James in His Jeep Getting Java – Finn Slough

In 2016, I became fascinated by a place in Washington near La Conner called “Fish Town.” This was an area just south of La Conner where, in the 70s, a group of artists rented fishing shacks along the slough where they settled an unofficial town. As the tale goes, these artists wanted to shun modern day convenience for their art and used the slough as a way to get into town for supplies. Years later, the owner of the fishing shacks would sell the land to developers who would clear cut the area and destroy the town.

(You can learn more about Fish Town from this documentary.)

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One day while having lunch in La Conner, I decided that I was going to find Fish Town! Not only does it appear on Google Maps, but it also appeared on my GPS. So I set the coordinates and started to drive. What I discovered was disheartening–an area of land with new homes and no remnants of the rich history of what should have been a historic place.

This is why it worries me that the Fraser Valley Port Authority might one day push the residents of our very own Fish Town off land they’ve been living on for three generations. (Follow link to the bottom of the page.) In Richmond, British Columbia there’s a place called Finn Slough, a “town” of about thirty living in shacks that were built in the late 1800s. (Some have been restored with modern conveniences.)

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At the south end of Dyke Road is an off-leash park (watch for coyotes!) that overlooks the Fraser River, Mount Baker, and farmland. A fifteen minute walk will bring you to Diplomat Bakery where you can refuel on coffee and treats.

 

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From the river bank you can walk the shore and see the historic buildings and imagine what it was once like for the original Finnish settlers who built their homes either floating or on wooden stilts. There are still three original Finn families living here, and I often wonder what a conversation with them would be like. (This may happen soon.)

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These photographs were taken on two separate days, the cloudier ones in October and the sunnier ones in December. I missed going back here when the snowfall arrived, but I do wish I could have photographed it then.

There’s a bridge over the swampy river that leads to a welcoming bench for people to sit and ponder. To the right and left are private homes with signs requesting respect for their privacy.

Grinfinn enjoyed the tall grass as he explored the area and sniffed all the smells. I didn’t take him off leash, since there are coyotes in the area I wanted to have him close by my side. (Not that he walks fast enough that I couldn’t quickly pick him up.)

If you want to learn more about Finn Slough, you can read about it here.

And for the chosen theme song for the post, I thought this fit well.

2017 in Review

2017 had a pretty rough start for me, but it finished extremely strong. When I look back on the year I feel pretty happy about the accomplishments I have made. I’m almost done my lib tech course, I began learning the ukulele, adopted a dog, took some road trips, wrote a new book, started submitting my work to publishers, and I met a really amazing woman.

Here’s a list of my top 12 events. Some have links to longer blog posts or to other sites of interest.

  1. Manresa Castle in Port Townsend.

That time I spent a night in a haunted hotel, and woke up the next day with the entire town dressed in steampunk costumes.

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2. Grinfinn the Pekingese.

That time I met a dog, and he chose me to be his caretaker.

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3. Friday Harbor, WA

That time I took a ferry to a town in the San Juan Islands, and met a couple at a cafe who turned out to be a good friend’s uncle and aunt.

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4. Leavenworth, WA

That time I went camping in a town that does Christmas all year long.

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5. The Steampunk Festival in Belligham, WA

That time I went to a steampunk festival and wished that I was in a costume.

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6. Coupeville, WA

That time I discovered the beauty of just sitting by the ocean with a cup of coffee, a dog at my feet, and a notebook on my lap.

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7. Arlington, WA

I wound up here by accident after taking a wrong turn. Then, after a second wrong turn, wound up finding the BEST homemade ice cream place I’ve ever discovered.

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8. First book signing since Flying Feet!

That time Denise Jaden and Eileen Cook asked me to be a part of their summer signing.

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9. Digital Services Tech at Richmond Public Library.

That time a part of my job was to create a digitization station for digitizing VHS, LPs, and cassettes. (It now does SO MUCH MORE!)

