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September Memories

September Memories

I’m just back from the coast. Apparently, Calgary had lots of sunny weather. Vancouver Island had lots of rain. Good thing I like rain.

There was fishing, wiener roasts and walks in the rain. Some days, the sun came out and there was swimming. Mostly, we all relaxed a lot. Slept a lot. Read a lot. And we did a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. Liz was determined to complete the thing and she put in the last piece before we finished packing up the cabin on Sunday. Then it was back to the ferry for another trip across the Strait of Georgia. As usual, we took two days to drive home.

Now, back in Calgary, it’s still warm, but the leaves are beginning to change. Our lawn needs watering and I still have to unpack, but I’ll do that later. Right now, I’m excited about the new book I’m working on so that’s what I’ll spend time on this morning.

I don’t have any children going back to school this September, but September still seems like a time of going back, getting ready, starting new.

One of my favourite memories of back-to-school is of when my mom took us to McKay’s Corners to get school supplies. I always wanted a new eraser. A brand new never-before-used eraser, even though we had plenty of erasers available at home. I remember looking forward to school—to walking down the gravel road, kicking through autumn leaves and returning to the one-room schoolhouse. Grades 1 to 8 were all in that room. I went there until I finished Grade 5 and then I went to school in the town.

However, my first five years stay with me. Long rows of desks, pull-down maps, chalkboards, few textbooks, a big wood-burning stove in the back of the room. And each September, there were new workbooks, new pencils, and a new eraser.

Do you have a favourite memory of returning to school in September?

chalk from istockphoto #000013770837

Leaving the cares behind . . .

Leaving the cares behind . . .

From Departure Bay . . .

across the Strait of Georgia on the BC Ferry called Victoria . . .

the ferry called Victoria

to a quiet cabin on Vancouver Island . . .a quiet cabin

with a view to the south that looks like this.view south

And a view to the north (with blue heron) that looks like this.view north

It is early morning, a quiet tide pool, a perfect reflection. Cares gone. World on hold. Refilling the creative well.

The Valley Trail

The Valley Trail

Whenever I’m in Whistler, I walk the Lost Lake / Valley Trail loop, often more than once.

From where we are staying (Woodrun) it’s about 20 minutes to Lost Lake, unless I get lost. Bears are everywhere in Whistler but as long as you’re making noise, they don’t bother you.

Lost Lake has a network of trails, some narrow, some wide, all gravel. The Valley Trail is paved and is an “all excess” trail: walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers, dogs, everybody. This trail runs a total of 40 K connecting the subdivisions of Whistler. The main trail in Lost Lake Park connects with the Valley Trail just before the Nicklaus North Golf course. The “loop” is about 10 K and, since I’m a slow walker, I can do the loop in about 3 ½ hours.

Usually, I’m walking alone (a writer’s walk) but on this particular day, I did the walk with Rolf and our friends, Marcel and Gwynne. For years I have walked past the Nicklaus North Golf course patio.

The Den Restaurant on the Lake

Here’s the sign you see when you pass by.

Now, this is the year I discovered iced coffee. Yes, I know it’s wonderful, but it took me this long to figure that out. So as we approached the patio, I was craving an iced coffee and we decided to go in. We found a table looking over Green Lake.

The Den Restaurant on the Lake

Here’s the view.

You can see the float planes belonging to Whistler Air.

Once we sat down, it became necessary to not only have the coffee, but also the food. Rolf & Marcel shared a platter of sushi, and Gwynne and I got the nachos—with spicy chorizo, pepper jack cheese, provolone, cheddar, black olives, jalapeños and the usual sour cream and salsa, plus the fresh guacamole. Heaven.

iced coffee

Here’s the iced coffee.

After breaking for over an hour, we continued along the Valley Trail, along the boardwalk by Green Lake and its lily pads, past Meadow Park with its playground and water park and water fountain. This is about the halfway point of the loop and this is where I usually stop for a snack.

From here, the trail meanders along, following the River of Golden Dreams.  (Yes, that’s really what it’s called.)

The Valley Trail, Whistler

Suzanne & Gwynne on the Valley Trail

Then we approach the Whistler Golf Club, walking along its edge in the shade of the trees, hearing the occasional “fore!” Once we reach the clubhouse, we turn north up to the Village.

This was a hot day, so we required another stop for iced coffee at the Starbucks before walking up the ski hill to reach Woodrun and the swimming pool.

Refreshed from our swim, and with the kinks eased out in the hot tub, we went back down to the Village to the Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub where we dined on the patio and lucked out with an Irish band.

