In the Windermere

A website I enjoy reading is, In the Windermere, by Alex Weller.

The writing, research and photographs are fantastic. The material highlights local history. Many of the subjects Alex covers are ones I am familiar with and enjoyed talking about with my late father.

Alex does not romanticize history, rather, reports it with footnotes and links to back it up.

So often while reading Alex’s website I am reminded of my father’s recollections of First Nation People and the many names that settled this area my family has called home since 1912.

My father would often point out injustices in those early days of settlement. Alex’s website often confirms, through research and linked footnotes, many of the stories my father and I would discuss.

History was a real time and place. Even the smallest areas have great stories. History reflects and has repercussions until today. I can’t get over, when reading, In the Windermere, how politics haven’t really changed much, but the area sure has.

skyward

Canadian geese heading north.

A couple of walks on the weekend. We checked out where the old dogs reside. It is enjoyable walking the burn at this time of year. Eagles, flickers, juncos, robins, hawks and bluebirds entertained us with flight and song.

Missing was the sound of meadowlarks, although we have heard them in the valley bottom. Looking over the great expanse of long ago burnt forest we spotted a small herd of whitetail, having been spooked by something unseen by our eyes.

This was a fine spot to lay down our old dogs. Willow and Maynard ran and took in the sights, sounds and smells.

***

The Easter weekend was very busy in the valley. Visitors from Alberta took over the town. Lisa and I discussed our plan for summer to try to stay sane. On our days off we will leave early in the morning, about 6, head for the bush and return in the afternoon after the Albertans are settled heading back into their accommodations.

Alberta tourists will be out in force this year, and who can blame them stuck where they are. Oil is back on the table and they will be squeezing the rocks for every last drop, clamouring to get out to the valley, to their second homes or Airbnb.

Meanwhile Canadians do what we do best, assume a feigned posture, pretending to give a shit about the environment. It is discouraging what has happened to the Valley in our so called leaders haste to cater to the tourist. The gentrification is total, unavoidable and complete.

A typical right winger from Alberta. The trailer he was hauling was full of snowmobiles. More and more have Canadian flags flying or, like this one, fatuous stickers.

Walking the Rails/Women’s Day

Familiar tracks.

Walked the tracks on the weekend to the old fishing holes I used to be so fond of when I was a youngster. It was about this time of year I used to throw the first lines with the hope of hooking a nice char.

The old bridge site and brush thicker than the hair on a dog’s back.

The walk is different now. For one I don’t carry a rod. Willow enjoys trotting the banks among her namesake the Red Willow lining the Columbia. We did it early in the morning before the mud thawed, saving Willow from bringing her weight home in river silt.

A couple large Swans, either Tundra or Trumpeter, flying north. At one time they were nearly hunted to extinction. Their loud honking is exceptional, as was evident on our walk. When they are shot and dying they make a soft cooing, known as the Swan song. Incredible birds and hard to sneak up on. Perhaps they tired of being shot.

There is nothing as soothing as walking railway ties. Seeing how many you can step at once walking or running. Balancing the rail, jumping from rail to rail. Giving the engineers a wave, counting cars until the red caboose. And if lucky, on the way home, the train would slow enough to swing up onto a coal car and jump off right beside our old house where it was sure to slow due to the half mile of twined track. The trick was not to let the engineer or brakeman in the caboose see you. This required walking further up river from home while tired and often late to a bend in the tracks. Sometimes the train wouldn’t come and it was a longer walk home and a scolding for not arriving on time. Admittedly the scoldings were never much in our house. Looking back I’m not sure my parents even knew I was late until I walked in.

Willow gets ready to drive away regardless if I am ready or not or if the windows have been scraped.

Now you can get fined for walking the rails by the CPR police. Luckily they are not around much. They make a concentrated effort to fine trespassers after someone throws themselves under a train, which happens more often than you think it would. They always rule it an accident.

A young Mule Deer doe gives us a look and listen.

As a twelve year old carrying a pack and fishing rod I never had a problem. If the train was going too fast I gave it a pass even if it made the walk home long. Don’t think I could run fast enough to grab the ladder now. Besides what would Willow do?

***

It is International Women’s Day. In honour, this is a video our Granddaughter Scarlett and her Mom sent Lisa and I today.

I believe her!

blue skies

Clouds and river running by the tracks.

A skiff of snow last night. This morning blue skies. In the morning Willow and I headed for the Columbia River below Lake Windermere. It’s a clear trickle at this time of year. A Kingfisher gave us the gears for our intrusion.

Geese catching on winter is on the way.

Wedge after wedge of Canadian Geese flew overhead north to south. Willow paid them no mind, concerning herself instead, with mice in the long reeds and wading the river. I on the other hand, watched intently, taking a few photos while my hands got cold.

Skein.

We have gone from +8 to -8° in the past 24 hrs. The cool weather is a gift especially when it is accompanied by blue skies.

They were one after another, flying in small flocks unlike the large groups that fly in late fall. Perhaps fewer birds have waited to make the trip south and they catch up to each other in the air or resting on open water, regrouping for warmer thicker air.

