Lisa and I had a good trip up the pass on the weekend. It has been busy.
We had an eye out for wild orchids. We caught sight of plenty of Venus Slipper’s and even a few rare Yellow Lady’s Slipper’s. The Venus was especially prolific. These small orchids are only about three to four inches high, but stand out among the moss on the damp forest floor.
The next two wild orchids to appear will be the showy Wood and Franklin.
On another subject, we had a light frost this morning. It doesn’t look like it damaged any of the plants, however, I had to put the run on two small buck mule deer with nub velvet horns that decided to trim two of my flower baskets.
Pure blue sky on a day off. It doesn’t get much better. Willow and I had grand plans to head to the backside of Swansea, follow the coolie and walk out to the front of Pinto. I knew there would be snow, but was surprised how much was still on the side looking east. And here I thought wood ticks would be the biggest concern.
We still found time to stop and walk admiring the mountains and sky. Back down in the valley bottom I rolled the windows down and heard the first Meadowlarks of the year.
Lisa has encouraged me to look back at some of the photos taken in the past. I rarely do this, content with looking at what was taken most recently. She said sometimes I might miss a good one. These two were taken on a wonderful trip along Palliser Pass last summer.
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.
Lisa and I took a quick dash into the bush tonight to look for mushrooms. The weather has been damp and cool so we were hoping to have some luck. Sure enough, they are just starting to break through. We picked a handful, for supper. Most we had to brush the dirt off the tops. They are small and firm, and of the best quality. The soup is on the stove. When I take it off the heat I will add a couple tablespoons of brandy and Marsala and a little cream to finish the mushroom bisque.
It seems orchids and bears start to appear at the same time in the bush. The trick is not to be too focused on one or the other. For instance, if you are just on the lookout for bears you might step on the delicate Venus’s Lady’s Slipper.
A Black Bear says, ‘What are you doing here?’
Conversely, if you are laying on your belly in the moss, intent on focusing your camera on these lovely orchids, you could pop up your head and have a surprise. Awareness is always the best policy.
There is a little extra daylight. Not much but noticeable. There is something to be said about the colours of winter, deep shades of grey, colours only seen at this time of year, hues of mauve and blue.
Evaluate the shadows in winter to plan a walk in summer.
To be without would be a shame. To see them a gift. The owl on a snag, eagles waiting for a fish or a duck to get separated. The mountain ridge fully defined. And the quiet that accompanies it.
An unnamed, unclimbed mountain – so happy the gore tex climbing hordes
are off shitting on the well known peaks miles from here.
Saw Winter Maker this morning, a waning sliver came up in dawn, later I faced the rising sun taking the cold from my bones; once again saved without having to confess or spend a minute in church. Sometimes you get lucky.
Soon it will be ice.
There are signs everywhere summer is on it’s way out. We have had frost at this time of year. It’s getting close, the other day was 3°c. The garden is flattening, except for the carrots, smoke and cabbage, who are revelling in the cool of night.
Willow casually smokes a cigar in her own private natural spa.
Was along the creek a range over. Willow swam the blue moving water fetching sticks. She learned quickly to use the current to her advantage. I threw sticks into an eddy, they would go around and around then finally spill out into the froth of the main channel. Willow did the same, fighting to get caught in the eddy, then using her thrusters to speed out of the eddy on just the right orbit, capturing the stick every time! It required perfect mathematical calculations on her part – the speed of the eddy, her weight, the speed of the main current, her mass and it’s effect on water resistance; all of that and the same calculations for the stick, just to be safe! Or. . . she just naturally knew what to do. Both are science, both are nature.
The sun went down and turned to twilight, as dramatic as it’s entrance.
We have had a few beautiful days. It only seemed right to get into the mountains one more time before the snow started falling in earnest.
Morning light touches the mountain tops. Willow scans the trail ahead.
Willow, Maynard and I set out early and were on the trail before sun up. We climbed up quickly through the bush. I studied the places I was going to have difficulty with coming down. The snow was crisp, but it would be icy directly under the trees come afternoon. Some of the ice would be unavoidable. There was a day I would hop, skip and jump down the trail.
Maynard and Willow walk the ridge.
Now I am more economical, to put it kindly. Not to many waisted steps. Some of those steps are damn slow. It reminds me that I have to stay in shape so I can show these places to Cooper and Scarlett.
In some places the snow was hard and others I broke through. On the ridge the snow was windblown hard or blown off the rocks so the going was relative easy.
Looking back along the windy ridge.
Willow led the way. Maynard stayed right with me.
The sky and sun was brilliant. The next snowstorm will make the ridge inaccessible.
Hypnotizing Maynard and Willow with a piece of cheese.
When we got back to the truck I had a cold coffee waiting for me. It hit the spot. The hounds slept the way home. Very fine day.