2021

A lone ice shack sits on Lake Windermere at dawn.

Lisa and I rang in the New Year in a rather low key manner. We enjoyed a nice dinner of steamed crab legs, vegetables, tapenade, crackers and hot pepper Oregon grape and rose hip jelly made by my good friend Dave. After dinner we watched an episode of The Crown on Netflix. The rest of the night was spent in front of the fire listening to fireworks. The fireworks started at 6 pm and continued throughout the night. There was no official fireworks this year due to Covid, so most were set off by individuals.

The Columbia River flows by cat tails after a chinook.

It goes without saying it has been a different year. Luckily our family has been spared from the personal heartbreak and financial hardship Covid has placed on so many families and individuals.

Lots of power outages lately. Probably not the moon’s fault, more likely wind, melt and freeze.

Nixon’s place from across the Columbia. To live under mountains is special.

Not being able to see our kids and grandkids has been difficult, especially during the Christmas season. It seems odd considering how many people are not adhering  to the Provincial and Federal safety protocols. However, as I like to point out to my children, and they understand, it is about how we conduct ourselves, considering we have elderly grandparents and recognizing many other families do as well. For us that’s what it comes down to.

A chinook turns Lake Windermere’s surface rutted and unskateable.

2021 we are looking forward to getting to know you.

The old part of town, built on a mudflat. You won’t see this in a tourism or Chamber of Commerce brochure and that’s okay with me.

b/w

Tonights Moon shining through. The low cloud blankets the valley bottom most of the day. If lucky we get to see the tops of the mountains before light fades in the afternoon.
A Bald Eagle from a few days before. Lisa stayed beneath it’s perch, in an understanded truce, snapping photos and marvelling at it’s brilliance.
The woodpile, no worse for wear, staying warm insulated with a layer of snow.
Tenacity. Willow, on top of the world, smiling, listening for animals under the snow.

Snow and a couple of giants

Bright Jupiter and Saturn make an appearance before dipping below the western ridge.

Over a foot of snow last night. It was heavy with a layer of water underneath. That’s what happens when snow starts falling when it’s above zero. To make it more challenging the wind was blowing so it drifted. I spent most of the day on a Bobcat switching back and forth from a blade to a bucket. Pushing and spinning, finally the task was at least good enough.

Once home, the shovel was waiting. Before long the driveway cleared, paths were made, including around the house with an extra wide one to the woodpile.

The weather has been cloudy. As I was finishing up clearing snow Jupiter and Saturn in their much anticipated conjunction appeared. I quickly grabbed the camera turned up the ISO, no time for a tripod, and snapped the above picture.

A very fine reward for a day of pushing snow.

a Coating

A couple of Bald Eagles consider the weather in the Valley bottom.

Woke up this morning before light. It looked like it was raining. +4°c the thermometer said. Next I looked it was snowing giant flakes. It was wet regardless.

Before testing outside I made a batch of Huckleberry Preserves. The berries were from this summer when Lisa and I wondered the mountain side. I tasted a few of the frozen berries and was instantly transported back in time picking the ripe berries, feeding a few to Willow to ward off thirst and watching Lisa’s red hair, flipping this way and that, bent down, dodging horseflies, picking only the plumpest and ripest.

Lisa gives a wave.

Up the pass the snow was deeper and not nearly as wet. Much more enjoyable. The clouds parted to show the long lost mountains, but only briefly, before filling in again obscuring the stars.

Still, the birds sang hidden like a soundtrack dedicated to earth in all it’s glory.

Very fine day.

Willow listens for mice under the snow.

mid december

A stellar day in any season. Above freezing. Reports have it the ice is thin.

Watched chickadees do their business. Sharpened the saw. Ran around town, wasting my time, to no avail.

Very fine day.

round one

Pleiades, Taurus, Gemini, Orion and the hunter’s fierce dog Siris shining through the clouds. The mountain and landscape is illuminated from the valley’s man-made light bouncing off the clouds.

We headed out last night before the peak of the Geminid Meteor Shower to get the jump on the shooting stars. It was overcast so we pointed the camera towards any opening. Lisa saw several meteors. I saw one spectacular one, unfortunately our cameras were pointed elsewhere. That’s the way it goes.

We are planning to go back out tonight. The weather looks about the same. It’s only about -15°c but feels colder, not because of wind chill but because I’m getting old. I don’t think it phases Lisa though. I just try to keep up.

With luck we will spot some. Even if we don’t I’m damn lucky.

science and soul

The fog gives way to stars where the creek turns steep.

Pretty good days. The lake has frozen hard and clear. Without snow it is a skater’s dream. We headed out after work on Friday, tossing the puck around, stopping once and awhile to admire the fine day. We stayed until the stars started to appear.

Young Jake legs it, the puck in front of him as he dips west heading north on a pure breakaway.

This morning low cloud blanketed the valley. It always seems cold to me when this happens. This evening Willow and I headed for the mountains with hopes to push through the clouds into the stars.

