Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pine beetle damage

(Sorry, couldn't resist one more pic of the dogs)

The land that Sam lives on is owned by his boss, and has many large pines on it. Over the last couple of years he has tried to save his pines from the Pine Beetle that has been ravaging the interior of BC. I wrote about some of the methods he is using on my visit here last year.

Unfortunately it does not look like he is having much success, many pines near Sam's cabin are showing the telltale red needles of pine beetle damage. By next year most of these trees will be dead.

One of the methods he uses is to tack packets of beetle pheromones on the trunks of pine trees he wants to save; these packets are supposed to tell beetles that this tree is already full of beetles, move on.

It is not working for this tree, healthy green needles are falling off the trees and dying red needles are remaining on the branches.

It is sad to see these trees go, they really make the beauty of this property. This is an effect of climate change; winters here are no longer cold enough to kill off overwintering beetles. This is also the tail end of the infestation in this province, most of the interior of the province has already been ravaged and the beetles have moved on to Alberta in the east and places like D'arcy in the west.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Life, dogs and everything

I came to D'arcy this weekend to collect my kayak from Sam's barn, and of course to visit with Sam and the dogs. The weather has become very fall-like, wet and gray. Nevertheless I always love the D'arcy area.

Friday was a half decent warm and sunny day, I left late because I did not want to spend a sunny afternoon in the car. Johanna and I went to the plaza to do a few errands and ended up shopping for clothes at Winners. I think we spent well over an hour in the fitting rooms there, not really a good use of a sunny day either.

I stopped in Whistler to do some grocery shopping for Sam, so by the time I got to D'arcy it was almost 9.00 pm. The first part of that drive, from Horseshoe Bay to Squamish, is absolutely spectacular. They did a lot of work on that highway in preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and Whistler, and turned it into one of the most scenic drives in North America. The vistas of Howe Sound, the mountains, the islands in the Sound and the big trees bordering the highway are breath-taking; each vista is followed by another even more spectacular.

Of course there is no way to take photos of it unless you are a passenger, because the winding fast-moving highway requires constant driver attention.

Upon arrival, I was greeted warmly by the dogs, Hapi and Hiro.

I slept that night in the truck because I really enjoy the feeling of being cozily warm in my sleeping bag in the cold night air. The river runs close to the cabin and the sound of it in the night is most relaxing.

In the morning I could see the two dogs sitting patiently outside my truck waiting for me to emerge, Sam was still asleep. When I got up they then moved on to the door of the cabin, Hiro leaped up against the door and barked. Sam says Malemutes don't bark, they talk. Any sound they make is intended to communicate a specific message. In this case Hiro was saying, Wake up and feed me!

It rained lightly most of the morning. When the rain finally cleared we took the dogs for a long walk up the trail to the logging road on the mountain. On our way back, we saw a bear ahead of us on the trail. It look young, it was just lying in the middle of the trail facing away from us. Quickly Sam and I grabbed the dogs' collars and continued to walk toward the bear. The bear turned and saw us, he got up and watched us for a few seconds before deciding to go away. Sam said that if the bear had decided not to leave he would have set the dogs loose. Better them than us, he said.

After lunch we got the kayak out of the barn and mounted it on the truck.

Sam had a nap and I played with Hiro. Hapi likes to play with Hiro but not with people, Hiro likes to play with anyone who will play with him.

We stayed up late watching a movie, I think I got to bed around 2.00 am and Sam was up considerably longer. It rained during the night and much of the next morning, I talked to my brother in Victoria and my son Josh in Vancouver and they both reported torrential downpours where they were. D'arcy tends to be drier so we saw rain but not torrential rain.

Again we took the dogs for a walk on the mountain, this time we got a little wet. Sam says he has been pre-occupied with rather morbid thoughts lately. He has come to the conclusion that there is no afterlife, he loves being alive, and he doesn't want to die. This bothers him. He is also concerned that his father died in his late 50 and, this might not bode well for his own longevity. Consequently he is very concerned about staying healthy.

