Hidden in Hedley

Gingerly, I stepped down the stairs, gripping the handrail.  It was clear to me why Coral, owner of Coral’s Cabins, didn’t want me to enter the lower yard.  The stone steps were rustic—varying in height, sharp in places and deceptively smooth in others.  Halfway down, the stairs turned, and the railing ended.  I transferred my grip to a small pine tree.  Just a few more steps and I would be on level ground.  A few steps after that I would arrive at the small table next to the footbridge.

I could have stayed up at the cabin.  There was a small table on the deck.  But this table was bigger, and I wanted to spread out my various writing and art supplies. Plus, this was the only place I could get a photo of the cabin itself, if I dared to venture out onto the bridge that spanned the “bubbling brook,” as the webpage describes it.

It was worth the effort.  I spent the afternoon scribbling in my notebooks, enjoying the fresh, woodsy air, the butterflies dancing with cottonwood fluff, and the slightly less deafening sound of the waterfalls. 

I found Coral’s Cabins last year when I was on-line searching for places to get away for a weekend.  But the season was almost over, and the cabin was fully booked.  I had to wait until reservations re-opened in April to book my stay.  From the start, it was meant to be a solo trip.  The cabin only has one bed.  The idea of going away on my own and spending an entire weekend just writing and maybe a little painting was ideal. I spent hours planning—what I needed to bring, what meals to prepare in advance, even a list of possible things I wanted to write about. For so many years, I worked seven-days/week and never went anywhere.  Now that I have the opportunity to go places, the planning itself is part of the joy.

As the date grew closer, however, I started to worry.  Lately, I’ve had to be extremely careful of what I do. It seems I only have so much gas in the tank, and if I overdo it at all, I’m wiped out for days.  Going alone didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore.  So, I invited Bear to join me.

Poor Bear. It’s always about the sleeping arrangements.  Because there was only one bed, we brought along an air mattress and sleeping bag.  There was a leak in the mattress.  By morning, he was straight-up lying on the floor.  The second night, he decided to sleep in the car.

But I was grateful for his presence.  While I had prepped all the meals in advance, he’s the one who did all the cooking on the barbeque.

And he was very respectful of my purpose in coming.  He left me alone while I was writing, and even did a little writing of his own.  How lucky am I?

Even with all the writing, there was plenty of downtime. Most of that time was spent on the deck, watching the spectacular waterfalls.  There was so much to see.  As the sun changed position in the sky, or moved in and out of the clouds, different areas of the falls would be illuminated, and different facets revealed. The earsplitting roar of cascading water at first seemed to block any thoughts from my head, but after a time, became somewhat soothing, and thinking resumed.  

There were Swallowtail and Mourning Cloak butterflies, and of course, there were birds—Robins, Warblers and Steller’s Jays.  But the most fascinating of all were the American Dippers.

I’ve seen American Dippers before.  My first was in the dead of winter in Alberta, at a place called Big Hill Springs, where the water never completely freezes over.  There, with ice all around, I saw my first Dipper and marveled at his ability to withstand the frigid temperatures. But I’ve never really had the chance to observe these birds.

From my vantage point on the deck, I watched a pair of Dippers as they flew and fished.  I began to wonder if they had a nest in the falls, as there seemed to be a place they continued to return to.  I looked it up and learned that yes, Dippers do like to build nests in waterfalls.  I was fascinated to learn that they build their nests in two layers.  The inside layer is your basic stick and grass nest, but the outside layer is made of moss, so that any moisture from the falls is absorbed and the inside of the nest stays dry.

I couldn’t tell which was the male and which was the female, but as I looked more closely at my photos, I realized one of the two had only one leg.

Huh. 

Here I was complaining about how little use I get from my legs anymore, and this tiny bird continues doing all the things a bird does, with only one leg. They don’t complain, they adapt.

I could learn a thing or two about life from the birds.

While I was contemplating the meaning of life through the eyes of a bird, a snippet of a conversation I had with my doctor popped into my head.

“The goal is to lose enough weight so you can have the surgery,” he said, referring to a procedure to repair damage from degenerative disc arthritis.

