1 clearing weather 1While Sarah was still here (see previous post) the weather started to clear.

A cold spell was forecast – first we got fog.

3 morning fogThe sun, when it was revealed, set on the west side of Middle Mountain.3a sun set right of Middle MtLast Monday, Sarah drove me to Williams Lake on her way home, and I picked up the truck.  There was a hole in the sky above Finger Peak.

4 back from townThe mountain looks more pointy from this angle.

5 finger peakThen we were promised a solid week of sun without a cloud in the sky.  And we actually got it! With night temperatures to Minus 24C (That’s about -5 American.) Day temps rose to about -6C, but the sun was fabulous.  Often November is a dreary month but this spell has been absolutely wonderful.

The pond froze over at once.

6 frozen pondIn a couple of days, ice flowers formed.

7 ice flowersThe ice could bear the dogs’ weight.

7a harry on pondThe ice flowers were fascinating.

8 ice flowers 1

9 ice flowers 2

10 ice flowers 3The little creek between the ponds is still flowing.  It runs where the sun don’t shine.

11 creekVery soon, the sun no longer cleared Middle Mountain when it set.  The rim of fire is caused by backlit blowing snow.

12 fire rim on middle mtI visited the river after the first night of frost.

13 river IMG_0766Bits of ice were already collecting along the edge.

14 ice on river

15 shore ice MG_0771


16 shore ice on twig


17 splash iceIt didn’t seem to bother Harry, though.

18 harry in riverFrom the gravel bar I could look back to the river cabin.  Quite a few people have answered the for sale ad.  Most people are looking for a property that is less wild, though.   Only two people so far have loved the place the way I do.

19 cabin

Today, after 6 days of identical weather, I went down to the river again.  There was a lot more ice on it and it had spread over the gravel bars.

McClinchy River

IMG_0866A different ice formation had formed along the edge.

IMG_0870I have not had much time for hiking, though.  I have been working hard burning brush that was left by the road after windfalls or cutting trees for firewood.  It was too risky to burn it before I left for the book tour.  This cold, dry, fairly windless weather is ideal for burning. (Where are those wwoofers when I need them?) Trouble is, all the neighbours think the same and the air is as full of smoke as it was during the summer.

20 smokeIt made for some interesting lighting effects.

21 burning

22 smoke light 1jpg

23 smoke light 2 IMG_0845And the sun set red into the pollution.  (The mountains are there somewhere!)24 smoke sunset






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Super-Sarah – Wonder Wwoofer!

While I was away on the book tour, the pond below my cabin finally filled with water again: when I arrived home, it was already starting to freeze.

frozen pond at ginty creekThe vegetation around it was winter-brown.

winter-brownA few willow leaves still hung on the bushes.

willowAnd when the mountains revealed themselves, they were half buried in cloud.

middle mountain

Five days after I arrived home, I went back into Williams Lake with my truck.

It was clear to begin with – a little fog at Tatla Lake, above which the Niuts floated like ghosts…

5 Niuts in fogBy Williams Lake, however, the rain that had plagued the last part of my book tour closed in.  This is Sheep Hill dropping down into the Fraser River.  (I read a pioneering book where it was mentioned that a woman who drove up this hill to her new home was so scared that she did not travel back down it again for 40 years!  Roads and vehicles are much better maintained now of course.)

7 sheep hill

The truck needed a major job that would take time, so I left it there, and Super Sarah met me at the garage.  Sarah first came to me as a wwoofer in 2007.  I met her off the bus – a tall, very quiet 19-year-old with long straight very blond hair.  What was I going to do with her?  What would I talk to her about?  I never had friends as a teenager – I didn’t know how to behave as one, especially one who was 50 years younger than me!

It turned out, however, that Sarah was a pretty good carpenter – she had just finished helping her dad build a house.  She helped me put the porch on the river cabin at Ginty Creek.

She worked for me three times altogether over the next 3 years – principally helping me build my house (see Ginty’s Ghost) then got a job!  I have not had a wwoofer to match her.  I did not expect to have Sarah wwoofing for me again so I was absolutely delighted when she said she would like to come for a week’s “vacation” and work her butt off for me at the beginning of November.  Not only was I looking forward to her carpentry acumen – but also I expected to capitalize on a much more specialized skill.  Sarah was now a fully qualified electrician!

