Around The Bend

Who knows what’s around the bend?

I’ve spent the summer working in the breathtaking, beautiful East Kootenays. Despite the grandeur all around it has been an unhappy summer for several reasons and it has been hard not to trip over my bottom lip. There are days when on this road of life I want to flop down in the ditch and declare myself done with the whole senseless gambit. Yet I often sustain my spirit by going around just one more bend in the road. There is seldom much point but there can be something wonderful that makes the entire journey worthwhile. That faint hope is sustaining. You find that new wonder just beyond where you were going to turn around.

Recently I was in Cranbrook on my weekly jaunt for errands and groceries. I’d taken a new-to-me back road through the forest. It was a rugged first gear bush trail and I loved it. The bumpy old trek whetted my appetite for more exploring but I knew I’d have to content myself with life as it was for the time being. Eventually I arrived in Cranbrook and soon crossed off the items on my list. It was a perfect weather day with a clear Kootenay blue sky, the temperature was perfect. It was early afternoon, I had nothing to do and nowhere to go except home. And, I was alone, as usual. That realization washed over me like a bucket of black paint. So I just drove. I passed the mouth of a driveway where an old motorcycle sat in the bushes and marked that particular home. I drove on but turned back to take a photo and so met the property owner who proved to be an interesting kindred spirit. If I had not been in that place at that time, that moment would not have occurred. And so for a while, life seems to make sense. Encouraged, one travels on, just to see what’s around the next bend.

The marker that caught my eye.
Original paint! A 1952 Buick Eight. The inline eight cylinder engine whispers like a dream. This car is so ugly it’s beautiful! It is the same age as me and I fear may be in better shape.
Original interior too! No padding, no seat belts, no airbags. The joke was that if you had a head-on collision in a car like this, you just hosed off the dashboard and sold the car. Incredibly, despite all that heavy metal rolling on bias-ply tires and the crude long-stroke engines of the day, these beasts got essentially the same gas mileage as today’s wonder cars. Struth!
Wonder of wonders! a few feet into the bushes from the motorcycle lay this old life boat. Now there’s an interesting story I’m sure.
Ship’s carving on the little boat. I could not completely interpret them.

I have a new friend. I call him Squirrely. He or she is a very gregarious red squirrel. On the coast they have been driven out by invasive, and much larger, black and grey squirrels which were imported from Europe. Here in the East Kootenays the native red squirrel is still master of its universe. Their nature seems to demand being loudly territorial. They can sit on a limb above you and scold for hours, a loud squeaky chirp that announces your presence to anything within a half-mile. As a hunter I’ve cursed them many times.

This character will sit in a tree above my little deck and curse me for an hour on end. Sometimes it descends the tree, still scolding, and will approach to within six feet. I bought a sack of peanuts in the shell but so far all the squirrel has done is scatter them about. It does not recognize a new food source. Eventually Squirelly decided to like them and packs them off as fast as I put them out. It has to be furtive and fully aware. Two feral cats team up to hunt and he is their prime quarry. They sit like stones for hours staring at his little tunnel and I fear I may be hastening his demise with my treats. There are no stupid old squirrels.

My new neighbour.

The little guy has dug a burrow under the shed and it sits in the entrance watching me in my burrow. Some times I swear it heaves pine cones down at me. It is the time of the year when the cones are releasing the seeds within and so it must be a propitious time to lay in winter stores. I make certain to keep the door closed when I’m not home.

Squirelly reluctantly agreed for a few quick poses just as it was getting dark. Now don’t go getting attached. There are two cats which hunt him incessantly. Who would have thought I’d ever become a squirrel-hugger?

On a previous vehicle I installed an Asian-built low priced rear view camera. It was powered from the vehicle’s back-up light wiring. All worked very well, until something went weird in it’s little cyber brain and the whole wiring circuit failed permanently. Now I’m about to install my camper on my truck and will also be towing my little trailer. I need a rear-view camera. Previous experience had taught me to buy an American-made product and after some research I chose an item made in Kansas. It is, apparently, a clever little device, mounted on the top of the camper’s rear and takes its power from the clearance light wiring. It has a wifi transmitter, which, through an app, sends an image to my mobile phone. Brilliant folks those Amuricans!