Wait a second…

How did I forget that?  How could I have forgotten that all my mobility issues might be resolved, if I can just accomplish this one thing? I know it won’t be easy, especially because I’m unable to exercise, and I refuse to bow down to the diet industry—the only industry I can think of where profit is derived from failure.  But with a little common sense and some creative visualization, I might be able to make this happen.

Move over.  I’ve got plans to make.

*A note on Coral’s Cabins

This is an amazing place to stay, beautifully appointed and lovingly taken care of.  One look at the falls and you will never want to come home.

Peachland Forestry Service Road

What a fantastic week–gorgeous skies of brilliant blue, apple blossoms on the trees, leaves bursting into green song, and a lake reflecting every mood known to man. Yes, we could use some rain, but still, it’s great to be alive.  I wasn’t the only one who wanted to go out this week.  Santana needed to do a little back-roads navigating.  Jaki needed to breathe some mountain air.  Me, I was only too happy to oblige.

Santana wanted to see if he could find a path between Peachland and Summerland that didn’t involve the highway.  The air was hot and sweet.  There was no wind whatsoever, and the lake shone like glass, reflecting the low mountains and trees.  It almost felt like a scene from a fairytale.

We tried three different roads.  Two of them ended in ATV trails.  The third may have been what he was looking for, but there was too much snow to continue. Regardless, it was a fine day of driving the dusty roads, absorbing the scent of fragrant pines.  Bouquets of Arrow-leafed Balsam Root lined the roads, and tiny yellow buttercups dotted the meadows.

A few days later, Jaki and I headed out in the same direction. Santana and I had travelled many branches of the same road, but there was one we didn’t take, the Peachland Forestry Service Road, and I wanted to see where it led. Jaki was game.

Once we’d gone past the various intersections Bear and I had travelled, we didn’t see a single vehicle.  Mourning Cloak butterflies lifted off the road at our approach, drifting seamlessly up and over the windshield. 

The road was clear, even though snow still clung to the edges, quite deep in some areas.

We drove through canyons with jagged rock faces, we drove through places where swamp land hugged the road.

We drove where the spring run-off poured out of grass and moss, with the Zen-like sound of a garden waterfall. We drove past waterfalls.

We drove and drove and drove.  There was just no good reason to stop. 

Except lunch.  Jaki always brings a lunch.

While I was finishing my lunch, Jaki brought me a sprig from a fallen Ponderosa Pine – best air-freshener, ever.

Eventually, we reached a point where the road ahead looked too muddy to risk.  The rest of the road would have to wait for another day. We turned around and prepared for the journey home.

“On dusty roads I walked
And over mountains high
Through rivers running deep
Beneath the endless sky”

  • “Skellig” by Loreena McKennitt

Munson Pond

One of the things I love about the city of Kelowna is the apparent confusion suffered by city planners.  Where a normal city is just that—a city, Kelowna is a curious mix of city, country, orchard and parkland. Take Munson Pond. 

“Ecologically, the pond is a beautiful water body surrounded by a mature remnant cottonwood forest that is valued for its bird watching opportunities, waterfowl habitat and habitat for small amphibians, reptiles and mammals. At one time this black cottonwood / water birch ecological community covered much of the Okanagan lowlands but have been displaced by agriculture, urban development, and the channelization of streams and rivers.  It is now a red listed (endangered) ecological community and ranked by the BC Conservation Data Centre as one of the rarest in B.C. “

*copied from the City of Kelowna Parks and Recreation web page

I had my first opportunity to visit Munson Pond earlier this week. I was in the mood to go somewhere I could just sit, soak up some sun, and maybe see a bird or two.  Chances were pretty good.  More than a hundred species of birds have been recorded at this location.

American Coot

There is a wooden platform that juts out over the water, the perfect place to sit and soak up the sun.  I should have remembered that where there’s a body of water, there’s usually a breeze.  I left my sweater in the Rodeo and wore goosebumps instead.  But it felt good, all the same. 

Female Mallard
European Starlings
American Wigeon

For those who prefer walking to sitting, the trail around the pond is about a kilometer long.  Keep in mind that due to the sensitive nature of the area, dogs are not permitted.

