wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Birds at Vernon Lake

We parked our trailer and unloaded the skiff to have it ready for use at the edge of Vernon Lake.

The campsite was visited by many birds. Here are only a few of them. Many stayed hidden though they sang their hearts out all day.

This is a hairy woodpecker. I thought at first it was a downy, which looks very similar, but the hairy woodpecker has a much heavier and longer beak than the downy.

One of the birds I heard a lot, was Swainson’s thrush. I love the song he sings, “You’re pretty, you’re pretty, oh really.” But he is very elusive and I couldn’t get a photo of him.

He’s a very plain version of an immature robin but without any hint of black or red. If you click on this link you’ll see a photo on the bird site: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Swainsons_Thrush/id

Next to visit, was a Steller’s jay, but I almost mistook him for something else. He is a bit pale and scruffy, and this has me wondering if it is an immature bird.

Below, we have the red-breasted sapsucker, probably the very one I took pictures of for a previous post. He was hanging around the campsite the whole time we were there.

And no wonder! He has already made quite an investment in this tree, sipping sap and nabbing insects.

But do you see what I see? Circling the tree just below the chipped bark is a nasty looking petrified snake. I think he’s guarding the dinner table for the sapsucker.

You won’t see me trying to get near him. He looks mean. Is that blood on his lips?


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Fish or Beans

Vernon Lake on northern Vancouver Island is a good-sized piece of water. Expect lots of gray days, with misty clouds, some moving around the lake, some hanging onto the hilltops nearby.

If you are in a small boat, watch for the many partially submerged logs, especially near the shores. The area around the lake was logged long ago, probably more than once, by the look of the different sizes of trees.

 

Some of the trees have been in the water for so long that the exposed stumps have decayed and supported new plant growth. Sorry for the blurry photo of that one. It was a quick afterthought photo on a drive-by in the skiff.

Some stumps had not had time to develop growth yet. Instead they took on the role of sea monsters guarding the passageway to the far end of the lake.

At that end where the river flows out, the lake narrows like a funnel. Along the sides of the ever narrowing passageway, stand snags of trees that were probably drowned years ago by the rise in the lake’s water level in the rainy season. It looked to me like Snag Alley.

 

The water was so clear you wondered if it was really there, except that it reflected the greenery from the shore.

 

The Captain did his best to catch a fish after scrambling to get all his ducks in a row.

Either our timing wasn’t right, or the Captain was hampered by having to set up the Admiral with her fishing rod, but by the time he was able to dabble, it was not a fishy time for him just then and there.

Or possibly the fish didn’t take him seriously because he wasn’t wearing all his top-of-the-line brand name fishing paraphernalia. (The Admiral didn’t care about that stuff as long as he had the bear spray along.)

Anyway, supper that day was not going to be fresh gourmet fish.

More like sausages and a can of beans.

It was time for one of my favourite sayings: Tomorrow is another day.

 


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Trouble Comes in Threes

A few days earlier in Great Falls, Montana in -17 C (1 F) temperatures that felt several degrees colder than that, the trailer’s holding tank (at least the outlet) was frozen and could not be emptied. What a thing to talk (write) about!

A couple of days of bumpy roads and warmer temperature fixed that problem for us, as we found out at the sani dump in Omak’s stampede grounds.

While the Captain dealt with this task, I was looking mindlessly at our muddy, tired-looking trailer.

“Do you think that tire looks a bit low?” I asked.

I got the usual (expected) answer. “Naw, it’s just the way it’s sitting.”

Silence…. Then, “Get me that pressure gauge out of the console, will ya?”

Moments later, “Holy sh–!” (Apparently, he still had the holding tank problem [trouble #1] on his mind.) “It’s only 15 pounds!”

(I knew it should be somewhere around 30.)

Several times over the next hour or so, the Captain said, “Whoah, sure lucky you noticed that tire.”  He said later, he  thought we must have picked up a tack on the rodeo grounds.

At the first available gas station we put air in the tire. Then we hurried to nearby Home Depot lot next to Wal-Mart and found a quiet corner to change the tire, which was already hissing out air.

When the Captain got the spare tire off the back of the trailer (first time it had been touched since we bought the trailer), the pressure gauge told us this was something that we had overlooked. It had only 12 pounds of air pressure.

How lucky was it that we had brought this mini compressor along? It plugs into the cigarette lighter and can pump up a tire.

 

In minutes the spare was up to full pressure,

and the tire was changed.

So that was trouble #2 taken care of.

We had noticed more than six trailers and motorhomes in the Wal-Mart parking lot next to the Home Depot lot where we were, so we felt safe enough and thought we would have a quiet night’s sleep.

