Thursday, August 10, 2017

The pleasures and perils of isolation

One thing that's wonderful about our cabin on Saturna Island is the sense of being alone at the top of the world. When we go up there for a weekend we see only a few hikers along the Brown Ridge Trail and if we're lucky the herd of feral goats that lives up there. But the isolation of the spot also comes with risk--as we learned this weekend.

We gathered up at the cabin on Saturday afternoon with plans for dinner together, with my brother and his wife and daughter and their two cats, plus my sister and her dog Toby. After a pleasant walk along the ridge we ate barbecued salmon and corn and Greek salad, drank wine, and then enjoyed a desert of chocolate brownies from a Victoria bakery.

My sister Jan, who is allergic to almonds took one bite of a brownie and immediately realized that it contained almond flour. Usually when this happens Jan disappears for a while to force herself to vomit up the offending food, but this time she was unable to get that to happen. This time the reaction was much worse than she's ever experienced before and we became alarmed when her tongue and lips swelled and she became short of breath. That's when my brother called Saturna's volunteer ambulance crew.

There is no resident doctor on the island so the ambulance crew and a helicopter off the island is the only recourse in a medical emergency. It's at least a half-hour drive up to the top of the ridge. It was a long half hour waiting, and we were fortunate that when the ambulance arrived they came with a doctor from West Vancouver who happened to be visiting on the island.  The volunteer ambulance coordinator knew that this doctor was on the island and arranged for her to attend with the ambulance. (It's a small island!)

The doctor was able to immediately give Jan a life-saving injection so her airway wouldn't close. Oxygen was started and eventually an IV. They couldn't get the helicopter to the island because it was busy on another call so they called out the Ambulance boat from Victoria. After about an hour when she was starting to stabilize the ambulance bumped its way down the rutted road to the dock. This had taken more than two hours. Then we waited for the ambulance boat to arrive. The BC marine ambulance service serves all the gulf islands and remote coastal communities on the south end of Vancouver Island. It's has all the equipment and medics that a regular ambulance carries and it's a very fast little boat.

Here's Jan on a stretcher being loaded into the ambulance boat.  I was able to accompany Jan on the trip to a private dock at Swartz Bay  where we were met by an ambulance from Victoria that took us to the nearest hospital. By then the drugs had stopped the allergic reaction and Jan was starting to feel better. We waited a while to be checked out at the hospital but by then the emergency was over.

In all it took about four and a half hours to get to the hospital, with the help of at least six volunteers from Saturna plus the boat crew and the ambulance on the other side.  It was remarkable how professional and kind everyone was. Not a single person asked Jan why she didn't carry an epi-pen with a known allergy. The answer was that she had been able to manage the reaction herself until this time.  By the way, she'll be carrying one from now on.

So our family dinner turned into quite another experience, one where we saw how people in an isolated community can work together in an emergency. I am so grateful for the volunteer ambulance crew on Saturna and the doctor who just happened to be able to come up the hill with them. And I can't say enough about the professionalism and kindness of all staff on the marine ambulance.  We are going to make sure there is an Epi-pen always there at the cabin.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Summer at the Dallas Road bluffs

When the high pressure system lingers here in July causing warm and still air in Victoria, it's a pleasure to spend time walking along the bluffs at Dallas Road.

I've been down there in the early morning and this is the scene....

Wild peas blooming along the split rail fence at the top of the bluff with the shingle beach below.

The birds on the left are Great Blue Herons fishing in the calm ocean. And on the right, two seagulls feeding on the seaweed left at low tide.

On the right a pair of crows decorating a sign. Beach fires used to be a thing down there but no more--too dangerous. Here's an early morning walker along the path that runs just above the beach. It's a lovely place to wander in the morning.

The other good time to visit the bluffs is in the evening. A couple of nights ago Harry and I rode down there on his motor scooter and took a lovely walk as the sun was setting.  This time we went in the other direction, toward Clover Point, which you can see in this image.

At this time of year the grass is left unmowed behind the fences except in places where dogs are allowed to play.

There are lots of dogs at Dallas Road because part of it is designated off-leash. We love to visit with the dogs there.
They have as much fun--or more--than the people.

At a few points along the upper path you can head down to a lower path and then to the beach itself.

Dogs swim in the surf and people build structures of logs, picnic, sunbathe, impress their friends, and just enjoy the beauty.