Ray Crook 1918 – 2021

Ray enjoying a birthday dessert.

Sadly, Ray wasn’t able to recover from a fall in his apartment and passed away peacefully at Columbia House on December 1st.

During my last visit with Ray at the hospital he was in good spirits and knew the score. He talked fondly of the housekeeper that found him, his nephew now living in Switzerland and the times he and my father spent cutting trail in Kootenay National Park.

Ray was an accomplished historian and someone I enjoyed talking to about long ago times. His memory was fantastic. He clarified many valley events for me and taught me plenty of things I didn’t know.

Ray was well known in the community, driving his scooter downtown each day, stopping to talk with anyone, laughing usually ensued.

Life is a gift. Ray gave back with his always cheerful nature and natural decency.

When I look up, from my garden, towards downtown, Ray will always be riding his scooter along the paved path. Like the way it should be.

Rest well Ray.

The start of tourist season

A storm brewing.

Part of the reason I started blogging many years ago was to document the transformation of the Columbia Valley from a small town to a small city. That transformation has been complete for years now. If we haven’t quite hit city status, nobody can deny, we are a bustling tourist trap, full of self serving business people and disrespectful tourists and second home owners.

The photographs I publish on this page rarely show the popular tourist sites. There is plenty of places to see those. Although places are spoiled yearly, I’m lucky to know of a few good places that still exist far from the hand of disrespecting tourists.

Although the original purpose of this blog is complete I will still continue to put up pictures. If I wanted readers I’d do it on Facebook or Instagram, but those platforms make me sad.

As I continue I am going to turn off commenting. For a couple reasons, although I appreciate people reading and commenting, it seems like a chore for both the reader and writer.

A typical Alberta tourist defying the non-essential travel suggestion to get in some boating on Lake Windermere. Alberta has the highest active case rate in Canada by population. Twice that of the next highest, Ontario. Our Mayor and Provincial MLA have continually encouraged Albertans to defy the travel ban and come to the Columbia Valley.

This past year has been difficult, as we face another tourist season I fear it’s going to get worse for the valley. The past year has shown just how disrespectful people are towards one another.

I have always tried to have a positive outlook for humanity. I’ve thought, although slow to learn, goodness and common sense will prevail. Having watched this past year of destruction and absolute disrespect towards each other my faith has been shaken. As humanity faces unprecedented environmental and health challenges I’m unsure it can be turned around.

So what does this mean; not much really. It doesn’t mean I will change or stop caring about the place I’ve grown up. However, I don’t think the people who give a shit can be as forgiving as in the past.

early March

An early arrived bluebird gives a look.

A perfect Spring day. Overcast, rain and snow in the morning. In the afternoon the sun came out with temperatures rising. Willow and I headed for the river to see what we could see. She snuffed up the smells thawing in the wetlands. I envied her yet was content with the sun on my face. Very fine day.

Willow tastes the wind and water.

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.

Early May

RCE_5093Don’t make such a rhubarb about the current goings on!

Covid19 precautions are starting to ease in Canada. We are seeing more tourists. Shops are starting to reopen. About two thirds of the vehicles on the highway and around town, on the weekend, are from neighbouring province Alberta, ignoring warnings not to travel outside of your home province.

The ambulance has been out several times today, a sure sign the roads are getting busier with tourists.

It should be reminded, we are as susceptible to this disease now as we were two months ago.  The only thing changed is we have learned to social distance and bought time to possibly better ready our health care system. Numbers show most are still vulnerable to contract the sickness. This will remain so until a vaccine is developed. It will be interesting how we go forward.

RCE_5096A handsome Flicker.

Five years from now, we will know better how we managed this illness, did we overreact, was there things we could have done better? Right now we move forward with the information we have.

Strange times. One good thing in our small community; it’s amazing to see people forgetting about money and tourists, choosing instead to support each other.

thank dog

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It’s the country. The bush in April. When you can get stuck tighter than a fiddler’s fart in mud or snow. The sky turning bruised in evening. The Columbia running before and after. Turning over in winter. There is not much you can have faith in, but the sky and river and creek behind Swansea, the Swans heading north and the Meadowlarks arriving. They continue to keep their promises.

/

The truck was hip hopping. He had escaped the ruck. It was all mud, dog barks and volume on the radio. He had pushed off.

He grabbed a long leggy one from the floor boards. Cracked the tab and took a long swig.

He held on above Horsethief, heading towards snags. Catching a break, here and there, getting a glimpse of an Eagle holding steady.

It was muddy and he tried to keep it out of the ruts. The leggy ones kept coming and he didn’t see a soul. He made the burn, watched the river, saw what the wind had done.

It fell dark. He ran blind towards the river trying to get closer to the melting ice and rushing water. Through bush and snow. Over deadfalls.

In the morning, shaking like a cat shitting razor-blades, the pups led him back. He hoped for one more forgotten long leggy one. The way back was always worse than the going. He had pushed off, but not hard enough.

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