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End of Trekking Tales

Well, I think that this is their end! Certainly no more for a while – or perhaps forever. What a delight it has been writing and sharing my/our adventures and outings. Thanks so much for positive comments along the way, all helping to keep me going.

 

Trekking Tale #240 – The Last One

 

Adventuring has been part of my life since childhood. However, other than letters, writing about those unending experiences was almost non-existent. Old Journals and Trip Books stop after a few days; obviously too much fun stuff was happening, leaving too little time to describe the events.

All this changed when my husband John and I moved to Clearwater and met Pat Sabiston. How she both persuaded and inspired me to send my pen scurrying across the pages beginning in late 2007 was described in Trekking Tale #100. The computer counted the words: “Five hundred is enough, Kay,” I was initially told. Then, “Well, I guess 600 is okay.” Thank goodness for the extra space; even so, that limit spared you, my faithful readers, from many so-called witticisms that had to be cut out.

My only other instruction was: “When you see a Trekking Tale published in the Clearwater Times, submit another.” Until recently I always had a few ready to go – sometimes still in my head, some in handwritten notes, and more on the computer waiting for me to press “Send”. While I loved describing all my local finds and outings, I was also encouraged/allowed to share narratives of the far-flung travels John and I, with various friends and family members, have had over the past eight years. Since we haven’t quite finished gadding yet, perhaps I’ll submit the odd something from here on. Time will tell. But I don’t want to start repeating myself.

Locally, I haven’t been everywhere and done everything, but there are limitations to my excursions nowadays. Rainbows, rivers and lakes, birds, animals by the roadside, tracks, trees, hikes, skis, snowshoes, flights and boat rides – all these and much more have been featured. Because each place, Helmcken Falls being the perfect example, is different each time, it’s tempting to write about them constantly, but there’s a limit.

I am not going to stop writing. For as long as I’ve been producing Trekking Tales, I’ve been working on a memoir, also started with Pat’s prodding. “I want to publish it before I’m 75,” I told one friend when I still had a couple of years to go. Well, that birthday is long gone. It’s time to focus on that. I also belong to three Writers’ Groups including the local Writers’ Circle. I’ve had stories, mainly of my experiences, and doggerel (?) poetry published in several volumes of Collected Works produced by each of the above.

But this is my final Trekking Tale.

I truly appreciate all who have encouraged me in every way. I am eternally gratefully to Pat who got me started, but I am especially touched that the local paper, Clearwater’s North Thompson Times, and its friendly staff, gave me space, and room to grow as a writer. Thank you… 🙂

 

My focus now is on my memoir. Even though I am putting many hours into it, and enjoying every step of the way, I am only half way through this draft. My editor Erin is wonderfully helpful in bringing forth old memories,  asking questions that have me digging deeper.  I make no predictions for its publication date!

IMG_20151110_082705The photo was fighting me, but I think I won! It may not show up in emails, so to see the actual blog, go to the website shown in the email or krknox.wordpress.com

Mesmerized by Objects that Float

Floating Saucers

On a typically blah November morning, my light hikers took me to Brookfield Creek. It hadn’t snowed yet, but this was a frosty morning. Peering carefully over at the rushing water, I stared down at a large collection of snow-white, flat-bottomed, saucer-sized circles pushed up against the steep rocky wall. More kept coming. I checked the upstream size of the bridge. Nothing, so somehow, these fragile floaters formed under the narrow bridge. Perhaps a piece of floating ice from upstream rubbed against the creek’s frigid edge beneath the bridge and gathered frost. As the water moved it forward, the scrap rotated to form the perfect circlets I was viewing. Continued rubbing fractured the outside edge, pushing shards of ice up to make the raised sides before the current pushed them aside. There they floated.

After looping nearby Wylie Creek, some bush-whacking enjoyed, I was back at the bridge. Temperature now rising, my saucers were obviously softening. “No point in driving you round to see them,” I mentioned to my husband John when I was finally home again. “They will be melted by now.”

Two or three weeks later, those “made-for-walking” shoes had me back at Brookfield Bridge. Instead of floating saucers, foamy bubbles were collecting in the same spot. Now, the ones close to the rocky cliff were circling upstream. At the Kettle, we have watched huge logs do the same thing.