The Road To Ruth Station

“Omagod, omagod, omagod!”

My hands gripped the steering wheel, knuckles white. I was coming down the mountain at what looked like a 40-degree angle, entering a hairpin turn on shiny, white, snow-packed ice.  I could feel the wheels of the Rodeo slipping toward the edge as I fought the urge to slam on the brakes. I had the four-wheel drive locked in and I was in the lowest gear I had, but it still wasn’t enough to keep from sliding.

I had texted Bear from the parking lot at Ruth Station, sending him a photo so he could see how much snow was still on the ground. 

The last message Bear sent to me was, “Don’t die.”

Now it looked like I might.

At the last possible moment, mere meters from the edge, the Rodeo found the sweet spot and straightened out. Relief filled my mouth, tasting of clear water. I should have been paying more attention to the grade of the road on the way up. I wasn’t trying to be reckless.

I just wanted to be living.

I’ve been thinking a lot about living lately.  Well, maybe not living so much as quality of life. Wondering whether I have any. I’ve had two sleep studies done in the last six months.  Obstructive Sleep Apnea – I knew I had it, but I didn’t realize how far reaching the effects.

I suffer from 80% of the conditions on this chart. So far “Death” isn’t one of them, but if I don’t do something, it will be.

In the meantime, what am I doing to ensure the life I’m living is all it can be?

It was time to leave the comfort of home, get back to the forest.

I had plans to go out with Jaki later in the week.  I had plans to go out with Santana sometime next week.  But this day was for me.

Sometimes, you need silence to hear your heart.

I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. The sun warmed my shoulders, and the sky was a brilliant blue. When the road narrows and turns to dirt, I am breathless and exhilarated.  This is my religion, my place of worship.

I stop for trees.

I stop for rocks.

I stop for a look at the city on the lake from above.

I stop to watch a Dark-eyed Junco forage in the gravel.

I stop for rocks and moss and spider webs on branches.

No matter where I stop, I am elated–to be here, to be free, to be alive. I needed this reminder.

There is active logging on this road.

The scent of destruction is sweet, sweet in the way a mint leaf is strongest after being bruised, or a flower when crushed underfoot. There is beauty, even in death.  I’m just not ready for it yet.

Penticton, Now and Then

“Have you ever heard of a place called Three-Mile Beach?” Santana asked.  We were sitting on a bench in Penticton, looking out at the Okanagan Lake. 

“Yes.  I’m familiar with Three-Mile Beach.”  Familiar?  I was more than familiar.  Years ago, my parents had friends who bought an orchard out there.  At that time, Naramata was a burgeoning development.   There were no wineries, no school, no parks.  There were no stores or restaurants.  There were lots, laid out with small wooden pegs and string.  The orchard we were camping in was high on the bluff overlooking the lake.  Three-Mile beach was where the adults dropped us off when they didn’t want to drive into town.  I remembered the beach as little more than a rocky outcrop that you had to scramble down to. We were usually the only ones there. I hadn’t been there for at least 35 years.

“We should go.  I’d like to see it.  There’s another place I’d like to stop along the way – Munson Mountain.” Both Santana and I have a soft spot for Penticton.  He got his because we stayed in an Airbnb the first two weeks we lived in the Okanagan while we looked for jobs and a permanent residence.  Every day he would walk to the beach, and every day was a new experience to be stored in his memory bank.

My memory bank was full, too.  My memories were a fair bit older–as a teenager in a resort town in the summer.  I was always a little bit “boy-crazy,” as my mom would call it, and there was no better place for a hobbyist such as myself than the Okanagan beach in Penticton. But I digress…

“Sure,” I said. “Let’s go have a look.”

Munson Mountain is the home of the big Hollywood-style letters that announce Penticton to the world, but there’s also a park there, with walking trails and stunning views. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do any hiking, but Santana could.

We arrived at the park just a few minutes after leaving the beach.  Even the views from the parking lot were wonderful. 

Santana went for his walk while I busied myself taking photos of what I could see from where I stood. 

Then the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hey, mom.  You need to see this.”

