Covid One Nine

Deepwoods blog. The table comes from the back of an older Honda CRV. It was the trunk floor and spare tire cover. Intended to double as a traveller’s table it is rugged and stable. Jack deals with the bugs.

I’m sitting at my beloved old Honda car trunk table in the woods north of Campbell River swatting at mosquitoes and black flies despite a brisk breeze. This blog has begun first day out on our next jaunt. I’ve left my computer mouse behind so I’m poking away with my banana fingers and hoping for the best. So far the only other thing I seem to have forgotten is the butter. Jack is fine, peacefully laying on his bed beside me wiggling his ears at the bugs. On our postprandial walk we met a lovely black bear, probably a two-year old. It crashed off into the thick brush of course and I was reminded that old Jack is no longer the feisty beast he once was. Neither am I. We’ve had a long day. With the bugs being so friendly we are about to lock away the groceries and retire for the night. One of the nice things about getting old is that you can fall asleep anywhere, any time. At least until the middle of the night. Then, after determining that it is indeed the “golden age” you can’t get back to sleep until after first light which, of course, is why you can fall asleep any time through the day.

In the morning, after a night of absolute quiet we stepped out into the cool early morning light with clouds of black flies hovering silently. Too stunned to go into feeding frenzy, they’ll soon be at it as the day warms. We’ll move on. With my morning coffee beside me I sift through my notes and see two T-shirt logos I’ve written down. On elderly man slowly walking his old dog had a shirt which said “In memory of a time when I cared.” The other comes from a music video. The drummer’s shirt said “Let’s get together and make some poor decisions.” Right then! With the day’s business meeting concluded, the bugs have broken out the antifreeze and are attacking in squadrons. Breakfast quickly, we be gone!

The Cable Cafe in Sayward. Cleverly built of logger’s cables it is unique. In years past, I’ve enjoyed some wonderful meals here. The pies were incredible.
It was also once a logging museum.
Sit on that puppy for twelve hours every day in the woods. That is a road grader in the background. It was what they had!
Yeah? Fetch you! Nice stick.
Happy Jack. He loves to explore any place new. There’s still a gleam in his eye.
Serial # 428. Empire was one of over 150 foundries in Vancouver meeting coastal needs of every description.
This was a wood-fired, steam-powered yarding machine, used to skid logs out of the woods. When an area was logged of all the timber, the yarder engineer would move the huge steam winch (or donkey) by hooking its cables to stumps ahead and skidding the contraption on those log runners to a new location.
So what do you do with a hollow stump out back?
You build the ubiquitous outhouse…complete with extra toe-room.
Devil’s Club. Aptly named, these nasty plants have leaves two feet wide and everything is covered in vicious thorns which love to hook deep into your skin, then break off and fester.
Cable art

A few hours of meandering brings us to a vast concrete pad at the end of a logging road on the edge of Johnstone Strait. With our camp barely set up, a pair of humpback whales swam past, heading north. I am very familiar with these waters, having tug-boated and sailed up and down this strait for many decades. I’m looking across to the Stimpson Reef Light and remember all the dark nights either towing logs or smashing into nasty seas. That light was a tiny dot on the radar screen slowly making its way along the sweeping green scan line. Yes, I miss it.

Tonight we have an abandoned log sorting ground to ourselves. One could park up to thirty RVs here with respectable distancing but I’m content with things the way they are. Sadly, after all the frustrations of packing this little boat up here there is no place to launch it. The foreshore is a steep jumbled mass of boulders, logs and abandoned machinery. With the wind I think is coming, perhaps it’s a good thing. This strait is notorious for its quick and deadly seas. There’s an old WWII gunnery fortification a short way down the shoreline I’ve long wanted to visit. But it has languished without my personal visit for almost eighty years. Windy Point will be fine for a while yet.

End of the road. We had all this to ourselves.
That’s me in the corner.

The marine forecast is for wind and rain which is fine… no bugs! Having worked in the great northern bug country these ones here are amateurs in comparison but still, who needs them. They’re here for a reason, but none of those reasons are mine! The cyber voice droning out the marine forecast offers admonishments about dealing with “Covid One Nine” and assisting the RCMP in their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus. Isn’t a boat an ultimate isolation unit already? Who are the people that think this stuff up?

