It turns out that when you take the man out of the city, you can in fact take the city out of the man. Graham, when removed from the crowded confusion and bustle of the civilized world, transforms from a bumbling, stammering absent-minded professor, into a calm, confident explorer meeting each challenge head on, tweaking and innovating as necessary.
He strides along, prodding each step with his bottle cap tipped staff as if his only care in the world is to get to see what lies beyond the next bend. He is resourceful, encouraging, patient, gentle and supportive. At first teaching and leading, then gradually giving me space to express my own viewpoints, ideas, and suggestions. In response, I feel myself transforming from a silly little kitten into a co-leader, one half of a dynamic and strong hiking team. As we walk and work together, we develop our own stratagems, our own techniques, and even our own language to express things one seldom has need to discuss during citified life.
Monday was my out-of-house shopping and chores day. From home, I went past the Army Surplus store on Broadway, which I’ve been meaning to check out again for a decade. I bought a new enamel cup with a fitting lid, a water bag, and some mitts. I continued to walk to the hub, and took the Millennium train out to Brentwood. At Brentwood Mall I collected the books I’d ordered in to the Coles’ there, as well as a fairly lightweight copy of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to read on our hike, and got some film canisters from the photo lab at London Drugs. Before I left, I grabbed food from my favourite Korean BBQ place in the food court.
I took the #130 across to Metrotown. At Metrotown Mall, I got more bar soaps from The Body Shop, and renewed my membership, then headed to the Great Cuts to get my hair done. I had decided on a very short style, so that I wouldn’t need to wash or comb it much with all the hiking this summer. The girl was very friendly, and I think I saw her the last time I was there. Together we decided on a very short pixie cut. The last time I had my hair this short was when I came out of the womb. Since I was feeling daring, I decided to get the front part streaked with red. I’ve never dyed any part of my hair, either. Partly I thought it would make a good gag to startle Robin and Dave.
Subsequently, my hair took quite a while. While the dye was setting, I leafed through a McClean’s and read an interesting article discussing with Justin Trudeau if he has any aspirations of one day leading the Liberals.
Once the dye was done, I was shampooed and blow dried again, and finally I was able to pay and head onwards. I went to T&T to get the first part of the food I wanted for camping. I got dried nori, shitake mushrooms, two different cereal mixes, miso soup, and the Chinese sausage I like.
After T&T, I finally went to Stupid Store, and picked up a porkchetta as well as the GORP materials (several varieties of nuts and dried fruit), and assorted flavours of bullion. At this point it was getting quite late, so I headed home to unpack and change before heading out with Robin to meet my parents for Ullrich’s 65th birthday.
When I’d left the house, my pack had been empty. When I got home, it weighed 23KG, or roughly 50lbs. About double what it ended up being on the hike.
I changed, and we took the bus to meet my folks at an Indian restaurant in the main floor the building my former orthodontist is in. Also, as it turns out, Ullrich’s former shrink, as well as Dave’s would-be moil.
Dinner was reasonable, Robin and I drank ‘sassi lassis’, which are ordinary mango lassis spiked with rum. The buffet was quite varied, although very heavy on the sauce and light on the meat chunks. The gulab jaman was the best dish.
Laura was shocked by my haircut, but both parents seemed to approve of it. I passed on Graham’s birthday regards to Ullrich, who told me to thank him, and then reiterated that if I failed to come back from my hike, Ullrich vowed to hunt Graham down and eviscerate him. I told Ullrich Graham would be very touched by such sentiment – that he would feel it a perfectly proper thought for a father to have. (which, when I relayed this part to Graham later, he did)
After dinner, my parents drove us home and Robin and I had a quiet Stargate night and early bed.
Graham got to my place quite late, but it afforded me the opportunity to get some house chores done, before starting the camping chores list with him.
On a lark, once I knew his bus was due, I went out to meet it and hid around a hedge. I watched him disembark and start walking around the corner. I followed him for a short bit, nearly walking abreast of him without him noticing. “Give me all your stuff!” I said. He stopped and automatically handed me a bag. “Wendy!” he exclaimed. We stepped apart to allow the two Asian women who had gotten off the bus with him to pass. “Your hair! It’s different!” I grinned at him and took his arm and we chatted lightly as we walked back to the house.
For lunch, I made us impromptu pizzas from the last two nanns, garlic hummus, sundried tomato and basil tuna, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, and two types of cheese. We each washed our respective mini pizzas down with a glass of milk. Graham had a muffin afterwards – I’d had one with my morning tea before he arrived.
We spent most of the afternoon sealing and patching various things. Eventually the sealant started to affect me, so Graham and I went for a head-clearing walk around the block, and I took him to the other park this time. We played on the swings for a bit before walking back home.
In the evening, Robin made us a lovely repast of the porkchetta I’d picked up from Stupid Store with roasted potatoes and broccoli. The crackling turned out quite excellent. I was feeling giddy, so I lit tea lights. For dessert, we had strawberries, cream, and some of the chilli dark chocolate bar Dave picked up shopping for Investiture. I got a little drunk on the wine, and also started cramping, so we called it an early night.
I completed my chores and packed, Graham worked on some of his chores, and puttered, and got distracted, and puttered, and packed, and unpacked, and repacked, and side packed, and worked on some more chores, and puttered.
Graham’s clutter on my bed.At one point we had been thinking about going out to do some last-minute shopping, having some lunch while we were out, and then coming back to finish packing and leave. Eventually we realized it made more sense to just get as ready as possible, and then do our shopping on the way as we moved in a generally downtown and North Shore-wards direction.
I didn’t have much left in the house for lunch-making materials, but I found some left-over lasagne in the freezer, that Robin had packed into a double portion for some reason, and re-heated that. We drank milk with it again.
After lunch, we finally finished and headed out of the house. We went to PricesMart to pick up skim milk powder, and some chocolate for s’mores. From PricesMart we walked to Fraser and Kingsway to look in the large bible store there, which I’d never been inside before, but which I’ve always been curious about, and especially more so since returning to shul last fall.
Graham picked up a nice, compact, lightweight complete bible with a zippered leather cover. After we left the store, we went to wait at the bus stop. Graham said that if we started to get tight for time, we could hail a cab. He offered to pay for it, because he acknowledged it was due to his puttering that we were starting out so late.
We caught a #8 Fraser and headed downtown, by now it was 17:00 and we were starting to hit rush hour. As we crawled along, we realized if we took the bus out to Horseshoe Bay, we’d never make the water taxi scheduled for 18:00, so once downtown we hailed a cab. The cab cost about $50. Graham had offered to pay for it, but once inside the cab he automatically said, “Just put it on my tab against your debt to me for the ice axe.” I was confused, but decided to straighten that out with him later. Mostly I was just hissing over the extra expense – regardless of who was paying for it. To have to incur an extra $50 cost, simply because you can’t get out of the house on time seems really stupid.
We got to Horseshoe Bay with about 15 minutes to spare. I went to the Subway to pick up dinner, while Graham went to figure out where we had to meet the water taxi, which turned out to be on the government wharf. He checked in with me at the Subway, then headed off while I used the can. I caught up to him, and we waited together on the wharf. At about 18:10, I turned on my phone to find the number for the water taxi, and found a voice mail explaining that the 18:00 run doesn’t start until June 6th. Great.
Graham and I saw a water safari boat pulling in, and he went over to their registration and gift shop to see if they had a boat available to take us across for the same $25/person we were going to pay the water taxi. They agreed, and he signalled for me to join him.
Turin, the ferryman, was a nice young chap a few years older than me, and he took us out to a very trim looking speed boat, which didn’t start. As he explained to us, a small group co-owned the boat, and so someone had not put it away properly and the battery had died. The space around the terminals was too cramped for him to get a good grip with his alligator clips to give it a jump. He told us to wait at the end of the dock, and he’d bring around another boat.
The second boat was a much smaller, and less well-maintained craft than the first, as the leather on the seats was cracking, but it was sound, it started, and it quickly sped us across the water.
