It was to be a weekend of local travel, to get away from the city and all it's trappings. Isn't that the way it always starts? Just an innocent weekend getaway. The weather was unseasonably warm for the time of year.
It was a long weekend in September and we were headed up highway 99 toward Squamish and Whistler. From there, we had sketchy plans to go on to the Fraser Canyon and find somewhere to camp along the way. The autumn breeze was carrying the last moments of summer. It is always right after a day like this in September, when a storm blows in and when it blows away, it takes summer with it.
We pass all the shattered rock that is fast becoming the new highway to Whistler. There are road building machines working everywhere along the highway. The landscape looks bombed out and destroyed, otherworldly almost, with all the shattered rock and barrier walls falling away to hundred foot cliffs that fall into Howe Sound below.
When I was a child, I remember when there were terrible accidents on this highway, in the rain in the night.
Soon this highway will be safer and it will get you there faster. Even if they had to wipe out some valuable eagle habitat to do it, the highway will be safer. I guess that is what we humans care about at the end of the day, getting to the ski hill safely. That, and a good stiff drink to wash it down with...
We run out of sunlight and options at Cat Lake, so a tent is pitched.
It is a respectable joint, the sites are far enough apart that you cannot hear your neighbor snoring.
It seems a good enough spot to lay weary work week heads, so we did.
We left early in the morning, and stopped at Pemberton for coffee and breakfast. It wasn't too bad and we burped and were on our way. We marveled at the town because it is a likable place with a welcome presence. It has mountains with snow capped peaks, in plain view from town and fields and cottonwoods that stretch out into the river valley one way and up onto the rocky hillsides in another direction. It is sunny this day, too and we enjoy the warmth of the rays as the sun hits the windscreen. Your hair blows in the wind as you speak of how you came to be and all the circumstances surrounding that. The who, what, when, wheres of your life, up to this very moment.
It seemed interesting and something I could understand without a translator machine. This, I could appreciate.
We passed Mt. Currie, the place of my sister's birth, a poverty stricken First Nations reserve outside of Pemberton. I bet they never showed that to Chris Martin when he flew here in a helicopter last year for an outdoor rock festival.
The Volkswagen headed up the hill out of the valley, past Birken and onto Duffy Lake road. The highway is rough, a patchwork of potholes and narrow curves, with steep mountains rising up from the valley floor. It became an arid landscape as we rose up through the pass.
When I looked over at you driving and singing, I knew at this moment, for sure, that I loved you. I took note of it because it really just kinda hit me, like a surprise ending in a movie that makes you feel whole.
We made it to Lillooet by lunch and soon realized that it was a unique place, a small farm town at the convergence of two valleys, a small green haven in a sea of brown rock and parched soil. Pine trees, broken down, petrified shacks, tall, dry grass and willows. The kind of place a coyote would love and a cowboy would dream about, the First Nations are the stewards of this land.
We picked up a few things to supplement the food we were carrying, including wine at the general store in Lytton. Lytton is a small town resting on the banks of of the Fraser river. The town is a 45 minute drive from Lillooet, on highway 12.
I once rode my motorcycle on a solo trip into Stein Valley and I took this same route, only from the other way. I rode up to Lytton via the Fraser Canyon that time.
It was in August of 2007, it was one of those journeys that changes you. Makes you think about meaning of your life and stuff like that. What you have done so far. Who you may have hurt along the way, and did you say you were sorry?
Highway 12 was nice that day, with Ray playin' in the stereo and old houses that held old stories, passed us by as we drove to the 2 car capacity ferry, that ran across the river using the current to power the vessel. It was silent except for the sound of the river, splashing and grinding about, as the boat lurched and danced its way across the river.
When we reached the other side, we drove up Spencer road, past more old houses and barns and small fields and pines, through the reserve and into the parking lot for the Stein Valley Park, or Nlaka'pamux, as it is also known.
We left the car and started our short walk, which turned out to be a bit further than I remembered. We walked along the banks of the river and it was roaring.
We had wine and a guitar and we knew it would be fun. We found the spot I had once camped in and set up the tent. It was a glorious clear night and the river churned away as we talked and ate and went to sleep.
The next day we washed ourselves in the delightfully cold water of the river and started back toward the car. We were met by three rangers who seemed nice and we chatted about this and that, then we were on our way.
We got back to the car an hour later and drove off toward the ferry and the Fraser Canyon. It seemed like it would be a hot day and dry as dust.
As we drove through the canyon towards Boston Bar and Hope, we talked about our future and what dreams may come. We ate bad food at a roadside grease pit in Boston Bar, passed through the tunnels, bought more wine at a small grocery store and decided Chehalis would be a good spot to stay because there is a river and huge trees that tower like cathedrals over the camp spots.
I ran from the ranger and ditched 10 feet of branches behind a 6 foot tent, due to a lack of firewood due to a lack of a visit from a certain guy selling bundles of firewood to yuppies like us from the city.
You saw the stars clearly and exclaimed,"Neat-e", and the term was forever to be part of our growing lexicon. I imagine that some day we will have our own sort of bastardized version of English that only we can understand and that only others will be ever more annoyed with.
Guitar was played, noodles were eaten and more stories were told about stuff. We left in the morning after we took a bath in the Chehalis River. There were little rock pools down at the riverbed that we could dip into. And it was deserted. There was nobody there. We made our way toward vancouver on highway 7, through Deroches, Aggaziz, crossed the Fraser at Mission and through Abbotsford. Once we got there we felt like we wanted to barf, what with all the 'support our troops' ribbon magnets and Tim Hortons on every corner. I once bought some peaches and cream corn on the cobs from around here. It was a few years back, I'll never forget how good those were. They were so sweet and crunchy.
We arrived in Surrey, where I would meet your mother and your brother and Katie for the first time.
We went to Earl's where I ate the Mediterranean noodles and then we drove back to the city to add up our scores.
We were tied.