Archive for the ‘Roadtrip’ Category

Burn Down, Build Up   2 comments

It was 2003, August, a typical summer day in the Okanagan.  Nothing was ever typical again in the Kelowna area after the day a lightening strike started a fire that became a holocaust along the ridge above that city, descending toward the 90,000 or so residents present at that time.  It was like a fiery curtain dropping upon the stage of a Wagnerian opera.  The latter true because there were great heroes in the battle to fight this thoughtless enemy.  Over 60,000 acres were scorched, hundreds of homes destroyed and many others damaged with many people displaced for over a year, if not forever.  Finally contained 36 days after it began, smoldering fires occasionally relit all the way into the spring after the snows melted.  Yet, there were those heroes during and after the fire.  During, it was the firefighters from many locations that came to battle the beast.  While much was lost, not one life was lost.  The Okanagan Mountain Park Fire had many specific affects on the people of the area.  One in particular was the destruction of 14 of the 18 railroad trestles that formed a key section of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail through Myra Canyon.  In a few short miles there were 18 trestles clinging to the side of the canyon walls at over 4000 feet, but 3000 feet above the valley and the town of Kelowna below.  The KVRT is a huge trail project but for biking amateurs like us this is the section most visited due to the incredible scenery, trestles and tunnels.  This, along with the wine, attracts many tourists to this area in the Okanagan.  But the fire threatened all of this.

Photo “stolen” without credit from a kiosk on the Myra Canyon Trestles section of the KVRT. The destruction of one of the 14 destroyed trestles, of 18 along the trail.

Faced with destruction of the trail’s trestle’s, and in the context with so much other reconstruction, the region, city, civic groups and businesses came together and completely rebuilt the trestles.  Much of it, if not most, with volunteer labor often working in precarious situations.  If you bike at all, you must come here to see the fruit of their efforts.

Sammy is a trail host for this section of the KVRT.  She is a friendly and enthusiastic supporter of the trail.  Her friends are jealous of her job which takes her outside all day, meeting and helping people on the trail.  She will fix a tire and patch up a scrape.  She loves her job and it shows.  She and another trail host clearly remember the events of 2003, though they were still young.  She and her family were evacuated but her companion host’s family lost their home to the flames.  He and hundreds of others had to live with family or friends for over a year until their homes were rebuilt.

Sammy, a trail host on the KVRT, a mature and enthusiastic supporter of the trail who remembers the horrors of the great fire of 2003.

Today, evidence of the fires is all too plain.  The boundary between destruction and preservation is often measured in feet.  Ten years later, though black  charred trunks stand like an army’s spikes the lower forest is regrowing, providing lush habitat for many animals, flowers, berries and cover.  What is not so good for us in the long haul may be best for a forest, as painful as that might be.

Lush regrowth 10 years after the fire.

Trestles hang precipitously above the canyon.


Posted July 7, 2012 by papaandnana in Roadtrip

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Deadly Changes in Canada   Leave a comment

Not so long ago I had great respect for Canada.  You could go to their largest cities and feel perfectly safe. Children could roam free and your pets rarely got run over by distracted drivers as no one even drove up to the speed limit.  Terrible things just didn’t happen in our neighbor to the north.  Canada, then part of the British Empire, fought to remain so, resisting efforts by Americans to annex this region in a war fought in 18-something or other.  Americans in the north of our country wanted to have someplace they could say was colder than they were and where they could get top quality hockey players.  Now I can understand these peoples’ reluctance to become part of the US since every other new state might have to have slaves.  They already had a lake that was a slave, Slave Lake, but this would have been going too far.  They also didn’t want to have the Northeasterner reputation of being kinda nasty to other people with mean spirited carriage drivers that spoke a language they couldn’t really understand.  They wanted to stay, well, nice!

Oh, yes, they did get involved in some of those pesky wars, like World War II, but generally try to avoid such events t hat involve shooting at things except deer or moose, that don’t shoot back, this found to be far more preferable and only occasionally risky.  There is the rare large animal, such as the aforementioned moose, that becomes rather threatening when amorous, either trying to get to a female moose or if none is available the closest available larger creature, even if on two feet.  Katy bar the door!  Not a pretty picture.

