late late february

Jeessuss! This vehicle must have ran off the road and tumbled down a bank after an hellacious shootout! Look at all those bullet holes. I wonder of Al Capone was involved?

Spring like weather this weekend. Lisa and I scouted Red Rock Road, running on the west side of the Columbia River between Radium and Brisco. We were looking for an open space to take night time photos. We found windows to the night sky but nothing with an open expanse from north to south.

Plenty of silvers and greys between seasons. The birds are gearing up when the sun comes out, singing, feeling the rise of spring I suspect. I feel it too, but it’s way down there, pushed aside by modern living and various substances ingested to cope with poor light, politicians, a 24 hour news cycle, destruction, pollution, racism, violence and bullshit flinging from every direction.

Being older makes you realize you don’t have much control over any of it, the batting average is starting to go down, if I were a boxer the losses are creeping up on a once perfect record. The world is taking it’s toll. That’s age for you.

Still the feel of spring. The smell of melting ice. The warmth when the sun decides to shine, the light on the mountain tops and clouds after the sun goes down, the time it takes before it turns dark, no wonder the birds wait for this time to go a courting.

Each winter takes a little from us, robbing me of confidence and bringing us closer to our destination.

If it doesn’t snow, it will be dirty snow piles, mud and dust. That’s my cue to start some seeds inside. The garden is only a few months away.

slippery

Starlings.

My nephew Christian warned me. He parked his truck, stepped out, slipped and slid under his parked truck. He was wearing poor shoes at the time, dress shoes. He said it happened fast. He spent some time pretending to tread water, looking for gripage to pull himself from under the vehicle.

This morning a truck pulling a trailer full of snowmobiles was in my gravel parking spot at work. I parked on the pavement. Shut off the vehicle. Took three steps, in good boots. Three confident, nobodies getting in my way steps, since it was the start of the day after all, light just breaking, when I hit on some smooth clear ice over the dark pavement, common, with above freezing temperatures during the day and below freezing at night

It was arse over tit. My shoulder hit first then my hip. A fresh Timmie’s coffee went sailing (this is the true tragedy of this story, if it was a beer I’m sure I wouldn’t have spilled a drop). I felt pretty good considering. Once inside the managers asked why I had snow on my toque. I said, because I didn’t have my skates on.

No harm done. Christian was right, it happens fast.

waxing

Tonights’s gorgeous 80% waxing gibbous moon.

It’s still winter and I’m already missing winter. It’s light at 6 pm. The snow is melting. We might get a few more snowstorms or cold spells. March can pack in a lot of winter if it decides. Still we have turned the corner.

Soon I will have to justify my 8 o’clock bedtime. The revellers will be ten-fold. I won’t be able to walk barefoot and shirtless into a snowstorm to remind myself I’m only an animal and not a very good one. I won’t be able to piss outside under the cloak of darkness. My paws are soft and I have no fur. My teeth are either missing, dull or hurting.

My strength is cruelty. It’s what makes us try to tame nature all around.

February

A sign of spring.

Very fine weekend. Yesterday Lisa and I went skating on the lake. We got on in the south to try to avoid the ruck. Willow also enjoyed the time having no problem keeping up with us. We saw a lot of people doing the same as us, enjoying the fresh air. Many remarked on the friendliness of Willow and wondered about her breed, never having seen a Wire-Haired Weiner Dog before. Most of the people we saw and talked to were tourists. I was happy for them to be enjoying the lake and ice on skates and x-country skis.

Today we headed into the bush, staying on the roads that are open and plowed. We hiked into a spot we go to often. Last night people had started a fire and cut down live trees to feed their large bonfire. They left a mess, beer cans, food and garbage. This is not unusual. I can never understand cutting down live trees to feed a bush fire when dried wood is so readily available. We threw snow on the fire and remarked that we will have to come back, when the roads open, to clean it up. Lisa said something that worried me. She said, she is not sure if she likes this spot anymore.

So many places we once loved have been ruined or destroyed by the crowds. It is disappointing. We are pushed further, usually up the creeks and rivers as most small lake shores have been littered with campers/partiers.

With heavy hearts we turned back, looking for spring in the rising temperatures. Just like many years previous I looked for the earliest pussy willows, to our delight a few were breaking through the skin of their buds. It is amazing what a few hours of above freezing temperatures will do. Also amazing what such small things can change the spirit from dark to light. Very fine weekend.

old stories

There are plenty of stories being told, the same as it’s always been, but there is more of them. I’m old and my antenna only picks up a few.

