Vancouver Maple Leaves

19 09 2015

No, this isn’t some great upset in the NHL franchise. Nor is it a sudden realisation by Toronto that their Ice Hockey team has been spelling its name incorrectly for decades. It’s simply a posting about maple leaves. From Vancouver.

About four years ago I suddenly had my eyes opened. I started to notice little things that had previously just passed me by un-remarked. Beautiful things. Interesting things. Remarkable things. Amongst this long list was maple leaves. Around this time of year, or actually a little later, the local trees start shedding their leaves. The maples – up until now pretty anonymous and blending in with the rest of the biosphere – suddenly decide to get all showy, turn bright vermilion and yell “look at me, peasants!” The glory of the red in the trees (and shortly thereafter – the pavement) can literally be breathtaking.

This year our BC summer was particularly long and hot. So much so that many trees went into shock and started behaving like autumn was already here. It was apparently more prudent to shut up shop early for the winter rather than try to continue actively growing in the face of a complete absence of the usually plentiful wet coast airborne moisture. So – we started to get beautiful red maple leaves falling in ever growing numbers even in what should really still be late summer. Without the accompaniment of the autumn wetness though, many of these leaves remained pristine after falling to the ground. Every year I take note of the fallen leaves and occasionally am moved to pause and pick one up. I couldn’t really explain why to you. Something about a specific leaf simply moves me to stoop and save it from a fate worse than compost. With the dry ground, there have been more occasions than usual this year.

I began to consider these leaves as a metaphor for people. We each have the potential to be wonderful, eye-catching. Either individually or as part of a broader group. We can still create an impact in the world even after we’ve ceased to live. We can continue to contribute to our world by leaving a legacy of beauty. Of positive psychological impact on others around us. Then again, even the most beautiful amongst us – if we care to look more closely – is imperfect. A slight asymmetry perhaps. A little rougher on the edges than we’d first perceived. Sometimes completely broken on the inside despite the appearance of complete wholesomeness to the casual glance. We can be downtrodden, utterly destroyed by the casual or indeed intimate passing interaction of another. We can be ignored and slowly disappear into the noise of the world, never to be recognised for our individual contribution – great though it may well have been.

So now I take notice. I LOOK at the fallen leaves. Notice them. Especially the maples. They have come to represent for me the unknown people of the world. Those I’ll never meet but have a contribution to make to the space I inhabit. Occasionally I am so moved that I pause and pick one up. I press it in the pages of the book I am inevitably carrying at such thoughtful moments. I save it. For what, I am not sure. To share? To offer as a cryptic gift to someone else on this weird journey we call life? Perhaps. Or perhaps just to say in some small way “you mattered”. You were noticed. Your contribution did not go without reaction.

Vancouver Maple Leaves

Vancouver Maple Leaves





Holiday Route – in case you care

6 09 2015

For those petrol heads that are interested in the actual route we took to Crater Lake and back, here’s Google Map’s representation.

HolidayRoute





Wild Weekend

31 08 2015

Bit of a to-do here in the Lower Mainland this weekend.

After literally months of uninterrupted sunshine the weather finally broke on Friday night. By mid-morning the welcome rain was joined by a much less welcome wind storm. The parched trees suffered mightily and the urban landscape is still strewn – almost 3 days later – with bits of tree. White Rock/South Surrey got away pretty lightly and we didn’t even lose power except for 2 or 3 “glitches”. Enough to reset the olde worlde desktop PC and aquarium air pump but not enough to lose the time on the cooker’s LED clock.

Number 3 offspring had to help me do some running repairs on our panel fence as the gusty winds blew two panels completely off the fence. Spiketta the devil dog was too scared to go out into the garden otherwise I’m sure she’d have made a break for it. I knew those random pieces of drilled steel from the old overhead garage door opener I replaced a few years ago would come in handy…

Saturday was largely a day for hunkering down and writing, but I did venture out towards lunch to take aforementioned devil dog for a promenade. As we got to the wooded ravine she likes to sniff, we were met by a city workman who told us it was unsafe until someone had been through to check for loose limbs. Having already had to circumvent a pretty large tree limb in the normally serene butterfly garden, we decided that it was prudent to listen, and we detoured around Centennial Park instead.