We followed the creek we are used to. It took less climbing than I initially figured before the stars appeared in the treetops. The sky was warm, twisting in my mind, while long lost spirits flowed through me stealing my breath.

Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Scientists just discovered the sun and our solar system are moving 7km faster around the Milky Way’s central black hole than we previously thought. A reminder we are always moving and science is always evolving depending on the latest research. It’s the best we have to go by and should be trusted. Still I will have to recalibrate my instruments and amend my plans considering we are going to be swallowed by the centre of the galaxy sooner than expected.

hiding seeds

Spent some time watching chickadees and creepers taking seeds from the dried flowers and hiding them in the trees. It should be noted, they shell them, dropping the husk to the ground below, before tucking the meat into the crevasses of the bark.

I’ve watched woodpeckers come right after and steal the seeds. Damn those thieves.

Still the chickadees do their chore with cheerful vigour, regardless of thieves or winter coming quick or slow. I can’t imagine they are coming back to the ones they’ve hidden, trusting instead to the thoughtful nature down the line, birds hiding seeds in the trees above snow-covered ground. What goes around. . .

***

BC has implemented additional measures to slow the Covid virus. The ant-maskers held a demonstration downtown. I was conveniently in the bush, hiding, watching my grandchildren laugh, marvelling at the frozen lake while the mud puddles were open and thawed.

***

Just before dark, I watched a young boy with roller blades stick handle a ball down the sidewalk. It made me wish I was young.

The lake has a skim of ice. I’m hoping the cold takes hold, the snow stays put high until it’s hard enough to skate. That’s all it will take to make this old man happy.

Scarlett and Cooper, posing nice for their Grandma, in matching pyjamas taking advantage of a fine November day.

before the freeze

The last of the open water.

Very fine day. My hound is feeling better. Lisa and I took one last look at the lake. Marvelling at the still water open before the freeze. Later we headed for the mountains, throwing the truck into four wheel drive.

Willow caught on the wrong side of a fight. A Penrose drain and some antibiotics needed to make her feel better.
A curious bird.

I offered Scarlett and Copper $5 each if they could find a bird in their guide book. It made me feel good they found the American Dipper and damn near got in a fight about who would hold the book for the picture.

Scarlett and Cooper making their old grandpa happy.

It cleared as much as it does in November. Jake climbed a tree in his between fall and winter boots. A true swinger of birches. The sun was down by 4:30 and dark by 6.

The fire is on. My arms remain strong. Plenty of wood needs splitting. A good day rouses me as much as a bad, when it doesn’t I’ll have to take a good long look.

walking back

Burnt forest shows regrowth on a typical November morning.

It’s been a long time since I travelled that road, it can be a popular one with both loggers, tourists and locals. The last time was about sixteen years ago. It was with some good friends to spread the ashes of a friend who passed away. He loved it at a cabin on a lake known for fishing. We drank beer, played music and told stories about our lost friend. He loved that spot and spent some of his best days there. 

We weren’t heading for the lake however. Before we reached the lake we took off on a well worn logging road. Now we were in an area I hadn’t been to since I was in grade 7. I remember this because, we were on a few nights overnight class trip to a remote cabin in the mountains. We had a good teacher that year and she was up for just about anything. I remember it being a good trip.

My father picked us up at the trailhead on the way out. On the drive back we stopped and soaked in a natural hot springs. I can still remember the girls in their bikinis. A 12 year old remembers such things, even if they forget how to find the same spot forty-some-odd years later.

And that is what we were looking for, those old natural hot spring pools. Except things had changed. For one thing, there are way more logging roads. Second the road to the hot springs no longer exists. No cell service to use GPS, not that that would have helped me anyway.

Trout could be easily spotted where the creek slowed.

After about an hour driving the backroads we settled on a spot to start hiking. I wasn’t sure we were in the right place. A hike would be good after rattling around over potholes and frozen puddles. 

Once we started hiking I wasn’t too concerned about finding the hot springs. There was plenty to see, the trees were covered in snow, the creeks had fish, birds chirped and sometimes showed themselves, chickadees, buntings, grosbeaks, solitaires and even a couple dippers.

I tried to remembering landmarks from years ago, but it was no use. They only way we would find the springs was by the research done before we left the house.

Hard to see but an American Dipper entertained us with it’s cheerful endeavours.

We rose up through the pass and started hiking down. I could remember overlooking the Kootenay valley. Not far down and we followed a crack in the mountain to mist and a slight smell of sulfur. There they were, the hot springs. Just like I remembered rocks had been arranged to capture the water in pools. 

Chad grabs a bite after his soak, Myla looks for scraps.

Although the hike wasn’t gruelling a dip was in order. The water soothed the muscles. The air was chilly getting out of the hot water. A quick bite and it was back on the trail to make it out before dark.

Very fine day.

Damn near fifty years between soaks. Willow balances on some rocks refusing to get wet.