“You know that’s not going to happen.”  My walking is tenuous at the best of times, but today it was worse than usual.  I hadn’t had much sleep and my foot was hurting for some unfathomable reason.

“I knew you’d say that.  But the path to where I am now is straight and flat.  You could sit on your walker and I’ll push you.”

I didn’t want to risk breaking the walker, so we compromised.  I walked as far as I could and then let Santana push me until my legs had recovered enough to walk some more.

The end of the paved path was not that far away, after all, and I’m glad Santana was insistent.  I sat down while Santana continued his hike to the top of the trail.

Oh, but it was windy up there!  I had my own coat on, which hardly ever happens, and Santana’s coat on top of that.  The benches were stone, and a little colder on the bum than I like.  I remembered a wooden bench part way back and decided to wait there, instead.  Once I was out of the wind and parked on a wooden bench, all was good. Santana, meanwhile, was at the top.

Once he returned, he showed me the video he took—a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view from the top of Munson Mountain, which he has agreed to let me share here.  If you have sound, you can hear the wind.

There is something almost spiritual about Munson Mountain.  Something that inspires quiet reflection.  Both Santana and I felt it, though neither one of us could accurately put it in words.

We continued to Three-Mile beach.  It wasn’t so different than I remembered it.  The difference was in me.  Instead of feeling isolated and out of touch, the beach felt natural and secluded. 

Funny thing, perspective.

Oh, Canada!

Mile Marker 9.  That was as high as I went before having to turn around and come back down.  Yes, I know.  It should be Kilometer Marker 9.  But that doesn’t have the same ring to it.  I suppose, if I wanted to, I could show off my Canadian-ness by saying 9 Klicks.  I’m not entirely certain I’m that Canadian.  And that makes me laugh.  Just this morning, I was having a conversation with Jaki.  I was telling her about a group of American women I found on-line who have a poetry group much like ours.

“Except,” Jaki said, “we’re more beautiful, more intelligent, more…Canadian.”

“Well, we’re definitely more Canadian.”  I said, and we laughed.

Speaking of Canada, there’s a “polar vortex” scheduled for the week and even here in the sunny Okanagan, temperatures are expected to be 10 – 20° below normal.  Today was the last chance I had to leave the house willingly.  In keeping with the Canadian theme, I decided to follow the road leading to Beaver Lake. 

The first part of the drive was clear and sunny.  Mule deer grazed on the naked hilltop. 

The road wound its way up, and trees began to crowd the edges.

Ahh!  Nothing like a little forest bathing to get you feeling good.  I rolled down my window, inhaling deeply.  There was the faint smell of smoke and rounding a corner, I discovered the source – a couple of old guys in lawn chairs next to a fire, F150’s and snowmobile trailers parked along the side of the road.  They waved as I drove by and I laughed, wondering if they heard me singing at the top of my lungs before I noticed they were there. 

The higher I went, the thicker the snow covering the forest floor. 

At Mile Marker 9 the road changed.  Ice and snow covered the road now, and while it had been worn smooth, it hadn’t been cleared.  I could feel the Rodeo start to fish-tail when I stepped on the gas.  Even though I have four-wheel drive, I decided I’d gone high enough.  I wiggled myself around, put it in low, and headed back down the mountain. 

The sky was no longer the clear blue it was when I started out.  In fact, it was looking rather dramatic.

Damn, it’s good to live in Canada.

I found a hawk near the bottom of the road – the only bird I’d seen all day.  Once I reached the highway, I counted eight more between Winfield and home.  It’s a good time of year to head out on a hawk walk.  Here’s an interesting fact for you.  You know in the movies when they show an eagle flying and you hear that wonderful scream?  Yeah.  That’s not an eagle screaming.  Eagles sound a bit wimpy.  The scream belongs to a hawk doing a voice-over. 

I took my only photo of the hawk, taken from too far away to be any good, and digitally altered it. 

Now it’s art.

On Bulman Road

It wasn’t supposed to snow.  The forecast called for cloudy skies and I figured I could live with that.  But not snow.  I was halfway to deciding to stay home and make a pot of soup when the ancient Roman poet, Horace, spoke to me from the grave. 