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10. Chosen to be a part of the literacy quilt.

The quilt was 50 feet from my station, and it still took me weeks and weeks to notice I was on it. In fact, it was a patron who asked, “Are you the James McCann that’s on the literacy quilt?” And then when the quilt travelled to another library, I got an email from a coworker who realized I was the author of one of her favourite books as a teen.

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11. Family came to visit.

My sister and mom came in July, and my nephew came in September. We took many road trips together and had an absolute blast.

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My sister, Grinfinn, and I in Horseshoe Bay on our way to Whistler.

Hell’s Gate was one of the many trips my nephew and I took.

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My nephew, Justin, in Hell’s Gate, BC

12. Had a Nice Surprise

If you follow my Instagram, you may have noticed I’ve been spending a lot of time with a special someone, Jessica. Here we are writing at the Penny, a really cool cafe in Mission. You can read Jessica’s work on Wattpad.

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And, I started learning the ukulele (as in actual lessons). I (almost always) end my blog posts with a song that fits the moment–so, here’s me playing the ukulele on week four.

James in His Jeep Getting Java – Hell’s Gate Edition

For years I talked about travelling to Hell’s Gate — and not just so I can say I’ve literally been to Hell and back. Hell’s Gate is nestled in the narrowest part of the Fraser River just down from Boston Bar. In 1808, Simon Fraser uttered the phrase, “(it’s) a place where no human should venture, for surely these are the gates of Hell.”

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I had tried to visit a time just a few weeks before, but was turned back because the fires nearby were causing too much smoke. Yes, I was turned away from the Gates of Hell because the smoke was just too bad!

But with my nephew visiting, this seemed the perfect opportunity for a road trip. Grinfinn, Justin, and I all piled in the Jeep, and after a brief stop for lunch and coffee at the Blue Moose in Hope, we headed for Hell’s Gate.

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The drive there is gorgeous and the day could not have been more perfect. We followed the Fraser Canyon through the famous tunnels passing through Yale for a brief stop.

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Once at Hell’s Gate, we took the tram to the bottom of the canyon to what was once a mining town. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. The scenery was amazing and in September on a weekday there were no crowds. Hell’s Gate is very dog friendly, so Grinfinn had a great time!

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I’ve been on a few trams and found this one especially calm. It was slow and steady with a guide who has a spiel that takes the time from top to bottom to get through. By the time you get to the bottom, you have a pretty good idea of the area’s history and that makes exploring a bit more fun.

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A restaurant, an ice cream/fudge shop, and a museum.

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The view from the tram.

 

You can walk across that red bridge and really get a good view of the river. It’s spectacular.

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On the other side of the bridge are train tracks and a bit of a trail. Depending on how much of a hiker you are, you can spend a good day exploring the area. It seemed really uphill, so my nephew and I opted for not going on the hike.

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That’s my nephew below looking all pensive over the cliff. Hard to tell in this photo, but he’s got a camera that he took some great photos of during our trip. He was trying to find the perfect shot here.

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The day was hot and Grinfinn needed a break. There is a museum of the area’s history that’s air conditioned, so the three of us found our way there and cooled down.

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Grinfinn enjoys the cool floor.

All in all, it’s a remarkable trip there and worth the drive. Go on a nice day, but not when it’s full on heat. If you’re a hiker, take hiking boots. If you’re not a hiker, get the ice cream.

I leave you with this song by AC/DC:

James in his Jeep Getting Java – The Arlington, WA Edition

I’m not sure where I was going that day, but like any good road trip I was prepared to find joy anywhere I wound up. I crossed the border from British Columbia to Washington without difficulty, thankful for the sunny day and Grinfinn who seems to just love travelling.

Grinfinn and I took the first turn from I-5 towards Fairhaven, as there’s an Arco on that turnoff with the cheapest gas in Washington. (Usually compares to Costco.) From there, I hit up my favourite lunch place–Avenue Bread and Deli. When the weather is nice, it’s a great place to grab a sandwich and sit on a patio with the dog. Grinfinn even made a friend.

