to park for the night. I sleep well.

Where the pipeline crosses the railway along the Moyie River
A noisy welcome.
Summer Kerplunk
A wonderful place to camp. A delicious leftover curry and an elk’s jawbone for a poker. There are beasties everywhere…until hunting season.
SLAM! A few miles before Cranbrook I see this. Of all the vehicles I’ve owned I loved my old Toyota FJ. This guy has a yard full for sale.
Be still my beating heart!
Lake Koocanusa, “that’s easy for you to say!” I had to cross the bridge to get to the my jobsite. It’s simply know by the employees as “Sunshine.”

On day four I arrive at my destination, Lake Koocanusa. If I can’t be by or on the ocean this is country I can love. Open grassy land with open forest of ponderosa or bull pine, tamarack also known as larch, and small fir. I find myself longing for a horse. Although I have not ridden for decades this is a broad wide valley leading southward which draws one’s heart onward. This lake is man made, the reservoir is behind Libby Dam on the Kootenay River in Montana, one hundred forty kilometers to the south. Incongruously the river then arches northward back into Canada where it joins the Columbia River near Castlegar. My first glimpse of it is a sailor’s nightmare. There are shallow sandbars everywhere and from my high vantage point I see only safe passage for tiny boats. Of course spring runoff has yet to begin when the lake’s surface will rise almost forty feet. In a seaman’s perspective these waters have only one annual tide with high water late in the summer and low slack right about now. The dam releases water as required to generate electricity and to offer some flood control, good things I know, but my heart aches for what this beautiful broad valley was like when it was untouched.

First impression
“We’re here because we’re not all there.” No I wasn’t stuck…just stretching my legs after a very long drive.
A small circus train or, clown in transit.

Judging by the copious amount of elk and deer droppings it would have been a treasure to first nations people and the early settlers. It was indeed a valley worth fighting for although there should have been plenty for everyone. But need and greed are very different notions. The miners have torn at the bowels of this rich country, the loggers have raped the timber clear to mountain tree lines in places, the ranchers have fenced nearly everywhere. Politicians and industrialists flooded and destroyed the rich river bottom. Yet this valley still holds a rare beauty and I in turn will exploit some of that grandeur while I am here.

The balmy winds of afternoon were pushed away by a wall of lowering grey cloud bearing down the valley from the Northwest. It brought a piercing cold and soon I sheltered in the camper. It was buffeted by pelting horizontal rain on one side and a while later the onslaught came on the opposite side. “Springtime in the Rockies” I abandoned my notion of sitting by the campfire to admire the sunset over my new kingdom.

Often, I find, it is the morning after arrival at a destination which reveals a first true impression of the place. Perhaps one absorbs some sort of local cosmic energy or maybe a night’s sleep allows one to fully open their eyes to their new environment. “Holy shit, I never noticed that yesterday!” This morning dawned clear and cold. The sky was wide and blue, the northwest wind was a gentle knife. The dried cow pies in this meadow all bore a glint of sparkling frost. I soon retreated back into the warmth of my little man box. I feel fine. If the plan uncoils as anticipated I start a new job here for the next half-year. So here I am. Sixty-nine years old and starting over once again. Fools and newcomers line up on the left, old farts on the right and all of the above in the middle. Haar!

After the squall

Moved on. All that dreaming, hard work, hardship and then it gets left behind. ” The plans of mice and men.”
Hoof it! The Koocanusa speed controllers. They’re everywhere, skittish, fat, sassy.
Some wear shoes.
Some don’t. That’s a deer track, the whitetails are huge
It’s hard to walk without stepping in these, the woods are like a barnyard.
There’s all sorts of wildlife

A week after leaving Vancouver Island I find myself on a bleak, cold morning in the center of Alberta. I’m going to survey a boat this morning and yes, I feel a very long way from the ocean. I’m now behind by two or three blogs, there is no shortage of material. The blog goes on.

Big enough? Parallel park this puppy on a hill in town. Allegedly the world’s biggest truck… at the time.
Clamber…up there! When you get to the top the first thing you notice is a whole lot more mountains. So you go back into the valley and start climbing again.

Keyboard Warrior

Last day of the tulips. There is nothing more beautiful than a bunch of faded flowers.

There is a British actor on YouTube who calls himself Johnathon Pie. Most folks are convinced that he is a genuine reporter who has had enough of the smarmy syrup we have come to expect from our media. He delivers scathing abuses of politicians in general and I love his acid, ranting satire. He also attacks journalists at times and “keyboard warrior” is a term he employed which I thought was wonderfully descriptive. Am I one myself? Dunno? I’m just trying to do my bit to persuade some folks to ask questions and get off their dufus to go see a bit more of their world; and someone else’s as well.

Command center of the keyboard warrior. This is the setting up process of a wonderful new tiny printer, excellent for my summer ahead living in my tiny camper.
Thank you Jill.
The paperboy still comes by. Downtown Ladysmith
Say no more.
The leaning fence.       Take that as you will.
The widow’s window continued to look out on the harbour long after she was last seen.
Image irresistible.   It’s a lovey wee town.   Next hanging at noon.
The crime had to do with obscenity. I assume this is supposed to be funny. In the quest for attention it is an ultimate statement of low self-esteem. Does mom let him/her park in front of the house?

