The following is an unedited, stream-of-consciousness personal journal used to experiment with different subjects outside of assignments and to practice free-writing. It shouldn't (at all) be viewed as a portfolio of polished work.

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Oh, the Places You'll Go (on the Backroads of BC)

Exploring the Backroads of BC
Not bad, hey? Mt. Cooper and his friends in Goat Range Provincial Park

I cracked the window in preparation for writing. I like to have as much natural light, natural air (is there ever unnatural air?) and natural views when writing.

Cold air poured down onto my bare feet.

Fall is coming. YES.

I already felt it in my soul. As fall inches closer, I get more hungry to explore. It's like my curiosity is in sync with the season.

Lucky for me, I live along the 74-mile Kootenay Lake, with land on either side that morphs from the green softness of Nelson to the crazy mass of peaks at Kaslo and Meadow Creek.

Yesterday, I explored and accidentally ended up in the presence of three glaciers. I didn't know the names of the peaks they were on, or really, even where I was. We came on them after watching deeply red Kokanee salmon fighting to swim upriver a couple of hours earlier, and right before the sunlit snow tickled my face.

Usually, the process of exploring begins with opening the Kootenay Rockies Backroads Mapbook, scouring the topo for some high peak or checking out the colors to see one symbolizing glaciers, and then heading out to find it. It's never an exact science; the latest book is five years old and these backroads get overgrown quickly.

But they rarely end without first providing a return on the investment.

This time, I was simply returning to the area I first came two years ago. At that time, Brent was helping me through a "Newcomer's Intro to Canada" by taking me to see the salmon spawn (amongst so many other things). I remember being fascinated that it was happening in front of me and fascinated by their color—which reminded me of Chinese paper lanterns, and looked like flower petals suspended in water.

I'm not usually keen to return to the same spot twice, but the spectacle was exciting enough to make into a tradition. We planned to check them out there in Meadow Creek, the town at the very top of Kootenay Lake, and then make our way south again to Nelson, stopping at a few other creeks to find more salmon and more bears feeding on them.

Exploring the Backroads of BC
Kokanee Salmon making a spectacle in the water

But we got sidetracked by a backroad. Only this time, we didn't have our map book with us; all we knew was that it was up in a part of the Selkirk Mountains we hadn't been yet.

The way in was long. Brent's the kind that will keep going until he gets bored (if he doesn't know the ending), I'm the kind that wants to keep going until the very end. Sometimes, there's nothing at the end that really capstones the journey in and, though you're always glad you explored, you prepare yourself for a long way back feeling somewhat unfulfilled.

But sometimes, magic.

So I always go the full length if I'm by myself. Happily, though Brent mentioned a few times that we might turn around, he was curious enough to keep forward motion. The land was completely holding out on us.

Eventually, we reached a little hut and thought that would be the destination. The woodstove inside was still warm, though the cabin was latched from the outside, giving us a clue that the visitors must have vacated recently. Yet, there was no sign of anyone for miles.

Whiskey Jacks were feeding off the ground nearby, and Brent entertained me for a while by showing me that they'd fly up and eat out of his hand without hesitation. He laughed when he saw my jaw drop as one of these little "camp robbers" (as they are also known) gripped his fingers and snatched crumbs out of his palm.

The little, winged thieves got their fill and left Brent wondering if we should keep going up.

Exploring Backroads of BC

"Yes, of course," was my answer.

I didn't know my jaw could drop so many times in one day.



A notch in the ridge created a frame as we turned a corner. "Oh, I think you're gonna like this," Brent said, getting a view before me. There was snow, and rugged awesomeness, and ominous clouds with sun streaming down between their breaks.

I snatched my camera out and chased his lead, trying desperately to catch him in a shot so that the scale of the scene could be captured, all while trying to absorb the beauty that kept opening up the more we rounded the bend.

Exploring Backroads of BC

Exploring Backroads of BC
Man, oh man.

Not to diminish the glory, and even though I left the area by walking backward so I could keep the view in sight for as long as possible, this wasn't the pinnacle of beauty I would find yesterday.

It was just up a little more.

We passed a few miniature wetlands—one of my favorite things in the world, by the way, because of their complexity and importance in ecosystems—and rolling meadows that kept worked their way up to a ridge.

I knew what was behind that ridge, having just seen some of it. Or, I thought I did. But it did not prepare me for the full scale of what was hiding behind the soft expanse of grass we were working our way up.

Last jaw drop—and it was close to becoming permanent. I could feel my eyes and mouth gaping at the insane view before me. Even Brent, usually unruffled in every situation, let out a verbal "wow."

Right before me was a thick, curving, heavily crevassed glacier. It swung down from a peak partly shrouded in snow clouds and tapered out to a point where it melted into a tumbling creek. Two other glaciers stacked on peaks behind it. I could have walked over to it—completely unprepared to do anything else but stare at it, of course—had it not been for a precipitous chasm dense with evergreens that was between us.

No one else was there looking at it except Brent. Seriously, how was no one else here?

Oh, right. I wasn't in the United States anymore. This was British Columbia, where magic is everywhere and people are—well, not here.

Exploring Backroads of BC

I was laughing, giddy, exclaiming everything, and it all probably coming out sounding like gibberish. Brent resorted to laughing at my reaction which didn't abate until a few minutes after we decided to head back down from that incredible place.

I even smacked my leg to really emphasize my feelings as I declared, "This is my favorite place we've ever been in the Kootenays. No, really, ever, and I'm not kidding."

That's saying something. I've been to the Valhallas and Jumbo Valley (of Patagonia and Sweetgrass Productions fame), Kootenay National Park and more. Each time, I fell in love, especially with the Valhalla with its crazy spires and turquoise lakes. But this place—wherever we were—edged even that place out of its ranking.

Brent called me Maria Rainer (think: Sound of Music) because I was running everywhere on the mid-ridge summit we were on. Though neither of us are musical fans, it was grassy and I did feel like bursting out in some kind of song. It probably was a fitting description.

We left. As I backed out, just like I had in the notch earlier, little shining crystals floated from the cloud above. A few reached my face. Snow.

C'mon. This isn't real.

But it was, and it is. It's British Columbia, and it's all one big, very real, free-to-explore land. As the leaves turn color and the temperatures keep dropping, I'll be out there, watching the land transform to fit the season. And, since there are visual rewards like the one I just experienced, curiosity of what's just ahead will keep me going.

Later, back home, we consulted the map book. Turns out we had wandered into Goat Range Provincial Park, one of the more remote in our region in terms of being able to access its interior. Ever since hiking into its easier-to-access Wilson Falls, I had a feeling I'd want more of that place.

I wasn't disappointed. We located Mt. Cooper and Spokane Glacier through the topo lines, the beauty duo that made my jaw drop for the third time that day.

No rest for this map book. We've got a season of exploring ahead.

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