Stories get told on the internet now, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tic Tok. I’m not a member so I don’t understand. Still I bet they are good stories.

People have sex or perform for people willing to pay. It’s a legitimate thing They are storytellers.

Lisa and I used to do the same. We would go beside the river and make love. Sometimes we would take pictures. They are some of the best photos I’ve ever taken. Fortunately or unfortunately there was no market back then.

Both Lisa and I worry about our kids discovering those negatives after we die. We talk about throwing them out but we can’t do it. Still I don’t want to shock them.

My stories are slow now, boring even. Experience is dull.

All my experience has added up to nothing. All my stories have become dull. That’s the world for you, refusing to slow down to my aged pace. Thank God.

rant

It is hard to believe we are experiencing a pandemic and have been given instructions to not travel and social distance, keep to your household, etc.

The Columbia Valley is located in an interesting part of British Columbia. Three hours away from Calgary, Alberta. Home of some of the most entitled residents in Canada, wealthy, individualistic with a huge chip on their shoulders thinking they have been hard done by by the rest of Canada.

Lake Windermere is surrounded by their opulent second homes, or cabins as they like to call them. Albertans like to remind us at every turn that we are nothing without them. I can’t tell you how often I have been told that this part of BC is their ‘backyard’.

This is the end of a long weekend that saw the area swamped with tourists, the overwhelming majority from Alberta. Every resort full to the rafters, people gathering in condos, outside, shopping, on the lake, at the ski hills and bumping into each other in parking lots.

Who could blame tourists for wanting to be here with the abundance of fresh air, recreation and scenery. Normally they would be welcome with open arms, but these are not normal times. It isn’t inconceivable, even probable some tourists from Alberta have travelled to the Columbia Valley to skirt the health and safety Covid protocols of their home province.

It makes me feel foolish. Why are we adhering to Covid protocols while so many are not? Why are we not seeing our children and grandchildren? Why am I wearing a mask while people in stores and gas stations do not?

It also makes me wonder, at the rate we are going, how will we be able to put the pandemic behind us.

My guess is only about one third of people, in this area, locals and tourists, are adhering to health protocols; one third believe there is Covid but don’t give a shit, because they believe it doesn’t affect them; and the last third don’t believe there is a pandemic and it is made up by government or some higher order to take away our freedoms and control us.

Regarding the last group of people, our local newspaper has given them plenty of space to state their case, with the editor even writing an editorial how we should approach their argument with an open mind. Sorry but I don’t think reptilian super beings are trying to control me. Sometimes I wish I did so I could feel smug like the rest of them in the knowledge that I have all the answers. Is it a coincidence that many of these folks don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground, but have fantastic hypothesis’ on the working of the world.

And the third of the people that don’t give a shit, the travellers from Alberta and beyond and our local politicians acting like giddy school girls welcoming visitors to the valley in spite of our top doctors warning against it, thanks for nothing.

Perhaps a vaccine will put an end to the pandemic, however that is not entirely clear. If it doesn’t we will be in a heap of trouble. There is no way we can control the spread of the disease with only one third of the population adhering to protocols.

So why don’t we just say, ‘fuck it’ and let sickness run it’s course. The final results will be quicker. Sure there will be deaths, but there will anyway, and herd immunity will be achieved faster, after all, it’s just a strain of flu we are talking about.

Of course, I am being flippant but also deadly serious. How long will it take for the one third to look around and question why they are being vigilant in light of so many being inattentive.

I like to think this small tourist trap I live in is not indicative of the rest of Canada. That progress stopping the spread is being made. If I am wrong then throw away the protocols – I’d love to see my children.

This is only the first long weekend of the year and I’m already sick of people selfishly thumbing their noses at the Covid health protocols handed down by our Prime Minister, Provincial Premiers and Canada’s top doctors and scientists.

Brrrrrr!

This photo composition is made of sixteen photos sewn together in Photoshop to achieve the extra wide angle needed to show the night sky from north to south. The original is a massive file and reveals many stars and constellations. Even in this small sample a discerning eye may be able to pick out Perseus and Cassiopeia to the left and the tail of Scorpius with red supergiant Antares over the lights of Fairmont Hot Springs in the south. Scorpius only rises once Orion is down and promises the coming of summer.

