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".

Follow our new adventures at Eyes On Vancouver.

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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.


Friday, 8 November 2013

Next Time, Text Me!

We touched on the theme of relativity in an earlier post (in relation to scale), but since I just experienced another manifestation, time dilation, I thought it was worthy of discussion.

This picture has what I would refer to as a "Zen" quality wherein a simple image suggests a calm and visually appealing subject, almost inevitably nature-based. It is perfect to illustrate the microcosm of natural wonder all around us here. The Wild Pacific Trail just north of Blackrock Lodge is only moments away from our home and within moments of leaving my door, I am walking it's inviting pathways, and this type of scene presents itself to me in a constant parade of colour, form and light.

Trapped in one of the many small streams that feed voracious Mother Sea, a pair of fallen leaves become a backdrop for the water, painting its way unheedingly over them.

With just a pair of small, capable cameras in my hands, I simply get lost in this world. Where some hikers seem to race past me on those sections that don't show an ocean view, that's where I can find some of the most interesting subjects (on the smaller end of the scale, of course).

Obviously, the star attraction is the mighty Pacific Ocean, and yesterday, it was doing its best to impress. The seas weren't quite as high as the one last week that we witnessed from by the lighthouse, but very respectable!

It's interesting to be there and simply turn your head 180 degrees and go from the stability and solidity of the coastal rainforest:

To the astonishing chaos of the churning cauldron behind you:

Every once in a while, you're rewarded with a scene that manages to knit together both the serenity and chaos.

Yesterday was also a good weather day for dramatic pictures. Funny, people love a sunny day, but they're really the shits for photography... the highlights are blown out and the shadows blocked up. People look like raccoons. Give me the overcast, or even better, partially overcast, so I can get some nice drama out of the skies. Remember, as landscape photographers, we're really shooting the weather, that's what changes. (And, of course, the surface of the ocean, for those of us on the coast.)

Here's a couple that were ripe for black and white conversion:


OK, I hear you saying, what the hell has any of this got to do with relativity? Time dilation... is the old fool finally off the rails all together?

Actually no (well not quite). The point I'm trying to make became clear to me during a stop at one of the many benches along the trail. I was taking a rest, sitting and watching the waves and I checked my phone and saw that I'd missed a couple of messages from Marcelle. She hadn't been able to raise me and was now on her way out to find me. Egads!

Evidently we had just experienced time dilation. What seemed only a short time for me, seemed inordinately long for her. I had completely lost track of time and had been gone nearly five hours. (Not that this is that much of an issue for the retired!)

Why is it that a partner left behind always expects the worst? Rather than assume I was just dawdling along (as I am wont to do), I get: "I could just picture you lying injured on the rocks!". I'm not sure where this expectation comes from as I have trouble enough with the stairs at home, and don't have the balance to play mountain goat.

Speaking of goats, just a quick aside here: Best fun for less than $5.00?

  1. Buy a bag of nice big marshmallows.
  2. Find a goat.
  3. Give the goat a marshmallow.
  4. Hilarity ensues.
  5. Repeat from step 3 (the goat knows when to stop)
Anyone who has been around goats will know about this gem.


And I'm no better with the paranoia... when Marcelle disappears down the beach ('cause that's what you do on a beach), I'm always imagining she's being stalked by mad rapists and various and sundry other scum.

All's well that ends well, however. She agreed to meet me at the first bench for the sunset, and I agreed that I'd text next time. And the best part: she brought food and latte! Oh excellent woman, worthy woman!

It's all relative. You see.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

From My Porch

This morning, we (and our various aches and pains) ambled down to Big Beach, plonked down on a log and gazed out over the high-tide-foreshortened, detritus-strewn beach. The swells were minimal with only a few of any note whatsoever while we sat there. The leaden sky seemed to leave the beach in an almost twilight illumination: little detail and blocked up shadows. Sometimes ya see something and sometimes ya don't. I didn't take a single picture. We wandered back home, where I had the privilege of making the lattes (again).

As the day brightened around us, filtering through the skylights and the surrounding forest, I ventured out onto the porch (we actually have two, one on either side of the main room). Bringing only my NEX 7 with my 55-210mm lens, I commenced another good rainy day project: shoot only from the porch. As the house is nestled right in the rainforest, it's like having a private shooting gallery! Anything within reach of that 300mm (35mm equivalent) focal length is fair game.

This theme also tickles me as it based upon one of my photographic heros, W. Eugene Smith. Check out his work on the web... you'll probably recognize quite a few. In 1957, a 38-year old Smith walked away from his family and a high-paying job with Life magazine to hole up in a jazz loft in New York City. Ostensibly, it was so he could finish his gigantic photo essay on Pittsburgh, but inevitably, Smith, a perfectionist, got sidetracked and over the next 8 years, shot some 40,000 frames. Of these thousands of frames, many were from the window of his 4th floor apartment. Anchored to a specific vantage point, shooting through open windows, even through the winter, Smith nonetheless produced a body of work that conveys an astounding depth of feeling, humour, and history. His work always features outstanding composition and he would take weeks to produce prints he felt were acceptable, often retouching, bleaching, dodging and burning extensively too produce the exact look he desired.

I am also reminded of the 19th century English natural philosopher who remarked to his colleagues that, magnifying glass in hand, he had travelled all summer, and never left the garden. It's all a matter of relativity.