Her Dad did the original wiring for the house, and he put a light socket over where the table is now, but when I got the furniture in, I realized the light was not quite where I wanted it.  So I added a clip-on lamp.  Functional, but ugly.

8 table light before

Sarah got busy…

9 table lightEt Voila!

10 table light 2A three-bulb light did not illuminate the cookstove top so it was repositioned…

11 repositioning 3 lightAnd finally Sarah installed an extra light over the sink.

12 light over sinkOn Sarah’s second day, we woke to falling snow. This was the second fall of the year, but the weather was so mild, it did not lie on the ground for long.

13 snow

Sarah and I started on the attic ceiling.  Even apart from Sarah’s skills, it was a job that would have been very difficult to do alone.  The tongue and groove boards had to be slotted into place.

14 start ceiling

Other wwoofers had done most of the wall and ceiling work, but it had been two years ago.  There had always been other more urgent jobs to do.  It was so wonderful to at last tackle what we could of the job.  I wasn’t sure if I had enough lumber. We hand-sawed the boards to length.

16 sawingThen came the tricky bits around the roof supports.

15 middle ceilingTo tackle these, Sarah manouvered a monster tool with a flexible blade – I would have used a chain saw and produced a much rougher job.

17 power sawAfter 3 days of intense work we decided to have a break and do some burning.  I was anxious to get it done before the brush and debris got too wet or buried in snow.  The picture cannot show the intensity of the heat of the fire in the back ground.

18 burningI like to cut stumps off – the place looks less messy.  Sarah was keen to use the chain saw.  (The weather was ridiculously warm.)

19 chainsawing

On Sarah’s last day, we finished off the ceiling.  By scrounging bits and pieces we had just enough lumber.  Here is the last piece being fitted into place.

20 last pieceTo work on the second end of the ceiling, we had to move most of the junk piled there to the other end.  It will all have to be moved back again.

21 finishedThen I can build storage units, and finally – finally! – after many long years, I can sort it all out, toss out a lot of it, and place it where I can find it!  If Sarah had not arrived in such a timely fashion, I would have had to put the ceiling, and the sorting, off until the wwoofers arrive in the spring.

Thank you, thank you Sarah. You can come and vacation with me any time!

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And The River Still Sings Goes Home!

And the River Still Sings actually got home 5 days ago, but I hit the ground running.  Two days to unpack and sort (I still have not found everything I tidied away before the dog-sitters arrived), a day to make bone broth and baking – gluten-free for me and wheat bread for a potluck event at the Tatla Hall on Saturday night, then there was the guest cabin to clean out – a packrat had got into the enclosed porch and made a glorious mess – the trap had to be reset and the mess cleaned up (I got the little b–), a trip to the post office and the rancher I buy meat from on Monday, and yesterday I drove 3 and half hours back into Williams Lake with my ailing truck to leave it for a $1400 job.  I was met there by Sarah, the wonder-wwoofer made famous in Ginty’s Ghost, who is going to work some more of her magic over the next few days – she now is not only an excellent carpenter but also a fully qualified electrician!  So I have plenty of excuses for not keeping this blog up to date.

After Summerland (see previous post) I spoke in Penticton, and the librarian kindly took me to her home in Ocean Falls to spend the night.  Nearby was a piece of Nature Trust property, all too small and surrounded by development, but delightful to spend a bit of time on. (You could, of course, hear the traffic from Hwy 97 roaring in the valley.)

1 ocean falls

The dominant shrub was antelope bush, a straggly plant not found in the grasslands further north.
3 antelope bushI also found a few faded brown-eyed susans.

2 browneyed susanThe many rock outcrops were simply covered in mosses and lichens. (The grey colour is all lichenous growth.)

4 lichen rocksI even found a shrivelled cactus.  This small relative of the Prickly Pear grows as far north as Tatla Lake.

5 cactus

Then on to Osoyoos.  I stopped for a break on a side road.  I was intrigued by the great numbers of birds settling on the power lines.

6 wire birdsWhich proved to be starlings.  Gunshots from the automatic noise-makers sounded frequently in the vineyards close by.

