Late Fall

_LME8964BCresting the summit.

We have had a few beautiful days. It only seemed right to get into the mountains one more time before the snow started falling in earnest.

_LME8843BMorning light touches the mountain tops. Willow scans the trail ahead.

Willow, Maynard and I set out early and were on the trail before sun up. We climbed up quickly through the bush. I studied the places I was going to have difficulty with coming down. The snow was crisp, but it would be icy directly under the trees come afternoon. Some of the ice would be unavoidable. There was a day I would hop, skip and jump down the trail.

_LME8981BMaynard and Willow walk the ridge. 

Now I am more economical, to put it kindly. Not to many waisted steps. Some of those steps are damn slow. It reminds me that I have to stay in shape so I can show these places to Cooper and Scarlett.

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In some places the snow was hard and others I broke through. On the ridge the snow was windblown hard or blown off the rocks so the going was relative easy.

_LME8953B.jpgLooking back along the windy ridge.

Willow led the way. Maynard stayed right with me.

The sky and sun was brilliant. The next snowstorm will make the ridge inaccessible.

_LME8891BHypnotizing Maynard and Willow with a piece of cheese.

When we got back to the truck I had a cold coffee waiting for me. It hit the spot. The hounds slept the way home. Very fine day.

mid July

lake_smAbove the lake.

It seems these last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of activity. Lisa and I still make time to get out in the bush regularly. The weather has been clear and hot. The garden is chugging right along.

Our children have been out to visit. It has been nice to have them with plenty of laughter filling the house. We helped move Lisa’s parents into a new home. Their old place was getting too large for them. Now they live just a stone’s throw from us. This is a relief for Lisa. It was so nice to see our kids taking time away from their schedules in the city to come home and make their grandparents welcome. They think the world of their Grandparents, and know how hard they have worked for everything. Lisa and I are very proud of our children.

RCE_0397Glacier Lillies. Maddy and Lisa telling Chad to pay attention,
while he takes a photo of the large peaks.

The photos in this post are from a place I find very special. Lisa, Maddy, Chad, Willow and I hiked in yesterday. It has been several years since we have been there, due to roads and bridges washed out. There was a time I would hike from wherever the road ended. But I was young and stubborn then. My Father and I even had some long hikes into Leman Lake.

RCE_0373.jpgAlpine Forget-Me-Not.

Back then the trail crossed several slides with tall skunk cabbage and elder bushes. It was closed in thick. You never knew if a bear or moose was going to be waiting for you around the next corner.

We all looked in vain for a way to cross the swift creek. While Lisa, Chad and I were looking for a deadfall across, we noticed Maddy on the other side putting her boots back on. That ended the search. We all took off our boots rolled up our pant legs and subjected our feet to freezing cold water and sharp rocks. Willow crossed enthusiastically, got caught in the current, and came out about twenty yards downstream.

RCE_0412Scorpion Weed. 

We took time to rest, along the trail. It was still steep and in some places overgrown. Lisa reminisced about hiking here while pregnant with Kelsie. Being pregnant never slowed her down. We wondered around marvelling at the sights and smells.

The hike reminded me to try to stay in good enough shape to be able to show these places to Cooper and Scarlett when they are old enough to hike the mountains on their own. That will be sooner than a blink of an eye. Yet that same, seemingly small, time will start taking a toll on my hips and knees. No doubt, just as my father, my balance will be tested on logs over the creek and I’ll curse the rain for making the rocks slippery.

willow_smWillow takes a dip.

We looked for wild flowers and porcupine quills. Maddy and Lisa alerted Chad to pay attention, because,  if I pointed out a ‘Glacier Lily’ on the way up, I may ask him what it was on the way down and he better know the answer.

RCE_0511Sky, rock, bush and water.

To experience these places with loved ones is a gift. The colour of the lake, the sky and large mountains, the smell of spring slides bringing down old spruce, the ice and snow and how I cheer it now, thinking if we could only get a few cold years the glaciers could build up again, how I am a fool to think such things are up to me, the fish and bears and all the wild flowers, the overgrown trail with so many ghosts and so much yet to show.

I always try to look extra hard before I leave, because I never know when I will see it all again.

a rainy start to summer

_LME7756smWillow’s smile.

Very fine day to wrap up the long weekend. Most of it was spent in the shop/studio wrapping up loose ends. Because it’s a holiday there wasn’t many texts coming in. Nowadays, everybody expects texts to be answered right away. I try my best to oblige, but it takes me away from actual work. Today I made some progress.

It rained most of the day. I kept the door open, so Willow and I could enjoy it. With luck it will help minimize the forest fire danger. It was especially welcome this weekend when the bush is filled with revellers lighting large camp fires and setting off fireworks. Not that they are the biggest threat, the only forest fires this year have been started by loggers.

