The Flower Fed Buffalo
The flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
In the days of long ago,
Ranged where the locomotives sing
And the prarie flowers lie low:
The tossing, blooming, perfumed grass
Is swept away by wheat,
Wheels and wheels and wheels spin by
In the spring that still is sweet.
But the flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
Left us long ago,
They gore no more, they bellow no more:--
With the Blackfeet lying low,
With the Pawnee lying low.
- Vachel Lindsay

Wednesday, 5 September 2012


Comox - Quadra - Comox

We're having a rest from climbing after a couple of fun days back at Squamish. But before I get on with that, we've got to backtrack. Our last post left us arriving back in Comox for a farewell visit with my parents, and to help them celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary. More on that soon.
In the meantime, let me take you on a trip to Quadra Island, north from Comox and a short ferry ride from Campbell River. Here's the route:

If you've enlarged the image above you'll have noticed the myriad islands between Vancouver Island and mainland British Columbia. It's no accident that this area is very popular with sailors and sea-kayakers. And the purpose of our visit was to leave a surprise birthday present at the new home of our friends Konrad and Izabela, who were off for a week-long kayaking trip. Konrad was about to turn 60 in a few days. We would have liked to help him celebrate but, as we were due back in Vancouver to visit with my siblings we thought that the next best thing would be to sneak up to Quadra and leave a present.
Konrad and Izabela are expatriate Poles, and are very of mushrooms - especially the wild varieties. With this in mind, we'd visited a shop in West Vancouver and purchased some of Untamed Feast's products (if you remember the post On the Ferry with the Mushroom Man ... you'll remember the context). A variety of dried mushrooms and some mushroom risotto seemed perfect as they are good and light and excellent for taking on the wonderful backcountry adventures that Konrad and Izabela are so fond of.
The drive up was lovely, as we took the old Island Highway, known as the "Coastal Route". It's only a 10 minute ferry ride, but while we were sailing I struck up a conversation with a couple that has a GET-AWAY camper van that is almost identical to Big Blue. It's built on a GMC chassis, is two years older than Big Blue and has a different colour scheme. They've had it for 20 years, so for all but the first four years of its existence. It was clear that they were very fond of their van and had looked after it extremely well as it was in even better condition than Big Blue. Regular use and garaging it inside meant that the original fridge was still going and the paintwork was in excellent shape. Here's a view of the outside:

The folks inside asked if I'd like to take a photo of the inside and I was very pleased to take them up on their offer:

Neat and tidy, huh? This couple was from Duncan, which is on the southern end of Vancouver Island just north of Victoria. They have a little late summer trip to Quadra and across to Cortes Island every year. This wasn't a surprise once we'd had a bit of a poke around, as it was a lovely place and we can see ourselves spending a bit of time exploring the area in the future.

On the way there was a little glitch - we'd lost the address to Konrad and Izabela's place! On a long shot, Di hurriedly emailed Gregory - who happened to be holidaying in Europe with Cassandra. Amazingly, he emailed back with pretty good directions but no actual house number. Di went online and searched back through our deleted email and found the one that had the address - it looks like I'd deleted it in my zeal to have a tidy mail folder! We plugged the address into our GPS and were soon there. We can see why our dear friends didn't want to let the  new house on Quadra slip through their hands:

The garden is beautiful with many lovely features. Here is one of them:

After an appreciative browse around the yard we left Konrad's present at the back door:

After a bit of a drive around, we headed back to the ferry. Our timing was great as we boarded and disembarked within 20 minutes of arriving at the terminal. Here's a view looking back at the terminal:

Dad didn't think we were going to make it as there was a fairly big line up but we managed to just sneak on: we were the third or fourth last vehicle, so I guess it was our lucky day! Just near where the ferry docks there is a tiny island with a small lighthouse and an attractive dwelling:

This whole area of coastline is rich in sea life. Campbell River bills itself as "THE SALMON CAPITAL OF THE WORLD", which is probably rather self-aggrandising given the abundance of rivers teeming with salmon, more so the farther north one goes.
Another very interesting aspect of the coast hereabouts are the powerful currents, which have led to many a ship wreck. One infamous spot that took many ships and lives was Ripple Rock. It's not there any more thanks to an explosion that removed this deadly hazard. this Youtube video tells the story from CBC's point of view(sorry about the quality but it is 54 years old!):

After landing back in Campbell River we had lunch at a great little cafe just across from the ferry terminal, then drove back to Comox. On the way we made our customary visit - which means that we go every time we're in Comox - to Seifert's Farm Market. It was a great time to visit. Here's the evidence:

Di just adores those pumpkins! The sunflowers were really thriving too:

The following three photos show that the folks at Seifert like to show their connection with past farming methods:

If anyone can tell us what the last two bits of machinery were used for we'd love to  hear from you - my dad seems just a little puzzled by the latter!

