Only 3 sleeps till Christmas. I have done my Christmas shopping, mostly, and the presents are wrapped and sitting on a table under the not yet erected tree. I have to make my special coleslaw for the great family feast that will be happening on Christmas Eve at my sister’s place. This year we will be about 20, and have one more little boy than last year. One is on the way too, and might even be here for Christmas, although he’s not due until Boxing Day, and he’s in Germany. But he will be with us in spirit, nevertheless. I hope that one day he will send handwritten or typed correspondence to friends and family. Just to remind him, and all of you what that looked like, I present for your Christmas pleasure two very old postcards that I culled from a collection of thousands at a second hand book shop this very afternoon. They cost me a pretty penny, which was the price of stamps in 1911 when one of them was posted from Gloucester Mass, to Mrs. Alexandra Wharton in Nova Scotia, from her friends Pearl and Charlie. Both these cards were printed in Germany.
This one had no stamp but it must have been sent. The ink is permanent, which I know because I used a wet Qtip to clean up some black paper that was stuck to the back and obscuring part of the writing. Thank goodness for India ink!
A message from Nellie Wanamaker to her Aunt Fannie in Prince Edward Island. Maybe Fannie knew Anne, the kid who lived over at Green Gables?
Merry Christmas everyone!
I am now in the black with my typewriter collection, after many years. Last week I sold two virtually identical late 50’s Underwoods within an hour. Oddly, both were bought as gifts. One went to a young English major, no, not in the army – at university. He tired of the usual digital overload and professed a desire to his girlfriend for a typewriter. The other went to a lady of 71, courtesy of an old friend. She likes writing poetry. I just love selling these machines to writers! Like many of us, I feel good about returning a typewriter to circulation, especially if it needed my attention to get it back on the road, so to speak. Many typewriters that I have bought have needed a fair bit of fiddling, cleaning and adjusting to work well, a job I really enjoy. So, of course I just picked up 2 more yesterday, both which needed some work. The work is minor, but necessary, and there aren’t any repairmen left here.
Meanwhile, in my haunts I sometimes come across old postcards, and here are a pair that tell a tale. The message on the Canadian one is courtesy of my imagination, and typeface thanks to RP! The other has notes that I can’t read. Hard to imagine what you could say on that one.
And then there was this:
Daylight time has gone. Today I ate lunch at 11.30 since my stomach is still on its former schedule. Before the light faded this afternoon I decided to head out around the lake for a quick walk before dark. Good thing too, because the sun was sinking low as I left. I grabbed the camera on my way out, and fixed the big zoom lens, just in case. I haven’t carried this camera for months, but I had a hunch today might be the day – the day the owl returns. Until recently the leaves have been hiding the life that is now visible since they are rapidly falling. What they reveal is very interesting.
Well, sometimes you get lucky. As soon as I entered the copse of trees where the owl can often be found in November, I spotted one, and the sun was lighting it up as if it had been placed there as the perfect setup just waiting for me to come along. I wiggled my way into the brush to get a bit closer and tried to find a line of sight that didn’t have branches in the way.
Satisfied with some decent pics I continued on my way, taking a diversion to check for horned owls in another part of the wood where they have been known to hang out, but they weren’t about, or couldn’t be seen if they were. Back on the main path, a doe jumped out in front of me and into the brush. Then I spotted her mate half hidden behind a tree. He cautiously came out and I got a shot of him crossing the path. With his pointy antlers I stayed well away in case he took a notion to shoo me off. I didn’t notice the odd antler that looks like it sprouted from between his eyes! Just a few yards further on I looked up to see a huge paper wasp nest that was now in plain sight.
Continuing on I crossed the new floating bridge and was pleased that the far end of the trail will never again be flooded over, since they raised a berm there about 4 feet high. Around the backside and turning east I glanced up to see a Red Tailed Hawk sitting in a bare tree, and right below it another large dangling wasp nest. I crept as close as I could to get a better shot of the hawk, expecting it to take off at any second, but it seemed to be watching things on the ground and it chose to ignore me. Often they depart as soon as I start approaching.