Leaving Horseshoe Bay
Subsequently we made landfall at Halkett Bay around 19:30, only a bit behind schedule, as a fine drizzle began to fall. Graham prepared the form and the money for the Halkett Bay campsite and put it into the lockbox, while I used a bush. Graham then used the outhouse, before we went to explore. We settled on a little open meadow with a log at one end. We sat down together near a sheltering cedar that kept the worst of the wet off of us while we devoured our subs, then we set up our first Merry Meadow campsite, cached the food, and hunkered down for the evening.
Once in our respective sleeping bags, in our respective shelters, we each read aloud one chapter from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, which was the novel we had settled on to read through on our hikes.
Thereafter, we slept.
Thursday, May 31st
Graham and my shelters at Merry Meadow Campsite
In the morning, it was raining and Graham was snoring. I sang softly to wake him up, and then when that didn’t work, sang the song over again a bit louder, which did. It was an old camp wake-up song we used to sing all the time during morning flags.
Way up in the sky, the little birds fly, while down in the nest, the little birds rest.
With a wing to the right,
and a wing to the left, the sweet little birdies, sleep all through the night.
When the bright sun comes up,
the dew falls away, “Good morning, good morning!” the little birds say. Good morning to you, good morning to you! We’re all in our places, with bright shining faces, Good morning, good morning to you!
This reminds me that I should show Graham the associated actions that go with this song at some point. Looking at it now, it occurs to me that the “Good morning to you, good morning to you!” part is meant as something similar to the Sign of Peace section in his Catholic masses.
Anyway, Graham was awake and startled and delighted by the little song.
Graham went for his morning walk, and I accidentally noted he was only wearing the bottom half of his bugsuit as he left (from the back). He returned with the bear vault, but he couldn’t remember where the Ursack was, or even identify the markers I’d left on the trail near it.
I went for my morning walk, and retrieved the Ursack; it was right where I’d left it, quite undisturbed, and so were my markers.
Once back, I divvied up a substantial GORP breakfast for us. This included some of the nut and fruit mixtures (which I was keeping separate until eating, because of the water content difference in the dried fruit), some biltong, and some dried nori. Graham felt that the proportions were a bit too large, so I adjusted thereafter.
I got up, and packed. Graham started puttering through his gear. He tried to get his umbrella fixed, and was also fixing something else which I forgot. Eventually he tasked me with taking over the umbrella, and I got it a bit farther along for him. In the meantime, I walked down to the shore (it was now quite low tide) and went to see what I could see. The tide was so low, that I could quite comfortably walk out to the two small islands off the main headland.
Recursive Islands in Halkett Bay
Graham came down and joined me, and we walked about together. He asked me if, before we leave the area, did I want to swim. The rain had stopped, and the day was starting to warm up a bit, so I said I did. I went in with my top and bottoms, and then took them off. Graham carried my clothing around the first of the little islands, while I swam all the way around it back into the bay, and then turned around while I emerged and got dressed again.
We walked along the beach for a bit, trying to find another way up, but eventually went back to the stream. Graham was complaining that his pants needed a belt, and I agreed – teasing him about plumber’s crack.
Graham and I walked back to our meadow, and he continued to work on things, meanwhile I rinsed out some of my clothing, and adjusted the layers I was wearing. I actually changed my outfit around several times, and Graham still wasn’t ready to get going. I started prompting him – reminding him that I was not fully dry from my dip in the sea, and if we didn’t start moving soon, I was going to chill down dangerously.
Graham working on his broken umbrella
We finally, officially, broke camp around noon, and started down the trail. At the first fork, Graham diverted to look at a campsite. At the back of the campsite, there turned out to be more trail, so we wound up following it until it abruptly ended with a cliff rising on one side, and another cliff dropping to the beach below on the other side. However, we got to see a quite lovely snail, so the detour wasn’t a total loss.
Graham holding a snail.
We backtracked until we found another well flagged but otherwise non-existent trail through some quick growing ferns, heading in roughly the right direction, and set off towards Mount Artaban again. We came out near a fast flowing stream, and decided to break for a late lunch.
We made one of the two porridge types I had brought with us to try. Graham seemed a bit upset that I didn’t have any instructions for it, I was rather trying to point out that it was porridge – boil some water, add the grains, cozy it and let it stand for a bit with some of the dried fruit, and see what you wind up with.
While our porridge was cozying, Graham disappeared into the bush to give himself a thorough sponge bath, by the time he was done, the porridge was ready, and I was one line away from completing my first sonnet of the trip.
Sonnet 32: Gambier Glimpse
How fragrant Your verdant forests, oh Lord,
How soft the light, how brilliant the birdsong How fast your ferns unfurl to stretch along, By your Grace, how could anyone be bored?
Streams strewn through gentle dappled glades do flow,
Dew drips down from the canopy above, And everywhere round one can know Your love, As loose leaf litter slips and skids below.
A chance to pause along one’s life journey
A chance to reflect on Your creation A chance to simply be alone with Thee
Patience comes to those that do not hurry,
as You fill us with appreciation, for the bountiful beauty of a tree.
We ate our porridge, and set off again. The trail lead us out onto a road, which doubled back onto a private drive for a bit, before climbing steeply over a rocky hill, which reminded me a bit of the climb to the look-out point from Potlatch. We made the summit, and stopped to rest against some mossy boulders. A five-minute rest stop, turned into a twenty-minute nap, with my head cradled in his shoulder. It was very comfortable. Eventually I started to chill, and woke him up, and we set off.
The trail did indeed lead downhill again, and at first we were confused. We’d been following signs that said, “Mount Artaban Trail” thisaway, so was that hill we just climbed it? Apparently not.
We stopped by a stream on the proper start of the Mount Artaban trail to make dinner. Graham couldn’t get his gas stove to work properly, part of it seemed to be clogged so that the flame was shooting out of the oxygen holes, instead through the burner at the top. Eventually he closed it down and declared a cold meal instead. All the wood around us was far too damp to try out his twig stove.
I doled out more GORP; we both used the bushes and washed up the dishes, and headed up the trail.
Now on the side of a mountain, we had to go quite a ways off the trail to find a level spot to make camp. However, we found a bit of prime real estate between a triangle of logs, and set up our Triangle Grove stealth camp. The light was fading fast, and it was quite dark by the time we were fully set-up. Graham cached the food, we read from Narnia, and slept.
Friday, June 1st
In the morning, it was raining and Graham was snoring. Are you noticing a trend, yet? We got up and packed down and headed out around, I think, 10:00, breaking our fast with GORP again.
We wore our ponchos over our packs as we set out. It took us a bit of stumbling around to find the trail partly, it turned out, because the trail had become a small stream overnight. While trying to get back on it, I came down wrong on my right ankle and twisted it.
Once back on the trail, our road was clear, steady, and steep. I was starting to experience a problem where heading too sharply uphill stressed my
kegels enough that it felt like I had to pee the entire time. If I stopped moving, the sensation would lessen, but start right back up once I got moving again. It was annoying, but I didn’t really know what I could do about it.
On a relatively flat area, we called a break, and I lead us through our morning stretches, which I started to develop over the course of the trip. Mostly, I started to remember to work through all the muscle groups, head to foot, so that I wouldn’t forget to include them.
After stretching, we rested for a short bit, and then set off again. It was a long, somewhat gruelling uphill hike through achingly gorgeous forest. Part of the trail wound through a wide gorge that must have been a fairly substantial river at some point, but was now no more than a trickle through huge, jumbled squared off rocks. Just gaining the elevation into this gorge, I went over on my ankle again and it started hurting, so I called a halt and got out my tensor bandage. A short ways further, we stopped to refill our water, and when we set out again, I remembered to try tying in our ponchos with the elastic in the back hem provided for this purpose.
Graham didn’t know his had such an elastic, and was delighted with the combination pack cover and monk’s robe produced. In this mode, we were well protected from both wind and rain, and would no longer require a separate windbreaker layer.
