Friday, July 18, 2014

Return to water

Last night I went in the water after sunset
Where the 2 rivers meet

Rough sand underfoot

I waited until fire centre released me
And the heat of the day had gone

Cool, twilit evening

Just me and the dark water
Nothing else under the surface

Fresh, swift current

Tinkling laughter echoes in the distance
Twisting, diving and dolphin kicks

Liberated, joyful dance

Last night I left the river after dark
Twinkling lights reflected

I return always, to water

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Gratitude II

I am so grateful for my parents. I know I can count on them. They will listen when no one else can.  They won't judge me when I emote like a child but they will advise me as an adult. They are not perfect but they are good parents, friends, supporters and advisors. 
I am grateful  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2012 in Review

Wow. It appears I have been a total slacker in the blog front since May! I will review as best I can.

Sunset over Steamboat Rock
Reunions was reunions.....not that I'd ever been since graduation but it was what I expected and I don't think I need to go again til my 25th. It was mayhem and alcohol-drenched and wonderful old friends and too short-a-time-to-REALLY-reconnect and forgotten but familiar faces and territory and nostalgia and orange and black and rugby and rain and dancing and misappropriated golf-carts (and bottles of wine). I was so lucky to spend a bit more time on the East Coast afterwards thanks to the homes and hospitality of my wonderful friends Ginny, and Bri-Bri, and Carlito and James. Those too were too short visits but at least we were allowed more than a few screamed sentences on the grass above the P-rade. 

2002 PUWRFC starters: Pauline, Kimo, Sappy, Me, Ginny, Suzanne, Reagan (honourary), Moira-missing due to hangover
After an excellent mountain flying course in Creston, there was rather a long lull without much flying but still long hours in the office and being on call for cherry blowing, some tours and some film shoots. 

Darryl and Dad enjoy the view from our deck
I have to admit that it is hard not to crack a cold one in the late afternoon sunshine, basking on my deck overlooking the lake and Okanagan Mountain Park because I *might* have to fly... But indeed, there are worse things in life than resisting a little temptation.

In my happy place
I got lucky in August when we won a big aerial survey contract for Mountain Pine Beetle. It meant I got to take 5 days off and then go fly my tail off. Chippy and I booked it for the border and spent a few days camping, hiking and skinneydipping around Steamboat Rock Park by the Grande Coulee Dam.

Atop Steamboat Rock overlooking the Grande Coulee
Not to mention eating enchiladas every time we went past a Mexican restaurant. Back North of the border, I spent another couple nights camping - this time in some wild land next to the Ashnola river. Mom, Dad and Kenai even joined me for a night.
With Jeremy at Johnstone Canyon near Banff
After the MPB survey stint in Alberta where I timed out for the first time in my career I had to have another bunch of days over before I was allowed near a helicopter again. The timing was perfect to visit my bother Jeremy who was in Banff for a geeky scientific conference.
Alpine lake near Canmore, Alberta 
I figured things would start to die down on the flying side since it was September, but it was rather the opposite! There was a fire in Peachland which had me hired on - out of home base - for 2 weeks. Indeed there were lots of other little fires around the Okanagan due to an extremely dry late summer (in contrast to the Juneuary we had earlier in the season).

By October, I figured I could count on being bored in the office but instead I got sent off to a fire in Northern BC with our new scanning guy, Bill. In October!!! I bribed the camp staff for turkey on Thanksgiving and they delivered.  Eventually the snow came and we headed south again.

Since I missed a home-cooked turkey for thanksgiving and I knew we wouldn't find one in South America, I created a holiday - Thankmas and invited an assortment of my dear friends from a variety of circles. Dad missed it because he was volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Nicaragua but he does not have such a fowl addiction as I do. My roommate Darryl made a fantastic BBQed bird (on his first ever attempt!) and everyone else brought delicious trimmings. I love my friends.

I was not home for long though since the ground survey portion of the Alberta MPB contracts commenced and I got to head Grande Prairie/Grande Cache way to fly crews into hard-to-access sites. Usually the crews will hike, snow-shoe or sled into their sites if they can but in some places - as long as there are big enough clearings (which there tend to be in Alberta) - it makes more sense to move the crews around via helicopter. I have to admit that I have spent more time flying in the tropics to date than in sub-zero when I descended through an inversion to land at my Chinook Lodge base at the beginning of the contract, I thought the heater had broken and a door had popped open. Alas no, I had gone from -7C at 9000ft to -22C at 4000ft. Damn! The first day working up there was rather miserable with the bitter cold, heavy snow and  terrible visibility - just what I wanted on my first day in almost year of winter ops :/ My crews were excellent though and after I started considering the weather and the work as an adventure as opposed to a trial, I had a lot more fun.

Ben Louwerse's shot of me and FANC just after take-off from staging 

 Thank goodness (and my harping roommate) for my Sorel boots! I do need a new working winter coat though -my old  Icefield one is getting rather tattered.

Bill captured me and FANC on very short final in Grande Cache

I hardly had time to pack after I got back home thanks to lots of wildlife surveys up until the day I had to fly South to Bolivia! I do like being busy - especially when it is flying and animals keeping me that way - so I didn't mind really, and I managed to remember to pack everything I needed except a headlamp!