Tuesday, 5 November 2013

May I Present M. Edward Bear...

A dreary, wet, cold day today in Ukee. We actually ventured out to go to the northern trailhead of the WPT, but as we drove out of the driveway, the light drizzle, now having successfully lured us out, disappeared in a deluge. Marcelle and I looked at one another, and by unanimous agreement, picked up milk and went back home.

So, a project day!

Luckily, M. Edward Bear (to whom you were introduced in yesterday's post) was still in the neighbourhood and available. Having arrived at a mutually equitable agreement, we set to work to bring you this series of cunning images, accompanied by the Honourable M. Bear's haiku. What more need be said?

 hawk in the valley
I was weeping for the clouds
remembering you

red cattle at dusk
I am singing like the sky
the scent of the past

the strings and notes danced
danced steadily to the beat
we were one with them

raindrops in the clouds
the night standing like the hills
dreaming of rainfall

M. Bear, whom I learned one addresses formally: always Edward, never Ted, (an inadvertent 'Teddy' earned me a quick smoldering glare from those boot-button eyes followed by a period of stony silence). He was polished and adept at his art, both posing and writing. Generally, we had quite a gratifying session, and were actually quite pleased with some of the out takes, which we share with you now:

Dancin' with the Stars

"So, where does the film go?"

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe."

. . . . . .

Quite a fun chap to hang around with. We've decided that we may work together again, so keep an eye out for my ursine cohort's continuing adventures.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Sage and Rosemary and Thyme, Oh My!

Today was a 'down' day, quite cold and overcast, and we didn't stray outside at all. Instead, we cooked. Cooking is something both Marcelle and I enjoy, and today we are making turkey dinner. Probably the most time consuming part is the stuffing, which we make from scratch.

Although we almost always cook a whole turkey, this time we bought a frozen breast all rolled up into a mesh net. We're still unsure how wise this was as the thing is exuding a thick, off-white paste that settles into the bottom of the pan as it cooks. We also decided (because we didn't have the whole bird) to go with some pre-made gravy. This may also have been a mistake... Marcelle tasted it and declared it "chicken noodle soup". We rather hopefully added some sage and black pepper, and as we had no orange zest, we doused it with a generous splash of Grand Marnier.

We'll serve it with our Sour Cream and Parmigiana Smashed Potatoes and Dill Carrots. Yum. Now, if only the darn turkey would finish cooking!


On the other hand, I did spot a bear.

Oh my!


Sunday, 3 November 2013

The Legend of Creaky Bog

Today is another stunning day, quite nippy, but extraordinarily clear and sunny. Today is going to be a beach day, but we we've talked about visiting the Shorepine Bog, just off the road into Wick Beach, so we deke off there, park, and head out on the boardwalk.

For the next twenty minutes, we wander along a boardwalk that snakes through a wonderland of stunted trees and a layer-upon-layer carpet up to 2 metres in depth, of Sphagnum Moss. The moss makes the water extremely acidic and thus limits what else grows in the area.

The air is so still, with no birds that we see or hear, just the low churn of the surf, away in the distance and the occasional creak of the boardwalk. It's slightly surreal, as you seem to be gliding along just above the surface of the bog. In fact, the boards are still rimed with frost in the shadows and it's a bit tricky, so we shuffle along those sections as if we're practicing the Moonwalk.

Parks Canada has a great web page for all of the flora and fauna found in the bog, which may be found here.

When we get to Wick Beach, the tide is higher than we've seen here before, and there's still just over an hour til high tide!

The water was calling to Marcelle, so off came the shoes and the pants were rolled up and off she went down the beach in the shallows. This routine astounds me, as thirty-seconds in the bloody water is more than enough for me. It's frickin' freezin' ! Nevertheless, my darling woman is out there year-round.

While Marcelle promenades down the beach, I follow along looking for things to photograph and just letting the incredible ambience of weather, water and waves saturate into my soul. Just being in this marvelous place is therapy.

Poking around on the back of the beach is always fruitful, and as I walk, I drop into a state in which I kind of just put my mind in neutral and let the peripheral vision go to work. What I wait for is some visual trigger that catches in the old filters and wakes me up enough to apply a bit more scrutiny to the situation. If it warrants further investigation, then I'll stop and work it for a bit, or just lumber on until something better pops up.

These tiny mushrooms caught my eye, or rather their shadows caught my eye, and then when I removed a piece of grass just to the right, it left an indentation like a running figure. A tiny drama, right there for the keen-sighted to find.

Interestingly, when I'm out with people, they often will observe, or even question how can I really see something when I'm spending all my time with the camera in front of my face? Later though, when we look at the images I've captured of the experience, inevitably I hear "Oh, I didn't see that!" ... I did.

Under a log, in its shade, I spotted a dark ovoid object which, in the contrasty light, looked like a huge black egg. Upon closer examination I saw it was a rock (as one might expect), but with a sheen of condensation on it as it sat in the still-cold lee of the log's shadow.

Before we left, just as the tide was due to start receding, I put my Voigtländer 12mm lens on for a wide angle shot, lying on my stomach right at the tide mark. I waited and waited for a wave to come right up to me, and finally just snapped this shot out of frustration.

Naturally, as soon as I got up and walked back to where we were sitting, a great wave followed me up the beach like a faithful dog. Drat!