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.
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.
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.
A fine week. Busy as a one armed paper hanger. Still time to enjoy the morning dawn and evenings before the sun goes down. The garden is raging, carrots and pea pods. The broccoli and cauliflower have heads. If it heats up they will want to bolt. It feels good not to be responsible for the plants, although I planted them. We had small carrots and squash for supper tonight. We can’t keep up to the lettuce. How I wish I could save it for winter when fresh vegetables are scarce. It’s easy if you let it be.