Squishy Aversion


Crap, we are into the winter rain season and the running gets wet. I didn’t even check closely enough peering out into the pre dawn, I missed the drops pouring down. Only when I stepped out the exit door did I finally realize the wet stuff was descending. By that time it was too late to back out; so forward I slogged to the my starting line. It wasn’t all too bad. As usual, once you get wet you tend to ignore the problem. Glasses fogging up and covered with drops are  impediments that you learn to deal with by moving meditation. Watching at corners for cars becomes a higher priority. Fog appears to impede their operators and cause some mild brain freeze or unfocuses their seeing apparati.

Dealing with puddles remains an ongoing problem. Strickly for my feet. As the rain slowly soaks straight through to skin everywhere else, it retreats to being a minor annoyance unless it’s a severely cold rain. Lucky me today, we are being targeted by the pineapple express from the vicinity of Hawaii, so the water tends to be up in the 5 degree celsius range – brisk shower temperature. Back to my feet. I have an aversion to squishy toes. Not only does it become uncomfortable, but it often leads to crinkly skin and on rare occasions – a nasty blister. Starting out, all I can spot are huge puddles of water everywhere which I treat like quicksand or dog poop – avoidance at all cost. Works for awhile as I literally dance my way down the sidewalks and tiptoe at the corners.

Alas. In time my runners fail me. Despite my fancy running technique the water seeps through each gap, breathing mesh and stitch until I feel the dreaded initial squish. Then I simply give up, pick a straight line and go for it. Sooner I get home, the quicker I can free my poor tootsies from the insipid moisture, towel them dry and encase them in warm, toasty socks.


Yogi Bird

Yogi Bird

Eyeball to Eyeball

Gulls hanging out along White Rock beach tend to be laidback and almost dismissive of the hominoids invading their territory.  Even with a camera stuck three feet away from his beak all I got was a haughty stare back. Neither I or the shutter noise phased him in the least.  Different behaviour from his uptown cousins who shriek and squawk at any violation of their twelve foot personal space. Of course, they eke out an existence on garbage while the beach brethren dine on a tasty seafood diet. Like the real estate people say: location, location, location.  Guess the oceanfront crowd has been born to the manor.

Back to my friend. I often wondered why some birds stand around on one leg, as I also noticed the same habit with the blue herons living around the corner at Blackie’s Spit.  A while back, I did some research which never conclusively answered my question.  Some suggested they pulled up the leg to keep it warm due to lack of feathers or covering. Never occurred to me to think about blood vessels and flesh exposed to the cold weather, since their appendages just look like attached sticks. Must have been absent for a biology class explaining avian anatomy. If it was the middle of winter, I might have been satisfied with the answer, but on a warm day in March or during the heat of the summer, it hardly makes sense. Reason number two proffered online was to rest the legs. Not sure how shifting from leg to leg helps. I tried it and not only doesn’t it help, my legs tired out even quicker.

Then it dawned on me. I happened along in the middle of a yoga class. Here was my feathered friend – we actually have never been introduced – performing a classic beginner’s pose:  vrikshasana or the tree pose. Told you these guys were laid back. Perhaps one day I’ll invite him for an after class latte or mocha and we can hang out telling each other sea tales.


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Where’s the Gold?

Last Swirl

Last Swirl

Either from watching ‘Yukon Gold‘ or plain boredom we decided to head out to Hope to try our hand at gold panning.  Lucky for us our our now, antique goldpan was still safely stored with some camping gear and had not been thrown on the scrap heap. The only other equipment required was a small garden trowel for digging plus pack a lunch. The British Columbia government has kindly set aside a kilometre and a half stretch of the Fraser River in Hope for recreational gold panning, which means you get to keep all the gold you find but are restricted to a pan and shovel as your only tools. No backhoes or giant sluice boxes allowed.  With the spring high water there was a limited shore area and being on the south side of the river out of the sun, it was still rather cool so we packed up and headed for Yale, a further 24 kilometres upstream.