But things have taken an ugly turn in the country whose motto is the “land of not much nighttime in the summer, but, eh! who needs sleep anyway?”, but which has an alternate motto, “land of not much daytime in the winter, but eh! who needs light to sit in the pub and drink beer”.  Whilst traveling about, in an area known for its wilderness, a provincial park, where the animals are suppose to be safe and can even expect food from strangers in automobiles, kinda like asking for tips for just showing up, the following poster was seen:

Threatened baby bears, is this the solution?

I hope you will now join the ranks of those that are “Bear Aware”.  I hope you find this as disturbing as I do, that you have the humanity to stand up for what is right and fight this scourge!  Who is it that is attacking a momma bear and her beloved baby such that they need pepper spray to protect themselves!  It is an outrage!  Even this effort seems rather short sighted, it is only a temporary solution and does not solve the basic problem, though I’m not sure what that is.  But perhaps this is what we must do until a better solution is found.  I am curious, however,  how do the bears actually use the pepper spray given their lack of opposable thumbs?  But if this is what they need for now I think we should all pitch in to try and save the bears.  You can do so by sending your checks and money orders to Pepper for Bear Juveniles (PB and J), Post Office Box 12345, Yogi, British Columbia, Really Cold Country to the North.  Don’t wait until it is too late!

Posted July 6, 2012 by papaandnana in Attempted humor, Roadtrip

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Sad having to leave Vancouver with less done than we had wished due to the weather we moved eastward.  We don’t really like to think of it as beginning to move towards home but so it is.  There is still much to see and do and the weather has suddenly become our friend.  We were able to see a beautiful Bridal Veil Falls along our way.  Seems like every place that has waterfalls has a Bridal Veil Falls.  This was a nice one.  We moved through Manning Provincial Park which had soaring mountains and seemingly endless forests.  It was soon clear that we were in bear county and sure enough, nearing the Okanagan region we spotted a young cub.

Another Bridal Veil Falls.


Giant moss covered trees.


Manning Provincial Park looking into the US.


Don’t blow away Nana!

Big Horn Sheep.


We finally arrived in Kelowna.  You probably haven’t heard of it.  For those of us who had not heard of it, well, we are idiots.  This place is fantastic.  Low accessible mountains all around, wineries by the dozens in the area, beautiful lake, trails, food, cherries and other fruits, cheeses, vegetables of all types, crafts and most of the food you eat will be locally produced.  We stayed at Myra Canyon Ranch which is a B&B.  It is up the ridge and the last ranch before entering a large park area.  The views to the valley below, Kelowna, the lake and the mountains, are stunning.  Easily enjoyable from the large hot tub, a great place to survey the vistas and sunsets.  The owners are gracious, helpful and make a really good breakfast with homemade bread and local produce.  No TV’s here.  Peace.  Well except for the dogs that get a little concerned about the welfare of the estate or are trying to keep the horses in line.

From here can be explored the wines, foods and trails of the region, all in close proximity.  More on that in the next post.  You have to wonder, do the people who live and grew up here appreciate fully what they have?  Isn’t that often the case?  Isn’t that one reason we have traveled nearly 4,000 miles, looking for more when sometimes we don’t allow what we have to affect us as fully as it should?  So when this journey is done, maybe it will be time to do just that.  Appreciate more fully what we have.  We do love North Carolina.  So many we have spoken to want very much to visit there.  Do we just crave something different when we should crave beauty wherever we are?  Yes, that is harder to do in some places more than others, maybe almost impossible.  For those in those circumstances, especially those that are young, do all you can to get out, move on and find a place that later in your life you will have no regrets for the choice you have made.

Myra Canyon Ranch Bed and Breakfast


View of Kelowna, lake, mountains in trees in the heart of the Okanagan.


First sunset.


Day is done. But up here the light lingers on the horizon until nearly eleven o’clock.


