Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Find Adventure 2012

Snowshoeing on Mt. Washington.

This post is a couple days shy of the New Year, I thought that this might be the best chance I would have to get this down. As I stated in the "365" post my slogan for '12 is "Find Adventure". I have always had the urge to explore but the thirst has grown and is making me want to take action. I am not talking about climbing Kilimanjaro or doing the Appalachian trail. It's more about prioritizing getting out into nature. Feeling the cold rain or hot sun. Getting bug bites and cold toes. And seeing what kind of adventure I can find close to our home in the beautiful Comox Valley with an 8 year old.

Our first Geo-Cache

Natalie and I sat down today and made a list. It ranges from geo-caching and snowshoeing, to exploring rivers, lakes and islands. Our plan is to get out and "Find Adventure" once a week, normally on a Sunday, since I have her with me that day. It is great that 2012 begins on a Sunday so we can get off on to a strong start. 27 ideas found their way onto that piece of paper. It has been carefully stuck on the refrigerator with chewing gum magnets. This list will give us inspiration if we are not feeling creative, and we can check them off once they have been completed. I will get material to keep on writing this blog, Natalie will learn many things about nature and we will have some great memories and shared moments. I am sure there will be tough days. Our trips don't have to be epic, most of them won't. We will do things we have done before, and also some brand new experiences. What they will have in common is that they are free(aside from transportation and food),being outside, at most a few hours drive from home, and we do them together. We will welcome other guests with us, family and friends. Plus Marshall will be tagging along for most of these voyages. I will get lots of candid pictures and funny quotes. I hope that I will be able to remember them all.

An Admirable Bolete(maybe?)

For 2012 this blog is going to be less focused on negative things, politics, and environmental rants. It is going to be less about me, more about family, friends, pictures, nature and "Finding Adventure" Please follow along for  the next 52 weeks and see where we get to. And if you would like to join us some exploring, please contact me.

Happy New Year to all the readers of "thecynicalcyclist"

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Snowshoes

Instead of getting up early, drinking coffee and unwrapping presents, My girlfriend, her brother and I, along with Marshall, got in the Element and drove up Mt.Washington. About half way up the rain that had started to fall upon leaving the beach in Merville, turned to snow. We pulled into a parking lot off the side of the road. This parking lot is outside of the Mt. Washington boundary. It is free to use this land with out buying a ticket from the resort. This spot is popular with snowmobiles, snowshoer's and tobogganers. Fortunately for us the lot was empty and we had the place to ourselves. The previous day I rented two pairs of M.S.R. snowshoes from Valhalla Pure Outfitters in Courtenay. They lent me the EVO and Lightning model. I was able to try out both of these shoes on out 2.25k trek. We walked on a compacted road and also on some undisturbed snow. I was super happy with the binding. They didn't loosen off at all, and were very easy to secure. I could have used more float on some of the fresh snow, as I sunk a little more than I would have liked. The traction was without a doubt the best out there, bar none. 360 degrees of traction around the shoe frame versus just the toe crampon on most tubular aluminum shoes.

I went into Valhalla today and brought the rented ones back. I ended up purchasing a pair of M.S.R. Lightning Axis shoes, with the 5 inch add on tail. This system is designed to allow for less float on packed or wet snow but the freedom of having a smaller shoe. When the snow gets deeper the tool free installation of the tail allows for more float and an easier time. The Axis also has the Speedlock binding for quicker on/off. This was the main selling feature for me on these shoes.

I look forward to testing these new shoes on and taking my daughter out with me. She also has a new pair of M.S.R. snowshoes under the Christmas tree.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Dog

Puppy in a pizza box (photo by Danica Prowse)

Sitting here thinking about how I have nothing intelligent to write about, and nothing very exciting happening in my recreational pursuits to report, but I haven't dedicated a post to my best friend.

I adopted Marshall in the summer of 2010. My daughters mom had originally fell in love with Marshall when she was accompanying a friend who was looking at adopting a puppy. Marshall was the runt, an adorable little fella. His parents were a combination of Blue Tick Coonhound, Great Dane and some breed of Mastif. I am not sure the exact paternal/maternal mix. I remember him as a pup. He was very friendly, too friendly sometimes. He loves to give open mouth kisses still to this day, as my step dad found out last weekend. He liked to jump up to greet new people(new being someone he hadn't seen for a few minutes). He chewed and messed in the house. He managed to chew the steering wheel in the car he was sitting in waiting to go for a walk. I offered to take Marshall to the beach with Natalie one day, while her mom was busy. I thought he was a little bit of a nightmare, but I could see potential in him. He loved to chase a ball and swim. Two traits I love in a dog. It didn't hurt that he has the cutest face and hangy ears. He didn't listen to me at all, and I had a really hard time getting him back in the house, after running through the neighbors house soaking wet.

The bluffs at Comox Lake

 Shortly after this meeting, I found out that Natalie's mom had to move, and wouldn't be able to keep Marshall. Earlier in 2010 I had to put my other dog down. He had bone cancer and there wasn't much that could be done. Poor Jackson, he was a good one too. A great guard dog. I couldn't let Natalie lose two dogs in one year, so I agreed to take on Marshall. 

Basically my first experience with Marshall as my dog was almost my last. We had taken him up to Raft Cove for a weekend trip in mid-August. He traveled well in the vehicle, quiet, didn't get into trouble. We arrived at the trail head at dusk and had to hurry to get down to the beach before dark. Marshall got out of the Landcruiser and proceeded to find some human feces and roll in it. He was coated in it. So gross. We hiked to the beach trying to keep him away from us, smelling the shit the whole way. Unable to wash him that night I tied him up away from us. He wouldn't settle and whined and cried all night. I might have slept for about 3 hours. I layed there, so angry, wanting to throw my shoe at him. I refrained for fear of my boot being eaten. Once he was washed and not smelly the rest of the weekend was great. Since that first trip he has found other bit of poo and rolled. Now he gets tossed in the tub and is given a bath. I am much less mad at him.

Raft Cove the day after the smelly incident

Marshall has been a great addition to my house. With two separate sessions of obedience training he has become such an awesome dog. Marsh is great with Natalie, my girlfriend loves him, he is company for my dad during daily walks in the woods. He is a partner for us on mountain bike rides, trail runs, mushroom picking, swimming, and cuddling on the couch. He loves to lay on the floor in front of my wood stove, the granite his pillow. He is the most brilliant swimmer. Not only in stamina, but in love. He will go in the water and swim without being encouraged in with a stick. He will swim in circles just because he loves it so much. He travels well in a vehicle, only squeaking when he recognizes where we are, and knows it is a walking spot. Marshall will eat anything, his food, vegetables, fruit. The only thing he won't eat is mushrooms. But not when he is offered it, he never eats off the counter. Never anymore that is....

In action

I can say that Marshall was a great decision for me. I love having a dog home to greet me on nights when I am home alone. I look forward to him waking again when a black bear in getting in the garbage, and taking him to "Find Adventure" with me and my family in the coming years. I love that beast:)

Monday, December 19, 2011


Tonight is 365 days since I last drank alcohol. I remember the party well. It was an annual Christmas party at my friends house, where Santa Clause would show up and hand out gifts to the children and the grown-ups would have a drink or two. Well in my case it was a drink or 15. It was a fun time, solving all the worlds problems with my best friends. Of course I stayed too late and didn't leave until the fridge was emptied of all the various cans of beer. I stumbled home and fell into bed. Did I mention it was a Sunday and I had to work the next morning. Waking up still drunk, with a pounding head and a sour stomach, I drove into work to spend the day banging sheet metal in a low crawlspace. It was one of the worse days I had ever had at work. That was the last straw.

