Category Archives: Travel

All Spruced Up

Did you know that the Colorado Blue Spruce is the state tree of Colorado? I did not know that, but it doesn’t surprise me one bit. This tree is amazing on so many levels. It is tough and prickly, and in the plant world, that spells survival.

Have you ever tried to touch one, or pull on it? Ouch! The Latin name “Picea pungens,” means a spruce (or type of pine) that is prickly, puncturing, or stinging. Just touch one and you’ll see what I mean.

They make a great wind break when planted as a hedge and they tolerate cold temperatures. They are listed as a Zone 2 plant, which allows for very cold weather. No wonder Colorado likes it.

The Colorado spruce in this photo is actually in my neighbours’ yard. I zoomed in on it when I noticed its beautiful cones standing tall like  candles on an old-fashioned Christmas tree, or many levels of lights on a chandelier.

Just slightly off topic is the background of the photo. You are looking at the sandy bottom of Comox Bay at low tide. Only a small streak of blue crosses it and that is the river coming out into the bay. A few hours later, that whole sandy area will be covered with water when the tide comes in. If not for the river, the tide, and the gooey sand a person might be tempted to walk across to the other side.

Wear a bathing suit, as you might have to swim back.

Tide Out, Fish In

At first glance you might think it’s a sandy beach, but your nostrils will tell you that iodine  breeze holds the smell of low tide.  That sand would be very soft to walk on and I wouldn’t advise it. When the tide comes in, all that “sand” will be under water. Meanwhile, there’s no telling how far you would sink into that sea bottom.

This is the east side of the causeway that divides the wharves where fish boats can tie up. It is what they call the new side, more recently dredged to provide more moorage and shelter for local boats.

The older side is more crowded because “the old salts” tie up there. It is busy with fishermen getting their boats ready for a summer of salmon and halibut fishing, often far enough from home that the men and their boats may be gone for many weeks.

You can see the roof and the rigging of the Captain’s boat on the bottom right-hand side of the photo below.

The new side is also busy, but is more convenient for boats that come and go more frequently.

Those who have fish for sale will want to moor on the new side. It is handier for the public to visit for dockside sales of whatever is in season. It might be prawns, shrimp, salmon, halibut  or other. Today it is halibut. The customers lined up on the dock know that they have to buy the whole fish. The price is high, but they gladly part with well over $100 for a small halibut. These flat fish have a delicate white meat which, though highly priced, is also highly prized. If you could see what the fishermen have to risk and endure to catch and bring these fish to harbour, you would say the price is a bargain for the customer.

As you can see, there is no shortage of people wanting fish for their supper.

I have removed the name and number of the boat to allow some anonymity for the boat owner.

Two Coasts, Two Kinds of Snow

Today, May 24th, it snowed a foot or more on the east coast of Canada. This is not normally May weather, even for the province of Newfoundland.

As I stepped outside in my front yard on the west coast of Canada, it looked like snow too. But a second look told me the white “flakes” on the ground were actually tired dogwood petals that had finished blooming.

As I turned to walk towards the front yard, I saw more snow. But this time it was in the shape of snowballs from my snowball bush (part of the viburnum family).

I really sympathize with the Newfoundlanders today, but I wouldn’t want to trade places with them. I like our kind of snow better.

Water on Three Sides

What are you looking at here? Let me help you get your bearings.

The hills in the distance, and beyond them the mountains you can’t see because of the low cloud cover, are on the mainland of British Columbia, just north of Vancouver. I am standing on Vancouver Island. You can deduce from that, that the city of Vancouver is not on Vancouver Island. In this photo we are looking to the east.

I’ve climbed up a hill a little way and am now looking to the south. You can see a spit of land that reaches out from the land’s end. The spit has been formed by a gazillion years of wave action swishing the sand along and dropping it to form a giant finger of sand. All the land you can see in this photo, including the mountains, is on Vancouver Island.

Looking to the west, you can see the sheltered water on the inside of the spit, and the harbour of Comox in the distance. Those toothpicks sticking up are the masts and trolling poles of fishing boats and sailboats in the marina. The two boats at anchor in the foreground are getting free moorage.

