What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!
Earlier this year, I spent a stretch of time perusing guidebooks while pondering and plotting a summertime North Atlantic escapade. U.S. states like Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and Colorado all came within the scope of this armchair knowledge gathering. Of the lot, it was going to be Colorado that was getting my nod for a July 2020 excursion with Denver and Boulder offering themselves as likely basis. Of course, the arrival of a global pandemic has eliminated the possibility of any such thinking becoming reality for this year but ideas remain live in spite of this so another year may offer and I now need to wait for that.
Another guidebook for Colorado may await and there are others for California and Ontario too but guidebook reading has been parked for now even if continue to get through a backlog of travel magazines. After all, there now is plenty of time to get back to it again. In the meantime, I have returned to other nature and travel books. The planet’s northern reaches have become part of this with Malachy Tallack’s 60 Degrees North and Gavin Francis’ True North having been completed and I am now in the middle of Peter Davidson’s The Idea of North before going on to Barry Lopez’s Horizon. The time feels right for reading these since guidebook reading for me involving website address gathering and I just want something engrossing that will help to relax me in these testing times.
In parallel, outdoor reading in local parks during the now departed spell of warm sunny weather saw me complete Edward Thomas’ Icknield Way before making a start on his In Pursuit of Spring. The first of these documented a journey on foot trying to retrace the route of the eponymous long distance thoroughfare while the second describes a journey by bicycle from London to the Quantock Hills in Somerset. If anything, the latter happens to be the more readable of the two and I intend to get it completed even if warm sunny weather does not return to us all that soon.
The reason for the title has nothing to do with the forestalling of trips away by current necessary travel restrictions though. It was caused by my listening to a program hosted by Don Letts on BBC Radio 6 Music last Sunday night in an effort to curtail restlessness at bedtime last Sunday night. What occurred to me then was the passage of recent decades and the way that I have not caught up in some ways.
This matter brings up the subject of music and that is not customary for this blog. It reminds me of how the 1960’s felt to me in previous decades. During my childhood, it was a mere 20 years before and figures like Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and David Bowie were active as part of what felt to me like an afterglow of that decade. This was before the revival of interest in music from the same decade during the 1990’s when it was just 30 years before. Now that the last decade of the last century itself is pushing on for being 30 years ago and it was the decade when I began to find my feet in life, the 1960’s feel even more distance and that realisation gave me something of a shock when it hit me.
An upshot of all this is the added need to collect new experiences as restrictions are lifted. Such is our current situation that I will not be in the vanguard of wider travel and that especially is the case given my dependence on public transport. Nevertheless, those expanded horizons discussed at the start of this entry again begin to loom larger after other places nearer to hand are revisited before them. These will be in Britain first before other European destinations around Scandinavia or in the Alps get tested first. There may be a need to do these in a new way, not only because of our changed world but also because of my changed perspective. More time may allow me to further develop what that might mean.
Unlike this time last year when I was in the middle of string of outdoor excursions, this month has little very little action at all. The weather has brought storm after storm and the rain is flooding down from the sky as I write this words. January may have been more appealing but other concerns like gaining a new contract took precedence. That has been sorted now so next week should see a start on revenue earning work again.
That is not to say that I have not been exploring ideas for overseas trips or one nearer home even if COVID-19 could limit such excursions for a while. Finding possible destinations in Washington State, Oregon, Montana and Wyoming has drive me to perusing various guidebooks and others for Colorado, California and Ontario have found their way onto my reading list. It is the prospect of extending North American explorations after last year’s stint in British Columbia that is the underlying motivation for all of this.
There is no shortage of wilderness areas but there is a need to find a base from which to explore them. Denver looks promising for a stay in Colorado but I need to uncover more about that state and, in a sense, the same applies to Lake Tahoe on the boundary between California and Nevada or Ontario where being based in Toronto could have a use.
Reading guidebooks may not sound exciting but they do advance all these pipe dreams. Consulting local magazines like Distinctly Montana, Wyoming Magazine, Big Sky Journal, Montana Outdoors and Montana Quarterly would augment these in a more bite-sized manner and some have email newsletters too so it is not a case of reading everything at once only then to forget it all afterwards. My European explorations have been more gradual affairs, after all, and it always helps to find ideas one at a time.
The next steps would be to make use of these but that will depend on how the year goes. COVID-19 is a reminder that events can derail such designs so it is best to see what can be facilitated. One thing is sure though: another visit to North America could happen yet.
2019 had its share of preoccupations, both political and professional, and I did get out and about more during the first half of the year than the second. Weather had its part in that as much as those aforementioned preoccupations but the dividing line appears to be my trip to British Columbia in July. That also needed recovery from jet lag together with financial restoration.
Before all that, there were numerous trips to Yorkshire and Scotland between February and May. The Yorkshire outings took me around Settle and Malham after a visit to the North York Moors near Great Ayton. Easter was spent around Edinburgh with excursions to Linlithgow, Peebles and Penicuik getting me out into more natural surroundings on a sunny weekend that rather spoiled me. Subsequent return visits in May even featured a return to Stirling as well as another stopover in Linlithgow.
The Canadian trip was the highlight though and my base in Vancouver allowed for plenty of exploration around the city itself as well as fitting in side trips to North Vancouver, Squamish and Vancouver Island. The introduction was so thorough that I struggle to think of an excuse to return and there should be plenty of those as long as I figure out how to spend time on any associated long flights.