I had been having to deal with these horrific hangovers for years. It never stopped me from carrying on for most of my adult life. Alcoholism has been an issue on both sides of my family, and seeing it during my youth, it just seemed like that is what someone did when they grew up and being drunk was acceptable. I was often the drunk guy at the house party when everyone else was socially drinking. I had to bring a dozen beer to a gathering, and consume them all, or it felt like a waste of time. I thought that everyone was drinking like me, but more often than not, it was just me. I would encourage others to over do it, we were having fun.

I had previously taken breaks from drinking for up to a year, but it was for different reasons. I thought removing alcohol would changemy life to the better. I have now found out that alcohol wasn't the cause of the problems, but a result of trying to deal with things that were not good in my situation. A big change happened and I found myself single and free. Party time. I was having an great time socializing and meeting new people. I was constantly looking to connect with someone special, hoping that drinking would give me the charisma and confidence to make that happen. Guess what, I never found what I was looking for. I made some good friends, but that was less to do with the booze and more with me just getting out more.

A horrible incident happened where I was assaulted one night after being out at the bar, not eating dinner and just drinking myself stupid. Stumbling out of the bar I was assaulted by a group of young thugs. I was left with a broken tooth, broken nose and a concussion. The mental wounds still haven't healed and it is something that I have to deal with everyday. It messed up my confidence and my perceived ability to offer protection to my family. I had almost given in to the depression and thought about becoming a hermit. Sit at home, alone, every night and hide from what was bothering me. As fate would have it, I met a girl a two months after the assault. I was smitten by her. She wasn't someone who drank very much, and I slowed my consumption down considerably. I did hid my drinking from her when she wasn't around, or not saying how much I actually would drink. Slowly it go back to drinking when she was around, and encouraging her to also imbibe more as well. I began to feel like sometimes I would rather be by-myself and have a party, rather that be with her. It shames me to admit this, but it did feel that way. The alcohol was going to ruin such a good thing I had with her. I couldn't let that happen.

My life has become much calmer, fulfilling, loving, richer, and adventurous. I cannot even contemplate the idea of alcohol, or being hung over and being that guy again. I love my daughter so much and she is my focus on keeping my strength. My urges are gone and now I find being dry easy. Writing this blog has helped to allow me a forum to rant when I need to, rather than taking center stage during a gathering. The hard part is keeping friendships with people that I saw all the time when I was drinking. It is so amazing to have a partner who loves me and is very happy to spend time together. My heart swells, and I thank her with all of it for all the great stuff that she has introduced me to, and adventure she has accompanied me on. I also want to thank my great friend, Russ, who had the courage to make the choice of sobriety a few months before I did. It helped give me the strength to make the change as well. My life is so amazing now and I look forward to the next 365 and all the new things that will present themselves to me.Time to "Find Adventure", my new slogan for 2012.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Venerable Tech Top

Anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a Merino wool fanatic. It is an undiagnosed addiction. The only thing that quenches the desire is to purchase more wool and add to my collection. I am realizing that I have gone from one piece a year and a half ago to more than 20, a variety of socks, underwear, performance apparel and casual clothes. It is quite an investment in my comfort and I am quite happy with the returns.

One piece in particular that I look to for a majority of my activities is my Tech Top, by Icebreaker. With its long sleeves, thumb loops, drop tail hem, zip neck collar and cuddly soft mid weight Merino fabric, it has the best of all worlds. This top isn't flashy. It has been around for a very long time, dating back to the early years of Icebreaker. It is available in mens, womens and kids. Icebreaker offers the top in several colors. None of the colors are flashy. This is a no nonsense piece of apparel. Don't expect people to comment on the shirt, unless the person also owns one. The conversation will inevitably turn to how great this garment is.

My Tech Top has followed me on bike tours, back packing, hikes, wild mushroom picking, shopping, and casual dinners out. It is cut in such a way that it is form fitting, but without the "gut sucking" that I would have to do with some other athletic apparel. Stuff it into a backpack for an emergency layer and it will not take up to many liters of capacity and come out looking great, thanks to Merinos ability to resist wrinkles. Worried about sparks while lighting a beach fire in a remote bay on Northern Vancouver Island melting your fleece. Get rid of that dinosaur DNA and wear Icebreaker. It naturally will snuff sparks. If your cautious about hiking and sweating while on a backpacking trip, this garment will keep you warm while wet, and drys in a hurry. Plastic clothes will make you sweat and make you smell. Synthetic fibers have no place in the outdoors, wear what the high mountain sheep of New Zealand wear. Wear a Tech Top. It will keep you warm, cool, wick sweat, and safe.

I know that Icebreaker isn't the most affordable clothing in the world. It will never be sold in a box store. Please consider the true cost of more traditional synthetic fibers. The base ingredient in these synthetics is oil. Yes the same stuff we put in our engines. It is manufactured with chemicals, heat, pollution, and destruction. It leaves little plastic fibers in the environment just from a person wearing it, potentially killing fish and amphibians. Icebreaker Merino wool is natural, bio-degradable, produces little pollution(except sheep droppings).

If you can have one Icebreaker garment I would suggest the venerable Tech Top. Not flashy, but it gets the job done, and you can feel good about it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Vegetarian Myth: A book review

While listening to the back catalog of the Peak Moments TV podcast a while back, I was surprised by an episode called "The Vegetarian Myth" The author, Lierre Keith, is a "recovering" vegan. She didn't eat animal products for 20 years. She suffered through many, many health problems during this time including Degenerative Disc Disease, hypoglycemia, ceased menstruating, depression, anxiety, exhaustion, skin problems, and gastroparesis(a stomach ailment in which the stomach is unable to completely empty, causing near constant nausea.)

After all the years of promoting the vegan diet, feeling proud that her diet didn't harm a living creature, she had an epiphany. She visited a Chi Gong master who, upon feeling her pulse, declared that she had no Chi, her life was not there. She joked about being dead, and he didn't laugh. She had been going to doctor after doctor trying to find out what was wrong with her, and the Chi master told her that she needed to eat animals. She left and purchased a can of tuna. It took her all her strength to eat the fish, and her body came to life. The animal protein and fat awoke her cells. It is amazing the transformation. I can not describe the event with justice. She now eats meat and other animal products, she avoids carbohydrates and grains. The belief is that human beings get all they need from animal products, vegetables and fruit as this was our traditional diet dating back thousands of years.

My eyes were opened by reading this book. I have been interested in diet and proper nutrition for many years. I have read numerous books on sustainability and local eating from Pollan and Weber and Spurlock. I know how bad industrial food production, Big Agriculture, mono culture, fossil fuel fertilizer, and globalization of the food industry. I know that grass fed beef, free range chickens and wild fish is very good. The big difference to me, what I learned the most, is that we don't absolutely need to eat vegetables, grains, seeds, roots, or greens. Everything we need nutritionally is in an animal. That means organs, bones, blood and fat. I know it isn't something for everyones palate. Agriculture is horrible for the environment with mono culture crops, top soil loss, and run off that kills estuarys and pollutes fresh water. Free ranged animals eat green plants, build topsoil with manure, and cut down green house gas emissions. No fossil fuels are needed to fertilize the ground to grow the natural browse of ruminants.

This book isn't too preachy. It is chock full of information on nutrition and explains how the body uses what we put in it. I would recommend this read if you are interested in learning about what makes the human body tick. If you are considering going vegetarian or vegan, read this work first. You may change your mind. I know I did........

