Back to the beach!

30 Sep

Alright, it’s finally come to an end. No not my blog, though I’m sure lot’s of you thought that’s what happened. Naw. There just wasn’t much to talk about. This is after all a travel blog and when the only travel we did this summer was back to the Island twice and a quick visit to our friends on one of the gulf islands, well there really wasn’t much to tell you. We’re putting the last bits and pieces into the Dodge and will hit the road Wednesday morning, heading south once again. The roads into Baja are open but we haven’t heard much from any of our friends there, so we’re not sure what to expect. Hurricane Odile went right through there but didn’t do anywhere near as much damage as it had further south. They didn’t get through unscathed, though the city of Loreto is now trumpeting the fact that they are open for business once again, so hopefully everyone has come through safely. I’m thinking the beach is going to be pretty overgrown and it’s looking like we’ll meet up with one of the long time campers there around the first week in October. We’ll have our work cut out for us getting down the old dirt road and cutting down the weeds to be able to access our campsite, but hey, if that’s what we have to do, that’s what we have to do. Time to say a sad goodbye to our family and friends here and look forward to another 6 months in our other home in Baja California Sur, Rattlesnake Beach. When we get there, I’ll tell you all about the trip and post pictures of how things are. Take care all of you and we’ll talk again soon!

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Not your average year!

19 Mar

Just finished celebrating my birthday (March 14th), the last year of my 50’s as my youngest so delicately put it. Sitting around the fire, eating BBQ ribs, scalloped potatoes and drinking tequila, talking about how much longer we all have before we have to head home once more.

The population of campers on the beach has halved over the past week, signaling the end of another season. For all of us, it’s a time of sadness as well as anticipation; sadness because some may not make it back to the beach next winter and anticipation as we all look forward to seeing friends and relatives back home!

This is what the waters have looked like up until today.

This is what the waters have looked like up until today.

As I sit here writing this (March 16th), I’m listening to the VHF radio, hearing chaos out in the Waiting Room and Inner harbour at Puerto Escondido, as boats break loose from their moorings, dinghies capsize and docks are torn to pieces. Today is the very first north wind, exceeding wind speeds of 55 knots! That’s higher than the wind from Hurricane Paul of 2012. It almost seems as if Mother Nature was saving up everything for this one blow!

..and this is what it looks like today!

..and this is what it looks like today!

Up until today our weather has been unseasonably calm, and warm. We’ve had mostly gentle breezes when we would have appreciated slightly higher ones, due to all the mosquito and no-see-um activity all season and we’ve had our little heater on for exactly 45 minutes the entire winter. While everyone at home suffered through some of the worst winter weather on record, we seem to have been sitting right on the very edge of the drought conditions hitting the southwestern United States.

This has been an odd season because normally the Grande Nortes start blowing in November/December and the temperatures begin to drop. It usually gets cold enough that most of us are wearing long pants, with a light jacket during the day because of lower temperatures and blowing sand. Nights and mornings are usually cold enough to have a heat source on for at least a little while.

This year, as I said no winds and average daytime temperatures never dropped below 70 F with averages in the low 80’s. Even the water temperatures have stayed high. High enough that even I’ve been out swimming recently and that’s never happened in the past, at least not for me! Once the water gets below 65, I just don’t want to go in, but this year, it had only just reached that when it started to rise again and it’s now fast approaching 80 again.

For those with years of experience on the water, they’re starting to be a bit concerned about the coming hurricane season since 80-degree water sustains them. They believe with the high temperatures this early in the year that it could lead to a very bad hurricane season with multiple storms. I guess we’ll see and we’ll be watching the weather closely before we venture down next fall.

Ladies fishing day

Just me and Jan out fishing and successfully I must say!

Other than strange weather and worrying about our families back in the extreme cold up north, it’s been pretty much an average year, lots of parties and get togethers, BBQ rib nights, bocce ball games, when we weren’t getting eaten alive by the bugs, fishing, kayaking and hiking. I even got to catch a couple of large Yellowtail on my single action reel which I’d been told was impossible plus we managed to have a couple of Ladies only fishing trips which were highly productive and the cause of much conversation around the fire!

Awesome fight with a 24lb Yellowtail on my single action reel and 10 foot rod!

Awesome fight with a 24lb Yellowtail on my single action reel and 10 foot rod!

The big difference this year was the season brought us kittens instead of puppies. We are usually the recipients of abandoned dogs and puppies on the beach, from the locals, since over the years the folks here have managed to find homes for almost every one. This year it was 9 kittens and 1 cat, most likely the mother of 8 of the kittens, maybe. I have to thank our friends and neighbours on the beach, Sy and Jan, who actually shouldered most of the burden of looking after this brood. We only had one at a time appear on our doorstep, while they had almost the entire group!

Sadly, out of the original 8 kittens, 2 had to be put down and 2 died, most likely from complications of Feline Leukemia, which is a major problem amongst the cat population down here. One of them, I’m sad to say, was a little Siamese cross female that we had decided to adopt and named Bella.

This was the lovely little girl that we originally adopted, before she started to show symptoms of illness.

This was the lovely little girl that we originally adopted, before she started to show symptoms of illness.

Happily, however the other 4 found homes and still remain healthy. For this we have Jan to thank as she did all the leg work and doggedly searched for people to adopt these lovely little girls! The adult cat was eventually live trapped, spayed and released, where she will hopefully manage to survive without producing any more unwanted kittens.

Unfortunately there is no place to take cats in Loreto. Animalandia, a volunteer organization, deals with dogs and has no facilities for cats beyond arranging for spaying and neutering.

