Beyond Youbou

Nitinat River. A tiny glimpse of how it might have been for a long time.

I’ve never understood why, when we live on an island plenty big enough to be a country, that everyone does not want to be on the perimeter shore that faces the ocean. But then, there’s a lot I don’t understand. Some folks prefer to go to the inside of the island and settle on the edge of a lake. Such is Youbou.

Once a bustling logging community, it is now a retirement and summer home village where certain people were once smart enough to buy properties at giveaway prices. No-one then wanted to live in such a place. The next nearest community is Lake Cowichan itself which is situated on the east end of the lake of the same name. The nearest full-sized town is Duncan, about twenty five miles eastward. There are now good roads and a regular bus service. If you are driving across to the west side of Vancouver Island, Youbou is the last place you can get gas, some groceries, beer, and a restaurant meal.

It is the gateway to places with names like Carmanah, Walbran, West Coast Trail, Bamfield and is a back road to Port Alberni. Youbou is also where you run out of pavement and must continue along active logging roads. Turn your headlights on, unfasten your seat belt so it doesn’t strangle you, and prepare to endure a washboard and pothole-studded tire busting trail onward. Use your air-conditioning to pressurize the cabin of your vehicle to keep most of the dust out. Always assume someone will be coming around a curve at you on the wrong side and never assume the right of way over a logging truck. These are not simply country roads. These are vicious industrial work routes not intended for the urban weekend warrior.

H64. At first I could not see what was wrong with the picture. Then I noticed that this equipment hauler was still dressed in McMillan Bloedel colours, and is  in very good condition. M&B sold out in 1999 for $2.45 billion. This truck carries a small load and illustrates why on this private route, you just don’t argue. He’s slowed down to meet me, but note the dust in the background.

Distances are measured by the sign boards nailed to trees, if they haven’t fallen off. Forget the time, you’ll be there when you arrive. After turning onto the Nitinat main road, I drove several kilometers to discover a road block saying the road was closed due to extreme fire hazard. Fair enough but why the hell wasn’t the sign put where you turn onto the road? I back-tracked and took other routes I know. Don’t expect things to make sense and top up your fuel tank whenever you can. I finally arrived at the native community of Nitinat where a sign advised me I needed to buy a permit for the camp ground I wanted to go to. No-one there knew who sold the permits. I didn’t feel like driving another thirty kilometres to be turned back so I’ve retreated to a nice spot I know on the Nitinat River. It was very hot and dusty so I stripped down and flopped into a lovely clear salmon pool here on a river bend. I’ll deal with tomorrow when it gets here. It is so pristine and peaceful here that staying put is a definite option.

Summer morning in the woods.
Bowing to the morning moon. This venerable spruce is slowly leaning down into the river and the cycle of life will turn again.

Morning arrived after a night of wonderful quiet. There was only the gentle murmuring of the river. An owl called once. The stars gleamed and splotches of faint light from galaxies I can’t begin to know were all visible through the moss-laden spruce branches. A meteorite streaked straight down trailing a tail of light. Seeing and hearing the earth as it should be I slept peacefully. The dust and clatter of the morning’s road lay beyond.

With the trailer backed between the trees, I had a nearly level spot. And… I didn’t pay a dime. Nearly everyone has their hand out.

Downtown Nitinat, early Thursday. No luck. The Doobeh Campground was closed. I learned that after a fine fellow phoned around until he found someone who actually knew. That’s the way it was and there was no point in asking why. These are good people, I didn’t meet anyone I didn’t like. I fell in love with a local dog. He was a year and a half old, black and white, with a head like a bull, built like a terrier and with a grin like a clown. After a few treats we were buddies. The fellow running a little shop told me he’d turn his head if I wanted to load the dog up and go but I just couldn’t do that. Somebody loved him but I can’t get him out of my head. He’s a long way behind me now. There are many kilometres of horribly rough logging road now past. There are detours set up on back roads. They’re hellacious.