A few welcome days off in a row. Willow and I figured we would sample the chilly temperatures. We headed out at 3 in the morning to see if we could catch the return of The Milky Way.

The Milky Way rising over Nutmuq¢in (Chisel Peak).

So far we have had a mild winter and perhaps we have grown soft because -28°c felt colder than expected. Granted fumbling barehanded with a metal camera doesn’t help. Willow looked at me like I was crazy and was happy to make it back to the truck and a blasting heater.

The Milky Way was rising but the centre stays below the mountains before dawn washed the stars away. Still a wonderful viewing morning with the young moon long down refusing to interfere with the brilliance of stars.

The afternoon sun warming Jake and Dave.

That afternoon we met with good buddies Dave, Jake and Chewy for a bout of ice fishing. By then it had warmed to a much more comfortable -16°c. We picked a spot near the shallow south end of Lake Windermere, chosen for it’s distance from the ruck of the crowd. Unfortunately the fish didn’t feel the same, choosing instead to occupy the deeper portions nearer the outlet.

Willow looking for fish.

Still, it was refreshing enjoying the lake. Jake drilled his own hole in the almost 2 feet of thick ice. The dogs ran this way and that. Very fine day.

Willow criticizing my lack of fishing skill.

february

Snow, melt, snow. The valley bottom has seen it’s share of weather more attributed to spring than January. I’m still waiting for a cold spell that must surely be coming, looking forward to it actually. The firewood is ready.

This is the month The Milky Way returns rising in the dark, before dawn, perpendicular to the Columbia River and Rocky Mountains.

It’s the month voices can be heard in the creeks running over ice. The wind knocking the snow out of the trees are also trying to say something. I turn my head this way and that like an exquisite dog trying to decipher what’s being said. I still don’t get most of it.

It can be cruel or not, but never easy.

Ling

Isabelle catches supper. 1946

On any given day plenty of ice fishing shacks dot Lake Windermere during the winter months. I don’t ice fish anymore. The truth is I never was very good at it. Not like my grandfather, father and brother who would often bring home nice fish. This is back in the day when every house cellar had a spike in a beam for hanging Ling so they could be skinned. This is back in the day when ling were common in Windermere and Columbia Lakes.

A lone fishing shack on Lake Windermere.

Ling are rare in the lakes now. Their demise may have been brought on by overfishing, or possibly the species was pushed out as the Columbia and Windermere Lakes turned from a natural resource to a recreational one, surrounded by large homes each with treated docks for ever increasing powered watercraft, adding to the turbidity of the once calm waters. Perhaps Ling couldn’t compete with the introduction of non-native species such as Kokanee and Bass. I suspect it’s a little bit of all these factors that have done in this once prized fish.  

Back when Ling ran it seemed everybody had a ‘big fish’ story. Here is a story about the one that got away written by my father Ron Ede about his father Ernest (Dapper) Ede and fishing buddy Ron Bradshaw and his daughter Linda. 

A young Windermere girl from the Richardson family holds a large ling. circa 1920’s

Ling Lore 

( By Ron Ede )
Around the end of the first week in February some avid fisherman, dangling a line through the ice on the South side of Windermere Point, would catch a couple of Ling. Word would get out and about immediately and the message that “ the Ling are running” would circulate throughout the Valley. 

The Ling, technically the Burbot or somewhat less technically, Fresh Water Cod, commenced spawning at the mouth of Windermere Creek and at other locations around Windermere Lake, about the second week in February. Some said the spawn was triggered by a chinook, or a cold spell, or a warm spell, or the Moon phase, or a dozen or so other reasons. . . But, in fact, the Ling spawned about the same time each year triggered, no doubt, by the females’ overwhelming urgency to reproduce and the males’ burning desire to fertilize her eggs. They came by the hundreds to the weed beds at the mouth of Windermere Creek and Goldie Creek, Columbia Lake and Columbia River and tributary waterways. . . Wherever there were weed beds. . . To do just that. 

The unhandsome green Ling, looking as much like an eel as a fish, was a taste delight. Skinned, filleted and fried its white meat was tastier than that of many of its cousins found in deluxe fish stores. What a delicious break from the usual depression day menu of wild game served in most homes! 

