Archive for September, 2023

a wild kingdom moment   no comments

Posted at 10:42 pm in Uncategorized

After Pukaskwa, we visited a couple of days with friends who are building a house near Rossport. From there, I drove on toward Thunder Bay. My original plan was to go to Quetico’s Dawson Trail campground, but I felt a bit “off” while driving that difficult stretch of highway through Nipigon. I laugh a bit as I say it’s a difficult stretch as, in reality, all of the north shore of Superior is a fairly demanding drive. At this time of the year, most of the traffic consists of long haul transport trucks. Traveling with them seems to demand a different style of driving — uphills are slow, and downhills often very fast, with a big rig breathing down your neck the whole way to the bottom and part way up the next steep climb. When there’s a truck lane on a long upwards grade, I either move past or drop behind certain trucks. If I think it’s a truck that will soon be crowding me, I’d rather have it ahead of me than behind, even if that leaves me twiddling my thumbs on the way up the long grades.

Although nothing too unusual happened during that drive, by the time I got to the turn off for Pass Lake and Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, I just didn’t feel on top of my game. Whenever, I get that feeling, it’s time to knock off for the day. Call it some kind of superstition, but when I get to feeling weird about a drive, I usually try to find a place to camp and quit while I’m ahead. I’m so glad that I chose to make the side trip to Sleeping Giant as it’s a terrific place with many beautiful trails. Sabrina, Sage and I did quite a bit of hiking during our two days camped at Marie Louise Lake. During that time, we saw many deer, a black bear, and the fox in these photos.

I had noticed the fox lying on the roadway near the park office. At first, I thought it might have been injured by a car as it was right out on the roadway, lying sprawled out, eyes closed, and panting heavily as though it was in pain. Then I noticed the big hind legs of a fat rabbit nearby. The rabbit was folded in such a way that the upper body was beneath the hind end. I realized that the scene was not as it first appeared to be.

Watching from the van which was stopped in a nearby lane, I grabbed for my camera, but by this time, the fox was standing looking down at the rabbit. Some vehicles were approaching on the roadway, so it was probably feeling some pressure to move. However, its eyes were closed and it looked weary — as though it was thinking, “Darn, I guess I’ll have to get up and move this rabbit off the road.”

It picked up its prize, but then seemed to have trouble and dropped it back onto the road. The rabbit was very plump and heavy-looking, so it must have weighed quite a bit. I expect that the fox had caught it elsewhere, and was having a difficult time carrying such a big rabbit – presumably back home to its young. Finally, it did get a good grip on the rabbit and stood holding it while staring right at me for a few seconds. Then, it turned and began trotting along the roadside, disappearing into the underbrush as a car approached. It was one of those neat little encounters that so often happens when you spend a lot of time in the outdoors.

As of this morning, I’ll be traveling west into Manitoba. Yesterday, after leaving Sleeping Giant, I made a side trip into Thunder Bay to look for a new battery for my blackberry — the old one having given up the ghost while I was at Sleeping Giant. Luckily, it survived Pukaskwa, as it was my main link to “back home”. Pukaskwa is pretty much off the communications grid, although there is a pay phone at the visitor’s center. The blackberry had problems there, but that’s not actually unusual along northern Lake Superior. Often, the phone doesn’t work, but you can usually send off email when you’re near a town, atop a high hill, or along an open stretch of shoreline. At Pukaskwa, it was possible to send and receive email if I set the blackberry on the windshield of the van and just left it there for an hour or two to catch a stray signal, or if I took it to one of the beaches with clear sky to the west.

I suppose I should probably say something about communications. Maybe you’re wondering why it matters if my blackberry works at this place or that?

Although it’s been a very long time since I was a kid, I still keep in touch with my mom while on the road. It seems that it doesn’t matter how old you are, your mom still thinks of you as her kid. To ease her concerns while I’m on the road, I try to send off a little email dispatch to her each morning and evening so that she’ll know we’re okay. Also, one of my brothers checks out the weather forecasts and sends me email notes about what’s ahead. That helps greatly with trip planning as I don’t listen to radios or try to follow news and weather when I’m traveling. Well, with the blackberry out of commission, that began to complicate matters. Luckily, the great people at the Teleco store in Thunder Bay were able to get my blackberry up and running once more. I thanked them, particularly on behalf of my mom who will greatly appreciate things being back to normal once more.