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


 "Oh shit" Dale whispered to his partner Steve, "We have company"

The smell was of rotting flesh was oozing out of the humid air, an odor that lingered in the sinus and could feel it's texture on one's tongue. Maggot flies buzzed about randomly, breaking from the path of the Walker. This was the first Walker they had encountered in several days, and unfortunately were out in the open, without a weapon ready. Complacency was easy when the numbers had seemed to lean out. It was as if the Walkers were slowly running out of fuel. With less humans to consume, it appeared that they were starving to death. Dale and Steve had happened upon lots of corpses that looked gaunt, waifish. One was still alive, but hardly had the energy to acknowledge their presence. Dale shot it in the head anyways. After all these months of shooting every Walker they could, habits were hard to break.

 The Walker, who, when she was a human, was probably a very attractive woman. She had long, blond hair. She was tall and lean, super model type. For how beautiful she might have been, now she was a horrific sight. The blond hair was missing in clumps, and it had bright, white maggots crawling through out it. She had dried blood spattered around her face and blouse, which was ripped and tattered. Her once white bra was exposed, filthy. It appeared that her right eyeball had been torn out of her skull, nothing but a black hole. Her arms and legs were bruised and cut. She walked with a shuffle, with no purpose. She didn't see Dale and Steve, they just waited for her to get closer. They were both packing sawed off barrel shotguns, 12 gauge slides. These were easier to handle and light to carry, but a rifle with a scope would be very handy in this situation. One good head shot, and its all over. If they tried to shoot at this distance, even with the slugs they were carrying, most likely the shot would miss and the noise could attract more Walkers.
Steve slowly raised his weapon so he could look down the barrel, clicked off the safety and squeezed the trigger. Dale braced for the sound. His aim was true and the sabot did its job, hitting her in the chin and mostly tearing the head off. The body fell instantly, with out so much as a twitch, blood flowing freely. The odor of the rotten blood was un-bearable. The Walkers smelled terrible, but once you spill the blood of one, the putrid odor increases ten fold. "Lets get the hell out of here," Dale said, swallowing down vomit," more will be here soon, I imagine."

 "Right, keep going. I wish we could drive right now, get the hell out of this place." Steve questioned. The road was chock block full of abandoned cars and trucks. An over-turned tractor trailer blocked the way and folks just walked away from their cars. Lots of wheels with keys, lots of gas, unfortunately, somehow, when the Apocalypse happened, anything that ran with electricity ceased to operate. Cars, airplanes, trains, everything just quit, and shit got really messed up all at once. Some say it was a comet, a sun flare, aliens, god. So many questions and the only answer was to grab a gun and watch your back. Luckily, Steve noticed an S.U.V. with a bike rack on it, with two mountain bikes.
"Good thing Jimmy isn't here, he would be screwed." Steve said, trying to lighten the mood. Dale looked at him with a puzzled look. It wasn't funny. Jimmy was Dale's best friend and his lone employee. Before the Apocalypse, Dale was a custom house builder and renovator. Steve was a plumber who Dale hire to plumb his projects. They were all hanging out the night the Apocalypse happened. Jimmy had awoken with a searing hang-over. He found out that the power was out and woke the rest of the house up. Steve had tried to go home but his truck wouldn't start. Dale's truck wouldn't start. Cell phones were dead, no lights, no heat, nothing. Jimmy had walked outside to get some fresh air, and was attacked by a Walker. Steve used a maul to kill the Walker, but Jimmy was wounded. Dale ended up having to kill his best friend when Jimmy, after a few painful hours, lashed out. Dale had a shotgun close by and ended "its" life.

To be continued......

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Summer dreams

Raft Cove Provincial Park

I must have a little of the winter blues. These dark, wet, windy, cold weeks are the hardest on the calendar. Waiting for Christmas vacation to arrive for a week off of work but having to drag myself out of the warm house for the paycheck everyday. The holidays just seem like they may never come. I love the start of the new annum. Daylight progressively staying a few more minutes each night and arriving earlier in the morning. The promise of budding trees, daffodil flowers and the smell of spring. I am a big fan of early fall with its mushroom picking and food processing, but nothing beats spring and the coming summer.

Lately all I can think about it spending days on the beach on north Vancouver Island. I am in the early stages of planning an adventure for next summer. My idea is to take a week and hike the North Coast trail. The trail follows the coast and is located in Cape Scott Provincial Park . The trail head is in Shushartie Bay, approximately an hours boat ride from Port Hardy. The route ends at San Josef Bay, and the Cape Scott trail. The route combines beach walking and upland scrambling. There are dedicated campsites and  outhouses and bear caches. The whole trip is about 60 kilometers in length.

Raft Cove sunset

Sea Stalk

San Josef Bay Cape Scott Provincial Park

I am dreaming about windswept beaches, sea stalks, tidal pools, and funky driftwood. I long to feel the warm wind or cold rain and sand in my hair. Blisters, bug bites and a hungry belly. I have never undertaken an adventure like this, with all my necessities on my back. The drive to carry on because that is the only option. Quiting is not a possibility. The mid day naps and spectacular sunsets are some of the rewards of the hard work required to complete a trip like this. A relaxing vacation? Not for me. I want to see what I am made of, have an amazing experience, beautiful photos and memories to share with the ones who are not able to participate. I look forward to sharing this experience with my readers in six or seven months time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Merino Wool Link

I was surfing the R.E.I. website last night and I came across the best, non-biased article I have read on Merino wool. This is a fantastic look into the advantages of the fiber, down to it's cell structure. Check it out.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


So on the night of the municipal elections in B.C., I sit waiting to see the news unfold on Twitter. Courtenay has a new mayor, and two new Councillors, Comox has two new Councillors. I am un-educated on the policies of any of the newly elected. I believe that the new Courtenay council and mayor are believed to be more fiscally responsible.

I am awaiting the results of the Cumberland election, pondering something that has been on my mind for years. Here we are, a large area of Vancouver Island, with a relatively small population, having four local governments. I believe that this is a huge waste of resources. I see that it is very important that if major infrastructure projects are needed, development is going on, and planning for the future, this area needs to work under one government and look after it all. Homeless shelter, bridges, water projects(one system for the majority of the valley based off Comox Lake), sewage treatment(Cumberland and Royston tying into the existing system), traffic and transportation planning, trails and recreation, waste management, policing, fire, etc, would all be handled by one body. Permits and bylaws could be streamlined so they are the same across the board. We could cut three CAO's, three GM's, three CFO's plus the dozens of other duplicate jobs. Maybe staff levels wouldn't change to a huge degree, I don't want people to lose there lively hood, but I also can not stand the thought of wasted tax dollars. It could just be more streamlined. Each existing municipality could be a "burrough" and have representation on council based on population. The three Official Community Plans would be combined and strictly followed.

As a resident of Cumberland I am worried that we will be un-able to grow a tax base because of a water shortage. This community is not sustainable. Eventually it is going to fall apart without some major cash injections. To be able to hook into a regional water system that could be designed for the whole area and everyone pays based on number of hook-ups, would be much more affordable for this town(my opinion). As well as joining to the state of the art sewage treatment plant already in operation, that the Regional District currently maintains for Courtenay and Comox. Cumberland has the garbage dump in its boundaries, which is run by the Regoinal district as well. It is just all so confusing and resource wasting.

