drive and hike to the ocean: san josef bay

Ever since we moved here, I've been fascinated with our town's proximity to Cape Scott Provincial Park. Cape Scott is a wilderness park, accessible mainly through the rugged North Coast Trail -- for very serious hikers, i.e., not us. But I've read that some small sections are more accessible for a day hike.

People rave about the beauty of San Josef Bay -- known locally as Sanjo Bay -- but always with a caveat: there's no easy way to get there. We pass the turnoff sign on Rt. 19 all the time, and knew that one day, we'd drive those 63 kilometres west on logging roads to see what was at the other end.

This past Sunday, we did it. What we found: a long drive, a perfect hike, and a magnificent beach.

All along the drive, you're in either deep forest, re-growth, or cleared areas. You pass frequent signs posted by the foresting companies, with the year the area was "harvested," then the year it was either replanted, spaced, or pruned. Sometimes you see "next harvest," which is 75 years after the last logging. I neglected to get pictures of these signs, and now I can't find any good example online. (I remember seeing similar signs when we drove around Washington's Olympic Peninsula on our 2002 west-coast trip.)

On the way to San Josef Bay, we drove through the tiny community of Holberg. There was once a military base here, then a logging camp. Now it's just a tiny dot on the map, too small even to be called a village. A former resident has a website dedicated to the community and the area.

We thought this sign was amusing.

First time I've seen a drive sign that wishes you luck!

As advertised, the road was deeply rutted and very slow going. We left our house at 10:30 a.m. and were amazed to see it was a few minutes before 1:00 p.m. when we reached the parking lot for the trailhead. It took 2.5 hours to drive 63 kms! (That's about 39 miles, for the metrically challenged.)

We ate the lunch we had packed at a picnic table, read the wolf warnings (two were seen by hikers about a month ago), and set out.

This was, for me, the perfect hike. It was nearly flat, through deep forest, perfectly quiet. Portions are boardwalked, which is awesome for both accessibility and staying dry. The trail is about 2.7 kilometres (1.6 miles), which is a good length, since you have to double back. (It's not a loop.)

Everything in the forest was blanketed in moss and ferns.

The trees are very narrow and tall. Every once in a while you pass a huge stump, which I assume is the original growth (although I don't really know). In the exposed ends of fallen trees, new trees are growing, along with mushrooms and ferns, and there are holes in which critters must make their homes. I enjoy seeing how a dead tree hosts so much life.

Towards the end of the trail, you catch glimpses of sandy beaches and small inlets through the trees. And then we heard it -- a distant roar. The trees weren't moving, so it couldn't be wind. There are no highways in the vicinity, so it's not the roar of traffic. It could only be waves. I got really excited! The ocean. Not the bay of Port Hardy or the Straight of the east coast of the Island. The Pacific.

The trail ends, you emerge from the forest to find a sweeping expanse of pristine, white-sand beach, and the Pacific Ocean. It is breathtaking. It didn't hurt that it was a gloriously sunny day.

We let Diego off the leash and he pranced around, even though he must have been tired from hiking. I had a good time trying to capture the scene.

Towards one end of the beach, there are caves and sea stacks (vertical rock formations visible at low tide). But after a long hike, then beach time, we couldn't take Diego all the way down the beach and back. As is, we felt we overdid it for him, and those sea stacks must be another two kilometres away.

The beach was nearly empty. Four or five surfers were testing the waves, and two separate families were relaxing with fires and a day tent.*

If we didn't have a hike and a long drive back, we would have stayed longer.

On the way back, we stopped to look at some roadside attractions.

A crushed car.

A shoe tree.

Next time, we might have to set out at dawn.

More pics from Sanjo Bay are here on Flickr.

* Small town alert: one of the families on the beach was my hair stylist and her kids. They passed us on the trail, but only said hi, and I didn't recognize her. I had an appointment the next day! When I arrived, she said, "How did you like Sanjo Bay?"


winter drive: alice lake loop

A few weeks ago, we took a scenic drive known as the Alice Lake Loop. We read there were various short hikes and natural attractions along the way. We may have missed some stops or turn-offs, as it really was mostly driving and very little walking.