The south side of the lake has now flooded again as it does once the rain comes, and the slough was filled with ducks and geese. Way off in the distance near some tall firs I thought I saw an eagle fly past.
Once I rounded the last side of the circle I spied a pair of Bald Eagles wheeling and spinning over a small flooded meadow. They dropped down as if to grab a fish not once but several times and scattered a flock of ducks and birds.
The pair landed beside the water, a rare sight, and I watched them have a drink.
Then they left and the ducks all soon reappeared as if nothing had happened.
Back in May when my son asked me to go with him to hike the TMB I immediately agreed. I had no idea how difficult it would be, but I had a pretty good idea this might be the best shot I’d ever get at doing such a trip. Once I said yes it was too late to back out, something I knew would be a great disappointment to the both of us.
As soon as I read about it I knew that I would have to train hard. Luckily there are some trails right outside my door – one that goes around the lake, and another that goes up over a small hill. One go round is about 5.5 kms, and involves about 100 meters of climbing. The other hikes I had at my disposal were a slightly higher hill of about 200 meters, and another lake walk with a few minor hills, totaling about 5.8 kms.
First I needed boots. With extra wide feet, there aren’t many boots I find comfortable, but I discovered New Balance made boots in 4E, so I bought a pair of those, model 978. Although they were a little light for the very rocky bits, they worked well and I didn’t have any serious complaints, or any blisters, despite the fact that I defied convention by wearing thin socks.
As for a pack, I checked out all the well known brands and found them very expensive. By chance I found a shop with some old stock of internal frame Kelty packs on sale at half the cost of most other packs. I bought a Redwing 50, and it performed beautifully. I liked the fact that this pack had lots of zippers and pockets to keep gear handy when needed. My son’s bag was merely one large sack that he had to dig into every time he needed something from within. The Kelty has one single curved back stay that carries the load down to the excellent waist belt, which cinches very tightly due to compound leverage.
Once I got my essential gear in order, with new boots and a new pack, I set out on regular walks with weight in the pack. To start I had 10 pounds, then I increased it to 20 once I gathered my gear and determined I’d have about 18 – 20 lbs. With my pack and boots I began training as often as I could. The first problem was the heat, which this past summer hit 28C fairly often. This is very hot for these parts, and although it’s not so bad for normal living, 28 is a mite warm for strenuous exercise. Nevertheless, it had to be done, so I was out in the heat hiking away the miles, and sweating profusely. This also proved a problem for me feet mostly, which were very hot. That is why in the end I settled on thin socks.
I also began a journal of my daily training hikes, using a Strathmore notebook with heavy cotton paper pages suitable for watercolours. For practice I did a few, but mostly I recorded my mileage and observations of how I felt. There were many entries about how tired my legs were, and how wet my shirt was. Some days I had to keep myself soaked down with a wet kerchief to keep from overheating. I became quite attached to my boonie hat too, a US army surplus item that fulfilled every requirement for a warm weather sun hat admirably. Tested in Vietnam, so no surprise it works well in heat. The brim is just the right size, and it can be flipped down or up to suit the sun. I should perhaps have been more patriotic and worn a Canadian Tilley hat, but I feel they make me look like an old fogey, and besides which they aren’t any better than the boonie, and somewhat heavier and harder to stow when not in use.
After the whole thing was over I tabulated my training and found that I had walked for 86 hours and 274 kms. That’s 1.6 times the length of the TMB, not exactly a lot, but in my case certainly better than nothing, as I am now convinced that without that I would have been done in after the first day or two. On the other hand, my son who is 36 and super strong, did zero preparation and of course was way out in front of me when he wasn’t behind, ready to catch me when I tripped. What 30 years can do to you, it’s terrible! No complaints however, as I got through it on my own steam and no worse for wear.
As for my best intentions of watercolour sketches, all I have to show are some pre-trip sketches, one solitary sketch from the hike, and a few done before and after. Fortunately I did keep a daily journal, so I have that and a lot of photographs as a record. Now that it’s over I wish I had it to do again! No matter how much you can recall from writing or pictures, nothing can compare to the joy of walking through a beautiful landscape, no matter how difficult it feels at the time.
Some watercolours from France and Germany:
And some from my pre-trip journal: