August 28, 2013

VanDusen Gardens ~ changing colours and ravens

Autumn is in the air. A dusty coolness, a sharpness to the breeze, signalling the change of seasons.

VanDusen Gardens changes too, with a different array of colour, scents and sounds each week.

Ravens? This far south?


Photos copyright 2013 by Jim Murray

August 26, 2013

War planes over Tofino

We have seen the contrails for years. Indeed, probably since the sixties when America's enemy was the Soviet Union. B-52s, or some variation, continue to fly up and down the coast of North America, sometimes veering off to fly along the Canadian - American border. The flights are impressively visible from Tofino.

B-52s began flying for the United States Air Force in 1955. They fly high and at relatively fast speeds. They are designed for war and carry an impressive array of avionics and armaments, including nuclear bombs. They have been upgraded and rebooted for a modern age, and with scheduled refurbishment this year and next, are expected to fly another thirty years.

During the American War in Vietnam, they were used for the infamous carpet bombing raids which destroyed huge swaths of country and city alike. During one mission in 1972, often called the Christmas Bombings, they flew 10 to 12 hour missions for twelve horrifying days. After a brief rest they started again after the New Year. Three million people were killed by the American forces during the ten years of their war.

And just what are these flights about today? Protecting America? Keeping the enemy at bay? Some sort of deterrent? Reconnaissance? What exactly are they looking for, fishing boats? It costs about $70,000 per hour to fly these war planes. That isn't the most expensive aircraft in America's arsenal, but it is an impressive sum.

Over 20 per cent of children in the US live in poverty, and that number is from official statistics. Can the US afford to have these weapons of mass destruction flying up and down our coast line every day? And with all our paranoia about pipelines and trains carrying "dangerous" cargo, what happens if one of these monsters crashes into a Canadian river, a fishing village or a city?

Photos copyright 2013 by Jim Murray.

August 24, 2013

Full moon rising over Mount Baker

August 20th offered yet another full moon. These full moon things seem to happen every month.

This time we viewed the full moon from Centennial Beach in Tsawwassen. The moon came up just to the north of Mount Baker in the USA, about 50 km east of Bellingham, Washington.

Baker is the highest mountain visible from MetroVancouver with a height of 3286 metres. It is the largest active volcano in the American Cascade Range. First Nations gave the mountain different names, including Koma Kulshan, Kulshan and Kobah. 

On a journey of exploration by the British led by Captain George Vancouver, his third lieutenant, a Joseph Baker, was first European to see the craggy mountain in 1792, and for some reason, the naming rights were given him.

A beautiful moonrise, a wonderful summer sunset and the water just right for swimming.


 Photos copyright 2013 by Jim Murray.

August 20, 2013

The stench of salmon farming in Clayoquot Sound

Salmon farming is big business in Canada and around the world with global sales exceeding ten billion USD last year. Leading producing nations are Norway, with 33 per cent of global production, and Chile, with 31 per cent. In BC, the salmon feedlot business is a foreign affair with 98 per cent of the industry controlled by Norwegian companies. Not that there is anything wrong with that of course.

While there are a few land-based feedlots, most raise hundreds of thousands of salmon in open net-cages suspended in the open waters of the ocean, that are anchored close to shore.

In Clayoquot Sound there are 21 salmon feedlots, with 16 operational at any one time. This surprised me as Clayoquot Sound was always a battle ground for environmentalists. It seems a strange place to find that many salmon feedlots.This one we passed early one morning. The fog was heavy and the size of the operation was difficult to take in from our boat, even more difficult from the photos. However the stench of rotting garbage was overwhelming; a putrid smell beyond comprehension. And they want us to eat this stuff?

August 19, 2013

Bear watching at Tofino

Ah, yes. Let's get up at five in the morning, in the dark and the cold, to see some bears. It seemed a good idea.

 Anyway, we took an excursion with one of the many tour operators offering all kinds of trips around Clayoquot Sound. We were the possibly the only Canadians aboard our boat, apart from the Captain. Most of the forty or so on board spoke German, Dutch or Italian. Even the Captain's first mate, speaking a form of English, hailed from the UK.

Initially it was difficult to see much of anything in the fog but it wasn't long until we saw the first of five black bears.

Bears like to come out early in the morning to turn over rocks along the shore to find a breakfast of shell fish. They don't seem to mind the boats but are extremely cautious of each other and like to keep their distance.