Visitors to Dutch Lake

“Got time for a walk by Dutch Lake today?” asked a friend.

“I’m free,” I responded, jumping the chance.

As we set off through the campground of Dutch Lake Resort, she told me of her happiness in learning that four daughters were gathering in Kamloops where she would be meeting them on her birthday. Starting to respond as we continued walking toward the trail head, I was distracted by movement on the calm lake. “Look at the two swans out there!”

Walking along the trail just above the lake, fall colours reflected despite the dull sky, we watched the swans swim towards us as we continued chatting. With one bigger than the other, they were obviously a pair, mated for life as they do. Eventually they did a gradual about face, probably hearing our voices more distinctly. They were not in the least bit anxious as they floated away towards the large island. Since we did not see them again, we assumed they were taking the full tour round behind it. Like the floating saucers on the fast-flowing creek, they would not remain in our pretty lake for long but we felt privileged to have seen them.

 

Over and out, for now.

 

Another Trekking Tale

I am definitely into countdown now regarding Trekking Tales, but have come to a decision. Since an idea that might once have turned into a TT is rattling in my head, if I get round to writing it down before I forget it, I’ll add such things to this blog. I was wondering what to do with this blog spot; don’t want to lose it…. We’ll see what happens.

 

Tracks – New and Old Stories

It was a bit of a slog walking, or even snow-shoeing, through the white stuff for several days. But for me it is worth being out and about to see who or what has been there. Some critters are so small they can skitter across the top, tiny clawed footprints close together with barely leaving an indent. All shapes and sizes go every which way; sometimes there is evidence of “playtime” or perhaps a scuffle. Often around those areas of major activity I see the design that tells me that it was dinner time for a bird. Their wing tip feathers, stretched apart to help keep them aloft, leave imprints not unlike a hand with the fingers spread out. Sometimes there are sprinkles of red on the snow, but not always. Occasionally a feather remains as more attractive evidence.

I have always thought myself terribly clever because, while I recognize very few tracks, I know when a rabbit has been around. Its small front feet and much larger back feet make a triangular landing in the snow. Recently, I realized the largest part of the triangle showed the direction “Thumper” was proceeding. Looking closely, I had noted scratches on the wide, foremost part of the track. A fairly large penny dropped – these markings were made by the toenails of the hind feet. The small front feet land first, but the back end then passes the front end. Now I just need to have one of those critters come hopping past me so I can confirm my theory.

To remind me that all indents in the snow are not made by living things, a tree dropped a sizeable snowball onto my neck recently. Needless to say, this sent chills down my back – as much from fright as from the icy drops inside my jacket. The rising wind soon sent lots more snowballs flying.

The above descriptions refer to outings during this not-quite-winter-yet, but here are a couple of left-over yarns about expeditions taken in past years and later in the season.

Visitors braved the February weather to come from Kaslo to Clearwater. “You have to see the waterfalls here in winter,” we insisted. “You’ve never seen anything like them.” After walking the cleared trail to see Helmcken Falls with its remarkable cone, we persuaded them to just tough it out to wade through the snow to reach Spahats Falls. Here, after once again watching the falling water disappear into a snowy, icy cone, John pointed out some fox tracks. “These are distinguishable because of the 2 pointy toenails at the front,” he showed us. “See, their steps are about a foot apart, but the marks from the toenails and the foot fur distinguish these tracks from those made by cats and other doggie critters. Wolves have extended toenails too which drag on top of the snow,” he informed his interested audience, before we dragged them back to the house and hot chocolate.

Winter was almost over. Jake the long-legged, curly-haired, black poodle and I chose to walk on the solid surface of local roads so we wouldn’t sink through the softening snow. Except it didn’t happen quite like that. Jake sensed something nearby and took a running leap over the snow that had been pushed up by the ploughs – and down he went into the depths of the ditch beyond. Not even the world’s best trackers would be able to identify the “track” left by his nose-plant!

One more dog story: John and I were leaving our motel room in Quesnel to attend a funeral. A gentleman with his excited and excitable small dog was approaching. I had to say Hello to Pooch, so the man picked up the snuffling wee critter for me to pet him. “You’re a handsome chap,” I said.

“Thank you,” said the owner. “So is my dog!”

