Back to Civilization

Aidan brought a couple of large bags of books with her this trip to try to sell at Russell Books, the largest  and best loved second hand book store in Victoria. They accept books on Thursdays at 9:30 am.   Inspite of our late night last night I was up at six. We hit the road around 8 am and took the back road into the downtown. I stopped at a lovely little  bakery for coffee and nibbles then we headed up to Beacon Hill Park to check out the bunnies. Not many bunnies but the place was crawling with screaming peacocks.  

  We walked around the flower beds. It was all lush and green in the centre of the park but around the edges the trees were grey with thirst. There’s been a real drought here and water shortage so no frivolous watering. The trees are thirsty. We drove around the sea shore admiring all the beautiful cottages. Victoria is  so old country except that the trees are prehistoric, the roads wider,  and the houses bigger. Back to the book store where I scored a couple more of my Donna Leon mysteries and Aidan sold one bag of books for a store credit of $71. She had already chosen some books to buy with the credit and was a very happy girl. 

Lunch was early today.  We stopped at a tea house in Oak Bay. The tea house is in the oldest building in Oak Bay, built in 1923.  

 They are one of the few places in Victoria that actually still serves a full tea. The Empress Hotel downtown serves one too. Aidan and I went about six years ago. The bill was a staggering $120 for the both of us. Of course, this was the Empress Hotel, one of the CN/CP jewels along with the Chateau Lake Louise, Banff Springs, and the Chateau Frontenac. It was quite the experience. Oak Bay tea house was a bit more modest. I started with a great dark ale, brewed on the island. It was only 11:30 am but the sun was over the yardarm somewhere in the commonwealth. Lighthouse Race Rocks Amber Ale.  
 Then the tea, which didn’t look like much to start, but in the end defeated me.  

 The scone and cream were to die for. We carried on driving up the Saanich penninsula. Today is the Sydney night market. We  never miss this one. The Haunted Book store is here as well. We are just chillaxing in the park now waiting for the market to start.  I finished my book on the Lindbergh Baby kidnapping and wanted to start Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. It’s just been made into a film with Robert Redford and Kris Kristopherson. Preview looks hilarious, about two old farts who walk the Appalacian trail. But I left it behind so I guess I’ll just have a snooze. Then we start home tomorrow bright and early. 

Back in Civilization

Aidan and I have this camping thing pretty well under control. Setting up and breaking down camp is very smooth. We’re like a well choreographed team, laying out the tarp, then the tent, blowing up the air mattress, making the bed, throwing the fly over the top. I like to wander thru to camp sites to see if I can steal any ideas of how to make things better. In a normal year there are not fire bans everywhere. We select our firewood from the pile, I chop it into kindling and manageable pieces, while Aidan goes to get a pail of water. That’s always the first thing we do. Once the fire is crackling  away, the water/crab/corn and now jam pot goes on the grate. You always need hot water when camping. This comes quickly to the boil and then gets pulled to the side to continue to simmer as long as the fire burns. When we dip some out for dishes, or hand/face washing, the pail is topped up for a constant supply of hot water. It’s amazing how fast the water gets hot. I always string a clothes line cause there is always something to dry or to air out. I’m amazed at how ill prepared many people are in the campsites. And the gear they bring?!?  I love my air mattress. We’ve been using an air mattress for years. It took a couple years to remember to always bring a spare. We had the bad luck several years running to spring a leak and then have to comb the hardware stores for a replacement mattress. This year I picked up two at Canadian tire for a ridiculously low price and brought them both with us. We have a plug in blower and while noisy for several minutes eliminates the need for a hand pump. I see people sleeping on those skinny blue foam pads or even the more hi tec ones. Makes my back hurt just to look at it. Our air mattress is thick and wide and you feel nothing on the ground. Camping doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. We have a couple of oversized sleeping bags that are warm and cozy and a couple of smaller fleece blankets for when it’s too hot for the big ones. We have never been cold, not even in the mountains. It takes only minutes to set up and break camp but we try to stay two nights in the same place as often as we can just to eliminate the hassle. Thus year one thing I wish I had done differently is how I made my coffee. I only drink one cup in the morning so I don’t need to make a potful.  Usually I bring a Melita drip filter cone and make it that way. This year I thought I would just go with instant Starbucks coffee ( which is the only instant coffee that actually tastes like coffee).  Big mistake. I missed the ritual of making the coffee, the smell of the ground coffee and the brewed coffee. As I wandered the campsites I could smell people’s coffee. Mostly in those aluminum camp percolators. I have one of those but it made too much coffee and I hated to pour it out. Even when I tried to make half a pot. But next year it’s coming with me. I’ll just have to learn how to drink two cups in the morning. 