At about 11 p.m. a small car (trouble #3) came into the lot and parked right up against the back of our trailer. I peeked out through the blinds and the car backed up and pulled out.

My relief that he was leaving did not last long, as he pulled in right in front of us. NOW we were worried. He had the whole huge empty Home Depot lot to park in, yet he cozied up to us. The driver got out and crouched down by his left front tire, hiding behind his open car door.

I suggested that we take off and go park by the motorhome in the lot next to us. The Captain sneaked into the truck and drove, while the dogs and I stayed in the trailer until we were safely parked by the other campers and watched to see what the strange car would do. After a while he left and we could relax.

There is a lot to be said for parking in an RV park, but this time our flat tire had left us searching for a quick place to park and we ended up boondocking in a parking lot. I wonder if the lost sleep is worth it.

Just a day’s drive from home, we had one more calamity to deal with. Next time.


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Giving Up – Part 5

There comes a point when, no matter how badly you want something, you know that it’s wiser to give it up. Going ahead with our trip to eastern Montana, after negotiating three snowy weather systems in two short weeks, would have been pushing our luck.

So with high winds and snow still coming down on the way forward, and snow settling on the road behind us, we reluctantly turned homeward.

The tires had sat frozen and immobile for two bitter cold nights, so we eased ahead a few feet and held our breath. So far, so good. We could have cried, turning back, but it was a relief not to drive into more snow blowing sideways.

I could have cropped this photo so the antenna wouldn’t show, but the icy snow on the forward side of the antenna says something about the chilly air.

Here is one of the many views of the Clark Fork (one of my favourite rivers). It is visible flowing beside or under the highway off and on for many miles.

On our drive eastward, little snow covered these lower elevations. Now it made for scenic winter postcard material. In some areas, the water was warmer than the air, resulting in fog along the river.

You can tell where the river goes.

Snow had covered these hills that were bare when we had driven through a few days earlier.

Some snow was still on the roads. As the day warmed up, big transport trucks lost clumps of ice that had collected on them. In the stretch of road below, the eastbound lane is closed and the westbound lane is taking two-way traffic. You don’t want to catch an edge or a clump of ice. The one in the photo below is one of hundreds of clumps we had to avoid.

I wondered what these cattle were “grazing” on. Not much grass poking out from the snow. Winter is hard on many animals.

As we neared the upcoming MacDonald Pass, my knuckles gave the snow some competition for whiteness. I knew I had a good driver beside me, but with so much construction and lanes restricted by cones and ice (and I don’t mean ice cream cones), I was nervous all the way to the top of the pass.

 

And relieved to be going down to a lower elevation right afterwards. Only two passes left to negotiate before we got home.

 

 


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A Cool Trip – Part 1

We left Vancouver Island on our way to eastern Montana. Having waited out the unexpected September 30th blizzard, we hoped to find that the worst was over after a few days of traveling.

In the southern interior of British Columbia is the Similkameen Valley, probably best known for being a wine growing region of the South Okanagan.

For us, it was a good place to stop for a quick coffee and sandwich while the dogs stretched their legs.

Then we continued on with our truck and trailer to the U.S. border into Washington and Coulee City.

The Coulee City Community Park provides RV parking and a lovely setting on the south end of Banks Lake, a reservoir created in 1942 after the completion of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River.

Our stay at Coulee City was perfect, but the worst was yet to come. Stay tuned.


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The Islands

Vancouver Island is surrounded by many other smaller islands. It’s an easy boat ride to go for an overnight picnic on one of them. With our troller and the sporty boat of our friends, we did just that. Here we are snuggled up together.

The aluminum skiff is handy for ferrying us to shore for some exploring and picture taking.

So many plants and shells are different from those on most beaches of Vancouver Island.

Our friends’ dog may have been a bit nervous at first, but he proved to have sailor’s blood running in his veins. He had a great time and was as good as gold.

Dogs and people all got along fabulously and had a good time.

More on this outing next time.

*** Again – a reminder that all my novels are half price until the end of July. The Wind Weeps remains FREE. See my webpage for more info: www.anneli-purchase.com

 


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Over, Under, Upside Down

I wanted to show you the water lily, but I ended up studying the photo and seeing all kinds of crazy things.

I’m in the boat (you see the edge of the aluminium skiff at the bottom of the photo), and over the water. The lily is over, on, under, and above the water.  But what is that big hill doing, hanging upside down from the top of the photo?

Once I started looking at the way the lily was growing, I was quite fascinated by the roots on the lake floor, the stems reaching for the surface of the water (some unsuccessfully, so far), and the leaves floating on the surface, some of them half sunk, others lifting up, yet others lying flat on the bottom of the lake.

