In the Windermere

A website I enjoy reading is, In the Windermere, by Alex Weller.

The writing, research and photographs are fantastic. The material highlights local history. Many of the subjects Alex covers are ones I am familiar with and enjoyed talking about with my late father.

Alex does not romanticize history, rather, reports it with footnotes and links to back it up.

So often while reading Alex’s website I am reminded of my father’s recollections of First Nation People and the many names that settled this area my family has called home since 1912.

My father would often point out injustices in those early days of settlement. Alex’s website often confirms, through research and linked footnotes, many of the stories my father and I would discuss.

History was a real time and place. Even the smallest areas have great stories. History reflects and has repercussions until today. I can’t get over, when reading, In the Windermere, how politics haven’t really changed much, but the area sure has.

Twin Lakes

A young man prepares to take the plunge.

It’s been over a week since a young man drowned jumping into Windermere Wells.

Much of my youth was spent trailing behind my father or on my own through thick brush, following creeks and trails to small water holes.

One of the places we spent a great deal of time was Twin Lakes, now renamed Windermere Wells. As the name suggests it was two lakes joined by a narrow area that had a bridge. I often fished the deep lake surrounded by cliffs, where as, my Father fished the bigger shallower lake.

Photo by Lisa, taken from the road passing by the lake. Notice the young man doing a backflip off the rocks. This was taken a day before a 28 yr old drowned in Twin.

The advantage to fishing the deep lake was the fish could be seen around your hook. Some would swim by, some would nudge and often they would bite.

The Lakes had to be walked into. The road leading to a mine was above the lake. Later a logging road was put in below the lake, but was nearly impassable due to mud and the creek flooding over it’s banks.

My son Hunter jumping the lower rocks when he was a youngster. I wanted him to know how to do it, because I knew he was going to do it anyway.

It was only when the gypsum mine moved and commissioned and improved the logging road that the walk to Twin was visible, allowing a shorter walk.

During the eighties off roaders pushed roads over creeks and through the brush to the shores of the lake.

It became a party spot. We stopped going. Now it is an area tourists and locals go to jump the cliffs and swim.

When we were kids we described the deep lake as bottomless. A trail ran past the lake to deliver hunters and trappers to the Kootenay Valley. My Grandfather was one who often used the trail.

Natural science labels the lake a gypsum sinkhole. There is many on the backside of Swansea, this is one of the few filled with water from Windermere Creek.

A story was told, when I was a youngster, how a pack horse fell from the bridge into the deep water never to be seen again.

Although the water is clear, once swimmers start pulling themselves up the clay/gypsum sides the water turns murky, not allowing visibility past the surface of the lake.

If a diver hits the surface awkwardly and looses their breath their friends can not rescue them in the cloudy water. Trained divers almost always have to be brought in to recover the body.

Windermere Wells is becoming increasingly popular, however care should be taken, as it is known for more than a few deaths. One every few years now.

mess

Covid has sent people looking for recreation in the bush. It is one of the few things the government has encouraged people to do. Some trails have become exceptionally busy. Other places have been destroyed by people looking for a place to party and shoot off guns. Garbage and destruction has become commonplace.

Lisa and I have enjoyed the trails and roads up Windermere Creek for years. It is one of the first spots I can remember following my father through the bush. Logging and mining have taken it’s toll. Because this spot is close to the valley bottom it has attracted record numbers of tourists running snowmobiles, All Terrain Vehicles (ATV’s) and four wheel drives. The result is a mess around every corner.

That is not to say Albertan’s are responsible for all the mess. They alone don’t hold ownership on stupidity. Unfortunately we get some of Alberta’s worst out here, however, sadly, there is plenty of locals that also fit the profile.

This winter, someone tried pulling the water pipe out of the underground spring many get their drinking water. In all the years passing this spot I’d never seen such nonsense.

In this spot bottles and cans, garbage, live trees cut, old TV’s (to shoot at), snowboards, mufflers (possibly stolen for the catalytic converters), a truck canopy and spent rifle and shotgun shells.

Every spring Lisa and I clean some of these areas and take the garbage to the dump. Not this year. It is too much of a mess and it will only be added too. These spots are spoiled. They have already become dumping spots.