The very last part was a scramble up onto some bluffs at the top. Just before the final ascent, we had another rest, leaning into each other, then we scrambled partway up the bluff and paused at the sign announcing Mount Artaban.
Graham and I pose in front of the Mount Artaban summit sign.
The top of the mountain was rocks covered patchily by moss, scrub brush and wildflowers and it was very windy. The cloud we had been hiking through over the past hour tore apart in wisps and reformed around us. We hunkered down in a small lee, out of as much of the wind as possible, and had GORP and powdered milk with brown sugar for lunch.
After we ate, we said a rosary together, alternating with one another over who chose the intention before each decade.
As we finished the rosary, the last of the cloud burned off enough that we were able to see some of the promised and fabled view, and we both felt that He had heard us, and revealed for us His reward for our climb and service.
View from the summit of Mount Artaban, Graham’s pack in foreground.
The wind picked up, and we still had a long climb down ahead of us, so we packed up and headed back down the other side. Overall, it was about the same going down that side, as going up the side we went up, but I still think I’d rather ascend the way we did.
The climb down was nearly more beautiful than the climb up, and though the way was treacherous, and we had to be cautious not to slip, we both felt the pervading peace of the deep, damp forest calming and caring for us. Partway down I, who was most often in the lead, spotted a small green frog, and when I pointed it out to Graham, he was so surprised that he lost his footing and sat down suddenly with a thump. Then we both just stayed there, watching the frog, not moving, not breathing, as it sat and hopped its way around some moss on a rock face. Graham said the water droplets in the moss were like emeralds.
A green frog on moss.
A bit further down, and we paused after a difficult section for a water break, and to change layers. While we were sitting there, I saw something scuffling on the other side of the little river cut through we’d been following, gradually I realized it was a little brown ball of a mouse forging through the equally brown dead leaf litter. I got Graham to see it, too, and we followed it with our eyes as it jumped and scurried up the dry bed on some complicated patrol beat of its own devising. I felt I could watch that tiny mouse going about its day for hours.We set off again, him hanging back for a moment, while I went on ahead for the same reason, and then rejoined each other. This was the system we worked out for modesty, and with one notable exception, we were never far enough from each other for it to really be a problem.
Near where we saw the mouse.
The trail wound down and down, and disappeared through ferns for a bit, and over more rocky bits, and eventually joined up with a somewhat wider trail by a fairly substantial stream. We stopped to replenish our water, and check our shoes and socks
A small waterfall at which I replenished our water.
Throughout the day, I noticed Graham and I sitting physically closer and closer to each other, often leaning comfortably into one another, or hugging while resting. The forest suited him, and made him more able to be at his ease. For my part, I was so happy with each new discovery along the trail, every slug and snail, every rock and tree that I had to keep checking myself to see if I were dreaming or might burst. Over and over again I thought – this is really exciting, how could anyone find hiking dull?
It had been so many years since I’d done any really serious mundane hiking or camping, and the minimalist system made it so much easier, while still being comfortable. For the most part, I was warmer, drier, less in pain, and generally happier than on any previous trip (excluding Keats Island, of course)
Graham’s own enthusiasm was infectious – I started scanning harder for fungus and slugs, just to hear his exclamation of delight when they were pointed out to him. Through his eyes, every leaf and log became a fresh marvel.
As I was most often in front, after every difficult bit, I’d turn to lend Graham a hand over it. We both found the brief contact warming, in a reassuring way. He questioned if always turning to help was adding stress to me having to torc my torso in the pack; I’d never really thought about it before. I realized I’d spent 20 years hiking with a woman, my grandmother Maria, in her 70s and 80s, and it was simply instinct to me, and part of what one did on a hike with a partner. I told Graham I was also doing it to lengthen the longevity of his hiking days – I don’t intend this summer to be our only trips together. Also, it helps to regulate the pace, and provides natural opportunities to check in and check back with your partner, instead of ploughing on ahead, to find yourself at the top, and your partner still stymied by the first obstacle at the bottom.
We set off again, continued down, forded the same stream later on, crossed through a field full of tall grasses and dwarf weed alder trees, and came out onto the road at the bottom of the trail. We victory hugged, and rested for a bit before walking down the road arm-in-arm until we came into Brigade Bay.
What we’d found turned out to be the access road to a private dock, with a public boat launch on the other side. I stripped down and dove off the boat launch, Graham, of course, never peaked. He stood perched on the edge of the public dock, as he said, gathering courage. I laughed at him and told him to pray or something, “What is the patron saint of ball shrinkage?” He gave me sort of a withering look at that, and dove in. He surfaced, “Alright – nerves gathered,” and scrambled out.
I swam around the rock breakwater into the private dock area, borrowed the back of someone’s boat and hauled myself out of the water. Again, I was only wearing running shoes. I walked up the ramp, and discovered to my dismay that there was a camlock on this side as well, so I worked myself around the fence back onto the road.
I got dressed, and did some laundry in the ocean. The grooves in the pavement of the boat launch ramp were like a washing board. Meanwhile, Graham started fiddling with his twig stove. He managed to heat the peas that had been soaking since the other gas stove broke the night before, but the rice didn’t really cook. We ended up with two portions of overly salty sludge, as a result of both stove failure and my seasoning experiments.
Graham fiddles with his twig stove.
After several hours, during which I also lit my Shabbat candles, in disgust Graham took the dishes down to the water to rinse. The lid bounced out of my enamel pot, and rolled into the water. It was now a few hours lower tide than when I’d had my swim. Graham held his hat to his head and moaned in dismay. I was already running up to him, stripping off again as I went. I asked if he could see the lid, and he said he could, but it was about four feet down. I told him not to turn around, and dove past him. I surfaced, got a fix on the lid, and dove.
Shabbat candles with Brigade Bay as backdrop.
My hand scrabbled around and grabbed the fortunately brilliantly blue enamelled lid. Graham moved up the launch, and then noticed people unloading. As I hauled myself out of the water, he tried to stand with his back to me, in front of me, blocking the other people’s view of me. I told him not to bother, and he went to get my shammy, and managed to get it to me, all without looking. (His acrobatics where modesty is concerned is quite impressive.)
I towelled down, and put my clothes back on. Graham was talking to an older woman who I think was dropping some others off. He was explaining about the pot lid in somewhat broken, stuttering English, “I dropped the lid, and we had to dive for it. That is her, I mean. I didn’t go in. But she did and…” the woman laughed and said she could see for herself I’d gone in, as Graham in her opinion didn’t look wet enough to have just come up. She cast me a look I interpreted as a comradely, “Men!” meaning that they get into trouble, and the level-headed woman have to bail them out.
Perhaps it’s just the usual islands folk etiquette, or perhaps our pot lid and failed stove story endeared us to her, but she decided to give us a lift as far as the Lost Lake trailhead, which was where we were going next.
We carefully put the uneaten sludge upright in an outside pocket of my pack, and put the packs in the bed of her truck, which had no tailgate, and threw in the staff and the ice axe after it. She pointed out one of us should be in the bed of the truck to make sure our stuff didn’t slide out. Graham had one foot on the bumper, but I volunteered, and he let me.
I sat horizontally across the bed, with my feet braced against the opposite wall, and found a rope that was tied across holding a bin she had back there in place, and we set off. All I could think was that this was how
Rick Hansen, the Man in Motion, had wound up in a wheelchair in the first place – he’d been sitting on the edge of a truck bed, and fallen off backwards when it went over a bump.
It was a short five-minute trip. Graham helped me get our gear out of the back, and gave me a hand down. He listened to the directions from the woman, and we set off. Graham was motoring up the trail at a pretty fast clip, I could tell he was angry and upset about the stoves, and wasting so much time, and now it getting dark fast.