Just when we thought we were done with all the animals, I went for a walk up to the little convenience store, and on the way found a very young, very cute, puppy. I may not be a dog lover but there was no way I could ignore this tiny little girl so I carried her to the store and then back to our campsite. As I was showing her to Richard he exclaimed in horror that she was covered in fleas and upon putting her down, it became obvious she really was! There were so many on her, you could see them seething through her fur and she was covered in bumps from bites. Surprisingly enough, not one got on me, nor did I receive a single bite!

Thankfully one of the campers had a flea spray medication that was suitable for young animals, and we soon had the little girl completely free of fleas. She was very appreciative, though I imagine, the previous bites itched like hell! The next morning we took her into Loreto and turned her over to the kind ladies from Animalandia, who figured she would be very easy to adopt out, since the size of her feet indicated she would probably grow quite large, had the colouring of a Rottweiler, and good guard dog instincts, all desirable traits.

Feeling good about ourselves, we headed for home knowing that thanks to our actions, this little dog would have a much happier life, rather than getting hit by a car, being eaten by coyotes or bobcats or dying from starvation or dehydration. We walked through the door of Grummy, only to have our neighbours knock on it moments later, with a small furry bundle wrapped in a silk shirt and the greetings of Happy Birthday!

On their walk early in the morning they came across another kitten, all by itself very near the highway, and they just couldn’t leave her to get killed by a car. Knowing that we had lost the kitten we’d adopted, and that we had talked about getting another kitten when we got back to Canada, they brought her to us. And so, Bella 2 came into our lives. (I would post a picture but WordPress seems to be having major problems uploading photos these days)

(The name was stuck in our heads and even when we tried calling her something else, “Bella” always seemed to come out. She responded to the name almost immediately, so we figured she was destined to be called it).

You know, we had both forgotten what it was like to have a kitten.  They’re crazy; fun, entertaining, cute and cuddly, but crazy and they wake up way too early. So now we have to figure out how to travel with a kitten and live with her in our Dodge van at home. So far she’s taken to the Grummy with no problem at all and doesn’t seem inclined to wander out of sight of us. We’ll see,  I guess it’ll be one step at a time. We’re really hoping it will work out for her, and us, but if not, we’ve already had a couple of folks at home volunteering to take her. So one way or another this little lady is going to have a great life.

Stay tuned; I may have to change the title of this blog to “Travels with Bella”!

Progress!

22 Dec
Just another sunrise, just another day.

Just another sunrise, just another day.

What is it about a blank piece of paper?

Every time I think of something to write about, I sit down in front of my computer and as soon as WORD pops up with it’s electronic facsimile of an empty piece of paper, my mind goes blank. Even when I have great stuff to tell you about, it takes me quite a while to get started.

 

It’s just like it was in school. I was a great writer and consistently got A’s and B’s in English, especially in English Composition, but only if I had a deadline. Not that I wrote anything until just before the paper was due though! I always did my very best work the night before any work was to be handed in. My problem writing this blog is I don’t have a deadline and usually when I think up a great beginning, paragraph or sentence, I’m nowhere near my computer and not being under 30, though I own an I-Touch, I don’t use it to it’s full potential, so I forget it.

 

This time around though, it’s pretty easy because I’m writing this and sending it from my computer, through my Internet set up, here on the beach. That’s right folks, here on Rattlesnake Beach! (Run completely by solar power, of course) A couple of weeks ago, two young men showed up at our end of the beach and introduced themselves as the owner and his assistant of a company called Avantek. They wanted to know if we were interested in signing up for Internet service. Now, there are a great many schemes that happen down here and we were pretty skeptical, but after talking to them and questioning how this was going to work, we realized that they could make it a reality. They could even give us Wi-Fi if we wanted it!

See the little antenna?

See the little antenna?

 

I’ll tell you when word got out, there was a line-up at our door of all the campers on the beach who wanted service.

It took a couple of days because we were the test case and they had to keep adjusting our receiver and then running down south to their tower near Ligui, and changing the direction of the sending unit, but eventually they got all the bugs worked out and we have the Internet at our fingertips whenever we want it.

Now, I’ll bet you think that was expensive right? Well think again, the initial, one time set up fee was $1500.00 pesos, then $250.00 pesos per month, which comes to about $125.00 for the set up and $21.00 per month, try getting that at home! Even though we’re only here for 6 months, when we come back next year, we just have to let them know, they’ll put our equipment back up, and we’ll just start our monthly payments again, no new set up charge.

The only draw back for everyone else on the beach is they sold the first 2 units, to us and another couple down the beach, and then used that money to purchase new equipment, which they are waiting on. Since it’s coming from mainland Mexico, it’s taking a while, which is quite common down here. So it’s going to be another week or so before the rest of the campers are online. They can hardly wait!

This is luxury! It means we don’t have to go into town to use the Internet, which is a 35-kilometer drive and usually entailed having to purchase a meal. Not that that was a problem, but it was money we really didn’t need to spend. Or we could go to the local store just down the road, but the noise level was generally so high from all the conversation going on around you, that you couldn’t hear yourself think, let alone concentrate on what you were doing online.

Now, whenever the mood strikes or a question comes up we can turn on the old laptop and surf or Google to our hearts content!

Which brought up an interesting conversation the other day about progress. We all come from modern, first world countries where the infrastructure has been in place for a long time, but down here that’s not the case. We’ve been coming here for 8 years and some of the folks we share this beach with have been coming for a lot longer than that, some for over 30 years. For them, they can remember dirt roads and the need to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle to make it pretty well anywhere. They talk about going to places where the locals had never seen a Gringo and they could park on any beach, anywhere, even in Cancun, back in the day.

