Monday, December 17, 2012

England calling

As the flags from the various embassies rimming London's Trafalgar Square clapped alongside a gathered crowd listening to an R&B group belt out Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson and jazzed up Christmas carols, I had a moderate twinge of homesickness and a too-familiar sinking guilt at being away for yet another holiday.  Lured to Trafalgar Square on the promise of lights and a Christmas tree, I was simultaneously disappointed by the lack of lit objects and delighted to stumble upon a live performance that was to last "only as long as the rain holds off" their conductor quipped.

Prior to wandering around London's early evening, I visited a recovering cousin and her husband and later popped into a girlfriend's wedding, where a night of free-flowing white wine and dancing cured my lingering jetlag.  Likely haunted, the reception venue was as enchanting as it was full of friends I hadn't met yet.  

My third time in London, I've been prowling around to former favourites while discovering new gems and checking off what I deem to be very British things - walking in the pouring rain, Eucharist at St. Paul's Cathedral, eating curry and riding the train - whether it's the tube in London or longer hauls, it continues to be my favourite mode of transport.  

I'm meeting a friend I met in Vietnam tonight, followed by an airport sleepover, then on to Morocco tomorrow!  Wish me luck, I'm nervous as hell for the latter!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Essential in any year

I started this in 2010, and it is still rings true as I pack again for another winter away. Passing through Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary, I am once again blown away by the generosity of my friends. Spare rooms, entire houses! even, opened, vehicles and novels loaned, meals and beer gifted, rides offered, time given. To acquire such a debt is humbling and reminiscent of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros "home is wherever I'm with you" so a hugely insufficient thank you is overdue.

2010 Bare Essentials (and any year since) 

  • Valid passport
  • Orange work caulk (pronounced cork) boots
  • Word processor
  • Credit card of my choosing – and I am spoiled for choice.  I hold all three major cards in my wallet. 
I imagine these items are indicative of the year I want to have.  Passport to travel, work boots to trudge through the boreal with, a word processor to write about it, and a credit card to make up the difference where the struggling B.C. forest industry falls short. 

All of these are some sort of ID.  Government issued, industry standard, future aspirations of amateur writer and a financial institution that happily finances my pursuits for an exorbitant interest rate. 
Collectively, these items do not make me autonomous or even mildly independent.  If anything, they reemphasize my dependence on others.

Passport reminds me I am thankful of the rides to the airport, the bulging address book full of friends, family, acquaintances and strangers who will take me in and shelter, feed or simply entertain me for a few moments and the support of my mother who will promptly answer any phone message I leave her. 

Likewise with my caulk boots.  They remind me of the close-knit forestry community and my ultimate dependence on the Creator to harvest and renew His creation. 

There's a photo somewhere that Robyn took of my daypack while we frantically searched for my passport as my bus to Edmonton idled.  It shows my laptop, a bottle of rum, camera and a handful of novels from Donna.  

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Too many cooks

It’s been eight years since I purposely worked in a female dominated domain, and it’s truly a great mystery how I lasted two months (nearly to the day) in the same gender arrangement before giving my notice.

More than fed up with the forest industry, specifically in the role as a contractor, and seeking a, any really, change of employment, I was pleased to land in a lunch bistro committed to providing nutritious, quality lunches for my northern community that doesn’t know quiche from quinoa.     

That delight was short lived as I was reminded of the subtle politics, daily agony, personality wars and unnecessary competiveness that working alongside sisters from another mister holds.  Anti-women I am not.  Non-feminist, no way.  I love my girlfriends, mother, female cousins, aunts, I do! 

I acknowledge it’s entirely possible I have yet to develop the skill set required to navigate the frothy, temperamental waters of all-female coworkers.  Not surprisingly, the forest industry fostered my compassing, cultivated veg ID and deepened my soil typing rather than nurturing those softer people skills. 

While I claim a few new kitchen tips and tricks, my ultimate goal of taking a breather, a sabbatical from primary industry was accomplished.  Fewer hours and demands (physically and mentally), negligible stress and personal time factored in my gainful underemployment. 

Sure, I may use my new-found personal time tooling around on the internet, cleaning the bathroom or visiting girlfriends when really I’d like to be reading novels (non-fiction or otherwise) and walking puppies.  But that’s not the point.  Not since my retail days of high school have I had flexibility and freedom in my schedule, am not falling-over tired from faking another (!) good day in the rain or as truly committed to never asking, “to stay or to go?” in the context of food again. 

