Ghost Raven

Whenever I go up into the mountains I’m hoping to see ravens.

They are actually part of my fitness program. If I ever feel like just sitting all day at the computer, I remind myself that if I don’t keep my knees in working order, I won’t be able to get up those mountains and therefore will not see those ravens.

So, ravens = fitness incentive.

On Saturday it was raining in Vancouver and you’d swear that the North Shore Mountains were non-existent.

But, as my father-in-law used to say, “If you don’t do things in the rain in Vancouver, you won’t do anything at all”.

So, we put the snowshoes in the car and headed up to Mount Seymour.

About halfway up the mountain a thick mist descended. By the time we reached the parking lot it was impossible to see more than a few feet ahead.

The chances of a raven sighting seemed pretty remote, given that I could hardly see my feet to put my snowshoes on.

But, just as we got kitted up and ready to head to the trail, I spotted an ethereal silhouette ahead of us.

A ghostly figure in the fog and snow.

A ghostly figure in the fog and snow.

I was pretty sure that this would be our only raven sighting for the day.

We headed off through the woods, stopping for a snack and break at First Lake. Just as we headed off again, I saw our ethereal raven land on the top of a tree by the lake and give a few mist-muffled calls.

Phillip at First Lake

Phillip at First Lake

We carried on to Dog Mountain. Normally this spot affords the most awe-inspiring panoramic views of Vancouver. On this day it offered a blank whitescape and a biting wind. After a couple of quick photos of the non-view, we prepared to retreat into the trees away from the gale.

The non-existent view from Dog Mountain on Saturday. You can just faintly see the raven flying just above the small tree in the centre left.

The non-existent view from Dog Mountain on Saturday. You can just faintly see the raven flying above the small tree in the centre left.

And suddenly, there he was. Like magic, our ghost raven became corporeal for a few moments. He landed on the snow beside us.

It was really gusty out there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The upswept punk look

The upswept punk look

I whipped off my mitts, dragged out the camera and was able to take a few shots of him before he turned around and wandered offstage again, back into the realm of mist and mystery.

Taking Leave

 

Magic.

More than enough motivation to keep my knees fit enough for further mountain expeditions.

For new raven portraits, visit my website.

logo with crow

What I Did On My Summer Holidays

I wonder how many essays have been written under this heading in elementary schools through the ages.  Anyway, here goes my first effort in many a decade.

Panoramic shot with my phone of the Fraser River winding through the unique Lillooet area landscape

Panoramic view of the Fraser River winding through the unique Lillooet area landscape

Our holidays were short – only a week – but sweet, with all the vital ingredients — fun times with old friends, trips down memory lane, reasonably good weather, and breath-taking scenery.

We headed out of Vancouver on the Sea to Sky Highway, spending our first night with old friends at their gorgeous place on glacial green Lillooet Lake. A dive in determined that the top couple of inches were deceptively warm and welcoming. Beyond that, fathoms of icy cold.  We found that floating on the lake in inflatable chairs, drinking in a beer, along with the spectacular view, was a far more relaxing way to enjoy the lake.

The view of Lillooet Lake from our friends' deck

The view of Lillooet Lake from our friends’ deck

Next day we continued our trip on the wonderful Duffey Lake Road. We hadn’t taken that route since camping there on our honeymoon in 1986. The scenery is as great as ever, and the road is now paved – luxury! The really wonderful thing about this route is the dramatic change in scenery along the way. Closer to Pemberton there are forests, lakes and  snow-capped mountains changing to a desert-like landscape around Lillooet, and then the “painted” rock landscape nearer the Clinton end of the road around Pavilion. I highly recommend this drive.

Post card worthy Duffey Lake

Post card worthy Duffey Lake

Marking the 30km mark on the Duffey Lake road.

Marking the 30km point on the Duffey Lake road.

Indian paintbrush on the Duffey Lake road

Indian paintbrush

The Fraser River winds its way through the dry country just outside of Lillooet

The Fraser River winds its way through the dry country just outside of Lillooet

I love the abstract look of the dry hills around Lillooet. One stalwart tree had managed to find purchase, top right

I love the abstract look of the dry hills. One stalwart tree had managed to find a foothold, top right

“Painted” rock formations near Pavilion at the Clinton end of the road

We were headed for Likely. I lived up there, and built a cabin in the prehistoric 1970’s. It was quite the adventure for a young Englishwoman with zero wilderness experience. We still have a lot of good friends living up there — many of whom were responsible for my survival during my first winter living in the bush!

Once, hardly anyone knew where Likely was. Unfortunately, it’s now rather famous — for all the wrong reasons. The Mount Polley tailings pond spill of 2014 was a terrible blow to the environment in general, and the Likely community in particular. There’s a whole other blog post in that subject. Anyway, if you don’t know where Likely is, it’s in the Cariboo region of BC, about 50 miles north east of William’s Lake. William’s Lake is about 340 miles north of Vancouver.