Sunday was a lot more bright so offspring numbers two and three accompanied me to Van Dusen gardens for a breath of fresh air. We began by having High Tea at Truffles, the café there. It was atrocious! Number two and I had taken tea there before and had a most excellent experience. This time though? Yuck.  They offer afternoon/high tea for two or four. We were three, so we ordered “afternoon tea for two ($40!) with an extra cup please, and a Turkey Club sandwich (~$9!!)”. The order was relayed back to me as “afternoon tea for two and a Turkey Club sandwich”. There was a moment of confusion when I was asked what kind of sandwich we wanted, but this was my mistake as I  hadn’t realised there was a sandwich as part of the High Tea. So, all good, I went to pay. Only as I walked away did I realise the price was wrong. It was $42… not enough! I returned and said, there seems to be a mistake, the bill is $42 and the High Tea is $40 (meaning… the sandwich should have made it nearer $50). At this point I was told (presumably because of my not exactly local accent) that this was “because of the tax”. Here in BC the tax is added on at payment time and not included in the sticker price like in the UK, and I suppose the young lady thought I hadn’t realised that the $40 would become $42. I explained that there was a whole Turkey sandwich missing from the reckoning, but by now there was a large queue and they were on to the second person after me. We slunk off to get a table and I sent last born to rejoin the queue and re-order his Turkey sandwich.

After a while his sandwich arrived all hot and steamy and by all accounts was most tasty. This despite being ordered SEVERAL orders after our High Tea. Then the pot of tea arrived. Without the third cup. The server was pleasant enough despite exuding studied boredom from every pore of his being. He reluctantly sloped off to reappear with a third cup which was no less wet or poorly presented than its two earlier siblings. I don’t take sugar, but the sugar bowl was huge yet held only a small number of sugar cubes. Worse… it was dirty with some old coffee drips on the inside and the sugar was covered in fluff (or worse!). Just as my son finished his sarnie, the main event arrived, was swapped for the number we’d been given and that was it. No cutlery. No serviettes. No smile. Just lots of attitude!

I can’t complain about the food itself. The Croque-monsieur we’d ordered was hot and tasty. The lemon/white chocolate truffles were delightful. The petit fours were exquisite. The scone was a bit odd. Despite being attended by strawberry jam and thick cream (and for the locals – honey), it seemed to have orange in it rather than the more customary raisins or currants. Still that and the croissant went down very nicely thank-you and I can report that at least the kitchen staff were on their game, if not the front of house.

Both offspring were affronted enough to fill out pretty vociferous comment cards (with their real names!) and we went off to tour the gardens. We’ve visited many times and yet I was surprised to find that we ended up in various stretches of the garden I had never before visited. It really was a very pleasant little visit, and I was quite sad when we had to call it a day and leave.

As ever – click on an image for a larger version.





Summer Holiday – day 15

29 08 2015

Day 15 was spent being tourists in Portland. First thing’s first – figure out the Transit! It turned out we were just a couple of blocks from the station and it was easy peasy lemon squeezy to get into town. Cheap too. You get all sorts on public transport. The lady with the pet rat running up and down her arm was a first though…

Second things second… coffee! I’m a big tea drinker but this is Portland! We tried to find a non-chain establishment to better support the hipster economy.

Brazilian coffee sack

Brazilian coffee sack

I forget where we ended up, but I was amused to find the above coffee sack on the wall. Minas Gerais was the area of Brazil I had visited several years ago. Small world, isn’t it? Portland has cute names for its districts, Pearl, Rose, etc. I guess we were in the Rose District when I saw this cover for some utility ducting.