On the other hand, in an area that is trying to reinvent itself as a tourism destination, any attraction, no matter how small, is included in the guidebooks and websites. So I don't know if the Alice Lake Loop is of mild interest, or if we missed some stops, or maybe a bit of both. I think we'll try again later in the year, and try to find more points of interest along the way.

The drive itself was interesting, as it is all on logging roads. That means minimal paving, lots of gravel, huge ruts and bumps, and very slow going.

Here's a sample of what we saw.

Tracks on a frozen lake.

Tiny waterfalls standing still.

Lakes like mirrors.

The area is known for karst, formations formed by water working on certain kinds of stone. It's an area full of caves, underground springs, and cenotes, which are natural sinkholes that contain water. We saw cenotes in Mexico, and the ancient people who lived in what is now Petra, Jordan, created them to store water after flash floods.

One noted karst formation is called Devil's Bath. It wasn't easy to photograph. It's a large cenote, visible from the logging road.

Another example of karst is called the Eternal Fountain. It was a lovely, quiet area off the main road, with several underground springs.

We saw many trees growing in this elbow shape. We don't know why trees do this!

Walking even a few metres from the road, you can feel that you're deep in a rainforest. Everything is covered in moss and ferns.

Every so often you come upon an area that appears to be freshly logged, not yet replanted. It has a look of brutal destruction, although much of the forest has been logged and re-grown.

The forest is so beautiful. All my life, I have found being in the woods so rejuvenating and restorative.

Diego likes the woods, too. Especially with yummy snow on top.

More photos from the Alice Lake Loop are here on Flickr.


"if you don't act like adults, we will": thank you climate strikers. thank you, thank you, thank you.

Friday's global student protest brought me so much joy.

And also sadness, because I often feel so cynical about our ability to stop climate change.

And also hope, because I won't succumb to that cynicism. I will fight it, and fight it, and fight it. Because our cynicism is the perfect weapon to be used against us. No evil genius could invent something more powerful than our own inaction.

This photo gallery from the New York Daily News is wonderful. Very New York-centric, but with a global flavour.


in which i am a local celebrity

Impudent Strumpet wondered if Allan and I were now locally famous. Well, apparently we are. Things I heard at the library: "I want to do a story on you."

The customer who said this is the owner, publisher, writer, and editor of the North Island Eagle, a community newspaper here. Instead of a story about me, I suggested a piece on some of the exciting things going on in our library. She one-upped me: a story about me and an invitation to write a library column. I am thrilled! This is an amazing and unique opportunity to promote our services. I've already turned in my first column.

There are actually two local papers here. The North Island Gazette is part of the Black Press Media chain, which publishes small local papers in western Canada and the US. The North Island Eagle is brought to us by the initiative and hard work of one woman.

Everyone reads both papers. In town, you can buy the Vancouver Sun, the National Post, and the Globe and Mail, but in the library, I've only seen customers reading the free newspapers. That may be more a function of expense than anything else.

For this story, the writer emailed me questions, and I basically wrote the story from there. She edited out any mention of why Allan and I moved to Canada in the first place. That seems like an odd choice to me, especially given the current US political context, which is highly unpopular in Canada. The story is the fluffiest fluff, but who cares: library column!


what i'm reading: solitary raven: the essential writings of bill reid

I'm supposed to be writing about the Jackie Robinson biography, which I finished weeks ago, but so far I haven't been motivated to do so. I finished another Wallander mystery -- my "in between" book -- but the next bio on my list, the new one about Frederick Douglass, hasn't come in yet. So I looked for something on my own bookshelf that I've been meaning to read, and found this: Solitary Raven: The Essential Writings of Bill Reid. It is fascinating, and by coincidence, feels very relevant.

We visited Vancouver for the first time in 2016, and I spent a morning enraptured in the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, still completely innocent of the idea of moving to the west coast.* I love Reid's work, and wanted a meaningful souvenir from the visit. Knowing that Reid was a writer and CBC host before his first major sculpture commission, I purchased this book.

