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.
There is magic under every root.
This beauty was about twenty centimetres tall
Berry nice
The entire ecosystem depends on massive amounts of moisture. At times it seems one can reach out and wring a handful of water from the very air.
Beneath giant’s feet. The wind thundered in their tops a few hundred feet up.
Whoosh! Beside the camp spot. There was no dry firewood.
The watcher of Nahwitti Lake
The whole damned downtown. Holberg  once had upwards of 3000 people living in housing built on log rafts. It was the largest floating community in North America. It is still an operational logging center.

We arrived the day before in pristine weather. I’d wanted to find a place called Palmerston Bay but on arrival discovered a simple ending of a logging road. The slippery scramble down and back from a rocky, surf-bashed shoreline would have been too much for old Jack and so we retreated back the way we had come. The described “recreation site” proved to merely be a wider spot in a muddy trail surrounded by old logging devastation, not a place to cheer my soul. Eventually we arrived at San Joseph Bay. I hadn’t been there for over thirty years and recall being able to drive almost to the beach. Could my memory be wrong? The developments since made by the Provincial Parks people are impressive. Their pathways are like narrow highways and meander through the rain forest in a circuitous route which is far longer than I recall. It is a beautiful walk and Jack bounded ahead, full of enthusiasm for what lay around each corner ahead. I thought I’d have to carry him back but how could I impose on his joy? He was exhausted on the return walk but soldiered along determined to stay on his own pins one staggering step at a time. What an amazing character! After a long sleep he seems none the worse for wear and is, as always, eager for the next adventure.

Near Holberg is Vancouver Island’s first wind farm. In a traveller’s stop in Port Hardy, a defunct turbine blade is a grand curiosity. Take a lunch if you’re walking to the other end. This massive chunk of carbon fibre is not recyclable and consumed massive amounts of toxic substances when it was manufactured. There are some obvious green questions about the hundreds of thousands of these machines around the world: Eco-politics versus common sense.
Where the Marble River drains out of Lake Alice. Free, clean constant energy, no dams or exotic plastics required.
I remember when this engine was still working as a back-up for the diesel locomotives and to haul eco-tourists out to show them active logging operations. It seems sad to see the logging locomotive relegated to being a lawn ornament in the venerable logging community of Woss.
Old 113 is a mere 100 years old and probably still capable of earning her keep.
This photo of her at work in 1944 is how I remember seeing her in the early 90s. I’d love to hear the whistle echoing up a valley again. How fortunate to at least have the memory.

The next night we are well on our way toward home. The rain is incessant so again I sit with Jack in our little box. The winter weather has certainly made it seem much smaller when forced into confinement. Jack is cuddled against me as I sit on the edge of the bed and write. The blasting rain has revealed leaks which will, of course, be addressed once home. It is damp enough for the wallpaper to be separating for the inside panels. I curse myself for my restless nature and being up here in these conditions. Of course I look forward to going to drier country so these test runs are necessary to ensure there are no nasty surprises ahead. Tonight we sit fifty feet from the high water mark on Johnstone Strait. The wind and rain are increasing again but we are warm and dry with full tummies. Who could ask for more?

“Right then, that’s being the welcoming party done with. Let’s find a dry spot for the night, it’s going to be a wet one.”
This doe and two very healthy fawns seemed very tame when we arrived at Elk Bay on Johnstone Strait.
The next morning. The rain eased for a little while but the rising puddle made it obvious, that along with mechanical problems, it was time to pack up and reload for the next adventure.
Even this former logger was appalled by such a devastated clearcut.

Driving southward, trees with leaves began to appear and now back in Ladysmith it seems we’ve regained a month. Only two and a half degrees of latitude on an island of rugged mountainous shorelines makes a huge difference. This massive rock angles out into the North Pacific and catches hell from a very long way off. Wintry wind and rain have followed us home but as soon as repairs are made to truck and the old man box, Jack and I will be off to some local remote nook. Covid may have us trapped here, but I know the Snowbird flocks have filled every possible private campground on the island. It’s clearly a great place to be, especially with a civil war looming just south of the border.

Splendour in the grass at the edge of the sea.
The tide in the raincoast jungle. It is flooding and ebbing just as it has for a very long time.
Not a friendly place for humans, it is an amazing ecosystem.

The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
― Albert Einstein

The Plan Was

Napa Moon, October 1st. Smoke from the fires in the Napa Valley once again coloured our skies.

