Summer of Sixteen

The Coon Clan 2016

Every year we say the garden can’t cope with us going away for long periods, but every year ‘something’ comes up. This July began with Jo and family coming over for a family wedding in Edinburgh so we managed a few get togethers for the grandparents, parents, cousins/nephews/nieces and it was lovely for Jo to see her new niece so soon.

Haven't tried. Now drinking cider.
Haven’t tried. Now drinking cider.

The big news was John’s coeliac diagnosis. It was a bit of a surprise to learn that this is a condition one is born with but his coping mechanisms have been failing for some years now without being recognised. It is going to mean a bit of work identifying what he can eat, reading labels and wondering whether something that is gluten free but has not been manufactured in a gluten free environment is worth the risk. Because this makes gluten free food expensive, it comes on prescription but that hasn’t happened yet. Meanwhile we are experimenting with samples from a number of companies.

img_2515We went off on holiday to Canada for two weekends of orienteering and a four day kayaking trip. Blame Val and Ted, who diverted us to Bordeaux two years ago. The event was billed as the Icefield  Parkway event because the first event was in the north and the second event the south of this route through the Rockies, allowing time for sightseeing (and recovery) in between. We hired a campervan and turned up only to discover, as happened to us before in America, that the small ones had all been allocated and we had to take a larger one, which Val promptly christened the party wagon.

Here’s some pics.

  • Miette Hot Springs between Hinton and Jasper.
  • The Athabasca Falls.
  • Going up to the Athabasca Glacier
  • The Athabasca Glacier.
    The Athabasca Glacier.
  • Coming down from the Athabasca Glacier.
  • View of the Athabasca Glacier from overnight stop.
  • On the way to Banff.
  • Top of Sulphur Mountain above Banff.
  • Downtown Calgary. Very civilised.
  • Emptying The Beast.
  • Notice the dining room pullout.
  • Sprint near Hinton - having just missed the final control.
    Sprint near Hinton - having just missed the final control.
  • Athabasca lookout between Hinton and Jasper.
    Athabasca lookout between Hinton and Jasper.
  • Campsite at Jasper.
    Campsite at Jasper.
  • Scary. Glad we didn't see any of these.
    Scary. Glad we didn't see any of these.

I don’t know about parties but it was the first time we had experienced pull-outs, where the side of the van extends to give more space. Ours allowed for more space in the ‘bedroom’ and the ‘sitting area’. It was rather nice not having to take the bed down every morning but the larger size was a bit intimidating when it came to ‘urban’ driving.

The orienteering itself turned out to be physically and technically very difficult and neither of us covered ourselves in glory. Both weekends followed the format of middle distance, long and sprint. We were asked to carry bear spray for the Canadian Championships but it was during the other event that I actually met one. I was wildly off line after a compass disaster and had considered missing out the 7th control, but then decided that that was what I was here for so carried on. This meant that most people were coming towards me and of course the poor bear who had been frightened away was also heading towards me! He crashed through the bushes off to my right and I hid behind a tree. Yes, I know bears don’t see you, they smell you but it was the only thing I could think of at the time!

Apparently John and Val were in the same area at the same time but as Val was on sticks, John wasn’t too worried. We have not been fans of sprint racing, although as I become less happy on rough terrain, I am beginning to be tempted, provided the planning offers the same challenges. John however was fed up running round a holiday camp and missed the last control by way of protest.

The Canadian Championships a week later, round Banff, had to be redesigned at short notice due to a good summer of buffalo berries which brought the bears into our terrain. The long distance event was re-planned on the same area as the middle, which suited us because we were camping there. The sprint was relocated to Calgary University. It was a good location for us as we had to return the campervan to Calgary that afternoon. After I remembered that grey on a sprint map denotes buildings I got on a lot better. John (much to his chagrin and our amusement) came fourth. He claims that had he not lost 3 seconds helping me he would have been on the podium.

Always fancied a trip on a Greyhound bus. 15 hours but not too bad.
Always fancied a trip on a Greyhound bus. 15 hours but not too bad.

So we parted from our new orienteering friends and our home of two weeks and headed for Vancouver. This was a journey of 16 hours on the Greyhound bus, putting another tick on John’s bucket list, and was surprisingly bearable due to the frequent stops and chatty driver.


Vancouver itself was just a city and we got out as fast as possible to catch the ferry to Nanaimo and north to Campbell River and Quadra Island. There were long queues for the ferries which caused some anxiety and we had to miss the briefing for the kayaking trip. It wasn’t a problem as it turned out.

The trip began with a four and a half hour water taxi with the other members of our group to our camp on the Johnston Straits. The location was pretty amazing, right out in the wild, with hot water showers, a drop toilet, (though we were invited to use the shoreline for fluids as everything had to be carried out) and an amazing social area with kitchen, eating, giant jenga, campfire, sightseeing and even a hot tub. We were very impressed by the guides who worked long days preparing food from first thing in the morning to last thing at night (even hot water bottles) as well as taking us out on the water.

  • Great forest walk up to headland to look for orca.
  • Campsite fire pit.
  • Heaven.
  • Evening pursuits.
  • Typical outing.
  • Camp kitchen

The kayaking was nothing special, spoilt as we are for scenery here. Because it was a fixed camp, we just went east one day and west the other day and pootled around locally the first and last days, wildlife spotting. We saw orcas and a humpback as well as seals, walrus and bears, yes, bears, on the beach looking for wee crabs. Our tents all had lovely private open views and were warm and comfortable.

The trip finished with a visit to the south of Vancouver Island to see Butchart Gardens. It was one of the places that Mum visited and bought a place mat for her collection. It was impressive to find that I could take an almost identical photograph 30 years later. The gardens used a lot of bedding plants to ensure colour all year but weren’t particularly extensive so we had time to go into Victoria in the evening to photograph more place mat locations and enjoy a last dinner on the quayside. All in all, a very pleasant end to the holiday.

We came back to a garden full of weeds which is taking a lot of recovering from. The front garden was weeded and mulched but I’m still struggling with the veg garden. On the plus side, the new rose garden is filling out with some cornus to give it winter interest.

Meanwhile John has been cutting the grass and has built a penthouse for the rainbow café and ‘flat above the shop’. Three floors up, the structure was vulnerable to the wind so all the branches of the willow tree have come down and it remains to be seen how much will grow again. More painting or staining will be required but it does give fantastic views from the top! Further up the garden, the tree planting is taking shape and being improved by the addition of paths and drains.

“Beneath the spreading chestnut tree,
I have built a ferneree
With stumps.
While my friend Valeree
Has built a stumperee
With ferns.”

Island Bagging off Shuna
Island Bagging off Shuna

Between times we stole a day trip to Colonsay visiting the lovely beach and gardens. We went to a murder mystery night at Arduaine Gardens followed by a paddle to Shuna. Emily and family came for a visit (Richard wanted to check progress on the tree house) and we really enjoy having them to make the most of the space.

dscf0019-copyThe Fynesiders are still going strong with some new members and have made a couple of appearances this year. John has learnt a few bari tunes now and is gaining confidence so we might see them doing day time performances too! The Flower Show was not well attended and despite the poly tunnel I didn’t have anything to enter. It has done well for us, but things were ready too early or too late for the show. Everything grew very big so next year I will plant fewer and probably get better harvests.

Having managed a few training events this summer, I’m enjoying some new taiji and qigong and my own workshops are going well with the next one fully booked. It’s such a shame that the place I use is up for sale.

It’s time to batten down the hatches for winter now. Hope it won’t be too bad.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.