Bolivia has been lovely so far. Most of our time has been spent celebrating weddings, Christmas, birthdays and New Years with our Canadian & Bolivian relatives. They do seem to like late nights here! I have to admit I have probably done more than my fair share of shopping...which is rather unlike me. I pride myself on not being a typical woman. Or tourist. Alas, it has been a long time since I've truly been on vacation, so that is my excuse. My nephew Faramir is having his 3rd birthday party tomorrow and the next day my Mom, Dad and brother Jeremy head Peru-wards to hike the Inca Trail for Machu Picchu. I am very excited for the adventure!

I wish you all the very best for the season (however belated). May your 2013 bring you love, joy, health, wealth and wackiness!

Enfin, I cannot say goodbye to 2012 without a farewell to my fellow friend of the sky - Nino - who died suddenly and tragically, but hopefully without pain, in a skydiving accident while working in New Zealand. Nino, Italian through and through, was my friend and housemate at the Big Blue House in Fiji. Most often Nino could be found with a huge grin on his face and massive camera in hand and I remember him telling me as we walked along a beach as dusk fell how amazing he thought the sky was in the South Pacific - it was always changing and astounding him. I will not forget you Nino. My friend, I can assure you that I do not ever expect to see another man clean a kitchen so thoroughly in just a sarong. Can you believe I once told you that you ought to go put some more clothes on?! Foolish me. Blue skies forever.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tigertown 2012

Greetings from the Okanagan,
I figured it was about time for a quick update. Not a ton has been going on since I moved into my new condo over the Christmas break.

 It was a pretty quiet winter on the work front though I did get to do fly some (pine-beetle infested) logging crews around in the snowy woods and cut-blocks just North East of the Rockies near Jasper.

Our heli-wine tours have started up again and we’ve been doing a fair bit of filming and promotion so there could be some videos coming out. It looks like there will be a big fire season in Canada this summer so I may be pretty busy with doing the IR scanning in the jetranger again. In spite of the 3am alarms, I do so love being on a fire. We’ve been doing quick flights at the Vernon speedway on race days which is pretty fun and good for some photo ops.

The boss is talking about sending me and the other jetranger pilot down to Australia next winter to be co-pilots on the medium helicopters that we send down there each winter for fire / flood support.

I had fun skiing on the slopes of Silver Star and Big White this winter but I don’t know whether I could really handle another quiet, non-traveling winter!

I’m headed to New York / New Jersey for my 10 year university reunion tonight. It will be an epic 4 days at Old Nassau – I’ve only been back once since I graduated and it wasn’t for reunions. It is usually a very pickled event but the key is to stay hydrated until AFTER the alum vs undergrad rugby game....
Since I haven’t had a proper vacation for over a year (since I left Fiji) I asked for a bit of extra time off so I’ll be in the NJ / NYC area (mostly based out of Princeton with my teammate Ginny) until Sunday June 10th. Saturday the 9th is my 32nd (!!!) birthday so let me know if you can make it to the celebrations....perhaps at a Jersey City Beergarden.... ? I want to spend much of my time reconnecting with old friends and exploring the city. I won’t have a car but if you are nearby and can let me know how to reach you by train or bus, hopefully we can meet up – otherwise see you on the 9th! If you don’t have a job and want to drag me on a roadtrip somewhere on the shore or somewhere, you know I’d be game.

I hope everyone is doing well and looking forward to summer (or winter for your Southerners....). I’ve certainly been enjoying a martini or two on my patio with its wonderful views of the lake and Okanagan Mountain Park. Late afternoon sun streams down and it is blissful. Hope to share a bevvie or 2 with any of you who can make it my way (if I’m not away working!)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Toast to 2011

What a wonderful year 2011 has been for me. I am so grateful to have been so blessed.

My latest and greatest news is that I just bought my first home – a brand new 2-bedroom condo in West Kelowna. I must extend great thanks to my late Nana for my generous inheritance and to my parents for their constant support. I am on the top floor and have wonderful views South, of the lake and Okanagan Mountain Park. I moved in just before Christmas and am harbouring another international traveller. My buddy Darryl who I met a few years ago here on the dubious recommendation of mutual friends from the Nile in Uganda has moved into my 2nd bedroom. He is a helicopter engineer who tends to work half the year in Africa for offshore companies, so depending on your visit timing, you may meet him or you may get to sleep in his bedroom (or both)... Christmas and our housewarming were perfectly timed and the loot has helped turn the condo into a home. My mother in unimpressed with my observation that with a wicked KitchenAid mixer now already in my possession, I have no real good reason to get married anymore. Now that I have my own place, I do hope to repay all the hospitality I have received over the years so take note of my address above and let me know when you make it to my part of British Columbia.