The woods were silent. The autumn sun rose in a clear sky, its warm light laddering down between yellow maple leaves still thick on the branches. Old Jack plodded along the trail, his breath was thick clouds of steam in each shaft of light slanting onto the ground. I walked ahead and waited for him, looking for things worth a photograph. It’s not a bad arrangement. Once, he used to run ahead and then wait for me. Damn, it is so very hard watching a beloved friend age and knowing that one day too soon he will go on to leave you alone. It is an essay on savouring the moment. It’s all anyone has; not today, certainly not tomorrow, not the next hour. Now, this moment, click, it is all we have.

So, finally my old camper is in Fred shape. I’ve even resealed all the exterior seams along the roof and sides. Oddly after forty years the old butyl sealant was hardening and even mouldy. I’ve replaced it with double layers of new material. Hopefully that will fend off the insidious leaks which come with winter rains. At last Jack and I are off to spend a few nights in it. Last night was the first sleep in our little box and now for the first time I’m sitting at my wobbly one-legged camper table with my laptop. A mug of fresh-perked strong black coffee is at my elbow.

The plan was to seek out a spot on the shores of Nitinaht Lake. The lake drains into the open ocean through a famous narrows and I’d hoped to take the inflatable boat for some exploring and filming. It won’t be happening.

Nice doghouse. Jack has accepted the camper as home and loves watching the world from the door.

This area is the homeland of the Ditidaht people. They have a community at the head of the lake and have closed the entire area to outsiders, no covid crackers. The bitter impression of what smallpox did to their population is still vivid and rightly so. I drove on by but after miles of rough logging road came upon a sign explaining that even the campground I sought was closed. Bugga! That was what I’d come for. It’s their land, and as a trespasser I cannot raise my voice but it had been a long day, I was tired, it was getting dark. We continued on the road toward the Carmanah Valley and of course couldn’t find a place to pull off for the night. Finally I turned down a side trail which looked like it was used occasionally. If folks go in, they’re able to turn around somewhere and come back out. Right?

When you are tired things can become a little weird. We drove on and on through a gauntlet of ever-thickening lashing alder branches with no place to turn around. Towing the trailer, there was no choice but to continue on into this sucker hole and beat hell out of my rig. Every turn of the wheels took us further in but there was no backing out. Full darkness settled just as we finally found a place to wiggle around to face the way out and park, fog followed soon after and continues to swirl through the tree tops this morning. In the distance we can hear the roar of surf from the open Pacific. Making its way along the coast a freighter blows its sonorous fog horn, out there somewhere, a lonely sound indeed. Overhead, mysterious birds call, Murres I wonder. We retreated into the camper for our first night and finally made some lunch at eight pm. This morning we are parked in an old quarry pointed in the correct direction to leave listening to the sounds from the grey fog, no-one, including us, knows where we are.

In a quandary in a quarry in the fog. The view must be amazing on a clear day.
For the tree huggers. It is a bleak view indeed… to the untrained eye. There’s a lot more there if you care to see.

Since the last paragraph we’ve been for a short walk and now it’s time for a warm breakfast and more coffee. After tramping for another half kilometre along this trail it is clear we drove as far as we’d dared. Thank goodness I stopped when I did. We saw some beautiful willow grouse and stupendous heaps of bear droppings, or perhaps they’re from a sasquatch. I’m soaked to the knees from all the fog condensed on the growth in the trail. Well-used elk trails cross the trail regularly. I’ve noted the yellow alder stain on the front corners of the camper. “Tough on riggin” is the older logger’s colloquialism that comes to mind. I’ll feel better when we’re back out bumping along the main road. We emerged with minimal collateral damage. Old knowledge was refreshed with only a few minor battle scars to show for my stupidity. With plans dashed, I just want to find a spot to set up camp for a few days. Obviously we are now back from our adventures. Of course on our return leg I saw a few places we could have stopped on the roadside. Hindsight! But as a friend says, “If you ain’t been aground, you ain’t been around!” I learn later that we were only four kilometres from the Carmanah campground where a friend was spending the night.

The way out seemed much shorter than the way in. It sure felt good to break out into the open and away from the lashing alder branches.

Later I write from a glorious spot. We are camped on a gravel bar of the Nitinaht River. The rolling water is crystal clear and full of spawning Chinook salmon. Upon arrival Jack flopped down on the river gravel and vigorously scratched his back. It’s a sign of great happiness. Next he trotted down to the river’s edge and had a long drink. We’re staying a while. I’m sitting at my Honda table beneath my white canopy. A cheery fire crackles a few feet away. In the dark salmon splash in the river. Bliss.

Can we stay here huh? Can we, can we? The first thing Jack did was to flop on his back and luxuriate in a long wriggling happy scratch.
Camp on the Nitinaht. It’s all ours and nobody wanted money!
The view from the camper door.

