Spent some time watching chickadees and creepers taking seeds from the dried flowers and hiding them in the trees. It should be noted, they shell them, dropping the husk to the ground below, before tucking the meat into the crevasses of the bark.
I’ve watched woodpeckers come right after and steal the seeds. Damn those thieves.
Still the chickadees do their chore with cheerful vigour, regardless of thieves or winter coming quick or slow. I can’t imagine they are coming back to the ones they’ve hidden, trusting instead to the thoughtful nature down the line, birds hiding seeds in the trees above snow-covered ground. What goes around. . .
BC has implemented additional measures to slow the Covid virus. The ant-maskers held a demonstration downtown. I was conveniently in the bush, hiding, watching my grandchildren laugh, marvelling at the frozen lake while the mud puddles were open and thawed.
Just before dark, I watched a young boy with roller blades stick handle a ball down the sidewalk. It made me wish I was young.
The lake has a skim of ice. I’m hoping the cold takes hold, the snow stays put high until it’s hard enough to skate. That’s all it will take to make this old man happy.
Very fine day. My hound is feeling better. Lisa and I took one last look at the lake. Marvelling at the still water open before the freeze. Later we headed for the mountains, throwing the truck into four wheel drive.
I offered Scarlett and Copper $5 each if they could find a bird in their guide book. It made me feel good they found the American Dipper and damn near got in a fight about who would hold the book for the picture.
It cleared as much as it does in November. Jake climbed a tree in his between fall and winter boots. A true swinger of birches. The sun was down by 4:30 and dark by 6.
The fire is on. My arms remain strong. Plenty of wood needs splitting. A good day rouses me as much as a bad, when it doesn’t I’ll have to take a good long look.
Remembrance Day ceremonies were held at the cenotaphs around the country like usual, except without many people and very few spectators, due to Covid. In Invermere a scaled back ceremony was broadcast on Facebook for people to see.
It is a day that stirs up many thoughts and feelings. I had to work early in the morning for a few hours clearing the fresh snow at the resort. On the way home I passed the large illuminated digital sign on the highway that crosses the Shuswap Indian Band Reservation. The sign often displays phrases and words of their original language. Today they were displaying pictures of their people who served in the wars.
As I drove by Jack Stevens was displayed on the sign. He was a handsome man. My father and Mr. Stevens joined the services together while in their teens. They were Valley boys trying to do right, possibly, for different reasons. My father was following in his father’s footsteps. Jack could have been feeling free from racism that was so prevalent, hoping once the uniform was on the colour of skin would be forgotten.
Mr. Stevens and my father both came home to the Valley from the Second World War. I know now my father was changed and struggled for years, until he learned how to survive. My mother, his two daughters and my older brother helped with that.
Whenever, Ron and Jack met, usaully at the ball diamond or hockey rink, they spent time reminiscing, laughing about good times spent before the war.
It’s been a long time since I travelled that road, it can be a popular one with both loggers, tourists and locals. The last time was about sixteen years ago. It was with some good friends to spread the ashes of a friend who passed away. He loved it at a cabin on a lake known for fishing. We drank beer, played music and told stories about our lost friend. He loved that spot and spent some of his best days there.
We weren’t heading for the lake however. Before we reached the lake we took off on a well worn logging road. Now we were in an area I hadn’t been to since I was in grade 7. I remember this because, we were on a few nights overnight class trip to a remote cabin in the mountains. We had a good teacher that year and she was up for just about anything. I remember it being a good trip.
My father picked us up at the trailhead on the way out. On the drive back we stopped and soaked in a natural hot springs. I can still remember the girls in their bikinis. A 12 year old remembers such things, even if they forget how to find the same spot forty-some-odd years later.
And that is what we were looking for, those old natural hot spring pools. Except things had changed. For one thing, there are way more logging roads. Second the road to the hot springs no longer exists. No cell service to use GPS, not that that would have helped me anyway.
After about an hour driving the backroads we settled on a spot to start hiking. I wasn’t sure we were in the right place. A hike would be good after rattling around over potholes and frozen puddles.
Once we started hiking I wasn’t too concerned about finding the hot springs. There was plenty to see, the trees were covered in snow, the creeks had fish, birds chirped and sometimes showed themselves, chickadees, buntings, grosbeaks, solitaires and even a couple dippers.
I tried to remembering landmarks from years ago, but it was no use. They only way we would find the springs was by the research done before we left the house.
We rose up through the pass and started hiking down. I could remember overlooking the Kootenay valley. Not far down and we followed a crack in the mountain to mist and a slight smell of sulfur. There they were, the hot springs. Just like I remembered rocks had been arranged to capture the water in pools.
Although the hike wasn’t gruelling a dip was in order. The water soothed the muscles. The air was chilly getting out of the hot water. A quick bite and it was back on the trail to make it out before dark.
We had more kids trick or treating than we have had for years. We put the candy in a big bowl in our driveway and waved to as many as we could from our kitchen window. You never know what to expect.