Of course much protest would result of this idea, bringing it to a vote might see it being turned down. It just makes sense to me. How can this Valley deal with the huge decisions with four different bodies intermingling and arguing. It is just silly to me. What do you think?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Simple Kitchen

This weekend I had a small kitchen problem. My fridge decided to start freezing everything. All the vegetables in it froze and were destroyed. My milk turned into a rock. As far as I can tell it is fine to drink. Leftover pasta, refried beans, apples, pears. All frozen. So until I can get a repair man in to fix it, I will be using an ice cooler on the deck to store my perishables. It will be like camping I guess. Except I don't have to worry about ice, since it is plenty cold enough outside. This might be nice, I will try to do without the refrigerator for a few months. In all reality, the ice box is so big for what is actually in it. Milk, cheese, some condiments, and leftovers need to be stored somewhere cold. Eggs, fruit, vegetables for the most part don't. I would always need a freezer of some kind, since I need somewhere to store fish and berries. This could be a little bit of an experiment to see if I can go until the new year without fixing the fridge. Lets see how good my will power is.

This isn't the first time that I made due with out a modern appliance in my kitchen. About a year ago, I removed my microwave. It was a large box sitting on the counter, constantly drawing electricity because I never unplugged it. The only thing it ever was used for was to melt some butter once every few months. A task that could be easily accomplished with a pot on the stove. The new found space was quickly filled with a bread maker, which like most bread maker owners, sat unused in the cupboard. It was a hassle to bring it out and put it away again when needed. Now it has a permanent home and I make my own bread on a regular basis. It is simple, fast and only contains whole foods, and no chemicals. Re-heating foods on the stove top or in the toaster oven might be a little slower(not much) but it doesn't destroy the cell structure and nutrients in the food. I know that there are arguments both ways on this topic. I just feel better not cooking my food with invisible rays.

Listen to David Heddy on the Sprocket Podcast talk about life without microwaves

I have also done with out a dishwasher. It broke down in the summer. I hadn't been using it much anyways so it was an easy decision to pitch it in the dump. I was never thrilled with the performance of the machine. It was always growing black moldy stuff on the inside. That was disgusting. So now the hole in the cabinets is used to store my Bradley smoker, and much more fun and rewarding appliance. And my dishes are always clean and haven't been exposed to nasty bits. I have also taken away my coffee maker. Since discovering the supreme taste of French pressed coffee, the electric machine was given away on Freecycle. I grind my own organic, fair trade beans and enjoy making a cup every morning.

These changes has slowed me down in the kitchen. I think more about how many dishes I use in a day. Almost every night the dishes are washed and put away. My kitchen is more tidy and organized than before. This is all training to live simpler and with less modern convenience, so one day the transition to a rustic living arrangement will be easier.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


On the eve of the 93rd anniversary of Armistice Day that ended the Great war, I have been thinking about how the world has changed and wondering what my Great Grandfather would think of what is happening these days. He served bravely in Europe, fighting in the trenches along the Western Front, battling the German army and stopping them from advancing further into France. Dressed in a heavy wool over coat, wearing a tin helmet, armed with a bolt action rifle that was prone to jamming and only had a ten shot clip. Rats were infesting the trenches, feeding on the gore that was present. The men were up to there knee is piss, blood and water for days on end, always waiting for the call to go over the top. Dodging barbed wire, machine gun fire and mortars they would try to scramble just a little closer to the German line. One inch at a time. Artillery shell craters would make for decent cover unless another shell hit the same place. I just can not imagine the terror, horror and paranoia that the men felt in that campaign that lasted for four years. The noise, the smells, the lack of sleep and food. Living on cigarettes and the random ration that would make its way to the front line. To say these men were brave in such an understatement.

My Grandfather also served, in World War 2. He spent four years over seas. He signed up to go and fight. It was the right thing to do. It was the duty of every Canadian man who was physically able to go over seas and do their part. These men had honor. They had respect for their country. The freedom of the world was at stake and the fear of the Nazis conquering Europe and Britain brought these men to leave their family and go to an unknown land, with the thought that they would never come home. My Grandpa is my hero. I am so proud that he served over seas for so long, and was able to come back, have a career and raise a family. The emotional damage that was not diagnosed back in those days must have been crippling at times. And might still be.

What would my Great Grandfather would think of our democracy now. How his sacrifice has been taken for granted and forgotten. In my opinion, democracy today gives us the right to vote. But does it do any good? It seems as though the corporations control the government. The wants of these corporations take precedent over the needs of the people who vote. We get taxed so hard and we have such little say in what actually happens in the decision making of the government. Have the corporations become the corrupt governments that started these wars. What will happen when the people have no food, no shelter, no money, no hope. Hitler built up the National Socialist Party and the prosperity of the German economy after the country was decimated following World War 1. The people believed him and all his policies because they were poor, and he gave them hope. Brainwashing, maybe, but could something happen like this again. Times are tough. Could Fascism return? These are questions I cannot answer, but I am curious.

Would my Great Grandfather be embarrassed with how lazy and overweight our society has become. How about the individualism and the shrinking community. He would have thought it absolutely asinine to sit in a car in a traffic jam, to spend time in a gym, riding a stationary bike, then drive thru a restaurant to buy dinner, before going home and sitting in front of the T.V. Where did it go wrong? I feel like we are being sedated with consumerism, junk food, and reality television shows, so we don't see the secrets going on behind closed doors. Media controlled by whom ever owns the paper or website. Where are our freedoms? I am rambling on, but I think you get the point. Millions have died so we can have the freedoms that we have and we are wasting it, and thinking our lives are so terrible. I would NEVER, EVER want to give up my life I have here to go stand in shit and blood for months on end. My life is so great. Thank you Poppa and Grandpa. You are my hero's.

I encourage everyone to bring their children to a Remembrance ceremony tomorrow. This holiday must not go by the wayside. The soldiers must never be forgotten, Ever. It is the only holiday we have that has any real meaning, there is no commercial value. And it should stay that way for time eternal.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Island on the Edge

I had the privilege of being a guest at the most recent North Vancouver Island Chefs Association meeting this past Monday. My friend Jon, who is the Vice President of the Association, had informed me of this film and I was keen on seeing it. He soon informed me that the film would be shown at the meeting and I was welcome to participate in the viewing.


If you are unaware of this film, I will give a little synopsis. The premise is what would happen if boat traffic and airplanes were some how unable to bring food supplies on to Vancouver Island for any length of time. The film maker, Nick Veersteg of Duncan B.C., takes us on a journey around the island. He visits many farms, markets and chefs to discuss the challenges of food security for Vancouver Island. The movie is written by by Don Genova a west coast journalist who specializes in food and travel writing. Genova also narrates the film.

In the film it was stated by one interviewee who is a produce manager in the head office with a Vancouver Island based grocer, that Vancouver Island would run out of fresh food with in five or six days. This shocked many of the viewers in attendance. On an island that seems to have so much agriculture, it only produced approximately 10 percent of the food needed annually that is consumed by residents and visitors.

I saw many of the same kinds of things I have watched in other films related on the subject for food security and agro business making decisions on what we eat. I enjoyed that the film was based on Vancouver Island, and to see that challenges and positive changes that are present in food production locally. I would say the biggest hurdle facing Island farmers, and would be farmers is the high demand and price for real estate. Having land for food production close to the major centers is where is would have the greatest impact and these places are where the land is most cost prohibitive. Often, families who already have marketable farmland are losing it when the elders decided to retire and the younger generations decided to sell to developers for large sums. We are losing almost 900 acres of A.L.R. every year.

The government needs to insure that we still have land to grow food on. Golf courses don't count as farm land. I am sorry, it just doesn't cut it. This Island has such a perfect climate for growing food, to only produce one tenth of what we actually need is shameful. I encourage everyone to plant some kind of a garden at home. Even if it is just a pot with a couple tomato plants in it. Share with your children how important it is to buy local food and support that farmers. Their generation is going to be the one who has to deal with the end of cheap oil and the end of cheap food.

