Sometimes my run along the Forest Service Road towards the Hurley is uneventful – traffic passes, dust blows up and my thoughts and the dog keep me entertained.
This morning was different.
Driving to my starting point, I met a doe and a fawn. They were nuzzling the pavement in the same salty spot that a flock of pigeons have decided to congregate on. I stopped to let them get off the road and mom obliged but the fawn took off up the valley, only to turn around because a car came from the other direction. I was half out of my seat, ready to herd fawn, when it darted into the ditch. The other driver and I shared a look of relief as we passed, while both our dogs howled it up in the back seats.
I was fully prepared to spend my run tumbling deer philosophy and psychology around in my head but a half kilometre into the warmup, the dog veered to the middle of the road to investigate what turned out to be a partially eaten carrot with the green top intact. His hackles rose, and he made a half exasperated, half thrilled utterance then turned himself into a two year old ball of muscle, darting back and forth to various paths a bear must have taken. He returned to his thirteen year old self quickly and took up what is now his usual spot – twenty paces behind me. I spent the next kilometre or so reminiscing about the years when his tail would be a flag for me to follow on dark mornings – those days when he would run two kilometres for every one of mine.
We reached “my” boulder – a camper sized rock near the road – and I stopped to look for signs of recent visitors. A couple of years ago, when the dog had darted into the protective shelter of this rock yet again, I decided to see what the attraction was. That was the first time that I took a picture of scat. Lacking the dog’s discerning nose, I needed evidence to take home so I could compare the image with my Animal Tracks of Western Canada. Ever since then, I stop at the boulder to see what’s new. Once I even sprinkled flour over the area in hopes of getting an obvious track but mice and other small creatures ate it up. Today, there were no new clues but as I bent over to examine the dirt, I felt a cold breeze biting at my fingers. There’s permafrost on that hillside. Even on the hottest summer days, you can reach beneath the rocks and feel the chill. I began to wonder if that was part of the reason why the mountain goats like the area. Perhaps they retreat into the caves above and emerge a little frosty. I tried to capture the breeze from the permafrost upon a small piece of grass and resolved to return home and read up on shutter speed and aperture so that next time I need to communicate movement, I’ll know what to do.
We left my boulder to continue the journey and stopped yet again at the log sort pond to check for dipper birds and cool the dog’s belly. It was almost turn-around time – just the moderate hill to the log sort to ascend, when I saw the most entertaining sight of my run. A white limousine was parked in the access road to some potato and hay fields. Now, the Hurley is most definitely not a highway – I often feel like we’re driving on dinosaur bones when we brave it. I tried to imagine who would hire a limo to take them up to Goldbridge but then decided that perhaps the vehicle had brought some Pemberton Festival goers to town and the driver had retreated up the Meadows in search of a quiet spot.
I ran off up the hill with my mind tumbling through the various explanations. Suddenly, a grouse shot across the road – neck outstretched and feet paddling furiously. I jumped, then jumped again as her babies exploded into the trees. Tired old man Mickey trotted behind, barely registering the excitement so I turned around. We’d covered enough ground for the day.
As we neared the limousine again, a tractor rounded the corner. John Beks had come to do some work in his field. I knew it was not the first time this road had been blocked off by campers but I was fairly certain this was the first limousine to stop his tractor. John walked past the vehicle and out to the field to see if anyone was camping then returned and peered cautiously in the windows – we’d had a few chuckles speculating what might be going on in that limo. A back door opened and a large man appeared – curious, no doubt, about the lady with the dog and the guy with the tractor watching intently as he pulled ahead and cleared the road. I waved goodbye to John and trundled on my way, resolving, yet again, to write down my thoughts and experiences as soon as I got home.