I have no argument with his logic or concerns, I tell him that the age at which one's parents die does not automatically mean anything. My father feared he would not live beyond 65 because his own father died at that age (within weeks of retiring), but he managed almost 12 years beyond that age. I said I understood his fear, I had the same fear about the age at which my parents died. But it isn't necessarily a valid fear. I said the best one can do is really take note of and enjoy what is in front of you right now. The fact that one day it will all be gone just makes it precious.

We were walking along a logging road halfway up a mountainside with amazing vistas of the valley below and the mountains on the other side. This day it was cloudy and wet, some of the trees were starting to turn yellow. These mountains are spectacular in the sunshine, but today they are shrouded in cloud and mist and that is beautiful too.

I love the way the mist rises from the wet forests, creating clouds right before your eyes.

And the long billowy worm-clouds that thread along the sides of the mountains, between and over ridges.

The peek-a-boo views of peaks in the heavy clouds above. We can hear the rushing of the swollen river hidden in the trees below us.

Far ahead of us on the trail are the two dogs, trotting along side by side with their tails curled on their backs in that classic Malemute way.

Being big dogs their lifespans will not be particularly long, but I am sure this thought does not cross their minds.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Through the weasel door

I've mostly been staying at a friend's place in North Vancouver, we've spent a weekend on Gambier Island and I've spent almost a week in Seattle. Right now I am in D'arcy again.

I went to Seattle to visit an old boyfriend, Dave, now "just friends". He works on contract at Microsoft, and is more or less constantly working on one of his three vehicles: an older Toyota truck, a vintage Mercedes that he is restoring and a vintage Scorpion sports car. Since the last time I saw him he has sold the vintage Rover he had and the Toyota truck has died. It is still parked on the street in front of his house though. A few days before I arrived at his place, the Scorpion was sideswiped by an unknown vehicle while parked on the street, leaving a seriously crumpled fender. Needless to say this did not put him in a very good mood.

I was pulled over at the border and my truck searched, I was asked a lot of personal questions about where I was going, what I was doing, my current circumstances and my life history. Including the exact nature of my relationship with my friend in Seattle. I guess they didn't believe the "just friends" bit. The fellow in the booth at the border seemed quite unfriendly about the whole thing, the other fellow who did all the questioning and searching was less unfriendly and in retrospect I kind of think he was trying to figure out why his coworker had pulled me over, hence all the detailed questions. Or, as Dave suggested later, my long grey hair gave me a certain subversive look and they were just sure I was up to no good.

In any case it left me with a very bad feeling being in the States. It made me feel like a Very Unwelcome Foreigner, and I spent most of the rest of the week restraining myself from looking over my shoulder. Dave and I used to joke about our respective countries, but it didn't seem funny anymore. Dave used to call the border crossing "the weasel door", the hole that weasels slip into America through. Weasels being all those non-Americans who don't support the War in Iraq but who nevertheless want to take advantage of all the goodies available in America. It was a joke, he was being ironic, but now it feels true.

I don't think I will be going back any time soon. I suppose all this heightened security is necessary, but making one feel like a potential criminal just for crossing the border at a legitimate crossing point, seems to me a bit of overkill. I discussed this later with my North Vancouver friend and she said she has had the same experience and feels the same way about it. She is Dutch; for some reason American border guards suspect that she is trying to settle illegally in the States every time she crosses the border and shows her Dutch passport.

Dave and I spent the weekend working on our respective vehicles. He wanted to fix the crumpled fender on his Scorpion and there's a bit of rust on my truck that I was hoping to deal with under his supervision and with his tools. I expected the whole process to last maybe a day or two, depending on the weather. However, as these things do, it got complicated. I was into Quick and Dirty, Dave was not. If I was going to take instruction from him then I had to do it right, and he was not going to let me proceed to the next step until he was satisfied that I was working to his standards.

I assumed that I would be able to buy the correct colour of spray paint in Seattle, but that turned out not to be possible. On Friday we thought we would have to order the paint and then I would do all the work over the weekend to prepare the truck for painting on Monday when the paint would arrive. However on Monday we found out that this colour has been discontinued and cannot be ordered anywhere.

