2015 Galiano Literary Festival

1 dogs IMG_2152There was a great deal to organize before I could leave home for the 2015 Galiano Literary Festival, not the least of which was organizing a dogsitter.  “Could she bring her dog?” she asked before she came.  She arrived with four, and two days later drove 2 hours to her home to fetch a fifth.  So she spent the whole week juggling 7 dogs!  (I’m glad I wasn’t there!)  (In the picture, Harry is visiting with 3-legged Bear.)

I left early the following morning.  -15C, and there was ice on the truck windshield.  About the time I got to the highway, the truck was warm.  But the truck was going to sit at the end of my ice road with its chains on, and I loaded the last items into the van – then had to scrape the van’s windshield and start driving in another cold vehicle.  All this in the dark.

First light happened in less than an hour, and the morning was gorgeous with the sun peeping in and out of layers of mist.

2 sunrise to Ws Lk IMG_2156A bit of business in town, and then south to the interior desert country near Ashcroft.  I had left the snow far behind and was marvelling at all that bare ground – and green grass!

3 AshcroftMy host lived above a little lake that was still frozen.  The willows were a lovely pink colour against the bluey-grey ice.

4 pondA walk by the pond revealed a rock thickly plastered with lichen.

5 lichens IMG_2169and two old cottonwood trees.

6 cottonwoods IMG_2174The next day started dull but the sun came out in the Fraser canyon.

7 Canyon IMG_2181A few spits of rain later, but mostly it was dry.  The lower mainland was redolent of dairy farms – it must have been manure-spreading season.  The gardens were already in flower.

8 cr0cusesIMG_2183

9 cherry blossomA day of shopping – new glasses, computer accessories, miso – and on Friday morning I caught the ferry to Galiano.  It is a very old boat that putters between the islands.  It is due to be scrapped very soon.  I hope the bell is saved.

10 ferry bellI was met by hosts Terry and Irene Trueman.

10a. Terry and IreneTerry had been a client at Nuk Tessli; when he had seen my name on the author list he invited me to stay.  That afternoon, he and Irene took me on a short walk.  I love to visit the Coast (but couldn’t stand to live there!) The arbutus trees are always stunning.

11 arbutusSomeone had made this interesting driftwood sculpture beside the trail.

12 deerWe saw a lot of birds.  Black oyster catchers.

13 oyster catchersIMG_2207Hooded mergansers

14 hooded mergansersIMG_2215And Barrows Goldeneyes waiting to go up north and breed in my neighbouring mountains.

15 barrows goldeneyes IMG_2224The next day I had to work!  The festival was held at the Galiano Inn with its dramatic view of Mt Baker behind the ferry dock,

16. Baker view IMG_2238and its beautifully landscaped gardens.

17 flowering almondFirst I was supposed to join a panel discussion about writing and the environment with 3 very politically motivated writers, Andrew Nikiforuk, Arno Kopecky, And the Green Party’s Leader, Elizabeth May.  I am definitely not politically-minded.  I gave a little speech about solar power and how people should not take such luxuries for granted.  Towards the end, the discussion veered towards the idea that the only way to save the world is to wipe out people.  I was asked what I thought. I had no idea what to say!  (In the 30 seconds that was left.)  So I said: “Well… I am a spinster and I’m too old to have kids so I’ve done my bit.” At least everyone had a laugh.

I gave my slide show later that day.

19 MeJust before I left for Galiano, I got a couple of books out of the Tatla Lake library.  They were by John Vaillant, who wrote The Golden Spruce, which I have and love.  This was creative non-fiction and won lots of awards.  He recently had a novel published, and it and a book called the Tiger, about an amazing ecosystem in the far east of Russia, were my companions for the journey.  I had been so busy organizing my place to get away that I had not bothered to research who was speaking.  The first person I saw was John Vaillant!

18 John VallientAnother excellent speaker was Ian McAllister.  He is practically a neighbour, living on a small island on the other side of Bella Coola.  We have heard of each other for years but never actually met.  His main subject is the ecosystem of forest and sea that has become known as the Great Bear Rainforest.  Ian of course is concerned about the terrible threat to the ecosystem should the pipeline from the Alberta tar sands go through.  Up to 3,000 tankers per year are proposed to ply these remote and very difficult to navigate waters: many animals rely on sound communication in the deeps – their ability to communicate would be severely compromised, and of course, one spill would be an absolute disaster.  I cannot believe that our Prime Minister, Steven Harper, would even consider selling this absolutely priceless ecosystem just to put a few figures on paper.   He belongs to a narrow religion that allows him to manipulate a natural world that he knows very little about.  Ian’s books and talks, however, are not heavily laden with politics – he just wants to show what is there.  The audience was rolling with laughter over the story told by his fantastic photography.  Do try and see his talks.