A Mixture of Sightings

This is #237 of a total of 240 Trekking Tales. The last one has already been submitted to the local paper. Hard to believe I have only four more to post for you. To be nice to you, I am spreading them out a bit! (Actually, the computer forgot how to copy and paste for a few days, delaying this longer than I intended.)

 

Sharing Space with Our Wild Neighbours

In the Rockies, May 2013, with Aussie Company

We were about to leave Emerald Lake, clouds parting enough to see surrounding mountains reflected in its clear water, and were remarking on the brightening green as sunshine increased. As we looked back towards the small bridge we had just crossed, a chipmunk darted across the rough surface of the road and disappeared into the brush beside the creek which drains the lake. For Aussies, these small critters are reason enough for comments and “admiration”.

The next animal sighted was much less common. A short-tailed weasel poked itself up on the side of the road from which the chipmunk had come. “Aha!” said John. “Now we know why that chipmunk was moving so fast.” The weasel, observing the busloads of people coming and going, bobbed up and down in different places, but was unwilling to cross amongst all the feet. By then, it had worked its way along to the edge of the bridge. Here, it too disappeared, but only temporarily, emerging from beneath the woodwork and onto the rocks that were part of the foundation, before being swallowed up by the spring flora and fauna. I use the word “swallowed” on purpose; a squeak and a squawk seconds later told us that the chipmunk had not been successful in eluding its pursuer. The weasel had captured its lunch.

Now in Newfoundland, September, 2013:

Bestest buddy Joan and I had been directed to Brighton from Triton for a spectacular, late afternoon hike and were driving back to our digs. Rounding a corner, we were stopped by a major collection of vehicles and spectators on section of dark highway. “Oh no!” we said. “An accident…” I wound down the window as a gal began to walk past. “What has happened?” we asked fearfully.

“Oh,” she responded brightly. “We were watching two bull moose fighting. They were here for the longest time – but they just left.” What a sight that must have been, and we “just” missed it.

A Big Bird Puzzle – Much Closer to Home

As I drove towards Sunshine Valley across Clearwater River on the one-lane bridge recently, I noted a bald eagle perched aloft on a leafless birch. “Hey, there’s more!” I grinned to myself upon seeing another just below it and three others in trees nearby. I slowed right down. These non-smiling birds have been a favourite ever since I came to the North American continent in 1963. Inching forwards, hoping not to send them skyward, I suddenly observed that they were far from being alone. Down on the snowy ground close to where the river rafters’ bus awaits its passengers, was a conspiracy of ravens. They were feasting on a partial carcass discarded there, no doubt by human hands.

“How come you ravens are at the table filling your beaks while your much larger ‘feathered friends’ with more ferocious beaks just watch?” I questioned from within my vehicle. Everyone was far too busy to reply, so I still don’t know the answer to that reasonable question.

As I drove on, the road curving up as short steep hill, I noticed two more eagles. One was an adult, but the other was smaller, its feathers variegated dark and not so dark. The juvenile was yet to grow and display the typical white tail tips and white head which gave the bald eagle its name. They took time out to watch my progress, but didn’t supply an answer to the puzzle either.

On the other hand, I would have been rather shocked if they’d squawked out in unison: “We’ve already eaten. That lot just gets the leftovers!”

 

And now just three more to come…

Of course we are now receiving snow instead of rain as written about in this Trekking Tale, making the chilly world outside our windows, beneath our feet, and drooping on the branches pretty and white. It does make a nice covering for the rather drab world of this hike.

 

It’s Friday Morning – So Let’s Hike

I am in Clearwater on Friday, October 2nd, so I don my usual, not-exactly-waterproof gear and light hikers and grab my water bottle. Only when I walk out our front door do I notice that it has started to sprinkle. No time to dig out rain gear now as I head for Wells Gray Information Centre. Driving into the parking lot I see vehicles parked crosswise over the long white lines marking off spaces for RVs. People standing behind them, wearing colourful jackets and hats, turn into seven recognizable friends. “Where are we going?” “Remember the old Tipi Camp?” “Haven’t been there for years, but sure I do.”