We came to the private road, and spent some time trying to figure out what the woman had meant. We went along the road a ways, finding it very muddy in sections, and eventually, to our mutual relief, found the bridge she had mentioned to us. From there the Lost Lake trailhead was easy to find. We went up the trail for a short bit, and then stopped to think. We realized the stream the bridge had crossed might be our best opportunity to refill our water for a while.
We went back down, on the way he hung back and I went ahead again. Once we were reunited, I told Graham I would wait at the trailhead. There was a sign on a log, partly obscured by the vegetation, and a bit of an open space where the trail ducked in, but I was afraid if we both went to the stream, we’d miss it again on the way back. We set down all the gear in the open space, and he went and got water. We ate the sludge, and some milk to rinse the rest of the sludge down, and did dishes, and then had to get more water and by that time it was getting really quite late.
We staggered back up the trail, up the creek bed, hoping that this was still the trail we were following in the dark, and not just getting ourselves more lost. I was in front with my headlamp, and Graham was stumbling along behind trying to follow me and it.
Once we got past the creek bed part, we were on what seemed to be a more normal sort of trail, and the trees were far apart with ferns growing in the undergrowth. I thought I saw a clearing off to the left, and found there was a little side trail that went along, then opened into a small, oblong clearing parallel to the trail, and then another side trail cutting back to the main one. There seemed to be far fewer ferns in this patch of real estate, than what else we’d seen, and it was much too late to fuss.
I called Graham over to me, we had a look through the oblong, and made a decision. I started setting up the Fern Grove steal camp, with Graham behind me, slightly upslope. Once I was done, I went for my walk and to cache the food. It was so late, that was the only night we didn’t read Narnia. I was asleep before Graham was finished his nightly putter.
Saturday, June 2nd
Graham poses ‘playgirl’ style in our Fern Grove stealth camp.
Curiously enough, it wasn’t raining, and Graham was already partly awake. He indicated that he would have to use the ice axe soon, but that, “it wasn’t that urgent yet.” It took me a moment before I understood in which sense he wished to use it, as so far this had not come up on our trip together. I went for my morning walk, putting the tensor back on as a precaution, even though the ankle was probably now fine, and retrieved the food, leaving my fern sign up for him to see where I’d put things when we went by there later. I divvied up the food, but Graham decided to take his morning walk before eating.
When he didn’t return for a lengthy time, I gather the urge had overcome him, perhaps more suddenly than he had planned. I did call out to see if he was OK, and to offer my assistance (I had some notion to moving water and soap closer to his reach), but he couldn’t quite hear me, and told me to stay put. Presently he returned, joking that, “Where’s a broad leaf maple when you want one?”
As per our pre-trip discussions, we had not brought any TP, and were going to rely on what the forest could provide in terms of wiping materials (salal and broad leaf maple being the most popular and numerous for our area) and a finishing wet wash with soap and water.
Graham came into our grove, and I immediately handed him soap and water, helping to fish the soap out of its baggie, and directing the water flow for him. He seemed faintly embarrassed about the whole thing. It had occurred to me that frequently through the trip, we’d been playing an odd sort of game of chicken with each other, each not wanting to inconvenience the other, we’d wait until the last moment to see if the other person would call for a break first, or be the first one to have to deal with internal plumbing issues. I knew Graham was pretty forthright with things, but he also didn’t want to need help. I think I surprised him several times with how coolly and effortlessly I stepped in and took up the slack. Although, in this particular instance, I was mentally chiding him for not taking soap and water on his walk anyway.
We packed down, and got going. Graham explained that my fern sign now pointed to a very different sort of treasure, which now that the ice axe was no longer supporting my shelter, he could go and bury properly. He disappeared into the bush, and once he returned, I again helped him to wash his hands, and then the head of the ice axe. As he said, there had been no direct contact, but it had gotten dirt through its holes, and it’s just good policy to be thorough.
We started up the trail. I lead off, and went through the morning blessings we usually do in shul, pause to bow at each, “Baruch attah ad-nai.” I then read to him the English commentary that explained how each blessing was meant to correspond to an action upon waking.
We stopped to do our morning stretches, and were passed by a small troop of hikers bound for the lake. They gave us some directions, and headed on. We finished refilling our water, and headed up as well.
Graham refilling our water on the Lost Lake trail.
There seemed to be a lot more up and down over small hills on the way to Lost Lake, but it was a quite pleasant hike, and a good Sabbath overall. We saw many giant slugs, and some large deadfall as well.
Graham poses for scale in front of the root ball of an enormous downed tree on the Lost Lake trail.
At last the trail became skunk cabbage marsh, and opened out into a large, marshy lake which looked quite inviting. We put our stuff down with the other hikers, and I took everything out to dry and air.
The people gave us some advice about where to find a flat spot to camp, and we set off with only our staff and ice axe to feel around off the trail. We found one area we assumed was the one they met, which we didn’t much care for, and a second area higher up that we thought was workable.
Returning to the lake, Graham followed one man’s instruction about a toilet sign in the woods, which lead to a treasure chest, that turned out to be a pit toilet.
After everyone else left, it was my turn, but I wanted to try a cat hole purely so that I would learn something about my own technique. Graham teased me about this choice, “What? Quickthorne pass up the opportunity to investigate a treasure chest in the woods!” “It can’t possibly contain anything valuable, it doesn’t have a lock on it.” I responded, haughtily.
I found a nice little V shaped space between two logs, dug my hole, and found I could sit on the narrow end of the V with my legs almost crossed and be quite comfortable with the view of the lake through the scant tree cover below me. I was a bit constipated, and presently began to get bored. Partly to pass the time, and partly recalling Jardine’s advice to remove surface dirt and oils before contaminating natural water courses, I gave myself a sponge bath with the shammy, soap and water, while my bottom half continued with the original idea. When my bowels were empty, I washed that part as well and then, again only wearing runners, moved my clothes down to the lakeside trail, and moved through the swamp looking for an easy access point into the lake. I found a log jutting out past the mud and brack at the edge, and carefully walked along it. Just as I was nearly far out enough to jump in, I slipped and came down hard on my right hip, half in the water. There didn’t seem to be anything for it, so I just fell the rest of the way into the water and started swimming back towards Graham, who was intently fussing over his twig stove again.
I swam for a bit, teasing Graham to join me, but he was concentrating on his stove. I got out, dried off, and did some laundry. When Graham next looked up, he found the evergreen shrubs around the lake festooned with drying laundry.
The twig stove would not go, and he gave it up and switched over to cleaning his little gas stove instead. He managed to get it working, and we hurriedly boiled up the second pot of porridge. At this point, it was around 16:00, so we decided to just make one large dinner meal. The porridge was cozyed, and we decided to leave it to have as our breakfast.
We wound up cooking the whole wheat spaghetti I had brought in two batches, with two different mixes of basically pesto, which I’d been referring to as Pesto Passion. I had made a small spice kit out of plastic film canisters, and had several different types of oil infusions. “Is that garlic?” Graham asked, nose twitching. I smiled as I responded, “Yes, actually, it’s garlic in Israeli olive oil, another treat I picked up in Israel.”
Graham was ravenous by the time the first batch was done. I laughed at how much he was salivating, and somewhat offended he said, “Can you blame me? I’m only human!”
We wolfed down the pasta, sharing the bear vault’s lid as a platter, and alternating bites between us. We bantered back and forth about that scene from The Lady and the Tramp. The good, hot, hearty food cheered us, and eating it from the same plate seemed to cement our bond as a team in triumph against difficulties.
Graham scarfs speghetti.
After dinner, we had skim milk with brown sugar, and s’mores. Graham used the treasure chest, and I thought I’d be able to but it didn’t amount to much. As we prepared to moved our stuff back to the forest proper, Graham said something about me going first, to help find the area we’d agreed on, and then he stopped abruptly and covered his face. “I’m starting to depend on you!” he realized. I mumbled something about trying to be a very dependable person, but it made me very happy.