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Perfect. Another recreational panning reserve on the north side fully bathed in sun and a 50 foot wide beach of sand, gravel and boulders to find paydirt. Then just a simple matter of digging up some material from behind a boulder, chucking it in the pan, heading down to the water and trying to remember how to properly swirl everything around to find the good stuff. And there we remained for four hours, happily taking turns trying our luck with about fourteen pan fulls, enjoying the sun, the warm weather and the sound of the rushing water.

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Alas, the pickings were slim. No shrieks of joy pulling out shiny nuggets. We did get black sand concentrate in every pan with a few flecks of flour gold – not worth picking out – plus a lot of millimetre sized garnets.  While we were there a couple of tourists with a brand spanking  new goldpan came over to ask if they could watch and learn. So Jan gave them some quick pointers and they busily spent a couple of hours using their pristine pan.

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Not that I’ve caught gold fever but back at home I did read up on methods to recover fine gold from concentrate. Who knows?

Did You Read The Sign?

Dog walker

Out of Bounds

Don’t get me wrong, I like dogs. Okay, maybe not all dogs. Not overly fond of those little rat sized ones who bark incessantly in a ear piercing, high-pitched squeal while lunging to nip at your toes. Also not much of a fan of overly big pooches who can silently glare without blinking, all the while making you feel like their next meal. Usually give crotch sniffers a wide path too. Dogs with sissified names like ‘Fluffy’ or ‘Babykins’ who are ranked higher in the family than the two legged offspring leave me cold. But I really enjoy border collies and their closet relatives. Their go-go attitude can be inspiring.

However, I do wish owners – or the two legged Moms and Dads trailing behind on the leash – would respect areas where bylaws prohibit dogs entirely. Both east and west beach, along the White Rock waterfront, plus the walkway are plastered with signs restricting dogs even when on a leash. This restriction only covers about 2 kilometres. Further west another 3 kilometres of oceanfront is a virtual off leash dog heaven. Why the prohibited stretch. Mostly because dog owners tend to follow Pareto’s Law – the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent faithfully pick doggie droppings while twenty percent smirk at anyone watching and walk away from the steaming pile. So one, it comes down to a health matter with so many kids playing at the beach and on the grass. And two, most people are so busy looking out at the ocean they fail to watch where their stepping. Trying to clean the bottom of your footwear definitely detracts from the enjoyment of an ocean side walk.

I put the question to the passing border collie and he agreed, but the dense humans with him believed themselves special and above the law.

Where’s Winter

The North Shore mountains are home to three ski hills…none of which are operating and February still has a week to go. Although they managed to open for a few short weeks, rain and warm weather has left nothing on the runs but dust and dried up grass, like Mount Seymour pictured here at the base of the lift (1000 metres elevation).

Base of Ski Hill

Base of Ski Hill

The majority of the trail is sub alpine, so there are nearly always views of Vancouver to the south and mountains every other direction. The yellow in the middle of the Vancouver photo are huge piles of sulfur awaiting shipment from Neptune Terminals.



The hike up to the summit is 455 metres higher and out of the ski area to the west. It’s a nice early season training jaunt – usually late April – that whets the appetite for summer scrambles. To be on the safe side I packed along instep crampons and an ice axe along with a snack. Needn’t have bothered. On a round trip of 7.5 K, there might have been 300 metres of snow to contend with and the odd slippery section. Basically, the hike was little different from mid summer when there isn’t a speck of white stuff hanging about. Only a short stretch of 40 metres could be considered a problem as the trail narrows down to half metre ledge but with some snow still there, it is now only two boot widths wide.