Utility cover

Utility cover

Number two offspring wasn’t with us for this trip, but we’d promised to return with some offerings from Voodoo Doughnuts. After first spending a couple of joyous hours in Powell’s bookshop we dutifully joined the queue for these doughnuts. No idea why they were so popular but the queue ran round the block. Over the road was a telling sign…

Keep it weird

Keep it weird

Having queued the length of the building, we then got the joy of queuing all the way back! Good job we were English… this counts as entertainment! I got dripped on once or twice and I eventually figured out it was an Air Conditioning unit in a first floor window up above the queue.

Little England. Love a good queue...

Little England. Love a good queue…

The jokes I was making about AC units and Legionaire’s Disease suddenly didn’t seem so funny when I realised that the doughnuts we were about to buy spent some period behind this open doorway protected from airborne disease and children’s bogey-laden fingers by nothing more substantial than a wire grille! Pink, I admit, but even so…

Now THAT's healthy...

Now THAT’s healthy…

I’m told by more discerning doughnut-lovers that they were especially scrummy, but personally I don’t think they were worth the effort…

Voodoo doughnuts

Voodoo Doughnuts





Summer Holiday – day 13

29 08 2015

Day 13, third born was invited to join his girlfriend’s family for an hour of motorised fun in the dunes. We’d arranged to pick him up in the early afternoon in Florence.

Mrs E and I decided to go early to Florence and amble around to see what it offered. The river was very similar in feel to Steveston along BC’s Fraser River. I assume it had had a similar salmon-oriented industry a few decades ago.

The derelict industrial scenery was quite pleasing I thought, with river pilings telling tales of times now gone.

Piling it on

Piling it on

There were still a number of boats – both leisure and working boats – moored at the river’s side. Florence seemed to have avoided the general malaise we’d felt coming up the Oregon coast.

Fishing still pays the bills for some

Fishing still pays the bills for some

The road bridge over the Siuslaw was completed in March 1936. It is a “bascule” bridge, meaning it is a drawbridge with counter-weights (in its solid-looking supports). It was designed by Conde McCullough and was funded by the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works… i.e. part of the infrastructure projects that were intended to pull the US from the recession of the 30’s. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places on August 5, 2005, and has since seen some TLC and much-needed restoration.

Siuslaw River Bridge, opened 1936

Siuslaw River Bridge, opened 1936

We found a most excellent lunch at the Bridgwater FishHouse and Zebra Bar housed in the Kyle Building, named for one of the early settlers in the area. After lunch we headed of to the small local museum and found an amusing signpost reminding us of the North American tendency to recycle place-names from other locales.

Florence - one of many

Florence – one of many

The small museum was in the old school-house, just off the main drag. It was stuffed with the usual ephemera of local museums. Family photos that mean little to outsiders, old pianos once loved in log cabin parlours. It had interesting sections on the early industries of logging and fishing, but these are repeated in most similar museums along the Pacific North-west and had little of new interest. Upstairs there was a collection of local school items including what seemed like arbitrary rules for turn of the century teachers. (Male teachers would be thought errant if they used a public barber!) There was a rather random collection of glass artefacts including telephone insulators and several coloured glass bottles. I thought the ambiguous colours in these were most intriguing.

Translucent blue

Translucent blue

Not green bottles

Not green bottles

We ambled back to the Bay Street area to recover our son and had a pleasant hanging-out with his girlfriend’s family on a café patio overlooking the river. Here I was surprised to see a sack from l’Herault area of southern France, an area we loved very much. It just seemed out of place in the PNW, but on reflection, no more than us!

A sack from southern France, in Florence, in Oregon

A sack from southern France, in Florence, in Oregon





Summer Holiday – day 11

29 08 2015

Day 11, we decided to chill a little and stay around the camp site. We opted to walk up to the lighthouse and take the tour. Umpqua lighthouse is one of several down the Oregon coast. There’s a neat brochure by the Oregon State Parks that tells us the following about it:

Umpqua is the second lighthouse to occupy this site. An earlier structure built in 1857 was the first lighthouse sited on the Oregon coast; it succumbed to erosion in 1861. The Umpqua River lighthouse is nearly identical to the one at Heceta Head, and both lights were illuminated in 1894, but the Umpqua lens emits distinctive red-and-white automated flashes. 

