Friday, November 24, 2017

Christmas Lights

The Christmas lights in Goderich are an interesting story.  A tornado ripped through the town, tearing right through the centre of the downtown several years ago.  It destroyed almost all the large trees in the park behind my sister's house, and all the large trees surrounding the town hall in the 'Square'.  There was so much glass embedded in the soil in the Square that they had to strip 6" of soil off before restoring it!


Without the trees downtown, they needed a new plan for the Christmas lights, and they switched to the park behind my sister's house.  A number of good size trees had been planted, and using them and some metal frameworks, the town's Christmas light display is now right outside my sister's kitchen window!

So I borrowed her tripod and went out to get a few pix.  There's a narrow one-lane loop road through the park, so locals can drive slowly through the display.

It sure brightened up the back yard!

A nativity scene, complete with camel.

And a very big snowman.

This was the view from the upstairs window in our bedroom.

Then I got a little wacky, and did some silly light painting.

I guess this was a foretaste of feeling quite loopy the next day after getting out of the light anaesthetic needed for yet another medical test at a London hospital.  But stopping in Goderich cut the morning drive in half, and provided a nice break compared to one of those 7 hour driving days!


Thursday, November 23, 2017

We Found the Hidden Waterfalls

I was determined to find those 'Hidden Waterfalls' if I could.  So I consulted with my son-in-law about exactly where they were.  If you notice the Google Maps image yesterday, they are supposed to be very close to a road.  So on one of our last days out west, my grandson and I went off to find them again.  Was I surprised by what I found!

Warning, a picture heavy post again, and a few slightly blurry shots as these are all handheld on a dark grey afternoon deep in the forest, at a slow speed.

We stopped at a pull-off on the road, and looked for a trail.  We found this one immediately and went in about 100'.  Can you recognize it as the opposite side of the stream we reached on the previous hike?   Beautiful, but no waterfalls, and thick impassible forest on both sides of the stream.

So went back out to the road and looked for another trail lower down.  There it was, and within 50' we found this tiny 'waterfall' pouring out of a culvert under the road.  I could hear a lot more roaring water downstream though, so we headed on.

I was trying to snap quick pictures while keeping an eye on my adventurous 7-year-old, who wasn't in the least afraid of the steep wet slopes on both sides of the trail.  Turns out there were two streams, and we were on a narrow peninsula between them.  This photo is as far as we got, a view downstream at the point they join together from left and right.

We headed back up a little more slowly, and I realized that it was dark enough in the late afternoon light that I could get some 'slow' pictures.  This was the biggest single drop on the northern stream, just a small rocky ledge.

But this was what the rest of the stream looked like - tumbling down over the rocks fast.  I would estimate it dropped 100 feet in 200 yards!  A foaming rapid most of the way.

The site is totally 'undeveloped'.  Though there's a narrow worn trail, there are no signs, no protective railings, no warnings, and very steep rocky banks down to the water.  It was impossible to get clear views without branches in the way, because the place is simply too wild - the way I like it.

This is the second stream, on the south side, also a tumbling rapids for about 200 yards, and dropping even further, perhaps 125 feet.

This is the single biggest drop on that side, perhaps 6 feet.

Personally, I like the ripples over the rocks as the stream pours downslope as much as the actual small waterfalls.  And the water is roaring all around you.

I think this was my favourite picture.  But given that these were all handheld, mostly for 1/4 second exposures, and all slightly blurry, I am definitely going back here with a tripod, and lots of time to myself!  These two tumbling streams are definitely one of my favourite all-time waterfalls.  The fact that we had to hunt to find them just made it all the more adventurous!  It ended up a great grandfather/grandson explore!

I was initially thinking that it's a shame there isn't a sign.  But upon reflecting, and feeling somewhat selfish, (and keeping in mind safety), I'm glad there are no signs, and hope there aren't any in the future.  Perhaps the place will retain a little mystery and wildness.  Given how visitors behave at waterfalls along the Bruce Trail here in Ontario, this place would be an unsafe disaster if it was heavily visited!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

In Search of the Hidden Waterfalls

I tried a new local trail twice while staying with our daughter-in-law, once by myself, and once with my grandson.  I was intrigued with a notation on Google Maps for the "Hidden Waterfalls", and was sure that this trail headed that direction.  Warning - another picture heavy post.

It's actually a heavily disturbed forest, but the trees grow fast and grow big.  I caught the morning mist in the sun through the trees here.

It's not all Hemlock and Cedar though; this is a big Bigleaf Maple.

And lots of those Sword Ferns, and the smaller Licorice Ferns that grow right out of the moss on tree branches.