My first experience driving down here on MEX1 was NOT a pleasant one. Most of the highway was only 16 feet wide, with no shoulders, a good 2-foot drop off the sides and potholes that could do serious damage. Having anything larger than a pickup go by in the oncoming lane could be rather terrifying especially since the big semis had to actually veer a bit so our side mirrors wouldn’t smash together as they drove past us. Being passed by a semi or bus was an equally frightening event. A bus passed us one day, so close and so fast that it actually made the aluminum side ripple. It sounded like we had sideswiped each other.

Not to mention the garbage. The northern part of Baja looked like a bomb had gone off in a plastics manufacturing facility. There were plastic bags and bits of plastic in every direction, stuck on trees, bushes and cactus, so many that we were told even the locals joked about them being the unofficial flag of Mexico. In lots of towns, none of the roads were paved and water came from pumps strategically placed at the end of roads in every neighbourhood. Hardly anyone had plumbed water to his or her home. The streets were filled with garbage of every conceivable type, and everyone just stepped over and around it. It was, most assuredly, not pleasant!

Every year we drove down, there was less and less of the garbage, the roads got wider, the asphalt thicker, the pot holes were filled in, more vados (areas were the arroyos cross over roads) had bridges built over them and the services available increased exponentially. More and more dirt roads were paved and plumbing was becoming part of every household. The old street side pumps were disappearing. Of course, less and less beaches were available to camp on (as the land was being bought up) and those that were, now had a rental fee attached, but that was okay too since it included a garbage pickup.

At first, Internet was only available at businesses that had a couple of PC’s, the connections were poor, down loading was impossible and most of the time an e-mail could be sent, eventually, for about 10 pesos an hour. Occasionally you’d see someone with a cell phone but most calls happened at pay phone booths spread all over town.

A few years later some of the restaurants in town put in Wi-Fi with a good sized bandwidth and suddenly their customer base increased as the Gringos looked for somewhere to access the net while eating a meal or drinking a beer at the same time.

Fast forward a few more years, Wi-Fi is available in many places including the local store down by our beach, everyone has a cell phone, there’s still a little garbage around but nothing like it was before and the roads are starting to look like highways back home. Some places have been expanded to 4 (or 6, we’re still trying to figure it out) lanes including the highway leading south out of Loreto.

The changes have improved life for the locals too. In Loreto, most of the side streets are now paved or will be soon, almost every home has electricity and not a roadside water pump is to be found.

With Internet so readily available even the poorest citizen, who previously couldn’t even afford a TV, can now see the world, not just their small part of it.

It’s made our lives easier so much easier too as we can now contact our kids at anytime and have real time conversations with our grandkids without interruption or distraction.

I guess only time will tell if this is going to be a good or bad thing for the locals, but one thing is for sure, in a place like Baja progress is noticeable, recognizable, and so far, moving at high speed!

 

A curious herd of donkeys we met on one of our hikes. You just never know what you're going to see down here!

The above photo is here to show you that even with all the changes, old Mexico is still right around the corner. We came across these curious donkeys on one of our hikes and you still see the occasional horse, mule or donkey, complete with tack,  tied up beside a very modern store or restaurant in Loreto. It’s kind of nice that the old still co-exists side by side with the new.

 

Before I sign off I just want to take this moment to wish all of you Feliz Navidad and Prospero Anos Nuevo! See you in 2014!

The year of the Mouse? Mosquito? Whatever…

31 Oct

The road beckoned in late September as the first hints of the coming winter, started to reveal themselves. We wished our son-in-law a Happy Birthday, kissed our daughter and grandkids goodbye, and headed for the ferry to Washington State and the road heading south.

With Rosy, our Dodge van, full to the rafters with a new fridge for Grummy, a telescope for me and many other odds and sods it was going to be a fast trip and it was. Travelling Highway 101 down the west coast till just south of San Francisco, where we swung over to I-5 we made it to our usual spot on Rattlesnake Beach in 5 ½ days.

The weather breaks

The weather was a bit rainy the first day, but after that, the sun came out and it was a beautiful trip down. If you ever get the chance, drive the 101. The scenery, from mid-Washington State to just before San Francisco, California is awesome. We’ve found over the years that the traffic is easy to deal with, as long as it’s not high summer and there are many places to stop for a walk, picnic, hike, play tourist, shop for unique gifts or just to admire the view and take a few pictures. The problems start just before you hit San Francisco, where the population density increases so drastically that we find it’s just not worth the hassle. That’s not to say that the coast road in California isn’t worth the trip, it is! The sights are great but the best part of the trip is really the dramatic views off the coast of Oregon with it’s many islands, sandy beaches, lagoons and massive erratic’s!

The rugged coast of Oregon

The rugged coast of Oregon

The Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge

Once we arrived in Baja, it was obvious that we’d come just a little too soon. The daily temperatures averaged 95 to 100F with 85% humidity. Now, I can hear all of you saying “Oh, poor you”, in a sarcastic voice, but think about that for a minute. There’s no air conditioning in our rig, no breeze to evaporate sweat and with the humidity that high, it’s like sitting in a sauna all day and night. Sweat just poured off of us as if we were standing under a steady shower and we needed to carry paper towels with us at all times to keep it out of our eyes. Even the ocean didn’t provide any respite since it’s temperature was in the high 80’s. You couldn’t even tell you had walked into it for the first couple of weeks we were here. Nudity or as close as you could come was the dress of the day.

