Tag Archives: nature

Fun With Thunderstorms

Creative Commons: El Garza, Flickr

When I was a kid nothing was more exciting than a thunderstorm. The frenetic energy that charged the air electrified us as well. My mother, who grew up in a small coal mining town, insisted we unplug everything and go into the basement, turning off the lights. Sometimes the power went out so it was flashlights and candles. As we sat in the dark, not standing too near the window, which would just entice the lightning to find you, we watched Nature’s amazing show.

Grey and bilious green roiling clouds, sometimes tinged with yellow, pregnant with dark anger. Eye searing forks of lightning stabbing the earth, sometimes reaching out to grab a bit more. Angry voices cracking through the sky. It was amazing. It rattled windows, it shorted out power and sometimes it caused fires.

We never experienced fire but lightning and thunder were both thrilling and terrifying. I imagine this is why people go to slasher/horror/thriller movies; the on the edge-of-your-seat tension and terror, the relief that it’s not real, the huge adrenalin surge that tells you you’re alive.

Adrenalin is an intrinsic part of our physiological reactions and is called the flight or fight reflex. In intense or dangerous situations, as well as sports, it gives us that extra burst of energy to move faster, lift heavier weights, just survive a bit longer. We can’t control it.

When I was still living in Calgary, there was a massive thunderstorm one night. My boyfriend and I lived near the river and several streets back the terrain became a small cliff with houses upon it. We watched from our balcony window as the lightning streaked out of the sky. It was close, extremely bright, the thunder loud and booming all about us. The closer the sound of thunder to the lightning the closer in proximity to the eye of the storm. As kids we would count from the time we saw lightning (one thousand and one, one thousand and two…) and that would tell us about how many miles away the storm actually was. This site says count the seconds and divide by five to get a mile so maybe that lightning was always closer than I imagined. http://weathereye.kgan.com/cadet/lightning/thunder.html

Well, that night as we watched the dance about us we were suddenly washed in blinding light as a loud boom instantaneously raced through us. My boyfriend and I, devoid of thought, pure instinctual animals jumped and ran, and found ourselves across our apartment in seconds. The lightning storm had been pretty much on top of us and had hit a tree on that cliff behind. That adrenalin reaction was so mindless it made me realize that we are animals after all. That was the closest I ever got to lightning and that was close enough.

But along with thunderstorms, we would often get hail, and this post today is inspired by the fact that we had little pea sized hail falling this morning in Vancouver, which is very rare. We might get a thunderstorm this afternoon.

Hail in Calgary was often an event in and of itself. I remember that it hailed so hard one July that we were playing in two-foot hailbanks afterward. The hail could flood areas and would be fast and furious, biting holes through plant leaves and cold enough to turn your hands blue. Being pelted with little chunks of ice was never fun.

One hailstorm that happened shortly after I left Alberta dropped golfball sized hailstones. Everyone’s car was badly pocked by the hail and people ended up with good goose eggs and bruises if they’d been out in the storm. Hailstorms are even rarer in Vancouver than snow, and that’s uncommon enough. I don’t miss hail as much, though it’s fascinating to watch but I do miss thunderstorms. And I still thrill at the charged air of a good storm.

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Meanderings of a Long Weekend

I took the opportunity for the long weekend of going to Galiano Island, one of the Gulf Islands on the west coast of British Columbia. It’s a long finger of island that butts up to Mayne Island. Sturdies Bay is where the ferries dock, a one-hour trip from Tsawwassen terminal.

My friends aren’t far from Sturdies Bay, a five-minute drive, and their place looks out over the water to Little Gossip Island. There’s a little bit of rocky outcropping that’s submerged at high tide and has various birds from herons, cormorants, gulls and merganzer ducks visiting it. Little Gossip acts as a windbreak to that part of Galiano and when the winds were whipping up to 140 km/h on the ocean, it was a bit calmer where we were. Still, ferries were canceled, trees were downed and the power flickered on and off.

We worked out at the little community gym on Friday and although it’s small it’s quite well equipped with several nautilus machines, rowers, one elliptical, one stair master, one treadmill (broken), mats, balls and free weights. The power went out while were there but there was enough light that it didn’t matter. And lucky for us, we managed to get back before the rain began and the really strong winds. Trees whipped back and forth in the strong winds and parts of the island lost power as line were downed by falling trees. We heard a few things knocking about the place and the rain poured out of the eaves but we were dry and warm. Wood fireplaces are very handy.