Graham is first and foremost an independent; he’s lived alone since he moved out of his parents place during university, and he’s very much used to doing for himself. He knows his own weaknesses, and has just worked around them as best he can. Parts of this trip were a bit of a revelation, because he’d never had those weaknesses so effortlessly compensated for, and the outcome as I said before, was a faint taint of embarrassment that he had any weaknesses requiring compensation for in the first place. The thing that amused me – is I felt exactly the same way. There were things, mostly related to being female, that made me worry about slowing him up, or being too this or too that, and he just effortlessly supported me, and neither of us complained or judged. He kept thanking me for my patience – but I think we were equally overjoyed by the patience and the understanding of the other.
We reached the afore mentioned area, and set up our Bog Cliff stealth camp.
Graham and my shelters at Bog Cliff stealth camp.
This time we experimented with laundry lines, and Graham came up with a good suggestion, so I changed mine around to suit.
My laundry line, adjusted per Graham’s suggestion.
I scrambled up the slope above for my evening walk, and to cache our food, and Graham told me not to turn around as he quickly did his.
I found the woods somewhat frustrating, as everything was moss covered and rotting, and crumbled at the lightest touch. Not much chance of wedging the bear vault very securely. I did the best I could and returned to camp.
We read some Narnia to each other, and went to sleep.
Sunday June 10th
In the morning it was raining, and Graham was snoring. He had given me his watch, in an effort for at least one of us to be woken by it. I sang the wake-up song to him, and he said that it was a much more pleasant way to be woken up than the insistent beep of the alarm.
Graham crawled out of his bag for a quick morning walk to the edge of the encampment, but the sound of the creek and the rain drowned out his own noise.
I did notice, however, that I was straining to listen for it. In general, my Intentions towards him did not shift in the wrong direction one iota the entire trip but I am, as Graham insisted of himself a few times, only human.
Every time Graham disappeared into the woods for a short spell, or hung back on our walks, I got a brief spurt of excitement – more related to my fetish in that area, and Graham being male, than anything to do with Graham directly. I was also aware of my libido somewhat steadily rising as the trip progressed, and I caught myself caressing the handle of the ice axe once or twice, drifting into impure thoughts. I had briefly considered doing something about it during my sponge bath over my hole the day before, but I pushed the thought aside.
Predominately out of respect for Graham, our friendship, and perhaps secondarily his own beliefs, I had made the decision not to do anything sexual while on the trip with him. The Challenge was over, and I hadn’t really gone back to masturbating after it ended, aware that starting and stopping around our camping trips would probably get more confusing than simply abstaining through the summer. The only real difference between being on the Challenge, and off it, is that I have relaxed the prohibition on finishing myself after sex.
Anyway, as I’d explained to Graham in our pre-camping discussions, I was a bit heightened but otherwise fine.
When I turned over to inspect my encampment, I found a large pool of water hanging over my head, because I’d anchored to the stumps and they weren’t far enough apart.
My tarp bulging with rain water.
I went up the slope for my morning walk and to retrieve the food, I gave Graham the porridge can to start eating, and found that I had to go throw up phlegm. I got off fairly light, but felt a little unsettled and vulnerable afterwards. I wanted to ask Graham to hold me, but wasn’t sure how to phrase the question. I asked if I could sit with him for a bit, and he consented, and we sat back to back, propping each other up while he ate. I said something to the effect that I just really needed some contact. I’m always fine after I throw up, but it is a bit of stress on the body.
Graham understood, and as he was done with his half of the porridge, we switched around, and wound up the closest to spooning during the entire trip. He was still in his sleeping bag, and propped up on one elbow, while I was fully dressed and outside the bag with his arm around me.
We stayed that way chatting a bit, and I made the good decision to move and start packing up as soon as I felt sufficiently comforted.
It was a slow start to the morning – and for the first and only time, Graham nearly beat me to be packed up and ready to move before I was, except that once he had everything ready, he realized he was missing his mitts. He had to dump his bag and start all over again. One mitt proved to be at the very bottom of the pack, the other mitt turned out to be in the bottom of his sleeping bag.
At last we were set and started out. We got as far as Lost Lake. We stopped for a moment, and Graham raised the question of whether we wanted to take one last crack at the treasure chest before we left, and that seemed a sensible plan. I encouraged him to take first shift, and while he was gone, I noticed the drift wood log I was sitting on was carved all over with the initials of people who had visited. Normally I don’t really hold with the trend of carving my initials all over the place, especially not into living wood, but on this occasion I thought it would be appropriate. By the time Graham got back, I’d carved MF + GD ’12 into the wood.
I took my turn, and told him to get out the porridge while I was gone (meaning he had to dump his pack yet again) because I thought I’d be in a better place to eat it on my return.
While I was gone, Graham fixed up the ‘2’ in my ’12, and also added a beautiful little six-pointed star over my ‘+’ sign, which he figured could just as easily be a Christian Cross. I liked the addition – it was both a symbol of unity between our two faiths, and it was also the Star of Bethlehem. Also, the Jewish star is the Star of King David, and Graham is also a Davidson. (As, I suppose, Jesus himself was, also)
Graham and my initials carved in the driftwood log.
We were finally properly underway – again around 11:30. As advertised the trail was heavily flagged, but otherwise non-existent. I would have thought those two things mutually exclusive, if I hadn’t walked it for myself. However, for the most part we were able to stumble along between the teasing hints of flagging tape and all was well.
That is until, unwittingly, we came to the one major junction of the trail. We stopped to rest, and Graham elected to hang back, while I went on ahead again, as per our agreed upon system. Unfortunately, I went on ahead in the direction I thought we were traveling, and when he came up to follow, he took the junction. When I turned around to tell him he could rejoin me, he wasn’t there.
Fortunately, it only took a bit of backtracking to find where he was standing just across a small creek from the junction verifying as best he could with the map that we wanted that turn off. It took a bit of explaining to figure out what had happened.
It was only a slight miscalculation, but it could have been a lot worse. However, by that time, we had a pretty good idea of how far to space ourselves from each other to be both comfortably modest, and still safely within earshot and helping range.
We took the fork, and shortly reached the start of the last hour-long scramble up to the lake itself. Before our ascent we stopped, had a GORP and biltong snack, and generally rested and had some water. I was sitting up on a small rock, and he was sitting on the ground so that for once I was taller than him. He joked about it, and I said, “It is improper to sit higher than the queen.” He laughed and told me, “Good attitude”. On impulse, once we got started again, I kissed the top of his head.
The way was exceptionally steep, as steep as Mount Artaban had been in places, and my kegels bothered me all the way up. Once we crested a rise, I threw down my pack to rest, and curled my legs up under me; all I wanted was to have those particular muscles contracted again. Graham came up and asked if I had a knee for him, I responded, “Sure!” and he flopped down and put his head on my knees. He was happy for a few minutes, and then worried if my knees were really OK like that, and I assured him they were. He knew about my kegel troubles by this point, and expressed the concern that he not add to my troubles. I again reassured him, and added that I would try and hang back myself once we started a bit.
It wouldn’t really help, but at least then I’d know for sure the sensation is in the muscles, and not really my bladder protesting urgently.
He started off, and presently I followed. He turned out to be sitting on a log a bit further along and around a bend in the trail than I expected. It bothered me slightly – because he was skirting an unsafe range of me, but no harm no foul.
The next section of the trail wound through some very narrow gaps in the trees, and then abruptly dropped onto a gravel road which led straight on to Gambier Lake, and the three official campsites.
The campsite nearest the water had two packs resting in it, and the small boat the description said was available for public use was out on the water. While waiting for the boat to come back, Graham and I explored the area to get the lay of the land, and scope out somewhere to camp later.
There were more toilet signs, and eventually we spotted one treasure chest in far worse repair than the one we had frequented at Lost lake.