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One of the nice things about this place is that it’s slightly off the main road in Fairhaven, so there’s usually parking there even when the town is really busy. From there, it’s a nice walk to Village Books and Rocket Donuts. You can read more about Fairhaven here.

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The turkey club with house-made chips and a latte. My comfort meal for the road. Just look at that pickle. LOOK AT IT!!

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Grinfinn’s happy place — under the chair beneath me.

From there I drove the I-5 south, though I wasn’t totally sure where I was headed. I turned my GPS off and just took a few turns until I realized I was pretty turned around. I saw signs for “Arlington,” and decided I’d check it out and see what it was like. Glad I did.

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Arlington has about 20 thousand people, and is a pretty place with a strong artistic feel. I took Grinfinn for a walk, and found Legion Memorial Park and an art walk. Cool sculptures along a walkway on a nice day was just what I needed.

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There was also an old train station/now visitor information center. I still had a coffee from Avenue Bread, so I parked myself here for an hour and just watched the people as they milled about. Cyclists travelling across the state, families having picnics, and other tourists discovering the park. Grinfinn and I were in bliss.

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I knew I was close to La Connor, and so I decided to pass through there on my way back to Canada. Without turning on my GPS I started to drive in the direction that I was pretty sure La Connor was in, and wound up somewhere that felt like another world.

I found this home with art and sculptures and what looks like junk but is probably treasure and had to take a few photos.

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I got back on the road and headed towards what I thought must be La Connor. The day was getting very hot, and the sun was really starting to beat down. I came upon a roadside farmer’s market in the middle of nothing but farms, and I pulled over to check it out. I’m glad I did, because they had the best house-made ice cream.

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Just in case you’re wondering, I made it to La Connor. I did wind up consulting the GPS and it pointed me in the right direction. I wasn’t too far off, but I never would have found it had I not checked where I was.

In La Connor, I ended my day in a new cafe that had just opened under new management. It had a backyard with lawn chairs and very friendly staff. I can’t recall the name of it now, but when I find it I’ll update the blog.

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Al in all, that was a perfect trip. No destination, all day for travel, a dog by my side, and the discovery of a few great spots for coffee, ice cream, and relaxation.

The song that goes through my head as I write this post is by The Cars – MAGIC. Enjoy!

James in his Jeep Getting Java–The Coupeville Edition

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The look on Grinfinn’s face when I grab his collar and my Jeep keys is priceless. He always does this little dance when he knows we’re going for a Jeep ride, and it’s the only time he bolts out the door as fast as his one inch legs can carry him.

This past weekend we travelled to Coupeville, Washington on Whidby Island, a town of approximately 2,000 people. I travel to Whidby Island a lot, and have blogged about it on more than one occasion. The town of Langley is a favourite travel destination that you can read about here. This historic site still has that frontier look from the 1900s when the town incorporated. Its history as a settlement from the 1850s is a fascinating one, and well worth the read.

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Beautiful, friendly, and peaceful, this was the perfect spot to go after a particularly rough week. There is something therapeutic that happens on road trips, kind of an erasing of the emotional cache that leaves me fresh for the following week. As always, Grinfinn was the hit of the town with lots of people stopping to take photos, pet him, and ask what kind of dog he is.

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Grinfinn and I wound up spending our time on a bench overlooking Penn Cove. Thanks to the Coupeville Historic Waterfront Association, there was free wi-fi so I had a great spot to rest and write. There was also a hot dog stand where I was able to get my lunch.

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I managed to grab a cup of java from the Knead & Feed Bakery before they closed. (They literally locked the door as I entered the building.) They have a great place to sit outside that overlooks the cove, and once while passing through I had stopped for lunch here so I can say the food is delicious.

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During our walk Grinfinn became enamoured by this statue of a dog. It had me laughing out loud, and when others saw what was making me crack up they also laughed.