This made the trip worthwhile. An old man, from the old school, started to build this dugout. He died. I think it needs to put on blocks off the ground and requires a roof built over it. Apart from its scantlings, there is a lot be learned here simply by looking carefully.
No lasers, no computers. It’s all done by eye and by heart. Just the art of picking the log was a skill.
What an eye! The symmetry on both sides of the hull is perfect.
Then the painter tookawalk.

I’ve ended up on the edge of Barkley Sound near a little spot called Poet’s Nook. I’ve repaired things which came adrift on today’s jaunt. There is dust everywhere. I can find no romance in any of it. Plastic sport fishing boats herd in and out of the marina in the ‘Nook’. The sky is cloudless but the beauty of the rugged islands in the sound is shattered with old logging cut blocks everywhere. Tonight I’m parked on an old equipment ramp where logging machinery came and went on barges. I was once fully immersed in the forest industry and have to accept my part in this rape. I often point out that folks can’t live in pretty, we need lumber to build our boxes and I’ve no idea how you can have a cake and eat it as well. No point in ruminating and cogitating about things you aren’t going to try to change. Think I’ll go and watch the sunset. That’s where my heart is, out there, over the dust-free horizon.

From stump to dump. That’s coastal logging in a nutshell.
Unfortunately, esthetics loose. The cost of removing this timber is huge and profits come first. Just remember where your cardboard poster and wooden stick come from.
Sunset in Barkely Sound, the back side of sunrise in Japan. Two hours later, there was low cloud, balls of fog, loud grumbles of thunder and pelting rain. Struth!

Day three of this masochism took me on a strange meandering route. Refusing to go further into this labyrinth of tortuous roads and ridiculous prices I back-tracked. Thumping and slamming my way along through swirling clouds of dust I finally arrived back at old Franklin Camp which is essentially the belly button of this part of the world. A massive project is underway to properly build a paved road to Bamfield. It seems that maintenance of the existing roads, and detours, is minimal and what do you do with hard rock and dust. When it rains the dust turns instantly to clinging greasy mud. In dry weather like we are having at the moment there also is the incessant threat of fire. One flipped cigarette butt can instantly become an explosive conflagration; a biblical disaster. To endure roads like this merely to look at the aftermath of extensive logging was not uplifting nor intelligent.

I made my decision and headed toward Port Alberni. Incredibly, after finally putting pavement under my wheels I chose once again to plunge onto yet another logging road. There is a route along the south side of Sproat Lake which, on my map, showed the possibility of several places to park on the beach. They were all taken, every one. I wanted to assemble and use my inflatable boat and motor. They have been stored for two years and need a workout. I want to find a place where I can just sit for a couple of days which will justify all the effort of shaking out the wee boat. For the last three days I’ve been enduring some sort of bladder problem. The agitation of the rough road has me needing to pump ship every few minutes. I have little value as dust control and feel generally poorly so it would indeed be grand to just park and relax. Of course the rules of the back road include one that forces cupboard to contents to flip over and spill. The camper held the wonderful aroma of curry, soya sauce and olive oil. A nice melange, just not in the cupboard. At least, unlike some new Rvs, my cupboard doors have not dropped off.

I finally found a spot on the rocky bank of Taylor River, well past the west end of Sproat. The water is crystal clear and cool. I sit on a rock with my feet in the stream, a beverage in hand, and wonder what, just what. Traffic, across the river by about two hundred metres whizzes past. Old Jack and I once spent a night here. I have a surge of missing him and wonder what’ll come of me. In the morning the traffic has swollen to a high-speed parade. I’ve had enough. Everyone seems to be out on the road. It is about two and a half kilometres to be at the spot on the highway across from my camp. I wait for one of those German off-road monster camper trucks to leave and I follow him out. By the time I’m on the highway across from last night’s stop, someone has taken my spot! It’s nuts. Passing through Coombs, I realize it is their rodeo weekend. Cars jam the shoulder of the road and folks wander in the traffic for miles on either side of the venue. It is madness. Then I pulled out onto the main island highway. Lemmings!

We embrace you. Seize the day. Winter is coming.

