Lisa and I were out early, neither of us not sleeping worth a shit. We headed for the Palliser with a detour up Rock Creek to get red willow and cedar for a wreath. Lisa loves making wreaths. Unfortunately the deer eat the tender cedar right off the front door. It’s like we are feeding them and putting Willow in harms way.
We picked up a few sticks of firewood, looked for a Christmas tree, but resolved it was still too early to cut one. This year the tree will be extra small, like the turkey, considering it will only be a crowd of two.
The snow got deep in a hurry. Lisa gave me a look a few times when we pushed further. The new tires seemed to handle it well, still why push your luck? Lisa was happier when she was walking the road anyway.
We cut some branches and watched the tracks in the snow.
Pretty good days. The lake has frozen hard and clear. Without snow it is a skater’s dream. We headed out after work on Friday, tossing the puck around, stopping once and awhile to admire the fine day. We stayed until the stars started to appear.
This morning low cloud blanketed the valley. It always seems cold to me when this happens. This evening Willow and I headed for the mountains with hopes to push through the clouds into the stars.
We followed the creek we are used to. It took less climbing than I initially figured before the stars appeared in the treetops. The sky was warm, twisting in my mind, while long lost spirits flowed through me stealing my breath.
I’m getting to be an old fool. I’m not sure what arrived first the foolishness or the oldness. Lately they seem to have come together as a sort of unwanted conjunction, making me look for my keys while the truck is already started, grabbing my gloves to chop wood, then outside, realizing they are the oven mitts I use to check the roast.
Still, who am I to deny my feelings, after all reality is in the eye of the beholder.
Lisa and I wondered the creek bed far from the maddeningly crowds. Since the backroads are free of snow we travelled deeper and higher than other years. Once we got to the white water cascading from the melt that never ceases, we took off on foot.
I was happy to walk on rocks that are usually covered in water in warmer months. Looking at the scrapes and scratches. Digging in the sluice looking for gold that I know isn’t there, quartz but no black sand.
Then we came across a black rock that didn’t belong. It was the only black rock in the river bed. The only black rock I’ve seen in the area. It was out of place. The river would normally be over it.
I lifted it and it was heavy. This was a meteor I figured. Yet, it was pockmarked, not smooth, I held a magnet to it and it didn’t stick.
Regardless, I like to think it was catapulted from space, after a quick trip around the sun, hell bent, entering the atmosphere at ten times it’s size and burned down, in a magnificent streak of colour from red to green, until it hit with the force of ten tonnes of TNT, boiling the river, burying underground, letting a thousand years of high water wash over, until I came along and found it.
That’s most certainly not the way it happened, but it’s the way I like to look at it.
Picked a heap of kale for chips. It’s been frozen and thawed, the deer eye it up from the sidelines. It would be theirs if it wasn’t for the high fence. Willow barks the bucks away, us both brave again in each others company.
The chickadees are still hard at work, taking advantage of the warm weather. Seeds tucked into the woodpile. A few left for when times get tough.
First the moon, then mars followed ahead by Saturn and Jupiter. If you count where we’re standing that’s five circling the sun, bright, up before the rest of the stars.
The chips were crispy and sweet. Why shouldn’t they be?
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.