A few weeks ago, the Captain and I went for a walk that took us to the inside of the sheltered bay. You can see part of the spit in the distance on the far right horizon.

On the way to the trail we noticed the run-off from the excessive amount of rain we’d had. This is not a year-round creek, but a temporary run-off creek. I feel sorry for the large tree that has its feet in water, day and night. It may soon go the way of the broken off tree trunk in the photo below this one.

It may be broken off, but this tree is still serving a useful purpose. It is making many birds happy. Nuthatches and woodpeckers will make holes in the trees to nest in,  and the bugs they find in the trunk help give them strength to continue their work and to feed their babies.

Farther along, we came to the boardwalk. I love this scene. You see the run-off creek completing the water cycle as it brings the rainwater back to the sea. It’s great to have the boardwalk and not have to wade through the creek.

The trees along the water are mostly deciduous types. They are probably cottonwoods and a few poplar or alder types mixed in. My guess is they are cottonwoods because those grow taller than the others, and these are a good size.

Even in the cool weather, you can have a great day going for a walk around your neighbourhood.

Snowy Quilting Retreat

As I left home to drive to the quilting retreat last week, it happened to be a rare sunny day and the Comox Glacier on Vancouver Island was looking fine after many  fresh coatings of snow during the past weeks. At sea level we were all complaining about the constant rain this winter, but up high, it was building up the snow on the glacier.

My friend and I arrived at the lodge on Quadra Island and unloaded our sewing machines and all the many boxes of fabric and sewing supplies we would need for the next four days.

We unloaded our bedding and personal items in our assigned rooms and then got busy setting up the machines to sew. After that it was a marathon of sewing.

Here is the project my friend was working on. She designed it herself and has done a beautiful job of it. I’m only sorry that my photo doesn’t do it justice.

I worked on small projects like bags,

and a table runner (the one hanging at an odd angle on the end).

Another quilter who sat nearby, had some gorgeous fabric that she was using to build a quilt. Here is the first phase of it.

It drizzled a bit the first two days but then it cleared enough for us to take a short walk. The next day it was like Christmas. Snow!

Even from inside the lodge, you could tell it was snowing heavily outside.

The next day it was all gone again and we were ready to drive home. What a surprise we had when we arrived home to find more snow.

And to think that ten days ago I was having thoughts about gardening. I think this year I might be planting snowballs.

 

Corinth Canal

 

This is a revamping of a post from nearly five years ago. Apologies to my longtime followers who were with me then.

In 1977, after a hot summer in Greece, the Captain and I welcomed the cooler weather of September. The wind came up and we didn’t mind that so much.

But it got cooler and swimming in the ocean was a chillier event. The tourists were leaving. Maybe it was time for us to think about hitting the road too.

We drove northeast taking a side trip to Epidaurus to see the great amphitheater there. Click here to see the post on Epidaurus.

At Corinth, northern Greece and the Peloponnese were once joined by a narrow strip of land. Now several bridges span the Corinth Canal connecting the north and south of Greece. On the highway heading towards Athens, we stopped on the northern side of one of these bridges to take a picture of the famous canal. Completed in 1893, it is about four miles long and 70 feet wide at the base. After all the effort to build it, the canal is still only good for small boat traffic. The sheer limestone cliffs have constant landslides, and canal closures for repairs are frequent. Also, the depth and width of the waterway allow only boats with a maximum width of 58 ft. and a draft of 24 ft. That disqualifies most modern freighters. Even allowing for the narrowness and shallowness of the waterway, boats that just barely qualify don’t like to risk it because of the high winds that funnel between the walls, and the tides that rush through the canal between the Adriatic and the Aegean seas.

We are looking eastward into the Saronic Gulf, near the southwest of the Aegian Sea.

Since we wanted to stop to take a photo, it was a good time to pull in to the little coffee shop on the north side of the bridge. The place looked neglected and didn’t appear to see many customers in spite of the perfect location, but we didn’t care. We were tired and needed a break from driving. A cup of coffee would hit the spot.