Dubh Linn Gate Irish Pub, Whistler

Marcel, Gwynne, Suzanne, Rolf

Yes, it’s the good ole summertime.

I hope you’re enjoying YOUR summer!

Cheakamus Lake

Cheakamus Lake

While visiting Whistler last week, I did a solo hike in Garibaldi Provincial Park on the Cheakamus Lake trail. When I arrived at the parking lot at 7:30 in the morning, the temperature was 11 degrees Celsius. Perfect hiking weather.

This is a 14 Kilometer round trip that follows the Cheakamus River and goes part way along the lake. The trail rolls up and down but is relatively flat.

Cheakamus Lake, Whistler

Cheakamus Lake is a glacial fed lake surrounded by mountains. I stopped here at the trailhead for a lunch of tuna, cheese, cherries and contemplation. By now, it was a quarter past ten and the sun was coming up over top of the trees and filling the lake. I was the only one here.

On the return trip, the sun made it warmer but I was sheltered by the trees for most of the way. I met some late hikers on the trail as I got closer to the parking lot. Some not wearing hats. Some not even carrying water. Some asking “Are we almost at the lake?”

My car’s thermometer gave an outside temp of 32 degrees. Inside the car, my extra water bottle was hot. I was very warm myself but I felt good. I drove back to Whistler with the air conditioning on full blast, parked at Market Place and went to Starbucks for an iced coffee. Then I headed back to the hotel to join Rolf for a swim.

And that is a typical vacation day in Whistler. Do you have a favourite vacation spot?

Carla Roma in the Galapagos

Carla Roma in the Galapagos

Hello everyone. I’m Carla Roma and I’m here with Suzanne Stengl, the author of THE GHOST AND CHRISTIE McFEE.

I found Suzanne in the little village of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on the island of San Cristóbal in the Galapagos Islands. Or as they say here, Las Islas Galápagos. 

 We’re enjoying some ice tea in an open-air restaurant beside the ocean and watching the sea lions lazing on the beach.

Carla Roma in the Galapagos watching the sea lions lazing on the beach

Carla: I’m glad to finally meet you, Suzanne. Do you have time for a few questions about your upcoming release?

Suzanne: (pouring a pitcher of water over her head…) I have all the time in the world.

Carla: It’s really hot here, isn’t it?

Suzanne: It sure is. Forty-five degrees Celsius. In the shade.

Carla: Whoa. (fanning herself) What’s that in Fahrenheit?

Suzanne: You don’t want to know.

Carla: I understand you have some pretty authentic details about scuba diving in your book?

Suzanne: Yes, authentic. I’ve experienced every one of them.

Carla: I’m beginning to understand how hot it would be wearing a 7 mil neoprene wet suit in this heat. Do you really need a wet suit? The water doesn’t look that cold.

Suzanne: The water temperature here ranges from 64 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit at the surface, depending on the season. Of course it gets colder as you go deeper. So you need a wet suit.

Carla: If it’s as low as 64 degrees Fahrenheit, that’s similar to the temperature of Lost Lake, isn’t that right?

Suzanne: Yes, it’s similar. And in both places, in a wet suit, the temperature is perfect – once you’re underwater. It’s beautiful. (She looks out at the ocean.) There’s a wreck right here, in the harbor.

Carla: A wreck?

Suzanne: A sunken ship. It makes an artificial reef. A place for algae to grow and invertebrates like barnacles and corals and oysters. They provide food for the smaller fish, and then the smaller fish in turn provide food for the larger fish.

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Carla: (fanning herself) I don’t know how the tourists can stand wearing a wet suit until they get in the water.

Suzanne: Most tourists live aboard boats and dive from them. Their sleeping quarters are air-conditioned. (She dumps another pitcher of water over her head.)

Carla: Do the staff care about you doing that?

Suzanne: No, they’re used to me.

(The waitress brings another pitcher of water, and another pitcher of ice tea, and sets them on the table.)

Suzanne: Muchas gracias.

Carla: OK, let’s talk about your book. The opening scene in GHOST has your heroine on a dive boat. And she’s seasick. Have you personally experienced that?

Suzanne: I sure have. We did an 8-day tour aboard the Yolita here, in the inner islands, with a group of 16 passengers and 5 crew. Every one of the passengers got sick on the first day. Including Rolf.

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Carla: Rolf is your husband?

Suzanne: Yes, he is. He’s a traveler.

Carla: You’re quite the traveler too, I must say.

Suzanne: No, I’m not. I’m a tourist. There’s a difference.

Carla: Then, you’re quite the tourist.