“Don’t think.  Just do.”

Fine. 

I had to go out anyway because I promised Santana a ride to work.  Might as well take the camera and go for a short drive.  I doubted there would be much to see.  I’m not very fond of wintery and the day was definitely that.

I decided to follow Old Vernon Road from north of the airport south to Bulman road, which would lead me back to the highway.

Old Vernon Road was interesting enough – the Kangaroo Creek Farm is there.  I haven’t been yet, but it’s on my list of places to see.  The Farm reopens in March.

Kangaroo Creek Farm

Once I turned onto Bulman Road, I realized I’d found my happy place.  There was little traffic, shoulders wide enough to stop on, and there, amid the orchards, were old barns and horses. 

Big Red
And Old Trucks, Too!

I love old barns and horses.

King of the Hill

Then I spotted him.  A lovely coyote out hunting for rodents in a field.  I was far enough away that my stopping to take photos wouldn’t disturb him, too far, in fact, to get in a clean shot.  But the joy came in having the opportunity to watch for a while.

The Hunter

I used to see coyotes all the time.  You’d be surprised to see how many coyotes wander the streets of Calgary at night.  When the kids were small and helping us deliver newspapers in the early morning, one of the first things we taught them was what to do if you saw a coyote.  For the most part, coyotes don’t want anything to do with people and will run if you make yourself big and noisy.  I’d far prefer to come upon a coyote than a loose dog. 

A dog will attack; a coyote will run away.

Coyotes are only aggressive towards people during the mating season, from January to March.  Pets, however, are always at risk of being attacked and should be kept on leash in areas coyotes are known to frequent.

Living out on the prairie meant there were often coyotes in our yard, and I still love the sound of their call.  This photo was taken in 2015.

Another Snowy Day

Snow falls

like cherry blossoms;

surprised songbirds

huddle in hedges.

Though you may

dream of spring,

it is not yet time

for sleeping

in the sun.

Sally Quon

There is much more to see along this stretch of road. 

There is a stream that winds along the road, a golf course, and judging from the many brown and yellow cattails, a thick marsh that will soon host a plethora of birds.  There’s also the opportunity to stand right beneath a plane as it comes in for a landing. 

I’ll be back.

In the meantime, here’s one more old barn for you to enjoy.

Do You See What I See?

 I turned on my computer yesterday to find that all my files had disappeared.  Everything I’ve written, the recipe book I’m working on, contracts and personal papers, and of course, all my photographs, gone.  This, of course, wasn’t the first time I’d suffered such a loss.  When I left Alberta, most of my photos and writing were left behind.  I managed to save some information on flash-drives, but there wasn’t enough time to transfer it all.

Because I used to carry much of my writing back and forth to work with me on flash-drives, a good deal of my recent work was preserved.  I still had the old flash-drives with the photos from Alberta I had managed to save, but nothing from the last three years remained.  I was devastated.  Just the day before, I had gone to Peachland on a mission to find and take my first photo of 2021.  I know.  It’s kind of weird I make a big deal about my first photo of the year.  It’s just a thing I do. 

The idea was to have a pleasant lunch at my favorite restaurant in Peachland and then see if I could find a worthy subject for the all-important first photo.  It wasn’t a big ambitious adventure, simply the spark that lights the fire. 

I remember what my outings were like when I lived in Alberta.  I always had a camera with me then; I kept one in the car.  I can’t do that here.  But when I was going on an actual outing, it was an event.  I knew where I was going.  I packed a lunch.  I brought my sketchbook and my notebook.  I brought a variety of lenses.  I could still walk, and I wasn’t afraid to get dirty.

I showed up at the wildlife centre one day, after a long day of birding in the wet spring sun.  My hair was a disaster, my face streaked with sweat and dirt.  My clothes were covered in mud and I had a hawk in a box.

I’d found her hopping along the side of the highway, unable to fly. It was easy enough to come up behind her and capture her in the long grass with a cardboard box.  I took her straight to the wildlife centre and they named her after me. She never did fully recover from her injuries, which we assumed were from being hit by a car, but she lived out the rest of her life there and seemed content.