Saturday we went for a five-mile hike along a lot of the road around the fatter part of the island and up to the Bluffs that look out over the strait. The day was slightly cloudy, with some sun and a big on the cold side so it was good that we walked fast to warm up. I work out three times a week and teach dance but I couldn’t keep up with my longer legged friend who does and hour walk every day during the work week. And I did get to find out which parts of my body are still not working right. My flexors (that join at the front of the thigh from hipbone down) were killing me by the end of the two hours.

Still it was a good hike which was mild as far as hills and gave me more of a sense of the island. Bill Richardson, humorous writer and past host on CBC radio was giving a talk at the town hall after their AGM. We were going to stay but instead did the hike. Lucky for us we did. We weren’t back and hour when it started to rain again. The winds picked up once more and at one point we even had hail.

The good thing about all that churned up water is that I thought I was seeing an odd-looking dog running by the house when I realized it was a sleek black otter that had come up from the shoreline to hunt around. As its pointy black tail went over the ridge I pointed it out. A few minutes later we saw it in the water and as it dove its tail popped up. I’m told they’re river otters and they’re definitely longer than a cat and like a smallish dog. I also got a chance to see a seal in the water and with the help of binoculars it wasn’t hard to see details.

I spent most of one day catching up on background notes for my novel. Because it’s on a different world I’ve had to do some extensive world building. I already have maps of the continents, rivers, marshes, forests and some towns, but I now had to actually figure out distances because my army is on the move. I had to figure out how fast horses can go and how fast people on foot. I think there will need to be some adjustment but it took figuring out how big my continent must be.

Admittedly long weekends are meant for naps and reading and drinking a bit of wine so my pace was slow. We’d also taken in a trip to the bookstore and the freecycle spots, where the island recycles everything down to plastics and papers and puts whole magazines and books out for people to reuse. (It’s called the Redirectory.) But I did spend most of Sunday re-reading my chapters, fleshing out some characters, finishing one chapter and moving on to another one. I managed about 5,000 words for the day which is a pretty good average. I’m hoping I can keep up the momentum and work away on the novel.

My approach to writing this one is much different from the first one of years ago (unpublished and languishing on the shelf). I have three main characters here and after an initial 30,000 words, I’m reworking the plot and writing through one character’s story arc before I move to another character. I’m sure that means that once all the chapters are written I’m going to have to do so rewriting so that they flow properly but in the meantime I find it the best way to keep track of the conflicts of one character.

Overall, my weekend was productive and relaxing. I wouldn’t mind more four-day weekends.

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A Nasty Tale About Lice

I was born and raised in Alberta, where the summers are hot and dry and the winters are cold and dry. I don’t mean dry as in no precipitation but dry as in the air can make your skin flake like a 10,000 year old mummy’s. And the water is mineralized enough to leave scales on taps and pipes the envy of any dragon.

Calgary gets rain (thundershowers), hail (in buckets) and snow that lasts a winter. Or at lease these phenomena were common in my childhood. Because of this you never saw an animal with fleas unless it was in a place particularly dirty or the animal was particularly mangy. And head lice was not something we even had to worry about in school. However head lice and body lice have been around since humans started wearing clothing (if not longer).

Now I don’t know if head lice care about cold or not, or if people washed more frequently or just didn’t get near to each other but we certainly never had warnings or even one kid with them when I was in school. However, infestations have been reported in most countries and a huge increase has occurred in the last 20 years. I don’t know if this is climate change or that these little vermin are just finding humans more appetizing.

I didn’t encounter head lice when I moved to Vancouver, but I did encounter fleas because of the warmer and moister climate. Your cat or dog doesn’t have be mangy to get them. Keeping a place clean certainly helps. I did encounter lice in the US though.

I used to go down and visit friends who had two kids. I’d sleep on an air mattress on their living room floor and play with the kids as well. I never even knew about lice really at that point. But one day a few weeks later I was at my desk and reading a paper, and scratching at my neck. Now due to my sensitivity to some foods, getting a rash around my neck was not unusual. What was unusual was that as I scratched a little born ovoid bug fell onto the page. At that point I frantically rubbed my hand through my shoulder-length hair and watched in horror as more bugs fell onto the page.