A Mexican Horse trailer

You can tell you’ve crossed the border when you start to see things like this.

The bugs weren’t bad, a few mosquitoes, no-see-ums and fly’s, left overs from the last tropical storm that had gone by over the summer, when it had rained for 3 days straight. The government had actually sprayed due to Dengue Fever showing it’s ugly head. Other than that, it was very green and lush, looking much as it had when we left in March last year. The beach this year was actually sandy, with a lot of wood from the storms, but nothing as bad as it had been after Hurricane Paul had gone by last October.

Underneath all that wood was a beautiful sandy beach.

Underneath all that wood was a beautiful sandy beach.

2 weeks ago Tropical Storm Octave went right over us. It didn’t do much to the beach, but it did rain 6 inches in less than 24 hours and of course, once again Highway Mex1, was severely damaged in way more places than last time. See, with the Gigantes Mountain range right behind us the rain builds up there, then comes thundering down, building up speed as if heads for the Sea of Cortez. If you remember your science classes, water will always find it’s own level and even though there are many established arroyos, all it takes is a new rock or tree blocking even a partial bit of the old course, to make the water veer and start a new one. Water forced it’s way over, under and through places that had never had water before. Every time it rains for more than a couple of hours here, it’s a new lesson in hydrology with just how powerful and destructive water can be.

Here’s a little something to think about too, the desert surrounding us is so saturated, that wild, Shaggy Mane mushrooms are growing on the road into our beach. Now that’s not something you see in the Sonoran Desert much, I’m thinking!

A week after that, we had a 6.8 earthquake, centered just 65 miles due east of Loreto. Nothing unusual in that since the Sea of Cortez is actually a continuation of the San Andreas Fault. The experience for us was interesting, as we just happened to be in town that day and neither of us had ever experienced the shaking of one before, but a conversation with a kayak guide who had been out on Carmen Island made us realize how dangerous it actually was. The land around here is made up of, basically, volcanic rock, liberally laced with compressed ash. With all the rain widening any gaps, once the earth shook, rock came loose and fell. The guide said he’d gone up a hill to make a cell call, then headed back down to his guests, reaching them, just as the quake let loose. The place he’d been standing fell and he said that it was raining rocks the size of our Grumman. If he’d been on the top of the hill when the quake struck, he’d have died. Nothing like a little perspective!

And now, 2 weeks after the rain, we can’t go outside anymore. The mosquitos are so bad that even wearing 30% DEET doesn’t repel them and Dengue Fever has reared its ugly head again. Used to be, that even when the bugs were bad, it was only in the early morning or close to sunset, but not anymore, now it’s all day and night. It’s almost funny watching people do the bug dance, until you have to go outside yourself, and then it’s a misery. Even being right down at the water doesn’t keep them away!

Then there are the mice and rats. Since last years rain brought grass to the desert and this years has kept it growing, that means there are a lot of seeds to eat and in the desert if there’s an abundance of food, there will soon be an abundance of things to eat it, hence the rodents. There are millions of them and they are everywhere. We weren’t here 2 days when a rat took up residence in the engine compartment of Grummy. Thank god they can’t get inside. Richard built the van with absolutely no access to the outside using his Dad’s experience as a guide. Dodge however, wasn’t so lucky and it took us 2 weeks to get rid of the mice that had taken up residence in Rosy and the same amount of time to figure out how they were getting in. Both had not only set up housekeeping but had built nests and started raising a brood. Good thing neither of us are softies, since the idea of traps and poison didn’t even phase us. I don’t know about you, but cute as they might be, I’m not in the slightest bit interested in sharing my living space with them. Oh, and did I mention the Gopher snakes that eat rodents? Seems there’s been a population explosion amongst them too!

Yeah, I know. Bitch, bitch, bitch!

Well, I guess that saying about the snake in Paradise is really true, or maybe it’s the one about having to always pay the piper, who knows, but down here nothing ever comes easy. Ah, well, there’s certainly never a dull moment down on Rattlesnake Beach!

TTFN!

Nothing is ever easy!

11 Aug

Well, it was a fairly normal summer up until the middle of last month. We’d come home and helped the eldest daughter plant the summer garden, and put in a new floor in their garage, (it’s both the workout gym and her husbands Man Cave). Not to mention lots of Grandma and Grandpa time!

Spent lots of time to-ing and fro-ing on these this summer!

Spent lots of time to-ing and fro-ing on these this summer!

Then it was off to the island to help our youngest and her family settle into their new home. I spent the month painting, replacing electrical outlets and switches, trimming trees and planting a raised bed garden, while Richard was putting in a new hot water tank, faucets, toilets, cutting down cedar hedges run amok, ripping out plants gone wild, building an indoor chin up bar for their garage gym and a chin up/rings bar outside so they could keep up with their Crossfit training and of course, more Grandma/Grandpa time!

A Chin-up and ring box for Crossfitting

A Chin-up and ring box for Crossfitting

Oh, and he installed a solar system on Rosie, so our van now has all the power we could ever need! Having a son-in-law who works for one of the foremost solar companies in the world was handy. He works for Carmanah Technologies and they’ve finally decided to build portable systems for the general public, perfect for vans and small RV’s, simple to install and use. The system is call GO POWER and if you’re interested, check it out here: gpelectric.com

We also visited with Richards Dad, sister and brother-in-law as well as my sister and niece. It was busy but lots of fun, and then it was back to Penticton. Once back we stuffed our faces with cherries and Richard built a new fence and Alena and I stained it. Work, work, work, work, work, work, work!

