Monday, April 27, 2009

Falls of water, falls of rain

Quite the storm on Saturday. Had no idea. Even though I was out in it at the time.

I'd made plans to hike with P-Doug up an abandoned road near Georgian Bay. The plans were tentative because his wife has been having some heart trouble and the scheduling of her surgery was kind of up in the air. There was every possibility she'd be discharged on the weekend, so I wasn't sure which day – if either – would be convenient for him to make the trip.

Saturday, as it turned out, was good for him in terms of the timing, but not the weather. Looking at the radar, he determined that a set of thunderstorms passing through to the north would make the trip to where we'd been considering going ill-advised. He suggested instead something down here in the south, where the weather promised to be more even. He told me he'd been interested, for some time now, in having a look at a pair of falls in the Dundas area. So he met me at my place and we set out in my car for Spencer Gorge Conservation Area.

We took our time getting there. I bailed off the 403 at Dundas Street (Highway 5) and we took that across Halton and into Dundas. Just a few minutes past Highway 6 we found our turn, and made our way to the gorge. I was surprised, when we got there, that we had to pay $5 (either to park or to get in; it's not really clear which). It was a nice trail, right at the lip of the gorge. The rustic wooden rail fence that ran along the edge in places struck me as a half-hearted effort determined to provide safety in some places while entirely trusting to the fates in others... I was reminded of the contractor my parents hired many years ago to build our cottage... he had a binge drinking habit, and his efforts varied wildly from consummate professionalism to weeks of couldn't-give-a-damn neglect. Seems to me you build a fence to keep people from falling in, or you don't. The half-measure seems worse than nothing because it seems to suggest you're safe wherever there's no need for the fence, which I don't believe was the case at all... but anyway, not to obsess here...

It was wonderfully sunny when we got there, and probably the first genuinely "summery" spring day we've had this year. The bare trees put the lie to the notion, but the heat was in evidence anyway. The first falls we came to were Tew's Falls. They are very nearly the height of Niagara Falls (not surprising since they go over the same escarpment), but the amount of water falling over them would take half a minute to fill a bathtub. It's clear they've been something much more substantial in the past, though. We didn't linger long since there wasn't much to see, and we didn't have the right angle to see it anyway. We moved along, heading down the trail toward Webster's Falls a half kilometer away.

The place got busier the further we went. We came to an open area where there must have been three dozen people picnicking and chasing around. There were some interesting sights along the way. One family seems to have built a home right at the edge of the gorge... we were essentially hiking through their front yard. There's also a little place where they've gathered four or five headstones of people who died around and just after the time of Confederation, and they've pressed the stones into cement to preserve them. It was a nice little display and I regret now that I didn't photograph it. That's uncharacteristic of me.

Webster's Falls were, for me, the real show. We glimpsed them first through the trees that lined the lip of the gorge, and I remember remarking to P-Doug at the time that it's a real shame the approaches to Niagara Falls weren't left as natural. You could square the majesty of Niagara if only it still looked as it must have when the first French explorers were shown it by Natives in the 1600s. Even then, there've been some changes to the vista. Most notable among them is the arched stone and mortar footbridge over whichever river, creek, or stream it is that engenders the falls. I shot it from a few different angles as we made our way around it. On the far side is an access to the base of the falls that P-Doug was keen to attempt but I wasn't. I was lugging about ten pounds of stuff in my back pack, my sandals don't have much of a grip to them, and it was a long way down and a long way back up. I suggested to him that if he did give it a shot, he should take my camera (having left his behind) and see what he could get down there. Turned out to be a pretty good idea because some of the best shots of the day came from his trip. For myself, I stayed at the top in the shade of a tree, back to the stone bridge, listening to music on my media player.