   
    
 The tide was really low yesterday when we went down to the beach. Who would have thought there was so much sand under the water. We walked up and down the beach, no treasures again but a pretty view. We broke camp and headed back to Victoria. The old Fort Vic campground is a favourite. It’s an urban campground but the bathrooms are a welcome change from the pit toilets in the provincial campgrounds. And we have things to do so we are only sleeping there. Lunch was at the Six Mile Pub on the old Island  Highway. Just around the corner from the campsite. I’ve never been in before. The oldest pub on the island.  

   Very nice and just check out the on tap selections they had. I had a glass of Old Seadog!!! 
 Another dark ale brewed on the island. I had wanted a pub burger for lunch but the waitress talked me into the special, beef dip. It was good but no burger.  

 Aidan had real food too, a chicken breast with guacamole on a peasant bun. And she ate it too😋

Then we went to explore Chinatown. Lots of people and so many more shops than I remembered. We had fun in Fan Tan Alley, the famous “narrowest street ” in Victoria.  

    
 Then off to the IMAX for a double feature. A South Pacific underwater nature show and the newest Avenger movie in 3D. Both very good. It was late when we got back home. Have a good night. 

Off line

So this whole thing about US roaming charges kept me off line for a few days. No biggy really. We had a great down day, walking the beach in the morning. First we walked thru the rain forest to get to the beach.  

 The tide was very low and the water very cold.   

   We didn’t find any treasures though. Just pretty rocks.  
   Back to camp for a camp breakfast. Bacon, pancakes, strawberries and cream. You just never get tired of camp breakfasts.  
    
 We used to camp lots as kids and my mother was a great cook. We always had French toast or pancakes. One time in Red Rock Canyon I wandered into another campsite and the lady gave me an English pancake.  Very thin, buttered, sprinkled with sugar, and rolled up. For years I never ate pancakes dressed with anything else other than heavily buttered with a sprinkle of sugar. Memories. The we went for an explore and saw some very pretty ocean scenes.  

    
   Back to our beach and we pulled our chairs down to where we could see and hear the water and read our books. Sunny warm afternoon. It was a cool evening. A fire would have been nice but oh well. We had a great sleep. 

Grizzlies and Cougars and Slugs oh my

 We weren’t long out of Sooke when both Aidan and I got this message:  Welcome to United States! You’re now roaming outside of SaskTel’s network. Roaming rates are up to $1.50/min, $10/MB & $0.20/txt.

Aaaaaargh!!  Are we the only Saskatchewanians who travel around Vancouver Island??  Shouldn’t they have this figured out by now? So on with airplane mode and off with data roaming. We are officially out of contact for the next two days. 

The drive to Port Renfrew is a narrow twisty hilly island highway. Top speed is 80 in two flat sections, most curves are 20, and the typical speed is 40-50kph. You’re not going anywhere fast so you may as well enjoy the ride. We haven’t been thru here in five years. There have been some roadway improvements, mostly surface smoothing–there’s no room to widen the shoulders, if there are any. The forest has grown incredibly and there are two clear cut sections that are new. Horrible scars and so much waste. When we first started driving out here many sections had been replanted with the years marked on signs along the road. Now the trees have overgrown the signs and have all caught up in size to each other. You used to be able to clearly see the difference between the trees planted in 95, 97, 99 but after a certain point they all look the same size,  which is massive today. I guess that’s what having 8-10 months of growing season will do. It was a lovely drive, the trees and fireweed growing right to the edges of the highway. Today I will try to get a shot of the fireweed. No place to pull over yesterday. 

We made it to the French Beach provincial park and chose a site. What a beautiful campground.  

  

  

 Right on the ocean with a pebble beach and kelp beds floating just off shore. Then we headed off to Port Renfrew and Botanical Beach Park. 50 kms took one hour to travel. We had stopped at the tourist information in Sooke to find out about the tides. Low tide was 1.6 at 3:30 which is really not very low. It was going to be better in the morning at 1.3 at 5:30 am but really??  She said the really low tides were coming at the end of the month, lower than 1.2 which makes for the best tidal pool viewing,  but we were here now so made the best of it. We arriving around 3:00, just before low tide and walked the 2k thru the rainforest down to the beach. And this is what we saw: 

 But the parking lot had been full and the beach busy all day no doubt, so hopefully any Grizzlies in the area were far far away. 

