Light jazz was playing on the local radio station. Saxophone, piano and pan flute. Then came a crash and a flash of light. For a moment I thought I was back in Ajo with yet another sonic boom. It was thunder and lightening. Thick rain and snow pellets rattled down on the van.
It is hard to comprehend that only this morning I was among the palms and cacti of the broad Ajo Valley. On the way, I missed a turn and drove miles out of my way and then had to drive through the heart of Phoenix. It’s no place for the likes of me and I’m glad to have that gauntlet behind me. Now I am at 6000’ASL in the boulder-tumbled mountains above Prescott, southwest of Flagstaff Arizona. I drove up from the valley east of Phoenix into the clouds and onto a high plateau which rapidly became a jumbled rocky forest and a winding, snaking road that crawled through it. The radio station is from nearby Prescott, the local forecast is for up to three inches of snow tonight. The countryside and forest are fantastic, entirely new to me. That’s why I came. As promised I’m meandering homeward but palm trees to snow in one day, that was not within my foresight.
I am determined to take some gorgeous photos of my own in the Sedona region and then meander on northward on routes which are new to me. All the repairs I’ve had to make on the van have gobbled up my already tight budget. So there is a stress factor but I am determined to return home refreshed and recharged. Old aviation clichés about wings and prayers and groping through the murk with dusty gas tanks are coming to mind. Well, ordeal or adventure, that it is up to me. I have had some wonderful moments, making wonderful new friends and seeing amazing things. And, the grandest times of my life have been when I didn’t have the proverbial pot. No, not the one you smoke!
Tonight I’m snug in a National Forest Service campground, parked on a level asphalt pad with a lighted outhouse only a few long paces away. The fee is a modest $5. The forest around is open, a mix of Ponderosa Pine and Juniper. There are punctuations of clear rushing streams among jumbles of smooth, large boulders. It is the sort of woodland where I could wander blissfully for days. Look there’s another deer! I am warm, dry, fat and happy inside the van. As I edit my day’s photos the radio station KAHM, Prescott Arizona, 102.7 continues to play a lovely mix of music. It will be a long dark night and it sure beats sleeping in a ditch. I realize that, for the moment, I don’t want to be anywhere else. That’s a grand feeling! G’night.
Over the pass and down through the funky old mining town of Jerome I descended to the broad, undulating valley below and began tacking and gybing across the country like a good sailor should. The suddenly I found myself in Sedona. The natural scenery is stunning and beyond description. The whole town has been designed to blend in with that natural wonder. Despite the reek of money and the glossy architecture it is elegant and makes this town, in my opinion one of the most beautiful inland communities I have ever seen. Even in February, the sightseers were everywhere. I can only imagine how it is in the peak seasons.
I know those devastating numbers of people need to be controlled but it gets frustrating. No matter where I wanted to stop for more photos there is a plethora of signs and concrete preventers of some description. You are expected to display a permit but there is no indication of where to purchase one. Other places one is able to stop will not accept the day permit from the last place. Travelling north from Sedona along incredibly beautiful Oak Creek there is no place to pull over and work your camera. I finally emerged out of the spectacular scenery, miffed about all the photo opportunities I had to pass by. It is cold and snowy and blowing. I am sitting in the van tonight somewhere west of Flagstaff apparently on a road to the Grand Canyon. It will be beautiful with all this snow. Yesterday I was in Ajo. It is a long way away now. Was I ever really there?
“Part of being sane is being a little bit crazy.” …Janet Long
Sunday morning. August 28th, pouring rain, the heater is on. The forecast is for rain continuing into the days ahead. Summer, it seems, is over here in the Great Bear Rainforest. The salmon need the rain. It raises water levels in the rivers and streams where they spawn. Soon they’ll able to swim to the place of their beginning and repeat the drama and magic of life’s timeless cycle. Dampness has become my bane as I age but I hope the rain continues and the fish can spawn successfully before they are harvested by commercial fishermen hovering at river mouths and prime spawning routes. Every dry day from now on will not be taken for granted. In the soggy gloom dock lights began flickering on before eight pm last night. The boat’s exterior bright work needs attention before winter sets in. There will be leaks to repair. That will all be done in a state of urgency. There may be a reprieve which we call “Indian Summer” but moments of dryness are becoming precious. My old bones aches from the dampness which hasn’t even begun yet. This old pagan is praying for a miracle.
On the dock, a small herd of Fisheries officers are knocking on the hulls of boats. I’m assuming they are checking for licenses and any infractions. I’m staying out of sight. Their presence raises a pointed horn on my forehead. I hate goon squads. They are imposing themselves for the sake of being seen. The handguns on their hips are certainly prominently displayed. I’m sure that this year, as happened last, during the season of rape and pillage by the sport fishery, a DFO officer was a rare sight. That frenzy is now coming to an end and it’s safe for them to come out. The sport fishing industry on this coast is huge. It is a raw resource being exploited to death but we don’t want to ruffle the feathers of certain big birds. When I see sport fishing clients arriving by helicopter and stumbling down the dock while still busy texting, I know they are not here to savour the wilderness and the sanctity of the “Great Bear Rainforest.” They’ll pay big bucks to ravage fish stocks for a photo of a pose with a really big lunker to hang on the office wall back in the ivory tower. Then they’ll leave.
