The rocks loom over me and beckon. In the wintertime, it seems like a steep but quick scramble to get high enough to explore boulder outcrops that are somehow different from the surrounding slabs. They remind me of the hoodoos around Lillooet and Pavilion so I decide to climb up the base of Mount Pauline to explore.
It’s a warm summer day in August, 2014 but I get an early start. The hillside is steep but stable – most of the time. I climb for about ten minutes before I turn around to gaze back down at the valley. I realize then that going down will be a challenge but I’ve committed. The charms of the area become apparent and some of them are only obvious because of the challenges. Steep angles create unsteady footholds but also yield interesting perspectives on the rocks and the maples, which stretch their branches worshipfully upwards (and I imagine their roots splaying equally downwards to anchor themselves to the hillside.) Tenacious tiny plants and lichens weave themselves at my feet and fallen leaves slowly build into soil. Because I need to grasp handholds on the branches, I examine tree trunks and leaves face to face, and while I’m not a fan of spiders, their weavings have an aesthetic appeal. I maintain positivity.
I clamber for another forty minutes and as I get closer to the rock outcrops, it is clear that their massiveness is best appreciated at a distance. What appeared to be stunning shapes with rounded curves is cold and forbidding – certainly unclimbable. By this time, too, I’ve realized that the dog has had enough. We find ourselves a level shady spot to enjoy our snack and some water.
Oxbow lake sits one thousand meters below us. It is filling up with weeds and mostly surrounded by dense underbrush now but we used to swim there when I was in my teens. Now it is a haven for waterfowl and on this summer day, a wave of sadness sweeps over me as I spot a lone trumpeter swan. It must be the same one we saw in the fields late this spring after all the other swans had flown. I ponder its fate come winter; positivity wanes.
Suddenly, the dog perks up and rises to gaze excitedly behind us. The feeling that we’re being watched has been niggling away at me but I’m not too concerned because stealth on those rocks seems impossible for anything that might be a threat. I calm the dog and turn to watch a pika and a chipmunk, both intent on their day’s work. The chipmunk gathers maple seeds and scampers off to some secure spot; the pika disappears. We are sitting on a hot dusty slope and the bugs have come out and I’m disappointed that our hard work ascending didn’t lead us to a boulder field of intriguing formations as I had surmised that it would.
Descending is difficult, especially since the dog hangs back behind me and bumps into my legs every time I stop, threatening to send us both hurtling down the slope. I grab a handful of thorns and bash my shin against a boulder. I fall sideways and gash my arm. The dog whimpers as he catches his dewclaw yet again on something. I’m saddened that my constant companion is getting too old for many excursions. My big adventure has lost its charm yet I resolve to ignore my discouragement and to focus instead on safety. The need to slow down brings us back into the moment and I take a few more pictures when we pause. The camera viewfinder helps somewhat to refocus my outlook and we eventually emerge from the scree slope onto the forestry road and traipse back to the vehicle.
Later, when I download my pictures, I discover a rainbow glowing in a spot where no rainbow should be. I’m sure the explanation that this rainbow is simply lens flare will satisfy most. I choose to see the rainbow as a sign of hope (isn’t that what rainbows are meant to symbolize, after all?) The swan will be reunited; I will follow more pathways leading to potential wonders.
And the rainbow does indeed cheer me up because I’ve been posting pictures that appear to be evidence of fairies for a friend who is having a fairy themed party. All summer I’ve discovered images that could be fairies for her. I must even admit to purchasing a Barbie doll just so I could stage some photo shoots. And today, long after I cease the enchanted landscape search, a mystery rises out of the dust on a rocky slope and restores me to optimism.