I didn’t expect to find American style coffee, but I would even have welcomed a cup of Greek espresso  with the sweet fine coffee grounds settled in the bottom of those tiny cups. But nothing so fancy was to be had. Our coffee came in plastic cups filled with hottish water and a little packet of Nescafe instant coffee on the side. Sugar was available (which I don’t take because I’m sweet enough), but no milk or cream. Our extreme disappointment made this java stop memorable even after 40 years. How many cups of coffee do you remember years later?

Later, outside the coffee shop, we tried to get a better look at the canal close up. I walked as close as I dared to the edge of the canal and then realized that there was no barricade or fence or sign of any kind, warning of the 80 degree (nearly vertical) 300-foot drop. The dirt parking lot and area around the coffee shop were quite drivable and anyone could have taken a wrong turn from the parking lot at night and gone over the edge. Dogs or children running around could easily go over.

I see in some modern photos that there are short bits of fence, but it doesn’t seem that access to the edge of the canal is restricted even now. I still shudder to think of it.

If anyone knows of stricter fencing of the area next to the canal all these years later, I would be most happy to hear about it.

Let Me Tell You!

 

I’m a red-shafted northern flicker. I happened to flick through the pages of Anneli’s latest book, “Marlie.” It took me back to a time when I made a return flight up to the northern coast of BC. I flew across to the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii), but the weather up there is something else, let me tell you! I nearly blew all the way to China in that windstorm.

On Graham Island near the fishing village of Masset, I ended up gripping a hemlock branch. In one wind gust, a lovely lady on the cover of Anneli’s book flew by and got hung up on the branches too. Since I was already gripping the branch, I grabbed it and thought, “How fitting!”  I’d read it before and it was  a gripping story.

When I read it, did I ever have my eyes opened. Let me tell you! Here’s Marlie, this lovely lady, newly arrived on the islands just like me, trying to make her way all by herself, just like me, and she ends up struggling not to give up on living in the new place, just like me.

I flickered through some more pages. Well! This smarmy artist fellow (I’d seen him around town looking like a charming beach boy – can’t stand the type myself), came onto Marlie. She’s a looker, let me tell you! But she’s too kind for her own good. Finds it hard to say no. And when she finally does say no – screams it, in fact (I heard her all the way to my tree in the woods near the beach) –  it doesn’t do her any good.

Now what?! She’s so much like me. She can’t go home  and admit she’s a failure. Like me, she just got here. We have to stick together. So when I found out what happened, I flew over to the dumpy trailer she was renting and imagined that I whispered in her ear, “Never mind. There are other people in the world besides those beach boy types. No one else knows what happened in the woods. Just do like me. Fly away and mend for a while. Maybe you’ll meet a friend. I know a fisherman. Handsome fellow and very capable. Good person.”

But, to be honest, I wasn’t sure they were suited. Marlie’s politics are a bit left-wing (government job, you know) and this fisherman, Brent, I’m sure is far right, being in business for himself. You never know, though. They say opposites attract.

“I’ll fly over to his fishboat in the Masset harbour,” I imagined telling Marlie, “and sit on the crossbar of his mast. I’ll get his attention, doing what birds do  in the rigging. I’ll drop some ‘e-mail’ down to him and when he looks up, I’ll tell him about you. Maybe I’ll drop the book cover image down to him so he can see how pretty you are.

“I’ll put a bug in his ear,” (Ha ha, I have some real juicy ones, let me tell you), “and then the rest is up to you.”

By the way, you lovely followers of Anneli’s blog, if you need a book to read during Christmas break (or any time) you can find Marlie on amazon (just type in the title) and on smashwords.com if you have an e-reader other than Kindle.

You will love it, let me tell you!  And so inexpensive. Less than the price of a hamburger, but fifty times as good, it lasts a long time and not on your thighs either.

*****

Thank  you all for indulging me. My book is just out and I’m a bit excited about it. I won’t hit you up about it all the time. I think I’ve got that out of my system now – for a while anyway.

I wish all of you a very happy Christmas season and hope 2018 is good to you.

See you in the next year or maybe sooner.