My hope is the yahoos and dipshits will stick to these spots, happy to trash these areas only. I know that is wishful thinking.

As for me, I’m not going back for two reasons; it’s painful to see and I’d be tempted to carry a club.

2021

A lone ice shack sits on Lake Windermere at dawn.

Lisa and I rang in the New Year in a rather low key manner. We enjoyed a nice dinner of steamed crab legs, vegetables, tapenade, crackers and hot pepper Oregon grape and rose hip jelly made by my good friend Dave. After dinner we watched an episode of The Crown on Netflix. The rest of the night was spent in front of the fire listening to fireworks. The fireworks started at 6 pm and continued throughout the night. There was no official fireworks this year due to Covid, so most were set off by individuals.

The Columbia River flows by cat tails after a chinook.

It goes without saying it has been a different year. Luckily our family has been spared from the personal heartbreak and financial hardship Covid has placed on so many families and individuals.

Lots of power outages lately. Probably not the moon’s fault, more likely wind, melt and freeze.

Nixon’s place from across the Columbia. To live under mountains is special.

Not being able to see our kids and grandkids has been difficult, especially during the Christmas season. It seems odd considering how many people are not adhering  to the Provincial and Federal safety protocols. However, as I like to point out to my children, and they understand, it is about how we conduct ourselves, considering we have elderly grandparents and recognizing many other families do as well. For us that’s what it comes down to.

A chinook turns Lake Windermere’s surface rutted and unskateable.

2021 we are looking forward to getting to know you.

The old part of town, built on a mudflat. You won’t see this in a tourism or Chamber of Commerce brochure and that’s okay with me.

late august

RCE_3260smAn 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.

RCE_3313.jpgSoon 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.

RCE_3295Willow 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.

RCE_3308Determination.

The sun went down and turned to twilight, as dramatic as it’s entrance.

Sometimes you really do get lucky.

Early September

RCE_1099Fall Fireweed gone to seed.

Whew! Thank goodness the summer is over. There is always a sigh of relief after Labour Day. All my white clothes have been cleaned and pressed and put away. This morning there was no standing in line at the coffee shop while a herd of tourists looked at the chalk board menu like they had never seen the word ‘coffee’ before. I was in and out like a wedding dink. It’s fall, back to Carharts, plaid long sleeved shirts and not driving ten miles out of the way to avoid downtown.

RCE_1114Solomon’s Seal berries.

It was close to frost this morning. My wise sister Deb has covered her plants tonight. I’m going to risk it. I could be sorry come morning. We have had a great year of tomatoes with most of them ripening on the vine. There won’t be many green ones to ripen inside this year. They are delicious! It will be at least February before I’ll be able to buy one in the store.

RCE_1097.jpgWild Asters.

I got a text from my good neighbour. He is on a road trip going across BC visiting his kids and grandkids. It’s been awhile since he’s been able to do that. I thought he may want to know how his garden is doing, I’ve been looking after it in his absence. Instead, he said his laptop was stolen from his vehicle in Vancouver. He was pissed. In the spring he stopped in Canmore and had a giant block of cheese he bought at Costco stolen from the cooler in his vehicle.

He really has to start locking his doors, but I wasn’t going to say that. I texted back, ‘on the bright side think of the fun you will have filling up a fresh laptop with brand new porn’. An hour later, I was getting worried I’d stepped over the line, then a bing on my phone, ‘you know it.’

RCE_1108Rose Hips. As plumb and full as I’ve seen in the wild. It is said they have 20x more vitamin C then oranges.

It’s good to have the land cooling after another bad summer. Winters are traditionally bad in the valley. Work drying up. Only minimum wage. Cold and overcast in the valley bottom. No doubt this winter will bring challenges.

Fall is underway. The firewood is in. I worry like usual, maybe someday all the demons will come home to roost. ’til then the colours keep changing and the birds keep flying above the creeks.

a rainy start to summer

_LME7756smWillow’s smile.