Then about half way through July, our youngest Liz, called us to ask when we were coming back to visit as her son Cohen had asked one night before bed. Well, we really didn’t have anything pressing for the next 3 weeks so we decided to head for the island again, but this time we took a longer and slower route, not much longer and not much slower but very pretty and we hadn’t been that way in a quite a few years.

A couple of young Big Horn Sheep ewes.

A couple of young Big Horn Sheep ewes.

We headed north towards Kelowna, then took Highway 97C to Merrit, also known as The Connector as it meets up with the Coquihalla Highway just east of Merrit proper. We, however, were not going that way. The Coquihalla is a high speed route, over the mountains, very steep and really nasty in the winter, but it cuts 30 minutes off the trip and it’s the shortest land route from Vancouver to Edmonton. Not really our cup of tea! There are some spectacular sights along the way, but there really isn’t anywhere to stop to admire them and the high speed limits preclude tootling along. So we continued through Merrit along Highway 8 which runs through the Nicola Valley, a very pretty, slower route.

We saw a couple of Rocky Mountain Big Horn ewes, pretty close up and personal as they didn’t seem to be to concerned about our presence and we camped the night at a Forestry Campsite along the river. These types of sites are everywhere in BC, run and maintained by the Forest Service and can consist of simply places to rough camp with outhouses, all the way up to campsites with picnic tables, garbage collection and fee collection. The rates run from nothing to $10.00 per night.

The view from our Forestry campsite in the Nicola Valley

The view from our Forestry campsite in the Nicola Valley

If this is the way you like to camp get yourself a book called Backroads Map Books. I think there are 6 for all the different areas of BC depending on where you want to go and they will show you all the back road, logging road and off road routes, Forestry as well as Provincial campsites and fishing areas. If you spend a lot of time wandering around BC or you might in the future, these books are a necessity!

After leaving our lovely campsite we headed further west until we met up with Highway 1, at Spences Bridge and turned south onto Highway 1, the Fraser Canyon. This was just after all the big floods in southeastern BC and western Alberta so the water was definitely high!

It was kind of a sad trip down the canyon though, we were there in the middle of July and there appeared to be not a tourist in sight. Everywhere we looked, businesses were closed, private Campsites, Motels, Restaurants, even gas stations, certainly nothing like I was used to seeing! Up until that point every time we’d driven the canyon the traffic was so thick nobody managed to even come close to the speed limit, with vehicles pulled off everywhere to stop and take pictures. The place was alive with White water rafters, tourists of every descriptions and Hells Gate usually had so many people waiting to take the tram and view the rapids that you had to be extremely careful driving past so you didn’t run anybody over! This year there was no one to be seen and traffic was so light as to be almost non-existant!

This is sediment heavy water from the Fraser River mixing with the sea waters of Georgia Straights after all the flooding in Alberta and southwestern BC.

This is sediment heavy water from the Fraser River mixing with the sea waters of Georgia Straights after all the flooding in Alberta and southwestern BC.

We made it over to the island, sat and talked with the kids and grandkids, then after dinner, we headed to the local park to take the kids for a bit of play time and the dogs for a walk. My kids have taken up Crossfitting and so have I, just not to the extent they have. While we were fooling around on the play ground equipment, I grabbed a chest height bar and and leapt up planning on landing on my stomach, but I miscalculated and missed by about an half an inch. I smacked the bar right between my two lowest ribs on the right side. Ouch!!

Great, we’d been on the island for 2 hours!

We headed back, with me feeling foolish and not really sure of how badly I’d hurt myself. The next morning, with me moving cautiously, I made breakfast for us. Richard took one bite  and then exclaimed, “Oh, oh”. He’d broken a tooth! ALL of Richards teeth are capped and this one had broken  under the cap and below the gum line!

Great, we’d only been on the island now for barely 12 hours!

We spent the next 3 weeks with Richard going back and forth to the dental surgeon for x-rays, exams, more x-rays, cleaning, then finally extracting the tooth, not to mention the two of us hanging with the kids, and me wincing, playing with the grandkids and me wincing, dog and house sitting, oh, and painting one more wall. and me wincing! He was supposed to have an implant but due to insufficient bone mass, and a really difficult extraction, that’s not going to happen until next year.

Why is nothing ever easy?

Our first night on the way to Carmanah. It's amazing the places you can find to camp just off the road on Vancouver Island!

Our first night on the way to Carmanah. It’s amazing the places you can find to camp just off the road on Vancouver Island! Notice the Carmanah “GO POWER” solar set up!

While we were waiting for the final appointment, we decided to hit the road for a couple of days, just to relax, turn the phones off, and be alone. So we decided on a circle route that not many people know about, from Victoria to Duncan, via Port Renfrew with a stop in the Carmanah Valley Provincial Park, then back to Victoria, via Highway 19.

We headed for Langford then hit Highway 14 which took us out to Port Renfrew. This is a gorgeous drive that parallels the Juan de Fuca Trail. Just before you drive into Port Renfrew proper, you’ll see a road and a sign on the left hand side that says “Lake Cowichan”. This is the part of the route that few actually know about. It meanders towards the south side of Lake Cowichan and Honeymoon Bay. When we reached the intersection of Honeymoon Bay and Nitinat Lake we turned right towards Nitinat.

A view from one of the many bridges along the way.

A view from one of the many bridges along the way.

Part of Nitinat Lake

Part of Nitinat Lake

If we’d been following the signs for Carmanah Valley Provincial Park we never would have found it as the signage got smaller and less noticeable as we got closer. Not to mention, once we hit the intersection we needed to take just before the village of Nitinat, the road conditions deteriorated drastically and the signage continued to shrink in size and noticeability.