7 starlings

Osoyoos was as far south as I would go: indeed, I could not have gone further south without a passport because it was right on the US border.  When my host (the librarian’s husband) volunteered to show my around, I was delighted, but puzzled when he said he’d take me to the border.  We stopped just two small blocks above the official border crossing.  Facing us was an old 2-strand barbed wire fence, which I very daringly stepped over!

8 crossing lineHere is the upper notice:

9 border noticeThe lower one is illegible.

10 border notice 2So much for the security-conscious Americans.  Did they have cameras hidden in the orchards beyond the fence?  A new fence (also 2 strands of barbed wire: it’s the one on the left) has been built up the hillside.  To keep the dangerous Canadian terrorists from crossing illegally, no doubt.

11 border fence

As you can see, In Osoyoos, it rained.

Another feature in the area is the famous Spotted Lake.  Mineral deposits cause the rims around the circles.  The local Indian band claim medicinal qualities to the mud and casual visitors are barred from getting close.  (Note more development on the hills behind.)

12 spotted lake

Next stop was Vernon.  Still raining.  I stayed with wonder-wwoofer Sarah’s parents, high above Vernon.  Their yard was full of gorgeous larches.  (Still raining.)

13 gregerson larches


14 larch closeupThen Revelstoke.  Now I was really hitting the wet belt.

15 three valley gapRevelstoke is an old railway town and base for the major dams across the Columbia River.  If it wasn’t for the rain, I would like to live close by.  The people are mountain lovers on the whole, and the old houses have mostly been attractively refurbished.

16 revelstoke house

One yard housed this spectacular Japanese maple.

17 Japanese mapleWhen I turned the vehicle back west from Revelstoke, I at last had the feeling I was heading home.  Salmon Arm was next, however.  I stayed with a friend who was my neighbour all those years ago when I lived in the little shack by the cedar tree (mentioned in And The River Still Sings.)  The shack is still there!

18 my cabinGudie’s house is high on the hillside.  She is a keen gardener.

19 Gudie's gardenShe is the only person I have ever met who has doilies on her deck!

20 doiliesThey are there because she is working on a craft project!  Gudie is very creative.  Many years ago, I taught her to spin and now she is an accomplished weaver, paper-maker, flower presser and so on.  It will be interesting to see what she does with the doilies!

The morning I left there, the rain finally quit.

21 dawn from Gudie'sOn the way north, I visited the Adams River salmon spawning site. What a difference from when I used to visit!  Now there are tons of people – as is evident from the veritable village of outhouses!

22 outhouses

Attractive, easy trails meander through the forest.

23 wood trailHere is a backwater so typical of this climate.

24 backwaterAlong the river bank are a pair of curious cottonwoods.

25 cottonwoodsBut the salmon is what we have come to see.

26 salmonThese are sockeye: when they come to spawn, their heads turn green and their bodies turn red.  Unlike the Atlantic salmon, once they have bred, they die.  The mould that covers the carcasses is thought to help feed the new hatchlings.  The living fish swim constantly to maintain their places in the swift, shallow current.  This is a sight that everyone should see in their lifetime.  (It is very familiar to me – it happened at my first log cabin at Lonesome Lake – written about in Cabin At Singing River.)

Here is a dead female – the upper jaw is relatively straight.

27 dead femaleAnd a dead male – all ready for Halloween.

28 dead maleOther creatures were present in the river.  A team of photographers were making a film to be projected onto the Cambie Bridge in Vancouver during the fireworks display.

29 photographersMany lay in the water to take pictures.  All this disturbance of the salmon redds is not normally allowed.  I wonder what the water tasted like….?

30 one photographerDuring the rains, it had snowed at higher elevation, and a sugaring still lay on the trees on the road between Little Fort and 100 Mile.

31 snow on trees

Two slide shows in 100 Mile and at last the final performance in Williams Lake.  I could hardly believe that I was done.  In nearly 5 weeks I had performed 26 times.  Some last minute shopping and up I drove onto the Chilcotin.

No leaves left on the deciduous trees here. The the pond by the rest stop near the Eagle Lake Road was full of birds.  About 60 trumpeter swans bobbed heads and honked and flapped wings, no doubt asserting dominance – why couldn’t they just move away from each other a bit?

33 trumpeter swansSwans have long necks so they can grub about in deeper water than that which most non-diving birds can reach.  They always have an entourage of other feeders anxious to gobble up leavings.