P-Doug eventually made his way back up but missed me and orbited for a bit before finding me, verging on dozing. He'd taken some fine shots, as I said, and made a little movie of himself announcing his triumph over the "128 stairs" up and down, and his intention never to do so again. The long and the sort of it is I'm glad he went, and glad I didn't. :)

By then we were both pretty hungry. The air being full of the smell of hamburgers being grilled didn't help. I was interested in hiking a woodland trail north of Milton, and we have a favourite pub thereabouts, so we left the park and headed north. One pitcher of beer, one Ruben sandwich, and one chicken curry over bowtie noodles later, we were ready to hit the trail. But by then, the northern sky was darkening – and surprisingly rapidly. I was convinced it was passing through north of us and pressed on. When we reached the trail, there were already dots of rain, but we trotted in. We headed off trail to a patch of trees with some shelter, but by then the rain had really picked up. I'm not one to complain, myself; under the right circumstances, I like being out in the rain in nature. I indulged myself by setting my clothes aside and sitting under a tree. The rain was cool but not cold; it was brisk but not uncomfortable. A mighty wind was stirring the heads of the trees above us but there was barely a breath of it at ground level. Lightning flashed and thunder rolled; it was spectacular. At least, for me it was. I don't think it was quite P-Doug's cup of tea. He stood in the rain alongside, and we commented back and forth on the show. He didn't complain or hustle me along but he was really just biding his time. As the rain eased up we wandered among the trees a bit. He was gracious enough to leave it to me to suggest we head back, and so I did... we were there about half an hour.

When we got back to the car it was his turn, and he put his wet clothes in the back, as did I. I had the impression we were just going to let them dry out a little but it turned out he had every intention of returning to town that way. He's bolder than me; I redonned my clammy shorts for the trip, sitting on the tarp I had in my backpack. He draped half of it across himself and away we went.

The wind and rain were with us all the way back. I thought they'd be north of us, but the storms had made their way right down to the lake. There was a time issue involved in getting P-Doug back to town to visit his missus, so we skipped going back to my place to pick up his car and simply headed back to his place, where he picked up the things he needed and we went to the hospital for a visit of an hour or so. Afterward, we ate in a pub local to my place (another pint, another chicken curry), and we parted after the long, sunny walk and brief, wet wanderings, with P-Doug vowing that Sunday would be BBQed hamburgers day for him. :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Simply unpack your adjectives

Every day is a good day to review Schoolhouse Rock. :)

Sunday, April 19, 2009

We wish

We wish, originally uploaded by Lone Primate.

I hope it's obvious I've tinkered with the sign a little. I've had four nature hikes in the past year marred by ATV and motorbike shitheads (most recently, yesterday). Morons, if driving like an asshole on the 400-series highways isn't enough for you, if you simply HAVE to "experience nature" by making 120 dB of noise as you bounce around on it and rip it up with rubber, find a nice open space some farmer's not using and will let you tear up for a few bucks. But leave the trails to the hikers. Particularly since it's against the law not to.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It had to be said

I was wondering when someone would finally have the courage to say it.

Twenty-one-year-old Trooper Karine Blais died in Afghanistan Monday, the 117th Canadian soldier to die in that country since we invaded it in October of 2001. Afghanistan just passed a law that makes it legal for a husband to rape his wife. This is what Canadian and other Western soldiers have died, are dying, and will no doubt continue to die for. A land that doesn't want us there and does not share our values.

Blais's godfather, Mario Blais, has said publically, "I think she did this for absolutely nothing." I would tend to agree.

There are, no doubt, voices in this country that will be quick to shout that this is not an atypical opinion, coming from Quebec with its long history of resistance to Canada's involvement in foreign wars. Of course, the flip side of that coin is that English Canada could be characterized as having a history of being all-too-willing to involve this country in foreign wars. In some cases, notably World War Two, it was arguably necessary. But not in this case. We entered this war largely out of sympathy for the US in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, to catch the men responsible – notably, Osama bin Laden. That man remains at large. Meanwhile, we are seven and a half years, and ten dozen soldiers, bogged down in Afghanistan.

And for what? A democratically-arrived-at decision that a man has the right to rape his wife?

It's time our soldiers stop dying for nothing. Well past time. It needed to be said.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lard Lookers? Obese Observers? Vastness Viewers?...

