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.

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.

Mid January

Maynard stays alert, his eye out for the moose we spotted earlier. Lisa is comforted by his continued vigilance.

The lack of snow allows us to travel the backroads normally cut off at this time of year. Lisa and I took off for the logging roads early in the morning. We were rewarded by spotting a cow and calf moose. They crossed the road in front of us as we travelled higher into the Palliser.

The lack of snow also allowed us to harvest some easy down fir for firewood. It was a good size, dry as a bone, yet needed the splitting maul to bust it into smaller chunks to load.

Willow off the beaten track, chasing sticks, nose out, snuffing up the good air.

Willow and Maynard ran rampant. Willow more so, while Maynard stayed close behind me even while sawing the wood.

A light snow fell continually while the sky was clear in spots showing blue. Just one of those days you wish you could hold onto forever and bring out when things aren’t going your way.

Very fine day.

Maynard and I make our way.

mixed messages

Sign posted as visitors enter Radium from Kootenay National Park.

The volume of tourists in the Windermere Valley over the Christmas holidays and continuing into January has been extraordinary and troubling. Extraordinary, because the resorts, ski hills and businesses are having a great season. Troubling, because there is a world wide pandemic and British Columbia, Alberta and the entire country have travel restrictions.

The vast majority of tourists who come here are from Alberta. They are second home owners and vacationers seeking the solitude and recreational opportunities this area offers.

The travel restrictions between provinces are only suggestions and can not be enforced. The Provincial governments of Alberta and British Columbia warn against nonessential travel, however what is that exactly?

When the pandemic started I tried to keep my thoughts on how our family can stay safe separate from my feelings of people who refuse to adhere to the suggestions of our top doctors. I haven’t worried about what other people are doing. Lisa and I take calculated risks. We have continued to work throughout the pandemic. I work directly with tourists and I am very careful. I don’t always do the things I am asked by tourists if I feel I may be in harms way.

Lisa looks after her elderly parents. Like many their age they have health concerns and it’s essential they are kept safe.

This Christmas our grown children stayed in Calgary due to the travel restrictions. We talked via FaceTime but it was a very quiet Christmas.

All the while the valley was teeming with tourists. Overflowing a matter of fact.

Alberta has had difficulty controlling the Covid virus with about twice as many daily cases as British Columbia. Alberta’s Premier, Jason Kenny, after ignoring the crisis for many months, implemented heavy restrictions. One of which was to not allow people from different households to gather in the same house. This was a good reason for many Albertans  to vacation in British Columbia where the restrictions are much more lax.

Our small town politicians and business leaders haven’t helped the situation. In short they have rolled out the welcome mat with little care for our elderly, medical staff and front line workers.

In the December 3rd edition of The Columbia Valley Pioneer, just as the second wave was starting, there were two articles of interest.

One was written by local physician, Gareth Mannheimer. Dr Mannheimer is Chief of Staff of Invermere District Hospital. He has been instrumental in keeping the area informed of the dangers of Covid.

In his article he warns the second wave is in the valley and spreading. His article is sobering.

The second article that caught my attention, was the lead article on Page 3, it was titled, Second Wave of Covid-19 Pandemic Looms Just as Winter Tourism Season Set to Begin, with the byline, Local Officials Urge Calm and Measure Approach, Highlight the Columbia Valley Made it Through Summer Tourist Season With Pandemic Going On.

Our Mayor and local businessman, Al Miller is quoted within the article, “There’s never been a better time to get out on the local ski hills or get out to the many other winter activities we have here. It will be good for your mental health, good for you physically, good for local business, good for keeping people at work, and good for community spirit and well-being.”

That’s a mouthful. And yes that’s our mayor and not the President of the Chamber of Commerce, although he held that position in the past. Perhaps he forgot what hat he was wearing.

Our Provincial MLA, Liberal, Doug Clovechok wasn’t much better. 

The article continues: Clovechok pointed out that the travel advisory is a just that — an advisory — and not part of the actual provincial order (which is enforceable by RCMP), and said it’s important that people remember “that just because your license plate is a different colour doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong,” alluding to Columbia Valley second homeowners who happen to be from Alberta (and have red licences plates instead of the blue ones associated with B.C.). “In the summer months, there was travel going on, but there were no major spikes in COVID-19 in B.C, and almost no cases in the Columbia Valley. That’s because people were following protocols…I strongly suggest we continue to do what we did this summer, continue to take it seriously, and follow the rules that will keep us safe,” said Clovechok. “If you protect yourself individually, we’ll be okay collectively.”

The only person quoted in the article who showed good sense was Radium Mayor Clara Reinhart who said, “We’ll work on the economy when we get through this. We need to focus, primarily, on one thing at a time, and right now, that’s making sure everybody is healthy and safe.”

This is what it comes down to; the virus is spreading at a rate we haven’t seen since it started.  The vaccines are here, but could be many months before they make a difference to the spread.

The virus has mutated into several other varieties concerning health experts. These varieties have been detected in Canada. Finally, there are travel advisories warning against nonessential travel. Perhaps it’s time they are taken seriously.

It would be easy, and not necessary to be enforced by law enforcement. The first thing that has to happen is the mixed messages have to stop.

Let folks know when travelling to another province they must quarantine for fourteen days. Stipulate what is essential and nonessential travel, with bulletins posted on Provincial websites. For instance, vacationing in a second home is unnecessary, travelling for a medical appointment is necessary, travelling to another province to recreate (sking, snowmobiling, partying) is not essential.

Bonnie Henry and Deena Hinshaw, BC’s and Alberta’s top doctors respectively have said, staying at home saves lives. Does that mean the opposite is true, travelling unnecessarily costs lives?  

We are Canadians, we naturally want the best for other Canadians. Covid has tested our resolve. It’s time to get tough, if it means sacrificing for a while so be it. 

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.