Carmanah Valley Provincial Park was created, in reality, by those who literally fought to stop the valley from being logged. It contained some of the last standing old growth Sitka Spruce (including one that is considered to be the worlds largest) and Cedar forests on Vancouver Island and was the site for what became known as “The War in the Woods”.

Just one of the many giants in Carmanah Valley.

Just one of the many giants in Carmanah Valley.

Opposition to the logging was expressed in several peaceful protests and blockades of logging roads from 1980 to 1994. The largest event occurred in the summer of 1993, when over 800 protestors were arrested and many put on trial. Protestors included local residents of the area, First Nation bands, and environmentalist groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Clayoquot Sound.
The portrayal of the logging protests and blockades received worldwide media attention, and created national support for environmental movements in BC and fostered strong advocacy for anti-logging campaigns. The park was officially created in 1995 which was the first time I visited it.

The 3 Sisters, a grouping of giant Sitka Spruce.

The 3 Sisters, a grouping of giant Sitka Spruce.

The accessible area makes up only about 1/100 of the park and there are walkways so you can get over numerous springs and bogs to get to the largest trees without having to walk over their roots which are susceptible to damage.

This fallen tree was more than 7 feet in diameter and it's one of the smaller ones in the park.

This fallen tree was more than 7 feet in diameter and it’s one of the smaller ones in the park.

I was very disappointed with the state of both the road and the park itself. The logging road has been allowed to deteriorate to such a degree that I’d say anything bigger than our van, Rosie, will not be able to make it down the road in the very near future as the trees have grown over the road and are closing in from both sides. The park itself looks like not a cent has been spent on the place for the last 30 years, the walkways were broken or shoved to the side, areas where water has damaged the paths haven’t been fixed, and the whole place has a aura of neglect and decay. It almost feels as if the government is hoping either the public will forget about the place, so that they can turn it back over to the logging companies, or they are trying to create one of those parks that exist  to protect a rare ecosystem while being inaccessible to the public.

(There’s nothing wrong with that, if that’s the plan, but our Provincial government which has been in power since 2001, and is very definitely pro logging. They have produced many “papers” over the last few years that suggest logging in our Provincial parks is necessary for the health of the logging companies. No so much interested in the health of the parks though!)

The condition of the road into the park. In another couple of years the road will be so overgrown, nothing will be able to get down it!

The condition of the road into the park. In another couple of years the road will be so overgrown, nothing will be able to get down it!

Either of these things would be a slap in the fact to all those who fought to save this beautiful area from destruction and bring it to the attention of the general public and make it accessible all those years ago!

Our last night camp before heading back to Victoria.

Our last night camp before heading back to Victoria.

We visited the park, then found a very pretty hunters campsite to spend our second night, just down the road from the park. The next morning we headed out intending to spend one more night somewhere around Lake Cowichan before we had to back for Richard’s surgery, but we made the fatal mistake of turning on the cell phones! Lo and behold there was a message from daughter #1 telling us Richard had a prescription waiting for him in Sidney that he needed to start taking it 24 hours before his dentists appointment, so we reluctantly headed back down the island.

On the Friday, Richard had his surgery and the next morning we headed back to Penticton. We’ll stay here now till the beginning of September, picking up the last little bits of things we need for Baja, then after the Labour Day weekend, we’ll head back to the island. We’ll stay for a while visiting and picking up the things we know we can only get in Victoria, then say our reluctant goodbyes to our kids and grandkids, then on to the Port Angeles Ferry, down the Olympic Peninsula, and off to Baja.

Next time we talk, we’ll be back on our beach and I’ll tell you all about our adventures getting there.

TTFN

The Long Way Home

4 May

It’s not like I haven’t had access to the Internet, it’s just that I needed the extra time to acclimate to being back home in Canada. You know, doctors appointments to renew prescriptions, lab tests, more doctors appointments to discuss the results of said tests, getting all the paperwork together for ICBC refunds, new glasses and passport renewal for Richard and of course learning not to be shocked when we see the price of everything here, especially food, plus getting used to living with a very young child again. Not to mention arriving home just before the writ was dropped for a provincial election. (If you know me well, you know I’m a B.C. politics junky)

We love our grandchildren and their parents more than I can tell you, but we spend 6 months of the year basically alone. We live in a 26 foot converted Grumman truck, on a beach, where our nearest neighbours are a long ways away.

It’s quiet, for the most part, since it’s just the two of us. The steady susurration of background noise is from the wind and the waves and whatever music we might have playing.

The nearest town has a population of about 6000 and life moves at a slow but steady pace.

Our kids both live in urban settings, crowded, with the constant noise of city life: sirens, lawnmowers, leaf blowers, aircraft, vehicles, horns, etc.

It takes a little while to mesh back into the daily life of our kids and their kids. Everything is chaotic, the volume is loud, and the din is constant, from morning till night and life is lived at full speed. We forget just how fast we had to move when our daughters were little to keep up with them, their schedules and the demands of our jobs, family responsibilities and hobbies.

I finally have some quiet, alone time and figured I’d better check in with all of you.

We didn’t just drive home. We rocketed up Baja, and arrived in San Quintin on the second day of driving where we spent 2 last days, alone on the beach. It was here on the second morning that I did something I will hold near my heart for the rest of my life; I rescued a sea lion pup!

It looked like some kids had found it on the beach the night before and dragged it up into the dunes by shoving it into the sleeve of a jacket. There, they wrapped a rope around it’s rear flippers and staked the rope into the dune then left. I found it completely by accident, mostly because I could see some movement in the dunes.

