Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Chilcotin - Atnarko Holiday

I can't believe how long it's been since last I wrote. Life just putters right along.

Back in mid-October, on what is known in Canada as Thanksgiving Day weekend, The Husband and I decided to forgo a turkey dinner and bust a move out of the valley. We were ever-so-slightly squirrely, and decided to make the complete drive to Bella Coola (having gone only to Anahim Lake on bikes in August) before winter set in.

And so off we went. It's just over 800 km from our place to the coast by this route, over mountains and through valleys, crossing mighty rivers and vast rangeland.

A damp, unsettled sky over the Coastal Mountains
 We left home in inclement weather, After a night at Williams Lake and a very early start west from there, we found fresh snow at higher elevations but not enough to hinder us, just make things 'interesting'.

Highway 20 to Bella Coola is one of only three routes by which one can drive to the Pacific Ocean in Canada. That's a testament to the rugged mountainous terrain in which we live.

The road is famous (or infamous) for the stretch that was constructed from Anahim Lake to Stuie, especially the first 21km or so coming east out of the valley. About 50km in total is gravel, which is nothing special for those who travel rural roads. What is special is that those 21km were dug out of the mountainside by volunteers using Cats in 1953 I think it was. It took them a year. The BC government told them the road couldn't be built, but they proved that wrong. Of course 'road' is a loose term.

It's much improved from those early days but still not for the faint of heart.

You can see the road cuts on some of the gentler grades, far ahead.

Yes, the sign says 12% grade. That isn't the most extreme slope -
 it is 15% in some places, and even 18% for short stretches at the western end. 
One of the 11 switchbacks on the route, and no, those aren't guardrails ahead - they're rocks.

There are no guard rails, and the drops are a very, very, very long way down, and steep. This is no place to be a distracted driver. We've travelled logging roads worse than this, and roads in gumbo clay soils, which is many times worse. The reason I find this road interesting is that it isn't a logging road - it's a numbered provincial highway!

There are no services for long stretches of road, so we always have supplies like fuel.
And we aren't in a hurry, so a picnic lunch along the way suits us fine. Goat cheese and sausage on crackers and a nice bottle of red - perfect.

Bella Coola River

Bella Coola itself is a small, primarily First Nations community on the inlet to the ocean. The Atnarko Valley from Tweedmuir Park to the town has about 2000 people in total. The valley is narrow but surprisingly rich in diversity.

It is located in what is known as the Great Bear Rainforest. We were just a little too late to see the grizzlies in town, come to feed on the migrating salmon, but a few were still lingering in the area, scrounging fruit from trees.

Raven with two salmon - male and female - facing the river and welcoming the salmons' return.

Another of the many totem poles in town.

Tallheo Cannery across the inlet from Bella Coola Harbour, glaciers on the mountain behind.

Bella Coola Harbour

The rainforest is noted for the ancient giant cedar trees that live there. Unfortunately, many of these were logged, but some were spared. This one is just east of the municipal airport, down a short forest trail.

It's hard to appreciate its size until you provide context: The Husband is 190cm tall.

Mountains north of Hagensborg.

Thorsen Creek. There are ancient petroglyphs further upstream but we didn't see them.

Grizzly track on the trail along Thorsen Creek. 

Gumpy grizzly boar in a bear trap. Despite two doses of tranquilizer, he was still rampaging around
and threatening to pop the trailer off the ball hitch.

Mount Saugstad, south of Hagensborg.

We stopped often along the valley, poking along back roads and park trails. It was the most relaxing few days we'd enjoyed in a long time.

Dragon fly, dopey from the cold temperature and warming on The Husband's finger.

Doesn't it have a fearsome face?!
Back home through the Chilcotin we hoped to enjoy breakfast at the Kinikinik restaurant in Redstone. Unfortunately most of the 'tourist' places are closed this time of year. Perhaps next summer.

For Cheryl - one of the fences you asked me about.
Much easier than trying to pound fence posts into the rocky ground.

Just north of Cache Creek, on the west side of Highway 97 are these fabulous 'painted' rocks, stained by iron and other mineral deposits. I always stop to gaze at them if on this road.

And once again, we returned to the dry Interior. Quite a contrast from rainforest to the high semi-desert country, and all within a day's drive, albeit a long drive. Maybe one day you can come along!

The Thompson Plateau.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Such a Busy Summer

It has been a full, wonderful, bulging-with-fun summer. Yes, I know it isn't over yet, but autumn will soon be knocking at the door, and I'm not quite ready for it yet.

Rather than a long exposé about our goings-on, let me show you a few highlights. Pictures, as they say, tell more than words.

We've spent a lot of time out here - the perfect summer evening spot.

Had a good harvest of lavender earlier in the season - three large tote boxes worth.
Now these bundles are scenting the house and linen closet.
The garden was lush with all the July rain, but August has been hot and dry.

We've gone on day rides with the motorcycles, stopping for picnics along the way.
This is at Kopje Park in Lake Country.

Attended a vintage and collector car show in Vernon - over 400 vehicles.

The Husband taking The Lovely Pam on her first motorcycle ride.
Brother Scott looks on - "not her usual ride!"
They spent a few days with us at the end of July.

