rain

Pure rain, not a lot but some. The grass is greening that’s for sure. An osprey took out a power pole today, shutting down all the cash registers.

The ‘bertans are flooding in getting away from the recent covid restrictions imposed by Kenny. Here, it is a big fuck you to the tourists dragging boats and checking their second homes. They don’t notice, entitlement, narcissism, too much of a good thing, for too long, gets in their way.

That’s the way it rolls, The way it will be for awhile. If I was on the other side we’d be doing the same I suppose.

late march

Willow digs for mice. She had a good hole going. Snuffing and biting the thawed ground. Once and awhile she would stop and listen for movement under the ground and then furiously start digging again.

Our walk today took us up on the benches. The truck ride there was mud, snow, ice and lots of running water; melt flowing right on time.

Lisa told me sometimes she shuts her eyes when I’m driving the backroads when the trip gets hairy. She doesn’t like the feel of the truck sliding sideways or backwards. I told her at this time of year it is unavoidable.

We walked to where Ara and Slinky continue to watch the valley bottom. The tall grass was flattened from the winter snow. The new stuff was busting through. Still not enough birds for my liking.

***

On my day off I worked at a print shop. It felt good. Most of my life I’ve worked in printing or newspapers. I’ve done everything from working the darkroom to driving the paste-up pages to the press.

Working in the industry felt good. I never had to question my technique or method. I relied on experience. It was the same on my day off, like getting back on a bike.

I am a maintenance man now. Printers are a dying breed. Nobody reads anything on paper anymore. Toilets and heaters always need fixing. Every time something goes wrong I have to dial up Google to tell me how to fix it. It is usually an easy fix.

Printing on the other hand is hard, but always feels good.

This is one of those ‘good old days posts’.

***

Spring clouds from the benches.

Spring. Wind with empty tree branches flailing. Sunshine, sure, but with interruptions. Two Juncos in different locations surely must be a sign. Crows baying picking their spots. Ice melting south to north.

what will we do with all the extra light

Pictographs along the Spirit Trail.

Two of my kids have tested positive for Covid. They are both young and healthy and are experiencing minor symptoms. They were both careful, working from home. It’s a lottery. Contact tracing has shown where they got it. Nobody’s fault.

A small Creeper makes it’s way lightly.

I have told a handful of people. People I respect, like my good friend Dave, who recognized it for what it is, a lottery regardless of safe guards.

Other’s I have talked to want to blame them for getting Covid. I even had someone of authority, stick their finger in my face and lecture me on ‘social bubbles’.

It’s important to keep your mouth shut and listen to smart people, it’s also important to keep your mouth shut and listen to stupid people. If for no other reason, self preservation. I’m good at the first and not so good at the other.

***

Lisa holds a delicate skull.

The time has changed. We are back to dark in the morning and an extra hour of light at night. The ground is frozen still. A handful of seeds are started inside in anticipation spring will continue regardless of the endless bad news. As far as I can see the sun still gets up on time in the morning.

***

A Nutcracker giving shit to whoever will listen.

I’m going to miss winter. The short days. The woodpile. A fire in the fireplace, stewed meat with last year’s potatoes, waking up to a snowfall, knowing it means a workout and the quiet darkness that can never last.

***

Tomorrow I’ll put on a sunny face and keep quiet.

Willow among the rocks.

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.

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

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. 

blue

Willow looking a little like a wild animal. I see her smiling. In fact she is chewing the stick she fetched between her paws.

It’s been a long time coming. First they built a road to explore mining, in the process, diverting the creek closer to the lake. Each year the creek flooded in high water diverting silt and filling the lake. This year was no different, however the accumulated sand allowed the creek to flow freely into the lake and fill it almost completely.

My brother and I used to fish for Cutthroat Trout in it’s bottomless blue when we were youngsters. In February my father would trim Water Cress. We pitched rocks from the banks above seeing who could make it to the middle.

This was when it was in walking distance. The roads beside turned it different. It’s taken awhile. The creek flows freely into it now. Still there is a pool that accommodates Kingfishers and Dippers. The fish are gone along with it’s brilliant blue.

Willow and I trudged the snow from the road. A short walk that seemed long enough in the world we live in now. Willow fetched sticks. Water Cress was starting on the outer edges I wasn’t sure it would be safe, a mine above and the stream flowing in, beaver dams doing their best, after all the fish are gone.

Willow fetches a stick in a world offering so much if you blink it could be missed.

The lake was spring fed. My father said it came from the corner of the lake that was now filled in. He knew this the way his bait moved and the fish pooled, I know that now. The spring confirmed it, a trickle carving a path towards the small lake remaining.