We found a nice place to camp on the far side of the stream just behind the last official campsite, and then headed back across to the main area. Graham wanted to canoe, and I wanted to swim, so we decided the order we would do things would be to swim/bathe, canoe and then make dinner. As we didn’t know the identity of the other hikers, I stripped down to my tank top and shorts. Graham was in his shorts, and for the first time I had the opportunity to see his naked torso up close. I looked at in wonderment, assessing and appraising. It was soft, no abs or pecs really, and an average amount of chest chair. He has good arms, and great legs from cycling, but not much in the middle. No real scars, nor interesting birth marks: an average torso. It inspired affection, rather than lust.
I have always known I was meant to live in a house with other people, that I would be part of a family in time. I can understand the single state, and the desire to be in it in an intellectual sense – but just who is this mid-50s man with no one to care for him as a partner all these years?
I was enjoying playing ‘wife’ to him on our trip, but now it was our last night, and the real world was looming once again. I would be heading home to my house full of light, and laughter and love, and he’d be heading home to his rice and his imaginary dragon. He is content as he is, and I have no wish to change him, save in the ways he has asked me to keep after him about (and he feels the same in reverse towards me), but…once we were home again, would he miss this? Miss the uncomplicated challenges of the forest, miss my able competency, and…miss me?
My musings were interrupted by Graham’s exclamation of delight, “There’s a fish! And another! No, wait! They’re newts! That’s what they are! My G-d, it’s full of newts! There’s a golden one! So many colours! Quick! Catch one! Oh, never mind! It’s my newt. I saw it first. I’ll get it! I’m going for the golden one!”
All at once my mental reverie was broken as the intellectual, 50-something, polymer chemist, became again the joyful boy laughing and clapping his hands as he went tearing after garter snakes in the yard behind his childhood home.
Graham waded into the water, and I reminded him to take the cross off from around his neck to save the wood from wetting. Distractedly, he pulled it off and absently handed it back to me. I carefully tucked it into the zippered pocket of his shirt lying on the little log and slat board wharf.
He darted into the disturbed silt and came up with his prize. “Where’s your camera?” I laughed at him and said, “Graham – I don’t usually take my camera with me swimming!” He was all excited and pushed the fire-bellied newt into my hands. I told him calmly where my camera was, and he hopped off to get it. Meanwhile, I entertained the frustrated amphibian, squeezing water from my shammy over it at intervals. Graham returned, and we took some candids of the little creature before allowing it to rejoin its brethren in the water.
Graham holding the newt
After that, I walked out to the end of the log and prepared to dive in the water, but my footing slipped as I pushed off from the dive, though I wound up in the water all the same.
The boat came in while Graham was screwing his courage to the sticking place, and turned out to be a blue plastic little tub containing two women, so I told Graham I was taking my clothing off. “I don’t think you’ll be swimming that close to me, eh?” “I’m not going to get anywhere near you! I’m just going to dunk in here!” He did so, and scrambled out immediately. I laughed, and he muttered some vaguely unpleasant words about crazy water dryads. I laughed again and languished in the water for a bit, while he towelled down and exchanged news with the other women.
I swam back to the log, and realized a flaw in my plan. My clean[er] and dry clothes were back by our bags, the clothes I had been wearing were wet. My options were to put the wet clothes back on, have Graham fetch my clothes, or simply streak back to our camp. I elected for the latter, of course. Graham sort of pushed himself into the salal hedge to give me as much room to pass, and he looked so much like a little kid playing at ‘it’ during some strange game of hide and seek. I went past him, ignoring the impulse to do something naughty, like brush my bare breasts up against his back or something and scampered off to change. I put on the slightly damp shirt I’d washed the day before, and a bunch of other layers. I went back to the wharf to try and sun myself while Graham finished getting ready to go canoeing.
He came back bundled up quite tightly, and launched the boat. There was only one paddle, but the women had fashioned a second one out of a long stick and a small BBQ grill with some salal leaves tucked between the bars of the grill which worked reasonably well.
We set off, and found the woman in their encampment further down the lake and showed them how well we were doing. They were very impressed with Graham’s canoeing skills, and frankly so was I. I knew he enjoyed canoeing, and I had learned how to canoe in camp, but he was quite the natural, and we scuttled along smoothly. Just past the women we spotted something yellow on the shore – it was the other paddle! We made for it and Graham, who had moved to the bow in the meanwhile to give me a chance to try steering from the stern, went over the bow to fetch it.
Graham in the boat
He balanced on a log for a moment, and then overbalanced and stepped down abruptly into the water up to his thighs. He scrambled out, got the paddle, and we moved him back into the boat. He was a bit annoyed about going in the cold water again.
With two paddles our progress was even better, and once I got into a kneeling position, I was able to get enough leverage to have a fairly even stroke.
Graham settled into the routine of paddling quickly, and abruptly launched into a lusty rendition of a French canoeing song, which I could tell was about a girl, but not much else. He explained the gist of it, and I think I vaguely recall he’s sang it and explained it before.
Me in the boat.
We made landfall, and headed back to our stuff. The exercize had been warming, but as the sunlight faded, I started to get chilled again. I changed out of anything wet, and put everything on that was dry and we started preparing dinner. Graham made the mushroom tortellini for Mushroom Madness, and I prepared the mushroom sauce with the rest of the shitake mushrooms.
While I worked, I started shivering somewhat uncontrollably. Once food was ready, we ate, and though we had the option to eat from two containers this time, we still chose to eat from the bear vault lid again. Graham wound up feeding me a few bites when he was scooping up the last of the sauce.
The food helped, but I continued to shiver. I started to say I wished I could stop shivering, then checked myself, and rephrased it that I wished I could warm up. If you stop shivering and are hypothermic, it means you’re headed into a worse phase, and death.
Graham came over to hold me to try and warm me. As we shifted around, I giggled and reminded him that we had had a discussion about deliberately faking or causing hypothermia for the purpose of…“Yes, we did,” he said in that slow tone he uses when he’s being particularly patient with me.
We wound up in an uncomfortable position and then we tried switching around. I hauled out my ridge rest foamy, and we sat on the ground on that and cuddled together. Five minutes of cuddling, and Graham was lightly dozing again. I watched him sleep for a few minutes, but knew if he stayed that way he’d wake up stiff and chilled, so I woke him up. He was stiff anyway, and had to wait for his legs to uncramp. He asked if I was better, and I said I was. He said he was still feeling heat coming from me, so I couldn’t be too bad yet.
We drew apart, and immediately we both started shivering uncontrollably. We tried to start packing up, and I realized we hadn’t eaten our s’mores. We sat back down, and being closer helped, but we were still shivering. I stopped suddenly and said, “No, we need to fix this now.” I pulled my sleeping bag out, unzipped it as fully as the mummy bag allowed, and draped it over us. Under it, we ate the s’mores, and both stopped shivering as we warmed.
Thereafter we were OK to pack up and move around more. We talked about it, and realized the
katabatic air Jardine mentioned – cold air falling as the temperature falls at night, and collects in natural basins, which we were in around the lake, and also the elevation change. I told Graham about a lot of my training with first aid, and realized that he had been probably borderline chilled when he came to cuddle me in the first place, and I chilled him further.
As I explained, there was a theory shift that occurred partway through my training. Prior to, people believed that if someone was hypothermic, you should get in a sleeping bag naked with them to conserve body heat, and try to warm them. Afterwards, it was realized that if you do that, the hypothermic person can actually cool the healthy person down enough to drop their core temperature as well, and then you have two naked dead bodies by exposure in a sleeping bag, instead of one.
The best advice for hypothermia is to try and heat the person slowly – lots of warm, dry layers if you have them, build a small fire, and feed them slightly warmer than luke warm liquids.
Depending on how bad they are, room temperature, or even slightly cool liquids are best. The critical thing is not to shock them with a drink too many degrees above their core. Never serve someone hypothermic a piping hot cup, start with lower temperature liquids, and increase as they warm.