To some, 2020 is not when the new decade begins but popular opinion is not awaiting 2021. For me too, a certain wistfulness has descended and I look back to 2000 when I began my career and 2010 when I changed jobs. The 2010’s have been life changing too and unwanted political developments to come in 2020 will bring more change. For that reason, I am not planning very much and will see how the year goes.
It this was 1990 or 2000, my sentiments would be more optimistic since that was the world view at the time. However, all that has dissipated and popular dissatisfaction is causing all sorts of upheaval. Throughout all this, it is important to keep a sense of perspective so it is likely that sunny days will lure me out of doors like the last days of 2019. After all, my late mother left me with a constant desire never to waste bursts of sunshine.
We appear to live in a time when making one’s own new happy experiences is never more needed and then there is the necessity to share them. Distractions in 2019 have lengthened the trip report backlog though I am writing one at the moment. As I now look to 2020, that motivation is one that feels sound even if I largely will let the opportunities come to me. Then, less of them get wasted and more stories are there to be told. If a few are uplifting too, that will be even better.
A North American outing always seemed a long shot yet it has come to pass. My base became Vancouver in British Columbia so it was a Canadian escapade too. It might have been that all the Canadian reading of spring, summer and autumn of last year made the trip an eventuality in the end. The next step was to find a usable base for making use of just such a thing.
It also turned out to be one where much had to be learned for this was my first transatlantic leisure trip and there only was a business one to Delaware as a predecessor. Dealing with time zone differences that meant that so much of the day was outside of normal European business hours was another consideration as was the subsequent ongoing reacclimatisation to the home time zone afterwards. It was for that reason that I bookended the trip with a few work-free days before and and after going for the purposed of preparation and recovery.
There was a certain trepidation too because I used the services of an airline that I had not known before though that became an unrealised fear when it was boredom during the flights that turned out to be the bigger intrusion. Being to tired to read meant that I got to observe others binge-watching videos and cartoons on the online entertainment system when the scenery underneath us did not attract attention. This needs rethinking for future long haul air journeys.
In Vancouver itself, finding one’s way about the place meant getting to know its superb urban transport system composed of frequent bus, rail and ferry services. City parks are in abundance too and some are large enough to occupy entire days. It is very possible never to leave the city with all there is to be found there, especially when you consider that I was there for only a week.
Still, that left enough time to find my feet and get used to the very different time zone. Stanley Park saw visits the first and second days of my stay before I left the city to go on a day trip to Vancouver Island. That took me to the provincial capital of BC, Victoria, and offered sights of the islands that we passed on the way there. The third day was spent in Vancouver where a visit to Pacific Spirit Provincial Park accompanied the decision to purchase bear spray in advance of some hiking.
There were two hiking days and both were without bear encounters and I was not disappointed for I overcame another fear. The first of these took me into the Lynn Valley near North Vancouver on a day when temperatures reached around 28° C. Nevertheless, I was under forest cover most of the time so that shielded me a little while I ventured as far as the Norvan Falls while fitting in a loop around Rice Lake. The next day took me to Squamish where my rambling took in Alice Lake Provincial Park along with a broader sweep of the countryside surrounding Garibaldi Estates and Garibaldi Highlands on another warm sunny day.
With my hiking days behind me, the bear spray was handed into Vancouver Police Department Property Office in advance of my return home after a satisfying and packed stay in Canada. There was much to learn and much to experience and warm sunshine was the main weather type. In a lot of ways, I only scratched the surface of what was there but it was a good threshold to cross and the countryside was as good as anything that I have found elsewhere. Once I work out what to do during those long flights, a return visit cannot be discounted.
A warm sunny bank holiday weekend may be a rare thing but I have not been lured out and about. In any event, temperatures have risen a little too high for what I call comfortable walking and other preoccupations have overtaken me. Still, they have not been all-consuming so I have not passed the twelfth anniversary of my setting up this blog after a May Day bank holiday trip to Scotland that took in Lochaber, Inverness and highland Perthshire. Sometime in June (the actual date itself is lost to me) marks the twentieth anniversary of my setting up a website for the first time and November is when my public transport website reaches its tenth birthday.
It goes without saying that a lot has happened during these time intervals. Family and work circumstances have changed while my explorations of hill country have become more international; the process of recounting my Norwegian wanderings is an ongoing project. There have been new beginnings and false starts but life has continued in its many ups and downs. The need for constant supply of new and happy memories has been made plain to me as my explorations continue.
Finally, I have got to reading Graham Wilson’s Climbing Down and I have other books by the same author to keep me going after that. Guidebooks to parts of North America as well as New Zealand have been perused in the off chance that my wanderings may become intercontinental. Canada’s western reaches have their scenic allure together with a hint of danger added by the presence of bears and other wild creatures. It is my intention that those readings continue as I rediscover the necessity of reading books from cover to cover in place of dipping in and out of certain sections. Any way that adds an extra overview has its place. They have added thoughts of visiting Vancouver Island and the Canadian Rockies while any prospect of going as far as New Zealand is more of a long shot.
Before all that, there is a possible venture in my working life that will need setting up if it comes to pass. Once such a thing is place and things are more settled, my hope is that my outdoor explorations will continue. After all, May is the best time of year in Britain and Ireland and I hardly want to let that slip by me if I can help it. Longer outdoors outings may not have happened since February for a variety of reasons but there should be more of the year left for such pursuits. Life’s adventure continues.