Posted July 6, 2012 by papaandnana in Opinion, Roadtrip

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From soaked to soaking.   Leave a comment


Naturally, the sun came out the morning we left Vancouver. Today we saw beautiful waterfalls, eagles, big horn sheep, and a young bear cub. But life is hard. As you can see in the photo we were so tuckered that we were forced to take advantage of the hot tub at our B&B and watch the sunset. Can we survive? What agonies await us tomorrow? Oh,yeah, wine tasting in the Okanagan ALL DAY! Will there be no mercy for the weary pilgrims? NO! More wine tasting the next day! Make it stop! Wait…Never mind!

Posted July 5, 2012 by papaandnana in Attempted humor, Roadtrip

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Its Not All About the Scenery   Leave a comment

The Pender Islands are magical places of exquisite beauty.  Walk low to the water’s edge.  From there, and there means from anywhere on these islands, watch the morning mists and fog creep gently across the small bays, almost as if they are trying to avoid waking those sleeping stresslessly along the shores in their homes.  As the day progresses, other islands appear, ships pass with a gentle rumble, and rays of sun break cross the wakes left by sailboats gliding like skaters on ice.  Was that an eagle flying by?  Stay in one place long enough and you will hear the subtle breathy exhalation of an orca surfacing and diving with at least a small host of podites.

Climb.  rise above the red and orange bark of the the Arbutus trees, fir and spruce.  Climb to a high point and see the waters and world laid out before you.  Islands, mountains, sky and water.  You don’t view it as your kingdom, something to possess.  It all, in its splendor, seems to own you.  Not sure if it really cares about any one of us.  But somehow there is a connection that cannot be broken.  Many do not know it is there, this connection, because they do not have the experiences that allow them the opportunity to bond with this world physically.  Knowing this, some seek out mystic rituals or practices that purport to “center” them and allow them to become one with the universe.  I guess they get credit for trying.  To me, they are trying too hard. To me, these are symptoms of ERAD.  We make up new disorders all the time, this is my contribution.  Earth Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Milada Huk chose a different path.  She escaped communist Czechoslovakia, from the portion that is now the Czech Republic, in 1983.  This was five years before the fall of communism and the end of the rein of the Soviet empire in central Europe.  During this time she had almost no contact with most of her family left behind, communication was forbidden.  She made the most of her freedom and became significant in Canada as a designer and art restorer.  She and her husband were also collectors of art.  I don’t know their wealth, financially, but I think they are pretty well off.  They came to the Penders to try and convince friends to co-own a  property in the Barbados.  Didn’t happen.  Instead she fell in love with these islands.  Having designed for Coca-Cola and other well known names, and having also learned special glass design techniques, she created relatively inexpensive jewelry that has appeared on the covers of magazines such as Vogue.  If she chose she could be living the urban life in Toronto or elsewhere.  Instead she runs a small shop, Renaissance Gallery, on North Pender Island where she sells her jewelry and also lithographs and prints by Dali and Picasso.  Yeah, they are right there on the wall.

Milada, I can only guess, along with her husband, made a choice.  I think the choice came from the process of allowing that bond between earth and human to happen in a natural way,  just by experience.  It didn’t need a seminar, meditation, an Earth Day parade or any other ritual or artifact of human behavior.  Place your self in nature, be open to your sensory experiences and it will just happen.  I think that this will prevent and for many even cure ERAD.  This doesn’t have to be a Gaia, mother earth thing.  I don’t think the earth itself could care less about us.  I think the earth can be used by humans as much as any other organism on the planet.  But I think it is all about respect.  Avoid the arrogance of being super-“green” and the ruthlessness and lack of respect of those that exploit without regard to the consequences.  Milada, who after many years of trying, was gifted a child while on this island.  We met him.  I have rarely found a youth, and a mother too, who were as kind and open to strangers, with no pretentions when pretensions might be likely.  That is what a special place can do.  I pray that I can carry a little of this home.

Malida Huk. A refugee from communism, living in a world of her choosing, leaving urban for the positively deurban on North Pender Island.

Malida’s son and friend play with Little Nora outside the Renaissance Gallery on North Pender Island.