Also, things like caffeine, alcohol and capsicum (chillis) are bad – they artificially warm you, but don’t stimulate the body to produce more of its own heat. If you have nothing else, warm up some plain water. They also say you shouldn’t try to rub or massage the limbs, again the friction creates a temporary, artificial warmth, but it doesn’t really stimulate the system. It can even have the opposite effect of tricking the body into thinking it’s warmer than it is from the friction, so it does even less to help itself.
Anyway, the sleeping bag did the trick, and then we were up and moving again enough to stimulate ourselves – that’s the other trick, try to get and keep the hypothermic person moving. If they’re sleepy and sluggish and fall asleep, they can die.
Graham got water for dishes, and I did dishes. He went to rinse the basin, and I finished packing my bag. I looked around, and then started packing his bag. Even after both bags, I still had ten minutes to wait for him. When he came back, he did the cutest ever double take when he realized his bag was packed for him and, with me laughing, we quickly set out to our chosen Raging River stealth camp, above the stream.
Graham and my shelters at Raging River steath camp.
I went for my evening walk, and cached the food. There was no real undergrowth, and very few fallen logs. I managed a spot that was OK, but still made me a bit nervous being so close to an official campground.
Graham and I read from Narnia, and then I wanted to just talk a bit while I processed having to go back home the next day. Graham referred to it as, “re-entry.”
Monday, June 4th
In the morning it wasn’t raining, and Graham was scuffling around. We realized it was just a bit past seven, probably the alarm had woken us, but not sufficiently to realize it. I gathered Graham was scuffling because he quite urgently wanted to take his morning walk, which he did. I watched him walk off aways, and then abruptly disappear over a log. I asked if he was OK, since he’d obviously tripped or fallen, and he said, “Oh, you saw that, did you?” and turned back to look at me, to make sure he was out of line of sight when he found his tree. He disappeared for a short while and then returned. I’m not sure quite what had prompted me to try and be a voyeur that time, but I was glad enough I didn’t really succeed.
I went for my walk shortly thereafter and retrieved the cached food, which was still untouched. We packed up, and it started lightly drizzling so we put on our ponchos. As we left, Graham asked if either of us wanted a crack at the nearby treasure chest. Recalling how laborious a process that had been, and how much it had delayed us leaving Lost Lake, I said I would be fine until we got to the ferry terminal.
We started out. I hadn’t eaten my breakfast GORP, and carried it with me in a bag which I started to munch as we walked. The path was a broad logging road, that started by heading moderately uphill to get us out of the basin the lake was in. Once out of the katabatic air pocket, we were both able to take off some layers and were quite comfortable the rest of the day.
About 40 minutes after leaving the lake, we came to a fork in the trail. The road we were on went straight, and there was a fork splitting off to the left. After careful consultation with his map, Graham thought we should take the left fork, which was heavily flagged.
We continued on and our hike wandered pleasantly and steeply downhill, then started going uphill again. We stopped for our morning stretches, and continued. The road continued to go down and up hill, and over small streams until it started to steeply climb, and we realized we were skirting around Mount Killam. We began to realize that if we were going to reach New Brighton, it should have happened pretty soon, and it seemed we were moving more East inland, instead of South. However, we figured we’d have to come out somewhere, and thought we’d be in West Bay when we did.
As I walked, I watched the light filtering through the trees, and the water dripping on the leaves, and I had an image in my head of how water evaporates, picks up dirt, dust, and pollutants in the air, falls to earth as rain, and is filtered as it seeps down through the layers of loam, topsoil, gravel, and peat. That the forest itself was enacting the same sort of cleansing on our physical persons – replacing the polluted air in our lungs for crisp, clean mountain air, and allowing us to sweat away the other toxins we absorb in daily life. As I looked at Graham, I also realized a reciprocal transformation occurring in my own soul. As my body purified, so did my love for him deepen and mellow, becoming the rarefied chaste form he has spoken about. Somehow, over the course of the trip, I had started to giggle less at everything I took for an innuendo. I had stopped worrying about sex, and my sexuality, and his. I started to appreciate him as a companion and as a partner, and the sexual taint with which I usually filter my experiences leeched away, as the water eventually becomes the precious, trusted fluid we had been drinking.
Graham as mountain man – love the stubble!
The trail kept going, and the further we went, and the more it became apparent we’d gone wrong somewhere, and the closer we got to the end of our trip, and the “re-entry” into civilisation, the more Graham went back into his citified self. He seemed to hunch up, both physically and emotionally, he stammered more, he moved more restlessly and nervously, and he started moving faster as he got angrier at himself for the mistake.
We followed the ridgeline around Mount Killam, and our path started going downhill again. Now we started to see water reservoirs and cisterns, and knew we must be coming down on a town on one of the bays. However, it had taken hours longer than we expected the walk to the ferry at New Brighton would take us, and what had been an idle thought of treasure chests at 09:30 when we broke camp, at 14:30 was now a desperate plea.
A water reservoir.
I told Graham that if we did not come to somewhere soon, than I would need to stop and dig a cat hole. “Ah, I understand,” he said, “Let’s get a bit further away from these water sources and then we’ll see.” We continued for another 15 minutes or so. I said something about hoping we came out somewhere soon. “Come out where?” he said. “I dunno, at a ferry or something. Use a corner store.” “There’s no stores on the island, I don’t think we’re near the ferry – we’d have to bang on a house or something…” He was getting agitated and flustered, and though his ire was over the situation in general, and not specifically meant to be targeted at me, still it was another problem he didn’t have a way to solve right then, and it was just adding to the mess. “Fine, whatever,” I said, “then I need to stop. Let’s just stop.”
We stopped. Graham abruptly switched modes, “Do you have leaves?” I pointed up at the tree overhanging us, “Broad leaf maple,” I said.
Graham for some reason decided to leave me there, and move a bit further down the trail. I found this a slightly curious choice, since obviously I was going to be moving fairly far back into the woods, and he really should have stayed with my backpack, but I let it go. I knew he was disgusted with himself over the wrong turn, and just wanted to leave me to it.
I carefully plucked four leaves from different branches of the tree, and went through my checklist: soap, shammy, water, ice axe, leaves, and headed into the bushes. As I walked, I noticed flagging tape, and was careful that I chose a spot well away from wherever the trail led.
I found a moss-covered log next to a tall tree, with a small hollow at its base between large roots. I doubted anyone would have a reason to step there or camp near there, and I thought the tree might appreciate the gift in exchange for mucking about a bit in its root system while I dug my hole. Shortly after breaking ground, I hit a large rock, which I managed to excavate. I recalled one of the internet forums on the subject had suggested covering the filled-in hole with a rolk, as a further deterrent to animals wondering if there was anything interesting to be found in the recently disturbed earth.
The space left by the rock shortened the hole creation process considerably, which was fortunate for me. I had a bit harder time finding a comfortable way to sit, but I eventually settled into a relaxed pose. The process took a while, and I was surprised by how much of that time was spent active, as opposed to passively waiting for the next push. I had clearly been delaying things a bit too long, banking too much against the hope of reaching civilization in time.
Once done, I used three of the four leaves, which worked well, then washed body parts and hands with soap and water. I turned around and, kneeling on the log, stirred in some dirt with my own by-products until it was quite well mixed. (this was recommended as a way to expose more surface area of the stuff to the bacteria in the topsoil) I did a better job of this than the first time partly because, as I said, the first batch had been made of more compact material.
I then filled in the hole, tamped it down with the head of the ice axe, rearranged dead leaves, and crowned the whole affair with my rock. I was just finishing rinsing down the ice axe head, and washing my hands again, when Graham called to me to see if I was still alive.
I told him I was just finishing, gathered my stuff, and headed back onto the road. He waved to me from his spot further along. I put things away, donned my pack and rejoined him. “Better?” he said grinning at me. “Oh, yes, I am much relieved. I’m sorry, but when I first mentioned it I was already pretty desperate.” “Yeah,” he said easily, “You were looking a little strained.” I stopped, “I’m not really sure how one looks ‘strained’, but yes I really needed to stop.” As we were on a road, we linked arms again and continued along.
