Orchids

Mountain Orchid

Lisa and I had a good trip up the pass on the weekend. It has been busy.

We had an eye out for wild orchids. We caught sight of plenty of Venus Slipper’s and even a few rare Yellow Lady’s Slipper’s. The Venus was especially prolific. These small orchids are only about three to four inches high, but stand out among the moss on the damp forest floor.

Calypso Orchid.

The next two wild orchids to appear will be the showy Wood and Franklin.

On another subject, we had a light frost this morning. It doesn’t look like it damaged any of the plants, however, I had to put the run on two small buck mule deer with nub velvet horns that decided to trim two of my flower baskets.

Willow sniffing out the Orchids.

Spring birds

A Rufus waiting me out, in the shade, the sun not lighting it’s iridescent wings.

Willow is distracted by birds, even bothered by them, she is the only dog I’ve had that is so. It could be from the time when she was a puppy and we would give her a bone on the front lawn. The Crows would hoover, distract her and steal her bone. It was funny to watch. I know she didn’t share my sense of humour.

Willow barks at Crows and Ravens like they are a burglar breaking through the front door. I appreciate it out in the bush. Crows and Ravens follow bears around and it gives me a heads up.

But at home it can be embarrassing when she scares off a Hummingbird or Song Sparrow, with her loud bark, their only crime having the audacity to hoover or sit on the garden fence. The Robins especially get a kick out of her, leading her this way and that.

Willow is not the dog you want on bird watching expeditions. I stand between them with hopes they will someday get along. The fact is they already are and I’m the lone man out.

mid may

Morning light.

Was up the pass this morning. Lisa and I got higher with the week of warm weather and snow melt. The Calypso Orchids have stems, yet no blooms. Next weekend for sure. It’s still early.

Watchful eyes.

The garden is all up. Considering I usually don’t plant until next week, we are ahead of the game. Next week I’ll plant the beans and put in the tomato and zucchini plants. Lisa and I are looking forward to a good feed of greens.

Trees before mountains.

The rhubarb is up and ready to be eaten. The sun is shining still coming up slanted and going down so. It’s a good time of year.

Willow wearing her Thunder Vest in the truck, so excited to get out in the bush.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.