Then some yahoos arrive. In the dark as usual. They get stuck in a mud hole, there is much shouting. Tires and people squeal but finally they settle somewhere in the woods nearby. I can hear someone splitting firewood and yes, there it is, the loud pulse of their stereo, as usual. Backwoods serenity! Jack has already retreated into the camper. I’m joining him.

In the morning my friend appeared at my campsite. What a wonderful surprise. Niels is a dear friend of many years and his presence immediately lifted me out of my dark funk. He had tracked me all the way out to the Carmanah and then given up on finding me. He spent a night camping on his own. He was homeward bound when by chance he spotted my little white circus tent beside the river.

The rushing river water is crystal clear. We could clearly all the spawners. Here we can see a cutthroat trout hoping to pirate a few eggs.
Males and female. In a few days with eggs laid and fertilized, the fish die and become nutrient in the water and forest. It is an incredible drama.
Our fascination with the spawners is shared by others. This male is in prime condition and had a surly swagger.
A pink porta-pooper. A great idea, the portable composting toilet. Shovel and paper not included. Bookshelf optional.

We had a great day together watching the salmon, some well over twenty pounds. Sometimes a cutthroat trout hovers near a mating pair of salmon and tries to pirate eggs. It is all fascinating to watch this drama in crystal clear water. A handsome male black bear ambled and snacked along the opposite river bank, the song of the river and the wind kept him from noticing us; or maybe he knew what we taste like and was just not interested. Today we headed back to the east side of the island and soon emerged into brilliant sunlight and clear skies. Now we’re alone again in a campground on the south side of Lake Cowichan. Seeing a friend out in the woods was very uplifting and exactly what I needed. Thanks Niels; for everything.

Out from under the clouds on Lake Cowichan. The stars were fabulous.
Morning fog
A visitor drops in. I think it was a flying lesson for someone learning glassy water landing, perhaps the most dangerous part of float flying.

Next day, in mid-afternoon after a very lazy morning Jack and I continue to take our ease in the sun-dappled shade of a beautiful forest of second-growth fir. We are in a tiny provincial park on the south shore of Lake Cowichan for a couple of nights. Jack wanders off to explore the beach and woods for a half-hour at a time before returning to check on me. Being allowed to do that is his nirvana. Loons, geese and swans held a choir practice of wonderful wild music out on the lake. Then a gorgeous Zenair 701 kit-built floatplane idled along a few feet above the glassy water, stirring up other old passions. Much higher, heavy commercial flights inbound from the open Pacific glide eastward toward Vancouver.

Second-growth forest.
Autumn on Lake Cowichan
The remains of a pier where steam log trains dumped their loads into the water to be towed by steam tug to the mills and rail head at the far end of the lake.
There was a certain romance to the rape of the majestic old-growth forest. One has to admire the tenacity, brawn and skill of those people who truly believed they were doing a noble thing.
Old school. Not many loggers could do this anymore. This is called a “strap” used for securing a block in a specific place. It was piece of very stiff 2″ cable with two beautifully spliced and tapered eyes. It would have been made by hand using a stump, a few railway spikes, a marlinspike and a hammer.
If you couldn’t buy it, you built it. Recycling was part of the logger’s skillset.

As dusk falls I’ve built a campfire and less than twenty feet away a tree frog begins its song. I’ve never seen one yet. They often makes their calls from nearby but I cannot ever spot one. If you try to sneak up on that big little sound they stop. They are very tiny and wary so for me they remain a happy mystery. It’s been an easy, peaceful day. I try not to feel guilty about doing absolutely nothing. Beyond the west end of the lake a few clouds over on the ocean side catch the last light of the setting sun as I begin splicing together a video about this little trip. Then comes a loon’s solitary serenade from out on the lake, perhaps the most beautiful sound I know. A barred owl begins hooting from a tree nearby. Forest internet. G’night.

Good night.

Abraham Maslow: In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.”

Old Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

The calm before the smoke. My beloved harbour with a clear sky.
A day later
The coastal airway bringing more Covid carriers. When contrails hang around up there the air mass is stable and calm which translates to more weather just like this.

A few days ago in mid-afternoon I was kneeling up on the hot aluminum roof of my newly-acquired old truck camper. I was dolloping out roofing tar to reseal a previous repair. The thick black goo had been used previously so there was no choice but to use it again. I thought of how I must look up there, a Fred on a box and came up with various lines about “hot tin roofs.” They were all rude. The roof wasn’t leaking…yet. Wonderfully it is made of a single sheet of sturdy aluminum. But some preventive measures in the heat and dry of late summer seem in order. It’s almost forty years old; a little TLC is due. It’s small and light, and warm and dry. It has a propane cook stove and a furnace! Good enough. There’s no hot tub but sometimes roughing it is just what you have to do.

