It was a very late start today due to some noisy neighbours arriving in the wee hours and carrying on in spite of my entreaties for quiet. But get away I did, with the goal of at least reaching Fort St. John and perhaps Tumbler Ridge.
The landscape changes I had begun to see yesterday became more noticeable, giving way to dense forest with lots of scrub bush and marshy creek areas. As I made note of the dense trees, I couldn’t help but think that I was glad I wasn’t the poor bugger who had to survey that!
I wasn’t far along the road when I saw a sign that said Bottom Pit #8. That wouldn’t have induced me to look twice, but I looked once and it was actually a lovely, serene little lake, stocked with fish! It was definitely photo-worthy, so I pulled into the approach and took some. I would apologize for posting MORE pictures of water and rivers and flowers, but, as I often say “Sorry implies an intention to change your behaviour. So if you’re not going to change your behaviour, don’t say sorry.” Since I am not very sorry anyway and have no intention of changing my behaviour, you are stuck with more photos of rivers and lakes and flowers.
A departure from the pretty stuff was my view of the devastation of the wildfires that covered British Columbia last year. Up until today, I had glimpses of it here and there, but along Hwy 97 north, there are stretches of black stick trees as far as the eye can see. There was also a lot of cutting and mowing activity all along the highway, which I can only assume is an attempt to create a fire break.
The day was hot – in the low 30s – and I was grateful for my mesh gear. Shout out to my buddy Blair who suggested a coolit vest to me. Having soaked this in water the day before, I put the wet vest on under my mesh jacket and had quite a comfortable ride. I stopped often for water breaks though. You know it’s darn hot when you have consumed 2 bottles of water and a Gatorade in a couple of hours and haven’t had to stop for a pee!
At one of my rest stops, I met a couple who had been on the road for a long time exploring North America with their two pre-teen kids. They were headed to Alaska and I was able to share some highlights they would find along the way. As I was finishing up my water, a little blue car pulled in and a lady got out with her dog. Cathy is from Victoria and was also headed for Alaska, hoping to visit the Aleutian Islands. Kindred spirits from the start, we laughed and chatted for a good long while. I could see having lots of good conversations over tea. If you aspire to be adventurous, lively and fun, Cathy is your role model (she is on my bike in one of the photos below).
There was cell service where I stopped for gas at Buckinghorse River, so I stopped for a late lunch and checked distances to determine what could be done today. I decided Chetwynd was very achievable and headed back out. Topping up with gas just before Fort St. John meant I could bypass it for Hwy 29 towards Chetwynd. Turning off, the mileage sign showed me Hudson Hope was 80 kms in (about half-way to Chetwynd). That sounded nice and alliterative, so I decided it would be my stop for the night. I also realized that I was going to be travelling mostly west and with the lowering sun, it would be a challenge to see those moose the signs were warning me about.
Stopping very briefly for water at the Pink Mountain gas station to grab yet another water, I encountered their ferocious guard cat you see in the pictures below. She was no match for my ear-scratching technique, though, and so I was permitted safe passage into the store.
Not very far along Hwy 29, I rounded a curve to see one of the most beautiful, heart-wrenching scenes I have laid eyes on in my life. I would like to say I was struck dumb, but a very loud “HOLY F**K!” was my actual response. I swiftly pulled over to take pictures that comes nowhere near to doing it justice. The same response was repeated as I rounded the next curve and realized I had only seen a small bit of it. I gazed in wonder and delight, riding slowly and soaking in the scene. Then I realized that this scene will not exist this time next year. The information brochure for the region said this was the valley that would be flooded by the Site C dam. I’ve heard about it on the news and listened to the rhetoric and rationale. But seeing the valley is a game-changer.
There have been 3 or 4 moments over the course of this trip that I have been moved to tears. One was the quiet story of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in people who were displaced and their lifestyle eventually obliterated by the Klondike gold rush. Even though they tried to move their tribe and protect their lifestyle and culture, wildlife and fish stocks were depleted and endangered by the boats travelling up the rivers and over-hunting by the newcomers. Another moment was when I saw the big sign on the trail to the hanging gardens at the Liard River hot springs that is used when there is a bear around. It said “DANGER. Area Closed. Problem bear in area. Do not enter.” The bear is the problem……not the people encroaching on its habitat.” The realization that this beautiful valley will be destroyed brought forth all of these moments into a whole. It was like a slap in the face and my eyes welled up at the thought of that loss.
Then came the anger. All of these things have one thing in common – the insatiable greed and arrogance of humanity. Our need for bigger, better, faster, richer. To consume, regardless of the consequences - use it up and move on to the next place where we can get what we want. And we’re never satisfied. It doesn’t matter if our phone is only a year old, there’s new technology so we must have the new one. We don’t fix things anymore, we buy a new one. We justify it by donating to the second-hand store when the latest model or new style comes out and energetically recycle our paper and plastics, feeling smug about our contribution to conservancy. But that doesn’t help, for we are still contributing to the energy required to produce more for us to consume. The answer is not to recycle more - it is to consume less. I felt ashamed of all the stuff I have and all of the things I don’t need. “Stuff” is not on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, yet our culture equates happiness with stuff. Do you know why history inexorably repeats itself? Because we never learn. Keep it up and we are headed for devolution (yes, that’s a word – I just made it up, for de-evolution). We will use up our planet moving on to the next resource to satisfy our need to consume and then wonder why we are living in caves rubbing sticks together for fire again.
Then again, it’s not our problem, right? It’s not going to happen in our lifetime, or even our great-grandchildren’s lifetime. We’ll be dead, so who cares. I will waste no time judging anyone else, but I, for one, felt properly chastised.
I don’t want to hold on to the anger and negativity, but I very much wish to hold on to the consciousness and the feeling that these experiences have left me with. Acknowledgement and change - that’s what all of this is about for me. Every time I think I need something, I want to recall that feeling. Every beautiful view I see on this trip, I’m going to soak it up, and then remind myself that it could be the next victim of our vortex of consumption. Then think twice before I buy something. So, y’all won’t be getting souvenirs unless they were acquired before today!
I’m not apologizing for the rant either, though you probably won’t get too many of them. 😊 As a consolation prize, I finally managed to upload a couple of short videos from the Liard River hot springs and a quick bit from my ride through Muncho Lake Provincial Park yesterday. The one with the path is not really much video – turn up your volume for the sounds.