Reid's father was an American of European ancestry, and his mother was Haida -- a fact Reid first learned at age 19. He was 23 when he began exploring his Haida heritage. He studied art, sculpture, and goldsmithing at European art schools and museums, and later -- and for the rest of his life -- immersed himself in Haida culture. Reid's art synthesizes these two traditions into something unique, and for me, something incredibly powerful and beautiful.

Solitary Raven was edited by Robert Bringhurst, a formidable talent of whom I had no knowledge. Bringhurst also wrote an introduction to the book. Here is an excerpt that I found particularly potent.
Many readers may be equally surprised to see Reid, early in this book, speak of Indians as "them," Europeans as "us." Those, however, are the idioms he had learned -- and the person he learned them from was Sophie Gladstone Reid of the Qqaadasghu Qiighawaay, his Haida mother. For her it was the language of denial, but she taught it to her daughter and two sons as the language of acceptance. Two of them absorbed it without apparent question and went on to live unusually successful but otherwise quite normal urban lives in London and Toronto. Bill himself unlearned this language very slowly, suspicious to the last of eager joiners and wary of being one himself. Through art, and not through rhetoric or genetics, he became a Haida artist. But in 1985 -- as soon as the newly amended laws of Canada allowed -- he applied for legal status as an Indian. The petition was not granted until 1988, when he was 68 years old, but he had made his own decision. In February 1986, while addressing a provincial government commission, he asked the committee members a question: Why should the Haidas -- we Haidas -- want this particular morsel of wilderness left untouched?

This book is many things, but one of the most important things it is, in my opinion, is the story of a long and conscious journey from one pronoun to another.
Reid participated in some expeditions to rescue and preserve the great totems from remote, and now empty, villages, where, he writes, keepers of Haida culture had
become convinced that, permanently preserved, the poles would form a better memorial to the past greatness of the Haidas than crumbling to dust in the deserted villages.
Through this, I'm gaining an appreciation for Haida art -- which, according to Reid, bears as much resemblance to most totem poles we see today as Picasso does to paint-by-numbers. I'm also learning a bit about Haida culture, whose great society was wiped out, partly by white men's guns, and mostly by the white man's disease, smallpox. Survivors were then subjected to the abuses and humiliations that is the legacy of colonization.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I have an abiding interest in ancient and indigenous cultures. For a time I wrote about ancient civilization for a children's nonfiction series on history. I was constantly amazed at how much ancient peoples knew, and the complexity and beauty of their creations, all the more so when one considers how little they had to build on. This was true for every culture I studied, from all parts of the world.

The original people of North America are no different, but because they left no monumental works of stone or granite -- and because they were exterminated by the people who wrote our early history -- their ingenuity is much less familiar to us. Discovering more about the Indigenous people of the Americas is always fascinating but painful. Here's an example of the kind of thing I love. Reid's writing is wonderful -- evocative, accessible, breezy, but with heft.
We know they were a fine-looking people, with pride in their race and lineage, never permitting them to live simply on the bounties of their rich seas and forests. They were an ingenious people, using such unlikely materials as shredded cedarbark and spruce roots for basketry and clothing, and, with the most primitive of tools and an infinite knowledge of the materials, falling huge trees and creating almost entirely of wood a great material culture.

It was the sea that shaped the first, and to the end, the most beautiful of these creations, the matchless grace of the Northwest Coast canoe. The cedars grew tall and straight in the rainforests of the north, but it took the experience of generations of skillful men to change their trunks into seagoing boats, sometimes seventy feet long. The log was shaped and hollowed, and then, in the supreme example of primitive genius, the whole thing was steamed by partly filling it with water and adding hot rocks until the water boiled, so it could be spread to the proper beam. This gave the beautiful flaring curve to the sides, and the rough seas dictated the high bow and stern. And so as always, perfect function produced perfect beauty.

