Sounds of Autumn

The sun warms my back, the wind cools my hair.

I photograph leaves that soon won’t be there.

Shushing and rustling cottonwood leaves,

Some cling to life in the stiffening breeze.

Others have flown, for the chilly night air

Has sent them a warning. “Oh trees, do beware.

The harsh days are coming; it’s time to prepare.

Your fluttering whispering dresses of gold

Must leave you alone now to suffer the cold.

But fear not, for soon you will warm up again.

New dresses will grow in the coming spring’s rain.”

 

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The video clip is of ten seconds in Montana. The wind is rumbling a bit in the microphone and the Captain is calling Ruby with his whistle, but the main thing I love about the clip is the sound of the wind in the leaves. It’s best if you make it full screen and you can almost feel as if you are there under the trees. Be sure to turn on the sound. That’s what it’s all about.

 

 

 

All Up in the Hills

With apologies to my oldest followers, I’m reblogging this post from four years ago.

Pictures were taken with my tiny Olympus camera before the days of my Nikon. Only this first photo is different, taken by my friend, Ken Johnston.

grizzly

A few years ago, the Captain and I went on a camping trip west of Williams Lake in BC with another couple to fish the highly esteemed Chilko River.

Chilko River

I knew it was grizzly country but in spite of my ursaphobia I didn’t want to miss out on this adventure.

Choelquoit Lake with the Chilko River Valley at the base of the mountains.

Chilko Lake ahead with Chilko River flowing out of it.

The Chilcotin Plateau on our way to Chilko Lake and the Tatlayoko Lake area was scenic and spectacular. Real cowboy country. Near the horse corrals of Chilko Lake Lodge we parked our trailers side by side in a designated camping area.

 

Perfect camping spot

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I kicked aside hoof trimmings with sharp tacks still sticking out of them. Didn’t want to step on them later.

Horses live here.

We fished some of the many smaller lakes in the area, as well as the Chilko River, for which we needed a special licence (and a promise that we wouldn’t sue if we got frostbite on the river). It was June, and sunny, but the temperature was cool at this altitude.  Chilly and cold.

“Hey! Maybe that’s why it’s called Chilko Lake—‘chilly cold lake.’” I thought I was being witty, but all I got was eye rolls from my shivering companions.

I’m not petite, but with many layers of coats, sweaters, and life jacket on, I’ve doubled in size.

All those layers of clothes and still chilly and cold on the Chilko.

“We should try to find a better spot to launch the skiff,” the Captain said. “There’s a good place right around here.  Saw it last year. The main road runs parallel to the river. Somewhere, there’s a trail between the two.” Moments later he spotted it. A narrow road had been pushed through the dense woods. It might have been passable with our four-wheel-drive truck except that large boulders had been strategically placed to prevent vehicle access. We got out and walked through the woods.

Hiking time

“I don’t mind a hike, but what about grizzlies?”

“Oh, you don’t need to worry about them. They’re all up in the hills this time of year.”

Why didn’t that reassure me? “And you know this, how?”

“I just know.”

I shrugged my shoulders and strapped on my bear spray. “Okay, let’s go.”

“The river’s got to be just around the bend,” the Captain said. In the next twenty minutes he would repeat this phrase many times.

My neck felt rubbery from swiveling to check behind me. “Are you sure about the grizzlies?”

“No grizzlies this time of year. I told you, they’re all up in the hills.”

This sounded very familiar. It was the same thing he had said when we were stranded in grizzly country on the coast the day we got cut off by the tide.  “You always say that.”

“No really, they are,” he said.  “It’s too early for grizzlies.”

The launching spot we eventually found was nowhere near where we hiked that day through “non-grizzly country.” We fished the river and were amazed at the huge fish that remained, for the most part, elusive. Three things stood out for me on those days on the river:

1. The scenery was spectacular.

2. It was cold enough to freeze your goosebumps.

3. Blessedly, there were no grizzlies on the river (which is why I liked being in the boat).

Pretty cool trip

After several days at the horse ranch, the forecast of heavy rain marked the end of our stay.

We packed up and started for home. Outfitted with walkie-talkies in each truck, we led the way, chatting occasionally to our friends who followed behind in their rig.

Time to leave

The roads were turning ugly in places as the downpour dampened the clay gumbo under the gravel topping. We were getting out just in time.

For sure it was time to leave!

That’s when it happened.

“Did you see that?” I pointed to the road in front of us, then turned to see where the two grizzlies disappeared into the trees. We pulled over to the side to peer through the woods. The trees were so close together I wondered how a grizzly could fit between them, especially at a gallop.

“Two grizzlies just ran across the road in front of us,” the Captain said into the walkie-talkie.

“Oh yeah? Well, you’ve got a flat tire,” our friend said.

“Ha, ha! Very funny,” we answered into the mike.

“No, I’m serious. Your back right trailer tire is flat. I’m parked right behind you and believe me, it’s flat.”

“Is he messing with our heads?” I asked. “Right where the grizzlies went into the woods?”