There is a population of about 120,000 black bears in Canada and 30 per cent of them have chosen BC as their permanent residence. Not all black bears are black. In BC one can see black bears that are actually blonde, brown and cinnamon. Sometimes a white black bear is spotted, and called a Kermode or Spirit Bear.

Adult males can measure up to 90 cm in shoulder height and approach of weight mass of 300 kg. Females are smaller with a maximum weight up to 140 kg.

A bonus for our tour of  the inlet, was seeing seals, then returning to shore to find a nice double espresso.

 All photos copyright 2013 by Jim Murray.

August 16, 2013

Long Beach near Tofino

Long Beach is part of a collection of beaches in Pacific Rim National Park (the only National Park on Vancouver Island), located between Ucluelet and Tofino. The beaches run about 25 km in length, with Long Beach being the longest, not surprisingly, at 10 km.

Is that Jeem out there, catching a wave?

Surf. Wind. Fog. Pounding waves. A place to think.
All photos copyright 2013 by Jim Murray.

August 14, 2013

Chesterman Beach ~ Tofino

Chesterman Beach near Tofino is about 3 km of sand and rock. 
It's one of several great beaches south of Tofino.


Sun. Sand. Surf. Fog. It's August, and the fog is always near. Still it's a great place to kick off your shoes and ...                                                                                       
   All photos copyrighted 2013 
by Jim Murray.

August 13, 2013

Tofino ~ the cottage, the coffee, the lunch

Tofino is on the west coast of Vancouver Island ~ or on the east coast of the Pacific Ocean, depending on your point of view. It is a beautiful place indeed and a million people visit every year.

There are less than 2000 permanent residents of Tofino, though on summer days the population can swell to over 20,000. Many are from the EU and judging by our recent visit, German could be Tofino's second language. French is also heard, and American and a generous helping of Australian too it would seem.

As history has been written, Tofino was established as a settlement in the early 1900s CE. That there were indigenous people here for several thousands of years before that time is, apparently, less historical. However.

The name of the town comes from the naming of the inlet, Tofino Inlet, by the Spanish commanders and explorers: Galiano and Valdez (names that will sound familiar to British Columbians). They named the inlet after their admiral: Vincente Tofino.

The First Nation in this area is the Nuu-chah-nulth, an affiliation of a number of different family groups. The name means all along the mountains and the sea, and they were among the first people along the west coast of North America to come into contact with Europeans. From the time of first contact until about the mid 1800s, about 90 per cent of the Nuu-chah-nulth were killed by small pox and malaria, and by the cultural conflict resulting from contact with the "intruders."

While in Tofino, we stayed at the Tofino Inlet Cottages, which offered an easy walk into town and some great views of the government crab dock and the inlet. The Cottages are actually quite nice and fully equipped; a great tub, fantastic barbecue and run by friendly folk indeed. A drawback is the fact that the "rooms" aren't quite soundproof, which can be a bit of a bother when someone is waking up at five in the morning to go on a whale watching tour.

There are several coffee shops in Tofino, and absolutely no Tim Hortons or Starbucks. In fact Tofino doesn't seem to have any national chains of any kind, which is certainly to the town's credit. One coffee shop that caught our attention was the Common Loaf Bake Shop, which has been around for ages. It's busy on summer days and there can be a queue to get in the place, and then a wait for service. The atmosphere is great, the coffee is only good. There are some wonderful aboriginal masks on the walls; reason enough to visit for some of us. It is a funky kind of place, and it is local.

For a better coffee, possibly the best in Tofino, and a place that makes a wonderful espresso (slightly sweet), there is the Tofino Coffee Company down the street and slightly out of the town centre, where the owner roasts his own beans almost daily and ... loves coffee and loves to visit (almost to distraction, but that is part of the charm, or not, depending on your perspective).

There are all kinds of food outlets in Tofino and one stands out for its wonderful lunch menu: SoBo (short for Sophisticated Bohemian). Opened ten years ago, SoBo has attracted attention from various foodies in Canada and beyond. The wife and husband team of Lisa and Artie Ahier (she from Texas and he from New Brunswick) offer locally sourced ingredients with flair and great taste.

Our lunch of salmon chowder was incredible (big chunks of wild salmon and fresh vegetables), though it might have been a tad hotter. The halibut cheviche was terrific too. Service is friendly and attentive though when they get busy (which is often), things do take longer. SoBo is casual, yet elegant and clearly inventive and should not be missed.

All photos copyrighted 2013 
by Jim Murray.