Leaving a couple of cars parked legally, we car-pool to Upper Clearwater and stop near the road up to Battle Mt., take packs, jackets, and hiking sticks and start up the narrow road. Big black poodle Jake and beautiful blonde Labrador Molly are released to race and chase each other. If anyone has noticed the sprinkles are heavier, they don’t say anything. We progress to the first junction and hang a left onto a wide trail walking in ever-changing small groups. Bushes hang out in places so we take care not to get hit in the face by wet leaves. By now, sprinkles have turned into raindrops. More caps cover heads, and hoods come up, but still – no comment.

Underfoot we see hoof prints (and other fresh evidence) of passing horses. ATVs have been through here recently so it’s a bit churned up and becoming muddy. At the next junction we start wandering upwards until a voice calls from the end of the line: “I’m not going up there. I am heading back and taking the trail that goes down!” We all obediently face about and follow suit. And yes, now on a rocky, increasingly muddy (right) trail, we descend. Four stout poles marking off a platform greet our arrival. “There’s the dance floor!” Who knows; maybe that’s what it was. A toilet, despite lacking a door, is more useful. Extensive hay fields that were previously visible from the campsite are hidden by undergrowth. We stand to snack beside a large sturdy table sheltered by a huge tree. We could have all fitted on its long, strong, damp benches, but didn’t sit although we wouldn’t have gotten much wetter. Water drips off our hats and finds its way through layers of clothes beneath which we are sweating anyway.

No one says, “I don’t want to trudge back up the hill,” but the thought hangs in the air as the rain pours down. “Where does that little trail go?” “You soon see the fields but there’s a creek too wide to step across. Down the other way, we could bushwhack for a short distance until we see that edge of the first field and then stay in the trees until we reach the road.”

Soon we are helping each other across the small creek. Only the person with the longest legs succeeds in stepping into the flowing water rather than across it! Then we are trespassing… Swampy conditions have sent us out onto the not-recently-mowed hayfield. “My trouser legs are so wet and heavy they are pulling my pants down!” We follow the fence to an opening onto the next field that doesn’t help. “There’s a deep, steep-sided, irrigation ditch hidden in the grass.”

Beside a “No Hunting” sign, we finally scramble from one property to the other. Here the grass is shorter; two deer stop grazing to watch us. Waving white “flags” but stopping a few times to look back, they disappear near the sign. We decide to head for the house and its driveway to access the road, passing cars now within sight. “Blinds are down, no vehicle, no dogs; maybe we’ll be lucky and won’t have to explain our sodden presence.” Dripping doggies Jake and Molly are leashed, but no one appears as we cross between barn and house to follow the short driveway to legality. Pools of water by the road along which we return to our vehicles tell us we made a smart move in heading towards the shuttered home.

And what, you might ask, did everyone say at the end of the trek?

“Well. That was FUN!”

 

We knew people living near where we emerged onto the road, and that they would try to dry us out and warm us up with hot chocolate. The thought was tempting, but getting into our cars and driving home right away won out.

I have been neglecting both you, my nice blog readers, and the newspaper itself. Only 3 Trekking Tales have been published since I posted the last one on this blog. Time to put them up there now, which I will gradually do. But I’ll also tell you that I am winding down on the writing of these tales, but more about that in the future. These last ones are a mixture of new  experiences , interspersed with the odd old snippet not published. Here’s #235, written after a fine trip from Clearwater to some parts of the Kootenays:

 

In (Somewhat Desperate) Search of Wildlife

 

As we left Clearwater in mid-September, a murder or two of crows saw us off. (How come that name for a collection of those intelligent black birds anyway?) As the days of our travels to and through the Kootenays continued, more birds saved us from being totally skunked by way of wildlife.

First came an overnight stop in Kelowna where we spent time with my niece’s family which includes four talented girls who shared stories being written, super sketches, harp playing and chatter. No wildlife needed to enjoy those! Next morning we purposely drove north, thus avoiding the devastation caused by the fires at Rock Creek. Travelling east through the Monashees has usually provided animal sightings, but not this time, although three osprey stood on the edge of their stick nest atop a power pole near Nakusp. Perhaps the parents were saying goodbye before leaving the youngster to find its own way south.