I’m home finally. Ayre the dog is happy to see me. What else is there? Later, I sit out on my back deck, another beverage in hand and look up again at the stars. It’s just not the same sky as the backwoods. I listen to the crickets sing their long summer song and wonder again, what else is there?

Ahhh! One for the road. It is, after all, the simple things in life. Wishing you a never-ending pint.

Some people try to turn back their odometers.

Not me, I want people to know “why” I look this way. I’ve travelled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved.” – Will Rogers


“Step into my mother’s garden,’ said Amantha.
“Walk toward the gate. There’s a whole new world just outside.” she said. “But I doubt you’ll ever get there.”
Daphny, the dog in the garden.

This is blog 400. I suppose that’s a milestone. It is not a very happy one for me. I’d planned to be writing this one aboard my beloved ‘Seafire’ while anchored in a lagoon somewhere on the opposite side of the planet. The boat is gone and the dream is in shambles. But, that’s the way the pickle squirts and all you can do is keep on looking ahead while also trying to make the most of the moment at hand. You only have this moment and truly do not even have the day so squeeze all the juice you can from every opportunity.

The warm aroma of dry and crushed leaves on the path fills the air. It will be lost in the earthy wet smell of autumn.
We stop often to smell the flowers.

Two days ago Ayre and I went walking in a favourite spot. It was late in the morning and by the time we completed our two kilometre loop back at the vehicle we were hot and thirsty.

No keys! “Oh gosh” I said. (Uhuh) They had to have fallen out of my pocket somewhere along our way so back around we went the opposite way hoping I’d dropped them later than sooner.

I’d chatted with a friend on my cell phone. Could that be the spot? Back at the car again after the second loop there still no keys. “Hey” I thought, “spare key!” I thought of all the other keys I’d need to replace but one step at a time. It took a while to remember where I’d hidden it but finally I extracted the precious item and inserted it into the door look. No result. I fiddled and wiggled and finally looked at the key to discover that it was only a blank, the key had never been cut. So what bonehead hides a blank key? I began to contemplate all the possible scenarios. What was best?

This was a moment when I wished I still smoked. After quitting over thirty-five years ago the urge still arises. I sat and thunk a spell. What the hell to do? I reconstructed events since our arrival and recalled that when we had arrived I had been accosted by a lovely malamute just as I opened the car door. Had the keys fallen out my pocket then while I was still in the vehicle? Finally my wide shut eyes noticed the passenger window was open about an inch. I fished the dog leash down inside and snagged the door handle. It, of course, pulled inward. Finally using a tree limb which I scrounged up I was able to eventually push the taut leash inward enough to open the lock. That was when the car alarm went off. It worked well. My keys were hiding peacefully under the driver’s seat. Never has a mouthful of hot bottled plastic-flavoured water tasted so good.

We are just a few days away from a huge crop of ripe blackberries. all we need is a few hours of rain for their perfection.
“Bugger off,” said the fly.
So they did!

All’s well that ends. My next stop was a locksmith. While he put things right, across the street police and paramedics removed the body of another fentanyl victim. Their activity seemed placidly routine which enhanced a sense of the surreal. The day progressed like a weird bad dream. We all have them. I wonder what sort of mental energy brings these experiences on. How can we harness that force to make good stuff happen? Oddly, later that same day, Ayre began barking furiously. I could not hear nor see anything. Several minutes later a rain squall arrived. Think of all the sensitivities dogs possess which we gave up long ago. A few days later, to photograph the trailer images below, I pulled onto a tiny short road so I’d bother no-one, nor they me. In the sixty seconds I needed, three different cars arrived at the spot where I stood in the roadway which I had blocked. Really! What are the odds?