I sit by my fire, wishing I’d brought a winter coat along. Then I think of this same spot at the same hour in mid-January. It would have been dark by three pm and the snow or sleet would be blowing horizontally. I crawl into my little trailer where Jack has already been warming the bed. A rain shower drums on the lid and we both drift into a deep sleep, cuddled like the old pals we are.

Morning dawns still bug-free thanks to the damp breeze blowing along the strait. There’s low cloud and I’m wearing all my jackets. My little generator drones on, charging the batteries on all my cameras and gadgets. I marvel at how dependant I’ve become on all of this stuff, stuff, stuff. There’s no point in reviewing the minimalism I’ve known and practised, obviously I’ve evolved beyond that, or perhaps “been seduced” is a better term. I can actually shut the generator off from my bed, simply by pushing an icon on my cell phone! Hopefully the breakfast drone will be making a delivery shortly, I pushed that button twenty minutes ago! I do know that trying to work this computer without my mouse is a challenge, downloading images is a right horror, there’s no hope of editing them.

The day passed idyllically. Jack is not up to much hiking anymore so after a couple of kilometres, and several mounds of fresh bear droppings, we prudently decided to lounge beneath the home tent. I watch the ever-changing tidal currents shift and bend and swirl, an eternal fascination. The amount of traffic on the strait amazes me. There is seldom much time with no boats in sight and others when there may be half a dozen to see all at once. I have made a conservative estimate of about one hundred fifty commercial vessels as well as several yachts. Due to Covid one nine there are no cruise ships or tour boats this year. There are a lot of fishing boats heading north right now, there must be some openings in Alaska coming up.

The camp inspector. This lovely spot was occupied by someone who had parked their trailer in the middle, taking up the whole area for themselves alone. We were set-up three hundred metres away…all alone. Early worm gets the bird!
WTF? There was a trailer here yesterday! If my phone hadn’t rang I was considering a move to here and settling in for a spell.
There was even plumbing with sweet, cool clean water.
And succulent, tasty salmon berries.
A first glimple of the sea while descending to the log sort. A fringe of old growth timber remains. The logged-off area was not replanted and left to fend for itself.
Left to reseed itself this second-growth area desperately needs thinning if it is to become natural forest or managed timber.  There are thousands of hectares of re-gen forest like this all over the coast. The original timber still standing is of excellent size and quality. Hopefully it will be left untouched.
Second growth forest becomes a dead zone without thinning. The new trees need light to grow and to allow the forest flow to evolve into the vibrant plant zone which supports the adolescent trees and wildlife.

Even though I’m not on the water at the moment, I feel like I’m home. As I write, on the opposite shore, a tug with a log tow rides the flood tide southward, hoping no doubt to make it into Sunderland Channel before the tide in the strait turns against its progress. With skill and luck, it will be in position to catch the first of the next flood into the Wellbore Rapids. Eighteen miles in twelve hours hours, it doesn’t sound like much, but when towing log booms, that distance can seem like an odyssey. A few miles south of here, where you turn out of the strait is a place called Fanny Islet. It is a check point where marine traffic control is advised of commercial vessel’s progress. One dark nasty night I was aboard the ‘Kaymar’ with one-hundred-twenty sections of log bundles, an entire forest packaged into a raft about the size of a hay field. We had our entire towline out, if we slowed from our speed of one knot, that line could snag on the bottom. Then the radio call came. “Mayday, Mayday, oh fuck we’re sinking!” We were the only other vessel anywhere near and are bound in all ways to assist. It was a long and interesting winter night. We missed our tide at the Wellbores.

A line tug bound for Alaska passed a while ago. They are huge tugs, powered with massive EMD diesels, the same as used in rail locomotives and their resonant throb pulses in the gathering darkness long after they have passed from view. It is a reassuring and somehow lonely sound all at once. The barges these boats pull are the lifeline of Alaska. They are huge and travel between the various ports of Alaska and their southern terminus in Seattle. In some of this coast’s thick fogs, although you have them plotted precisely on radar, these massive scows loom out of the gloom looking like half a city. Even though Johnstone Strait is an average of two miles wide, it seem like a ditch when meeting in poor visibility. Of course, you seldom meet in the widest places.

