This last weekend was a long one. I am not referring to long in the tedious sense, but long in the extra day off work sense. Monday was British Columbia Day, and B.C. just turned 150 - still a spring chicken in province / country years then. And how do Mr. DBM and I spend our long weekends? To be honest, we like to hunker down in our nice cool basement and avoid sitting in a sweltering car with sweat dripping down our backs for hours on end while we wait to get on a ferry / cross a border / get over a bridge / wait for them to tarmac a road, put in a sewage pipe or otherwise generally disrupt traffic by digging up a major road on a long weekend. But, that really would have been a waste of a glorious day, so we decided to find a hike relatively close to home which did not involve crossing bridges, borders or travelling on roads decorated with bright orange cones. We also had to consider the difficulty of getting to a trail head without a four wheel drive vehicle with a four foot clearance. Hmmmmmm, our choices were somewhat limited, but after much trawling through the hiking guide books and ruling out hike after hike due to access difficulties, we had our winner - Elk Mountain it is!
Now, I love to hike. I love to be in the great outdoors, to immerse myself in nature, to marvel at the flora and the fauna, to smile when I hear the little chirping squirrels and to wonder when the next bear might leap out of the bush and scalp me. Luckily for us, most of the bears are terrorising the urban sprawl that is West and North Vancouver and parts of Coquitlam, scrabbling around in people's garbage and eating food left out for other wildlife - "well, officer, that food was meant for the birds and squirrels, not the bears." Unfortunately, the bears are not aware of this faunal discrimination and many end up getting shot after visiting too many gardens or the local Safeway. But that, dear reader, is an entirely different rant, so let's get back to the hike. Here are a couple of excerpts from the hiking guide:
- "expect a nice open forest of second growth hemlock which is refreshingly cool in the summer."
- "friendly uphill grade"
- "gently gains elevation"
The second and third quotes - not so accurate. In fact, I am very curious as to what the terms "friendly" and "gentle" mean to the author, since the slope was about as friendly as a US immigration officer towards a Middle Eastern man wearing a shalwar, kameez and headscarf at the Canadian border on a long weekend and about as gentle a slope as the men's downhill ski run at the next Winter Olympics (which are being held in Vancouver / Whistler, just in case you are wondering). It is the kind of slope that threatens to tear tendons and rip muscles if you try and place your foot flat while standing up straight. Imagine you are a woman who has worn 4" heels all your adult life and you now have to place your feet flat on the ground - that is the kind of strain that this slope places on your calf muscles and tendons (for all of you that have never worn 4" heels - I said imagine - that is what I am doing, since 4" heels have never graced my feet). Sp up this godforsaken trail I trudge, head down, concentrating on placing one foot in front of the other, time after time after time. As I trudge, the same thoughts keep running through my head:
- "Bugger, bugger, bugger."
- "Crap, crap, crap"
- "F*#k, f*#k, f*#k."
- "Are we nearly there yet?"
- "What the hell am I doing, I could be sitting in my garden at home, with a cool drink and a good book."
- "Why am I doing this?"
- "This is supposed to be fun - it isn't."
- "How long have we been hiking for?"
- "Is this torture ever going to end?"
Of course, this is the easy part of the trail. The trail guides give the following description for the second half:
- "After the hour mark you'll hit the good steep stuff."
- ".............before it starts to steepen. The last few hundred metres are the steepest, about 35 degrees replete with some stairs."
...........the answer to my question - why am I doing this?
A glorious, magnificent, almost transcendental place. You are bathed in light, a cool breeze embraces you and caresses you as it trips across the mountain top on its way into the wooded valley below. You draw in a lungful of cool, fresh, air and you feel free, alive and at peace. A freedom from all your cares and worries. A freedom from the rat race that is still running down in the Valley. You can see the cars as they hurry along the highway, full of hot, sweating individuals stressing over the traffic of the Long Weekend. But up here, there is no traffic, no fumes, no road rage or stress. Instead, the views grab your attention from every direction. Which way should I look first? The valley as it stretches out towards the sea, with the Mighty Fraser River nearing its journey's end? Or the mountains as they stand to attention, all lined up, right in front of you - there is Mount Baker, right there, you can almost pluck a handful of snow off its glistening flanks and make a snowball. But then the meadows plea for your attention. The colour, the vibrancy, the full frontal assault of all your senses. Instead of the monotonous drone of traffic on the highway, you hear and feel the vibrating splendour of thousands of bees, all intent on their task of collecting pollen and nectar from the flowers that surround you.
Instead of honking horns or police sirens, you hear the cheerful, chirping squeak of the squirrels hiding in the undergrowth. A butterfly rests briefly on a bright yellow flower and time stands still.
See, time is doing funny things again, because the next thing you know, it is time to start on back down that most odious of paths, back down to the traffic, the noise, the grime of everyday life. So, now can you see why I put myself through all that torture? Why, every week, I ask Mr. DBM what hike we are going to do next? Wouldn't you, just for that one moment when time freezes in a moment of true bliss?