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My theme song for this post is Dare by Stan Bush. I’ve been digitizing my LP collection at my library, and now this is one of the many songs I have to play on my road trips. It’s from the 1986 Transformers movie.

James in His Jeep Getting Java–Camping, Leavenworth, and Grinfinn! Part Two

The last time I went camping was probably about seven years ago. And when I say “camping,” I mean it in the most liberal sense. This is “car camping,” where you pull into a spot and your entire site is there ready to use. The last time I went actual camping, where I canoed several lakes, portaged between them, and hiked to the camping location, was more like twenty-five years ago.

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I chose the KOA campsite over the State one only because I thought it might be nice to have access to showers. Plus, the prices were about the same, so I wasn’t saving anything by going to a State park. I also liked the idea of having internet access, so that I could blog each day of my journey.

KOA Pine Village was more like a hostel where you stay in a tent instead of a room. There was a general store, washrooms, showers, a coffee shop, a pool, a dog run, a hot tub, and internet access.  I was placed pretty far from both the dog run and the washroom, though I had emailed ahead to request a site next to them (that also overlooked the river). At the time of check in, I should have mentioned my request again, but I was too tired and didn’t feel like it. In retrospect, I will now always be more vocal.

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I’ll rate the site out of five stars on a few key points:

(1) Cleanliness. This I would have given them a solid five star. The campsite, including the washrooms, were always kept very clean and were well maintained. However, when I asked about recycling I was told they hadn’t got around to that yet since they’d only been open for two years. Two years! That downgrades them to a three.
(2) Internet. Not always important to people who are car camping, but since I wanted to blog my travels it was for me. The internet (and I was right by the tower) was shoddy at best. On two devices (my Android phone and my iPad) I couldn’t maintain connectivity for longer than a few minutes. The iPad couldn’t stay connected for more than a few seconds. This I give zero stars. It was so bad it was actually not better than nothing.
(3) Staff. Five stars. For the most part, they were kind and polite.

So, they get a 2.6 star rating out of five. To improve, I’d suggest either boosting their internet signal or just not advertising that it’s a service. Plus, get a recycling bin.

There was a warning at the site office for wild turkeys, deer, bears, and cougars. The last one was what got my interest, as I have no fear of the other animals. I asked how often they’d had sightings, and was told that they’d actually never seen a bear or a cougar in the area, but because of the proximity to the mountains they were required to give the warning. I asked if she knew what to do if they saw a cougar, and she told me that no, in fact, she didn’t. She seemed shocked when I told her that you don’t run, you actually have to stand and fight it. I’m pretty sure I was labelled the “Crazy Canadian” after that.

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I did see many turkeys and a few deer. The turkeys enjoyed roaming my campsite, and only mine–they never ventured into anyone else’s. When I was at the site, they stayed off in the bushes and wandered the woods. There was no fear in them of becoming anyone’s dinner.

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The first night I had forgotten to pick up a propane canister for my camp stove and the general store was out of them. Instead, I bought some wood and built a fire, figuring I could boil my water for coffee and oats over that until I was back in the town the next day. This was Grinfinn’s first experience with fire, I assume, as it completely freaked him out.

I tried having him in my lap, but every time the fire popped and sparks flew Grinfinn would want to run as far as possible. Can’t blame him, since his fur is basically an accident waiting to happen. The next day, I made sure to get propane so that I wouldn’t have to build another fire. Grinfinn enjoyed the second night much more than he did the first. Lesson learned.

The first night it was so hot that I considered removing the fly from the tent to get more of a breeze. That would also erase my privacy, and when you’re car camping you have neighbours that are right beside you. Also on that first night, I started thinking to myself just how many horror movies take place in camps, campgrounds, or camping. Friday the 13th, Blair Witch Project, Sleepaway Camp, Evil Dead, Cabin in the Woods

The second night, it was so cold that I was pretty sure my tent was haunted and I needed to perform an exorcision. Unfortunately, without proper internet access, I couldn’t Google how to do that so I just had to suck it up. I tried to get Grinfinn to sleep in my sleeping bag, but he was still hot (fur) so he didn’t want to stay in it with me.