My Hopkins vueSMART RV camera has proven to be a total disappointment. After several attempts of keying in codes and passwords it came to life with a brilliant led array. Finally, after more fiddling, my mobile phone (Itself another huge frustration) produced an image of what lay behind the camper. I was thrilled, until I realized that everything was reversed from left to right and vice versa. Try backing up a trailer with that arrangement! After more poking and cursing I phoned the good folks in Kansas for help. I explained that a blinding back-up light came on each time I switched on the clearance lights, whether or not I wanted to use the camera. “Yep, they all do that, perfectly normal.” I then explained about the reverse image and was again told “That’s how they all work. Lot’s of folks complained about that, but that’s the way they work. You can try selling the camera if you’re not happy.” Really! I’ve ordered another camera…made in Taiwan. Wanna buy a back-up camera?

On certain brisk, calm winter days tiny flecks of frost flit and drift aimlessly in the air. Outside my RV windows there is a similar phenomenon. But the tiny flecks of bright-coloured fluff are microscopic flies. I’m new in these parts and don’t know what they are called but they seem innocuous. They don’t bite and make no sound although they have reason to exist even if I don’t understand. They drift and dream; quite like a lot of people. The “Wifi” beetle I described in my last blog is properly named a Ceranbycid. This one is of an Asian variety and is a nasty wood-boring, tree-killing critter. Thanks Wayne for the help.

Fluffy flies on a burlap coffee sack. They’re impossible to photograph in flight.
Our lives…like tracks in the dust

Well time drifts relentlessly on. I have been rebuilding two small boats and can now see the completion of both projects. After that I have idea of what’s next but it’s coming…. around the next bend.

The future depends on what you do today.” … Mahatma Gandhi

Abbey Knoll

The poser.
A very healthy fawn.
Using the same pose she has taught to her fawn. Deer have the uncanny ability to appear calm and yet are eternally poised for flight.
Home stretch

Our gravel lane which angles down from the paved main road is called Abbey Road. There is a grass knoll above it which I have named Abbey Knoll. It is a spot which has beckoned to me all the time I’ve been here and finally I’ve gone for a wander over the knoll. There are many things in life we don’t get around to. Places nearby, things to see and do or taste or hear and we never just go do it. I marvel at both visitors and staff who come to this magnificent wild area and see none of it. They roar around in their flashy boats, ATV’s and off-road vehicles with stereos throbbing and see nor sense any of the magic they are helping to destroy. Many of the employees here are unaware of the incredible forest and lakes all around us. They have no interest in the wildlife and don’t even seem to see the mountains.

I arrived at my jobsite here in the Southeast Kootenays in early April. Now we are already in the declining days of summer. Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. I notice a few limbs of tamarack turning gold already and one morning in the next few weeks there will be frost. The evenings darken ever earlier and there is a chill in the air. Soon I’ll be gone from here.

Wild deer fascinate me. They are always a joy to simply watch. This old hunter may not come home with venison anymore but I savour some of my photos with deep satisfaction. My only weapon now is my camera. The remainder of this blog is images.

Abbey Knoll
Not the best time to be heading into the woods for a walk but…it’s when the critters come out.
Looking south a long way into Montana. The open grassy areas are entirely natural. Oh for a horse!
Just the way the gods left it
Aha!
Dance. On a recent visit to Fort Steele I looked across the Kootenay River and saw three whitetail deer frolicking in the meadow beside the pond. One deer can be seen beside the small spruce tree.
Happy trails
find the deer. There are six in this photo. After a lifetime in the woods I’ll wager that for every deer we see, there are ten we don’t.
During an all-day downpour this young buck showed up behind my camper to savour some fresh, wet greens.
Deer, like many creatures, seem able to know when you mean them no harm.
Across the province several man-made nesting sites for Peregrine falcons have proven quite successful. Three adjacent nests all had maturing chicks. One annoyed parent chased my truck along the road with load screeches and several low passes.
Dad takes off to chase the big red truck.
Down from Abbey Knoll.  I thought I knew where he’d be hiding… right where mom told him to.
Can you see him?
How about now?
Domestic beasts. They’re a formidable pair, weighing not more than ten pounds between the two of them. I must be getting old, I now like little dogs too.
This barn looks like I feel all too often lately. I drive the back roads as much as I can and find sights like this.
Whatever their official name, I call these guys Wifi bugs.
On closer inspection, they are beautifully marked.