My skin crawled and I panicked. I ran to the bathroom and brushed and brushed and combed my hair knocking beige vermin into the sink. I looked over my scalp but really couldn’t seem much there but I knew. I think with a bit of internet searching and calling a few friends I figured out pretty quickly what I had and went to the pharmacy for louse shampoo, which came with a lovely nit comb. Nits are the egg casings of a louse and stick to the air as little white dots. They’re small but tenacious, and so are their parents, the lice.

The full process involved shampooing my hair and, because I didn’t want to shave my head, sitting outside (thankfully it was summer) on my patio and having a friend comb every nit from my hair. Two-three hours later, I was nit free but still had to shampoo a few more times over the week and check to make sure the buggers were gone.

Besides the bodily care there was the washing of all clothes and bed clothes I may have come in contact with during that time. As well, I had to bag pillows or items that couldn’t be washed and dried under a high heat. I had to vacuum everything thoroughly and leave those bagged items for up to a month to make sure everything was dead.

The worst part was that all of this could have been prevented if the friends, who knew their children had lice, had just let me know. Instead of being head in the sand like they had been, I took the onus of contacting everyone I’d been near to tell them about the lice and what to look for. It was like contacting people to say I had an STD. I felt ashamed and mortified yet I was responsible.

I never stayed with those people ever again but had the misfortune a few months later of being at a group camping event where they were at. I went home and found a few lice but caught them right away, and again informed everyone I knew. I think part of the reason these vermin infestations have been spreading is that people don’t take responsibility. School age kids are most susceptible because of their close contact and therefore schools have a huge problem. We’ll never eradicate them as long as there are people but we could get them under control with a bit of knowledge and responsibility. And I hope I never have to deal with any parasite on my body again, besides slapping a few mosquitoes.

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Galiano Island

Galiano Island ferry dock

Galiano Island ferry dock

 Last weekend I had the chance to go over to Galiano Island. It’s one of  many Gulf Islands in the San Juan Islands and is a long finger of land. Galiano can be reached by a ferry that takes a little less than an hour. We walked on and paid about $20 for a round trip (prices vary going and coming and depending on the season). And for some reason on the ferry rides in both directions the people who left their car alarms on were always driving BMWs and Audis. Folks, if you’re on a ferry, no one is going to steal your car. There is nowhere to go and if they’re breaking in and you don’t hear the alarm, what’s the point? At least the workers made humorous announcements about the alarms.

Rain was the forecast but Saturday turned into a lovely day, warm and fairly clear. This allowed the deer to come into my friends’ yard and have their lunch of windfall apples. There was the mother and a fawn with a few spots still visible on the coat, as well as a yearling that sometimes got chased away. But they were too happy to chomp away and the mother couldn’t be bothered most of the time.

The fawn still has its spots.

The fawn still has its spots.

We also went off to this property where various pieces of rusting metal, old chairs, metal drums, tanks, motors, etc. were ensnared in abundant blackberry bushes. If we ever needed an impenetrable barrier during a war, this guy could do it. The blackberries were plump and juicy so that over the weekend we had blackberry martinis, ice, strudel and just plain ole berries with peaches.

There are quite a few galleries on the island and we made rounds to three openings over two days. One is a little wood style building, nicely laid out, bright and airy called Insight Art Gallery. I can’t remember its name but it had a display of hand painted glass, some jewellery and the opening show of Ingrid Fawcett’s paintings, which were of Chinese lanterns and flowers. The next gallery was I believe the Island’s Edge Gallery, which had a store and a little courtyard (and really awful wine for the opening) plus the gallery. This gallery had paintings, sculpture, ceramic, etchings and a few other items by different artists. There were some great carved pieces including a unicorn head that would have looked better without the horn and a mermaid. The etchings were my favorite but I can’t remember the artist’s name.

Oceanfront Hotel

Oceanfront Hotel

The Oceanfront Hotel (actually condo suites that open on the water) and Spa also has a gallery and we went to that on Sunday. It had some art outside like homemade bird condos (birdhouses but fanciers), a few sculptures and then an gazebo shaped builP1010079ding with more sculpture and art in it. The grounds were very lovely with a small manmade pond and waterfall, a herb garden with some awesome artichoke plants, and a small tranquil Japanese style pond with a big goldfish.