Yeah, we roast our pieces of pig, Hutterite turkeys, roast beasts in store, bake our own bread, make outstanding soup and spreads and daily attempt to bake up a storm for the Chetwynd masses.  Yes, I am deeply proud of serving and creating quality food. 

But I am ready and it is time (for me, not the sodding sandwich) to go. 

To Africa.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Commuting continued

I’m continuing to cycle to work despite daily 10-15 centimeter forecasts of snow in the B.C. Peace.  It’s not pleasant, enjoyable, pleasurable or any other synonym of the aforementioned three kilometer commute.  Chilly; slippery; scary-mask wearing; uphill; dodging pickups spinning out and confused motorists; winter cycling is turning into an extreme sport. 

Would I love to remote start a vehicle and hop into its waiting warmth instead of layering up and taking to two wheels?  A loud YES! But I choose to be car free this summer and am unwilling to pay for the convenience, ahem silliness, of owning a car in a small town.  Pedestrian and bike friendly it is not – there’s an overwhelming lack of sidewalks, never mind bike lanes in Chetwynd – but I maintain it’s better, or at least less bad, than owning a vehicle. 

As the handful of trails paralleling creeks that link schools and subdivisions are better suited for dog walking, nature strolls and midnight meanders than commuting I’m relegated to the road.  A road which, throughout much of the province is a bustling highway that briefly slows to 50 km/h, carries transports, log and coal trucks and motorists baffled at sharing a lane with cyclists.  Add in some concealed-by-the-snow ice and equally hidden holes and it truly is a recipe for a deadly spill. 

Sure, I’ve been offered rides but some lingering sense of pride, stubbornness, or a desire not to be an inconvenience prevents me from accepting.  No longer employed in the vicious, demanding and ultimately unforgiving forest industry, I still feel there’s something to prove and a toughness that can only be cultivated in the boreal to maintain.  I recognize it’s absolutely ridiculous to jump onto an exposed bicycle and slip around alongside one-ton pickups yet I continue to do it – at least twice a day.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fall snow

Nervously glancing at the forecast, I grudgingly changed into my winter cycling tires.  Man! Am I ever slow!  Accustomed to city slicks for far too long, the new mountain bike tires feel like clown shoes on my otherwise speedy steed. 

My three kilometer journey to my still-new-to-me part-time job lengthened to 16 minutes from 12, I couldn't comfortably use high gear, the sound from the tires was deafening.  With pre, and in all likelihood real, winter so hard in the north, it’s no great mystery why it’s barely populated by a smattering of small towns. 

Comfortably care and car free, I’ve been zooming around Chetwynd on a borrowed bicycle for the sunny summer and now frosty fall.  It's a slower, ponderous pace well suited to northern living.  Constantly conscious of how much I buy at the shops, the spacing of my appointments and the highly volatile weather, I've embraced my commute.  In addition to light (now moderate) exercise, caffeinated teas are pretty much a thing of the past for me as I arrive clear headed, smiling and rosy cheeked.  
"Good for you!" I'm practically knocked over from a high five upon arriving somewhere slightly sweaty and disheveled.  "I could have picked you up," as I carry my dripping bike into the back room at work on a soggy morning.  I continue to stand by my decision to take to my feet, pedals, and crazed car shares in a town where one truck per person is viewed as not enough.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mummies and puppies

Charged with a friend's high energy Golden Doodle while he was in the Lower Mainland and Okanagan, my visiting mother and I were often accompanied on journeys around Chetwynd.

Up Baldy with Mizuno and Wednesday.

Twice daily strolls around the 
neighbourhood and beyond.  Backyard guest at a BBQ.

Mom and I managed a solo half day hike to
Bergeron Cliffs to see the Murray Valley in all her fall splendor. What a view! 

Baldy summit romp
These aspen haven't turned yet
North of Hudson's Hope
Half way up Baldy
Mom arriving at the  Bergeron Cliffs lookout
Looking out
Looking towards the wind farm

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rupert, Stewart, George and other Highway 16 stops in between

En route to Stewart
Bear viewing in Hyder
Near Fraser Lake
Fishing on Dennis Lake near Smithers
Natives fishing
Note safety system
Bear viewing in Hyder
Roadworks rainbow!
En route to Salmon Glacier

Salmon Glacier and Dan!