 If you get a chance to watch this film, do so. I look forward to the next film by Versteeg, called "Food Security, It's in your hands" And it is......

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

One EVIL word

It has been quite a few years now since I started thinking about a little word that has such a huge meaning. It is mean, evil, unnecessary, and negative. This word, I don't even like to type it, is HATE. I believe there is no word in the English language that has such a strong context. It is four letters, two vowels, two constants that evoke images of cross burning, segregation, ghetto's, concentration camps, white robes, and military marches.

I have tried really hard to stop my daughter from using this despicable word. How many of the youth that have committed suicide been told that someone H$%TS them? How many women and children who are assaulted by there spouse or parent told that I H$%T you? Can we prevent some violence, depression, and encourage compassion by just stopping saying a little four letter word. There are many four letter words that are supposedly worst to say in public, I agree they have their place, but this one is used freely around children, and grandparents.

Lets get this word out of the regular vocabulary. It should only be used to describe how Hitler felt about the Jews, Early Americans felt about the Natives, and other religious or raced based wars and genocide. There are other words that can be used to describe dis-like. I do it, why can't you?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Cynical cyclist store

I did this for fun, but if anyone wants to buy a shirt and support the blog, I would appreciate it. I will add more ideas in the coming weeks. I also am working on another project with a friend. Hopefully we will have something happening with that in the new year. Thanks. Blayne.

thecynicalcyclist store

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Homemade granola recipe.

I have been making my own granola for the past year or so. Of course, I love making as much stuff at home instead of buying it from the grocery store. I like to know the whole ingredients in my food, the freshness of it, the amount of sugar and fat in the items, and that it was made in a clean environment free of pest and chemical residues. In my kitchen I only use plant based soaps that are biodegradable and phosphate free, and I use vinegar for sanitizing. Thats it. Nothing harmful to anyone except dirt and germs.

This granola recipe was introduced to me by my wonderful girlfriend. It is from Hollyhock on Cortes Island. Hollyhock is a adult learning center retreat that uses delicious, whole, organic ingredients in their kitchen. I have heard many great things about this place, but I have never visited. One day I would like to go there for a writing workshop.

6 cups of oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2/3 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup honey

Pre-heat oven to 250F. Put honey and oil in a pot and slowly warm on medium heat. Add the honey to the oil in a measuring cup to keep the honey from sticking to the vessel. Mix all dry ingredients in  a large mixing bowl. Once the honey and oil start to bubble add it to the dry mix and stir well until all the mix is moist. Place on cookie sheets(I use 2) and place in oven. Bake for about an hour, stirring every 15 minutes, until it is golden brown. Don't forget because it can get "well done" really quickly.

This granola is full of protein and is low in sugar. It isn't very sweet and is great as cereal, mixed in yogurt or apple sauce. The yield is quite big too, and it lasts a long time. Enjoy.

Friday, October 28, 2011


As I was organizing tonight, I found an envelope on the counter that I was given at Victoria General Hospital a few weeks ago when I took Natalie down for her check-up. I looked in the envelope and it was a medical summary of Natalie's treatment at  B.C. Children's Hospital. For some of you who are reading this and are un-aware, she was born with stage 4s Neuroblastoma of the adrenal gland. It is a developmental cancer that occurs when the effected cells don't get stop growing like they should. They continue like the fetus was still developing quickly in utero. By chance, Natalie was over due by a week and the doctor decided to send her mom for an ultrasound just to make sure everything was going okay. Shortly after the test we were called in to be told that they saw something in the pictures and were concerned. It could be nothing and clear up before birth but would follow-up with another ultra-sound after she was born.

She was stubborn and didn't want to come out an meet us so the doctors elected for a c-section and Natalie joined us in the world early in the morning on October 22. 2003. She was huge and happy and such a great baby. I was thrilled, I had been hoping for a daddy's girl and my wish came true. She had a follow-up ultra-sound and the mass was still present, so our doctor decided to re-visit the issue in three months.

Three months go by and it was a fabulous time. Natalie's first Christmas, and I remember her first smile like it was yesterday. She was an easy, quiet baby. She was not fussy. It was perfect. And then we had to go in for the ultrasound, I was positive that all would be well, it was just a blockage in the liver and it would have cleared out. We went out for a nice walk while waiting for the doctor to call with the results. We arrived home to a message from the the doctors office telling us to go there immediately and see him. So we got the bad news, her mass has grown and spread, and we had to leave to Childrens Hospital in Vancouver that afternoon. My heart sank. How could my perfect, beautiful little girl be sick. Why did this happen to me. What did I do? What did she do? It wasn't fair. We arrived at home and luckily Natalie's grandma pulled in right behind us to see how the test went. I asked her to come to Vancouver with us, I had no idea where to go. Not knowing my way around at all, that added extra stress to the whole thing. She was more than willing to come, and off we went for the first ferry we could catch. I know is sure cried a lot during that ferry ride, looking out over the water wondering what would we find out once at the hospital

We arrived at the Emergency at Children's. We spent the night there, waiting for a bed up in the ward. 3B. The oncology ward. We were at the hospital for the better of two weeks. During that time, Natalie had x-rays, bone scan, CT scan, and an exploratory surgery to biopsy the mass and to insert a central venous line. The surgery was on February 14th, 2004. The surgery went well, but the surgeon wouldn't touch the adrenal gland for fear that it would pop and it would spread the cancer cells through-out her body. The diagnosis came in shortly after the surgery and the news was positive. The Stage 4s neuroblastoma has a high rate of cure in infants, so I felt great afterward. She started under going chemotherapy shortly after the diagnosis and the process of curing her was started.

We were going to Vancouver every week for two months or so. She would have chemo one week, then have to go back the week after for blood transfusions. Her blood cell counts would go so low. It was noticeable, her energy levels would drop and we could tell it was time to go. That usually happened on Thursdays and we were always leaving that night to go back across. We were so lucky to have family to stay with over in the city. Natalie's great grandmother lived in Richmond. We would stay with her most nights that we could. It was  easy to get to the hospital from there. We had so much support from friends and family during our ordeal. I feel especially grateful that we had Y.A.N.A. to help out. It is a charity organization in the Comox Valley that gives financial support to children's families who must leave town for medical reasons.

After two rounds of chemo and  numerous blood transfusions Natalie was ready to have the adrenal gland removed. The treatments had shrunken the gland small enough that it could safely be removed. The surgery went well and the doctors were happy with the way it went. She needed two more rounds of chemo to make sure the liver was cured and one more surgery to to take the central line out. It was about six months all together. Her prognosis was good. The oncologists were positive, and that she would have a full recovery and no long term effects from the chemo.

Since then she has had numerous follow up CT scans, and ultrasounds as well as blood test and yearly visits to Victoria General to see the oncologist on staff there. The have been no worry-some moments. She is perfect, just like I knew she was when she came into this world. She is beautiful, smart, talented and growing like a bad weed. My daughter is a cancer survivor and I am so proud of it. I love you Natalie.
(I am glad I didn't wreck my computer with the tears that have been streaming down as I wrote this)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bike thief hits world tourer

I saw this on the Global TV website. Some low life took a guys bike, who was doing an around the world tour for mental illness. He was almost done, wrapping the ride in Vancouver on November 12th. The incident took place out side of Kamloops near Savona. Just sick. I hope he gets his ride back and the thief gets a life of bad Karma. Good luck Michael Schratter in your commendable achievement.

Big reason to wear Merino Wool.