Beach is a bit of a stretch. It’s rock. Folded rock that lies in ridges at 45 degree angles and is hard to walk on for someone with knees. For someone like me without knees it was darn near impossible. But we walked down and explored. There were many tidal pools but there were pretty bereft of life. Closer to the ocean we found more interesting creatures, anemones, sea urchins, crabs, but no star fish.  

  

  

  

 The really interesting pools were below the oceans edge. In past years we were lucky enough to find pools filled with starfish, sea stars, even a baby seal pup.  Aidan’s picture of this pup won her a berth in the Robert Bateman camp for young people, the “Get to Know” organization. One foggy year Aidan insisted what we were hearing huffing and blowing were whales. I was just as insistant that no, it was just the waves. But Aidan was right (more importantly I was wrong) and as we approached the waters edge we could see the misty shapes of the whales as they surfaced and blew and played in the kelp. They were amazingly close to shore but it was very misty, making it quite an other worldly experience. I don’t know what kind of whales they were, Right whales?  Not Orcas. But Aidan was right so we’ll  call them right whales.(Actually they were grey whales). 

The campfire ban is still in effect so we had to choose wisely at the grocery store to make our purchases for the next few days. No store out here. We had perogies and sausage last night.  

  

Frozen perogies to keep the cooler cool. No more ice–I dislike pouring away money and finding everything floating so we have been choosing cold or frozen items and it’s been working fine. Down to the beach for a last walk before bed. Absolutely beautiful. Good night. 

Just Sitting in the Rain

What a beautiful morning!!  Yesterday we had some time to kill before the movie so we went and picked about six pounds of black berries.   

   I’ve never picked these before and OMG the vines have killer thorns,  vicious sharp nasty thorns like piranha teeth, all pointed backwards so you have to shove your hand or foot deeper into the bush to get free. No wonder blackberries are so expensive. At the market yesterday they were selling tiny little punnits of berries for $5. I’m guessing in half an hour we picked $50 worth, fat juicy berries washed clean in a real downpour they got just before we arrived.  

   
This morning I washed out the water/crab/corn pot and put the berries on to cook.  

  

  

 I had picked up sugar, pectin and a couple lemons last night, as well as some freezer tubs to put the jam in. I peeled the lemons thin and chopped the zest fine, then squeezed the lemon’s and added the juice and pulp.  

  

 I let everything cook up while I washed the freezer tubs and after it came to a rolling boil on the camp stove I added the pectin and sugar. I let it come back to the boil and cooked it for about 15 minutes then let it cool to pour into the tubs. It made eight full pints with some left over for tasting.  

 My camera died before I could take a picture of the whole works  Very very good. I’m not sure if it will jam but I can cook it more when we get home. I gave one jar to the campground host who was very appreciative.  I just wanted to get the sugar into the berries as a preservative. It took about an hour and a half start to finish. I cleaned up the dishes and we finished packing just as it started to rain again. Back downtown for a coffee and a picture of the Fritz movie theatre  

 (named for Fritz the resident movie cat) actually a hall built in 1896. Great theatre!!!  Then we headed off to catch the ferry to the big island. There are lots more little hippy shops here in Fulford harbour so we did some more looking. I decided just to sit in the car with my dog and a book while Aidan took her time checking things out and just as we were driving onto the ferry it began to rain again.  

  

 It’s so nice to sit in the warm and dry and listen to the rain on the truck. This is the first real rain they’ve had on the island since snow melt so they really needed it. Now en route to Swartz Bay. 

We made it to the Fort Victoria campground and got a tent site. It was iffy for a bit if it would stop raining but we did a load of laundry and the sun came out. We set up camp then headed into town for fish and chips at Barbs restaurant down on the water.  

  

 A floating restaurant behind parliament  house, it’s had more awards for good food than I can count. I had Barb’s fish and chips and Aidan, who loves this restaurant always has the chicken strips. She doesn’t do fish. Then home. I’m deep into a Martha Grimes novel, but it’s getting cold now so I think I’ll just read in the tent. Aidan’s there already warming up the bed. Good night. 

Ahhh Salt Spring

 
   

 Home to CBC curmudgeon Aurthur Black, rock ‘n roll legend Randy Bachman, artiste extraordinaire Robert  Bateman–hippies and hobos, bums and bashful millionaires. A hovel on Salt Spring is all the retirement fund needed to ensure happiness on a grand scale. A little slice of heaven. 
We were up and on the road early this morning to find a shady parking spot for the three ring circus that is the Ganges Saturday market. I stopped at the Island Roasters for a great cup of coffee, then we wandered the stalls as vendors set up their wares.  