Other countries have developed very successful sport fishing industries with catch and release programs. Here, we’ll take voraciously until (to many folks) this apparently infinite resource requires being “Managed”…just like the East Coast. There is a small commercial opening tomorrow and bureaucracy has to make it’s appearances. “Ah shaddup Fred, if you’re so damned smart, what the hell are you doing up here at all?”
The other flap here is an impending visit by British Royalty. Harry and Kate will pass through Bella Bella for a few hours next month. Yep, more posturing and appearing. Apparently their entourage will be billeted in the small hotel here in Shearwater. Police are swarming all over already. Swat teams are practising whatever it is they think they need to practice, RCMP boats of all sizes meander around the docks and serious-looking dudes in sunglasses stroll around trying to look purposeful, which is bloody hard in Shearwater. When asked “What’s up?” their standard answer is, “Don’t know. Nobody tells us anything.” I’ll have to be wary of not being tasered or shot for having a deadly-looking wrench in my hand. Then they’ll leave.
On the radio, CBC drones on with yet another bleary interview. This one is about senior’s co-housing. Then I hear the words, “Social isolation can be deadly. Loneliness can kill you. How many of us look at our social portfolio?” Hmmmm! Grrrrr! Sigh!
Wednesday morning, August 31st. It is still pouring rain, as it has all night and the day and night before. At times, it eases to a mere steady rain and then another deluge roars again. Everything inside the boat is damp and clammy, books, papers, my clothes, condensation under my mattress, even this table-top feels sticky-damp. There’s only eight months of this weather ahead. Then the rain will ease slowly and become a bit warmer. The sea here is tea-brown this morning. Runoff from the forest and bogs around are heavily tinted as the forest becomes sea and the sea becomes forest. It rains so hard at times that wifi signals seem unable to penetrate the thick atmosphere and the internet, such as it is here, crashes.
Humans have survived in this area for many thousands of years and developed a rich culture.I have to steel myself to make it through the day ahead. How do other folks survive and even thrive here?
A gillnet fleet is residing here again. It’s that time of year when there is oil, beer cans and plastic garbage on the water around the docks. There is always one more boat crashing around in the night with bright lights flashing, engines roaring, someone shouting. They raft to the dock up to four boats abreast. There are parties and then there’ll be fights and so the police will arrive yet again. They’ll loiter about, hoping for a chance for one more opening until finally one day, in a few weeks, the fleet will disperse. Then they’ll leave.
Thursday morning. Still raining. During a lull in the night’s downpour, I dared open the hatch over the bunk, just a crack for ventilation. That was apparently an affront to the rain gods, the deluge resumed with a vengeance and continues into the bleak dawn. A customer with a broken-down boat, waiting stoically while parts are in transit from Sweden, brought me a beautiful fresh Coho. I gorged. The freezer is full of fish. What a treat! We shared some lovely banter, which i always relish. The lady aboard has dropped an N and renamed this island as Deny Island. I love the variety of possible connotations. Then I described myself squirming around in their engine bay like a “Bull in a sex shop” which incited gales of laughter. I’ll cling to my handle for this place as ‘Weirdwater’ located on ‘Debtors Island.’ Most of us are here paying our dues, for thing or another. And so another day passes.
Thursday evening. It has finally stopped raining, not a drop for over three hours. The skies cleared enough for us to have a bit of a sunset. I talk a lot about the rain and the darkness here but it has occurred to me that one of the things I truly love here is the light. That is not only because it seems so precious after days of gloom. I am certain it is due to the ambient humidity but there is a soft golden glow to the sunlight here which provides a unique rich, warm illumination. As is apparent by my photos I love the play of light on mountains and on clouds and water. There is a surplus of that magic here when the sun shines.
Boats around me include one from Holladay Utah which proves to be a south suburb of Salt Lake City. On Google Earth it looks like a great place to be from. Twenty feet across the dock from it lays ‘Distant Drummer’ a very shippy yacht called a Liberty which has sailed all the way from New Zealand.
I’m in good company. I’m rafted to a fabulous 65′ J-boat for the moment which is very humbling but, I note, I can go to an inside helm as I choose. Daddy Warbucks has to stand out in the weather to con his beautiful yacht. So there! Soon the transient boats will all disappear and only the inmates will remain on the island.
“ The rain began again. It fell heavily, easily, with no meaning or intention but the fulfilment of it’s own nature, which was to fall and fall.