One of the popular truck campers is called an “Arctic Fox.” I’m thinking of hanging the name on this old beauty of “Fartic Ox” and putting a little sign on the trailer that says, “Feel free to feed the Sasquatch.” Neighbours have noticed the box and say “I see you’re going camping.” Somehow I’ve never considered sleeping in an RV as camping. Camping, when I was young, involved travelling by canoe and sleeping beneath the overturned hull if it rained. My fantasy was a ‘jungle hammock,’ a military surplus item that came with a roof and mosquito netting all around. I’ve just checked, they’re still available.

A SUVSWAT. I wannit! Can you order it in pink? How many does it sleep? Either something’s up in our sleepy little town or the boys are getting ready for elk season. You’d certainly have no problems parking…anywhere. Tax dollars at work. Just hope it wasn’t manufactured in China.

Many recreational vehicles now have rooms that pop out, automatic levelling devices, satellite entertainment devices which align themselves to the appropriate signals. By the time all the flip-out items have ceased their whirring, and the generator is purring, there is a fair-sized modern home set up in a commercial “campground” four feet away from someone else’s “wilderness” dream. The cursing begins when all the transformer bits won’t pop back into place so you can go “get away from it all” somewhere else. A diesel pickup truck will easily haul it all at 110 kilometres per hour to re-establish the pitchings a few feet from someone else where you can compare notes. It doesn’t much seem to me like a sensible way of reconnecting with the natural world or of “thinking green.” But…no payments until January!

Another inch. The original RV. No gun ports on this one but the mileage is much better.

Almost a week ago it was Labour Day weekend. Already we’ve arrived in late summer and the hottest part of it. The weather forecast is for clear skies and temperatures in the 30s. The sunrise was red from all the smoke in the air from as far away as California. There is a 70,000 acre fire burning in the Yakima area. What a blessed thing to live here on Vancouver Island. We made it through the long weekend without any fires here. Last night the upper winds began to move the smoke back to where it came from and the stars gleamed and twinkled. I often go out for a celestial meditation before bed in an effort to put the day’s concerns into perspective. My little woes against the vastness of the universe puts everything in place.

The last of the Great Mullein.

On a clear night, one can seldom look into any part of the night sky without seeing at least one satellite within a minute. Dull or bright they zing over in all directions unnoticed. For a while last night I could see three at once all on different vectors. There are also all those man-made stars in fixed orbit also known as geosynchronous satellites which sit up there unnoticed to our eye. Those ones must really piss off the astronomer who thinks they’ve discovered an unknown star! They are as pervasive as electrical lines or contrails marring a view of the natural world. It’s a sad essay that so few folks notice them. Today’s check says there are currently 2,666 satellites up there. And we thought the beer cans in the ditch were a problem.

Anyway, folks ensconced around their portable campfire beneath a string of patio lanterns, safely inside their electronic mosquito net-bubble (yes really) watching the ‘Simpsons.’ That we all know who the ‘Simpsons’ are underscores the age we live in. We are as oblivious to the geosynchronous satellites relaying our television signals as we are to lost primal skills like melting spruce gum over an open wood fire so we can patch our home-made canoe. I am well familiar with the “Old School” and the non-romance of doing things like using an outhouse at -40°, or making a bed from spruce boughs. I don’t miss it.

Fireweed finale

While perusing the latest camping gadgets I can across a small portable cooking stove that burns any “bio fuel.” It also uses the heat to charge a lithium battery which has a USB port to run a small light or charge a mobile phone. So now we live in the age of the electronic campfire. When your rocket stove has started a wildfire, you can call to report it if…there is a geosynchronous satellite in place.

Parts of Oregon have now exploded with wildfire. Cities are threatened with devastation. It seems that half of California is in flames, Washington State is in a critical situation and British Columbia is also adjoined to the crisis as part of the Pacific Northwest. Here we can smell and taste their smoke in the air. With the Covid numbers rising again we are all together in living with a sense of tension. What a year!

Treat?
Spencer the minpin. Small dog, big shadow.

I’ve been working on the camper in the cooler part of the morning and then retiring to the shady cool inside the house during the afternoon. About 9am today a thick column of grey/black smoke rose into the azure sky then drifted off in the upper winds. Helicopters with water buckets began passing overhead. I feared the worst. A new bush fire or a serious plane crash could look like that. As it turns out a metal recycling yard, a few miles away at our end of our airport, has caught fire. An online news story had images of heaps of burning crushed cars and a mountain of burning tires. It is the sort of fire which is very hard to extinguish and produces a variety of nasty toxins. Ironically the advertisement immediately following the story shows a young father and son cheerily roasting marshmallows over a crackling campfire.

