This is a journal of our retirement move and life in Ucluelet on Vancouver Island's ruggedly beautiful west coast. The town's motto is "Enjoy life on the edge".

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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Back Roads Adventures or You Can't Get There From Here!

Today, we decided to head out on the back roads around Kennedy Lake. After careful Googling of the area, we figured that we had a good plan, and were going to head for Kennedy River Bog Provincial Park.

Well, that was the plan at least. What we hadn't counted on was that what showed on Google as roads were actually logging roads (not that we didn't expect this) in moderately poor condition. Had we been driving a 4x4, with lots of ground clearance, we might have had a better go of it, but Tigger, our intrepid Toyota Yaris, was shall we say, challenged!

Add to this the fact that one of the bridges that we expected to traverse was actually no longer in use, and not passable. It was, however a location that was simply stunning, with marvelous views, mirror-calm water and not a person or a sound to be heard.

Our overall plan included a stop at the Provincial Park, and then a return home via a circle route that would bring us out onto the landfill road and thence to Highway 4. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men... As we got closer to the location of the River Bog Park, we had to come to an abrupt halt as we were confronted by two oncoming 4x4 vehicles, on a road only wide enough for one vehicle. The guys in the 4x4s were great and managed to pull off enough that we could squeeze by them and continue. We took the opportunity to ask if we were indeed on the right road to the park, and were met by blank stares. Apparently, they had no idea there was a park there, even when we showed them our map. They suggested that about five minutes further on there was a pull-off and possibly that is where it was. They also concurred that our route back to the highway was probably correct. (We never did find the park, or even any sign for it.)

Mice and men, huh? Well, we were the mice, and we were in a labyrinth with no easy exit. At one point, a tree had come down across the road and only because it had broken into metre-long segments was I able to haul a couple of the pieces off the road to make a hole through which we squeezed the car. About forty-five minutes later, with Tigger ducking and weaving around potholes in which one could hide an elephant, we were within a couple klicks of the highway (according to our GPS), when we had to come to a screeching halt as the road ahead was well and truly blocked by huge boulders, obviously placed there to block further access. Hmmph!

Well, the obvious thing to do was to turn around and retrace our path back to West Road and from there back to Highway 4. On the way back out, as we drove down this single lane track, under a dense canopy of trees, a huge eagle launched itself just in front of us and flew for a hundred metres or so just above the road, until it had a break in the canopy above, where it rose and disappeared from view. It was a sight I'll never forget, its wings stretching so wide that it covered the road from side to side!

Finally, we got back to the highway and made it home for a well-needed lattes. From now on, we'll leave the logging roads to the 4x4s and the loggers!


Sunday, 29 December 2013

Just Point-and-Shoot!

One of my favorite cameras is my Sony DSC-TX7, a tiny jewel of a point-and-shoot that not only can you really put it into your shirt pocket, but it also takes quite nice pictures. This afternoon, I wandered down to Big Beach with just the TX7 to see what I could find. It was misting out, so landscapes/seascapes were out of the question, but small, intimate portraits of this and that worked well, and so I present them for you, Dear Reader, to contemplate and enjoy.



This stuff always looks as if some creature has just been disemboweled!



Well, that really is it for today!


Happy Holidays from Ukee

Well, I hope, Dear Reader, that you had a good Christmas, and that you were able to spend quality time with family and friends. Marcelle and I spent Xmas this year at my sister's place in Ladysmith along with my niece and her husband, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Good company, good food and good times!

We're sticking at home for the upcoming New Year's celebration (the older we get, the less we celebrate, and the earlier we go to bed!). In the meantime, we been able to get put a couple of times for walks, and just recently returned to South Beach, on a day where the Park's sign said the waves were "Extreme", and indeed, they were quite vigorous.

The sign classes the wave as "Moderate", "High" and "Extreme", although we're kind of hoping to see one called "Run Away" for the really stormy days! Maybe they save that classification for tsunamis though.

Here's a few images from our last walk:






That's it for today.



Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Of Blizzards, Bad Internet and Book Reports

One of the greatest pleasures in life is reading. And one of the greatest pleasures of retirement is having the time to really indulge in reading. You can spend hours just sitting, devouring book after book with little regard for the outside world. This is made even easier when the weather is inclement enough to preclude venturing out. So it has been here recently when, rather unexpectedly, we had a dump of four inches of snow.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the far west coast, this is a rare phenomenon, and even when we do get the occasional flurry, it generally disappears within a few hours, or a day at most. But, as we all know, Mother Nature loves a good surprise, and thus she decided that we needed to really appreciate this heavy white blanket, and decreed that it should hang around for a good while that we might get the full effect of it.