You will see some changes with this blog (number 335) and there will be a few more modifications to come. The blog has now been renamed DRIFTWORD.

The url seafirechronicles.com will still get you there and now so will driftword.ca. I reckoned that the old handle is misleading as the boat it was named after is two years behind me. There is no point in grieving about the loss of my beloved home, temple and magic carpet. I will miss her dearly forever but I also repeatedly write that you cannot steer a steady course by looking back at your wake. It is time to look ahead to the days I have left. Life has no rewind buttons and there is no point in musing about that which cannot be changed.

Wild and free
Currantly showing
The inner beauty of age
Rain Coming

There will undoubtedly be another serious boat in my future, life for me just does not seem whole without a life afloat. However, I have discovered there is adventure out of sight, sound and smell of the sea and in fact I found a new passion deep in the desert. Oddly, wonderfully I am filled with the same sense of wholeness which I know when out of sight of land. Perhaps a happy compromise will be in a place like Baja where life is lived on an edge between ocean and desert.

I was delighted to discover this center light in a local Tapas Bar. Simple and very cool.

Another dramatic change is about to be my location. I am entertaining the idea of a summer’s employment at a place called Lake Koocanusa. It sounds like the title of a bad movie with someone like John Candyis a real location located in the East Kootenays and the border between British Columbia and Montana. There is a long man-made reservoir on the Kootenay River which extends northward 150 kilometres from the Libby Dam in the US. There is a need there for an old seadog with a wide skillset and so I go. Apparently the job begins with a visit to a pig farm in Central Alberta where sit some old wooden boats to survey. Adventure or ordeal, it’s always up to us to control our attitude. The gods have put me in front of an open window and ready or not, it’s boots and saddles. The adventure continues. Yeehaw, kerplunk.

Woody Lives. A new flock of bark owls is appearing with spring.
Rock art aux natural

Meanwhile here at home an old friend and his dear wife dropped by on their boat. Jimmy and I have been been buddies for thirty-nine years. We’ve laughed and cried together, shared some huge tragedies and triumphs, pissed each other off at times nearly to the death and are still friends after all these years. Jimmy is a talented singer and songwriter among many other things and we have just completed our first music video. Of course I see all the flaws, but initial reviews are very favourable. Thus encouraged we will hone our skills in future productions. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7wGZcXO0hg

An old sailor finds a job holding up a wall at the corner of Seemore and Didless in Ladysmith, “Where everyone is over the hill.”

 

And so I’m off to the mainland before I’m quarantined on Vancouver Island as the numbers of Covid varient infections seem to be on an accelerating “Uptick.” Oh the words we’d never heard a year ago.

Happy Hour at the Eagles Club. Tie your horses out back.
Sadly I must leave my beloved pal Jack behind on my next adventure. He is just too old to travel. How can a crusty old man come to love any dog so very much?
The Blues
Stay Busy

Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
Andre Gide

November Camping

Halloween blue moon over Sayward Junction.
A nautical superstition is to never begin a voyage on a Friday. We did.
Hoomak Lake dawn. A placid lake betrays the ongoing business of the North island highway and the rest area where we spent a long night. The traffic never stopped.
End of the road. A view northward from Port Hardy to the central coast and all points beyond. I miss my boat!

These breathtaking copper panels adorn the lobby of the new Kwa’lilas Hotel in Port Hardy. A venture of the local Kwakiutl First Nations the hotel is an elegant example of Neo-Westcoast architecture. It alone made my drive worthwhile. Each panel is about six feet tall and the mural portrays the history and culture of these people.

I’m starting this with the rain drumming on the metal roof of the camper. It has slowed enough for the moment to allow me to hear individual drops. This morning I first awoke to hear the wind roaring in the tree tops hundreds of feet above me. The din was like a passing high-speed train. The trees are massive ancient Sitka Spruce, already venerable when the first of us Caucasians stumbled into these swamps hundreds of years ago. The rain now crashes down again in barrel-sized dollops. Our shelter shudders under the assault. I worried about a tree falling on us but realized they had withstood far worse weather in the hundreds of years they had grown here. Many of the bases are more than ten feet across. It will take more than my dark karma to bring one of these down. The notion of a crackling campfire is a mad fantasy.

Finally! The objective after over seventy kilometers of rough muddy logging roads and a long walk. San Joseph Bay on the west side of Vancouver Island.
Jack galloped ahead as if he were suddenly ten years younger. The trek back was hell but he was determined to do it all on his own.
He trotted across the sand to inspect this creature emerging from the icy sea. It had no pockets or treats. Surfers pack their gear the entire distance of over 2.6 km in and then back out after a day in the water.
Mystery flotsam. How did this ball of copper wire manage to end up here?
A roll of bull kelp not to be confused with a load of bull.
Hawaii next stop. There are three surfers out there. What a way to celebrate being alive and young!
And then the reluctant turn back.
There is magic everywhere and the coastal rainforest seems filled with the presence of many spirits.
They lurk overhead.
They reach out as if to draw you into their boggy world.