I threw my jacket over its head, took the rope off it’s flippers, made sure that there was no obvious medical problems, ripped the jacket sleeve it was stuck in, in two, then followed it down to the waters edge, where it happily swam out into the surf and away. No, I don’t have pictures because I seem to never have the camera with me when something exciting happens but hey, I don’t need any pictures to remind me of just what a great feeling it was to see that little fellow head out to the safety of the ocean.

Then we headed for SoCal. Our destination, El Centro!

After that it was just travelling and visiting so many places, that they all seem to run into one another. We toured southeastern California, southern Arizona and New Mexico, stopping at anything that looked interesting.

The most fun we had was visiting our friends Jay and Diane, who own a small spread just outside of Albuquerque and raise Mules. We spend a lot of time together in Baja and have been trying to get to New Mexico to visit for a few years now.

We didn’t get to meet the mules as they were still down in their winter range and there were chores that needed to be accomplished before they could come home. Richard and I, (I hope) helped with the burning off of the vegetation in their irrigation canal, then with the flooding of the fields. They wined us, dined us, acted as our personal tour guides and made us feel like part of the family. Considering that we arrived on their doorstep about 5 minutes after they drove in made it all the more special.

Like all good visitors, we knew when to leave and after 3 days we hit the road again, getting home in less than 3 days.

There’s no point in telling you about all the places we visited, so I’ll just show you.

 On one side of our parking spot there were hundreds of these buggies, quads, and bikes. This is the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area of Southeastern California

On one side of our parking spot there were hundreds of these buggies, quads, and bikes. This is the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area of Southeastern California

On the other side of our parking spot was this Fashion shoot. You know you're in California when ...

On the other side of our parking spot was this Fashion shoot. You know you’re in California when …

The Solar observatory at Kitts Peak National Observatory. One of 26 different telescopes on site

The Solar observatory at Kitts Peak National Observatory. One of 26 different telescopes on site

More telescopes. There are 8 different Astronomical Research Institutions represented on this 6800 foot mountain peak that sits on the Tohono O'odham reserve in southern Arizona

More telescopes. There are 8 different Astronomical Research Institutions represented on this 6800 foot mountain peak that sits on the Tohono O’odham reserve in southern Arizona

A copy of Sputnik hanging in the Alamogordo Space Museum. We travelled through the White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo and Roswell. Sort of following the birth of the Nuclear Age, SciFi and the space race.

A copy of Sputnik hanging in the Alamogordo Space Museum. We travelled through the White Sands National Monument, Alamogordo and Roswell. Sort of following the birth of the Nuclear Age, SciFi and the space race.

A copy of Goddard's very first successful rocket launched in 1926

A copy of Goddard’s very first successful rocket launched in 1926

A lava flow in El Malpais. (The Bad Land) New Mexico's  Northwestern third of the state is covered in abundant, well-exposed, and un-eroded volcanic landforms. makes for some pretty cool landscapes.

A lava flow in El Malpais. (The Bad Land) New Mexico’s Northwestern third of the state is covered in abundant, well-exposed, and un-eroded volcanic landforms. makes for some pretty cool landscapes.Does this look familiar to you? Are you a Jody Foster fan? The movie "Contact" was partially filmed here. This is the Karl G. Jansky,Very Large Array. It's a Radio Astronomy Observatory, meaning it listens to space. It was in the perfect position when we arrived for some really good shots. Each dish can be moved, though they are massive and sometimes they are spread over a vast area called the Plains of Saint Agustin, about 50 miles west of Socorro, New MexicoDoes this look familiar to you? Are you a Jody Foster fan? The movie “Contact” was partially filmed here. This is the Karl G. Jansky,Very Large Array. It’s a Radio Astronomy Observatory, meaning it listens to space. It was in the perfect position when we arrived for some really good shots. Each dish can be moved, though they are massive and sometimes they are spread over a vast area called the Plains of Saint Agustin, about 50 miles west of Socorro, New Mexico

Part of a wall in a place called El Morro National Monument. It's juxtaposed to the one below it. It's a watering hole that's had people stopping by for centuries and each has left some graffiti of the time.

Part of a wall in a place called El Morro National Monument. It’s juxtaposed to the one below it. It’s a watering hole that’s had people stopping by for centuries and each has left some graffiti of the time.

Much older petroglyphs on the walls in El Morro.

Much older petroglyphs on the walls in El Morro.Pueblaon ruins that sit at the very top of El Morro and vacant by the time the Spanish arrived in the late 1500's. They could see 360 degrees around them, for a very great distance. Good defensive position.Pueblaon ruins that sit at the very top of El Morro and vacant by the time the Spanish arrived in the late 1500’s. They could see 360 degrees around them, for a very great distance. Good defensive position.We came around a corner in downtown Santa Fe, drawn by the music, where this, not so little guy, was in standing in the middle of the passage.

We came around a corner in downtown Santa Fe, drawn by the music, where this, not so little guy, was in standing in the middle of the passage.
This was the music that got our attention. It was calypso with a little Spanish flair. This sort of thing was everywhere we went in the downtown area.

This was the music that got our attention. It was calypso with a little Spanish flair. This sort of thing was everywhere we went in the downtown area.

It was a great trip, interesting, educational, fun, with fabulous food, wonderful friends and spectacular scenery. We can hardly wait to do it again. There were so many places we didn’t go and lots of things we didn’t do. Gives us a damn good reason for going back again don’t you think?