Leaving Thunder Bay around noon, I set out for Kenora. Again, it was us in our little van, among a herd of trucks for the entire trip. For about three-quarters of the way, it was much like the drive along Superior — trying to find a sweet spot where I could just follow some transport truck at a comfortable pace without feeling like we would be mashed by one coming up from behind as we tore down an incline or rounded a lake. The pace was pretty much 90 km (about 60 mph) for most of the trip as far as Dryden. Then we hit tons of construction which probably delayed the trip by about an hour. By the time we got clear of that, I noticed that the trucks had dropped down below 80 km (50 mph), and would slow even a little more in the deep dips between hills, or along any stretch of highway that cut across a creek, or skirted the marshy edge of a lake. With the sky beginning to dim into late afternoon, undoubtedly the drivers were now taking precautions as we passed through “moose country”. Then, just before we reached Kenora, a collection of trucks appeared in my rear view mirror. Together, we headed up a long truck lane, climbing up and over a hilltop. It seemed this was some special spot for finding your niche before the Kenora bypass and the long road onward to Winnipeg. The amount of jockeying to get a lead spot got kind of crazy and I felt very out of place trying to squish in between about ten transport trucks all vying for first place. Then, I noticed a wide turnout ahead right by the end of the truck lane, so just pulled off and let the mess go by. Yeah, it’s a bit of a cop-out, but one that I’m never in too much of a hurry to do. Sometimes it’s just safer to turn off and not be part of something messy.

Well, almost time to be on our way once more. I’ll try to catch up with a post about Pukaskwa and Sleeping Giant sometime very soon. Take care all.

Written by Administrator on September 6th, 2023

15 years   no comments

Posted at 10:41 pm in Uncategorized

Don beside a Redwood along Prairie Creek in California in October 2006.

Today is that day. As of today, it’s been 15 years since Don died and life alone with my dogs began. A couple of weeks from now is our 49th anniversary, so I’ve now spent more than a third of what should have been our time together, living alone. It’s been a pretty strange 15 years of existence. If you haven’t been there, you wouldn’t really get it even if I tried to explain how it feels. Suffice to say that things didn’t turn out anything like what we had hoped and planned for. In spite of the debacle, I’ve tried to make the best of it. I can’t say it’s been easy and, as I get older, I know that life will just become more difficult. However, there’s not much point in dwelling on that reality. I just try to keep on keeping on in the company of my canine tribe.

Anyhowl, it’s sort of customary for me to put down a few words on this anniversary, so this is it.

Due to some computer troubles a few weeks ago, I have had to move photo files around on storage drives. Of course, that got me looking at photos from the past 23 or so years since I went all digital. I’ve also been doing some work on my old blogs — cleaning up broken links and doing a bit of editing here and there. And then I started up this new blog. All of this to say that I’ve had occasion to look at a lot of photos from the past and also read many old blog posts from before and after Don’s death in 2008. It’s been both good and sad by times.

Brown Pelicans along the Pacific coast near the Klamath River estuary.

One thing that came out of all of this is that I’m so glad that Don made the trip out west to spend time with me in the final week of my month long autumn photography travels in 2006. I took him to see all of my very favourite places along the Pacific coast, and in the Redwoods. The Brown Pelicans were migrating along the coast at the time, and it felt like we were part of the crowd as we went from beach to beach, meeting up with them again and again, watching them diving, fishing, and flying in strings, so close to the water that, at times, they would disappear behind the waves.

Brown Pelicans skimming over the waves as they head southward along the Pacific coast.

We went up some of my favourite rivers like the Chetco, the Winchuk, Illinois and the Smith. Spent time camped on shoals or in the redwoods where I prepared some of what, I’ve been told, are my legendary fire-cooked dinners made with fresh California produce. And we spent a couple of days of quality time with our good friends, Paul and his father, Bill.

Don beside the Smith River

Don sitting beside the Illinois River in the Siskiyou region of southwest Oregon.

We visited some of my favourite trees in the Redwoods like the Corkscrew tree, and a particular Redwood along Prairie Creek. Such a tree. So fortunate that it was never felled after having a springboard stuck in its side.

Don with the big Redwood along Prairie Creek.

So, yes, I have been looking at those October 2006 photos and thinking a lot about that autumn trip as well as a number of other autumns spent wandering around in Oregon and California. That part of the continent means a lot to me – it is an integral part of my personal mythology. The 2006 trip seems particularly precious — almost like some last marker point at which all was still normal and good. Within a couple of years, Don became ill and died. Then Bill. Then our dog, Sabrina. Then my mom. Then Sage(1) and Shelby. And then my friend, Paul, died this summer. Other friends as well. All gone.

Don on a beach near Crescent City in northern California.

Well, at least we had that very special time out west. When I left home and began travelling out west with my dogs after Don died, I revisited all of those places – and have done so again a couple of times over the years. It wasn’t easy to return, but it was something I needed to do. Sometimes I feel like going back one more time, but I’m sure it would all feel very different as it’s been quite a few years. Things were already starting to change the last time I was there. Oceanview condos starting to crop up all over. Also, the network of friends that always felt like a series of safe port-of-calls across the continent, is pretty much in tatters now that almost all my friends are gone. I expect that wandering around would feel rather empty and weird.

Well, in any case, I’m very glad that we were able to spend some time together on the Pacific coast visiting my favourite places. I’m sorry that Don didn’t get a chance to do more travelling. I tried to do so for both of us. It’s what he would have wanted me to do.

Me beside the drifted Redwood stump at McVay Beach near Brookings, Oregon

Written by Administrator on September 6th, 2023