Saturday afternoon Terry and I fitted in another hike.  The cedar forests have wonderful shapes.

20 curley cedars

This is all second growth.  Several of the old stumps have the notches cut into them for the springboards that the old hand-loggers stood on.

21 stumpsA precious gleam of sun highlighted a bit of moss.

22 sun and mossWe walked up to a lookout.  That is the Sunshine Coast on the mainland in the background.

23 eagleThe ferry left at 5.00:pm, and for the whole hour crossing, we had a spectacular sunset.  First Mt Baker turned pink!

24 baker sunsetAs we drew into the channel, we could see the sun setting behind us.

25 sun setting on ferryThe changing colours were wonderful.  I was still snapping pictures when they told us to go back to our vehicles.

26 sunset IMG_2289

27 sunset IMG_2290

28 sunset IMG_2291Off early the next morning, I drove back up the canyon.  The weather, again, was wonderful.

29 tunnel IMG_2299

Soon I was back in the dry country.

30  dry countryAfter Clinton, the land climbs considerably, and soon I was seeing patches of snow on the shady side of the road.

31 cariboo snowI spent the night near Lone Butte, which is not far from 100 Mile.  My host was a self-published author who writes detective fiction.  Her character is Hunter Rayne, a truck driver.  Her first book is Slow Curve on the Coquihalla.  She is now working on her forth.  If you like mysteries, these are good ones.  A bonus to the stay was meeting her partner, Gilbert Roy.  An ex-Quebecois horse trainer, he had wonderful stories about his life and his horses.  I wish I could have stayed longer, but my dogsitter had to leave so I had to go home.

So yesterday I drove back into the snow country of the Chilcotin.

32 ChilcotinThis was an amazing trip.  Only 8 days from start to finish, and the first shopping trip since early December.  I planned a great many meetings not mentioned in this blog post.  And everything went like clockwork!  I even found my way from Burnaby to the ferry and back, without a hitch either way, something I have never done before.  I also made MONEY!

When I left home, I wore longjohns, and winter boots with ice grippers on the bottom.  I shed the ice grippers when I started my van.  I shed the boots in Williams Lake, and the longjohns in Ashcroft.  Now of course, I had to put all these things on again in stages.  The last were the ice grippers when I reached my road. I had hoped to take the van home as there was a great deal of stuff in it, but I decided not to risk it.  So everything had to be loaded into the truck.

33 ice road IMG_2313Who needs to go to Hawaii?  Just going down to the Coast at this time of year is like travelling to a different planet.







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February Book Tour

On the 20 – 22nd February, I will be performing at the Galiano Writers’ Festival.  On the way south, I will stay with friends in Ashcroft (17th).  On the evening of the 18th February, I will give a slide show at Maple Ridge library.  On 19th I visit friends at Burnaby.  Coming north, I will stay in Lone Butte (just south of 100 Mile.)

I will be packing along some art work as well as books if anyone is interested.

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Pineapple Express


West-coasters will know what I mean: Pineapple Express is the name given to the insanely warm winds that barrel up the coast in winter, directly from Hawaii.  It is giving us this endless warm gloom.  I often hear people talk about the February blahs – that’s when many go to Hawaii or similar places.  Usually I love February as the days are longer and we often have good frosts and sunshine.  Not this year, though.

In fact, I am going away this February.  But I will be going to Gabriola Island to speak at the Writers Festival.  (I will make a separate post about the trip.)  There I can probably look forward to pouring rain…..

At least I don’t live in Kitimat.  It is about 400 km north of me.  Last weekend they had a huge snow dump.  Scroll down to the video – gives a better picture.  Looked pretty wet from the shovelling that was going on.  This is the kind of Canada most foreigners imagine our country to be…

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Ice Rules

4a thermometreThis was as hot as it got.  I have known it get to +11C in January before but this year only one day was this hot.  However, although it freezes at night, the temp has reached above freezing every day for a couple of weeks now.

At first, we got sunshine.

3 snow shadows in treesFor about an hour in the morning, it pours through my front door.  Even if the wind is too sharp to sit on the deck, I can sunbathe just inside the house.  No spa could ever give me such a feeling of luxury.