THE LONG ROAD HOME

13 Mar
Just another shitty day in Paradise

Just another shitty day in Paradise

 

Yeah, I know this post is late. That’s becoming an ongoing theme, isn’t it? Well, I am retired and I run on Baja time, which mostly entails, “Manana”. Why do something today, when there’s no rush and tomorrow is soon enough? Besides, the days all flow into one another and I’m always amazed at how quickly they pass. That’s the biggest reason why my posts are always late from here. I suddenly realize that I haven’t written for a while and when I check the calendar a month or more has gone by.

 

Truth be told, I didn’t really want to write this particular post because it’s the last one from the beach. Yep, it’s that time of year again, when those of us who have a life somewhere else, start to prepare for heading North.

 

The Rattlesnake Beach community started to break up last week with the first 2 campers leaving but the trickle is about to become a rush. By the 16th of March there will be only 5 of us regulars left here and Richard and I will be hitting the road by the 22nd at the latest.

 

Bougainvilla in full bloom! It's Spring in Baja

Bougainvilla in full bloom! It’s Spring in Baja

The big push comes from Semana Santos, or Saints Week, the week of celebration before Easter Sunday, when all the locals who can, move out to the beach and take over every square foot of available camping space. A few of the regulars have friends in the local communities who come every year and camp with them. They apparently enjoy the excitement of having a small city descend upon them for a week!

 

Richard and I feel that since we basically have the use of the beach for 6 months, the least we can do is get off it and let the locals enjoy it without having to share it with a bunch of Anglos. We also camp at the far north end of the beach where the launch ramp is and it gets incredibly busy and noisy during Semana Santos. After 6 months of peace and quiet the last thing we want to take away with us is the stress of absolute chaos, loud noise, music, Skidoos, Pangas, cars, trucks, kids, dogs and people and garbage everywhere!

 

So we’re already in prep mode, deciding what to take, what to leave, packing up stuff we aren’t using, unpacking it again when we realize we are still using it, trying not to purchase too much food so it will all be used up when we leave, rushing to the store when we realize we don’t have enough for dinner and saying goodbye daily to friends we won’t see for another 6 months. It evokes a kind of sadness; since we know that next year will not be an exact repeat of this year. Some folks will return, some won’t. There’s one thing in life we’ve all learned to accept and it’s that change is constant.

 

Stand up John playing around the fire

Stand up John playing around the fire

It’s not all sad because at the same time excitement is building about getting home and seeing our kids and their families again. There’s nothing to give you that kick in the butt to get moving like having one of your Grandkids ask when Grandma and Grandpa are going to be getting home. There is always some trepidation however, since we all know that the weather will not be the warm 85F that it is here.

 

We won’t be rushing home this year like we did last spring! Grummy will be put to bed properly and tucked in for a long summer sleep. Then we’ll meander our way home in Rosie taking our time and visiting ruins and parks in Arizona and New Mexico, as well as the ranch of friends we spend the winter with. We were supposed to go last year but, well, fate intervened. Plus, just because we leave here in March doesn’t mean we want to get home in March. We like to wait long enough for Spring to have have sprung. At least that’s the plan so far…

 

There’s something a little strange about watching the season’s go in reverse as we head home. We leave here and the trees and flowers are in full bloom. All through the southern U.S., everything is green and the trees are in leaf, then gradually as we continue north the leaves slip back into buds and the greenery declines until we reach home where the buds are just starting to show and the landscape has that look of anticipation, just waiting for the right moment to burst forth with the new spring.

 

 

In some ways we’re going to be swept out of our campsite this year as the winds which were mostly gentle for much of the winter have come back with a vengeance. For the last little while we’ve had tremendous blows, one that lasted 2 full weeks, with average wind speeds of more than 20 knots and gusts pushing 35.

 

I know that at home those wind speeds are not considered very big. Hell, I guided regularly in winds over 35, but with the geography here, winds of that speed push the water to deadly proportions. This is the height of the tourist season so there are Kayakers everywhere and due to heavy winds, we had an almost fatal accident just off Rattlesnake Beach 2 weeks ago. Everything worked out thanks to a very experienced Kayak guide from one of the local companies and a Pangero (a panga operator) who braved the heavy seas.

 

It pays to go with an experienced guide when pursuing a sport in areas that you are not familiar with. The group that got into trouble were experienced kayakers at home but not here, and local knowledge is worth its weight in gold. We’ve become friendly with all the local kayak guides and the companies they work for, and we’re impressed by the qualifications, experience and dedication these people show to their chosen profession. It’s the same where I guided, a professional fishing guide can keep you safe, show you the best fishing grounds and put you into the big fish, most of the time. It’s certainly worth spending the extra money; otherwise you’re taking chances in waters you know nothing about.

 

It’s been blowing now for the last 3 days, making the van rock and roll, scouring the last remaining sand from the beach. Tomorrow it’s supposed to drop down to a reasonable speed then down again to almost nonexistent, maybe we’ll get one last trip out in our kayak before we wrap her up and put her in her cradle, on top of Grummy.

 

Eventually the summer winds will come in from the opposite direction and hopefully blow all the sand back onto the beach so that by the time we all return, there will once again be a sandy beach.

 

There’s still a few social get-togethers coming up, my birthday and the last meeting of the Costillo de Puerco club, but in a few short days we’ll be on the road and slowly making our way home. Next time we talk it’ll be from Penticton, where I’m sure I’ll be complaining about the cold, but it sure will be nice to give my family big hugs and spend a few months visiting back and forth with them.

 

Hold on kids, here we come!