It's a rainforest alright, moss on the branches, and big old stumps nursing new young trees.

A couple of days after my walk alone, I went down the same trail with my grandson, still hoping we could get to see those waterfalls.

In places the trail was flooded with large puddles.  And what does a seven-year-old do with a large puddle?

Of course, see how close you can get the water to the top of your boots!

We got down to the stream quickly, to this collapsed log bridge once used by mountain bikers.  It's a beautiful little stream, flowing through the steep-sided valley.

But look at these two pictures!  If I couldn't quite jump across the first time, we certainly weren't going to this time!  The water had risen about 4" after overnight rain.

We had to give up our quest and head back up hill.  My eagle-eyed grandson did spot this interesting slug on the ground.

These aren't even huge trees, but I like to think that this is one kid who is going to appreciate the natural world in his future.

Meanwhile, back home on the ranch, it appears to be winter now.  This was whiter a few hours later, gone again today, but forecast to return tomorrow.  Four months of snow coming up.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fort Langley National Historic Site

On one of the days when our grandchildren were in school and daycare, Mrs. F.G. and I headed out to visit Fort Langley, a National Historic Site down the Fraser River.  I ended up being really impressed, and learned a lot about the early settlement history of B.C.  Warning, this is a picture heavy post; if you're not interested in a bit of history, come back tomorrow.

There's a small visitor centre through which you enter.  It consists mainly of a gift shop and washrooms  Notice the 'Welcome' in three languages - the third language is Halkomelem, the language spoken by the local Kwantlen First Nation.

This mural was on the outside of the building, and I thought it actually captured rather well the atmosphere of fur traders arriving on a supply boat, and the native encampment across the river.  West coast tribes built houses of planks split from large cedar logs just as in this illustration.

The first building we stopped at was the cooperage.  This fort developed a large farm on the flatlands of the Fraser Valley, and barrels were used for exporting salmon, cranberries and other products - as far away as Hawaii and Alaska.  It was the local Kwantlen people that pushed the fort into taking not only furs, but salmon and cranberries in trade, so Fort Langley became more than a fur trade fort from the beginning. 

They certainly had a good display of barrels, and later we saw a young student (one of many school groups visiting that day), trying her hand at cutting a barrel stave with a draw knife.

This fort was originally built in 1827, so what you're seeing today are reproduction buildings, about 10 of them, along with the surrounding stockade.  But they are really well done in my opinion.

There are live demonstrations with appropriate period dress.  We listened for awhile to these blacksmiths explain what sort of tools would be made here and how.

Our conversation with this fur trader turned more to his (real) life back home in Ontario.

I learned the most about the fur trade.  Pelts of all kinds came into the fort, in exchange for trade goods brought from England by the Hudson's Bay Company.

The famous Hudson's Bay blankets were popular.  You can still buy them today.

Mrs. F.G. had a close look at this bolt of cloth, and regretted she didn't have a pair of scissors to surreptitiously cut off a yard or so!

A surprising range of goods were traded, from guns to grain, from axe handles to fancy dishes.

In return the furs were baled up tight and shipped back across the continent and on to England,

where a lot of them were made into the famous beaver hats, made out of felted beaver furs.

There was of course a 'big house' where the Chief Trader lived, in a fair degree of luxury I might say, for such an isolated outpost of Britain.  The United States and the British governments were arguing during the mid-1800's as to where the eventual boundary should go in the area known as the 'Oregon Country'.

At this time the Oregon Country included much of present-day Oregon, Washington and southern British Columbia.  The British argued that the 42nd parallel should be the border; the U.S. that "54-40" should be the border.  After Lewis and Clark reached the Pacific at the mouth of the Columbia, and Simon Fraser reached the mouth of the Fraser, the final compromise was the 49th parallel.  During the years following this decision, gold was discovered in the Fraser Valley.  Thirty thousand men descended on Fort Langley!  In response, Governor James Douglas declared the establishment of the Colony of British Columbia at Fort Langley.  So this in a very real way was where British Columbia started.

One of the Chief Traders, James Murray Yale.  Yale is a town up the Fraser River today.  I learned a good deal about the fur trade out here, and early B.C. history visiting this fort.  This post of course leaves out the entire 10,000+ years of native history that preceded it, but that is another fascinating story, or perhaps several.

The village of Fort Langley is also interesting, though rather a yuppy sort of place.  A bead store, clothing boutiques, restaurants, antiques, but not much that would actually be useful if you lived there - like a hardware or grocery store!  Never-the-less we had a pleasant wander around, and chuckled at the name of this store!