I know we’ve still got some way to go until snow and winter but these images have a little story behind them …
My friend Tim’s father arrived at the house a few weeks back with a camera SD card in hand. He had found it in the grass at his favourite park, where, he tells me, he goes for a walk every day. No one seemed to be around and so he brought the card to me to see if I could discover the owner’s identity.
Sadly, there was no relevant information in the EXIF info – all I could tell was that it was shot on a Canon Rebel of some sort, and that the photos dated back to 2011 (although that isn’t necessarily the correct date, if the owner hadn’t set it correctly.)
Yes indeed, spring is officially come here in the Cariboo. To celebrate, I went for a little walk just before sunset. I traipsed through the snow, marvelled at the bare trees, and slid down an iced-up trail on hands and knees while trying to scramble out of a white gully, my breath fogging up my glasses. But this, including the snow forecast for later this week, is normal for a Cariboo spring I’m told.
Until early January I was loving winter. Then I took a trip to the warmer climes of South Africa and Madagascar for five weeks. Since arriving back in Canuckistan in early February winter hasn’t been quite as kind. It has been colder than before I left, granted, but that wasn’t the problem. After a week of exercise, and enjoying nature on foot, I got sick – nausea, dizziness, sore muscles, extreme fatigue and trouble breathing. Just getting up in the morning was challenging.
But last week I had had quite enough, and so decided to go for a walk up in the provincial park overlooking town. It was invigorating and I stayed out longer than I planned, winding my way back through the west side, past my favourite footbridge and back home very very sore. Winter does seem to be in its death throes – despite the cold snap last week – and I was determined to get a few more snowy pics before it had faded.
Strangely enough, town wasn’t nearly as colourful as I was hoping it would be. The park closes at dusk, which meant I couldn’t stay up there long enough to shoot the city’s night lights. But I did get a few nice photos of my little corner of Canuckistan in the back-end of winter.
I was chatting to a friend down in South Africa, who told me the season has turned – that the evenings are getting chillier, a sure sign that Autumn is near. The next thing she said was, “which means that it’s almost summer up in Canuckistan!”
And so I went outside to check – up my stairs, which were coated in a few inches of fresh powder, and into a solid flurry of Arctic wind and ice. The temperatures have been touching as low as -25°C (without wind chill) for a week now, and it looks as if that’s to continue at least until Friday. Oh, and that’s without the infamous “polar vortex” that’s been hovering over the east of the continent. These temperatures are just normal around here, it seems …
Just to prove that it is indeed still winter, I compiled a few shots from the past week, including ones I took this evening. Canadians are notorious for complaining about the weather but I’m not wishing away this winter – I love how different it is to anything I’ve experienced before. And hey, what do you expect, it’s winter: that’s why (as comedian Rick Mercer says) God created long johns.
(You can, of course, click on images for full versions.)
Fence and branches
Atop the sledding mound
Winter’s for play, angry bird
Bridge across the river Fraser
Rail Bridge across the Quesnel
Quesnel River Bridge from upriver
Bridge across the Quesnel
Looking towards Johnson Subdivision from a frozen Quesnel River.
Grass in the snow
Driving across the Quesnel River Bridge, looking upriver
Quesnel’s bustling station
The Quesnel River from the bridge
Train tracks at dusk
Homes on Dragon Lake shore – from the lake
A little video clip from Rick Mercer about the weather from January 2014:
Tomorrow I will be leaving Canuckistan bound for France, and then South Africa a week later. In all I hope to be away for no longer than 5 weeks (if visas and other things fall into place as they should.)
As I won’t be in Canuckistan for five weeks, I can’t exactly blog here about perambulating around the place. If you would like to follow me while I am away I will be writing across at my old blog “Rambling With a Cantankerous Old Mule.”
Before I go, here’s something of what I will be leaving behind …
Interested in seeing the old church earlier in the year?
A couple of friends picked me up from home at around noon last Saturday and we drove out to Hallis Lake east of town for a short little plod through the woods. It really is wonderful that there are so many spots close to town for one to practice one’s winter activities. Hallis Lake has a great network of cross-country skiing tracks, and hours-worth of snowshoeing routes too. And, unlike the downhill ski resort Troll, which is abuzz with activity at this time of year, we came across no-one out in the hills.
Don’t let anyone tell you that snowshoeing is either easy. We had an amazing two-hour cardio workout, and I literally stumbled down the final hill back to the lodge. I’m going to miss all these wonderful winter activities when I go back to South Africa this week!
The most obvious winter sport for me to have tried (apart from hockey and ice-fishing) would have to be skiing. Not the cross-country type, which involves gliding gracefully along beautifully manicured tracks. No, I’m talking terrifying, eye-watering, hair-raising downhill (skiing) …
I have skied once before – as an 18-year-old exchange student, when I was living in Belgium in the 1980s. A group of us hired a bus and travelled all the way across Germany to Holzgau, Austria for three days.