34 goldeneyesAnd at last, Nogwon.  Somewhat grim and gloomy in this light, but my heart soars when I see this view because I know that I am only 20 minutes from home.

35 nogwon







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And The River Still Sings still on the move.

1 coquihallaAnd The River Still Sings is roaring up the Coquihalla.  It stays cool and rainy – note the skiff of fresh snow on the mountain.  After Merrit, the busy highway soars high into the grasslands.

2 near MerritI spoke at Kamloops the same night I left Vancouver, then had a break at Kelowna.  What a horrible place the Okanagan is!  Tons and tons of traffic; impossible to get away from the suburbs.

3 pine and suburbs

More roaring traffic to Summerland.  There I had a pleasant surprise.  The lady who offered to host me had a very interesting house.  On the surface, Summerland looks like the rest of the Okanagan – pokey foreign trees, yard-maintenance landscape, totally lacking in soul.  Vastly overcrowded.  But under the surface, Summerland is an old place.  The Ryga house is 100 years old.

4 Ryga houseIt was bought in 1960 by George Ryga, Canadian playwright.  He added a lot of funky structures and plants around it.  Upon the author’s death, his friends tried to keep the place going by turning it into an art centre.  My new friend bought it – it was in a terrible state – and has totally reformed it. 9 interiorThe tangled garden has largely been tidied up

4a yard and car

5 white pineBuried under the debris were terraced walls, and as they were cleared, treasures were revealed.  Can you see the head?

6 wall with head

7 headHere is another.

8 terracotta headThe house is a 5-min drive away from a beach on Okanagan Lake.

10 golden beachThe fall colours were splendid!

11 orane trees

12 trees and cloudThe sun was gloriously warm without being too hot.

13 waveletsBut the noise!  Highway 97 runs right along the edge of the lake and the traffic is so loud one has to shout to be heard over it.  What a price to pay for lakeside living! (Note the cars on the highway in the distance.)

14 trafficThis afternoon I plunge back onto the highway again.  Penticton tonight, Osoyoos tomorrow, Vernon Wednesday, Kelowna West Bank Thursday, Salmon Arm Friday, Revelstoke Saturday. Then 2 days off while I make my way to 100 Mile and Williams Lake.  I can’t wait to get home!

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Thanksgiving on Gabriola Island

1 driftwoodAfter my slide show in Nanaimo, I took the late ferry to Gabriola Island, only a 20-min ride away.  Followers of my blog and books will remember Dave and Rosmeary Neads who were my wilderness neighbours for many years on the Chilcotin.  They moved from there to Gabriola exactly one year ago.  I was to speak at the Gabriola library on the Saturday (where I amazingly had a very large audience considering all the other things that were going on).  How lucky I was able to time my trip to spend Thanksgiving with Dave and Rosemary.

Gabriola is famous for its Garry Oaks

2 garry oakAnd of course the arbutus tree (also known as madrona: a local cafe calls itself Mad Rona’s).

madronaArbutus have a very distinctive bark.

4 arbutus barkAnd right now are covered with red berries.

5 arbutus berriesGabriola is also famous for its sea-worn sandstone.

6 worn rocks

7 worn rock holesLarge round stones, some embedded into rock and some free, also abound.

8 round stne

High on a dead fir perched a bunch of cormorants.

9 shags

Now to the big event.  Rosemary decided to cook the turkey in a paper bag.  Yes, a paper bag!

10 take a shopping bag...First she slathered butter around 3/4 of it.

11 greasing bagShe flipped the bag over, put aluminum foil on the bottom, and placed the turkey inside.  It has to be stuffed.

12 turkey in bagThe bag is now stapled together.

13 staplingCooking time is supposed to be 3 hours but my friends, who have done this before, found an extra half hour was needed.  A progression of temperatures is employed and these can be found in many recipes on the internet.

Et Voila!

14 carving turkeyI was due to speak at New Westminster on the Tuesday after the weekend.  I caught the earliest ferry to Nanaimo and managed to connect with the 6.30 ferry back to Vancouver.  I had lunch with friends in Burnaby.

15 burnabyWhere we walked round Deer Lake

16 pond liliesAnd the following night I spoke in south Surrey.  A friend had moved to nearby White Rock, which boasts an incredibly warm microclimate by the sea, and this was my last view of Greater Vancouver!

17 bananas!

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