My little circus parade. Folks ask “Wotcha got in yer trailer? A horse?” I reply, “Naw, just the kids.” I’m going to paint a sign on the side that says ‘Feel free to feed the monkey.’ There’ll be a drawing of a Sasquatch.
And there’s room for more. Motorcycle and ramp, kayak, inflatable boat and 10hp outboard motor, comfy bed, generator, air compressor, chainsaw, tools, ax and shovel, tent, inflatable mattress, bbq, tarps, jacks, hand winch, extra fuel and water, spare parts and “stuff.” Oh yeah, firewood! Note that there’s a hitch for a second trailer! Just in case.  I’ve built storage lockers in the front and some solar panels will go on top. As a boy I started out with a canoe and a tarp.
A friend suggested installing “Ram” ball mounts on my mirrors so I could fit the bike under the bunk inside the trailer. Great idea! The new mounts also lift the mirrors up and out enough for me to finally see the vehicle coming from behind. It’s nice to see who is going to crush you! Working mirrors are probably the most important safety item on a motorcycle. Thanks Jimmy!

We are at the time of the August full moon. I had been visiting friends on Gabriola island and missed a ferry homeward by five minutes. The next boat eventually left two hours later. I rode my wee scooter home in the dark. I now do not like driving anywhere after dark and realized that I’d never ever ridden a motorbike in the night time. My motorcycle jacket, which had seemed so cumbersome in the summer sun was now my saving grace. It seemed chilly after the heat of the day. My shorts were a cold frivolity. I ride the back roads. My little two-wheeled flivver just does not have enough power for the open highway of madmen at any time of day, let alone at night. The dark country road was my path, complete with glowing eyes in the ditch and the sudden, mysterious shapes of deer ahead. I eased my way along, tense for what might rise before me. The notion of being smacked in the face by the entire planet hung over me heavily. I tip-toed on my tiny motorcycle.

The gibbous moon was rising. It bathed the fields and forests in its soft light, the occasional window glowed warmly along the way. Soft clouds floated above. It was beautiful and indelibly eerie. Obviously I made it home and again, all’s well that ends. Today I stopped for gas at a station in a tiny island village. Fuel was selling for eight cents a litre than anywhere else. The protocol there was to first fill up with gasoline then go inside to pay. Yeah, I know it’s illegal. There were Canadain flags flying, nor protest posters, this guy was just exercising his free will and freedom. Isn’t that refreshing? No, I won’t tell you where is, for obvious reasons. That’s sad!

Osborne Bay. Sunday afternoon, August, low tide. Three golden retrievers ran out onto the mud flats which reeked wonderfully of clams and oysters. They charged about in the muck, their feet making loud splocking and squelching sounds. Then they rolled in the mud for good measure before coming for a cuddly visit. They were happy. And, so was I. It was only mud.
The knocker! His drumming filled the forest with rhythm. I know the feeling of banging my head on a tree all day.
La Puma. “Hey Woody, pull yourself together.”

Despite beautiful warm languid days there is a sense of late summer. There were spring blossoms just a few weeks ago! Now dry yellow summer leaves are falling. And get out a big pail. The blackberry crop this year is coming on fantastically!

You never know who’s watching.
It’s just a trickle but it is normal at this time of year.
En route, on track, on time. What purpose and precision! We don’t even look up.

What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.” Bob Dylan

( So Bob…how about a handout? )


Dash radar. Two bogies, 10 o’clock. Range increasing. She waits on the dash when I’m out of the vehicle.

It is eerie. Sunday morning in Ladysmith, dead quiet. An early flight out of the airport is gone overhead and now there is nothing. A Harley Davidson clatters along the highway, accelerates to beat a yellow light then mumbles off into the distance. It seems very odd, there is usually a distant cacophony of traffic, sirens, lawnmowers and other distant noise pollution. All I can hear this morning is the eternal ringing in my own ears which come from too many years around noisy machinery. And, this is a quiet little town by general standards.

The same mystery which floats a tiny boat floats a massive ship. Apparently there are 2700 containers aboard the ‘Ever Shine’

Expect a flippening in U.S. Stocks.” That is what an ad read as I checked my e-mail. Well our weather has flippened. Finally we have some temperatures in the 30 degree range and I hear babble about heat domes and records being broken. “This is the hottest it has been since 1940.” No, it is called summer time. Simple. Normal. We can all check the records. It gets hot every summer and there is no need to go set yourself on fire. We’re not acclimatized and about the time we get used to some summer heat the trend crashes and someone is howling about a rainy day. STOP IT! Enjoy it while you can.