Honestly, I don’t remember much skiing taking place. What I do remember is night-time sledding, followed by plenty of gluhwein. The weather was foul most of the time we were there and we managed to get onto the slopes only once – most of us being the laughing-stock of our Canadian and Scandinavian friends, who were excellent skiers.
But I digress.
Back to Canuckistan. On the opening day of the ski season, some of the church’s youth invited me to go along to our local resort an hour from town – primarily because they needed a ride. Still nursing a throbbing wrist, from my hockey mishap the previous weekend, I was planning on sitting in the lodge all day with a good book and steady supply of hot drinks. But as soon as I saw the slopes, and all the smiling, excited ski-folk, that plan high-tailed it straight out of the door and up the bunny slope.
A couple of runs down said bunny slope had my confidence racing. “I can do anything,” I thought to myself. But it turns out the slopes and snow-ploughing were not the only things I had to master. Enter the dreaded T-bar lift – the system for transporting pairs of skiers and snowboarders uphill. Interestingly enough, the French name for it is “Pioche”, which translates to “pick-axe” in English. Which is most appropriate because the apparatus is as comfortable and easy to ride as an actual pick-axe would be. On my first attempt I smacked my T-bar buddy across the ear with my ski poles in a desperate attempt to jam the bar securely behind my derrière. My dismount was as disastrous as I panicked, skidded wildly off to the side and then fell flat on my back, smacking my partner in the head with my skis. But she survived, albeit with a few bruises.
Our first run down the mountain was reasonably uneventful and pleasant, and she forgave me my previous T-bar indiscretions, agreeing to go up to an even higher slope for our second run. This time I was the epitome of grace and poise as I mounted the disagreeable bar. “Well done,” she assured me. “But now, whatever you do, don’t fall, or we’ll have to walk the rest of the way up. This thing can be tricky!”
“Pffffffff,” I thought to myself, gripping the bar even tighter, “Me, fall? How rude!” And then I did. A few hundred metres from the summit my left ski developed a terrible wobble, which transferred itself up my left ankle, through the knee, thigh, and left buttock, to the taut right buttock, down my petrified right leg and, finally, into my mutinous right ski.
“I’m going to fa …” I shrieked, before hitting the ground in a puff of powder. Desperately, I tried to hold onto the bar, which dragged me inelegantly a few more metres before breaking free from my grip. Looking back I saw my partner glaring up at me from where she’d been deposited. We trudged the rest of the way, she muttering that she was finding a new T-bar buddy.
But that wasn’t the end of our adventure. We did a few small slopes – where I fell only a dozen or so times – once to much applause from some onlookers. Then we climbed higher on yet another T-bar to do a series of slopes from the very top … Swish, turn, glide, (etc.) we descended at pace to a point where the teens decided to do a short “powder” run through the trees.
“This is pretty hard,” one of them told me. “You don’t have to do it …”
“Ah, no problem, I’ve got this,” I assured myself (imprudently, it turns out.) “Wheeeeeeeeeee!” I launched down the slope, as the others zoomed out ahead. And kablooey, I belly-flopped into the powder a few seconds later. Deep. So deep that I had to dig my skis out. So deep that I couldn’t stand; couldn’t crawl. At one point I deliriously half-prayed for a St. Bernard to bound through the snow to my rescue, or for someone to toss me a life ring from the secure ground above. But the closest I came to any help was the few people who skied by, smiled, shouted an “are you okay?” over their shoulders and zipped out of sight before I could gasp an answer.
After what seemed like an eternity leopard-crawling out, and having coughed up half a lung, I finally flopped exhausted onto the harder snow. After a further eternity to clear the snow from my boots and skis, and get them reattached, I skied down the easier run wobbly-legged, as if in a coma. Amazingly, my T-bar buddy had waited for me a few hundred metres on – forgiving angel that she is. Somehow she coaxed me down to the lodge, where I dried out, caught my breath and steadied myself for a few more assaults on the slopes that afternoon.
We skied in freezing, blizzard-like conditions at times and I fell more than I can remember (although never on the T-bar again) but I had a blast. If there had been a T-shirt for everyone who made it to the end of the day, I would have it. In fact, I would have demanded two!
You can call me a useless skier, you can call me a stubborn old mule, but never call me no quitter, eh! Got that?
The first winter activity I attempted here in Canuckistan was hockey – the type on ice, of course. Next came ice fishing.
That’s when you get up way earlier than any sane person should be awake, stock up on Timmy’s coffee, drive to a frozen lake, wade out through the slushy snow to a point just off-shore, drill a hole or six in the ice, bait up some lines with “jigs” and shrimp and then stand around waiting for a famished fish to bite. A high-energy adrenalin-rush sport it most certainly isn’t. (Fortunately I had my camera to keep me occupied when the fishing was slow.)