Rock otter. I always pass on the other side of this rock to admire the pair of salmon carved there. Surprise!
This lovely spring was chasing the otter.

By evening the wind has shifted in our direction and the tang of burning rubber is heavy in the air. You can see it and taste it. There are no hydrants near the burning scrapyard so all water has to be trucked to the inferno. It’s going to be a long night for those fighting the fire and for those with adjacent properties. It will be a long night for those of us trying to sleep downwind. Damn! I miss having a boat.

Wow that BBQ stinks! Our air quality at sundown, I can smell and taste the burning rubber. Not nice but at least our houses are not in flames. No star gazing tonight.

Civilization is a conspiracy. Modern life is the silent compact of comfortable folk to keep up pretences.”

John Buchan

I Knew Better

Waiting for the wind to ease. Johnstone Strait winds can rise instantly. If blowing against a tide the waters can become vicious. Prudent boaters know it’s best to wait things out especially when using lake boats.

If there’s a slight draftiness to this text you’re not imagining anything. I have to keep blowing spruce needles off my keyboard. They rain down as the wind howls through the branches overhead. I’m back at my favourite camping spot on Northern Vancouver Island beneath the trees beside the fire trying to keep warm in a very chill breeze. It’s time for the pink (sockeye) salmon to be running. I thought I’d catch some fish, film some bears wading in the creekmouth as they fed but, there are no fish at the moment. And it’s too windy to launch my little boat off the beach. It’s August 11th, I’m wearing my winter coat and all the heavy clothing I have with me.

“All clear Dad. no bears. Let’s go over there.” I waded, he swam.
Sandpipers. Are they heading south already?
Racing Rock.

Ever notice how few things are seldom quite as good as a previous experience? I recount this with humour and bemusement. It’s downright funny! How else do you deal with folks being folks? Six weeks ago this place had only a half-dozen campers, who were kindred spirits with nice dogs. Now the place is overwhelmed with garrulous people trying to take as much space as possible. We all possess a primal urge to lay claim to more than we need and for some, a sense of conquest is part of their outdoor experience. I’m not sure they even know they do it. Each camper seems to have noisy dogs determined to declare loud rights to this entire territory which is quite offensive to Jack. He knows it’s all his! There is a monstrous fifth-wheel trailer parked where it effectively blocks the lane to other campsites. The geezers who came with it sit under their canopy waving cheerfully to others as if to say “Aren’t we grand?” I waved back limply and kept my big mouth shut. Part of the fun for me is minimalism, although I confess that as I write, my generator purrs away charging everything from the electric fridge to the cell phone and this computer.

Home made techno camping. The generator runs the battery charger and other electric gadgets. The charger sparks up the car battery in my DIY charger pack. That, in turn runs my 12 volt fridge and can provide 12v power for other jobs including boosting a dead auto battery. The extra harness connects the charging pack to a solar panel. Don’t laugh, it works! Ready for the desert.

When someone appears to be leaving, there is a frenzy among other campers who think that it’s a better location than where they were already set up. They frantically pack chairs, tables and firewood by hand over to the next site before the previous occupants have even left. There is the eleven pm arrival of someone joining friends at their camp spot with the requisite bashing about, flashing of brilliant lights and a plethora of screeched commands. “Stopstopstop! SHIT! Turn your wheels a little. NO! Turn em HARD! Easy, easy!” Then their little windup dog is released to begin yelping at the world. Oh the things I want to shout out! Wearily, I turn on my light and read another chapter, then two.

Marning. First coffee. Warmth.
Sorry Vegans! There’s nothing like a good chorizo sausage grilled over an open wood fire…except perhaps, four more. Just add a glass of red wine.

The spirit of the place is much different than it was earlier, but I was warned a different breed was coming. I knew better. Maybe I should come back next month to complete my comparisons. In the morning I sit with a cup of stout black coffee beside a small fire trying to warm up. A cold damp wind has blown all night and even Jack, cuddled up, did not keep my old bones warm. I sit musing about the primal pleasure of an open wood fire and how a little heat from it on one side manages to warm your whole body. Then comes a dry, rasping Covid cough from the trailer blocking the trail. Her merry band sits around her apparently oblivious to her emissions and the bits of lung she’s spewing around. It went on last night and begins again. I’ve seen her Rubenesque form in spandex grandeur and can only think “Pity the pallbearers!” Pandemic or not, she has the sort of deep-chest ripper that deserves a doctor. Despite all the overwhelming admonitions to self-quarantine with any Covid-like symptoms there are those for whom the rules don’t apply. Dead right!