I’ve only been to Galiano once before and we drove up the length of the island. It’s is a wooded island with fir and cedar trees, and some sequoia, and various cabins right up to fancy houses. The population is around 3000 in the summer. The beaches are often sandstone and rocky, which makes for interesting rock formations but there seems to be limited sandy beach. There are many gulf islands and small rock outcroppings that can be seen from different vantage points. I found it peaceful and a nice pastoral getaway. At some point I’ll probably go over again to hang out and do some writing.

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Salmon Fishery: Another Ecosystem on its Last Gasp

In the 80s the Atlantic cod fishery faced a moratorium because the cod stocks had all but disappeared. Some fishermen say that they were telling the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that the fish were getting smaller and fewer. They say the department didn’t listen. Others say that the fishermen were as complicit as the fisheries department because they continued to fish the stocks to near extinction. It’s obvious, if nothing else, that there were several guilty parties and that the fish disappeared.

BC is yet again facing the same thing with the salmon stocks. A predicted high number of returning salmon failed to appear this year. The Fisheries estimated that there would be 11,000,000 but less than 2,000,000 have appeared. They are being accused of having bad science yet again and really, that’s part of it. The other part is setting perhaps too high of quotas and not factoring in possible problems.

Where have the salmon gone? No one is sure but we’re looking at ocean temperatures being alarmingly high from a degree to five degrees warmer and as the scientists have said, this isn’t a percentage of a degree and it is significant. A two-degree difference in ocean temperatures can devastate not only sealife but affect everything from rainfall, snow-melt, tornadoes, hurricanes and lightning storms. Anyone notice the increase in ferocity of these things this year?

Only the most adamant head-in-the-sand attitude would try to say this is cyclical. Yes weather changes are normal to a degree but not to this level of extreme weather and not with the ocean warming this much. And no matter what someone argues, the fact is that the ocean has warmed and it’s devastating sealife. Perhaps there’s been overfishing in the US but I haven’t heard of that fight yet this year though it’s going to come up. And then there are the salmon farms and the danger of sea lice. We don’t know if the lice decimated the populations because they’re not here to see.

And the Native fisheries still have a right to fish when sport and other fishermen don’t. The fish for some sustenance though in this world almost all bands have members with jobs, near shopping centers where other food supplies are available. They fish for ritualistic means. They fish as part of their jobs, like other fishermen.

What’s at stake? The livelihoods of fishermen. The rituals of First Nations people. The salmon. If the salmon go, there will be no more fishermen. There will be no more rituals or traditions involving salmon. That is the bottom line and when less than two million salmon have returned and the future of their viability is uncertain, no one, and I mean no one should be fishing them.

We will run into again, the “appease me today, and we’ll worry about tomorrow tomorrow” sentiment. Yes, people will be angry, people will lose their jobs but is it better to keep a job for a few months and never have one again nor taste a salmon ever again? And of course if salmon disappear, it could affect other aspects of the ecosystem and the feeding cycle of other animals in the ocean and on land, such as bears.

There is a shortsightedness that is not only affecting our fisheries but still prevalent in other issues of the environment. It is as if a slumbering behemoth was prodded for thirty years and finally awoke and roared. The rampage or movement is about to begin but it will be at such a slow pace. The more I hear about our environment going crazy, the more I realize our time is running out faster than we can implement change, because that change is so small and incremental.

I fill with despair that in no other time in history, nor in such a short time, have humans destroyed so many things. We lost touch with our place on the land and have upset a balance that took millennia to set in place. It is ever changing and ever balancing and if anyone wonders at the fact that there are more scary flu epidemics (SARS, H1N1, etc.) and other diseases (HIV, Ebola) that are hitting larger populations, it’s not just because we travel more and the virii and bacteria travel farther. It’s also Mother Nature trying to reassert a measure of balance and she  will take drastic measures to do so.

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Childhood Games: Marbles and More

We live in such an era of media overload that the childhood games of yesteryear are all but forgotten.Video games and TV still predominate to such a degree that childhood obesity is now a problem in North America. Sure there are some sports but perhaps not enough.

And with all the media inundation, children have forgotten often how to play or to create a game out of nothing. Back when civilization consisted of making everything by hand a child was lucky to have even one toy. It might be made of clay or wood, or perhaps scraps of cloth though early clothing construction consisted of no leftover bits. The toys would be tools to imagination and the child would have to create their own games.