4 chairThe snow was rotten and crusted so not all that easy to get around in,  but the light was beautiful.

2 sun on trees

1 house

It didn’t last long, though.  Two days and we had another warning sunrise…..

5 sunriseThen we were back to various shades of fog and gloom.

6 suna nd cloudThe river has opened up quite a bit.

7 riverThis was one of the sunnier days.

8 cariboo flatsI went to Nimpo Lake to get mail.  Highway 20 was bare.

9 bare highwayMy 4 km of roadway was a skating rink.  Scary to drive, even with chains on.  We often get ice but I’ve never seen it as bad as this. (The hills and twists don’t help!)

10 road ice 1

11 road ice 2Then it snowed another couple of inches.

12 new snow

13 laundryThe snow did not bond with the ice very well but it gave a bit of traction.  More thawing and rain was forecast.  I thought I should take the opportunity to get my van out to the highway.  It is AWD, but I wouldn’t want to risk the glare ice.  The truck has chains and I can drive back and forth with it. It is a pain to have to load things from one vehicle to the other all the time, but not as big a pain as using the truck full time and having to put chains on when I came home from something in the dark.  I parked where the snow ploughs and sand trucks turn around.  I had to find a spot out of the way.  The drivers all know my vehicle so I hope they don’t plough me in too badly if it snows.

14 van

Then I walked home.  3 km in is the fork to my neighbours’.  I arrived at the same time as a hay truck.  Phew! 30 minutes later I would have met it en route.

15 hay

In summer it is possible to squeeze past an oncoming vehicle most of the time.  Because of the snowbanks, there are now very few places where you can do this.  Someone has to back up: if I’d met the hay truck, it would have been me!  I might have had to back up 3 kms!

It was supposed to be thawing and sunny today.  But it is raining again.


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January Thaws

1 thermometreWe often get January thaws and they are all absolutely miserable.  It’s been like this for over a week now.  At first it froze overnight and we got a few gleams  of sun.

2 susnet starting thaw

3 early light before thaw.But mostly it was dull, dull, dull.  Objects appeared in a different light than they did when it was freezing.  I have passed this tree numerous times and never managed to get an acceptible photo of its texture and colour.

3a aspen trunk

The wind blew from the south and it often came in gusts.  Pine needles started to litter the snow.

4 scattered needlesThe branched item is a bit of dead mistletoe.

5 mistletoeStumps started to emerge.

8 stump showing

A downy woodpecker began to visit the feeder.  He, at least, was a bright spot.

downyThen it started to rain.

6 rain on skylightAdvantage: no shovelling the snow off the solar panels.

7 wet panels

Disadvantages – too numerous to mention.  I ache.  I have no energy.  Plodding through the snow is twice the work and no fun.  I find the humidity very uncomfortable.  The noise from the highway is magnified by the damp, low air and the wind direction.  There are more trucks than usual on Highway 20 this year as the chip trucks are running steadily from the sawmill near Anahim, and they are also hauling logs from further west, which doesn’t happen very often.  When the trucks come down either of the steep hills that bracket my place, their air brakes judder and roar, even though these hills are well over a kilometre away.  It is the one major disadvantage of this place and something I cannot learn to ignore.  When the clouds are high and the wind is different, I hardly hear them.

And, of course, the yard is a disaster.  Good job the Icers I bought for my boots arrived from Lee Valley in the mail.  I would not be able to move on the ploughed areas without them.

9 yardFor the first part of the thaw, Puntzi Mountain, the weather station 90 km to the east, advertised sunny and much cooler weather than we had.  Bella Coola in the west showed warm and wet.  We had obviously moved over the mountains to the Bella Coola weather system.

This morning, Puntzi forecasted -11C and some sun.  Max temps were supposed to be +2C.  Which side of the mountains were we going to be this time?

Yesterday evening, there was a glimpse of Finger Peak.

10 last night

This morning, the sky was red in the southeast (where the sun rises at the moment.)

11 sunriseSupposed to be warning weather, but there is always hope.  However, at +2C (as opposed to Puntzi’s -11C) we seem to still be in the Bella Coola weather system.  It advertises +6C and rain.  The Norwegian site touts a maximum of +7C and mixed sun and cloud (but it has proved to be not very accurate and it is showing the wind coming from the wrong direction at the moment.)

So we’ll have to see.

The next day

Hooray!  we’re in Puntzi!  Not quite as cold as they are, but it is freezing, and the morning sky was loaded with huge stars.  Looks like we’re going to get some sunshine!

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