In short, Likely is near Horsefly, still gorgeous, and a fabulous area to explore.

Likely Map

Downtown Likely on Quesnel Lake

Downtown Likely on Quesnel Lake

The Likely Hotel was undergoing a facelift

The Likely Hotel was undergoing a facelift

The Likely Hotel sign ready to be reinstalled

The Likely Hotel sign ready to be reinstalled

While we were there, we did a little bushwhacking, looking for the site of the cabin I built around 1978 on a mining claim. The cabin itself burned down circa 1990, but we hoped to at least find the spot where it stood. This proved to be surprisingly difficult, given how much everything had grown up. Trees can get quite big in 25 years, it seems. I’m pretty sure this little clearing is where it was.

As far as I could tell, this is about where my cabin used to stand.

As far as I could tell, this is about where my cabin used to stand.

How my cabin used to look in winter

We found this pot near the site of my old cabin, so I guess it was probably mine!

We found this pot near the site of my old cabin, so I guess it was probably mine!

An immature bald eagle flies along the Quesnel river

An immature bald eagle flies along the Quesnel river

Fall colour was arriving fast in the Cariboo

Fall colour was arriving fast in the Cariboo

Land of the silver birch, etc

Land of the silver birch, etc

Our Likely friends look us on a back road trip from Likely to Barkerville – the famous gold rush town. The road is gravel, but in excellent shape.

A black bear sighting on the gravel back road from Likely to Barkerville

A black bear sighting on the gravel back road from Likely to Barkerville

We took a short detour to see the falls at the Matthew River. Many a tree was planted by us, and by our friends, in that area. It’s also where my husband and I fell in love. We have a picture of us by those falls in about 1980, so we did a 2015 recreation. More wrinkles, pounds and glasses — but still in love!

Oh, so long ago …

The codgers at the Matthew Falls

The codgers at the Matthew Falls

Matthew River country, between Likely and Barkeville

Matthew River country, between Likely and Barkeville

Barkerville was a lot of fun. You can shop in the stores, take a horse and wagon ride, watch a show in the theatre, eat delicious Chinese food, buy candy, see a reconstruction from a trial from the Gold Rush era (with audience participation), or (my favourite) just browse all of the weathered surfaces — wood, metal, gravestones.

One of the churches in Barkerville

One of the churches in Barkerville

Lichen covered rust wheel at Barkerville

Lichen covered rusty wheel at Barkerville

One of my favourite spots was the old cemetery. I have “thing” for graveyards, having played in one a lot as a kid. This one is brimming with history and half-told stories of unique and adventurous lives — many of them cut short in the harsh frontier world of the late 1800’s.

John McLaren, died in 1869, aged 31.

John McLaren, died in 1869, aged 31.

We spent the night at the Wells Hotel. The last time I was in Wells was as a participant in the Snowball Tournament in 1978. Baseball was played in several feet of snow. I had a couple of severe handicaps. First — no snowshoes. Second — no idea how to play baseball. As I recall, rather a lot of drinking was involved, which leveled the playing field a bit. Our Likely team came home with the “Most Sporting” award that year, which I believe is a nice way of saying “Worst”.

Downtown Wells

Downtown Wells

The bottles in this lovely display were found by the home owner in the Wells/Barkerville area. The glass was blown and the bottles made locally during the Gold Rush years. You can see the vintage of the bottles from the amazing swirls in the glass.

The bottles in this lovely display were found by the home owner in the Wells/Barkerville area. The glass was blown and the bottles made locally during the Gold Rush years. You can see the vintage of the bottles from the amazing swirls in the glass.

Wells is a great little town. A LOT of snow in winter (it makes Likely look positively tropical) but full of fabulous artists’ studios and little houses painted in wonderful Newfoundland-style colours. Also, very important, the town has a vociferous crow and raven population.

The Wells crow committee holding its nightly meeting.

The Wells crow committee holding its nightly meeting.

We spent some time in the lovely Amazing Space Gallery talking to artists Claire Kujundzic and Bill Horne. I bought this lovely print of Wells by Claire. They also make an excellent cappuccino!

The print I bough from Claire Kujundzic of the Good Eats Cafe and the Wells theatre.

The print I bough from Claire Kujundzic of the Good Eats Cafe and the Wells theatre.

I could have stayed a lot longer. I’d love to get up there next year for the  ArtsWells festival.

After another night back in Likely it was, sadly, time to say goodbye and head home. We drove back once again along the Duffey Lake road, arriving back on the Sea to Sky Highway just in time for dusk and a series of watercolour skies along the way.

Porteau Cove at twilight, with heron

Porteau Cove at twilight, with heron

And then we were home in East Vancouver, with the local crows there to greet us first thing next morning.

And that’s what I did on my summer holidays. I hope you had a wonderful one too!