The weather was all most balmy both times we ventured out to Bouchie Lake (the warm weather the reason for the foot or so of melting snow on the ice) and so we didn’t bother with a heated cabin – that’s for temperatures closer to -30°C … and for sissies. And Cariboo folk aint no sissies. I, however, am not from the Cariboo and was soon complaining about my soaked feet, and the fact that my toes were going quickly from soggy to stinging to numb to “Toes? What toes?”
Of course, despite my frozen footsies, we stayed out there until we’d caught our full quota – popping the torpid trout out of the water like corks from a bottle, and then clubbing them repeatedly until they either played dead or really were.
I’ll be leaving Canucki territory in just a few days but still hope to savour some of the fruit of my fishing expedition. Smoked, perhaps …
One Ashleigh Brilliant once remarked: “This is serious: some of the things that are supposed to last the rest of my life are already wearing out,” and I, sadly, am discovering just that about my body.
Not one to shrink back from adventure, I have thrown myself into any activities winter and my friends can introduce me to here in Canuckistan. And having grown up in sunny South Africa, enjoying many a summer on the beach or near to the pool, everything about this December is new, exciting and challenging to my middle-aged body.
Back in July I bought myself some second-hand skates in anticipation of being able to play the signature sport of Canuckistan – the sport that every child grows up playing and loving passionately – Hockey. But it wasn’t until the beginning of this month that the temperatures stayed low enough for long enough, and we headed off to the outdoor rink up at Bouchie Lake for the first time.
I was, of course, as good on the ice as a, ummmmmm, what metaphor would best describe it? A fish on skates? But I’m a reasonably quick learner – and I was average in no time. That’s where the quote above comes into the story though: I fell a few times on the ice and then, heading back to the car at the end of the evening, came crashing down something terrible on my hip and left wrist. Both ached for weeks. In fact, almost a month later the wrist is still not back to normal. A nightmare of an afternoon spent at the hospital’s emergency ward seemed to indicate that there was no fracture, fortunately. All the doctor could suggest was to “keep it mobile.” That was like music to my ears. All I heard was, “play more hockey.”
And so I went back for more the following week. This time I fell even harder. Back-pedalling to prevent a sure collision with a Canucki teenager, I performed a feat normally reserved for TV cartoon characters: with skates and arms flailing, I found myself flying upwards and backwards, finally landing flat on my back, very hard. About all I could do was crawl off, gasping for breath through the excruciating pain (almost as much pain as when I hurt myself cliff jumping in Madagascar) and hide in the car nursing my damaged ego. Two weeks later I still fear sneezing and my ribs, chest and left kidney hurt when I bend down to take out the garbage.
But hockey is infectious. I’ve been back every week since my initial mishaps – now wearing knee and shin guards, and hockey shorts which we fondly refer to as “padded panties” – and I believe that I am actually improving. How sad though that all my hockey-skill progress will grind to a halt as I head back to South Africa next week. Although, on second thoughts, perhaps it is best for my aching bones …
(All daytime shots are by Elissa. The rest are by me.)
Just hear those sleigh bells
Jingling ring ting tingling too
Come on it’s lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you
Outside the snow is falling
And friends are calling Yoo hoo
Come on it’s lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you
Giddy up giddy up giddy up,
Let’s go, let’s look at the show
We’re riding in a wonderland of snow
Last Saturday I drove out of town with part of the “D” clan to a farm down a road that doesn’t exist (according to the iPhone Map App.) The occasion was a sleigh ride that had been organised for a group of kids – who also got to meet and pet a few miniature horses and other ponies.
It was pretty cold, especially when up to my thighs in the drifts of snow to get better shooting angles. But our hosts laid on a warm fire and hot chocolate and the children seemed to have a ball.
One thing is for sure – this Christmas season is unlike anything this South African has ever experienced.
(Click on photos for the slideshow and bigger versions…)
Two beasts and a boy
Red-nose cold (The whole “Rudolph” thing makes so much sense now.)
I really enjoy what many people over here do with their trees over Christmas. So creative. So festive. So colourful. This is a house not far from where I live that I snapped one bracing evening while out walking. Some homes have much more elaborate decorations, but I love the simplicity of this one.
The thing that almost kills me every day with all the gunk that it pours into the air is also one of my favourite photography subjects: the pulp mill closest to my home. As ugly as it is, I find it beautiful – especially at night, with all its vibrant colours.
I hate taking photos I’ve taken before, so I tried to shoot it from different vantage points to what I’ve tried before. One such spot involved perching on the side of a snow-covered hill – my derrière firmly pushed into the snow. Little did I realise that at temperatures well below zero the snow stuck to my jeans, nearly leading to frostbitten buttocks.
But I prevailed.
So, what do you think? Should a pulp mill ever be called beautiful?