On a mound of gravel overlooking the beach, a gaggle of folks wearing hoods and wrapped in blankets have brought their folding chairs up into the wind and taken up post with a huge telescope. One of them has a large, lunging rottweiler on a leash which appears eager to eat anyone who comes near. On one of the outhouses someone has posted a hand-made misspelled sign proclaiming it to be their private crapper. If a mobile taco stand appears, no surprise. Most folks are lovely but as usual, there are those few who impose themselves on everyone else. In truth the entire site is actually quieter and more civil than those managed sites with little goons in brown shirts patrolling and telling folks what is forbidden as they collect camping fees. Those managed sites have folks parked ridiculously close to each other with no sense of solitude, or this year, social isolation. There is none of that here, but I would happily pay to have this persistent cold wind turned off.

Westerly winds usually ease at sundown. The clouds low on the distant horizon mark the open ocean, always a siren call for a sailor.

The drive homeward was a frenzied gauntlet. I plodded along at 100 kph, despite the 110 speed limit. Fuel consumption and wear and tear just don’t make sense and besides, I swear that if you were going 140, you’d still feel like you were holding folks back. There was not one police car in sight on the entire trip. When we arrived at the traffic lights in Nanaimo, many of those who hurtled past were waiting right beside us only to zoom off as if late for their own funeral. I’m embarrassed to admit that I was one of those hurtling fools for many years. All that happened more quickly was my aging process.

So now I’m finishing this back in Ladysmith. I’ve had my morning coffee out on the deck listening to the sounds of urban Vancouver Island. Across the alley, the daily release of a neighbour’s Alsatian. “Rowrowrowrowrowrowrowrowrowrow…….Shaddup gitoverere,” then comes the rasping deep-chest cough of a heavy smoker. More bits of lung. It is a weary, predictable script. The serenade is a daily event as regular every morning as the Tuesday seven pm volunteer fire department siren. Then sounds emerge from all over and soon our quiet little town is anything but quiet, drowned in urban sound pollution. It’s time to go back to the woods! There I’ll start my chainsaw and cut some firewood.

Home again. Nope! Not coming out. It’s warm in here.
No way! Not even for a baby rabbit.
Twenty minutes to fill a gallon pail. The garden shears help to gain access to the fat ones always just beyond ones reach. You can put the whole cluster over the pail so none get lost. There are still thorns to endure, but no pain, no gain. It took twenty minutes to fill this pail.
The state of our railway. The tracks are being overgrown by blackberries.
Municipal organics on the town office lawn. This may be green thinking but they still leave the Christmas lights on for several months.
Something new on main street. In support of two eating establishments this deck has just been built. I’ve wondered if it could also double as a public gallows..ya know, for folks not wearing their covid mask. Judging by the concrete blocks, it could be a big hit. This deck was built days after the local by-law officer showed up to check on a building permit for a backyard deck extension I’d built at home. In a move toward 21st century civility, there is now a plastic portable toilet installed across the main street.
In an effort to brighten up mainstreet some wit has decided to paint this historic hotel black. Tres chic? NOT!

A friend and I went to look at what had once been a gorgeous 47’ liveaboard sail-anywhere cutter. Now it is filled with rot from one end to the other and the crusty evidence of long neglect. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph this beauty in her abject humiliation.The vessel is being auctioned off to cover overdue moorage fees. From what I saw, and didn’t see, the monster project wouldn’t be worth more than ten thousand dollars. Otters have already provided copious deposits. There is a fortune to spend as well as several months of hard, long hours. Binderdundat! By comparison a sister ship in Europe is currently for sale for $US 140,000. It seems a huge tragedy to me. That amount of funds would well set me back on my rails and here it’s been thrown away. The ongoing saga of boats and dreamers repeats itself and some naive buyer is about to gain a massive education as the dark realization of a fantastic dream becomes a dark nightmare. For once, it won’t be me.

Archipelago at sunset. That’s me anchored in the middle.  On a metal bar table. There’s always something to see if you look.
Hard abstract. A detail in poured concrete.
Aboriginal abstract. Duncan is renowned for the native carvings on its streets. Work like this nicely moves forward from traditional themes.
Arbutus dawn. It’s the time of year when these trees shed last year’s skin as they grow a little more. The aroma of their leaves and skin underfoot is magnificent.

Strangely enough, they have a mind to till the soil, and the love of possessions is a disease in them.” …Sitting Bull

 

BANG

Looking east, same old harbour view after the rain. A venerable Westsail 32, often referred to as a ‘wetsnail’ yet used as a standard for decades against other offshore sailboats is anchored off the beach. Whether your vessel is 20′ or 70′ dead-reckoning for all is calculated on the basis of 5 knots per hour. Any passage of over 120 nautical miles per day is considered good.

Our fears are like dragons guarding our most precious treasures.” Ray Wylie Hubbard

How can those few words from a Texan country singer not tug at your heart. They apply to all of us. Consider how you feel about our present times. They really hit home for me as I regard a present visitor. Ayre is a 3½ month old tiny dog. She weighs less than 3 kilos (about five pounds.) This five-pound monster has stolen my heart. I find myself taking to her in silly voice puppy-speak. Jack gives her a deep warning growl when she comes prancing at him; he’s doing his part in mentoring her. She’s cute as hell even when she tries to sink her tiny needle teeth into my fingers, growling with all the ferocity she can muster. Of course that bravado is a mask for all that frightens her. “The best defence is a good offence.” Who could want to harm her? There are those who would and some creatures see her as a tasty snack. I can’t imagine how the world must look to a being so tiny and newly arrived. When I pick her up I’m afraid I’m going to break her frail-feeling bones but soon the warm wriggling fragrant bundle of puppy licks my big old hand with a tiny soft pink tongue and there is a moment of joy and a gush of paternal instinct.  Awwwww.

2.4 kg of self-righteous canine dignity. Ayres is all dog, size is irrelevant to her.
Just call me Maytag.
Who me?

Of all the negative things we can find about human beans one of the rays of hope is our indefatigable instinct to care and protect tiny creatures. This little dog can soon prove itself a pain in the ass, demanding attention and food then more attention. Yet an old bush ape like me finds patience and tenderness much to my own amazement. She’s running the whole household, both innocently and deliberately. I’ve know little of the horror of a screaming baby in the night but I suspect this is much the same. There is some override wiring which brings patience and caring without contemplation. Mothers possess a courage and stamina I don’t grasp.

You say I used to be like that? Naw!

Today is August 3rd, a provincial holiday, BC Day. The weather is languid, the streets are quiet (After a bout of wailing sirens at 04:00) The mourning doves are hoo-hoo-hooing and all seems calm, Covid be damned.

Nevermore times three.

Recently some friends and I held a conversation about the correct, and also the legal way, to merge into traffic. I found myself contemplating this again while out walking Jack this morning.

I’ve some some research online. In BC there is a bit of a grey zone about this with references to “being socially handicapped” and “it’s the polite thing to do.” It is clearly stated however that a vehicle making a left turn, or entering traffic on it’s left is always the give-way vehicle. If there is an accident involving any merging vehicle it will be always that vehicle deemed at fault. A vehicle in the moving traffic lane must not impede the flow of traffic it is in to accomodate a merging vehicle. Our traffic laws were generally written based on marine traffic rules and it makes sense that a vessel entering a busy channel must give way to others already underway. In the air, or on the water, a vessel with another on its right is the stand-on vessel.

I have a notion that folks demanding you merge ahead of them, or go before them at a four-way stop for example, are often actually empowering themselves rather than trying to be nice. There are no “Nice Police” and usually simply playing by the rules is the nicest thing to do, then we all have a notion of whazzup. I’ve held a drivers license for fifty-two years without any crashes. With all of the driving I’ve done I like to think I’ve done something right. I’ll certainly admit that as I age, my reaction time is beginning to slow as well as my ability to see things as quickly. Being honest about your abilities is a good way to help stay safe. Ever notice how no-one admits to being a poor driver? It’s always the other guy.

“Take me to your leader.” This is a Ten-lined June Beetle, also known as a Watermelon Beetle. It is a scarab, about about one and a quarter inches long. This is a male, the large antennae are to detect female .pheromones.
Whassamatta? Got bugs? These tiny free-loading spiders don’t look like fun.
Hey! That you Bob?
Going.
Gone.
Nothing’s forever.
A flash in the weeds.

Blackberry season is now in full swing. Men with plastic buckets lean into the brambles picking the succulent treats. Except for one. He stood watching and holding a full pail while his elderly wife worked on filling another, all the while she was holding a big German Shepard on a leash. It did not like the brambles. I wanted to kick that old misogynist’s arse but he would have spilled the berries and the dog would have bitten me. Isn’t it interesting what one can assume from a glance? Everyone seems extra testy these days so it’s best to keep to oneself. At least we’ve had no explosions. Working in the backwoods I learned how even twenty pounds of ammonium nitrate could crack away a big piece of granite mountain. Nearly three tons of the stuff in downtown Beirut is like a nuclear bomb. That thousands, out and about living their daily lives, were not killed is a miracle. Bang. How quickly life can change!

Season’s change.
Fresh-washed.
Yum!
More to come. A grand thing about blackberries is that they ripen sequentially. There are blooms and then fruit perfectly ripe over several weeks each year.
Bee Happy.
Bee Gone.
Blackberry honey in production.