As you might expect, this also meant that the temperature remained quite cold, with a bitter enough wind that we concentrated on hunkering down, getting more intimate with our wood stove than I really cared for, cooking spicy dishes, cursing the almost non-existent internet access, and, yes, doing a good bit of reading.

As a kid growing up, I was not what you'd call normal in that I was always very tall (I shot up to 6'5") and painfully skinny. I remember coming home from the barber with a flattop (crew cut) at one point, and my dear maternal grandmother squinted up at me and proclaimed I looked like an Auschwitz survivor. I tended to be quite introverted and rather than play sports (I was always one of those kids last picked for any activity), I would park myself behind a book and escape into other worlds. The library was a place of wonder, and I would go home after each visit with an armful of books on topics as varied as I could find. I could lose myself completely in a book, and only come up for air to grab for the next one.

My tastes varied, but I always had a keen interest in Science Fiction, and then later, as a teenager, I delved into fantasy. I well remember a friend giving me The Hobbit, and I was enchanted by the rich world and fascinating, albeit rather simple, story. My pleasure was increased when I returned the book and was presented with The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy (of which I had no knowledge at that point). The complexity and sheer weight of characters, places and themes drew me in immediately, and it became an instant favorite.

Years later, I was similarly introduced to a trilogy by Stephen R. Donaldson, called The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. The hero, or really the anti-hero, Thomas Covenant, is a leper who is summoned from ordinary life to a place called 'The Land' to help fight Lord Foul, the Deceiver. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this work, it is far better than this sounds, and for those of you who are familiar, enough said.

When I first read the trilogy, I remember thinking, OK, this guy is really just basing it all on LOTR, but he could certainly weave a tale well enough that, regardless of similarities, it created a world rich in detail and character. Some years later, it was followed up by the Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, in which Covenant, and a new character, Linden Avery, again battle evil in the Land.

In 2004, Donaldson published what was to become the first book (of four) of The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I immediately bought and read the first volume, and then waited... and waited... and waited. Donaldson, you see, is a painfully slow author. Suffice it to say that the fourth and last book was just released, and we are finally able to read the quadrilogy from start to finish.

The blizzard enabled me to get a good straight read all the way through, and having just finished, I can say it was highly enjoyable. One of Donaldson's strengths is his ability to create characters that resonate and who are unique enough to carry you through what can be, at times, and excruciating read. Excruciating because of a couple of things: first, his characters spend pages upon pages in self-doubt, self-loathing and self-recrimination, to the point where you want to slap them and say, "Enough, for fuck's sake, get on with it!"; and secondly, he positively delights in using words that you need the Oxford English Dictionary (not the concise version) to decipher.

Now I pride myself on having an above average vocabulary, but Donaldson just makes me feel like a second-grader! Here's a few choice examples that are actually in the iPad dictionary: toxin, debouched, propinquity, sepmiternal, asservation, telic, irenic, oneiric, and the ever-popular, enscorcelled. Then, of course we have a ream of words that the iPad dictionaries simply give up on, such as: objurgation, surquedry, fuligin, ensepulture, assoil and rimose. Add to this a smattering of words that he has himself invented, such as Haruchai, caesure, brissance etc, and you begin to see the difficulty in the continuity of how you read. I'm constantly snagged by the unfamiliar word, torn between just having to know what the hell it means, or just wanting to skip over it to get on with the story. And these traits are not simply confined to the Covenant books, but are also rampant in his other main series, such as the wonderful Mordant's Need, and the difficult but epic Gap Series. All of this aside, however, the story is heavy going, yet satisfying, bringing back giants with their wonderful names, such as Rime Coldspray and Baf Scatterwit, and the staunch Haruchai warriors with names such as Stave, Galt and Clyme. Donaldson has no trouble in writing characters that you either love, or love to hate.

Once I had finished the Covenant quadrilogy, I felt the need for something much, much lighter, and so I am now charging through Bill Bryson's Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, a uproarious tale of his growing up in middle America during the 50's. As I too grew up in this period, it is a book that I can relate to in so many ways. Bryson is one of my favorite authors as he has a marvelously irreverent sense of humour that is very similar to my own. He also has an unerring way of finding nuggets that you can immediately relate to and which he then writes about in a manner that has you in stitches. Let me give you an example:

“A whole morning could be spent just getting the laces on your sneakers right since all sneakers in the 1950s had more than seven dozen lace holes and the laces were fourteen feet long. Each morning you would jump out of bed to find that the laces had somehow become four feet longer on one side of the shoe than the other. Quite how sneakers did this just by being left on the floor overnight was a question that could not be answered—it was one of those things, like nuns and bad weather, that life threw at you from time to time—but it took endless reserves of patience and scientific judgment to get them right, for no matter how painstakingly you shunted the laces around the holes, they always came out at unequal lengths. In fact, the more carefully you shunted, the more unequal they generally became. When by some miracle you finally got them exactly right, the second lace would always snap, leaving you to sigh and start again.