Highs   Leave a comment

People like to get high.  This has multiple meanings, some more pejorative than others.  Well, depending on your point of view.  The Pender Islands start at sea level and for every inch of increase in elevation above low tide there is something, somewhere to behold.  To get really high on Pender there are a couple of options.  My new personal favorite is the trail up to the top of Mt. Norman. It is said that it is the journey, not the destination that is paramount.   Nahhh!  That may be true some of the time but in this case it IS the destination.  The trail up is interesting with a wide variety of plants, insects and birds, flat and steep sections of trail climbing about 800 feet above the waters below.

Starting up the trail to Mt. Norman.

The sun rising through the trees.

Getting high in the Penders, or anywhere in the Southern Gulf Islands or the San Juan Islands has its benefits.  The views from above might as well be from an airplane.  The land falls away quickly to the waters below, sounds, passages and bays.  From the top of Pender the observer can spy mountains running across the top of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington almost to the Pacific.  The entire southern edge of Vancouver Island is visible over the islands, such as Salt Spring, in between.  Directly below are bays, anchorages, homes along the shores and resort areas.  Sailboats, ferries, merchant ships, powerboats and kayakers run through these silvery blue passages.  Interestingly, many locals are upset that tankers are carrying petroleum through these passages, more than they might, since the U.S. leaderships has stifled the Keystone pipeline for supposed ecological reasons.  As a result, more of the oil from the interior of Canada will go to China instead increasing the risk of an ecological disaster in an area that is far more sensitive to a spill than anywhere along the Keystone pipeline route.  Spills along that route would be much more accessible than along the shores of these islands.  Just look at the beauty below.  In the gallery you can see two tankers moving along the designated passage close to the Penders.

North Pender viewed looking west from Mt. Norman on South Pender to its east. Confused?!

Salt Spring Island with Vancouver Island behind with North Pender in the foreground. One of the large ferries plies to waters to Schwartz Bay on Vancouver Island.

Daryn, Robin, Little Nora, Papa and Nana. Oh, and by the way, Megan!

Posted June 27, 2012 by papaandnana in Roadtrip

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“Killer” Killer Whales   1 comment

Some years ago Nana and Papa traveled the circle route from Vancouver, inland along the Frazier River, up and over to Bella Coola and did the cheap version of the inside passage on the ferry that runs from there down to the tip of Vancouver Island, ultimately working our way down the island and back to Vancouver.  We didn’t pay for a place to sleep as the whole journey was during the day.  We were particularly lucky to see a wedding on the cruise ship followed by the entire wedding party gathering below, boarding their kayaks and embarking on a week or two trip through the islands above Vancouver, camping and paddling from place to place.  A rather unique wedding experience for sure.  They had to be to a certain point at a certain time to catch the ferry back to civilization. Not my choice but rather cool, nonetheless.  First night officially together, on a rocky beach?  I don’t think so!

When cruising along the inside passage in a cruise ship  or even the ferry, there are certain limitations of schedule.  Why does that matter?  Because there are other things to do that just ride along looking at the ocean, or straits and passages, the rocks and sky.  If you are fortunate you will also see some interesting wildlife.  I’m not talking about people going wild, throwing off their inhibitions and doing the Macarena…well maybe that is not so wild.  But that is not what I am talking about anyway.  I am talking more about the watery variety.  Mermaids would be nice but I have not yet spotted any of those up here except when the combination of wine and beer has exceeded recommended daily allowances.  No, what I am talking about are also mammals and almost equally alluring as some of those mythological types.  Whales.

Now occasionally one might see a humpback or grey, and there are other varieties that show up in these chilly waters, waters that I probably watched on the Deadliest Catch that crashed up and were shivering the booties off of really tough guys who smoke a lot, catch crabs on land and off, and say *bleep* *bleep* *bleep* almost continuously because they feel like they have a right since they are doing the most dangerous job on earth outside of changing the diaper on a diaharretic, green-fluid ex-pulsing 18 month old which is  hazardous far beyond mere physical danger like drowning in freezing water.  No Coast Guard helicopter is going to show up for that one.  There are limits!

