It was a long hill, the town another hundred miles, when the shot rang out, pulling the van sideways like we’d been hit by a low bull. I swung the wheel against it, thinking there was some kind of battle ahead, a force to contend, something big and threatening, and pulled over. ‘What the fuck was that?’ Mike’s eyes were wide.
‘I think the tire blew.’
The rear tire was in shreds; the spare was threadbare.
‘You need new tires, man.’
The jack was broken and the bolts fused.
We sat and drank and finally got the tire, off bolt by bolt, and I thought about how much I loved my van.
The weather was warm, the water dark and cold; we were trolling for salmon down the Johnstone Strait in British Columbia.My rod snapped and I reeled in a good sized fish, some two feet, my first catch, and in only 30 minutes on the water. I pulled it beside the boat and watched, in surprise, as the guide gaffed it in the head and then dropped the flopping thing into the boat, bleeding profusely, and bashed it again and again, leaving a trail of thick blood pools across the brilliant white bottom. At last it was dead.
“Oh…no.” The guide picked it up, examining its fins and then measuring it. “We have to throw it back.”
“It’s a Chinook and it’s only 24 inches. It has to be 24 and 1/2.”
“But it’s already dead.”
He picked up the carcass, both of them pale. “I would get into trouble if I brought it back to the docks.”
We watched him sink the dead fish into the deep dark blue. I looked at Micaela, both of us in an odd kind of shock, thinking this was akin to murder, and then Micaela’s line went taught. She half-heartedly reeled it in, but it jumped the hook. “Yes.” She smiled. “It got away.”
I did West Vancouver’s Grouse Grind in 52:20 – a straight-up climb of 2800 feet – and was ready for more.
We carried on over Dam Mountain and then around Goat to the steep descent to the Lynn Valley Saddle. And then It was time for the climb up Crown. That’s when it hit me. I was flagging, bumping into branches, tripping over roots. I was stopping, looking up, thinking too much about the daunting journey ahead, psyching myself out, getting more and more exhausted, staring at my sweat dripping onto the rocks. I had to stop again and again, seriously considering turning back, Micaela far ahead, waiting. I thought I might not make it but moved my foot ahead, toiled on, step to step, dragging my inert legs over root ledges, and at long last made it to the top. I sat, mute, only able to think about the long descent and that horrible climb back up Goat and realized that this might indeed be the last time I would be here on this mountain.
Peak of Crown Mountain
I ate and ate – something I had stupidly neglected to do on the way up – and we began our long return, which amounted to a lot of slips and half falls through the labyrinth of exposed rock and dirt. We devoured our final batch of chocolate and attacked the ascent back up Goat. It wasn’t as bad as I expected. Not at all. It was almost a game again. We were going to make it after all. I was elated to be back, whole, in the parking lot and then in the fair city of Vancouver with a cold Steam Whistle in my hand.The next morning was not so joyous. My knees were done. I had suddenly degraded to a state of gimpy and old. I glowered across Burrard Inlet, at the distant mountain top, and wondered when I would return. Soon, I promised myself. As soon as I could.
I just returned from a salmon fishing excursion to Campbell River, British Columbia. I had expected to be quietly drifting along the coast, maybe even catching a few of the 45 million salmon reported to be running up the rivers.
Instead I found a gaggle of 60-70 boats going back and forth in a narrow, in and out of each other, fighting for the fish; it’s referred to as “combat fishing” by the guides.I didn’t fish so much as have the rod handed to me by the guide when there was a bite and then just reel that in as best as I could. (I batted .500)It was an odd experience, complete with one boat even running over a seiners’ nets, not like my childhood memory from many years ago, sitting there in the cold with father, hanging on to my rod and staring down into the infinite blue, catching mostly dogfish. I did however catch more fish this time (4 times as many); I’m still trying to understand if that makes it all worthwhile.
The land is empty and vast. The road continues up into the mountains, winding past small towns and lakes, the distant colors and light entrancing and forbidding. BAZ drives the van. EMILY is in the passenger seat. MAX is still asleep, curled up, with DAVIS beside him, the comforter balled up around his head, and POPO, the cat, on top of that, staring out the window. BLAIR sits at the end of the bed, his feet propped across the can on a pile of bags and gear; he is reading Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth. The music of The Grateful Dead’s Wharf Rat plays on the stereo.
MAX (Moaning): Turn the music down, man.
EMILY turns the music down halfway.
MAX: No more Dead!
EMILY lowers the volume further. POPO can now be heard moaning over the sounds of the music and the road.
MAX: The cat too, man.
BLAIR (Reciting from The Power of Myth): The adventure is its own reward – but it’s necessarily dangerous, having both negative and positive possibilities, all of them beyond our control. We are beyond protection in a field of higher powers than we know.EMILY: Who is that? Nietzsche?
BLAIR (Ignoring her, continuing to recite): If we have been impudent and altogether ineligible for the role into which we have cast ourselves, it is going to be a demon marriage and a real mess.
EMILY: I like that. Demon marriage.
BLAIR: Joseph Campbell is a genius.
Both MAX and POPO moan, almost as if in agreement, and the van rattles on into the hinterland of British Columbia.
We have arrived in Adrasan, Turkey. It is a place of slow-moving rivers, cicadas and ducks everywhere, in short Nirvana. I have a perfect view of the idyll from our little balcony. There could be no better time to finish the first draft of Baller, my script chronicling tree-planters finding their way in the northern wilds of British Columbia.