Sally, the Red-Tailed Hawk, looking out the window on a rainy day.

My friend, Mike, at the wildlife centre, looked at me strangely that day – most likely shocked by my unruly appearance.  But he told me how lucky I was to be able to do the things I do and see the things I see.  Most people, he said, never get to experience what true wilderness and wildlife are about.  He was right.  I was lucky to do what I did, even if I didn’t get out very often. I’m still lucky because even if I can’t walk, I can still get to the wild places. 

I can still see what I see.

Confucius said, “Everything has beauty but not everyone sees it.”

Maybe that’s why those photos are important to me.  I want to show you.  I want you to see what I see.  I want you to see beauty where yesterday you might have only seen a tree stump, or a rock. I want you to feel the thrill of life in every breath. I want you to feel the sun on your face, even if you can’t get out, and see the perfection of a line or the pattern of the whorls in the sand.

Henry David Thoreau said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

Luck was with me once again.  My vanished files turned out to be a wire that had come loose.  My photos were all still there, now all backed up on flash-drives. Have a look and let me know. 

Do you see what I see?

The first photo of 2021
Shades of Blue
Texture

Brown Lake, Revisited

Remember the best friend you had when you were twelve?  The friend that was quirky and funny, who cried with you when you were sad, and celebrated your accomplishments as heartily as if they were their own? The one with whom you could lose hours of a day in conversation, without ever running out of things to say?  The one you could sit comfortably with, in silence, knowing that words weren’t necessary?  I’ve been dreaming about finding that friend for most of my life. I finally found her, in Jaki.

Jaki and I first met at the Wild Writing Retreat last October.  Although we were bunkmates, sharing a cabin, we didn’t really get to know each other until after the retreat was over.  A fellow poet, Jaki emailed me one day and asked if I’d be interested in meeting for a coffee and maybe share some poetry.  From that first meeting, I knew I’d stumbled on to something special.

“Let’s go for a drive,” Jaki said. “I’ll pay for gas and bring a lunch. You do the driving and take pictures.”

Sounded like a good deal to me.

The air was thick with smoke from the fires across the border when I got to Jaki’s house.  She and Tusket-the-Dog were ready to get out of town.  I’d chosen Brown Lake as our destination.  I remembered how much I enjoyed the drive the last time I went out that way, and I was eager to share it with Jaki.

We drove up McCulloch Road, stopping whenever the mood struck us.  I took pictures and Jaki looked at the wildflowers and trees. 

It was too early for the Tamarack trees to have turned to gold, but autumn was definitely in the air.  The further in we went, the more the vegetation crowded the roadside. We turned off the music and the air conditioning, and rolled down the windows.  The air here was sweet, as if the trees were filtering out the acrid smoke.  I was busy appreciating the stumps. 

This one looks like a little boy fishing on the banks of a stream.

Jaki pointed out all of the different plants she knew to be edible, and which parts of them were best to eat.

“Look at that mushroom!” I said, pulling over. 

“Oh, those are very good to eat,” she said, “fried up with butter.  But you have to eat them right away or they turn black and slimy.”

“I’ve got a camp stove in the back, and probably a frying pan.”

“I’ve got butter.”

Who brings butter on a road trip?  I love this woman.  But we left the mushroom where it was.

We talked and laughed, sharing stories from our childhood.  I can’t even begin to tell you what a pleasure it was to be with someone who understood my reference to Treebeard, someone whose knowledge of Middle Earth pre-dated Peter Jackson, before Tolkien became cool.

Jaki, whose memory is much sharper than mine, recited poetry.  I tried to reciprocate, but the only snippets of poetry I know are all Robert Frost.  Cousin Bob, as Jaki likes to call him.  Apparently, her husband was a distant relative.

“Do you suppose that someday, years from now, two little old ladies will be out driving the back roads reciting our forest poems to each other?” I asked.

“Oh, absolutely,” Jaki said, and we laughed.  We’re both geeks.

Eventually we found our way to Brown Lake and had our picnic.

Jaki frowned at her sandwich.

“Needs salt,” she said.  “Oh, wait.  I have some in my purse.”