We love returning to Kaslo where we lived for 25 years, and seeing people who are precious to us. Doggies add their enthusiastic greetings, but one was no longer around. Her parents had us voting on a name for the cute, lucky puppy who will soon call their place home. A moment of pure delight was seeing a momma deer and her twin fawns, still sporting spots, grazing near the home where we were staying. Mountains, some sprinkled with snow, encircling that quaintly historic village beside Kootenay Lake, were outlined against a bright blue sky.

Tearing ourselves away from Kaslo always takes some doing, but we were soon in Creston. We were carrying prune plums to share – but our new hostess was counting on loading us up with the very same thing, growing abundantly on the tree in her front yard. We did help her eat a few… A day later we were off to the East Kootenays, crossing the Moyie River several times before reaching Cranbrook. Its tiny trickle left little room for fish normally have been spawning in it. The Rockies were bare, living up to their craggy name.

Our friends in Jaffrey live in a wooded area, so we did see wandering deer again, not bothered by their dogs. However, they worry about the cougar and bears that also inhabit the area. None appeared on our hike as we reminisced about seeing a moose and her new-born calf on previous visit one spring. As husband John and I drove north next, towards Golden, we spotted large birds in a grassy field. “Their necks are too short to be geese,” he said. “Wild turkeys?” Indeed they were. It got even better when two swans, long necks outstretched, flew over a marsh. Gopher holes were evident elsewhere, and John thought they had hibernated until he heard a squeak, but we saw none. Noisy skeins of Canada Geese flew over us from time to time. At our lunch stop, binoculars in hand, I stared at something floating on the gently flowing Columbia River. When it ran aground and stayed there, I realized I was staring at some garbage. (Is there another word for “desperate”?)

One more deer showed up: a young buck sat peacefully tucked in between the buildings that make up the Invermere Pioneer Museum; here John donated some aged paintings of his forefathers, for they had lived in that area. We looked in vain for sheep at Radium. At least I had a good chuckle reading a sign in a Dog Park in Sicamous on our last night. “Attention Dogs!” it read. “Grr, Bark, Woof, Good Dog.” And we had revelled in Nature’s glorious fall colours – and hugged dozens of very special people…

 

Lucky us…

I know you thought John and I would never make it back home (in these stories) but we did! Here’s what was happening, in brief as always. My word limit for the paper is 600 – which is probably a good thing, knowing how I can go on and on…. These two tales have not actually been published yet but, since this is early to mid-July we are talking about, it’s time to put them out there for you to read.

 

A Glimpse of Northern Vancouver Island with Aussie Family

 

You’d have laughed (or sympathized) if you’d seen the gimpy members of our group (3/5) struggling with wide open stairs, no railings, at our B & B in Port Hardy. Instead of being at the Hostel beside the inlet, as my sister Vera had arranged, we were in the owners’ large home on a distant hillside.

Renting a van resolved some issues and gave us the mobility to drive downtown as well as to Telegraph Cove, 60 km away. This quaint historical village was established in the early 1900s to provide accommodation for workers at a salmon cannery and small lumber mill. Compact homes were built on a boardwalk above the rocky shore, washed by the tide twice a day. Now a tourist destination, the interior of those homes has been transformed for overnighters while the exteriors are unchanged. Nearby businesses are happy to provide food and drink. At the end of the “wharf” is the Whale Interpretive Centre, “home to one of the finest collections of marine skeletons in BC”, says their website. “Look at the difference in size between the skeletons of this seal and a sea lion.” I pointed to the two of them hanging adjacent to each other.

On our way back, we looped around Port McNeill, surprised by the size of this sawmill town and the fact that the driver (me) did not get us lost. Our evening in Port Hardy saw us participating in two favourite activities: eating fish’n’chips and strolling along pebbly Storey’s Beach as the sun set. I had been struggling to find the right moment to phone the daughter of Clearwater friends, so John and I were delighted when she appeared beside the window of the rented van seconds before we drove away from the B & B the following morning. As wonderful coincidence would have it, she’d been dropping her daughters off at the sitter’s place just a few houses up the hill and spotted us. “Did you see us struggling with the steps?” I asked, grinning.

In organizing this trip, Vera had worked in different modes of travel so the Greyhound bus came next. That driver didn’t get lost in Port McNeill either as we saw parts of it a second time, but Telegraph Cove which is at the end of a side road was not on its route. I won’t tell you about spilling hot chocolate all down my shirt front when we were rolling again after a 10-minute stop at the convenience store that makes up the community of Woss. (I had really wanted coffee, but that pot was empty!) We will have to return to view Woss Lake and Provincial Park.