Studies have found that wearing and washing synthetic materials, such as fleece, polypro and other plastic based fabrics, contributes to plastic fibers ending up in the environment. The small filaments end up being unintentionally eaten by small creatures, and intern are eaten in great numbers by bigger creatures. The concentration of plastics may kill animals on the top of the food chain from these concentrated minuscule plastic filaments. I had never considered this before I read this article, but now it makes me feel even better about wearing wool. Natural is better. Biodegradable and renewable. It won't kill fishes and birdies. 

Read this article and have your eyes opened.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Post 64. My thoughts on Occupy

It seems as though the western world has become enamored with the Occupy movement with protests happening in many citys. The size varies from tens of thousands to under a hundred. All the protesters have the same m.o. They want the government to bring down the banks and the corporations, make economic equality for all and protect the environment. They are saying the 1 percent holds 99 percent of the wealth.

I am sympathetic to the plight of the protesters. I believe that there is too much wealth held by to few and in turn control the government by lobbying for what they want, and putting money towards the right, who's platform is based on capitalism. The rich end up paying almost no taxes, based on the argument that corporate taxes must be low to grow the economy, create jobs, invest in equipment, etc. On paper this makes sense, if the corporations actually do this. Instead many thousands of jobs have been lost because of cheap overseas labour and lax environmental laws. It is less expensive to ship raw materials overseas, manufacture without the watchdogs looking at the pollution, and ship it back to be sold. Often the items are of lower quality than ones domestically manufactured. I can't count how many things I have bought from a box store that have been broken or compromised in someway, that I have to return. If you ever notice most box stores will take an item back without any argument. Its because the items are so inexpensive for them to replace, its not worth losing a customer over. I know one instance where a pair of work boots that sold for over $100 dollars cost the company something in the neighborhood of less than $20. That is an incredible mark up. Shame on them.

On the other side, I have a hard time not being a little cynical towards some of the protesters. They are saying that they can't find a job. They have student loans they can't pay. They can't afford food. I have a hard time with people who want the government to fix everything, to feed them and house them. It gets to be to much like communism. Communism doesn't work. The idea is romantic, everyone gets the same, housing, wage, food, education. Human nature has a competitive streak in it. It is survival of the fittest. For the most part humans want to have than there neighbor. Communism also means having less. Governments can't pay everyone enough money to have a McMansion, three cars, an iPhone for everyone. The people of Cuba have very little, they seem happy, but how can it be good if they are constantly fleeing and risking their lives to go to Florida. They want more. More money, a bigger house, a new car.

I also wonder how many of these folks, who can't find a job and are saddled with student loan debt, did research into what was a good profession to work towards in college. I saw on the news the other day there were three thousand new teachers graduation from university in B.C., for a thousand jobs. Are you kidding me. Why? I would think that with a little fore sight this would have been obvious. How many have useless degrees? Are you employable? Whats your attitude about work? I feel like there are too many that forget that one may have to do shitty, hard, labor jobs to make a living. We can't all be teachers, marine biologists, and artists. It another romantic notion. I would love to be a full time writer or wood carver, but its a hobby. Pretty tough to make a living when so many others want the same thing. Get a trade. Get paid to go to school. Put off university for a few years until you can make enough money to pay for your post secondary with out debt.

I know that I am a little biased towards what is happening in B.C. and I have no personal experience with how things are down in the U.S. I feel like if you aren't afraid to get dirty, have a open mind, be creative and work your ass off, you can have a better job. There are only so many baristas needed in this world.

Good reading on the subject of capitalism: The Walmart Effect by Charles Fishman.

I had a thought the other day. I pondered the idea of making the box store corporations start paying for landfills. With the amount of packaging that comes with the smallest product is stomach churning. More plastic in the package that the product, and most of it isn't recyclable. It is another one of the true costs that isn't calculated in the price of a product, along with the carbon spewed in transportation and manufacture, and the pollution to land, air and water. What are your feelings on these issues?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On the Line, a film

I can't wait to see this flick. A documentary about two guys who cycle, hike and paddle the length of the proposed Enbridge pipeline from Fort McMurray, Alberta to Kitimat, B.C. This film, from the trailer, looks like a split between an adventure film and an environmental documentary. Good on you Frank Wolf. I anxiously await being able to view this flick.

Frank Wolf- On the Line

Interesting photo

I think this is getting at the idea that we don't need all the dedicated paved areas for cars, let alone the huge parking lots that could be returned to a natural state or have building built on them.

My Review

Super sweater

By thecynicalcyclist from Vancouver Island British Columbia Canada on 10/15/2011


5out of 5

Pros: Warmth, Fit, Colour, Environmental footprint, Nomad Fleece

I love this sweater. I have been wearing Merino for a while, but never anything this heavy. The Nomad fleece is really nice and cozy. I bought an extra large and I am 6'1" and 230, and there is just enough room that I don't have to suck it in to wear in comfortably like some form fitting items. The sleeves are plenty long, which I like, and the thumb loops are big and easy to enter. The hood has a nice fit, not to tight, but not floppy, and in un-noticeable when not on my head. Thanks for a great piece Ibex, I have been more than satisfied with all your product so far.


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Great Advertisement

I love this. In response to an ad that G.M. released that suggested that it was only the lame students that rode a bike to work. I love this ad. Good on Giant.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

One Wild Hobby

Young yellow chanterelle mushrooms

Fall is upon us. I love this time of the year. I get to light the wood stove and feel the deep warmth cast from its belly. After observing the neatly piled cord wood dry and check all summer it is tremendously satisfying to see the results of your hard labor. Harvesting from ones own garden or buying locally grown produce from area farmers and processing it into fresh ingredients to eat in the fall is also very fulfilling. I also enjoy the cooler days for working, and wearing cozy warmer clothes. The feeling of a soft merino sweater against your skin while you enjoy fresh pressed coffee and a book in a cool house is like no other. The contrasting colors of the season in all it beauty makes every glance a potential piece of mind art.

White Chanterelle

Yellow Chanterelle

All these elements in the previous paragraph come together in my most satisfying and exciting event. The time of the chanterelle. Wandering the woods looking for these beautiful, bright fruits of the forest floor is something that I do as often as possible. I find satisfaction in finding a large one hidden beneath the detritus and moss. It is a treasure hunt without the fear of pirates or booby traps. Rain or shine, the promise of another mushroom potentially around the next stump keeps me looking. I can get "lost" in the woods for hours hunting and picking.

Young Yellow Chanterelle

The chanterelle is, in my opinion, the easiest of the wild mushrooms to identify. It may also be the most prolific. I know in my local area it is. The distinguishing features of Cantharellus cibarius include a bright orange cap, that is slightly concave especially when more mature, the gills and stem match the same color as the cap, and the gill are large and continue down the stalk. The stalk is also fibrous and doesn't snap like chalk when broken. The mushroom can get quite large, sometimes the cap can be as large as your palm. Smaller ones can seem as though the cap, gill and stalk have no defining border. I often encounter the yellow chanterelles cousin, the white chanterelle. It has the same distinguishing features as the yellow aside from the mushroom being totally white.

Most often you will find tight little ones earlier before there is much moisture, usually near the middle to end of August. As the fall rains re-hydrate the forest the chanterelle will grow larger with a more defined cap, stalk and gill. They are available to picking until the first hard frost freezes them and makes them mushy. I have found chanterelles growing with snow around them. This is a rare event but it can happen.