In addition to these relatively rare sightings there are also the Killer Whales, Orcas.  Not to be confused with the killer clowns, well, as everyone knows, all clowns are killers which is why we take children to circuses so that it is perfectly clear that they are mortals and will someday leave this earth, sooner than later if they don’t behave.  This scars many right into adulthood.  Such as my daughter, Robin, who was foolish enough to read Stephen King’s It.  To keep her in line all  I had to do was put on one of those funny red noses and grin and, boy! did she toe the line!

Killer whales come in pods.  No, they are not aliens dropped down from a mother ship filled with seawater, traversing the stars, stopping every now and then to deposit their little Orcinus Orca spawn across watery worlds all over the galaxy.  Though that would be really cool.  They would certainly not be at Area 51 since it is a tad dry out there.  But I digress.  The resident pods stay more or less in one area and while not exactly vegetarians they mostly eat salmon.  Now there are those transient orca, that are kinda like gangs or assassins, that travel about and eat almost everything, like John Pinette.  There is another type of orca but you can look that up on your own.  It will do you good.  But you don’t see much of them around here.  The different pods have letter names.  They are like extended families.  Each individual in the pod can be identified based on the shape and size of the dorsal fin on their back. I am really glad I’m not identified based on the size and shape of my body parts.  That would be embarrasing.

Now around Pender Island there are a few pods that wander about looking for salmon.  Rarely, these pods come together.  Maybe to exchange greetings, share gossip about what is happening in L pod, discuss the latest sports results, knock back a few at the local sand bar.  Now speaking of bars, some of the northern pods like to head to bars of the rocky type and rub their lower sides up against the rocks.   I think we know what that is all about.  Wink ;).  The others just haven’t caught on yet.

Several of our tribe went on a whale watching trip while here at Pender.  Nana and Papa had already done this at Telegraph Cove on that previous journey down the coast.  For this you go out in small boats.  Sometimes really small boats.  We were fortunate enough to see two pods come together on that trip, but Daryn, Robin and Megan trumped us by seeing three pods unite for fun, frolic and f…um…mating!  At least that is one theory.  Supporting this hypothesis is the breaching they were doing during their little get together.  Flipping and flopping and acting silly.  Had to be the guys trying to impress their girls.  Look!  I don’t have to be in the water, I’m so cool I can float like a butterfly, albeit a very substantial one, in the air.  Briefly.  Very briefly.  Except I don’t really know what a butterfly is but I think I saw something on Wikipedia.

So J, K, and L pods came together in a superpod for this little family reunion.  And our guys were there!  They were in a Zodiac that probably held about 14 or 15 people. Zodiacs are so named because they make you throw up in all twelve directions of the constellations.  But this was a rare moment where even that did not matter.  Irritatingly, while Nana and Papa and little Nora were out running around the islands, this all happened some few yards right off the cliffs where our rental house is located.  And WE missed it.  Little Nora didn’t really care much, she was more interested in when she would get her next serving of avocado.  Her favorite food.  Go figure.  So documented below are a few of the images of this encounter.  Following said images are a few more that were totally serendipity do dah!

We were down at Gowland Point on South Pender Island picking up pretty, pretty rocks, taking artsy photographs and clearly looking like tourists when lo and behold a family of Orcas, just minding their own business, came strolling by, sometimes only 20 or so yards from land.  This was so cool since Nana and Papa had missed out on the excitement of the previous day out on the water and also since we were so P. O’ed having missed the show from the deck at the house.  But there they were, clearly with some juveniles.  Not the delinquent type because they stayed right there with their parents as good children should.  They moved slowly around to Brooks Point and beyond.  About this time the whale watchers of the commercial type showed up.  The whales moved on, feeling violated by the brazen exploitation.  And so there it was, another exciting day living The Life in the islands.


Near Swanson Channel, just before the action begins. Mount Baker, 75 miles away in Washington, in the background.

Out to the sea, she be a cruel mistress…and you wear funny clothes.

An arriving pod, probably J.

Next day, family unit passing Gowland Point.

Sailboat violating the rules of maintaining distance to the Orcas.

Slowly moving away after the show.