Trees line the road for the northern half of the highway, but eventually views open up to include pastures and narrow Johnstone Strait. Announcements about places of interest were not forth-coming, but I had been told before about the blowing up of Ripple Rock in Seymour Narrows, further south, to make passage through dangerous currents safer. That explosion was shown, as it happened, right across Canada on CBC TV, in 1958.

After a lunch stop in Campbell River and a shorter one in Courtenay, the bus stayed close to the Strait of Georgia, picking up and dropping off passengers at pretty communities along the way. Our turn was coming – in Nanaimo, for a mini-family reunion. The bus trip had been pleasant, as we chatted our way south and savoured the scenery. As we had experienced on the train, however, our chances of seeing wildlife were remote. Only eagles appeared.

 

 

The Final Leg of Our BC Loop with Aussie Family

 

Awaiting us at the Departure Bay ferry terminal in Nanaimo, Greyhound’s bus stop, were two vehicles driven by special relatives. With five us plus large suitcases, we were certainly not going to fit in one car. I loved being back in that city again with family who had welcomed my BC sister Valerie and me a couple of months earlier. Unfortunately our nephew Richard was away working, but Wendy and her daughters opened their hearts and home to two of my Aussie sisters, one they had never met before, and one Aussie husband and my Canadian bloke, John. Some of us lapped over into luxurious B & Bs with fabulous views of Departure Bay, Protection and Newcastle Islands.

Besides taking this new gang to Neck Point, Petroglyph Park, and the fish’n’chip cafe floating at Nanaimo Harbour, which Valerie and I had enjoyed so recently, Wendy had a new treat for me. A few raindrops did not dampen our spirits as we left the car in Biggs Park, walked beneath the road brimming with traffic heading for the Duke Point ferry, and set off towards Jack Point. “[The trail] meanders through the arbutus and Douglas fir, [curving gently] high and low a few metres above the ocean or right beside it,” says the Nanaimo Information website. “The shore is all sculpted sandstone offering interesting shelters and designs.” Snaffling blackberries (carefully!) as we went, we wandered as far as time allowed. Just before turning back, I saw two critters scrambling along the rocky shore. Although we were beside salt water, these were the dark-coloured, semi-aquatic, long-tailed river otters. Wow! Another new experience was being served delicious pitas by my older great-niece, now working at the Pita Pit near home.

Not so happy-making, the end of time here marked several separations. Although those two Aussie sisters both live in the state of Queensland, their homes are 1700 km apart, so they had travelled across the Pacific Ocean separately. Vera and Merv needed to get back to Seattle for their return flight to Brisbane, but, of course, it included lots of variety, beginning with bus to Victoria. They left that pretty city on the high-speed catamaran for its berth in downtown Seattle. A local train took them to SeaTac, and their motel’s shuttle service. Unfortunately their plane home was delayed and delayed, resulting in a 2-day lay-over in Honolulu. Poor things…

John, my youngest sister Edwina (now finally recuperating from the illness that had plagued her holiday) and I, tore ourselves away from our Nanaimo family later that day. A BC ferry took us to Horseshoe Bay where hospitable friend Mary met us – and the fun continued. On her final full day, Dwina and I set off for downtown Vancouver and boarded the (rather expensive) “Hop On, Hop Off” bus. We both learned lots as our open conveyance looped through the city centre, Stanley Park, and back and forth across bridges. One day later, Dwina returned to Vancouver Airport where I had excitedly met her just three weeks earlier. We hope she will be back soon to make up for all she missed….

That left John and me in West Vancouver with no vehicle of our own. Our friends thought hitch-hiking back to Clearwater, or even trying to co-ordinate buses was a bad idea. Mary drove us to Hope, and, over lunch, handed us over to the Dad of the gal we had seen in Port Hardy. He returned us to his house first where Jake the dog and Sophie the cat had been minding our cat Gypsy before taking us to Home Sweet Home. Here we happily reminisce about these adventures with our fine family.

 

Made it! Comments welcome on the actual blog site – or as emails.