I am asked questions about general areas and likely terrain to hunt for chanterelles, and I laugh. I find them in areas where I expect to find them, such as mature second growth fir forests with little understory. I see them in strange places such as growing out of the gravel under alder trees on the side of a road or on the edge of a clearing in the direct sun. I usually explain that they will be where you least expect and not where you would expect. That keeps searching for the chanterelle interesting and exciting.

A nice cauliflower mushroom

I aspire to learn more species of wild mushrooms. I also identify cauliflower mushrooms, oysters, angel wings and morels when I find them. The cauliflower is delicious and very beautiful. It grows most often on rotten stumps. They are bright white and stand out in the dark forest. Morels are a springtime mushroom which I have found sparingly and I don't often go out targeting them. They have a wonderful nutty flavor that I adore. I find oyster mushroom and angel wings not very exciting to eat so I generally don't pick them. I am hoping to learn the boletus family, many of which are very edible and sought after. I have never successfully picked pine mushrooms and one day I will do so. Lobsters mushrooms are a species that I will pick given the chance.

Lobster Mushroom

I have referenced a book by David Aurora called "All the rain promises and more". It along with its more in-depth cousin "Mushrooms Demystified" by the same author are probably the most inclusive guides for the Pacific Northwest and I would suggest purchasing "All the rain promises and more" if you are interesting in self learning this fantastic hobby. I am always willing to talk mushroom and would like to experience teaching newbie the skills of the chanterelle harvest. I have successfully taught my daughter how to identify and properly cut the mushroom, as I was taught by my grandfather when I was six or seven. If you have any questions or interest please comment or email me.

I love the exercise and the fresh air whilst mushrooming. Wearing warm comfortable clothing that keep me dry while out in a rain storm, sharing the bounty with friends and family, coming home to a warm house and getting to experience the change of the season first hand ties mushroom hunting in with all the things I love about fall.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Home Preserving

As I write this I am in the presence of my girlfriend and two of her friends who are busy preparing jars, tomatoes and bell peppers to create salsa that will be bottled and sealed to be enjoyed during the winter. It is the time of the year to be processing the many great treats available from the local farmers and from ones own patch of soil. With 80lbs of tomatoes and 40lbs of peppers they have well supported a couple of local farms.

A couple weeks ago I processed two cases of Okanagan peaches. It was my first foray into solo canning. It was a very enjoyable experience. Peeling and chopping, heating the jars and syrup. Filling the jars and gently placing in the water bath, waiting 20 minutes and the rewarding sound of the snap lids snapping to signal the jar being sealed. The pleasure in this brings one back to the "olden" days when a family had to process and preserve food grown in the summer. Fresh food was not available during the winter. If a household was to survive the cold, dreary months they had to have nourishment. I think back to the days of the First Nations, who would dry and smoke fish and berries and other wild edibles for winter. This was the main focus of there existence. While I am no expert in First Nation culture and history, from what I have gathered, things relating to food are interspersed in the legends and tales. The animals were represented in art and song.

Processing and preserving is a large part of bringing a Slow Food philosophy into ones home. It can takes hours to create some wonderful eating for the family. It allows the choice of buying less commercially processed food and the chemicals and additives that can be present in them. The ingredients have words that are pronounceable for an 8 year old. The food industry makes billions marketing products made from cheap corn based foods laced with sugars and chemicals and dyes.

Preserving food is just fun. What a way to spend a day with friends and family doing something productive and rewarding. A pantry full of clear bottles filled with your own produce is picturesque. There is nothing like the taste of summer on a cold January morning when you open a jar of preserved peaches. It is an art that is gaining new fans and popularity in the food world.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vancouver Island Mountain Bike tour

Here is something that I have been hearing about for a little while. A network of trails that connect from Mile 0 at Dallas road in Victoria, all the way to Cape Scott on the very northern end of Vancouver Island. It includes trails in Strathcona Park and the North Coast Trail, a new very remote route on the top of the island. This trail could be a boon for backpacking outfitters, hostels, shuttle services and small communities along the way. I need to learn more about the organization that is working on making this a reality. I would be something worth giving a few donation dollars.

Link to the Vancouver Island Spine Trail site.

I have had an idea of doing a mountain bike tour on Vancouver Island, from Cape Scott to Victoria, doing the same kind of idea as the Spine Trail, the only thing would be that I would not be able to ride a bike on the provincial park trails, so I would have to find a route that follows existing forestry roads and trails. I am going to be researching this and maybe one day I will make this a reality. I would like to find a route, GPS record it, make a map, and have some internet guide for it. This could be a fun project. Any one want to help?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The last days.....

So the cabin on the ferry didn't work as well as we had hoped. Hecate Strait was violent. The boat was rolling and crashing. I just couldn't relax enough to fall asleep. It was pretty horrible way to spend a night. I guess I finally did drift off for a little while, because the phone rang at 4:15 and woke me up. The wake up call was so we could be ready to get off the boat for 5. Quickly dressing and going upstairs for free coffee and pasteries. I was feeling pretty rough from not sleeping. We went down to the bike and loaded our stuff on. We saw Christina and she said it was so scary up on the passenger deck. She thought we were all going to die. Wow. I was happy we had the cabin after all. Just really glad that we were back on land, if for only an hour.

Soon we were loading on the MV Northen Expedition. to bring us south. The bikes were fastened and we went upstairs to find somewhere to sit. The boat was a little bit messed up. The forward passenger deck was only accessible if you were to pay something like $30. So we had to sit on the side seats, which was okay. The windows were floor to ceiling and directly on the edge. An uninterrupted view. It worked out well because the channels that we cruised were quite narrow so we could see the shore really well.

I had to crash out as soon as we were situated. I was exhausted and still feeling horrible. I napped for a while and woke up feeling a little better. We went for breakfast in the fancy buffet restaurant. It was pretty good. I consumed a bunch of coffee and smoked pork products. I was feeling a lot better afterwards. The day was spent sitting, reading, and watching the world go by. I was feeling kind of grumpy. I just wanted to be quiet and not talk. Just lose myself in a book.

The scenery was spectacular. Waterfall Alley was really sweet. On both sides of the boat one could see waterfalls cascading down the cliffs, rivers just appearing out of the forest, and small rivulets seeping from every where. A very wet area of the coast. The snow was also not very high up on the mountains here either. Unfortunately I saw no bears or sheep. I did see six different pods of Pacific White-side Dolphins. Orcas were spotted once on the other side of the boat, and I did see another kind of whale spout, but didn't see the critter behind it. The day was pretty nice. It was mixed sun and cloud, no rain. The water was calm except when we had to cross open water. The roll was pretty strong and made some feel a little sea sick. I was doing fine, but it was hard to walk.

Waterfall Alley

Waterfall at the cannery

An old cannery that is being restored

Panned out view of cannery and waterfall

Boat basin

We docked in Port Hardy at 10 p.m. It was basically dark. We met up with Christina at the terminal and made a plan to travel to a campsite together. We allowed the vehicle traffic to leave the area first. We had between us two head lamps and three rear blinkies. Luckily it was raining a little and we had our reflective rain jackets on. I wish I had a picture of our caravan heading down an unfamiliar road in the pitch black. It was fun, if not a little scary. Traffic was very light, luckily. We rode about 3k and found the Wildwoods campsite. The campsite was a little rough but it was cheap and close. Setting up the tent was tough to do with only one head lamp, but we did it and were soon in bed.