Lisa and I kicked off November walking the east shore of Columbia Lake. Lot 48, for years scheduled for development, is now protected. It took millions of dollars to do so. We took the trail beside the lake and stopped often to admire the large fir trees with roots exposed from the banks eroding. I thought about being young and how I would have loved climbing these trees. I thought about now, could their large branches protect me in a storm. Where would I put my bed. Sure there was plenty of years dry branches to keep a fire going for days. We saw ruffed grouse along the trail. Willow put them in the trees. Chickadees got close, not deterred from our intrusion, going about their business hiding bugs and seeds for winter. Plenty of elk tracks coming and going, but not enough for a herd. One scraped the bank picking an awful spot to access the lake. Willow noticed as well and smelled the tracks almost falling herself. Although he could of, my father never hunted this area. It was their wintering ground and even if the animals came early coinciding with hunting season they were to be left alone. There was no regulation that said to do so. Now the area is protected and thank goodness. If not, the animals would be shot, the large fir snags would be cut for firewood or artisan lumber and four wheel drives, quads, side by sides and dirt bikes would tear it all apart without a thought.
Rain, slush, sleet and snow, even a brief hail storm thrown in for good measure. I picked a great time to take a week off. I’m not complaining, I can get along with all kinds of weather. I appreciate the nasty stuff keeps the tourists away.
Willow and I got muddy on the slick gumbo walking the banks of the Kootenay. We were chasing trout and char, dipping out of the timber onto the smooth rock where the river slows goes deep and blue.
The clouds moved over a little tonight and let an almost full moon shine beside a brilliant star called Mars. With luck it will start to clear up and I can get some photos of Mars while it is close. To think that is supposed to be our next destination as we try to leap frog into the stars.
I’m content and thankful letting the stars come to me. The Palliser River still has plenty of fish holes Willow and I haven’t discovered.
Strange days, despite the pandemic valley businesses had a very lucrative summer. Tourists from Alberta and other parts of Canada flocked to the valley, as travel to other countries was off limits. The resort I work for had a banner summer. We were run off our feet due to being low on staff. Hiring enough people was difficult due to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). I don’t blame people for taking advantage of the program instead of making minimum wage and risk getting sick.
Now CERB is wrapping up people are becoming available to hire. The resort has hired two more people in our department. There was plenty of funds to do so from the money earned and saved on wages in the summer.
We sure could have used the extra hands in the summer. Now that it is slow we are standing around looking at each other. It is brutal, we are almost fighting over who gets to change a light bulb.
So, I decided to take my accumulated holidays rather than try to look busy. When I get back I hope we have plenty of snow to shovel.
It will be nice to have a week off. The weather is the shits and isn’t expected to get better, still, I may head into the bush for a few nights to clear my head. The stars are mostly hidden by clouds, yet a fire and tent listening to rivers and wolves may be what the doctor ordered. It won’t take much hiking to be in a foot and a half of snow, waking up cold with Willow shivering beside me. It is good for both our souls (did I just say arseholes?).
Was up wondering around the old mine today. Blue lake is almost completely filled in. While standing above looking at the small part of remaining bottomless blue, I realized I haven’t made it far in life. I mistakingly tried to live the same life as my father and grandfather, not changing while the world raced on leaving me in the dust. A small walk away from were I stood was where I shot a rifle for the first time. It was before I was in school. As my father instructed I lay on the ground, he put the 22 against my shoulder, told me to look down the sights at the oil can about 30 yards away. He told me to steady and hold my breath and squeeze the trigger. When I did so the explosion rang in my ears and the oil can jumped. It was exhilarating.
A good friend asked me to pick him up from work today. His truck is in the shop. Across the street from where he works is my Grandparents’s farm. It was several acres. The old house still stands, dilapidated but still occupied. The property has been subdivided over the years. Back then it stretched down to the cemetery on the edge of the lake. Now it consists of a trailer park containing the only people that live in Windermere year round. Closer to the lake a bunch of million dollar second homes owned by Albertans who could care less for what came before and really why should they.
The point is I’ve continued the tradition of buying high and selling low. I should be sitting on my ass letting the new guys do the little work there is instead of taking vacation in November.
I’ve never been patient or thought much about the future, preferring instead to dwell in the past. Not sure I’d change it if I could.
A bunch of coulees, bluffs, creek bottoms, waterfalls and draws, trees scattered like match sticks hither and yon. Fire lay it bare, exposing the mountains for what they are; slides, rock, coves, caves, ridge and a bunch of hiding spots – just ask the grizzlies and goats.
You don’t want to be lost in it. That’s for sure. It’s better to stay on top then be wondering in the dark, not a star in the sky, only the dim moon shining through falling snow, silver here and there where the water shows.
Even best instincts aren’t enough. Nothing coming good or bad. The fire and deep snow doesn’t care, nor does the burnt snag falling to the forest floor give a damn if it’s heard or not.