Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

What Does It Matter Where People Go?

The Alcan Highway – Mile 478.4
Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park, British Columbia – June 25, 2007

We picked up Justin again, a young hitchhiker, the second day on the highway. He is traveling up to Dawson City, Alaska and hopes to find work in a mining camp. He spent last night in his small tent by the roadside. He theorizes that people who pick up hitchhikers usually have done a lot of hitchhiking. He might have something there.

Last year in Alaska, Captain Tim, out of Homer, expressed his disgust with tourists who drive too fast at night and kill the moose. He made it sound like the moose are as slow as cows or buffalo and just amble out onto the highway. He keeps a .50 caliber “Desert Eagle” in his truck to put them away when they’ve been too badly injured. Captain Tim knew his halibut, but he liked to perseverate about tourists in general and the cost of rods, reels, line, sinkers, bait, gasoline, motor repair, docking fees and wages. By the end of the day I was ready to prepare a business plan for charter halibut fishing.

So then, I was just driving along today, minding my own business, when I caught a big brown blur in my peripheral vision, charging hard from the right. With lightning reflexes, and a characteristic cool presence of mind, I buried the brake pedal in the floorboard of the RV. The “Brake Buddy”, back in the tow vehicle, sensed my anxiety and locked up the Toyota, reducing my total stopping distance by an estimated 30% (according to the manufacturer). As we skidded to a shuddering halt on the wet asphalt, the 3,000 pound, ten-foot tall, Bull Moose crossed inches in front of our motionless front bumper, moving perpendicular to our line of travel at an estimated 30 miles per hour. The whole thing lasted five seconds, tops. He had really long legs, an ungainly gait and a great rack.

A few miles on, we saw what we believe to be “stone sheep” crossing the road. There were also big herds of buffalo along the road but my marginal utility for more bison pictures is approaching zero.

We stop for two nights in the Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park. The Alpha Spring is 53 C. (about 130 F). The Beta Spring is 42 C. The hottest water floats on top. We think of boiling frogs in slowly heated water. We’re up at 60 degrees north latitude. The nights are very short this time of year. We smell sulfur as we soak alone at dawn in the steaming pool and then hike in the woods to a waterfall. No one else stops to see it. They’re all in a hurry to arrive at a destination. We stop for buffalo burgers for lunch. We consider electricity on the way out and hear the pounding generator powering the only eating place for 100 miles.

Sometimes when you meet someone for the first time you may find that you both share the same favorite poem. You may only remember the poem part of the meeting at long intervals of years when you happen to stumble upon patches of bluebells in the woods.

Spring Morning

Where am I going? I don't quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow -
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow -
Anywhere, anywhere, I don't know

Where am I going? The clouds sail by,
Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.
Where am I going? The shadows pass,
Little ones, baby ones, over the grass

If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,
You'd sail on water as blue as air,
And you'd see me here in the fields and say:
"Doesn't the sky look green today?"

Where am I going? The high rooks call:
"It's awful fun to be born at all."
Where am I going? The ring-doves coo:
"We do have beautiful things to do."

If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You'd lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You'd say to the wind when it took you away:
"That's where I wanted to go today!"

Where am I going? I don't quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow -
Anywhere, anywhere. I don't know.

- A.A. Milne

The salmon start running in Alaska in June. I hear them calling.

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