For about three weeks in February each year the ice over the weed beds at the mouth of Windermere Creek took on a Carnival atmosphere. Fishermen and women, dressed in their warmest clothing, including blankets in myriads of colours, laid on the ice on a bed of straw, or boards, or gunny sacks. . . And anything that would provide insulation from the bare ice. . . To try to catch the much-sought-after Ling. 

Teams of horses and wagons came with Akisqnuk and Shuswap First Nations. The odd car dotted the ice-scape. Dozens of people just wandered from hole to hole to see what was being caught while exchanging good-natured chatter. 

Dogs were everywhere and , invariably once or twice each season someone would leave a baited hook on the ice and a dog would pick up the bait and get a hook embedded in its mouth. This would prompt most of the men to gather around and offer advice on the best way to remove the hook, and eventually it would be extracted and everyone would return to the task at hand. . . fishing for Ling. 

Ron Bradshaw and Dapper Ede for years never missed a day fishing off Windermere Point during the Ling season, and they brought home some large catches and some very big fish. However, according to them, the biggest one got away ! On that particular day, Dapper was fishing just around the corner from the tip of the Point on the South side, and Ron was fishing around the corner on the North side. Linda, Ron’s young daughter, was happily running back and forth between the two fishermen. Suddenly, Ron said, “ Linda, run over and tell Dapper I’ve got a hell of a big Ling gaffed near its tail!” Linda ran over and told Dapper, and he said, “ Tell Ron I’ve got a bloody monster gaffed near its head !” 

Then began a lengthy period as each tried to land his fish with Linda, excitedly, running back and forth telling each about the other’s battle with their monsters. Finally, both fishermen tired, the Ling were winners and swam away with their gaffes. 

It wasn’t till later when Ron and Dapper compared notes that they realized they were both hooked to the same fish, one on one end and one on the other. Their story was given credence as several boaters as soon as the ice was off Lake Windermere, claimed to have seen two broomstick –like poles cruising up and down the Lake. 

The following September on Duck season opening day, Ron and Dapper, as they did every year, went hunting at their favourite spot near the end of Lake Windermere. Early in the morning, Ron crossed over to his favourite spot at Mud Lake while Dapper cruised the pot holes to jump-shoot the early season ducks feeding there. As usual they arranged to meet at a certain place along the bank at noon. 

Noon came and Ron excitedly came up to Dapper and said, “ Dap, you’ve got to come out to Mud Lake and see this !! You’ll never believe it ! ” Off they went and when they got out to the lake Ron pointed to the bony remains of a huge Ling lying just about the water’s edge….. And there near its head was Dapper’s gaff, and near the tail was Ron’s gaff ! They assumed the monster fish had beached itself during high water and, even with its tremendous durability it couldn’t withstand the hot summer sun and perished as it tried unsuccessfully to get back into the water.

They picked up their gaffs, and as Dapper retrieved his he said, “ Hey, Ron did you see that bloody fish wiggle his tail when I pulled out my gaff ?” Ron replied, “The damn thing wiggled all the way down his spine when I picked up mine!”

Well, that’s the way Dapper and Ron told the story and many of the townspeople said they found it pretty hard to believe. And yet, who could not believe? Many early spring boaters had reported seeing their gaffs traveling up and down Lake Windermere. . .

And the following February during the Ling season, there were Dapper and Ron at their favoured locations fishing with the same gaffs people had seen them using for many, many years! 

***

Burbot are now rare, regulated and protected in the Upper Columbia waterways.

Robert Ede can be reached at palliserpass.ca or palliserpass@gmail.com

Starlight

First you have to get through the spruce.

Finally the low clouds have cleared leaving the skies blue during the day. The temperatures have dropped, as they do when it clears in January. A small price to pay for the kind of winter sunshine that warms body and soul.

Willow and I were up early without a plan nor agenda. We set off south. Everything we saw was both magnificent and plain as day, but in the middle of the night.

It was good to see the stars after a long absence. The Milky Way is still mostly down. I squinted to see it and aimed the camera at where it should be come February. No luck. This isn’t the year it decided to come up a month early. Still it was worth a look.

Telegraph road.

Willow found a log and dug for a few mice scared shitless from the snuffing above.

The stars look different every time I see them.

Very fine morning. We will be hitting the fart sack early tonight.