***

_LME7730Babies Breath above the graves.

In the evening Willow and I set off for the bush. There is a special calm after a raucous long weekend. First we went to Windermere to the old graveyard. I promised I would say  hi to Mom and Dad.

Windermere is a strange town now. It was one of the first communities in the Valley. The few historical sites that remain are surrounded by huge second homes (cabins they are called by their owners) that are occupied only six weeks a year. The town is 80% populated by second home owners. The school has remained open only by offering special programs that appeal to families throughout the valley. Otherwise it would have been closed long ago.

This is one of the weekends the second homes are occupied. I got some dirty looks driving toward the graveyard. My pick up didn’t fit in with the Cadillac SUV’s and Beamers. Plus my licence plate was the wrong colour. For all they knew I could have been casing the place.

Walking the rows between the old names. There was the Fishers, Crooks, Tegarts, Kimptons, Youngs and plenty others dating back to the 1800’s. There was also Bingo, the Best Darn Dog in the Land. Dug recently.

My Grandfather once owned a strip of land from the highway all the way down to the graveyard. It didn’t have a drop of water. The land wasn’t worth spit.  They had a ditch from Windermere Creek they got their water and  irrigated the gardens. It must have only been a trickle during summer. They raised turkeys and chickens and sold vegetables. It wasn’t easy. Long after my Grandfather sold, the land was bought and subdivided by a developer. It is now covered in large houses overlooking Lake Windermere. People that never have a thought of what came before.

***

_LME7743Indian Paintbrush.

After that Willow and I headed for the hills. The looks we got leaving were not as bad.

Once in the bush, the rain falling, we finally felt ourselves.

_LME7761Wood Lily.

May Burn

RCE_9738smColumbia Lake. The haze is from the many controlled fires being burned in preparation for, what could be, a busy forest fire season.

Feels like we skipped over Spring and went straight to Summer. Warm temperatures in the mid 20’s, blue sky and everything greening up. It won’t be long and we will be praying for rain.

Hiked with Dave, Chad and Todd to the top of the hoodoos. Willow chased grouse and gophers. Sending them into the trees and underground, respectively.

RCE_9774A Blue Grouse struts his stuff. Once Willow caught wind, she put him in a tree. 

The hoodoos are featured prominently in the Ktunaxa Creation Story. It is said they are the remaining ribs of a large water monster that once inhabited the Kootenay and Columbia River systems.

RCE_9775Arrow Leaved Balsam Root. Arnica. False sunflower. The Ktunaxa called it xaǂ. Every part of the plant is edible and was an important food source for the Ktunaxa people.

It’s damn steep once on top with spectacular views of Columbia Lake to the north and Dutch Creek directly below.

RCE_9729Lisa remarked at the length of the Pine needles, saying they would make good weaved baskets. Lisa makes lovely pine needle baskets.

The mountains are still snowed in, but won’t be for long with the heat. Lisa and I went as high as we could last weekend looking for Mountain Orchids. They are close, yet still behind, we found their flat leaves on top of moss on the forest floor.

RCE_9755A couple of Swallows take in the view.

The hike back from the Hoodoos was uneventful, but for a small snake that crossed our path. It was enjoying the heat when we came along. I can never remember seeing one so early in the year.

RCE_9782A small Garter Snake sharing the trail. 

My mother used to tell us kids to get outside in the hot days of May and get sunburned. We were white as daisies after the long winter. She said, by the time it was summer it would turn to tan, and we wouldn’t have to worry about the sun burning again.

I am not sure if that parental advice would go over today, but I’m sure glad I got it when I did.

 

signs of spring

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Planted peas, lettuce, beets, radish and carrots today. Tomorrow, time permitting, I’ll get the onions and spuds in. The challenge is leaving room for the warm weather vegetables like tomatoes, beans and squash.

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An article on CBC said Canada gives $65 million in aid to war torn Yemen, while we sell $284 million in military goods, weapons, bombs, etc to countries using them against Yeman. The article said, it’s kind of like partially paying for the crutches after you break someones legs. 

The garden looks good. Tons of worms in every fork full. The fall garlic is up. I noticed a spot where one did not come up. I dug around. Sure enough I had planted it bottom side up. It was growing downward. I flipped it. I think it will be fine.

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We like to be smug in Canada about our civility and place in the world.

Willow and I got higher on the mountain than we’ve been since the end of November. It rained while the sun shone. Plenty of snow higher yet.

I talked to a man who was battling cancer. He said he stopped paying taxes. He did some work for me. Said, the government spends money at every turn, including paying themselves first, while he scrambles just to feed himself. The government froze his bank accounts. I paid him in cash. I noticed he charged me GST. I considered it a tip.