But it was when the practical skills and sure sense of design, born of necessity, were applied to the lavish heraldry of ceremonial life that the full splendor of Haida art was born. And though the white man brought disruption and eventual destruction to these people, he also brought a flood of new wealth and new tools to augment the stone hammers and adzes and the few iron knives they had had before. And so for a little while, during the first two-thirds of the last century, creativity on the west coast flourished as it never had before and perhaps never will again. In every village on the Charlottes [the Queen Charlotte Islands, or Haida Gwaii], totem poles grew in a rich profusion: forests of strange birds, beasts and heroic figures almost obscuring even the massive lodges they decorated.
This is a lovely book, full of beautiful photographs of Reid's work. I wish I could see and walk among the culture he writes about.

* Postscript: I am aware that Bill Reid had and has many detractors. I've read a bit of the criticisms, and find them irrelevant to my enjoyment and understanding of art. I respectfully request that you do not explain them to me here. Thank you for your cooperation.


walking the walk: if canada is serious about reconciliation, the senate must pass bill c-262

Canadians, contact the Senate. Urge them to work together to pass Private Member's Bill C-262, "An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples". 

My own letter included at the end of this post, in the hope that it will help you write your own.

* * * *

Is Canada serious about reconciliation? The Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded in 2015. The Calls to Action have been made. Recommendations have been made. How will Canada proceed?

Territorial acknowledgements, long a feature of labour and other progressive activism, have entered the mainstream. More Canadian children will learn about the system of forced family separation, indoctrination, and horrific abuse euphemistically called "the residential schools". Good, and good.

But what of Canadian law? What of business practices? Will it be business as usual, or will anything change?

The TRC offered 94 Calls to Action. How many will be implemented?

After all, Canada was one of only four countries to oppose the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples when it was first adopted in 2007. (The others are obvious: the US, Australia, and New Zealand.)

Almost ten years passed before Canada finally became a signatory to UNDRIP. But its principles have not been put into action in any meaningful way.

In its 2015 election platform, Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party pledged to change that. Not that we had any reason to believe them. First the Liberal government announced that Canada would drop its opposition to UNDRIP, and commit to "fully adopting this and working to implement it within the laws of Canada."

Shortly after that, Minister of Justice [sic] Jody Wilson-Raybould described the adoption of UNDRIP as "unworkable" and "a political distraction".

It wasn't long before Trudeau confirmed that, despite the tears, all was status quo: Indigenous people "don’t have a veto" about pipeline development and other extraction and energy projects. One of the key principles of UNDRIP is the need for governments to obtain "free, prior and informed consent" from Indigenous peoples prior to these projects. Is that going to happen in Canada?

This is a country that -- despite undergoing the Truth and Reconciliation process -- refused to accept the word genocide to describe its historic relationship with its Indigenous peoples. Instead, Canada used an invented phrase with no real definition: cultural genocide.

If you have any doubts as to whether the experience of Indigenous people in Canada constitutes genocide, here's an excellent piece to help you clarify. Writer Jesse Stainforth concludes:
I'm not so attached to my country to contort myself into defending our history of genocide — and I'd like to ask those who are: how would admitting that our country was guilty of this crime against humanity change your relation to this nation, to yourself, and to Indigenous people?

As of the closing of the TRC, the facts of the Canadian genocide of Indigenous peoples are now a part of the official record of this country's history, both for those who wish to face it, and those who wish to pretend it isn't there. These facts stand and will not change, because they are in the past. In the present day, it is only Canadians who can change — and will have to change — in order to acknowledge the disgraceful but fixed facts of our history.
So all this brings me back to Bill C-262. Responding to familiar objections, Amnesty Canada writes:
Bill C-262 is about moving ahead with implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a principled and coordinated way. It does not attempt to turn the UN Declaration into a piece of federal law. Instead, it would create a requirement for the federal government to work with Indigenous peoples to develop a national strategy for implementation. This would include review and reform of existing laws. Critically, the Bill would require regular reporting to Parliament on the progress that has been made.
I confess I feel quite cynical about the prospect for meaningful change, knowing as I do the history of capitalism and of empire. The all-consuming profit motive will not be derailed, or even detoured, by ethical and moral concerns. But I won't let that stop me from trying.

If you look at the status of Bill C-262, it's not difficult to see what's going on. The Senate is engaged in a series of partisan stalling tactics as the clock runs down on the current government. If the bill is not adopted by the time a new election is called in October 2019, a historic and critical opportunity will be lost.