Years ago, I used to be quite a bit heavier than I am now. I went to a men's weight loss program and over the course of about a year, I lost just over 100 lbs. (this is on top of over 20 more I dropped on my own). I was never svelte, but I'd gotten to "normal" for the first time in my life. My waist size was in the 30s, I could buy off the rack, and I felt alright about myself. In the years since, I've strayed from what I know to be sensible eating habits... not entirely, but enough that I've gained back nearly 60 lbs. of what I'd lost. It hit the tipping point last summer where jeans that had been increasingly tight, just didn't fit anymore. I'd like to go back to the men's group, but two things stop me. First, it was hugely expensive; over a grand for six months. Secondly, it meets on Sunday mornings, and really, I just don't want to bisect my weekends that way anymore. I didn't mind it then but for some reason, now I want to be able to get up and get going on what I want on weekend mornings. The good weather's coming up and there's damn little of that in this country as it is without pissing away the first half of a Sunday.

I joined Weight Watchers last week. I could walk to it from where I live in a little under half an hour, and once the temperature's better, I think I will. They're meeting on Thursday evenings and it's a lot less expensive. Sure, I was the only guy there; I got to hear interesting conversations about "bloating" that I just don't hear when I'm hanging with the guys; but the main thing is, I need the accountability. I need to know I'm facing the scale and other human beings will know, week to week, how I've done. That's how I made it last time.

My mother's been going for some time now and she's lost nearly 50 lbs., and it really shows. I never really thought of her as fat, but in retrospect, the way she looks now highlights the difference (and frankly I was shocked to learned she'd even had that much to lose). I'm hoping to lose something about the same by the end of the summer.

Strange as it may sound, I'm not actually a huge eater at home (though I have a tendency to nibble). I have control of the environment and I really don't have things around I can't handle (like peanut butter, say). I think I can put the weight gain down to three factors...

Firstly, I had a lot of booze around over the last few years. Weekend and evening unwinding. I rarely got 'faced, but getting the quiet mellow up and off the ground a few times a week adds up in terms of money and waist size (it also makes it easier to drown out the voices of the better angels and eat eat eat). I haven't really had much around since last November; it's largely down to social drinking now.

Second, there's "portion creep". I'm still eating, for the most part, the things I learned I'm supposed to... just bigger amounts of them. I need to measure and weigh portions again. It's distressing to see just how little a ½ cup of pasta actually is; I'd forgotten. Still, the idea is to eat to live, not the reverse.

Third, there's all the social eating I do. I live by myself so occasions where I can break out for a little while with friends are big deal to me and I really look forward to them. Where I used to work, I really didn't make any long term close friends, so I almost never had lunch out, and that, it turns out, was a big help. Where I work now, though, I tend to be out about once a week, and it's generally to a buffet I really like. I know better, but it's hard to say no and besides, I like the chance to socialize.

Relatedly, there are the quiet weekend afternoons in the pub with P-Doug. High point of the week, most of the time, when they happen. Intelligent and amusing conversation, backgammon, the sweet kiss of beer, and food of such quality and proportions as to convince you the whole universe exists just to give you an ass-rub. It's such a gentle hobby, as King Arthur might say, and it really shouldn't have any down side. But it does.

This is not to say that these social occasions have to cease. I don't intend to starve myself of companionship along with fatty food. The trick, however, is going to be in making better choices. I know the more sensible things to have, and in what proportions, at the buffet. I know I'm going to drink beer when I'm out on the weekend, but that there are things on the menu, not all that exciting, I admit, that will have to be my choices in conjunction with that. I'm not helpless and I'm not unarmed. I know how many points there are in a pint, how many I have for the day, and how to plan accordingly. I'm going to adapt these situations to fit with my realities, like I did before. I'm not going to give up the good things in my life. I'm going to change them so they don't negate other good things in my life.

Hopefully this week will bear that out. Back in the saddle again...

P.S. Of course, the first weekend Old Monk is back on the shelves, that square bottle and me are goin' dancing. That's all there is to it. :)