Ledge Trail

Ledge Trail

Not once on my journey today did I wonder whether climate change or global warming has managed to play havoc with this winters conditions. It often happens there are very poor snow years, although this one may be close to a record. Since Vancouver and parts of the Lower Mainland depend on the snow pack for water, it may raise a critical shortage during late summer. However, for the moment I’m happy with the early appearance of hiking season.  🙂







Going Places

Neon sign

Going Places Neon

Judging by the actions of security forces hunkered in at Semiahmoo Mall, the only places photographers might be going would be the local penitentiary. Had already snapped one shot, which may not have been apparent to the fast approaching rent-a-cop, and was touched lightly on the arm inquiring as to what exactly I was doing. “Why I thought I’d just taken a photo of this sign for my neon blog” was not apparently the correct answer. Was brusquely informed the mall was private property and cameras were not allowed. When I inquired about exterior pictures I was informed that also was verboten, even from off property. Packed up my camera and departed.

Sent the mall owners – First Capital Realty –  a customer comment which will probably be ignored. Really, they should drag themselves into the 21st century. For one reason or another there are likely hundreds of photos snapped daily in the mall with cellphones as reminders or for price comparisons. Will the mall begin bag searches?

The above post was for another blog I use to try out new ideas from time to time. Right now my wife and I are working on our own photo a day challenge for both enjoyment and to look a little closer at everything. So for the month of February, I’m trying to get a shot of a neon sign – the ubiquitous ‘open’ ones not allowed – everyday, which is a bit tougher when we no longer reside in Vancouver. So that explains heading to the local mall where three stores still have neon signs.

By chance the same evening I read an online story from the Toronto Star about the city restricting photography in local parks and venues. Even though they quickly went into damage control to pull back on a complete ban, a city official still insisted some picture taking would not be allowed despite not being against Canadian law. Authorities are constantly seizing cameras and cellphones – often illegally and accidentally erasing content – and are later ordered by the courts to return the items as the owners were doing nothing against the law by filming or photographing events happening in public. Most of our public art galleries still ban photography based on outdated practices. There are credible studies which show paintings can be damaged over time from exposure to light flashes, especially years ago when flashbulbs were the norm; however, nowadays most cameras and cellphones are capable of lower light shots without any need of extra light. I have photos taken in The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Tate with security personnel all around and was never questioned or prevented from snapping away. The usual defense by Canadian museum directors relates to copyright issues, but it’s almost impossible not to find photographs or prints available of every painting or art object in existence. There are likely more copies, photos and renderings of the ‘Mona Lisa’ than there are people on earth.

Like most people these days I use my camera or my Nexus 7 tablet – I may be the last person to not own a cellphone – to grab images of sale items, locations or any number of things as reminders for later use. Much handier than trying to find a pencil and paper. And many of these have been taken in other malls with security people around without any concern on their part. But all bureaucratic levels including municipal have come to regard  this as snooping and possible interference with national governance. No matter where you go these days there seems to be a government authorized camera dogging your every step and recording your actions. This is considered appropriate because ‘model citizens’ have nothing to hide.

There’s an excellent opinion piece in the Toronto Star by William Kowalski on the current push to limit public photography. As he states, ‘there is no law against public photography in Canada’ which I’ve always been aware of since I started snapping pics and developing film some years ago. And I plan to keep on in spite of the small minded bureaucrats and self-interested politicians lined up to take away my rights.

Camera photo

Keep It Free

As to the mall owners, once I referred to their obnoxious and heavy handed  security people on Facebook, they got back to me in less than fifteen minutes to assure me they would look into the situation. Maybe I’ll hear back or then again maybe not.

Thought these new laws brought in by the US Forest Service for my neighbours to the south were controversial but I’ve not had the chance to follow up.

De plane! De plane!

Fantasy Island

Fantasy Island

Sometimes you get lucky and are in the right place at the right time. How else would I get a photo like this?  Purely serendipitous when you happen to be carrying your camera and strolling down a local street when the owners of the local travel agency drop by for a advertising photo shoot. Who let them off the island anyway? Don’t they have guests arriving on the next plane? Needless to say the photo did require some post processing: the Fantasy sign was brightened up and the red wine stains on Roarke’s suit were cloned out. Perhaps the last guests were a mite exuberant on their arrival. Other than that  the picture paints a thousand words or something like that. In case you’re wondering the rest of the story can be visited here.