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All in all, it was a good experience and first attempt at camping with Grinfinn. I have a few key things I’d make sure to bring next time (like a blanket just in case the night gets cold), but there wasn’t anything that would stop me from doing that again.

With that, instead of a theme song I thought I’d leave you with some video of Grinfinn fast asleep in the tent. His snores are quite relaxing, and can be very soothing to fal asleep to. Enjoy.

James in his Jeep Getting Java — and Grinfinn the Pekingese!

For those of you who follow my blog, you may recall that last Christmas I had to say farewell to my 17-year-old shih tzu, Conan. I adopted him when I was 28 and he was with me for what had seemed my entire life. It was not an easy adjustment.

At first I thought saying goodbye to a beloved pet was something I could never do again, and then I thought I’d wait a year to spend some time on my own, and then I realized that for the first time in my adult life I was actually lonely. I’ve spent most of my adult life alone, but I had never before experienced loneliness.

I took to Petfinder.com and started looking at dogs. The first one I applied for I never heard back from the agency, and then a couple weeks later the dog was adopted. My assumption is that the foster family chose to keep the dog, as that particular agency had a “foster to adopt” program.

The second dog was named “Grinfinn,” and later on I would learn that it was just a misspelling of the name “Griffin.” He was a six-year-old Pekingese (possibly crossed with a Japanese Chin) and had come here from Taiwan. The write up claimed he was relaxed, good with people and pets, and house trained. So I applied.

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After the initial application, there was a phone interview. After the interview, there was a home inspection where I got to meet Grinfinn (yes, I kept the misspelled name). He seemed like the perfect match, so I told them I wanted him. And they wanted me to have him. Most importantly, it really seemed like Grinfinn wanted to have me. It was ideal.

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It would be easy to make the claim that Grinfinn came into my home and all was bliss. But just in case you ever consider getting a shelter dog, I feel it’s important that you know bliss comes with patience and hard work.

1. Stress On the Dog

The first night Grinfinn was stressed. He made loud grunting noises, and he would sit near me but not with me. He was still excited about walks, but he really wasn’t sure what to make of all that was happening. I think in his mind he wondered when he was going home.

I slept on the couch because Grinfinn wanted to wander the apartment all night. He finally fell asleep around 3 or 4 am, and he snored LOUDLY. He sounded like a 500 lbs human snoring. This was less the second night, and by the third night he was sleeping in a bed of his own beside mine. (His legs are so short I’m worried about having him on my bed just yet in case he jumps off.)

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2. Eating.

He didn’t eat the first day. He was energetic and seemed to be adjusting, but he turned up his nose to his dinner and to treats. I had some of his old food that he was familiar with, but he was just not interested. The second day I made him an egg, and he ate it. The third day I made another egg and mixed it with his food. He ate all of it. Today, I mixed a little bit of egg with his food and he ate all his food with no fuss. Eventually, he’ll just eat his own food–or maybe it’ll be a bit of egg all the time. We’ll see.

3. Playfulness.

I bought him a toy that he had no interest in. I kept it on the floor, and figured when he was ready he’d let me know. Today, he took the toy in his mouth and brought it to me. He was ready!

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He and I are adjusting well, and Grinfinn is starting to show signs of really taking to his new environment. I’m on holidays, so all my time so far has been hanging out with him at home and taking him on walks. He even has his own Instagram where you can see his adventures!

It is all bliss having Grinfinn as my companion in the sense that we love going for walks together. People love meeting him, and he’s making a lot of new friends.

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We have a whole lifetime together to adjust to the rest of it, and as I wrote earlier we will — with patience. For now, I’ll leave you with a couple more photos. And a theme song.

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