There is a magic light which, for a few minutes, bathes Johnstone Strait some evenings.

The next day is blustery and dark with frequent rain squalls. I’m wondering what to do with this day. It’s too miserable to sit under the marquis tent and Jack is restless. Then unbelievably the phone rings despite the weak and intermittent cell service. It is the doctor’s office, they want me to come in for an appointment, more test results. Remember the bladder thing? Unfortunately there was no breakfast from the sky and I know there will be no prescription delivery drone. Here I am now, back at my desk in Ladysmith. The weather is forecast to soon improve. Yep, we’ll gone again.

The Adams River in the pouring rain. Running parallel a few miles away is the Eve River.

We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Native American proverb

Serenity And Sweaty Things

An old friend. ‘Seeker Of Truth’ was found by a friend languishing in a Vancouver Island barn. He restored and renamed it and eventually put her up for sale. I was sorely tempted. She was built in Norway in the early 1900’s and is a lovely example of a well built and maintained wooden boat.  With a little love she’ll live at least another century. Carved on a bulkhead below in Norwegian is a legend which translates: “A man without a boat is a prisoner.” Too true! Too true!
Not so long ago poor people lived by the sea and ate fish. Note that in mid-summer the dock is not in use. Perhaps this is the autumn cottage?
Not far away, another reality beside our abandoned island railroad.

Last blog I offered a cryptic squint at modern policing attitudes. I must add this. Four years ago a habitual drunk in a pickup truck careening through a suburb of Victoria ran a red light and rammed a police car broadside. He fatally mashed a police officer. The victim was a woman and a mother. Her husband still grieves, especially now. The sentence handed down for this horrific tragedy was a mere four years. However we may each value our human lives that punishment seems cavalier to say the least. That the victim was a RCMP constable on duty should perhaps be irrelevant but four years for wilfully dangerous and violent, mortal irresponsibility is a horrific insult to us all. It trivializes the value of everyone’s life.

The anchor for my next boat.
YEAH RIGHT!
My experience says that Rocnas, a product of New Zealand, are an ultimate anchor. This 55 pound, polished stainless steel beauty will hold a very big vessel.

I stand by my concerns about jaded and arrogant police attitudes but I also grasp how crushing it must be for all officers when they are so demeaned by a casual judicial system. It also helps me empathize a bit better with the policeman’s lot. Small wonder they become bitterly hardened in the face of such crass dismissals of what they endure while trying to do their duty, no matter how they perceive what that might be.

Disposable income, a 1930 Packard. On the wide whitewall tires is a n inscription which says “High Speed, Gum-Dipped”
The rumble seat. Complete with its own folding windshield there’s enough room to sleep comfortably beneath the hinged cowling. Nope, no air bags!

By the way, friendly comments about my last blog suggest that I “Stay out of trouble.” All I’ll say in response is this. Name me one of your heroes or anyone else the world remembers who stayed out of trouble! C’mon now, just one name!

August path. The alder leaves emit a lovely fragrance when walked on.
August browns. A sign of things to come.
The leaky pipe grows the grass. Part of the water supply for our local pulp mill. These wooden pipe lines run for miles. Superb engineering, some of these pipes are several feet in diameter. This one is only about two feet.
Bookends. These two young lovely brothers were new friends we met on the trail.
A first I thought I was bending down to photograph a ladybug. I don’t know what this cleverly coloured beasty is.

Summer is rushing past. Dried leaves fall and carpet the trails. Over-ripe blackberries ferment and drunken wasps buzz in your face. Tiny songbirds are flocking up and feeding voraciously in preparation for long southward migrations. Second cuttings of hay on local farms have been baled and stored away. Local markets and roadside stalls overflow with fresh local produce. Back-to-school ads flood the media. It seems I was just posting photos of early spring buds. The seasons whirl by. Peter Fonda, the baby-faced biker just died. He was 89!

In the Bogwump. Nothing lives forever. There is beauty in all things if you care to look.

I was shocked to realize that the classic and iconic movie, ‘Easy Rider’ was first seen back in my high school days, an entire lifetime ago. That was over half a century! When you start measuring your own life in those terms, well, you know the jokes about buying green bananas.

