|... the view toward the Narrows ...|
Out of my mouth came the words, I am in. Four hours sleep would be a gift and the invitation to ride up the Larch Hills with the men who keep exploring the biking trail system on the Larch hills is such a privilege.
“Such a blog post this is going to make,” laughed Rebecca and Bonnie when I was trying to recap the adventure for them tonight.
Glen took the middle seat on yesterday’s trip, his legs in a 45 degree angle from his hips so that Dave could do all of the gear shifting necessary on the way up the hill. Today I decided to intercept Glen on this second trip and take the middle seat myself. I have 2 good hips as opposed to his artificial ones and I had a good strategy on positioning. I got myself into the middle of the cab and put one leg on either side of the gear shift. I told Dave I am comfortable with all of that shifting that would be going on in that open triangle of space if he was comfortable with my left leg bumping up alongside his leg that was operating the gas pedal.
“You can’t do that,” said Glen. “Dave and I have done this before,” I replied, “and this system works for us.”
Glen buckled up. “Better that we should keep the rules of the road,” that said, nodding to Teague, Nathanial and David Pilling who were loaded in the back of the truck with 4 bikes. Those of us up front chatted on the way up the hill. I told the men that this was like another shore excursion taken from my home which I now see as just a landlocked cruise boat.
|... directly above our place in Annis Bay ...|
Glen had his IPAD in hand with a map of the Shuswap area, honing deep into it until we could see all of the trails of the mountain we were on, a blue dot moving slowly along the line of the logging road that Dave’s truck was climbing. No possibility of getting lost. “Wouldn’t our Dad have studied this application, thinking he had died and gone to heaven,” I said to Glen.
"Yes," he replied. I was up in this area he said, quickly switching the application to show a cut block along the Seymour Arm. "I was looking for a bridge to assess as to its safety yesterday at work, couldn’t find it, but drove with the GPS right to where the map said the bridge was ... and found it, sitting over a dry creek bed."
|... the thrill of being on the new road ...|
“Great guys, the foresters”, Glen commented. Our political discussion revolved around the difference in Alberta and British Columbia politics around the land: privatization vs public ownership.
“That is the NDP for you,” says Dave.
“Call it by any name,” said Glen, “the people of this province value and protect their environment. It is a mind-set. I think it is privatization, the need to own and protect land that starts so many wars.” The conversation shifted again, the truck moving up and down roads as Glen tried to find the perfect trail for the day – one that has its head at Bog Lake (known to our family as Lost Lake).
“Any life in the lake?”
“Lots of frogs,” replied Glen.
“What if we came in and stocked it with fish?”
“The fish would probably take over. Eat all of the frog’s eggs. The fish would slow down in the winter because of lack of oxygenization in the water through the winter, but they would inhabit the lake eventually.”
The chat changed, moving on to the size of the new landings that had been cleared by the loggers and the descriptions of the land that could only be incomplete about the beauty of the new roads they are building.
|... trying to capture the rise in elevation as we drove upwards ...|
“Do you mind if we take a side trip and go up one of the new roads? I want to see if I can get closer to Bog Lake,” said Dave.
Dave drove higher. The roads were rougher. In first gear and still climbing that motion of being thrown to the left and the right was heightened. He and I kept our eyes on the road, noticing the orange berries of the occasional mountain ash or seeing again the size of the cottonwood trunks, Glen having told us he had no idea that that species even grew on this mountain, let alone the size of it.
On the trip back down the hill a new sound travelled along the side of the truck. One like the air coming out of a hot air balloon.
“I hear something new,” I said.
Dave answered in monosyllables, equal stress on each word.
“The sound of a flat.”
We got out of the car.
He looked at the passenger front tire.
“I hope you carry a spare.” That was a pretty inane comment but those were the only words I could think of at that moment.
Wordless, he got under his truck to pull one out. He then got up and looked in the box of the truck for his jack. He put his hands on the side of the truck, bowed his head and used the expletive my mother-in-law used to use. Not one of the darkest ones, but one that describes scatological functions. After a slight pause I watched him mouth another word, the sound of which I couldn’t hear, but sight-reading his mouth I am sure it was the word that rhymes with truck. Then aloud he said, “I told the men to empty the back of the truck to put their bikes in. I am pretty sure Teague took out my jack. That would be emptying the back of the truck.”
