Eagles in Winter

15 December 2017 – We are on the Squamish River, between Vancouver & Whistler, in Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park. We’re here for wintering eagles, not for salmon.

The salmon deserve their sculpture, and our respect. Without the prolific chum (Onc orhynchuus keta) run each year, and the resulting salmon carcasses, Bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) would not congregate here each winter.

But the chum do run, and the carcasses do accumulate. This riparian area therefore offers the eagles one of North America’s best wintertime habitats — and offers humans one of North America’s most significant locations for viewing them, December-March.

Frances and Sally, Vancouverites both, know the area, know what it offers, and I am only too happy to benefit from their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Even the naked eye spots Bald eagles in all directions — in trees, swooping over the water, on sand & gravel bars in the river.

We read the information boards, including the four points of Eagle Viewing Ethics.

We stand there, amazed by the river tumbling to the Pacific Ocean between mountain ranges, by the mountains, by the habitat and, of course, by the eagles.

Sally has the better camera, one capable of seeing more than naked eyes — or phone cameras — can possible capture.

An eagle swoops in over the bar. Click!

He has lots of company. Click!

Later we follow the riverside path, mindful of Eagle Viewing Ethics, carefully staying on the path, trespassing neither on the sand bars to our left nor on Squamish Nation property to our right.

Eagles perch freely in these trees, apparently unfussed by the parade of human gawkers. Close enough, now, for any kind of camera.

Here a speckled juvenile (or so someone tells me) and an adult …

and there a majestic adult all on his own, glorying in his white head, visual counterpoint to Sally’s red toque.

After the park, on to some feeding of our own.

Frances, with insider knowledge, guides us to Fergie’s Café, a local gem tucked away on the neighbouring Cheakamus River. A “locally sourced, innovative menu,” I later read somewhere, and it’s true — everything from red meat to vegan, made right there, by a serious (but not solemn) chef.

Oh, yum.

Afterwards, we lollygag for a bit on the banks of the Cheakamus.

More eagles.

Yes, those two dots on that tree branch = eagles. My camera, so you have to take my word for it.

But that’s not really why I’m using this photo. I’m using it because it’s just so back-country Canadian: rushing river, rock, coniferous & deciduous trees, sturdy little workhorse bridge, mountains.

I’ve stood in the equivalent of this spot so many times, in so many places, across the country & across the decades.

It still takes my breath away, stings my eyes.

We finally drive out, ready to head back to the city — but make one last stop just outside Squamish itself, down bouncy rutted roads to another viewpoint, right on the river.

Mid-afternoon sun warms the rock, glints off Diamond Head’s snowcap in the background.

And then we go join Hwy 99, and drive home.

 

 

Sea to Sky to Pumpkins

11 October 2016 – Of course pumpkins! This particular sea-to-sky adventure takes place on Thanksgiving weekend.

Make that Sea to Sky, upper case. I’m talking about the 120-km stretch of Highway 99 that lies between Vancouver & Whistler, snaking its way from the Pacific Ocean around Horseshoe Bay, on up through the Rocky Mountains,  beneath a huge, arching sky.

Our destination is Pemberton, another 40 km or so beyond Whistler, snugged into a mountain floodplain that yields rich crops every year. The farmers sell large-scale to international networks, and small-scale to visitors on-site. Sally & Owen are among those devoted fall visitors, and have a favourite farm on their list.

Which doesn’t prevent stops along the way! First stop Whistler, ski town supreme, where Owen eyes bargains at the annual Turkey Sale (every kind of mountain sports stuff, zero turkeys), and Sally & I visit the Audain Art Museum.

Next stop, a roadside veggie stand somewhere between Whistler & Pemberton.

roadside stand n. of Whistler

I did promise you pumpkins …

Sal opens the fridge, checks the produce, selects cherry tomatoes, and drops payment into the honour-system box.

cherry tomatoes for us

Meanwhile I admire the West-Coast imagery on the panels in the farmers’ garden.

same roadside farm

Into Pemberton, through Pemberton, down a branch road with farms filling the fertile valley either side. Lots of root vegetables, the traditional staples, but now cranberry bogs & hops growers as well.

We pull in at our destination farm.

the target veggie farm, beyond Pemberton

It’s a traditional, multi-generation operation. Last year Sal & Owen met the patriarch (94 next week, we learn) and did business with “The Wife.” Dave’s wife, that is, and it’s Dave himself this year, with whom they are soon arranging for lots of potatoes, carrots & a half-bag of beets.

(L to R) Sally, Owen & Dave

I wander around, admire the log cabin on one front corner of the family’s land …

a cabin on the property

and some nearby work implements. “There’s a lot of stuff on the land,” says Dave, “and we don’t use any of it all the time — but every bit of it is needed some of the time.”

more farm implements

Framing all this, the mountains. Snow already in the high peaks.

snowy peaks beyond

Skiers like Sal & Owen are counting the days. Meanwhile, Owen makes do with a close-up photo.

from the Hellerang farm

One more farm stop as we head back south to Vancouver, this time at North Arm Farm.

North Arm Farm

It is a more complex operation than Hellerang — a broader range of foodstuffs (including, I drool at the memory, chocolate-almond truffles), and destination experiences such as kiddie wagon rides, camp fires & the like.

fun at North Arm Farm

A good time is being had by all, happy children on the ground, gossiping crows in the trees.

One final stop, this time for coffee-and-a-treat, and much closer to home, in Squamish. A stop with a bonus. The little café has a used-book shelf, where Sal & I each pick up a book. “How much?” we ask. “Ahhh,” says the owner, looking at our choices, “ahhh, just take ‘em.”

And a second bonus, as we hop back into the car: a great view of The Chief outcrop (home to a demanding hiking trail), and of the message below (rather faint here, sorry!).

The Chief, Squamish BC

So. From Squamish to me to you, let us all rejoice in “This Beautiful Day.”

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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