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It’s all alive now. Not that it wasn’t before. The trees are budding. The creeks are flowing high, muddy, moving rocks and wood. The birds are noisy, flying into each other. They have a courtship I can’t understand but envy none the less.

We walked the road less taken of the three. Looking for dead fir. Marvelled at the easy going. Saw a pile of bear scat. Willow stayed close. Walked until the snow made our feet wet. Walked until we could hear the melt under foot and in the distance.

RCE_9639The Moon, power lines and Jupiter

There are spirits in the trees. I can’t see or hear them, but I know they’re there. There’s squirrels and grouse, bears and elk. Perhaps it’s the roots buried only inches under my feet. Spruce, pine and fir as deep as they are high.

They may as well be stars.

Ice out

RCE_9406The colour of spring.

Yesterday afternoon I walked the west side of the lake to watch the last of the ice go out. It is late this year, stretching well into April. My father used to say April 12th was always a good pick for an ice out ticket. Recent years it’s been near the end of March. It seems a strange year for the ice to hang on late. The ice didn’t get as thick as it has in past years. It shows it is the spring wind and rain that takes it out, regardless of thickness. This spring, so far, we have not had much of either.

_LME0033_smThe Milky Way overtaken by dawn. Ice out March 11th 2016. Over a month earlier than this year. It is easy to imagine when the Rocky Mountain Trench was filled with ice.

This past weekend I put two pick-up loads of manure on the garden. It was good not to have to shovel shit in the rain. The plants I’ve started are up inside the house. I will only have to look after them inside for a month and a bit before they can go in the ground. I learned my lesson long ago about starting plants too soon and having to care for them inside while they turned into long leggy monsters. The garlic and rhubarb is up. There still is some frost in the ground and patches of ice and snow in the valley bottom. The garden could be dug anytime and planted with the cold weather vegetables, such as beets, lettuce, onions, peas and carrots. Even spuds would be okay.

RCE_9407Ice out, April 15th, 2018.

This morning is rain, snow in the mountains. The ice will be completely gone and the lake will be lividus, angry even. That’s the way I’ve grown to like it. Too nasty for motorboats piloted by city tourists dragging skiers, riling up and running over waterfowl, while posing for Instagram selfies and drinking craft beer. By then the roads will be open into the backcountry, even the birds will get the hint to head for the hills. Meanwhile there is still time to walk the tracks along the edges of the lake.

fort

RCE_9396smLow clouds cast shadows on the ice.

The ice on the lake is hanging on. It will take either wind or rain to get rid of it. The ice wasn’t as thick this year as the year before. It snowed on the weekend and I was glad to see it. I like winter. There is something about fresh snow and spring clouds.

Spring is coming. I’ve always liked late snows.The birds are making lots of noise. The rhubarb is breaking through the ground. Soon the garlic and last year’s lettuce seeds will be showing. I should dig the garden early this year. Get the spuds, carrots, beets and peas in early. As usual, I started a few tomatoes and weed plants inside. Black Cherry and Early Girl for the tomatoes and a Sativa for weed. They will be ready to transplant by the end of May.

The backroads are mud, ice and snow; in that order. I have been keeping to the valley bottom for Willow’s walks.

A few winters ago I spotted what looked like a treehouse from a distant hillside perch. It is a spot I only walk in the winter. In spring, fall and summer it would be well hidden with foliage. I have always intended to check it out, but deep snow always deterred me.

On the weekend I found myself again looking at it across a mile wide coolie. Still hard to see, it kept starring back. Since there was little snow I thought I would finally check it out.

RCE_9384Three windows, aesthetically placed.

It was a bit of a scramble, through thicket and deadfall, the route I choose, but other than carefully crossing a small patch of thin ice over moving water, it was a nice walk. The treehouse had been there awhile and had been abandoned for just about as long. There was no way into it, not for me anyway. The ladder was long gone. There was a thin rope hanging. Too old and thin for me. I stayed looking up, where I belong

It wasn’t the work of kids. It had two sunning decks, a locking door and three framed windows facing east. Not a bad set up. My guess it was built by young adults for a place to squat during summer while working trades, though the trade wouldn’t have been carpentry.

Packrats had shredded a bed or mattress and stuffing lay below the fort. Willow enjoyed going through it. She loves chasing rats when given the opportunity.

RCE_9389Watch that first step.

A roll of poly lay covered in forest debris. Old beer cans scattered. Those beers must have tasted good on a summer day watching the sun leave the eastern mountain tops from such a vantage point. Most of the trees used for support were dead or dying. The firs would survive. They will be stunted but standing long after the fort disappears entirely.

It was a steep haul back to the trail that the here and there snow made double difficult. Should be a quick melt from here on in.