Amaryllis. Another mystery.

I sat waiting at the Gabriola Island ferry terminal a few days ago and looked across the harbour. In my brain I wrote, “Nanaimo shimmered. A band of hot air lay over the harbour like a layer of dancing prisms. There was no breath of wind. Waiting passengers left their cars to sit in the waiting room, basking in the air conditioning.” Yep, summertime!

This tiny five pound( or less ) poodle has lost her teeth, her tongue hangs out but she’s still full of love and is an essential  family member.

Such is life. I’m now picking up this blog after the August 1st long weekend. I know, the tardy old blogger! The pope has been and gone. Poor old geezer! He was hauled around like some battered trophy scalp and demanded to offer apologies for sins that go back over 500 years. The scapegoat in the housecoat wore every silly hat someone could think up for him to teeter on his old head. Good grief, who would want his job? I see the guy as a figure head, just like presidents and prime ministers; a puppet on a string. He says the words his board of directors told him to utter and now he is back home being prepped for his next mission of placation. Oddly he was not brought to British Columbia, a focal point of Canadian residential school atrocity which brought the whole issue to a boil.

I’ll keep my low opinions about all religions to myself and simply say that when the corporation of the Catholic Church, one of the wealthiest organizations on the planet, decides to embrace biblical humility and universal love, they’ll hang a REMAX sign on the Vatican and get on with the real teachings of Christ. It should be noted that the Catholics apparently administered approximately two thirds of the government-sanctioned cultural remodeling in these schools. The rest was left to protestants who were equally determined to crush the “Indian” out of aboriginal children. That is another part of the same ugly, tragic story which we have not addressed yet. The time will come.

When one nation conquers another it has always been standard protocol to impose ethnic cleansing, especially upon the children. Some purport that we were very close not so long ago to becoming a German-speaking people. At present China is trying to crush the Uyghar people in every way possible. That has always been a dark chapter in the history of man. It will never end. Power and control, that is our instinct. And so on and so on. Blah, blah, blah. We’ve heard it all before. Nothing changes.

The altar. Tiny creatures live in the pool at its base.
Busted. Wasn’t that a party?
This character was about 3/4″ long. It’s a beauty!

The back to school ads are up, soon Christmas sales will appear. If you let it, the swirling madness of our modern world can crush you.

Don’t forget to look for the tiny things.

Today I drove by the huge plastic-bound round bales of hay in the fields. They look like huge rolls of toilet paper. I reminisced about chucking hay bales up onto wagons in summer heat. If you could, you’d wear a leather apron to save your clothes from the ripping straws and thistles in the bales. You did it because you had to, the crop had to come in before rain came. I was a sinewy flat-bellied young man then. I couldn’t manage many minutes of that old heave-ho now! I recall how we did it from first light to last or so long as the dew was gone. The survival of your livestock, and so your farm, depended on a barn full of hay. 

What a different world today. Now hay is handled entirely by machine. No human hand touches the hay or the cow anymore. One man in an air-conditioned tractor can do more in a day than an entire haying crew in the old days. I actually recall some folks bringing in loose hay, not even bothering to bale it. That was an art in itself. And yes, grain was collected in “sheaves” which were then stood together on end in a process called “stooking.” You did that by hand after the sheaves had been collected and tied together by a machine called a binder. The stooks, once sufficiently dry, were then collected by hand and loaded on a wagon to be conveyed to the barn for threshing. It was complicated and all hard work but it was all folks knew. People survived, thrived and didn’t complain. Amazingly, farms much smaller than today’s were somehow able to support a few families each. It is what we call progress.

Back in the day. This is the flat-bellied fellow who used to chuck hay bales. Wonder where he went.
A storm approaches over the toilet tissue farm. It’s amazing what one man with a tractor can do.

This evening is already the third of August. It is overcast and a chilly 20 degrees. It is spitting rain.

Drifting and dreaming.
Some days don’t you just want to float away?

The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.―  Albert Einstein