Di and I had a day where we pottered around Comox. We had a few errands to do, including opening a bank account. We decided we could use a walk, and wandered past the first house my parents bought in Comox. This is the place that has put me off having a lawn in our yard because, as a kid I always had to mow the grass before I could go off and fool around:

The backyard is way bigger than the front and there were lots of fruit trees I had to negotiate around. It seemed to take ages! Despite this negative seed, I have great memories of growing up and this was home for my most formative years. There is a field next door that was occupied by horses, and we often tried riding them, especially when cousins from afar visited. The Bruce family didn't have a lot of spare cash when I was growing up, but our childhoods were extremely rich.

The night before Di and I left Comox was my parents' anniversary. Sixty years together: just imagine! After raising five kids (all born within six years of one another!) and sending them out in the world I guess they are ready for anything. We went down to the Blackfin Pub, on the waterfront in Comox:

Situated just about the wharf with a view across Goose Spit and the fishing boats arriving, it's a pretty special location. After a great meal ( although Dad didn't think the fish tacos were up to his lofty standards, the rest of us really enjoyed our meals) we went for a stroll down to the wharf. Here's a view of the bay with Goose Spit in the background left:

There were four deer picking at the grass amongst the driftwood. Here's one of them:

And here's a photo of Mom and Dad:

I think the picture speaks for itself, don't you?


Early on Friday morning, Di and I tiptoed out the door, got into Big Blue and headed south to Nanaimo for the ferry to Horseshoe Bay. We'd arranged to meet my sister Chris for lunch, and then my brother Bob for a drink and a yarn in the afternoon, before spending the evening on the set of the TV show Mr Young for a live taping session. Our nephew Gig Morton plays one of the lead characters in the show and we were curious to see how that all worked.
After we'd had lunch with Chris and before we met up with Bob, we had a good tour of the lot where Mr Young is made. It was a real eye-opener as to how a TV show is made. Each week about 150 people are employed in the production of the show, and the financial churn is about $550 000 - yes, that's per week. To top it off we got to watch some scenes being rehearsed and taped before the evening's live audience session, which was actually the best part of the experience.
It was good to catch up with Bob; we hadn't seen each other for 12 years! Bob lives in Winnipeg, almost two and a half thousand kilometres from Vancouver. He'd made the trip west to catch up with the family and some old friend in Victoria and Vancouver. He took this photo of Dianne and I in front of Big Blue:

(Maybe this will be the last photo of us with Big Blue. Are we going to miss him? What do you think...)

Back on the set, it was pretty interesting to see the hype associated with the Mr Young scene. Lots of adoring fans in about the 8 - 14 age range, mostly girls. Against studio "rules" I did manage to take a couple of photos of the set. For this episode they were mostly using the quadrangle ...

... and the Science Lab:

My sister Susie visits the set fairly regularly, and it was lovely that she dropped by for this evening's taping. Gig's dad - Gig Senior! - also dropped by for a bit of the taping and we had a good catch up between takes. Unfortunately, he was out of the audience for this family shot:

(Me, Di, Susie, Bob, Chris)

After the taping Di and I headed for Port Coquitlam, where my youngest sister Diane lives with her husband Murray and their two girls, Gillian and Hillary and their dog Lucas. We'd arranged to spend a couple of nights there before heading back to Squamish. It was great seeing them all, and Di had a walk on Saturday at Buntzen Lake with Dianne and at the Colony Farm wetlands with Murray on Sunday.

Buntzen Lake is a popular spot for walkers and picnickers and paddlers, and we could understand why Diane doesn't mind the 20 minute drive to get there. The most popular walk circumscribes the lake and crosses a couple of bridges. Here's Diane, Lucas and me on one of them:

The lake is 4.8 kilometres long and the trail around it goes through forest that was once logged long ago. The forest is now well established and the terrain one traverses is nicely rolling. Di took this photo of a small seedling growing on an ancient stump:

The walk at the Colony Farm Regional Park was quite different but just as enjoyable. To get to it we walked down a 30 metre track, across Shaunessey Road and we were at there. As we entered the park a vehicle from the Vancouver Avian Research Centre was just leaving. That in itself spoke volumes for this park that is surrounded by major arterial roads leading into Vancouver, let alone the fairly dense housing of Coquitlam. As we entered the park we were faced with this sign ...

