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.

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.

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. 

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.

b/w

Tonights Moon shining through. The low cloud blankets the valley bottom most of the day. If lucky we get to see the tops of the mountains before light fades in the afternoon.
A Bald Eagle from a few days before. Lisa stayed beneath it’s perch, in an understanded truce, snapping photos and marvelling at it’s brilliance.
The woodpile, no worse for wear, staying warm insulated with a layer of snow.
Tenacity. Willow, on top of the world, smiling, listening for animals under the snow.

mid december

A stellar day in any season. Above freezing. Reports have it the ice is thin.

Watched chickadees do their business. Sharpened the saw. Ran around town, wasting my time, to no avail.

Very fine day.

lisa

Lisa and I were out early, neither of us not sleeping worth a shit. We headed for the Palliser with a detour up Rock Creek to get red willow and cedar for a wreath. Lisa loves making wreaths. Unfortunately the deer eat the tender cedar right off the front door. It’s like we are feeding them and putting Willow in harms way.

We picked up a few sticks of firewood, looked for a Christmas tree, but resolved it was still too early to cut one. This year the tree will be extra small, like the turkey, considering it will only be a crowd of two.

The snow got deep in a hurry. Lisa gave me a look a few times when we pushed further. The new tires seemed to handle it well, still why push your luck? Lisa was happier when she was walking the road anyway.

We cut some branches and watched the tracks in the snow.