The makers of sneakers also thoughtfully pocked the soles with numberless crevices, craters, chevrons, mazes, crop circles, and other rubbery hieroglyphs, so that when you stepped in a moist pile of dog shit, as you most assuredly did within three bounds of leaving the house, they provided additional absorbing hours of pastime while you cleaned them out with a stick, gagging quietly but oddly content.”

Excerpt From: Bill, Bryson. “Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.” Random House, 2006-01-11T05:00:00+00:00. iBooks.

This material may be protected by copyright.

Absolutely hilarious! And so many of the other things he talks about resonate so well with me too. He grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, whereas I spent most of the same time in and around the Toronto area, but so much of what he talks about brings forth poignant and vivid memories from my own childhood. It's a book not to be missed!

When the snow finally cleared, Marcelle and I were able to get out and resume our almost daily walks, so, Dear Reader, I have a few new pictures for you...





Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to find an appropriate stick to clean the dog shit out of my hiking boots.

Ta ta for now!


Monday, 2 December 2013

Midnight Madness and More...

Friday in Ucluelet, we were introduced to Midnight Madness, an annual event in which from 5 PM until midnight, the town's businesses open their doors and invite the townsfolk in to share some Christmas cheer and bargains. We began our evening by revisiting Ukee Dogs Eatery, where Paige and friends served us a scrumptious Mexican dinner accompanied by a wonderful blonde ale... Yum! We arrived early to be sure we got a table, and sure enough, the place filled up rapidly as we ate our way through our tasty dishes. For dessert, we tried a Chocolate Diablo cookie, which incorporated pepper and was sprinkled with salt. Wow, amazing combo, chocolate and pepper, and although the salt was a bit much for Marcelle, I loved it.

After our leisurely meal, we tottered off to see some of the rest of the town and immediately got waylaid by an open house at High Tide Records, a recording studio right in downtown Ukee. As I spent over ten years in the music business myself during the 70's, including doing live sound and studio work, it was a treat to see this marvelous studio, and the owner, Jamie Osborne, was very gracious and open in showing me around. Music has always been a passion for me and I've always tried to get involved with and support local musicians, so I look forward to exploring what the area has to offer, and see how I can contribute.

Next we visited the Mark Penney Gallery, a showcase for local talent, of which there are many, very fine artists. I was also anxious to talk with Mark as he is the current President of the Pacific Rim Arts Society, an organization I am interested in joining to offer my photography workshop, and to get to know other artists in the area. Mark was very welcoming and we hope to talk further about my possible involvement and contributions.

In the same building is the Cedar House Gallery, where John was kind enough to answer our many questions about the local tribes and to showcase some of the outstanding pieces he has there. One of the many things we wish to do as new residents here is to learn more about the indigenous people who reside here, and to better understand their customs and history.

We spent a while longer in some of the other Whiskey Landing shops, where there were many and varied craft items, and then finally walked back home, listening to the rain on our hoods and the not-so-distant surf from Big Beach. Altogether, a great evening.

A quiet Saturday followed, but Sunday turned out to be quite sunny (at least early on) and Marcelle and ventured out to do the Artists Loops on the Wild Pacific Trail. The surf was pretty energetic and we spent a couple of hours moving from spot to spot, bench to bench, just reveling in the power of the waves.

And finally, some pictures for you:

That's it for now, but stay tuned...

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Tale of the Doctor and the Ukee Dog

Today saw us heading north to Tofino to get ourselves enrolled with our new GP (there are no doctors in Ucluelet itself). We had to go to the clinic near the hospital in Tofino to sign consent forms so our wonderful doctor in Langley (we'll miss you, Dr. Mason) could forward our records. We also wanted to have a bit more of a spook around of Tofino and the surrounding area to get better feel for what stores etc are there, as it is the closest town to us.

In particular, we wanted to look for one of Trip Advisor's highest rated restaurants, the Tacofino Cantina. The cantina is actually a truck parked at the back of a small plaza containing many surf-related and craft shops, and apparently serves scrumptious Mexican fare. Now that we know the location, we will plan a dinner there at some point to test out the high praise.

On the way back home, we took the road to Grice Bay, which seems to lead only to a boat launching site on the east side of the peninsula. The drive is very pretty, however, and the view at the end of the road quite attractive.