Only flat on the bottom

“I’ll check it out.” The expression on his face when he came back to the cab told me it was bad news. “We must have driven over one of those hoof clippings with the tacks. You take the shotgun and stand right there while I change the tire.”

My neck felt prickly but I couldn’t wimp out and leave the Captain to be grizzly bait all alone, so I stood there with the shotgun. Our friend stood guard with his rifle — brave soul –, and his wife stayed in their truck — smart woman.

After a while, I got bored. The gravel on the roadside looked soft, and the grizzlies—a mother and a teenage cub I would guess—were really moving, so they should have left some tracks. I wandered a bit, looking up and down the ditch for the tracks.

“Here!” the Captain called. “Just stand there with that shotgun. I don’t trust those buggers.” No more pooh-poohing my ursaphobia now. I should have felt some “I-told-you-so” satisfaction but all I felt was jumpy nerves.

At last the spare tire was on and tools put away. I did a quick check for overlooked tire irons and such. And that’s when I found it—the grizzly track I’d been looking for—right behind the newly changed tire.

Either a grizzly or Bigfoot

“Oh my God! It’s exactly right here that they went into the woods!”

As we drove away, the Captain scrunched his face up. “Ahem … I didn’t want to tell you earlier,” he said, “but a rancher near Tatlayoko Lake lost some livestock to grizzlies last week.”

“All up in the hills. Hah!”

Have you seen Rebecca Spit?

That Rebecca must be quite a tomboy to have a piece of land named after her spitting abilities. But no, I’m not talking about a girl with a disgusting habit, and this post is not about how far Rebecca can spit.

I’m talking about a landform. I wonder sometimes where these terms come from. A spit of land…. Could it be because the long “tongue” of land is formed by deposits of sand being “spit” up by the waves and deposited on the open, seaward side of it?

Whatever the origin, Rebecca Spit is a park on Quadra Island. To get to Quadra you have to take a ferry from Campbell River on Vancouver Island. At the recent quilting retreat on Quadra, my friend and I took a short drive to the 2-km.-long spit and walked the trail in this park. The water you see on the left of the photo is the sheltered side. In the summer it must be a beautiful place to swim.041

Here is a better look at the beach on the sheltered side of the spit.

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As we continued down the trail, the spit became narrow and it was possible to see the water on both sides at once. The open water of the north end of the Strait of Georgia was much rougher than that of sheltered lagoon.

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The forest facing the open water on my right  had taken a beating. Where were all the branches and greenery? No sign of fire damage, but many  branches were gone and tree trunks were broken off. Could extra high tides have drowned the trees and soaked their feet in very salty water? That might have killed the trees which then dried out and were at the mercy of the strong winter winds. Trunks and branches would have broken in the wind. I’m not sure what happened here but the trees right near the beach on the exposed side of the spit were damaged and different from the rest.

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The end of the spit is a pretty place to stop for a few photos. Boaters must have local knowledge or a good map to avoid getting lost in the maze of small islands that dot this coastline.

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On our way back to the car,  we see a warm glow of late afternoon sunlight on the trunks of the trees, living and dead.055

And in case you think dead trees are useless, just ask any woodpecker.

pileated woodpecker

 

Drive-by Shootings

The holiday is nearly over and it’s time to drag our little home on wheels back to the rainy west coast. Most of the photos on the way home were taken from inside the truck, so they will be a bit blurry but I couldn’t resist trying for some of the beautiful scenery that passed us by. So prepare for a few drive-by shootings.DSCN2697This photo (below) was nothing special but I love the way the blurriness caused by the moving truck made the picture look more like a painting.

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I don’t know how many times I’ve thought, “One day I want to drive through here without dragging a trailer, so I can stop anywhere and get out to take a good photo.” But then, the logistics would all change and in the end, it just wouldn’t work.

These rocky hills have the most fascinating formations. If I had very high and durable leather rattlesnake-proof boots, I’d love to clamber around on the hills and explore them up close. I’d take a bottle of Benedryl (in case of snakebite) and a cell phone just in case (not that there would likely be cell phone coverage). ??????????

And next time I’ll bring my fly rod. The rivers in Montana are so beautiful. I don’t know how many times we passed over the Clark Fork where it goes under the highway, but it gets more picturesque each time. There is a lot of drift boat fishing on the Clark Fork and the Missouri. I bet that would be loads of fun.??????????

Here is one of many spots that looks inviting for a bit of fishing if you’re camping your way through the state.

??????????It’s hard to drive by without stopping every ten minutes for another photo, and even harder to find a place to stop with a trailer in tow, if you really wanted to get that photo.  But at least I got a few shots as we whizzed past all the beautiful scenery in Montana. This is only the eastern and middle part. There is so much more I haven’t even seen yet. Adventure awaits.

 

Prince Charming

 At last, we had the perfect weather for picking mushrooms in this great watershed. All the hillsides around the lake should be loaded in treasure. Chanterelles like it damp, dim, and not too cold, and they like to grow where there are fir trees.