I thought, since the walk down is going to be 3 to 4 hours and we will be telling the stories of our lives, I will ask questions about the swear words later – since i wonder how he chooses the swear word of the moment, usually hearing none from him.
I said aloud, “Do you think we can leave Glen’s IPAD and my camera in the truck when we walk down. Do we have to carry them with us?”
“I don’t trust anyone, even in these remote parts,” he replied. “Let’s get them and ... can you walk?” That question was his nod to the extensive medical tests I have been having.
I didn’t see any problem. Afterall, the walk would all be downhill all of the way. We watched the kilometers as they rolled by – three of them being on the side road we had been investigating and the other eight on the main logging road. I had Dave walk three feet ahead of me for a while so I could keep my hand on his back. Later I used his arm to hang onto. Then I switched to the other side of his body, doing the same thing again. Holding his back, then his arm. The loose gravel would roll under my feet and he provided the stability that kept me on my feet.
I asked for a 10 minute coffee break after 2 ½ hours. “I forgot you might need a break. I was going straight down. Ask for one anytime you need one.”
He rolled a large rock over so that I could sit on its flat side and he lowered himself into the run off trough by the side of the road to sit on his haunches there while I rested. Hornets began to gather around me. Larger ones than those at the lake, I thought. When I could feel the tickling of them crawling between my fingers and the impulse to scratch as they would nestle in the places where my fingers join my hands I thought, life might be better on the road. Dave assisted me giving me a hand while I lowered myself from my perch and we continued downward telling stories of men we had known in the past – those of incredible moral strength, some involved with perfidity, liars, saints, those with codes of strict honour, those who conjoined those who had business acumen and a high sense of ethical behavior as well. The kilometers rolled by though I began to stop at every stream, bringing David over to the side of the road, asking him if he didn’t think there was a way for us to get in there for a sip of water for ourselves. “Look, there is an animal trail right down to the water. We could use that.”
“Yes”, he said, “we can drink and our shoes will be in mud right up to our ankles.
With 2 kilometers left to walk I said, that’s it for me David. Not one more step. I am going to sit here until you bring back someone from the lake with a jack.
“Nope. I am not going anywhere without you, Arta.”
We walked on and I told stories at a faster pace to keep my mind off of how my hip hurt. We pressed downward rounding the final curve where the foresters keep their trailer and some of their logging equipment.
Later Bonnie Wyora said, “Did you really hitch-hike on the highway? That is what I want to hear about.”
To set up what was difficult about the hitch-hiking I have to say that this year I have been listening to locals talk a place on the highway “where accidents always happen”. If an 18 wheeler is in the ditch, it is in that place. Residents are familiar with this spot. No matter that I have been coming here for 50 years. I don’t know where on the drive it is. Over the past month I have been getting familiar with that spot – which I now see coded as dangerous because the speed limit goes down to 80 kilometers per hour, there is a large yellow triangulated sign with a large winding black arrow on the highway, and there are yellow and black directional arrows on the cement abutments that line the road in that spot.
When we came off of the logging road and onto the highway it was only a few blocks of walking until we rounded a curve where I could see the western point of that dangerous part of the highway.
“Dave, promise me that we will not hitch-hike in that area. We will walk straight through. No thumbs out,” I begged.
“Don’t worry. The next car is going to pick us up,” he said as cars whizzed by, pulsed by the traffic light miles down the highway by Highway 97B. He was right. Just then Henry Dyck, a welder from Blind Bay, on his way to work in Fort McMurray picked us up. I needed a shove from the back from Dave and an outstretched hand from Henry to lift my body up into the cab.
Henry brought us home. Not just to the gravel pit, but down Bernie Road, winding his way through the forested Pillings Road, turning at Five Corners and dropping me off right at my garage.
“A Thomas the Train Home,” he said when he walked through my front room. Obviously a family man, and a friend on the highway. “What did you learn from your adventure,” Glen asked me today, continuing on to give the right answer to me, “Always carry your cell phone and second, stay at the truck. I would have come looking for you.”
Yes, I learned that, but those aren’t the learnings I would have articulated.
Mine would have been, always grasp a chance for adventure – not the adventure of the shredded tire but the one that involves riding up the new logging roads with the men and women being dropped off at bikes trails on the Larch Hills Trail System. I rank that day-trip as high as I would rank the chance to go to the Burgess Shale at Field, B.C. Or the chance to see Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Or the chance to see a rural village in Cochin, India.