Sunday, 24 March 2013

Salmon Arm

It's  beautiful, crisp, clear spring morning in Salmon Arm. The sun has climbed up over the nearby peaks of the Monashee Mountains. The melt has begun and winter is giving way to spring. So far it looks like it will be another sunny day on the road.

Yesterday was that strange combination of ordinary and extraordinary. I've done this drive so often that it seems almost banal, ordinary. Then I think about where I am and what I am doing; suddenly I realize how extraordinary it is.

I left Calgary at around 11:00 and headed west on Highway 1. Behind me, flat prairie to the east, around me the rolling plains that work their way west, crumpling and folding into the foothills. These easy, rolling slopes are the youngest part of the Rockies, covered in pine and perfect for ranching. Behind them stands the towering slabs of granite, bent and warped as the world has made them, serrate stabbing wolf's teeth piercing the baby blue sky, white. Where the sides are so steep that even snow cannot hold, the grey granite mottles their face. Clouds fleck them like foam.

The road is a hypodermic, stabbing into the heart of this mountain stronghold, injecting motorized mankind into the river valleys and passes that are the arteries of this rugged landscape. These ancient castellate rocks have been pushed up hard and high, shoved into shapes and forms that rise in great vertical ridges, cutting edges. Even mountains are born, rise up and die. The cycle continues

Spring is coming and the mountains know it. Water gushes from pores and rock cuts as the snow and ice give way. Where icicles can no longer hold onto rock, they fall, leaving chunks of blue-green ice that form small ponds and pools alongside the road. Creeks crash into rivers, rivers course and flow into other rivers, eventually all this water makes it's way to the Pacific and will return again to this landscape as snow next winter. The cycle continues.

Where they can, verdant evergreen forest cling to the slopes like children, seeking food from the meager rocks and water from the snow and scant summer rain. These darklands, away from the prying eyes of people in motorized metal boxes, host a rich panoply of wildlife; moose, deer, elk, bear, mountain goat, mountain sheep, eagles, hawks, songbirds, ducks - every kind of small creature you can imagine and some you can't. They are born, live, die, all deep in this wooded terrain and we do not see.

I think of my Dad as I make this drive. He and I spent a lot of time hunting and exploring this country. Many's the day when we would head up into these mountains, ostensibly looking for deer or bear but really just looking, feeling the soar of trees and slice of mountain tops. We shared our love of this wilderness. I think about my own feelings these days and I wonder what he felt on our last trip, when my brother Adam put together a fishing expedition out of Port Hardy the month before my Dad died.

By the time we went, my Dad knew the trip would likely be his last. He knew he would never see the North Island again, never fish the open water again nor roam the roads along the way. I am not sure if this is my last time on this thin line of mountain road, probably not. That time is coming soon enough.

It was a good day. Even the flat tire wasn't so bad. The same thing happened once when my Dad, my daughter Katie and I were in his truck exploring the back country around Creston, pretending to be hunting. So I thought of him again. The cycle continues.


  1. Richard you obviously inherited your mom's writing ability. I feel like I'm riding along on your road trip. Have fun, be safe.

  2. Richard your writing is so lyrical and beautiful. Your talent amazes me.
    Anonymous I think Richard actually channels his father's talent for writing in such a poetical style.
    But thank you for the compliment.
    rick I am os looking forward to seeing you today.

  3. And I can barely type LOL. Sorry for the spelling mistakes.

  4. Lulu ... you have a great son. He sounds very kind and smart. You have a great family. Enjoy your family time with him today and tomorrow and the days after that.


    1. Thank you Laura for your kind words. I so appreciate the thoughts that go with the words.