I can’t help but raise an eyebrow at the mention that the first lighthouse only lasted four years before succumbing to erosion. Er… this is in the middle of dune country for goodness sake!

Umpqua River lighthouse

Umpqua River lighthouse

Anyway, we paid the few dollars for the guided tour and a student from the museum opened up the lighthouse and tried to answer our questions. The staircase was interesting in that it was free-standing and not attached to the brick walls at all.

Free-standing stairs inside lighthouse

Free-standing stairs inside lighthouse

We could get right up into the light assembly and clearly see the Fresnel lenses that are such a feature of lighthouses. The cunning Frenchman revolutionised lighthouses by figuring out how to produce a relatively light (no pun intended) lens to massively concentrate the light into a beam that could travel many miles out to sea.

The Umpqua River lighthouse has a “signature” that includes red as well as white flashes.

2 white, 1 red... Umpqua's "signature" for passing shipping to identify their position.

2 white, 1 red… Umpqua’s “signature” for passing shipping to identify their position.

One other feature of Umpqua River lighthouse was that it had an auto-changer so that should the bulb fail, a second back-up lamp could automatically be brought into service. In this photo it can clearly be seen to the right of the currently illuminated bulb. (Now that WAS a deliberate pun).

The business end - 1kW bulb with auto-changer

The business end – 1kW bulb with auto-changer

The descent down the iron staircase lent itself to some arty shots. However, I only managed this one…

The way back down the stairs

The way back down the stairs

After the lighthouse, we walked down to the beach and snagged a geocache on the way. Turning my back on the canoodling couple in an oh-so-English way I took a few shots of the old pilings left in the sand. I’m not sure of their original use – perhaps there used to be a fish processing plant her in days gone by.

Pilings left from some old structure

Pilings left from some old structure

As we ambled up the spit to the South of the river exit, there were some interesting geological forms in the large rocks that had been used as erosion barriers.

Holy rock Batman!

Holy rock Batman!

This was clearly a favourite walk for locals and tourists and there were a few hints that bonfires had taken place in the past. I was struck by the patterns at the detail level in the carbonised wood.

A charred log on the beach

A charred log on the beach

There was a Coastguard tower though we were told at the museum that there was little need for it these days and only punishment shifts were ever posted there. It certainly looked highly automated at the casual glance.

Coastguard watchtower

Coastguard watchtower

At the end of the breakwater, a triangular area had been enclosed. Though still tidal, it was entirely sheltered and was now an oyster farm.

Oyster bed at Winchester Bay, Oregon

Oyster bed at Winchester Bay, Oregon

As we started to head back to the road we had a sea-level view up at the lighthouse nestled against the treeline. It looked solid and comfortable. Surely it looks even more so in a raging storm. The apparent quiet was short-lived though. Down here in the dunes was a huge campsite that was the exclusive domain of “boys with toys” and we had to watch out for 8 year old lads on motorbikes and ATVs on their way to erode the dunes with their pot-bellied dads in dune buggies.

Umpqua River lighthouse from the beach

Umpqua River lighthouse from the beach





Grouse Ascent 2015 No. 12

28 08 2015

Route: BCMC

Time: 01:32:58

A full five minutes faster than last time which was a surprise! Second born did her best time ever and completed the BCMC in less than an hour which quite pleased her. It was a little hot, but the forecast rains seemed to have kept people away and it was much quieter than recent weeks. That’s always good. I’m certainly not possessive of these public areas by any means, but personally I like to retreat to my own little world and mull over things when I’m hiking. Having people jockeying to get past on the narrow trail is quite distracting. So that makes 43 recorded ascents towards the 51 I need to claim Everest. I wonder if I’ll perhaps manage it this season.

The gate is staying open until 7pm still, but the nights are definitely drawing in, so it might soon be a challenge to get my ascents formally timed.

 

Worst thing? The strap on my FitBit broke a couple of days ago and though it seems to record my steps perfectly well from within my trouser pocket it does NOT record them if those trousers are stationary in the car while I’m trudging up Grouse… :S








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