 Absolutely everything under the sun, all hand made by master craftsmen and women. Soap and silks, wool and wood, all polished and shiny and begging to be fondled and taken home.  The kids selling their own handmade treasures sat in the centre of the lane. We wandered up and down finally choosing a loaf of bread, some yummy chèvre and the most beautiful tomato I’ve ever seen, for our picnic at Ruckle park in the afternoon.  

  

  

 We got Aidan some chicken then headed out again. Too many people and we were all shopped out anyway. 

At Ruckle Park we had our picnic. The bread was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The chèvre creamy and tart, and the tomato was sharp and acidic–just the way a tomato is supposed to be.  

 The variety was chocolate stripe and it was really a beautiful tomato. Then dessert was a mohnsnecken–it came with a different name but a poppy seed snail is what it was–chock full of juicy poppyseeds.  

 Aidan had chocolate chip cookies from the Ruckle farm stand while I picked up a couple of ginger snaps for later.  

 Afterwards, we walked the trails for a couple hours, trying to wear off lunch.  

  

 Beautiful arbutus trees, they grow in only three places in the world; Vancouver island, Israel and Australia. Why??  No one knows. Then a leisurely drive home, stopping to take pictures of the unique and beautiful farm stands along the road. These wouldn’t last two minutes at home. First someone would steal the money, then they would steal or destroy the produce and finally someone would run over or torch the stand. Sigh.  

    
   
Now we are back in Ganges. The market is finished and the stall holders are heading home. Things are pricy but they earn every cent,  having the patience to deal with the hordes of people that flow thru. I’m having a fabulous island coffee again and Aidan has a smoothie and is reading her book while I write. We hit a couple garage sales too this morning and she scored a huge bunch of peacock feathers. I found some rattan headboards that will do nicely in the garden to prop up something with style.

I’m having such a problem to keep the phone charged. We have an adapter in the truck but it just doesn’t have enough oomph. We saw Jurassic World at the Fritz Theatre last night. Non stop adrenalin rush. Then bed. Down to one percent so later dudes. 

You can’t go back

Its true. You can’t go back. Sometimes that’s a bad thing. And sometimes it’s a good thing.

We so enjoyed our stay at Englishman River Falls. It really rained last night. I love the sound of rain on the tent. The tent leaked last time we were camping so this summer before we left I bought a can of silicon and coated the fly. I mean saturated it. Three or four coats till the can was empty. And success. No leaks. But under the type of tree canopy we had it rains for another three hours after the actual rain has stopped so we packed up in a tree shower. Off we went, heading south of Chemanius to Crofton. And again we just arrived in time to get on the ferry for Salt Spring.  

  

  

 We headed straight for our favourite camp ground. What a horrible mess!  We had been teasing about the owner pulling stakes and leaving and when we got there we found it was true. The new owners have only been there for three months but the place is in an awful condition. Over grown and unloved. It was so sad. The owner/operator we knew and loved had spent time in Australia and had an Australian wife. They worked so hard to keep the campsite up. I wonder what happened to them. So off we went to a second site. We had stayed here once and one redeeming feature was a walk thru the rain forest from the campground to the downtown area of Ganges.  But sadly this campground too has seen better days. So off to campground number three. I never liked this third one but we had also stayed here several times till we found the man from Oz. This third one was worse than ever and I was starting to get worried. However the girl in the office gave me the number of a fourth campsite so I called and they still had room. We went to have a look and it was lovely. Really nice.  

 We had popped in here several years ago and it had been real run down. Now it’s well taken care of and the people running it are lovely. So you can’t go back. But sometimes you find gold where you don’t expect it. We went for an explore downtown and then for a fried fish supper at our favourite restaurant at Vesuvius. This restaurant has not changed and the fresh haddock was delicious, especially washed down with Hermans’ dark ale brewed on the island.  

   We took Marty for a little walk and picked handfuls of blackberries. Delish!! And Mr and Mrs Bob White were out with the kids in the brambles.  
   Off to bed now. Big market day in Ganges tomorrow. I hope that hasn’t changed. Good night. 

Lazy day

Today was a relaxing day with not much on the schedule. My poor baby has a snivel, a head cold, so has been suffering a bit. We headed out early to get her some drugs from Shoppers and did our shopping at the Goats on the Roof Market. There was no one there so we wandered, made our choices then paid and left just as the crowds were starting to build. Back to the campsite and I made French toast from the coconut bread and fresh farm eggs we bought. We picked the bread up at T&T in Calgary but I think it is a Phillipino import. 