Wide angle attempt
Leaving Stewart
I found the ocean! 
Scenic road bypassing Smithers
Parting Prince Rupert sunset

Friday, August 31, 2012

Westward ho(e)!

Have a listen to Sarah Hepola's interview with CBC on traveling alone.

With too many waxing on about how travel has reordered lives and given them new found direction, travel has, in too many ways, unshaped me.

I was willingly and quickly pulled out of the "go to university, spend money you don't have studying something vague very few give a rat's arse about, meet a partner, get married, spend way too much money again, buy a house, make lots of body wrecking babies that will drain your time, income and energy for the next 18 years while eking out a career from an expensive liberal arts university that no one's heard of and you're still paying for."

Blah.  Twenty-seven, debt free and recently re-unemployed, I couldn't be more pleased.  A mild uncertainty accompanies me like a case of lice as I pour over provincial and world maps while anxiously glancing at my bank account.

While I don't have sponsors like similarly named Sherri I take great pleasure that we're doing it simply because we can.

Where ever we can.  Tonight I'm leaving for a 10-ish day tour with the fella westward along Highway 16.  Fishing, hiking, hanging out, grizz bear spotting and cheap American beer await!

Hepola's full essay here.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Booners and berry creations

Thomas, Chris, Dan and I and bulging suitcases enroute to G.P. 
Just as I'm getting used to surprise weekend day(s) off, my exit is coming up. Usually the first one out, summer gems Thomas and Angie have already (and grudgingly, I think) left the north for school in southern locales.  Final night celebrations and ultimately tear-filled goodbyes around the fire, dessert table, sushi bar, and orgasmic Alberta pub served as a tiny tribute to true friends.  Their genuine East Coast hearts, smiles and kindness will be sorely missed.

Keen to show Dan a smattering of what I do, I packed him into my pickup for a journey down to one of my favourite areas, the Murray.  A Chetwynd resident for three years, Dan had yet to make the trip into Monkman Provincial Park to see Kineuso Falls.  Blown away by their late season volume, jealous of the river boaters at the base of the falls and curious about the fishing downstream assured me there'll be further visits.  

Dan's blueberry haul
While I zipped around the blocks checking for lammas growth, Dan grabbed an empty water bottle and collected as many blueberries as he could on the sandy pine flats.  Cleaned and sorted the following morning, he whipped up knock-out blueberry pancakes - nearly as good as my Saskatoon berry muffins.  

Saskatoon muffins turned out fabulous!
Rounding up another boat and another angler, The Mink made another appearance in a northern lake.  

Shaun captains while Colin fishes
A bit of running around on puzzle-like hydro roads eventually delivered us to Pete Lake, 38 kilometers up the Moberly.  Constrained my another engagement in town, it was a fast fish, but a good one!  Dan hooked up with a Rainbow but the wiley fella jumped the hook.  

Stern man Dan with the catch
I hooked into another, larger cousin of the escapee and was able to maneuver it into the waiting net.  My first trout as far as I know!

My Ragin Rainbow! 
Summer score: Sheri 8, Dan :0

Monday, August 13, 2012

Baldy's berries

Finally a bumper berry crop after two consecutive years of disappointing yields pulled Dan, Angie, her Mom and I onto Baldy's slopes to fill any available vessel with my personal favourite, Saskatoon berries.  

A mere hour of picking yielded 4.5 liters destined for the freezer for future baking and breakfast projects.    

I've spotted an orange oat Saskatoon berry muffins recipe that I'm keen to to try these days off.   

Dan's parents popped up for the August Long weekend for a northern visit.  BBQs lasted long into the night as friends new, and newly old dropped by for a beer, burger or a twilight giggle.  Popping in to Bulter Ridge Provincial Park hopping to cruise up to its namesake ridge for views of Williston Reservoir and surrounding Rocky Mountains, we spent the entire time in the trees along ATV trails catching up and marveling at nature's wonders.

My own mother will be visiting the north next month as I wave farewell to a summer job I've been keen to see in the rearview mirror since July.   

                                     At the lookout                                           Cleaning our bumper berries!

Purple mouth


Clearly accustomed to the Ruiters' new Edge, Wednesday was at ease in the trunk after an afternoon jaunt into the woods.  We were easily able to persuade her out in to the car.  

Mystery schrooms dotting the path