Back above again we watched the last rays of the sun illuminate the yellow grass and took a last look at ocean.

It's such a beautiful place to enjoy the summer weather.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Pippa the puppy

We've been home for a week and find ourselves immersed in home related tasks as well as keeping up with short-term rentals at the Janion. We got back just in time to miss all the terrible wild fires that have sprung up in the interior of the province. The people there are having a very rough time with hundreds or thousands being evacuated and many people losing their homes. Fires happen every summer but this one is particularly bad.

On a lighter note, my sister's dog Toby now has a cousin, or is it a half-sister?

Not sure of how it works with doggie connections but Harry's son Ben and his partner have brought home a little female Havanese puppy.

She has the same father as Toby so they are related. She is very sweet and we even get to take care of her from time to time. I can't wait for the two pups to get together.

Here's Harry looking somewhat besotted holding little Pippa at nine weeks.  Joy!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The City of Nelson

We've spent the last five days in Nelson and kind of fell in love with this small city tucked into the Selkirk Mountains on the shores of Kootenay Lake.  Here are some of the things we liked....

1.   It has 350 heritage buildings and a thriving downtown.

This photo is from the City of Nelson's website and shows the dozens of lovely old buildings climbing up the hill from the lake. Like many of the places we've been visiting, Nelson boomed in the late 1800s with the discovery of silver. Its location on the west arm of Kootenay lake enabled it to become a supply and distribution centre for the area. The town council decreed that downtown buildings must not be built from wood because of the danger of fire and so many fine granite buildings were constructed, including some by Francis Rattenbury, designer of Victoria's Parliament Buildings. The town prospered and never succumbed to fire as so many other towns in the area did.

2.   It's right on the lake.

From many of the streets and buildings you can look down to the lake. And the city has developed a big recreational area with sports fields and a beach. We saw kayakers, people on paddle boards and in canoes as well as lots of boats  on this beautiful afternoon.

And this area is served by a restored street car that runs back and forth from the downtown to the beach area.

3. There are lots of trees and gardens.

And because it's hilly you get to see a lot of flowers in people's front yards.

The main streets are lined with full-grown trees and even the parking meters are surrounded with flowers in spots.

4.  It has really great restaurants, bars and coffee shops.

We only went to few of them but it seems there's a big choice for a town of 10,000 people.

This is Oso Negro, maybe the nicest coffee ship we've ever experienced, with a gorgeous garden with outdoor seating.

Here are a few others we sampled....

This one had live music on a platform built out over the sidewalk. Lots of places had outdoor patios, which were fabulous in the warm days and evenings.

5. There are lots of old wooden houses built up the hillsides.

Some are large like this one, which used to belong to the CPR, but most are modest and some even tiny, and I think affordable.

The little house below is just three blocks above Nelson's main street.

This is the house we stayed in on a home exchange. It is within walking distance of downtown and has a view of the lake from the porch.

6.  There are many, many young people living here and most of them seem to be employed or in business and active in the community.

We saw a lot of people in their thirties, many with babies or young children walking by the house we stayed in. And it seems that it's possible for people to create their own jobs or start businesses here. I think affordability of rentals is a big factor.

This young woman has a little store on the main street selling special paints for crafts. There are at least four bookstores downtown, each with a different vibe. 

There are craft stores, antique/junk stores, T-shirt stores, home decor stores, and clothing stores, health food stores, a co-op store, plus of course coffee shops and eateries. There is no McDonalds and no Costco. And it has a friendly, small-town feeling. People stop and chat in a relaxed way in the neighbourhood and downtown. 

Some of the vibrancy and youthfulness may come from Nelson's legacy from the 60s and 70s when American draft dodgers and the back-to-the-land folk arrived and settled here. There's still a hip feeling here that's quite different from other small cities we've passed through.

You can see that we are enamoured of Nelson. And of course we considered what it would be like to sell our house and move here. But there are a few negatives for us, aside from the fact that we don't really want to leave our friends and family.  The hills are extremely steep and it would be brutal walking up and down in the heat of summer or in the snows of winter.  And it's really quite isolated. It's an eight hour drive from Vancouver over mountain roads. So, once again we've decided that it's not in the cards for us to move away from Victoria.  But we really, really liked Nelson.