Jack and I have just come back from our morning walk, or in other words, shuffle and sniff. It rained last night and there is a subtle perfume of freshness. We met that old couple with the dog again. Pops was holding the dog this time and his wife was breakfasting on wet blackberries. All three seemed pleasant and amicable. So…three friends, instead of enemies.

The fourth agreement: “ I will respect the power of my words.”

A neo-pictograph.
Old Many Buttons hisself.

And so some barn door groaner humour :

It’s probably not that sage

but some wisdom does come with age

so I’m not complaining

by simply explaining,

at risk of being rude,

that you’d best not

pick blackberries

in the nude.

Outta Cheese!

Barnacled moon?

You’re outta cheese!” Those were the first spoken words I heard in the wee hours of the morning. I’d just stepped into the local all-night corner store at 02:30. I was grabbing a quick cup of coffee before trekking up at local mountain with the hope of photographing the Comet Neowise. A woman was there loading up a DIY meal of some sort (Eeeech!) The clerk replied to her with an unintelligible middle-eastern accent. She responded “Jes tellin’ ya!” And so the day began.

“Inbound on the localizer! Will call downwind.”
The Duncan airfield all lit up. It’s a short strip with a huge gravel pit at the approach end. There are plenty of deer wandering about and hangars crowd one end. I don’t know if it’s scarier in the dark or in daylight.

With a backpack full of photo gear and trusty tripod in hand I hiked the final ascent to the peak of Mount Prevost using my head lamp, finding my way up the brushy trail in the dark woods. I only tripped four times. I missed seeing the comet but that early scramble produced some excellent images. What a beautiful part of the world I live in! If the sky tonight is still cloudless I’ll try again; but without the clamber.

Night passes.
Mount Baker in the distance and mist in the fields below.
The crack of dawn.  Looking across the Strait Of Georgia there is a glimpse of the Fraser River.
More sun please. As the sun rises so does the whine of biting insects. There was not a breath of wind up there.

There are many areas in my life where I can be accused of being a few noodles short of a full can. I do things which in retrospect are clearly stupid. A few days ago, after a long harassment by a pop-up intruder on my computer desktop, I gave in. A free version of CCleaner, allegedly keeping my computer files clean, etc. etc; had kept intruding for many months. It’s been there for so long I can’t remember when it first arrived. It has persistently told me I should get serious and buy the real deal for $24.95. Times are tough. Even that amount needs to be seriously considered. I submitted a credit card number and suddenly the invoice price was $74.95 for a far more exotic package than what I’d ordered. I’m certain I carefully made the correct selection. Now, I can’t directly access my e-mail and every time I do anything online a big, long-fading pop-up covers the screen telling my what a wonderful product I’ve bought. WTF? In my complaint I promised the company called Cleverbridge I’d tell the world. They have NOT responded about my e-mail to their “support department.” So I have now told the world. End of the-too few noodles story. There’s no sucker like an old sucker.

The next step is a bit tricky. Wanna-be mountain climbers here have found a quick way down. You can never defy the law of gravity but you can certainly confirm it. The airfield is in the distance.

In recent blogs I’ve commented on the “Black Lives Matter” story. I’ve been bemused about all those bronze statues being torn down. Now I’ve twice heard a solution from two articulate Black intellectuals. They both said the same thing. Leave the statues alone and instead erect signs telling of the bias and ignorance which had the bronzes first erected. Provide the comparative views of today which mark our progress away from the datums which those statues are. That is very positive, making lemonade from lemons. If we forget our history we’re bound to repeat it. None of us will ever rise if we continue to stay on the ground struggling with our knees on each other’s necks.

Mount Baker at dawn. Up there, in this photo, somewhere there are probably climbers emerging from their tiny tents, heating freeze-dried eggs and instant coffee before plodding on upwards. It’s not for me but good for them. I think it must be one of those things folks do because it feels so good when you’re done.

In the hurly-burly chaos of our frantic lives it is easy to get fixated on all that is wrong and dark. Occasionally something incredibly simple can hit a reset button. For me it was opening a single pea pod growing on a vine in a pot. The aroma of the contents and the superb taste of the tiny fresh peas was an instant tonic; aroma therapy. Smell and taste are great stimulants and suddenly for a few seconds I was back in vegetable gardens of my childhood, not a bad little vacation at all! The hike up through the mountain forest in the dark evoked other happy memories. Tis the simple tings Billy!

The porchlight was on but no-one was home. That same star shines through the leaves above an empty bird’s nest.
Look up then look down, there’s beauty all around.
Morning Glory. Just weeds right?

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Martin Luther King Jr.