It's August and the grandkids and their parents have arrived!
The veranda transforms into a beach towel and blanket drying zone.

The kids and grands - alcohol may or may not have been involved in the
crooked angle of this photo.

The Daughter and her partner, with a new grandbaby "on board" as they say.

Miss Abby, contemplating the day.

Mr. Zach enjoying breakfast with Grandpa on the deck.

Miss A getting her first motorcycle ride with Grandpa, on Grandma's bike.

Mr. Zach having a cuddle with Mom.

Cousins ... say "aaah!"

Miss A's inuksuk, built with help from her dad but painted all on her own.

After a few weeks of company, The Husband and I ran away from home and
took a ride along Highway 20 to Anahim Lake. Spent one evening at a lodge
overlooking Nimpo Lake, listening to the loons.

Lodge at Nimpo Lake.

Stopping for a stretch and to enjoy a viewpoint along Highway 24, the
Interlakes Highway between 100 Mile House and Little Fort.

Lac des Roches, looking southeast.

From the big empty country of the Chilcotin and Cariboo regions, a week later
we found ourselves in the Vancouver area. You could not imagine a bigger contrast in environments.
Riding one of the water taxis on False Creek with Sister PK and her partner Garry.

Enjoying frosty malt beverages on Granville Island.

The beach below the Marine Museum on Burrard Inlet.

Vancouver skyline looking at Sunset Beach Park.

Family and friends. Wild open range country and bustling metropolis. The beach, the mountains, breakfasts at golf courses and wine on the veranda.

Much contrast. Much love and fun. Much to be thankful for.

I hope you've had a grand summer as well. And we'd love to have you join us next summer!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Spinning the Rain Away

I have been spinning yarn for 37 years. Or at least, I learned to spin and to weave 37 years ago. There have been gaps in the activity over the years, but my pores are steeped in fibre and all things fabric.

June as usual is a stormy, unsettled month. Sweltering hot days are chased by cold, wet windy days. Lawn and garden maintenance become a sprint event, trying to find opportunities between the squalls to get mowing and weeding done.

The Husband has been off on a motorcycle ride with Friend Marc, sending texts from Idaho and California. (I'm temporary grounded with federal census work.) Seems like they're having fun. And so as is my wont when he's away, my stuff tends to spread out over the house.

This is all a preface to this:

After a brief hiatus, and with newly-found free time, my Ashford spinning wheel is back taking up room in the kitchen/sitting room.

While wind lashes the trees and rain pours from the sky, I've been set up in front of the computer, watching British detective shows on Knowledge Network, BC's public television station which is also online. I'm particularly taken by a series called Shetland but will also happily settle for Midsomer Murders.

I have a significant stash of raw fleeces that have been waiting for me to have the time and motivation to attend to them. The blue tote box in the above photo had an entire fleece tightly packing into it. The woven basket to the left is lightly filled with locks that have been 'flicked' with a short-tine Viking heckle comb.

I work 'in the grease', which means I don't wash the wool before spinning it. I choose fleeces that are relatively clean of plant matter and dirt. The 'grease' is the lanolin that naturally occurs in wool and what makes it waterproof. It also makes it very nice to spin during hot weather, outside under a shade tree.

 I find cleaning/combing wool to be a mindless or contemplative activity, depending on my mood. It's definitely something that can be done while watching a movie. It's also very satisfying work. The three containers above are all ready for spinning.

Spun wool starts as a single ply strand. Two bobbins plied back against each other make a stable 2-ply yarn. Three bobbins make ... think about it ... 3 ply yarn. There is also a technique I use quite often, especially to deal with orphan single ply on a bobbin, called Navajo plying, whereby the single strand is chained (like crochet work) into long loops and spun back against itself to make a 3-ply.

Which is probably all more than you wanted to know.

Anyway, the finished yarn is taken off the bobbin by winding it around a noddy-noddy to make a skein.

THEN I wash the skein in cold water with a wool detergent, to remove dirty, debris and yes, urine (sheep urine, not mine).

Then the skeins are hung outside, preferably on a warm breezy day, to dry.

Then the skeins are run through steam to even the tension, work out any over-tight spots, after which they are twisting into loose rolls for storage until use. This wool will be woven on my floor loom. I have some ideas in mind for this winter.

But what of the leftover wool?, you ask. The stuff that isn't good for spinning - the short cuts, dirty wool and matts.

I use it for garden mulch.


This is the flower/herb/vegetable patch in the back yard (over the grey water field) that some of you may be familiar with.

And this is wool dross, helping to suppress weeds and retain moisture in this quickly-draining soil. It also finds its way into various nests around the neighbourhood. 

For no other reason other than I was outside taking photos, let me brag about my John Cabot climbing rose. I left the lounge chair in front to give you some size perspective. This rose is from the Agriculture Canada 'Explorer' series. I had many different Explorer rose varieties at our place up north. This is the best bloom yet for this particular plant.

And I'll end with a photo of my season nemesis - the fresh cherry. The first crop of the season is ready, and this is cherry country, so they are fresh, fresh, fresh.

I cannot leave them alone, and they do tragic things to my lower GI tract. It's like a conspiracy. "Let me tempt you with my firm, crisp texture and juicy sweetness which will send your bowels into an uproar!"

Somebody save me from myself. Please.