Salt in her purse… Did I mention that I love this woman? 

After a delightful lunch – food always tastes better when you eat outside – we got back on the road.  From Brown Lake, the highway comes very quickly.  We made one final stop before leaving the woods.  The sun was just starting to go down and the trees were glowing in the late afternoon light.  It was the perfect end to a wonderful day, and I felt better than I’ve felt in weeks.

The Pioneer Girls used to have a saying. “A friend hears the song in my heart, and sings it to me when my memory fails.”

Thank you, Jaki, for singing to me.

Sugar Lake

If it hadn’t been for the news article, I might never have heard of Sugar Lake.  You see those articles two or three times per year – how weekend warriors from the province next door come in, trash the place, and leave without so much as returning their empties.  The article was recent, and had it not been for the fact that we drove past Cherryvale on our way to the Kootenays, it probably wouldn’t have registered with me at all.  But Cherryvale, or what you can see of it from the highway, it a lovely area.  While we were passing through, I noted the fact that I’d like to come back to do a little exploring.  Sugar Lake fit the bill. I just didn’t expect to do it so soon.

It’s been a pretty strange year for all of us.  We’re struggling to defend our homes from a global pandemic while at the same time conduct business as usual.  For many of us, myself included, our reaction to the events of the world around us has not been what we expected.  I thought I was stronger.  Even when opportunity has presented itself for me to get out and explore, my natural inclination has been to hide.  Covid-fatigue has set in.  We’re all going to die anyway, right?  What’s the point?

I found myself with an unexpected week off.  My heart was failing again.  I decided a couple of days off were in order.  Because suddenly, there was a point.  I am just not freakin’ ready to die yet.  For six days, I didn’t leave the house at all.  I ate when I was hungry, trying to keep it healthy, slept when I was tired, and didn’t exert myself in any way.  On the seventh day, there was Bear.

“I have today off.  We should go for a drive.”

I had to pick up a prescription and stop at the lab, so I was going to have to leave the house anyway.  Why not?

Still, by the time those errands were done and we’d purchased some (healthy) snacks for the road, it was almost 3:30 in the afternoon.

“Are you sure you still want to go?  It’s getting late.”

Bear, who had been to two supermarkets trying to find “healthy” was beyond frustrated.  “If you tell me you’ve changed your mind now, I might have to cry,” he said.

Laughing, I agreed to continue.

It was, in fact, a great day for a drive.  The A/C hummed softly.  Music flowed from the Bluetooth, and there was little traffic.  Better than all of that, was the fact that Bear wanted to talk.

Anyone who’s ever parented a teenager knows that if your teenager/twenty-something child suddenly says they want to talk, the only thing to do is shut up and listen.  It’s not something that happens every day.

Between the joyful conversation and the steadily greener landscape, the miles flew by and before we knew it, we were on the turn off to Sugar Lake.  Our pace slowed from here, and we were happy to take our time.  There were plenty of places to stop.

1

One never knows what you might find in the woods.

7

There were forestry roads calling me and I had to rein myself in.  Not enough time today.

6

The rec sites at Sugar Lake are spectacular, located right on the beach with a fire pit and a picnic table, surrounded by forest and obviously well maintained.  You could see the rake marks around the picnic table where food scraps, bottle caps, or cigarette butts had been cleared away.

2

Bear wanted to know if I still had some camping left in me.  I think I do.  And now I know where we’ll go.

5

We got back on the road shortly before sunset and had to pull over to fully appreciate the clouds and the way the colours were reflected on the railroad tracks.

4

We pulled into Vernon just before 9:00 pm and found our way to Intermezzo Restaurant where we had a fabulous dinner.  After that, there was nothing to do but head home.  Or so I thought.

I found myself turning off at Oyama.  The full moon cast a silver path across the lake.  There was a floating dock not too far from shore.  Bear got it in his head that he wanted to swim out to the dock.  I made my way to the beach, worried that I wouldn’t be able to reach him if he got in trouble.  I should have gone in.  If my heart were to fail completely, if I were to die tomorrow, I would die with that one thought – I should have gone for that moonlight swim.