Years ago I went with friends to their cabin in Clinton, BC. The little nieces were out in a rustic wood cabin with no electricity, no TV and no games. They started to whine about being bored. So I said, come on, grab a towel and let’s go outside. The three little girls followed me and we ran around like superheros or jumped out of the crabapple tree. Before long, they’d forgotten about their store bought toys and were enjoying make-believe in nature.merrygoround1

There have always been complex games and simple games. Chess is a complex board game, checkers, not as much. When I was a kid in elementary school there was the usual playground equipment: teeter totters, monkey bars, a merry-go-round (the foot powered style) and that would be it. Swings were for the parks but not amongst unruly kids during recess.

But we also played another game. I think it was around grade 3 that the kids would line up against the wall of the school and play marbles. You needed a few marbles to begin. Other kids would sit with their legs in a V, with a marble or marbles lined up. Then you would stand at the predetermined line and roll your marble toward the other one. If you hit the marble you got to keep both. If you missed, the other person kept both. Some people would line up three or more, or like a bowling alley so that you would have to hit the ones in front before getting the more prized marble at the back. Some people even built cardboard arches to set their marbles in.

Cat’s eyes were the commonest type of marble, but sometimes there would be a more interesting color combo. catseyesThere were the larger sizes; I can’t remember what we called them but I think either boulders or jumbos.  Next in marbles were the sold colors, opaque or with a marblesswirl through them. And there were the clear marbles, either blue or white or green, or some other color. I remember taking some of these and frying them in the frying pan, then dropping them in water. These would form crackle marbles. They too were prized but somewhat fragile.

But the most coveted of all marbles were the steelies, ball bearings really but their silvery perfection was what every kid aimed for. You used your cat’s eyes first to hit the other marbles and tried to get more prized marbles. If you ran low on the lowly cat’s eyes, then you set up your prize marbles (but not usually your most favored) to gain more marbles. It was about collecting the coolest marbles and about the most.seagrams I even had a clay marble at some point. It was very old but not worth much to the other kids.

Almost as precious as those steelies were the bags to carry your marbles in. And the best bag of all was the purple, Seagram’s Crown Royal whiskey bag. I managed to get one. Maybe it came with some marbles, maybe from an older sibling, but it was definitely the choicest bag.

When talking recently with my siblings, my older brother and sister and my younger brother (a span of eleven years) we all remember shooting marbles and the Seagram’s bags. My younger brother said it was uncommon for girls to play, yet I remember doing it but also being unaware of whether I was in a minority of girls to boys. But it seems we played through grades 3-5. Grade 1 was too young and by grade 6 we were on our way out to junior high (grade 7 in Alberta). It was probably the most popular playground game in school.

My younger brother is a teacher and says no one plays marbles anymore. It’s too bad. It was cheap and simple and taught kids numbers, how to trade and value. I don’t remember any fights breaking out over marbles. Maybe they did from time to time but it was still a way to keep kids occupied that didn’t cost hundreds of dollars. I still like marbles as pretty pieces of glass. Perhaps, as the economy continues to slow, people will go back to simpler pastimes.

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Penticton and Wayward Travels

I drove up with friends yesterday (this was July 1 but there have been internet issues) to Penticton. This is an extended Canada Day that will go until the weekend. The drive started out fine and one car took the Hope-Princeton route and they other, my car, the Coquihalla route. It’s been about four years since I was last out this way, I think, so how much could it change?

I have never wanted to drive through the Interior during the winter, especially on the Coquihalla Highway, which is a top of the world sort of place and has high snow. In fact, they insist you have chains and/or snow tires. The road seemed a little rougher than it had been in the past, but then it’s probably graded or plowed in the winter, which can scrape and damage pavement. As well, the temperatures go from freezing to hot, which will give it wear. But it makes me wonder where all those tolls went over the years–perhaps not to highway maintenance.

We passed a semi, upside down in the ditch, obviously there for a day or so but waiting to be removed. We also passed a guy with his car in the center ditch, facing sideways to the road, with the tow truck there to remove it. The Coquihalla may look deceptively smooth, with gentle curves but this says it can be treacherous still when absolutely bone dry (and when speeding too much).