The road wound down, and abruptly terminated in a public boat launch. There was a truck, but no owner, a locked dock, and boat launch ramp. That was all. Walking out onto the ramp, we could see a town laid out in the next cove over, but no clue as to which town it was.
Graham stood at the end of the ramp with his compass, map, and monocular, and I took the opportunity for a rest, threw down my pack, changed layers and generally paced about. Graham called me down to him and, when I joined him, he borrowed my shoulder to use as a make-shift tripod and balanced his monocular carefully. “I’m trying to make out that green sign over the dock over there,” he said. After a few minutes he said, “Port Graves. Well, shoot.”
Welcome to Port Graves
Port Graves was the first cove West of where we had started our adventures in Halkett Bay. We had traveled over the ridgeline of the Northern hills to get to the lakes, and now somehow we had walked nearly clear back across the island, using the Northern most part of the Southern contour, the bit just above having to jinx around all the peninsulas that stretched from the midline.
We weren’t exactly lost – at least now we knew where we were – but we weren’t very found either, and we had no hope of getting to the New Brighton ferry that afternoon. I looked at Graham’s crestfallen expression, reached up to caress the far cheek, gave him a quick peck on the other cheek, and then turned and flounced back up the trail to my pack, laughing.
Graham stands at the end of the boat launch, trying to get a reading on our location.
At times like these, I become quite practical. Never mind our commitments tonight on the mainland – let’s think realistically about the situation. If required, due to the stove disasters, we had enough of Graham’s split peas and rice concoction to last us another night at least, even two. It was 15:00, and we had to come up with a plan soon, and if we didn’t, we should find somewhere to make camp and hike back the other way tomorrow.
Graham wanted to go into Port Graves and see if we could get help or directions or something. While we were discussing things, we saw a silver speedboat leaving the dock at Port Graves, and realized it was probably a water taxi. We thought maybe we could hire a water taxi tonight in Port Graves.
We couldn’t see where the road into Port Graves was, but Graham said, “Never mind, let’s just walk along the shore.” We both donned our ponchos and set out over the jumbled of squared off rocks. While we were walking, I found myself wondering if the rocks were natural. Most of the island coastlines had the same sort of rocks, but rocks that square struck me as quite odd. I wondered if there was some sort of anti-erosion water break program that had happened over the islands a long time ago, during the logging years.
We made it over the rocks, and the cove opened out onto a private beach. We decided to scramble up a bluff to try and get away from the private land. The bluff was topped by grasses and wildflowers and was quite a nice climb. Once over the other side, we found ourselves in Camp Artaban, confirming that we were indeed in Port Graves.
Camp Artaban also had a private property sign, but we hoped we could find someone to talk to. Just up the road from their wharf was a cabin with a sign that said, “Caretaker,” so Graham knocked in there and a woman about my age answered. She gave us the numbers of the two water taxi companies that service the area, and told us we could wait on their wharf to be picked up. We went out to the wharf, which was very blustery, and sat down and Graham called the numbers with his cell. Cormorant went to voicemail, but Mercury picked up and agreed to rescue us for $201, which seemed quite steep. Graham seemed set to go for it, but I convinced him to try Cormorant again. They turned out to have a boat on Keats that they could send to meet us, and would charge us $100 for the two of us.
While we waited, Graham said something about wondering if I was cold and wasn’t sure if he should sit nearer, or if he was in the dog house. I had noticed when we originally sat down on the wharf, that he sat a bit apart from me, and I wasn’t sure if it was because he thought I was displeased with him, or if it was another symptom of him shrinking back into himself in preparation for returning to civilization. I tried again to explain to him that as we’re both adults, and a team, it was a mutually agreed upon decision to take the wrong turn, and I wasn’t angry at it. He was trying to couch it that he was upset I might miss my evening plans, but as I explained to him I had only made those plans because of his evening plans, and none of it really mattered. Just deal with what comes.
I called Robin and found out my dinner was cancelled anyway, and we arranged to come home, have Graham and I shower, Robin would take Graham to his engagement, and then Robin and I would have a nice dinner together. He had had an exciting weekend as well, it seemed.
After the phone call, Graham did come over to me and we held each other for a bit. “I was serious, you know, with that line in one of my sonnets, ‘a chaste romance.’ That’s what I’ve come to understand this is.” I don’t recall him saying much to that, but I felt his response anyway.
I was relishing what might be the last opportunity for such contact, but Graham was still antsy over everything that had gone wrong that day, and shifted around, and tried to rearrange the ponchos several times and before he got that right again the water taxi was coming in to dock.
The Cormorant Water Taxi docked, and I laughed as I read aloud the boat’s name: Bowen Arrow. The deckhand looked like a seasoned old salt, and he got us on board. I took a seat immediately, Graham fussed back and forth with the gear for a bit, but settled down after a time. We confirmed the price, and the deckhand had to phone into his company, but we did pay only $100 after all.
Graham pointed out this might be the last opportunity to take a picture, and I conceded that I had taken a picture on the boat out, and it was apt to have one concluding our adventure on the boat in.
View from the Bowen Arrow water taxi.
He rummaged though his ditty bag and produced some left-over GORP. The deckhand decided to play this up by handing us half a paper towel each. Graham ate his GORP, which I declined and gave me the $15 cash he had towards the water taxi.
The boat ride was brief, and we made good time. We thanked the deckhand, whose name I never got, and scrambled up the government wharf and over to the #257 bus. We found seats together near the back and arranged our packs on our laps. Graham and I debriefed the trip a little bit. I told him, “I enjoyed every single minute of it.” “Well, you enjoyed most of it.” “No. I enjoyed all of it. I enjoyed diving for my pot lid. What about you? Did you enjoy it?” “I enjoyed it hugely,” he said. He yawned. “Do you want to nap?” I asked. The question contained an underlying attempt at a truce – I was offering to let him sleep on me, so clearly I couldn’t be that upset. “OK – three, two, one, nap!” He tucked his head onto my shoulder and dozed off with a limp finality usually reserved for babies and kittens, although he continued to mumble about making sure I was comfortable, and telling me that he was holding onto me and wouldn’t slide when the bus turned. After a few moments, his voice trailed off. I relaxed but stayed conscious, thinking as I had many times in the path about the simple vulnerability of sleep, and how much love and trust is contained in the simple act of falling asleep on someone.
I knew when he woke, the change would be complete, the smooth, confident, carefree mountain man (Dr. Darling, I presume?) would be gone, to be replaced by the frowsy, nervous, pedantic scientist. It saddened me to think that no one outside, perhaps, his immediate family knew that that other Graham was under that shy patina. No one would ever guess from the tinkerer that hunts-and-pecks on a home-made devorak keyboard, that such a subtle depth of personality could exist beneath. Gauging by his near non-existent relationship history, no one ever had, or even bothered to try. It is the great tragedy of Graham himself that he has lacked those opportunities to truly show himself. People gravitate towards the SCA for all kinds of reasons – Graham’s reasons is that he is not fit for the era in which he finds himself. Yet, even our Society of misfits, is often too much society for him. He belongs to a different time.
Still, at 54, he has long since made his peace with the state of the world, and his oft ill-fitting place within it, and after this first of our trips together this summer, I have made mine. I will simply conclude that I feel all the more blessed to have caught a glimpse of the true Graham on Gambier Island.
Graham freshly shaved and dolled up in Robin’s wedding suit for Padre Night.
Sonnet 33 Forest Filter
Down cedar shaped mountain soft water seeps,
trickling through fern forded gully, losing all taint of poisons that sully, until it joins the great river it meets.
The fierce fire has now faded from my gaze,
My love mellowed like a meadow in spring, Each day the heart swells as it tries to sing, As together we traverse each new phase.
A world so vast, green, and growing it aches,
A love so pure, simple and sweet it glows, A life so contented it chimes and peals,
To live life rightly, return to the lakes,
from whence the winding river of hope flows, into the eternal ocean that heals.
– M is for man