Free Range day for the cows at the water park. They were promptly moved along by ladies in housecoats.
“Well me son, de arse is outta ‘er.”
The horse agreed.

It’s a strange and insufferable uncertainty to know that monumental beauty always supposes servitude. Perhaps it’s for this that I put the beauty of a landscape above all else- it’s not paid for by any injustice and my heart is free there.” …Albert Camus

Frolic

“Hey wartlips! Ever think that of all the frogs you’ve kissed, some might have been toads?” This tiny guy was in the garage. I put him in the weeds where he was much safer.
My greeter at Fort Steele. She’d be four feet tall…laying down! Methinks there’s a baby donkey soon to arrive.

Where I live in my camper there is an adjoining parcel of land. The small lot is rented by a family who keep a large holiday trailer there. They spend a lot of time here and their two lovely children are often in the yard with a screaming mob of their friends. Last night, the small blond freckled girl sat alone in her swing and began to sob. Between choking wails I heard her repeat “my puppy, my puppy.” I believe she was grieving for the old family golden retriever ‘Roxy’ who had to be put down recently because the old girl was suffering horribly. Of course this “grumpy old bastard” (as I’ve recently been labelled,) was in tears himself. There was no way I could comfort the poor wee thing without someone taking umbrage. I sat thirty feet away and shared her sorrow.

On a cheerier note I have a chipmunk living in my woodpile, darned if I can get a photo of the tiny beauty…yet. And, we’ve had a lovely, steady two day rain. It was bliss to drift off to sleep in my bunk with the drops drumming over my head, and to awaken with the same music. I guess I’m a coastal boy, through and through. For the moment the dust is settled. I took advantage of the weather to visit Fort Steele, a preserved historic town site a few miles north of Cranbrook. I reckoned that with the unpredictable weather, and soft light, it would be a great day to take some good photos. There were few people there and I had a grand time with both still and video cameras. So here is a photo essay about a wonderful place.

Fort Steele was an outpost set high on a bluff overlooking the tumbling green waters of the Kootenay River. I stood looking down on the river and thinking what a good fishing hole I was seeing when a movement drew my eyes up the opposite bank and into a small meadow beside a clear pond. Three whitetail deer, two does and a fawn, were frolicking. They hopped and bucked, whirled round and leapt. They seemed to be dancing. I was too mesmerized to raise my camera. As so often happens, the best photo of the day was the one that got away.

Automatic, fully enviro-friendly, self-fertilizing lawnmower beside a square-hewn log wall. Downtown Fort Steele. Imagine if we traded our lawnmowers for sheep.
Boiled lawnmower complete with recipes on the label.
Lots of selection, so long as it’s in a can. All the homes had big gardens.
Gardens like this, complete with deer fence and outhouse. Solar clothes dryer in neighbour’s yard.
The poser. a black cat from the Blacksmith shop
Northwest Mounted Police headquarters and a glimpse into the old parade square. In the back, stables and barracks were hard to tell apart. How times have changed!
Nothing personal I’m sure. These guys were more interested in breakfast than in me.
The ubiquitous one-room school. apparently there were up to ninety students at times.
Enough said
The assayer’s office. Mining was the center of all activities in the area.
In the blacksmith shop. Branding irons, wheel assemblies and a faller’s saw.
I have an affinity for blacksmith shops and feel completely at home. Maybe in a previous life…?
A trademark image of Fort Steele, I always thought it was a bastion or a guard tower. It is in fact, the town water tower. that’s not so disappointing.
Hooped. Old wheel rims.
He were going’ ninety mile an hour when the wheel fetched off into the ditch. What is the real story?
Plenty of parking in the back.
Even big wheels eventually make a final turn. And so the rest of the Fort Steele portfolio will have to wait until next blog. Happy trails.