... which isn't there just for show. As it turned out, Gillian saw a bear in the next-door neighbour's back yard while Murray, Di and I were walking Lucas in the park!

Here's another interesting indication of wildlife in the area:

The wire mesh is there to protect the young trees from being felled by beavers. Neat, eh?

To facilitate access, this impressive pedestrian and cyclist bridge crosses the Coquitlam River:

Incidentally, in the local Aboriginal language, "Coquitlam" means something like "where the waters meet". Just downstream from this spot, the Coquitlam River joins the Pitt River and the Fraser River.

We stopped a couple of times to throw sticks for Lucas, who is a loveable - but not overly bright - pooch. Here I am trying to persuade him to bring a stick the rest of the way back to me so I can throw it again for him:

Murray told me I was wasting my time. At one spot on the Coquitlam, he keeps two sticks in the bushes, so that when Lucas brings one stick back to a point just out of arm's reach Murray can retrieve it with the second stick. 

Di took this photo of Murray and me debating about how close Lucas would bring the stick this time. The new Port Mann bridge, nearing completion is in the background:

The ongoing construction is creating lots of traffic chaos: Murray said that just about every day it seems that there is a new temporary off ramp towards their place from the major road he uses to get to and from work in the downtown area.

Before heading back to Squamish, we had a barbecue with the girls and Hillary's boyfriend Geoff. They have both started at Simon Fraser University; Hillary after graduating from high school and Geoff is going into third year after transferring from Douglas College. Here's a picture of the two of them:

The space below is reserved for a photo of Gillian. I'm still mad at her for sneaking off before I could get a picture of her to put in the blog!

Where are you, Gillian???

Here's a photo of the proud parents of two great girls:

You may have noticed the masks and drum in the background. Murray does a lot of contract cooking for a friend who is a native carver, and often negotiates a carving in lieu of payment. After a great meal we hit the road. This is the route we took:

Back to Squamish and environs

Picking Plums in Cheakamus Canyon

Because we were arriving in the middle of a long weekend we drove past Squamish to the free Cheakamus Canyon camping area. Despite the constant stream of traffic southwards, we were amazed to see the number of cars parked, and tents up in the camping area. Luckily there was one reasonably flat spot left to park Big Blue, especially as it was well dark by the time we arrived. We had a bit of a sleep in the next morning, a leisurely breakfast and then a chat about what to do. I'd had my eye on a line in the "Top 100" list from the guidebook, but wanted to start with something casual as we hadn't climbed for a week. Conroy's Castle is a wall with two four-star moderates (let's face it: all we climb is moderate!!!) and a couple of other things that looked worth doing. Here is an image from the guidebook showing what we did:

Ratings in guidebooks, being the author's evaluation and not always referred to a wider audience, are always subject to debate. We thought both Emile and Charlotte's Web worthy of four stars, especially if you ran each of them into a long pitch as we did, but that Instant Classic was a far better climb than Small is Beautiful. But there you go ... as they say: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

We had a spot of lunch then traipsed over to Kigijiushi (does this mean something in Japanese, or is it just somebody's name? Who out there can tell me? Yolanda?) the route I had my eye on.  This is what the guidebook says:
Kigijishi 5.10 Top 100
The nicest line on the face starts with tricky face climbing. Above, large pockets lead to a slabby finish. Enjoy! 8 bolts (25 m)

It's climb number 36 in the image below:

Sometimes the hype associated with a particular climb can seem over the top. Not in this case. Kigijiushi proved to be a thought-provoking, highly engaging exercise with delightful sequences. A nice way to finish the day.

Back to The Chief

Happy with what we'd done at Cheakamus we decided to head back to the campground under The Chief before it got too late, and were very glad we did. Upon arrival at Squamish we were gobsmacked with the number of cars and people about the place. There were hundreds if not thousands of folks. Most were walkers exploring the trails up the back of The Chief, many more were just sight-seers watching climbers, but there were also plenty of climbers about too. Given the heavy stream of traffic we'd encountered heading south the night before we were quite amazed. However, on reflection, it was the last weekend of the summer as such, and the last weekend before school resumed. And Vancouver is a very large city with a highly active outdoor community, within an hour's drive.

Luckily, we bagsied one of only two vehicle campsites still available, and the only one out of the dark of the forest, with nice views across Howe Sound. We had dinner then got an early night, with the intention of getting up fairly promptly so we could have breakfast and be on our intended route nice and early.  Hmmm. Best laid plans. I'd come down with a cold while visiting Mom and Dad in Comox, and Di is always keen for a bit of extra kip. By the time we'd breakfasted, packed our gear and walked down to the start of our route it was a little later than planned. However, luck was with us. Despite Calculus being a fairly popular route, no-one was at the base or on the climb when we arrived. We had decided to do the Direct start to add a little bit of spice (one grade harder) and avoid climbing two pitches we'd already done when we did St Vitus Dance on an earlier visit, and wondered if others might have gone up the regular start.