I awoke early and was up and ready to get moving, much to the dismay of my travelling partner. We broke camp, ate a bagel and a banana, and got moving. The ride to Port McNeil was nice, aside from the saddle sores.. Traffic was almost non-existent, no large hills to speak of and the pavement was in very good shape. We made it to Port McNeil about 10 minutes before my sister, who had driven up from Courtenay to pick us up. We loaded and drove down to the Gus Pub for lunch. I was disappointed that they had taken the Pig Wings off the menu. Sad, they were awesome. After lunch we popped into the coffee shop and found Christina there, who was having breakfast. We chatted and gave her a few pointers on the north island. We bid her farewell and in a couple hours we were home, and the greatest adventure of my life was complete.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Running(or not) through life

Relaxing on the beach. Wouldn't it be nice to have more time for this.....

I have been thinking lately about how busy I seem to be. Everyday is just going from the time I get out of bed, until the time I go back to sleep. I spoke with several people today about it, and they all felt the same. Time to just sit, and have some quite time is very limited. I am not sure if this is by choice or that is just the way it is. I think that for me it is more by choice. Staying busy, getting up in the morning on weekends, going to bed early, and doing as much for myself as I can all make me feel accomplished. I think for the ones I talked to who are near the same age as me, this is a time for learning and accomplishing new things in life. I know for me, I feel like there is something new that I am doing all the time to learn and create. It all comes in stages, and surely there will be time in the months to come to spend time writing and whittling.

Yellow Chantrelle

Speaking of a busy day, here is the agenda of what was accomplished today. I was up by 7, making waffles for breakfast and homemade peach syrup from the juice I canned last week. After breakfast I spent two hours laying tile. I had never done it before and had spent a few hours the night before preparing the backer board. Once the tile was all down and I cleaned up, Natalie and I headed out with Marshall to go mushroom picking. We walked for a hour and a half, found around a pound of chantrelles, and then let Marshall have a swim. Then we drove to Courtenay to get groceries. Back home again by 2:30 to make potato salad and chili for my lunch and dinner this week, shower and leave again by 4:15 to go visiting and out for dinner. I finally sat down to watch some TV, do my strength building exercises for my knee and decided to write this blog entry. Months ago when I was still drinking, I never had this much stamina to keep going all day. I used to have a nap on the weekend around 2 in the afternoon and I thought I accomplished a lot back then. Wow, I am way busier and more content doing it. Nine months of no drinking. I feel better everyday, and the thoughts of drinking again get less and less everyday.

I was shut down by my physiotherapist from doing any high impact exercise like running or cycling. I have piano wire tight IT bands (it runs on the outside of the femur from the knee to the hip) and has caused me no shortage of knee pain. The exercises seem to be helping and I am taking glucosamine and traumeel. I really want to get this thing fixed so I can get back to running and biking. I think when I do get the okay to take them up again, it will be low impact. Climbing the hill from work isn't going to be on the list of approved activities. I think that I may be done commuting by bike for this year. It is a shame. I am a little frustrated, but I am going to be diligent and keep up these exercises. Anyone else had problems like this?

I took todays mushrooms out to a special family in Merville. They are wonderful people who have become really good friends and make you feel incredibly welcome whenever one visits the "ranch". I purchased salmon from them. The patriarch of this family is a commercial fisherman and I was happy to support them. They hadn't eaten chantrelles in many years, so it was really nice to bring them a new thing to try. I usually like to introduce new people to the fruits of the forest, and give them to a different family every year. It is something that I love to do, and is so appreciated by all that I share with.

I am looking forward to dark nights, warm woodstove and whittling wooden spoons in the living room. I want to get a half dozen done for Christmas so I can give them for gifts. I want to spend more time working on some fiction writing and I want to get much salmon smoking done for the holidays. So my list doesn't get any shorter, like the days. Good thing for C.F.L.s I can work into the night. I need all the time I can get. I have another thing that I will be starting soon, and I will write more about that in the future.

Have a great week. Re-Happy.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Haida Gwaii Part 4

Canada Day. Our last day on the island was a little somber. I really wasn't looking forward to leaving this place, getting home, back to reality. I was missing Natalie who was on a trip of her own to Edmonton with her Grandma and cousins, and missing Marshall too, of course. He spent the whole time home with my dad getting spoiled with bones and dog treats.

So green

The adventure for the day was to once again drive back toward Tlell and hike to the shipwreck "Pesuta" a 264' log barge that hit the beach back in 1928. It is a 5 km round trip hike. The first section is through a beautiful forest, and it is located in Naikoon Provincial Park. A nice single track trail meanders in amongst large spruce, cedar and hemlock trees as well as a perfect carpet of moss on the ground. The green is intense. I took pictures in black and white as well as color and the difference is shocking. All four of us made the trip, as well as Holly. She was proudly leading the way. The forest gives way to river and we descended the bank to the  mouth of the Tlell river. Nice looking water, with a big open bank. I dreamed of casting to coho into this river. Perfect spot to cast a fly. As we departed the shelter of the trees, the wind picked up and it was wild out there. It was the first windy day we experienced on Haida Gwaii, and the wind didn't disappoint. The waves crashing in from Hecate strait were pounding the shore with such force. The sand was blowing across the beach, making really neat patterns with the rocks and different colored sands.

Patterns in the sand from the wind

Soon we were at the ship wreck. It was pretty impressive. The timbers that constructed the vessel were huge. The things they could build with the primitive equipment 90 years ago amazes me. Huge pieces of steel and wood still were intact, but all that was left was a section about 40 feet long. The power of Hecate Strait has broken her into a fragment of her former greatness. It was neat because the hull had filled up with sea foam. It was about a foot deep and kind of looked like snow. It was cool. We had to take off as the tide was quickly coming in, so we had to beat it. Walking into the wind proved much more difficult than coming with it. It was a tough walk. It was nice to have some un-distracted time to visit with out hosts as we powered into the howling south-easter. I did take time to stop and eat some sea asparagus. It is a tasty, salty beach treat that I had never tried before. I do believe that it grows locally in some of the sandy beaches. I will have to look around. Soon we were back at the river and a little shelter from the wind.

The Pesuta

Holly on the sea foam

Crazy nurse log

A playful river otter was in the water having a look at Holly. It would swim close, then dive down and swim away. Then come back in again. It was pretty cool. I had no idea how many introduced species are on the island. River otters are one. Deer, elk, beavers, rabbits, squirrels, and even cows. Naikoon Park also has feral cows that like to hang out in the area adjacent to the shipwreck. We didn't get to see them, but apparently they are around. The introduced species have taken a toll on the native plants and animals. All but impossible to change this balance now, and the damage is evident. The forests are void of any seedling trees, except for hemlock. The deer like to eat the cedar and spruce, as well as native crab apple. The crab apple is an important food species for the Haida, and it is in serious trouble because of the deer.

We got back to the car wind burned and damp. We drove back to the house to pack. Our ferry was leaving at 11 and we had to be there early. After packing we decided to go out for dinner. Charlotte City has a very small selection of restaurants, and being Canada Fay, it was even less. The main restaurant, with the best food, had a tour bus come in, so it was packed. We were turned away. The only other option was the Chinese food joint. It was just like a typical Chinese Canadian restaurant, with-out all the cheesy decor. The food was good and we were all stuffed.

Back to the house to load up. We were offered a ride to the ferry ,since it was raining, and gladly accepted. We bid farewell to Matt and Holly. Katie gave us a ride to the terminal. We assembled our gear on the bikes and said farewell to Katie. We checked in and were waiting to be allowed on the boat. In the line-up we met another cyclist named Christina. She had flown to Masset and toured around the island for a week, and now she was heading down to Port Hardy and riding back to Vancouver. We were getting a berth so we could sleep. The ferry would arrive in Prince Rupert at 5 a.m. and our wake up call would be at 4:30. We needed to have a good sleep. It was going to be a long couple of days.