 

Discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” – Marcel Proust

Hot

When cars had character. I can’t tell them apart anymore.

With technical difficulties behind I’ll try posting another short blog and hope for the best. This is a tribute to all the motorheads out there. These are folks whose passions lay with vehicles and where their particular tastes may take them. I make my living twisting wrenches and care only about travelling safely from A to B. Other people see vehicles as an art form and turn the mundane into the beautiful. Enough said. These photos were taken within an hour on a very hot Saturday afternoon in the parking lot of the Jaffray Pub. So hot in fact that my mobile phone/camera refused to work, displaying a message about being overheated and refusing to take more photos. Really!

Personality
A two door
This is more my flavour
I doubt that many new trucks this year will make it to this age.
It’s hard to believe this truck is sixty-some years old. The green International was old at that time.
Another International from the early fifties
Beautifully restored things like this add-on toolbox look like they belong.
This was every schoolboy’s dream. A few of them, geezers now, managed to fulfill that passion.
Butt-ugly, boring family transport from the sixties. The appeal of this beast is that it is entirely original, even the faded paint.
The interior is in amazing condition, the seatbelts were an optional feature.
Whatever floats your boat. It doesn’t suit my tastes but the work on it is amazing.
Even the radio antennae sport a hot rod cartoon character. Ratfink stands on a skull.
Just paint some flames on the sides.

I’m writing in the cool of dawn before another work day. The air is smoky and dust-filled. It is choking me. Water bombers orbited above us yesterday tending to a blaze a few miles south. It was probably ignited during the previous night’s thunderstorms. There is a weary hush outside. A robin and then a raven call mournfully. The only other sound is the white noise of my neighbour’s incessant air conditioner. There’s another long day ahead.

Nature’s purple flames growing in hot, bone dry dust
Beside the path

Sometimes you just have to jump in a mud puddle because it’s there. Never get so old that you forget about having fun.”

Tom Giaquinto (Be A Good Human)

Life Without Wheels

The Sunshine Houseboat fleet and tenants are all now afloat. The yard is almost empty. Note the little sloop in the distance.

A sight to warm a sailor’s heart.

On the exact day of my sixteenth birthday I took my driver’s exam. I failed. No one ever made it through their first attempt. As soon as possible I took the test again and passed. A friend of a friend loaned me their car, a shining three-year old 1965 cream-coloured Plymouth Belvedere. I remember it clearly. It was beautiful. I already had a car of my own, a 1957 Vauxhall Victor. It was a piece of crap the day it was built and it was a worn and rusted-out old junker when I bought it. I recall that the fenders were rusted through along the sides of the engine hood. The gaps had been filled with steel wool then slathered over with body filler. The whole car was patched like that but it was my first car and I doctored it with deep pride toward the day when I could drive it legally.

The day my driver’s license arrived, in the mail, I loaded the car with my friends and we went for a tour. We had only one bottle of beer between us so we had to pretend to be drunk. That night I wiped out ninety feet of chain link fence and destroyed the car. It was probably the best thing that happened to me. I never forgot the price of a moment’s stupidity. I paid for fence repairs which cost more than the ninety dollar price of the car. I then managed to find another Vauxhall for twenty-five dollars. I already had spare parts. Eventually I had owned a long line of tired old British cars. Most required pumping the brakes vigorously for every stop and often I carried a bucket of used motor oil in the trunk to top up the weary old motors. I worked in a service station so old oil and used tires were always available. To this day, the scent of an oil-burning engine instantly produces waves of nostalgia. But I haven’t had any serious accidents despite a life time driving long distances for business. That has a much to do with good luck as anything else but maybe I learned something that first night on the road.

New Fredville. The truck and camper are undergoing repairs and upgrades. For the summer this is my home and possibly the winter too…but much further south. The golf cart is how i haul my tools around.