Suzanne: I’m the tourist from hell. (She dumps more water over her head.) I should have known I’d get seasick, since I also get carsick, and bus sick, and avoid roller coasters. And like I said, everyone got sick for a day. But since I’m so good at being seasick, I did it for the full eight days.

Carla: That must have been horrible!

Suzanne: Parts of it. Parts of it were great. The food was excellent. Although it would have been even better if I hadn’t been so nauseous. And the passengers aboard the Yolita were incredible. Mostly young travelers, all interesting people. The sixteen of us would sit around the big table for meals. For the first few days, French was the default language and then we changed out a few passengers and the default language became English. We had Italian, Swiss, British, Swedes, one guy from California, and the French.

Every day we walked different trails on different islands and saw the endemic plants and animals.

Blue-footed Booby

Blue-footed Booby

It was a mixed blessing, being on shore. No seasickness, but the heat was extreme. For me, anyway. Before I left the boat, I’d soak my shirt so I could be cool for a time. At the end of the hike, I’d walk into the ocean. I love my Tilley hat . . .

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. . . because I can dip it in the water and douse my head, when it isn’t possible to jump in completely.

Carla: When would it not be possible to jump in completely?

Suzanne: If it was a beach that the sea lions had claimed. They can be territorial.

Carla: (glances uneasily at the sea lion occupying the bench in front of her.)

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Suzanne: I don’t know why they love those benches, but they do.

Carla: Okaaay . . . So, you slept aboard the boat? Weren’t you seasick while you were trying to sleep?

Suzanne: Yes. Some nights, when we were making a long open water crossing between islands, it was especially rough. Many of us would lie on the sundeck and watch the stars.

Carla: And that helped the seasickness?

Suzanne: Yes. The stars don’t move so they are a reference point. It’s like focusing on the horizon in the daylight. And it was fun, lying there with everyone. Kind of like a pajama party.

Carla: Hmmm. But with being so seasick, weren’t you afraid you’d be sick while you were diving? That couldn’t be good.

Suzanne: It’s a real leap of faith, for someone like me – a non-adventurous tourist – to sit in a zodiac fully loaded with dive tank, 7 mil neoprene and 13 pounds of weights. And feeling nauseous. If you throw up underwater, it’s important to keep the regulator in your mouth.

Carla: ewww.

Suzanne: Otherwise, you’ll drown. But I learned to deep breathe until we tipped over the side. And then all of a sudden, I was underwater and no longer rocking and I was out of the heat. My head was instantly clear and, for about 30 to 40 minutes, life was normal. At least, it was normal for my head and my stomach. The rest of the world was not normal.

Carla: Not normal?

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Suzanne: No, it was amazing. Sea turtles, sea lions, penguins, sharks, rainbows of fish. And when we weren’t diving, we were snorkeling. Snorkeling with the little penguins is something I will remember forever.

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Carla: Too bad you can’t forget about this heat. Can you pass me that water jug?

Suzanne: Sure. Help yourself.

Carla: (dumping water over her head) I’m glad it’s not this hot in Bandit Creek.

Suzanne: ¡Yo también!

Carla: Does your heroine Christie McFee get over her nausea and learn to love diving?

Suzanne: You’ve just read the first chapter so far, right?

Carla: Yes.

Suzanne: Then you’ll find out in chapter two. More ice tea?

Carla: Please!

Galapagos PenguinTHE GHOST AND CHRISTIE McFEE is available from Amazon on August 1, 2012.




Having a “cool” time in Whistler, meaning the temperatures are lower than usual, like 18 to 20 degrees and overcast.

Yesterday we did the tourist thing and wandered around the Village. 

The Crankworx festival is on, showcasing the best of the free ride mountain biking athletes. 

At one of the displays we learned about GoalZero, a new solar panel technology for backpackers. Apparently some backpackers like taking cell phones into the wilds . . . and laptops and who knows what else. (I think it defeats the purpose of escaping to the wilderness.) Yesterday, even with the overcast, the panels were running at 70% efficiency, easily powering the demo televisions. This makes an excellent case for Wearing Sunscreen on a cloudy day.

I have my laptop on this trip, of course, and Have Laptop Will Write. I plug into conventional power early each morning and manage at least a page before the vacation resumes. I could write for an entire vacation, but Rolf would object. You know how non-writers are.

Today we hike the Cheakamus Lake Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park, just south of Whistler. It’s an easy trail following the Cheakamus River and then Cheakamus Lake. We’ll have lunch by the turquoise coloured lake and enjoy the view of the snow capped mountains surrounding the lake.

Life is good :o)