As it happened Dave had some of the colour I required in his shop, but it had to be mixed up and put into special equipment for spraying under pressure. I would not be able to do it as I did not have the experience or expertise to handle the equipment. So Dave had to take time off work to mix the paint and apply it to the truck on Tuesday. I felt bad about making him take time off work and do the paint job himself, this had not been part of our original agreement. The best I could do was take him out for dinner Tuesday night, before returning to Canada on Wednesday.

I was glad to be back safe in my own country on Wednesday, but it took a few hours after crossing the border before the feeling of being an Unwelcome Foreigner wore off. I had been debating whether I would return east via the USA or Canada, but my trip to Seattle pretty much decided that issue. I'll happily pay the higher price for gas in Canada to feel like an OK person.

The very next day I called Canadian Tire to see if they had the paint colour I was looking for; the fellow I spoke to on the phone said he couldn't find that particular colour code, however he had a couple of colours that might be close and I should come and take a look. I did, and one of them was pretty darn close, maybe even perfect. I bought one can to try on the truck to see how good a match it is. The job Dave and I did on the truck will probably last quite a while, maybe even the remaining lifetime of the truck. But it will be nice to know I can get touch-up paint fairly easily just in case.

And this weasel is happy to stay away from the weasel door for a good long while.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mayhem in D'arcy

Yes I did attend the Mayhem in D'arcy last week. The weather on Friday was cold and wet and the only accommodation was field space for tents, so a lot of guests bailed. I don't blame them, it didn't look good then. But Saturday and Sunday were very fine days.

There were five of us who did arrive in the rain; Dan and Aimee got the guest bed in the attic, Pascal and I slept in our respective trucks, and Shane decided not to put up his tent in the rain and the dark but sleep on the couch instead. Good plan.

Dan, Pascal and Shane are very old friends of Sam's, they have at various times lived together and share some common interests. If anybody was going to show up in spite of the weather, it would be them.

The Mayhem was basically a gamers' heaven, Pascal brought a truckload of strange card games, there were lots of munchies and barbecue foods and soft drinks, and the wide outdoors for taking breaks from the main activity of the weekend, which was the card games.

We played Munchkins, Killer Bunnies and Chrononauts. Munchkins is a kind of role-playing game with a lot of silly adventures and actions, "munchkin" is a nickname for a role-playing gamer. Killer Bunnies involves collecting "killer" bunnies and other objects as if you were trying to win by accumulating stuff, but the winner is actually pre-determined and has very little to do with the actual playing of the game. Chrononauts involves changing historic events, as represented by certain cards, to get a particular historic outcome described in "Mission" cards. There was another game we didn't play called Flex, in that game you get to change the rules of the game in mid-game.

Not being a gamer I had never heard of any of these games, let alone played any of them, but they were sufficiently simple enough to learn and at the same time complex enough to maintain interest.

The dogs of course were not impressed by all this indoor activity.

We got out for one fairly good walk with them though.

On Saturday night Sam got a campfire going and we sat around into the night poking at the burning logs and discussing a variety of topics. Shane was a bottomless well of information on every topic we managed to cover, he reads pretty broadly. Pascal is a very imaginative "what if..." kind of guy, proposing all sorts of oddball topics and projects. So the conversation ranged widely and was never boring. We got out Sam's star charts and looked for various stars and constellations, and we watched Jupiter rise above the trees.

There's a configuration called the Summer Triangle, a fairly obvious triangle of stars located fairly high in the sky roughly in the south. The triangle is made up of Vega, Altair and Deneb, in the constellations of Lyra the harp, Aquila the eagle and Cygnus the swan respectively. I was looking for Arcturus as well (you find it by following the arc of the Big Dipper handle, arc to Arcturus), but the moon was too bright or the trees too tall, I couldn't find it.

On Sunday the swords came out and there was a bit of sword and knife play. On previous Mayhems there has been archery, but the bows and arrows were left at home this time.

What impressed me was that this was a crowd of young people that manages to have great fun together without any drugs or alcohol involved. None of them appear to have any particular objection to the use of such things, they just don't bother with it. Mind you, they are not so young, all of them being in their early 30s. But I think this is a long standing habit with them, they were never great indulgers in mind-altering substances.

I know this doesn't sound like much mayhem, but it was fun and we did manage to leave Sam's place in a pretty good mess.