One of Gordon Campbell’s election ploys was to remove the tolls suddenly (without even telling the workers–that went over well) so no tolls anymore. I was still expecting the toll booths. And because there weren’t any and I was talking with my friend, we missed the connector turnoff and ended up in Kamloops going, what? When did this build up so much? And then, “I thought we went through Merritt.”

So, we ended up taking the long route through Kamloops, Vernon and Kelowna. One thing I noticed all through the Coquihalla and Kamloops was the number of dead pine trees. The Coquihalla is so high up that the trees are sparsely spaced. But in spots 50% were brown. I think this must be the mountain pine beetle, unless it had been some sort of selective fire, but the trees did not look like they had been burned. Shocking to see so many dead trees.

Penticton really hasn’t changed in some ways and yet has changed in others. I dropped my friend at the campground within the city limits, South Beach. How many cities can boast of a campground in the city limits? And as I drive into the campground, almost knowing where it is, I recognize it. My mother used to drag me and my younger brother to the Okanagan to pick fruit and collect rocks.

Okay, so it wasn’t quite all that but we were teenagers and wanted to hang out on the beach. So I recognized the campground, and the canal in the campground (but not the lovely lily pads, nor the trailer park, very nice trailer park, on the opposite bank), and the registration office, and the bathrooms. Yes, we used to stay at that campground, and I remember it quite well. I’m not sure how many years I went there, as a kid, but there are weeping willows, running water and electricity, which makes it a pretty good campground.

Today, we also went boating on Skaha Lake, the beach right outside South Beach campgrounds. My friends zipped about with an inner tube off the back of the boat so you can bounce along in the wake. Good fun and unfortunately I’m glowing a bit. When we returned the boat I noticed a swallow flying about,  a barn swallow I think. It came in under the roof of the boat rental place and duck into a nest made of mud and feathers and spit. And there were five little swallow babies with their wide mouths gaping. They only squawked when the parent appeared (there was a mom and dad) but were awfully cute and tiny.

And on the canal in the campground, there were ducks and ducklings, every age from the wee ones to the teenagers, making me wonder about the gestation and breeding periods of ducks (Mallards).  I also saw minnows, something larger (trout?, catfish?), red winged blackbirds, but I missed the beavers that my friends saw in the canal. It’s been relaxing so far and I’m feeling it’s too short. But at least I know where I’m going. Tomorrow, Peachland.

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Dunguaire and Ailwee Caves

Ireland 2007–Dunguaire & Ailwee Caves

After Carrowmore, on Wednesday Oct. 3, we headed toward the Burren. It was raining in Carrowmore but the weather was wonderfully clear and fairly warm once we hit the west coast. Here is where the maps screwed us up quite a bit. Dunguaire was shown as being on the other side of Kinvara, a small little fishing village. But instead it was right at the edge of the village. Nothing was really placed correctly so we had to ask as usual. Outside of Dunquaire castle was a cute little bird just singing his head off. It really set the joyful atmosphere of the place.

Dunguaire castle was closed, as of the day before, alas, but the water was beautiful, a deep azure and choppy. I would definitely go back to actually see Kinvara the next time around as we whizzed through it. It took meandering along very curvy roads and a few wrong turns to find the Ailwee Caves. These were carved by underground rivers millions of years ago. European brown bears were thought to be extinct in Ireland for the last 1200 years but they found bones in a hibernation spot that date back only 1000 years. Still it’s sad to think how many large species once populated Ireland and were wiped out in the past 5000 years.

The caves were quite large and there were deposits forming stalagmites and stalactites. White fossils graced the brown and black stone. But they really rushed you through straight out of and back into the gift store of course. There wasn’t really time even to take a proper picture and for the price they charged (not an OPW site) they could have given a few more minutes.

We drove through the Burren (or Burren), which looks like a volcanoe blorped out mud millions of years ago and then it solidified. There’s a picture in here of this and you can see the top of the hill is grey, just like the mud. Because of the stone the Burren was written about through the ages as being inhospitable with no land to grow on and yet people lived there. Rock and rock walls abounded.

Driving into this area reminded me a bit of the Okanagan in BC. It had a certain craggy austerity in parts but I loved this area. Tomorrow, more of the Burren and surrounding area.