  Coconut purée is swirled into the bread dough as the loaves are formed and when sliced you can see the swirl like cinnamon bread. Bacon, farm strawberries, whipped cream, and real maple syrup completed the meal.  

  

 Aidan’s is more artsy and mine is pile it on and work your way through it. Yum!!!  Then we sat and digested for a bit, reading. I just picked up a great book on the Seine, history and current condition written by someone who has explored the river by boat and the adjacent villages and cities and the effect the river has had on them.  Very interesting. After dishes we explored butterfly world. Gorgeous flutterbyes.  

  

  

  

 A bit more site seeing then back to veg in camp. It was sooo hot today but here under the canopy of huge trees it was cool and smelled so wonderful. After supper we reorganized things as we are heading for Salt Spring Island tomorrow. I’m  having problems getting signal here in camp– probably I’m not supposed to be connected on holidays–but I had better signal along the Camino, even in the tiniest of places. Loading pictures runs the battery down and that’s when it works.  When it fails it will not work till I go to town. Anyway,  daylight is burning and I want get back to the Seine. Talk to you on Salt Spring. 

Goats on the roof

Aidan and I hit the trail early this morning. We walked down to the falls again to see it in the morning light. It was beautiful. 

  

  We also saw a banana slug. In a wetter year the trail would have been covered in them but so far only one.  

 We sat for a bit and enjoyed the sounds of the water and the birds. There was no one else there. Then we decided to beat the hordes and get to Goats On The Roof market early for coffee. It’s name this year is somewhat misleading. There was only one goat on the turf roof which was looking parched and sad, and he was camera shy. But the coffee and sticky buns from the bakery were excellent as usual and the market full of special and unique dodads and food items from around the world. I love shopping here but usually try to look one day then go back after thinking about things and make my purchases later. All the auxiliary shops have disappeared. There were some antique shops along the road but mostly junk. I saw some of my bowls there for ridiculous prices.  We stopped at another of our favourite shops, the Dutch store,  and had a look at all the imported licorice, spices,  cheeses and other goodies. We’ll have to stop here again too. I had to buy another piece of ice for the cooler and give it a bit of a clean. Even if everything goes into the cooler hermetically sealed exactly one half hour later everything is covered in the cooler gunge that only grows in coolers. I spend more time scrubbing it out than anything else. Then we headed to the ocean. The tide was just going out and we had a sandy beach to walk on. We headed out along the length of it heading for the point where we always find starfish. Little Marty, my dog, had a great time wading and chasing seagulls. We usually find many starfish, big ones, but this time there were very few and they were all tiny.  

     Aidan has learned which rocks to flip over and they are clustered on the bottom of these rocks.  

    

  

   It was a great afternoon of beach combing. We picked up a few supper items and stopped at a farm shop for eggs and strawberries for breakfast.  

 Farm eggs here are $5 but look just like mine. Maybe smaller. We made supper in camp and did dishes. There’s an angry squirrel cussing us and the dog is interested but too tired to climb off my lap to check him out. A cup of coffee, a ginger cookie, a book and then bed.  

 I took a panoramic shot of the campsite (my favourite new toy). It’s smaller and cozier than it looks. Night all😌

Ahoy matey 

So we headed away from Vernon early this morning. There were several brush fires burning just north of us and the whole place is tinder dry. It was 37/38 degrees yesterday. No wonder the country is on fire. We could see the smoke hanging in the air and it followed  us thru the valley. We haven’t been thru here for five years and it really hasn’t improved much. The roads are better but there’s much more traffic. We saw speed limits signs posted 120k on the twinned portions of the highways. That’s new. So even though the speed is posted higher because there is so much more traffic we moved a lot slower. 

  We made it to the ferry on time to drive right on. Beauty. Then a leisurely sailing. There were no whales or porpoises today but it was lovely to stand on the deck and feel the wind and smell the sea.  I had to try the panoramic feature on my camera. 


   I love the way the waves move away from the hull–it looks like grandma’s lacy handkerchief.  

 We had to have our usual slab of ferry chocolate cake.  

 We have been doing that since Aidan was wee. But the recipe has changed and we were sorely disappointed. More like a McCain cake now. 

Once across the strait we headed north to Englishman River Falls Provincial Park. We scored a lovely site and set up camp. NO FIRES ALLOWED. So we’ll use our trusty camp stove. Aidan is having hot milo before bed and I’m having some German sleeping potion.  

 We’ve walked down to the falls and the river is really low.  

 Our little dog got a good work out. Too dark for pics of the campsite but will post some tomorrow. It’s cool tonight. Going to be a great sleep. Goodnight😀