Beauty by the dollar. Tugboats, logs, booms, barges, chains, cables, cranes were once a chapter in my life. I am now angered that any wood is exported. This barge load of small second-growth timber is destined for somewhere in the US. Each bundle of wood is a truckload. There is a lot of 2x4s and pulp in that mountain. Logs are boomed in bundles or in flat “swifter” booms as in the foreground. Close your eyes, smell the diesel exhaust, wood aroma in the sun, and seal and otter droppings.  Elixer!

I’ve never written a bucket list; I’ve just lived it. The greatest anticipations are yet to be experienced. I’ve learned to quit wringing my hands about things like politics. I still constantly prod people to think, think for themselves but I’ve also realized the wisdom of the old Alcoholics Anonymous mantra: “God grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Or, as George Carlin put it, “Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.”

Dali Rocks. Jack and I love taking the dinghy and exploring the sandstone reefs and shorelines of our area. These sandstone formations are an eternal fascination for me.
Jack surveys his kingdom. He’s showing his years but my dear friend still has a grand sense of adventure.

This blog’s photos are local grab shots taken in the last few days.

Look into my eye. I photographed this wee beauty just a few minutes ago. It was basking under a neighbour’s vehicle. It was a whole six inches in length.
Another sign of the season. Wee button fungi begin to appear. It seems a mouse may have had a nibble.
Breathe.

A dear friend and fellow sailor presently visiting the Thor Heyerdahl Museum in Oslo Norway has just e-mailed me this:

Borders? I have never seen one, but I have heard that they exist in the minds of some people.”

… Thor Heyerdahl

Ode To Summer

Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.

The summer staine faces southward looking up at the arc of the summer sun, the moon, the stars and the planets. It absorbs the sky’s warmth and wisdom, storing that energy for the long winter ahead. The rock and its mysterious visage are divided by pointers to the five corners of the earth. The fifth pointer being the mark toward the land of fairies and other creatures of imagination who, on moon lite nights, carve symbols on certain rocks in the forest.

We are now in mid-summer. The morning sunrise comes later and the evenings are clearly darkening earlier. It is a time of easier living but when wells and streams dry up, forests burn and crops ripen we begin to look toward autumn with a growing anticipation. Soon, we will be rain-bound in the dark and look back on summer with a deep longing. Now is a time to celebrate life and simply savour the moment.Summer is when fat trout cautiously laze in the shade of low, leafy branches and cast their own shadow through clear running water.Downstream, dogs wet their bellies or swim out to chase sticks. They revel in the moment with a joy that only dogs truly know.Further on, the stream meanders toward the sea where it will become cloud and rain to sustain life further around the planet.At the water’s edge, ferns mark the narrow zone where the waterworld becomes forest.A short distance from the stream bank apples fatten and slowly ripen.Some will fall among delicate flowers.Many will nourish the creatures of the forest.Some apples will be made into hearty drink. Every plant returns more than it takes. These flowers nourish bees who in turn, nourish us.Remember that weeds are merely flowers for which someone else has decided they have no use.Where there are thorns, there is also sweetness and sustenance.Despite the sweat and toil of men who clear the land for their own design, the forest always returns at the first opportunity.At the edge of town, there is still harvest from the forest and dogs scheme and dream while wiley rabbits watch and wonder.While smoke fills the evening sky, Purple Martins still swoop and fly, banqueting on a plague of insects and so saving us from a minor curse.Following the plume of smoke, Thorag soon found the crash site but could see no survivorsOn the headland, young engineers continued to build a mighty fortress to stand against the impending invasion. They had docks and ramparts and even a store of coal should the battle last into winter.In the village, shop keepers had taken to keeping massive dogs for protection.Paths between the village and the fort were heavily trodden.  A heady aroma of leaves crushed beneath foot filled the air. Outdoor furniture vibrated and rocked. There was a tension in the air.A lone flower hid among the bracken which grew on the edges of the last stream where the earth’s life-essence drained thinly into the sea. Even the forest’s air was heavy with drought. The forest continued to dry until leaves which were not able to contribute sustenance to the tree were cast away. There was need of a mutual nurturing. If not met, it could not be tolerated.As if caught in a permanent state of falling, one dessicated leaf was snared incongruously by a spiders silk and hung fluttering in the wind.All the while, vultures circled in the hot, rising air and waited.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” – John Lubbock