I returned from a weekend camping trip very sore from a trail fall, but my cold is better. I learned later that, though there was no sign posted, the Goat Lookout Trail, where I fell, was supposed to be closed due to high water in Felix Creek. The water did actually reach the bridge.
Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park was established in the 1960s as a recreational and conservation area. The park surrounding the lake is fairly isolated. To get there was a matter of getting out of Vancouver, which on a Friday after work with several accidents (one completely shutting down the Iron Workers Bridge for hours), was a mess. But as soon as we left the city behind, the Sunshine Coast opened before us, which is a mountainous drive with lonely islands jutting out of the sea to the west. I have been on this road often, up to Roberts Creek or Whistler. We were lucky to have a great, warm, sunny weekend, so by the time we got out of the city with all its madness and traffic jams, the light was shrouding the islands in misty blue while the sea around sparkled in a million shades of amber. As always, I fell into love and awe and became stunned–the trance lasting all weekend. We passed through Whistler and Squamish, and then the light of the day began its long fade. The last road to the campsite was an 18km dirt road where we saw not even one other passerby. Morgan had said that when he made our reservation in May, the campground was nearly full then. It was surprising to see other people when we reached camp, but this site was much quieter than the last, the one exception being the campers at the site next to us, who on the first night played some sort of music on a stereo that had a sub-woofer, so that was annoying. They had a generator going until ten, but somehow the music went until past 11:00 the first night and started again the next morning first thing.
Outside of that, however, we were out exploring so did not sit around to listen to the obnoxious beats. The first night, we got our tent set up before it became completely dark. Our friends had gotten stuck on the bridge and would not be making it until Saturday morning, so we walked about the dark night, finding perfectly framed gaps in the tree canopy for star-gazing. We could make out Orion and the Big Dipper, and I saw a couple shooting stars. The Perseid meteor showers are happening now, and for the next week. Finally, however, we fell into the snug nest of our sleeping bag and big brown fuzzy blanket and had a great sleep.
Saturday morning I got up first, still not feeling too great but definitely feeling determined to accomplish something that day, despite the flu. After washing down at the water pump, we went to the lake for the morning. I am reading Annie Proulx’s Barkskins, a wonderful book that I am getting into–but it’s very long. Over 700 pages. So I didn’t get a chance to make a huge dent in it this weekend. However, I am really getting into the story. It’s epic, a real eco-fiction about the generations of deforestation.
At the lake, we spent a couple hours watching minnows, and we were not sure whether they were trout or Sockeye–I think rainbow trout. We were amazed by their activity. They spent their time in different groups, and sometimes would separate into smaller groups to scout out other areas and sometimes would reform into a bigger group. They seemed timid and darted away quickly at any movement we made, even lifting an arm. So we sat very still for a long time. They seemed to prefer the outer, warmer, shallower areas of the lake, away from predators, where they, instead, could find prey. Their prey seemed to be the multiple flies, insects, and water bugs alighting on the lake or digging in the sand. Morgan and I have often marveled at tiny ecosystems we find, sometimes sitting for hours observing and making theories about things. It reminded me of something in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, in the first book Annihilation, where a biologist’s favorite place at her old home was a corner lot in the urban area she lived. The lot was undeveloped, so had weeds and grasses and all kinds of birds and insects.
We returned to camp to start lunch, and our friends finally made it. After lunch, we went back to the lake to swim, and hopefully rent some canoes. Unfortunately, nobody was on hand to rent the canoes and we could not find a park ranger. So instead, we swam and waded, and dared to go deep. Birkenhead Lake is actually quite long, with the campsite being on the northeast side. Mountains surround and hug the lake, some of them with glaciers. Even now in August we spotted some perma-ice and snow. Near one of the beaches was a glacial stream feeding into the lake, and we needed to cross it to get to another beach. It was very cold but refreshing. The rest of the lake was also cold, though standing in one spot you could feel ice-cold and warmer currents sweep around you.
After lake fun, we went back to camp to dry out, start dinner, and get into those nice philosophical talks known in our crowd. It was good to see Morgan and Ross have time to hang out; they have been friends for a very long time. While it was still light we decided to go up to the goat lookout point–not a very long hike, but steep. Along the way, I tripped over a rock on the climb up and one thing led to another as I completely lost my balance and tumbled back into some fallen logs. We did not make it up the mountain. Today my legs are sore, but it’s all in a good way. Bumps and bruises and scrapes are just part of life.
That night, after wine, beer, and singing (probably terribly) old Rush songs, we were magically overcome by a great thunderstorm. I fell asleep to the sounds of cacophonous rain and roars of thunder while blasts of lightening flashed upon our tent, silhouetting shapes from the great forest beyond. In the morning, I thought it was still raining, but it was actually a nearby bubbling brook, which had lulled me to sleep the first night. We packed up early and left by checkout time.
I felt pretty bad yesterday and began to really think out my plan to continue running and hiking safely. I often lose balance. I tripped on a rock in Ireland, for instance, as I ran across the top trail over the Cliffs of Moher. One wrong move and I could have tumbled down the steep cliffs into the rocky shore of the Atlantic below. When Morgan and I went trail running earlier in the spring, I flattened myself coming down some wet gravel. Another time, in Mundy Park, I bit it on the side of the trail.
I realize I do really really have to be very consistent in my core strengthening as well as doing balance exercises. I have noticed in the past few weeks that I often feel a catch when running, as if my leg will give out. I don’t know how to describe it–a twinge of pain that goes away immediately, sometimes not that painful but just a weakening of muscles in a certain area of my hip that comes and goes quickly. I’m no spring chicken, but I am not old either, so now is a good time to take seriously the conditioning and care of my body. I read often in the runner’s group stories of those at all ages–many younger, some older–who just have to stop running due to injuries. It is sad, because for many runners it is a way of life. For me it is just a hobby. For many it is something to consider very seriously, where training for marathons and ultras ends up at times with permanent injuries and depression post-race. I don’t want to ever get that way. I’m happy with the 5-10ks for now. Maybe someday a half, but it’s not something I am totally “having to do or else I cannot be happy with myself.”
For me, the goal is to be able to run and hike on trails.
So, after the weekend I feel very renewed, not just in the kind of gentle awakening the forest and mountains give but in serious goals to strengthen my back and core to hopefully have a stronger body for years to come. I also came back feeling that I do have what it takes to fix myself. I also have stronger ideas on what kind of place I want to someday live. The area from Whistler to Squamish to Pemberton to Lillooet (where Morgan’s grandma used to live) is beautiful beyond compare. When thinking about the sea, the sky, the vanishment, to quote Joni Mitchell, “I felt unfettered and alive.”