Very fine day to wrap up the long weekend. Most of it was spent in the shop/studio wrapping up loose ends. Because it’s a holiday there wasn’t many texts coming in. Nowadays, everybody expects texts to be answered right away. I try my best to oblige, but it takes me away from actual work. Today I made some progress.

It rained most of the day. I kept the door open, so Willow and I could enjoy it. With luck it will help minimize the forest fire danger. It was especially welcome this weekend when the bush is filled with revellers lighting large camp fires and setting off fireworks. Not that they are the biggest threat, the only forest fires this year have been started by loggers.

***

_LME7730Babies Breath above the graves.

In the evening Willow and I set off for the bush. There is a special calm after a raucous long weekend. First we went to Windermere to the old graveyard. I promised I would say  hi to Mom and Dad.

Windermere is a strange town now. It was one of the first communities in the Valley. The few historical sites that remain are surrounded by huge second homes (cabins they are called by their owners) that are occupied only six weeks a year. The town is 80% populated by second home owners. The school has remained open only by offering special programs that appeal to families throughout the valley. Otherwise it would have been closed long ago.

This is one of the weekends the second homes are occupied. I got some dirty looks driving toward the graveyard. My pick up didn’t fit in with the Cadillac SUV’s and Beamers. Plus my licence plate was the wrong colour. For all they knew I could have been casing the place.

Walking the rows between the old names. There was the Fishers, Crooks, Tegarts, Kimptons, Youngs and plenty others dating back to the 1800’s. There was also Bingo, the Best Darn Dog in the Land. Dug recently.

My Grandfather once owned a strip of land from the highway all the way down to the graveyard. It didn’t have a drop of water. The land wasn’t worth spit.  They had a ditch from Windermere Creek they got their water and  irrigated the gardens. It must have only been a trickle during summer. They raised turkeys and chickens and sold vegetables. It wasn’t easy. Long after my Grandfather sold, the land was bought and subdivided by a developer. It is now covered in large houses overlooking Lake Windermere. People that never have a thought of what came before.

***

_LME7743Indian Paintbrush.

After that Willow and I headed for the hills. The looks we got leaving were not as bad.

Once in the bush, the rain falling, we finally felt ourselves.

_LME7761Wood Lily.

Ice out

RCE_9406The colour of spring.

Yesterday afternoon I walked the west side of the lake to watch the last of the ice go out. It is late this year, stretching well into April. My father used to say April 12th was always a good pick for an ice out ticket. Recent years it’s been near the end of March. It seems a strange year for the ice to hang on late. The ice didn’t get as thick as it has in past years. It shows it is the spring wind and rain that takes it out, regardless of thickness. This spring, so far, we have not had much of either.

_LME0033_smThe Milky Way overtaken by dawn. Ice out March 11th 2016. Over a month earlier than this year. It is easy to imagine when the Rocky Mountain Trench was filled with ice.

This past weekend I put two pick-up loads of manure on the garden. It was good not to have to shovel shit in the rain. The plants I’ve started are up inside the house. I will only have to look after them inside for a month and a bit before they can go in the ground. I learned my lesson long ago about starting plants too soon and having to care for them inside while they turned into long leggy monsters. The garlic and rhubarb is up. There still is some frost in the ground and patches of ice and snow in the valley bottom. The garden could be dug anytime and planted with the cold weather vegetables, such as beets, lettuce, onions, peas and carrots. Even spuds would be okay.

RCE_9407Ice out, April 15th, 2018.

This morning is rain, snow in the mountains. The ice will be completely gone and the lake will be lividus, angry even. That’s the way I’ve grown to like it. Too nasty for motorboats piloted by city tourists dragging skiers, riling up and running over waterfowl, while posing for Instagram selfies and drinking craft beer. By then the roads will be open into the backcountry, even the birds will get the hint to head for the hills. Meanwhile there is still time to walk the tracks along the edges of the lake.

getting on i guess

RCE_4340

i wipe my eyes with the same hand holding my glasses.

i pee in the middle of the night and keep the seat up because i know i ll pee again before morning.

there is no longer need to exclaim.

time does go by faster.

do you have bumps behind your ears? skin tags and brown spots in spots you never knew you had? asking for a friend.