In the Chilcotin, the people are hospitable; the land is not. Even at the best, the mildest of times, the end of summer, the soil is hard and littered with dead wood, the trees hard-edged, the mosquitoes vicious. The sun burns painfully, even through fabric. When it retires for the night, the frost sets in. (In winter, the temperature will drop to -40 Celsius.) It's a hardy folk that live there year-round.
I went down to Charlotte Lake, on the edge of Tweedsmuir Park, to spend a day with family in their cabin. The road in starts off the highway as a good gravel road, but gradually narrows, develops ruts, lumps, roots, and rocks, slides down slippery hills. The car fish-tails in the dust. As the crow flies, it's 15 kilometres to the lake; the road meanders, covering 29. Occasional hand-made signs tacked to trees confirm that yes, this is really a road, and you are going the right direction.
It's worth the trip.
|Charlotte Lake, in the afternoon. Mornings, it's glassy smooth.|
|The last straight stretch, at the beginning of the road in.|
The trees here grow tall and close together, reaching for sunlight. In spots, most of them are blackened poles, left behind by the fire 5 years ago; green or black, they're all vulnerable to the next spark, the next lightning strike. Along the road, fire prevention crews have cut the forest to make a fire break. Nearer the lake, they are busy thinning the trees, cutting over half of them, leaving several metres between each standing tree.
The residents down at the lake harvest some of these fallen trees for winter fuel, but most are left to rot on the ground; they are the nutrients for the next generation of trees. And hiding places for insects and larger animals, out of the glare of sunlight and the bite of ice.
|The trees stand straight, but when they fall, many of them seem to twist, so the grain spirals around the log.|
|New pine, out in the sunlight at the edge of the road.|
|Deer, watching me from a safe distance.|
|Gray jay. Many of these flitted from dry branch to dry branch, never coming very close.|
|Strawberry blite, aka goosefoot, strawberry spinach.|
These grow on disturbed ground around the cabins. All the plants are tiny, in this high and dry valley; the lake is at 3855 feet above sea level.
The red clusters are fruits; edible and juicy. I picked one, and it bled red juice over my hands. The black spots are the seeds. The leaves are also edible. I didn't try them, because every leaf counts in this barren soil.
At the top of Boot Hill on the way out, I stopped to take a photo of the boot tree:
|I was tempted to add my shoes to the bottom, but I didn't have spares with me.|
|Zooming in. The piece of tire reads, "Here Jun 25, 2005 V. (unreadable) lost their boots)|
And their flip-flops, their slippers, and their sneakers.
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