And then there are the two flowers that are really only one plus a reflection.

The longer I looked the more I could see.

And to think that at first glance I thought it was just a boring weed in bloom.


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The Black Bear

We were not looking for bears. More like looking OUT for them, but not really expecting to see any.

What are YOU lookin’ at?

We surprised this fellow, as he was coming down to the beach for a sip of water on a hot morning.

We were in the skiff, using the more powerful gas motor to get from our campsite to the favourite fishing spot at the other end of the lake (after which we would use the small electric motor), when the black shape appeared on the beach to our left.

The Captain reined in the speed and headed towards the bear so I could get a picture, but with the change in speed and the wake catching up  behind us, the photos I snapped were not great. Again I apologize. These pics were rush jobs, trying to compensate for the rocking boat, but if I had taken even another second to focus better, the bear would have been gone. As it was, after two quick clicks, he melted into the woodwork.

Looks like we interrupted his plans for a sunny morning on the beach.

Sheesh! Happens to me all the time!

I looked for bears all the rest of the day. When we stepped onto the beach for a swim, I was Mrs. Rubberneck, constantly checking the bushes behind me.

Later, when I told the campsite host that we’d seen a bear on the beach, he looked like he’d seen a ghost. After a moment, I realized how it sounded. I laughed and said, “No! Not here on the beach. Way over, halfway down the lake.”

I guess he had thought he had a nuisance bear wandering through the campsites and he’d have to deal with it.  Whew! Was he relieved!

 


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The Flying Stick

The campsite is just in the trees near the bottom of the photo, at this end of the lake. We thought it would be good to get some firewood from the logging slash piles behind the camp. If we didn’t need it, we could leave it for the next campers.

In the sweltering heat on the hillside, we cut and loaded a few bits of wood.

“We must be completely nuts to even think of making a fire. It has to be 30 degrees C,” I said, wanting to get back to the shade of the campsite.

But the evenings can cool off, so we persevered.

On the way back, at the bottom of the hill, I saw something.

“Stop! There! Is that a bird … or … is it a … stick? Or a rock?”

From inside the truck and at this distance I couldn’t tell what it was. I had been fooled many, many times by rocks or sticks that looked like a grouse at the side of the road.

“I’ll zoom it and take a picture. Then I might be able to see what it is…. It’s probably just a stick.”

Through the truck window the blurry photo really looked like a grouse, but the … thing … hadn’t moved an inch in the two minutes we had been sitting there in the truck.

“Just wait,” I said. “I know it’s just a log or something, but I want to go over to it and take a picture of the stick that fooled me.”

I got out of the truck. It still didn’t move. With my camera ready, I was about to snap a picture of the stick, when it flew away.

But sticks never fly away with tail feathers spread out in a glorious rusty brown colour. It was a ruffed grouse.

At home I put the picture in my photoshop app and lightened the dark shape. Now, even in the fuzzy picture, I could see the rusty colour and other features like an eye and a beak and a tuft of a topknot.

He was very good at hiding in the twisted roots of a fallen giant tree nearby. Although I looked for him, I didn’t see him again. Just lots of sticks and rocks.


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Foolish Fish

Parked in a campground with hardly a soul around, I quickly scan for cougars and bears. I shake my head as I realize I’m too paranoid.

Our trailer sits looking at the lightly wooded view on the one side,

and the lake with our skiff on the beach on the other side. This pic is taken through the trailer window after the trip over dusty gravel road.

We can hardly wait to try fishing on the lake, and Emma is ready to go. She perches as lookout near the bow while Ruby settles into the space between the seats behind me.

When the Captain catches a trout, Emma checks it out,

and then Ruby has to give her approval as well.

The word is out beneath the waves

Swim for your lives and hope that saves

You from the Captain and his wife,

Their fishing rods may take your life.

 

Beware the tiny lures like flies

The Captain dangles them and tries

To fool us, thinking we’re just fish,

How tasty we’d be on a dish.

 

He’s brought his wife and both the dogs

Which makes it hard to watch for logs

His boat may hit one and they’ll flip

And we won’t get hooked on the lip.

 

Alas, young Cutty took the bait

I told him not to bite, just wait,

But no, he had to have it now,

I heard him screaming, “Ow, ow, ow!”

 

The Captain reeled him to the boat,

When Cutty was too tired to float,

They netted him and held him up

With comments about how they’d sup.

 

When Emma saw poor Cutty there

She tasted him and sniffed the air.

Then Ruby had to have her turn,

Making little Cutty squirm.

 

Beware you fishy children all

And listen when you hear me call

Do not be fooled by man-made flies

A better fate in wisdom lies.