Of course I do hope to be off flying a lot of the time so I may have to just hide a key for you. I’m not exactly kidding. I was in the middle of mountain training this summer with my boss when I got called to my first forest fire. I had about an hour’s notice to grab my go-bag and fly North to Fort McMurray. Later in the summer, I go to bulk up my hours with a pine beetle survey contract in Alberta. My boss is pretty awesome and didn’t mind that I took Dad along for the spectacular ride across the Rockies before he bussed back home the next day. My brothers and their respective broods came to visit in the summer and in a couple of trips I got to take everyone (except poor lil Sophia) for flights up to the alpine of Little White. Damon had paid for his first flight with me 3 years ago in the Rockies – all 8 minutes of it, but it was the first time any of the others had ever flown with me at the controls. Quite a wonderful opportunity and just another example of ‘how I’ve fallen on my feet’ (as my mom likes to say) since I returned from Fiji. I loved the land and the water and my friends in the South Pacific, but it was definitely the right decision to return to Canada last spring. This is the first year that I haven’t been laid off for the winter and the folks at Valhalla Helicopters seem to want me around for a while. With 2 Jetrangers that I can fly now, and 2 Bell 205s and a Bell 212 to move up to in the upcoming years, I feel that I have found a fabulous niche that I mustn’t take for granted. It doesn’t hurt that my condo is less than 15 minutes away from the office and the new hanger that is being built.

My parents are already chomping at the bit to reorganize my room at the lakehouse but they keep telling me they didn’t really want me to leave. Of course I still plan to spend a lot of time on the dock there in the summer and cuddling with my furry sisters Kenai and Mistaya. I also intend to remain a volunteer with the fire department out there so I’ll be ‘back home’ once a week for practice anyway! Kind of perfect really.

I have truly appreciated the experiences of this past year but I feel that I have a lot to look forward to in 2012. This coming Spring will be my 10th reunion and I am hoping to return to Princeton for it and see many many friends and rugby teammates who I’ve missed since I graduated. I also hope to have a sort of high school reunion in September in Wales for Danielle’s wedding (UKers, let me know if you want to invite me over for a sleepover...) There are even whisperings of a Bolivan Christmas since Tepita’s brother will be getting married!

I wish you all the very best wishes for 2012. For my last day in 2011, I am getting to fly a man and the woman he wants to marry up to Big White Ski hill for lunch. I hope to get a couple of runs in before I spend the evening with wonderful friends. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. Here is hoping all of your dreams come true.
Love & joy,

Chinook McLean

Uncle Peter – the wise and loving husband to my mother’s older sister Audrey – passed away suddenly this fall. He walked an interesting path in life, always seeming to be a little more off-beat and unusual than you would expect. Something that I definitely appreciated. He is a character who will be missed greatly. xo

Thursday, August 4, 2011

BC Family Time

I FINALLY met my adorable nephew Faramir for the first time when he and my bro Jeremy and sister-in-law Tepita visited from Ottawa for a couple of weeks. He's a year-and-half so it was an overdue meeting. I seem to do this with 1st-borns of my siblings because Maddie was about the same age when I excaped Africa and Ships to visit her for the first time in Seattle. I didn't have the same problem with Kate who was only a couple of months old when we first bonded, and those girls and their newest sister Sophia will be visiting in September. Fingers crossed I'll be around for that visit!

Anyway, it was a wonderful time. We had super days on the lake where Faramir was the bowsprit for the canoe, and Tepita tried her hand at kayaking, and I simulated failure of the stand-up paddle-board for Jeremy's photo-amusement.

Faramir's first word in the Okanagan was something akin to "Kenai" and our poor pooch tolerated very well Faramir's sometimes semi-violent-tail-grabbing love. Mistaya the cat perfected the make-no-sudden-moves-and-remain-curled-in-a-ball-downstairs approach to conflict / love avoidance. Soon enough Faramir learned my name but I don't think he ever figured our Nana and Grandpa....

Probably my highlight of the whole trip (for me anyway) was taking the whole family on a helicopter flight. It was the first time I'd taken Jeremy, and it was Faramir and Tepita's first time ever in a helicopter. We has a super flight that culminated in a stop by an alpine lake high above and overlooking the Okanagan valley. Faramir is quite the little outdoorsman and I don't think he will be as big a whiner as I was on the typical McLean-Family-Hikes that I'm sure he'll be encouraged (forced) to endure for many years to come. I don't even think he'll suddenly have the realization, like I did, that he is grown up and loves to hike even when there is no one dragging him out there with a heavy pack on. He loves it already. So cute!

We also had some speed boat rides, more hikes, wasp stings, winery visits, fireman training, delicious dinners in town and escapes to the Enderby Starlight drive-in before the visit crescendo-ed with Dougal and Lori's wedding in Langley. Such a fun day with lots of love and family and headstands and excessive close-up photography and an Afghan veteran Thunderbay T-shirt. Ah the memories.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

On Shaw TV - Kelowna

A wonderful woman came up to me a couple of months ago after I spoke at the "Okanagan Institute: Come from Afar" at the Bohemian Cafe and asked if she could do a local TV piece on Valhalla Helicopters and I.

This is a link to Gillianne Richards' very flattering piece.

Hope you enjoy my 15 minutes - or perhaps 5 minutes - of fame :)