The images in this post were taken with my tiny Sony TX7 point-and-shoot camera.

On the drive back, I stopped at where a small stream runs under the highway, to get a quick shot.

Back in town, we did some shopping and then decided to have lunch at one of Ucluelet's highest rated (Trip Advisor again) restaurants, Ukee Dogs.

This tiny restaurant serves wonderful gourmet hotdogs that are just delicious. I decided on the "Imperial", with Teriyaki sautéed onions, Japanese mayo and nori. Served along with cheddar bacon soup, it was fabulous!

Marcelle went for the "Bavarian Smokie", with sauerkraut and jalapeños.

The rolls were every bit as good as the dogs themselves, and we sat in the steamy heat of the small restaurant and slowly stuffed ourselves!

While we were there, the friendly staff told us of this Friday's upcoming Midnight Madness event, wherein the stores and restaurants in town all welcome you with free drinks and good bargains between 5PM and midnight. Ukee Dogs will serve a Mexican meal that night and have promised to have some exceptional beer to accompany it. It all sounds quite fun, so we plan to walk into town and do our best to blend in, now that we are locals ourselves!

As we came out to head home, I spotted the image you see at the top of this post, a wonderfully gnarly tree set against the foggy backdrop of the mountains behind. This picture reminds me of the lovely Japanese brush and ink prints.

If you are visiting Uclelet and want a great meal, be sure to look for Ukee Dogs... highly recommended!


Monday, 25 November 2013

The Depth of Ignorance

It's been a while since my last post and we've had a busy time here on the coast with housekeeping issues and a trip back to Nanaimo so that Marcelle could ferry over to Vancouver for some appointments. Luckily, my sister lives close to Nanaimo so while Marcelle was in Vancouver, I stayed there and did some much needed shopping for items that are either too expensive out where we are, or are just not available.

Today, however, a mild day with some sunshine lured us out and we headed for the north end of Long Beach to the Incinerator Rock parking area. (We're still not sure what that name refers to... more research is needed!) From there, we headed north along the beach and walked up to Schooner Cove. Wow, what a beautiful area.

Today, I wanted to travel very light and just brought my little Panasonic LX5 point-and-shoot camera. Following my usual pattern of ambling along, generally nearer the back of the beach than at the waterline, I seek out the eye-catchers, looking for ways that best portray the individuality of what I see.

There is so much we see that we have no clue about. The above picture shows what looks like a tiny volcano, and we conjecture that there is in fact a clam or other marine creature buried in the sand below. Hundreds of them dot the beach near the waterline and one can imagine colonies of fascinating creatures existing in a three-dimensional plane (both below the sand and the water itself) that we Flatlanders rarely enter.

Over the past few weeks, in an attempt to try to start to understand all this, I worked my way through a recent text on Oceanography which was both fascinating and intimidating... there is SO much to learn. And SO much that we still don't know! Generally, I may have two or three books on the go at once, and currently, one I'm reading is Bill Bryson's wonderful book A Short History of Nearly Everything. Within it, he speaks of the oceans, and makes the point that we know almost nothing about them. Here is a quote:

“It's rather as if our firsthand experience of the surface world were based on the work of five guys exploring on garden tractors after dark. According to Robert Kunzig, humans may have scrutinized “perhaps a millionth or a billionth of the sea's darkness. Maybe less. Maybe much less.”

Among other incredible tidbits is the fact that there is enough salt in the oceans to cover every spec of land to a depth of 500 feet! Or did you know that due to centrifugal force from the eastward spin of the earth, the western edge of the Pacific is a foot and a half higher? Here's another gem:

“Roughy are extremely long lived and slow maturing. Some may be 150 years old; any roughy you have eaten may well have been born when Victoria was Queen. Roughy have adopted this exceedingly unhurried lifestyle because the waters they live in are so resource-poor.”

Excerpts From: Bill, Bryson. “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” Crown Publishing Group, 2003-04-13T04:00:00+00:00. iBooks.

So much to see, so much to ask about, so much to learn. It really is one of the reasons we are here, not just to enjoy this remarkable ecology, but to learn its secrets, its wonders. There are just so many seemingly disparate processes, events and objects that intricately mesh and intertwine to produce what we simplistically call Mother Nature.

Well, probably enough waxing eloquent for now, so here are some more images for you:








The next time we do this beach, we are going to tackle it from the trail closer to Schooner Cove, so I'll have some different images to showcase. As we started back down the beach to the car, the clouds were moving in from the west, a precursor to the next couple of days of rain. Perhaps we'll do the Rainforest Trail tomorrow... the forest is always magical in the rain, so alive and verdant.

So much to see...

Ciao for now.