My first American car was a Buick. It had power brakes. Set belts were still an option and I firmly planted more than one friend against the dashboard with my old habit of pumping the brake pedal. It was also the first vehicle I owned without a hole rusted through the floor. I traded that vehicle off for a 1952 Studebaker pickup truck which had been partially customized with a monster engine and big wheels. I regret ever parting with it and here I am, fifty years later, still buying rusty old trucks. My latest acquisition is a 1995 Ford F-350 diesel crew cab pickup. The thing has the size and smell of a small locomotive. It carries an old Bigfoot fiberglass camper which is the whole point of this endeavour. The vehicle requires a government safety inspection before it can be registered and so the camper needed to be removed. It is a very tight fit and once again there was a dilemma which required some help.

Morning. The bottle opener is a gift from a friend long ago. I treasure it. The cutting board is from Mexico. I cannot imagine life without either one of them.
Camper morning. It was that big window which turned me on to the camper. I will soon look out of it and see cacti and the Sea of Cortez. Some days I can see that already. The door with the mirror hides a bathroom with a shower and sink. A new decadence for me.

The jacks which lift the camper up for removal and installation need to have the bases rebuilt. The bases were clearly not intended for repeated use. Once again I have another old camper to refit with several projects ahead. The truck is mechanically sound but looks rough which, with the old camper, is perfect for travelling the back roads of the Southwest and Mexico. New trucks and campers are very nice but can easily cost up to two hundred thousand Canadian dollars and all that shininess screams come and rip me off. My rig will fit in with the folks I like to meet. If the camper proves sound enough I’d like to reinstall it on a new 4×4 industrial truck and deck. For the moment, I’m plenty happy to call this my summer home. I’m living in a very inviting piece of the world and I’ll want to do more than spend the whole summer tinkering after days at work tinkering. The lake is rising, the townies are arriving and personal free time is precious.

The fleet. You can buy gas, treats, snacks and souvenirs on the docks. The crew is assembling a brand-new water park which will open soon and small powerboats are available for hire. My job is to help keep it all running.
Accounts receivable. As the lake continues to rise the revenue tide has to follow.
And then another day begins
Dust Bells. Some sort of bluebell I think. It is magic how they thrive in hard-packed, bone-dry dust.
A Dustillium. I’ve no idea what this flower is called and can’t find it in any guide. I’d love to learn about it. It is exquisitely gorgeous and also grows in the dry dust.

I’ve been working every day of the week and summer has arrived. It can be bloody hot here especially when there is no breath of wind. Working in the heat and vacationing in it are two different experiences. The temperature inside the camper is still in the mid-thirties at eight pm. I’ve installed some wonderful little fans and this country does cool off nicely once the sun goes down.

“To all things there is a season.” These bushes are loaded with yellow blooms which are clearly passing already.
Catch then while you can.
“Googles” the space dog
This lovely puppy has eyes sensitive to sunlight. He doesn’t seem to mind them.
The Hardware Hound. On a recent trip to Cranbrook I found this beauty standing his watch on top of the back counter in a hardware store. He’s a greeter and a security system. A lovely mellow fellow who made my day.

A few days further along and finally the old Ford truck is registered into my name and all the convoluted paper work is behind. After two weeks I have wheels again. Whohaa! Now I have to sort out all the new old truck repair issues which are not overwhelming. Hopefully in a few more days work will settle down to a steady dull roar and there will be some regular leisure days to explore in the surrounding woods and out on the lake. Local temperatures are forecast to rise into the mid-thirties every day. I’ll have to learn to deal with sweat in my eyes with a background of happy holidayers and their squealing children. It always pisses me off to endure folks on vacation while I am at work but that is reality. I remind myself that the average Mexican, in example of many countries, does not even have the luxury of imagining a vacation. We are blessed in our corner of the world beyond our comprehension. We even have the option of living in a tent and sleeping on the ground all year round. Not all in our country have that choice. Without our ability to make choices, not much is fun.

Best of all, they’re all paid for. I’m no motor head but this line of rides from the 50’s and 60’s was impossible to ignore.
Temperatures are forecast to climb into the 40’s soon but there’s a pub with lots of these frosties only a half-hour away.

I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.” -Bill Bryson

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