Canadians, contact the Senate. Tell them to stop stalling and pass Bill C-262.

Amnesty International Canada has the names and addresses here. Write a few sentences or a few paragraphs. Hit send, or print and send it off, no postage required. It is literally the least we can do.

* * * *

Dear Senators:

[A brief introduction. It's always good to include a couple of sentences about who you are, what you do, where you live.]

I strongly support Bill C-262 as an important tool to further reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations, and I urge all Senators to work together to make this important bill a law.

Bill C-262 outlines a framework for the Canadian government to fulfill its promise to fully implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), as called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Words are easy, but concrete actions require a clear plan to move forward. In order for there to be meaningful and ongoing reconciliation, Canadian laws need to reflect a commitment to the UNDRIP. Without this, reconciliation will never be more than words on paper.

Canada can never right the immense historic crimes against the original people of this land. But the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has given us hope for the future – if we begin to make their Calls to Action a reality.

There cannot be meaningful movement towards that goal if Canadian laws are still built on a foundation of colonization and subjugation. Bill C-262 provides a framework to take the next, necessary steps.

The House of Commons has passed Bill C-262. Now it’s your turn. I urge you to work with together to bring Bill C-262 to a vote in the current session of Parliament. I look forward to hearing from you about this important matter.


how to eat tuna

Some years ago, after reading about overfishing and the horrendous state of our oceans, I vowed to stop eating tuna. Certain species of tuna are on the brink of extinction, thanks to soaring demand and modern fishing methods. Plus, the "eating fish is good for you" equation has changed because of the presence of mercury in many fish, especially tuna. I decided to put tuna in the same category as veal and lobster -- animal products I no longer eat.

Alas, while I have no problem foregoing lobster or veal, tuna was a promise I couldn't keep. I don't know how long I lasted, but five years later I was writing about homemade vs. Whole Foods tuna salad. (If you're reading the old posts, there's an update here.)

Fish and shellfish are mainstays of my diet. We eat a lot of salmon (Pacific only) and shrimp, occasionally halibut, Pacific cod, squid, and other shellfish -- and I eat a lot of tuna. I joke that I'm going to turn into a thermometer. But I don't stop eating it. In fact I eat more tuna now than I ever did.

In an effort to ameliorate the ill effects on both my health and the environment, I've now changed from albacore (so-called "white") canned tuna to skipjack (strangely called "light") tuna. Albacore is much higher in mercury, and the fish are threatened; skipjack is lower in mercury and can be fished sustainably. Skipjack is also (supposedly) more ocean-friendly: if the label says "pole-and-line-caught," supposedly it actually is, whereas claims of "dolphin safe" albacore are likely false. Skipjack is also less expensive than albacore, although I don't find the price difference significant.

But changing from white to light -- from albacore to skipjack -- meant more than just a change in buying habits. Albacore is mild enough to use in salads with just a bit of dressing, and it needs very little help to become delicious tuna salad. Skipjack has a stronger, "fishier" taste. Most people would agree it needs more preparation.

I've been experimenting with this new tuna, and have landed on the Best Tuna Salad, more accurately called the Best Tuna Salad that I'm Willing to Make Myself.

I normally don't use measurements for something like this, I just throw everything together, but that's not very useful as a recipe to pass along. So this week I carefully measured, tasted, and measured again, and this is what I came up with.

The recipe is meant as a ratio, to be multiplied depending on how many cans you're making. I usually make three or four cans at a time. Be sure to use tuna packed in water, not oil.

For each six-ounce (170 grams) can of tuna, drained well to produce four ounces (120 grams):
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 1.5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon sweet pickle relish
If you're feeling ambitious, also add:
- shredded carrots
- minced celery
Combine all ingredients in food processor. (Personally, I can't eat this if it's blended by hand. I find chunky tuna salad unpalatable.)

This tuna salad is great on whole-grain toast with sliced tomato and cucumber, or my favourite, whole-grain crackers like Triscuits or Wheat Thins.