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Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giants Causeway was just west of Carrick-a-Rede. This is all in the county of Antrim, in Northern Ireland. There were tons of people here and like most of the ruins throughout Ireland, there is a cost to see them. The money often goes back to the upkeep of the places. That I even managed pictures without anyone in them is something. They have buses that are loaded up and drive people down the hill for those who don’t want the walk down or the hike up. But it’s less than 30 minutes to walk one way (down). It’s a slow incline but an incline nonetheless, and a good sweat on the way up. This was my third hike of the day after Kinbane (the hardest) and Carrick-a-Rede. I can say my muscles were a bit sore the next day.

The Causeway stones are basalt and due to an ancient (65 million years ago) lava flow as well as hot and humid conditions interspersed with colder air, caused the geometric fracturing of the stones. I believe there is one area like this in Scotland too, but other than that a very unique configuration. The stones are all six sided and broken into layers. Some have tumbled down to form a mosaic of  stone. Others still stand in precarious looking columns.

Ireland 2007–Giants Causeway

The pictures are pretty much self-explanatory. Amazing to look at but we didn’t do the long hike around to the Chimney and the Organ. It would have been a couple of more hours and we had many places to hit. In the afternoon now, there were fewer clouds but a haze had developed.

The Causeway stones are grayish to red where the water has not hit them. But wherever the sea water has licked the stones they take on a black hue. This gives some interesting gradations of color. Signs posted said to stay off the black rocks as the waves could sweep you away. After a similar incident on BC’s coast the year before where people where swept off of rocks, I paid attention. The sea is very wild along here .

Some of the Causeway stones are pitted and eroded by wind, rain and sea. They had been dished by the elements and began to remind me of ancient vertebrae. One of my favorite pictures of Ireland is the one of the Causeways stones (ocean behind me) with the pitted rocks leading up to a hill.

Maybe next time I’ll do some hikes through this area. It’s pastoral and rolling and the variations in green are picturesque. Giants Causeway is definitely worth seeing and seeing again.

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Carrick-a-Rede, Ireland

Today I’ve been felled by the dreaded cold so here is another piece from my trip to Ireland in 2007. All photos on this site are copyrighted.

Still on Oct. 1, travelling west along the north coast of Ireland, we went next to Carrick-a-Rede, which means something like big rock. Carrick is the name of the island and it’s tiny. It has a rope bridge suspended over a churning passage of water. Really, the bridge is twisted tensile metal strands and very sturdy. I think it was updated in 2000.

Ireland 2007–Carrick a Rede

Used by fisherman since the 16th century, it was once just a rope with some wood slats. Down one side, just before the rope bridge is the husk of a building used for the salmon fishery. I believe this closed down in the 80s or 90s as fisheries all over the world have met similar demises. Fishing by boat was somewhat treacherous so the fishermen used Carrick island to fish from. The northern coast is tumultuous, with crashing waves and no matter how alluring the waters look I bet they’re freezing cold.

I’m not sure if they trawled as there does seem to be some evidence of pulleys and such but in any case, Carrick like Kinbane, no longer has a fishing industry.

The walk to Carrick was beautiful. We had great weather and although there in the morning it warmed up quite a bit, especially with the stairs on the return visit. The ocean here was absolutely amazing. The colors in the pictures are quite accurate and it reminded me of the water around the Bahamas, but wilder and colder. The white cliffs are limestone and the rest is basalt I believe. On Carrick island the beginnings of the fractured basalt that makes up Giants Causeway could be seen.

They ask for a donation or fee to cross the bridge, which you pay earlier. I actually had left my pay stub with my sister but had paid it so they did let me cross. My sister, afraid of heights and swaying bridges, stayed behind and waited up the hill. There is a sway to the bridge, which is about thirty feet across. There were two teens with their father crossing in front of me and they decided to bounce the bridge. I waited, not because of fear but because I wanted to take pictures.

This was hike two, after Kinbane but really took only about 45 minutes in all to get to the island and back. The island itself was very hummocky and spongy. They have signs requesting that you protect the environment, which I presumed meant, walk lightly (as there were many people and would be more in the afternoon) and don’t pick anything. There was no set trail and you could walk from one side to the other in probably a minute; it’s that small. All along the way to and from the island is a trail that would make a great hike off the coast.

From Carrick-a-rede you can see the larger rock that they named Sheep Island, I imagine because of its color and shape, and across the water is Rathlin, a much larger island. It’s a rugged coast and I can see any landing, on a storm tossed night probably claimed its share of ships.

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