009Conditions were right. It should have been a great day, but until very recently, our weather has been extremely hot and dry, and it takes time for a mushroom to grow even after the first rains.

My friends and I found two or three button-size chanterelles each, after hours of scouring the woods. We sat by the lake to have our lunch and come up with as many reasons as possible to justify returning home without bags and bags of mushrooms.

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It’s great exercise.

So much fresh air.

It’s real life in the real world.

Beats working out in the gym.

Still, our feet were tired, and we were disillusioned and deflated at the thought of coming home empty-handed. Also we were dismayed to see how many of our old picking areas were now logging slash.

This is what we were after….

chanterelle

 

But this is all we saw….

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Dry moss with not a mushroom in sight. Acres of dry moss.

We found huge pine cones…

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but no mushrooms…

We found the beginnings of a burl growing on a tree trunk...

but no mushrooms….

We decided to try one more area, close to the lake where there might be more moisture. To make it an easier walk, we set out across the clear cut area where the fireweed now grew tall. What we didn’t think about was that the logging company had left a mess of branches behind after taking the trees off the areas where we used to pick mushrooms. Apparently the logging companies are supposed to leave the limbs in place to decay naturally….sigh….

Picking our way through, we had to walk through places much worse than this one. Here are my friends trying not to trip in the slash. Up ahead and to the right you can see the fireweed that hides more of this kind of ankle-twisting mess.

031Tripping over the fallen branches, one of our team fell onto the bag that held her bear spray. She must have twisted the canister’s nozzle sideways and knocked off the safety guard. I was farther downhill from her when I heard, “Ouch!” and a hissing sound that didn’t want to stop. “Oh no-o-o-o-o!” she called, and I heard her crashing through the dried branches that lay crisscrossed on the ground.

When the canister was empty, the hissing faded, but my friends coughed so hard  that it sounded like pieces of lung must soon be spat out.

Just as I was congratulating myself on being farther away and not affected by this mishap at all, the invisible pepper cloud drifted downhill towards me. How did I know it was there? My lungs were on fire, I stumbled farther away from the pepper spray and coughed my way into the woods.

What a day! Our lungs were on fire, our lips and eyes burned, our throats ached from coughing. “Bear spray would definitely work if we needed it,” I barked out.

When we had recovered slightly, we moved into the woods for easier walking.

“Where is Prince Charming when you need him?” I thought.

Just then, the friend who had emptied her bear spray canister called, “Hey come look at this!”

And there he was! Our Prince Charming – a bit late to save us, but there, nevertheless.

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*** Don’t forget to check out my other blog, Anneli’s Place, if you are interested in anything related to reading and writing.

http://annelisplace.wordpress.com

New Stomping Grounds

032After two weeks of packing boxes and unpacking them again at my sister-in-law’s new place, we took a break to explore her “new stomping grounds.” The trail leading to the beach was a good two-mile walk through ungroomed forest (my favourite kind). This area, near Lacey, just north of Olympia, Washington, gets a LOT of rain in the winter and spring, as you can see by the moss on the trees.

The Hawks Prairie Trail is named after one of the local pioneers (pictured at the bottom of the information sign) and the area around it is preserved in as natural a state as possible.

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Ivy is finding a lot of traces of scents left behind by other visitors.

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The first glimpses of the ocean tugged at me as I hadn’t seen my beloved seashore for a couple of weeks.

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I could see the old wharf that, apparently, was once a busy loading and unloading place.

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Now to get down to it….  An iron structure had been built to make it easier to descend to beach level.

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I was impressed, but Ivy was not. She stopped in her tracks and would not budge.

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Then I saw why. The gaps in the stairs were too big for her tiny feet.

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Luckily, Ivy is tiny enough that she’s easily picked up, so she wasn’t deprived of her romp on the beach.

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Paddin’ Around Lake Padden

Moving a household is hard work, so after helping my sister-in-law pack boxes all day…001I was happy to follow her suggestion to go for a walk in one of her favourite places, Lake Padden, in the south part of Bellingham, Washington.

021aThe walk goes all the way around the lake, for a distance of 2.8 miles.

014On the way around the lake, we came across this cute little fellow who entertained us by showing us how he ate a cone of some sort. He turned it around and around, chewing, shaking it, spitting out parts he didn’t like, and savouring the rest.

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We continued to the other side of the lake and marveled at how nature works to regenerate growth. From a fallen cedar, many young cedars had sprouted, like so many children standing in a line. The decaying cedar would provide nutrients to get all these young ones started.

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Another large tree had fallen closer to the path and someone brought a power saw to carve out his creative idea. I was tempted to sit down to try out the unique benches but they were probably a bit damp and, even more probably, I would find it hard to get up again and continue the walk. After packing boxes all day it would have been easier to stay on the bench and have a snooze than to go on.

036aMy sister-in-law will miss her old stomping grounds, but I’m sure she’ll find new paths to walk at her new home.