Here's a topo from the guidebook of the North Apron, where Calculus is located ...

... and the description of the route:

It was still only 9:00 when we started climbing. I found the 5.9 first pitch a little awkward and thrutchy at the crux, with my pack getting in the way a bit. It was a very interesting pitch though. Here's a picture from the guidebook with the line added:

Here' a photo of Di nearing the belay ...

... and another of her above the bulge at the start the second pitch ...

... and arriving at the top of the third pitch:

Di took this scenic shot looking west across the port. Note the parking area for The Apron below ...

... and another looking north towards the Black Tusk:

Here, I am starting up pitch five, after Di did the long fourth pitch (which was supposed to be 50 metres according to the guide, but was more like about 42 metres):

The climbing above here was so good I ended up doing most of pitch six (as described in the guide) as well (whoops, sorry Di!) resulting in a fantastic 58 metre pitch. I was about level with the anchors for the top of pitch six when I belayed, and we debated whether we should go across there.  Pitch six as described in the guide was rated only 5.0 (in layman's terms, a dangerous walk if you're unroped). It seemed to me that Di could climb a slabby arete just slightly to our right and then up cracks above for a more direct finish, which would put us closer to the anchors we were looking for to rappel down the South Gully.  It was clear that this option had seen traffic, which made it seem even more logical to go that way. Which is what Di did, finding a slightly more interesting finish at about 5.4 than the original and ending up right at the start of the 4 rappel descent. Excellent!

We were back at the base of the route, packed up and on the trail by 12:30, which we felt fairly pleased about, especially as I had dithered about on the first pitch a bit. On the Apron Connector Trail which leads back to Squamish climbing central, we spotted something that reminded us of our traverse of the Pyrenees:

This was about the size of the slugs we saw in the Basque country, but they were black or brown )the former predominated in the Western Basque country; they were mostly brown as we moved eastwards).

We had a well-deserved lunch and then took ourselves into town for a coffee at our new favourite cafe, Zephyr, and to catch up on our email. After a long relax, we went back and read in the van for a while. 
Hmmm. We wondered if we should do another route. Would it be too warm at the base of The Chief to get on a climb? Deciding that a walk - carrying climbing gear - wouldn't do us any harm, we hiked up to the Western Dihedrals. I was interested in getting on Arrowroot, one of the many sweet pitches along the base of The Chief. Here's some info from the guide ...

... and here's the topo:

Upon arrival, it was clear that heat wasn't going to be a problem. I dithered for a bit then bit the bullet. I wasn't sure I had the stamina for the upper part which is a bit sustained, but everything actually went really well. If you read the route description closely, you'll have noticed that Arrowroot is described as 30 metres. It is actually about 31 and a half metres to the anchors, but with rope stretch on the rappel we touched down just as we came to the end of the rope. I'm really sorry I didn't bring the camera up with me as it was great looking down at Di as she followed the pitch.

Di enjoyed herself so much that, having walked up, and with lots of daylight left, decided to lead Turnip, the 15 metre 5.8 to the right. I asked if she was going to do the 5.9 continuation to the anchors at the top of Rutabaga (a 5.11a Top 100 that we did when we were here in 2000). She said she'd decide when she got to the anchors. As it turned out, she couldn't resist the lure upward, and did the whole 32 metre pitch. Absolutely lovely climbing on delectable Squamish stone.

And that was our day. About 250 metres of (mostly) great climbing at a moderate grade. The only caveat was that most of the second and part of the fourth pitch of Calculus were a bit tedious in that they were low angle, wide crack climbing and thereby rather uninteresting.

So, back to today. Yes, it does take a while to put this blog together so a rest day was timely. I've been in the confines of the Squamish library most of the day, availing myself of the free WiFi. (We did take a walk to the Zephyr Cafe for an enjoyable lunch.) We have really appreciated being able to visit libraries in B.C. and Alberta and being able to access free WiFi. (There should be the same provision in Australia.)  Di has done her Lumosity training and made good progress with her current book.  And now she's going to proof read this post for me. (Thanks, Di.) This will probably be the second last post we make while we are away. If all goes to plan, in our next post we will be farewelling Big Blue (he's safely taken us over 10 500 kilometres now and provided many nights of warm, safe accommodation), and rounding up our time here in Squamish.

Doug and Di

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