1,521 + 26 kilometers

 

Kitsumkalum, or Kalum, Lake, BC

 

I haven't written a post since July, and for good reason. I was really - and I mean really - busy in August. The house sale was finalized, during which time some major downsizing and moving took place. Then I headed out on a road trip for a week. And then not long after that I headed out of town again for some photo training for an upcoming job. Not to mention all the wildfire activity scattered in between that was threatening many parts of the province, including my hometown of Christina Lake. Now, here I am in September.

I'm the kind of person who likes to 'stop and smell the roses' as the saying goes. I don't like being busy or being in fast-paced environments or not having enough time. Sometimes I find myself 'there,' but the minute I can get out, I do. I went into August knowing all those scenarios would exist and I wasn't sure how I was going to slow down enough to keep my sanity and stay grounded. That's where 1,521 kilometers helped out. One Facebook message in early spring, I made a promise to my friend Stacey that I'd visit her and her family during the summer. I had no idea that my window of opportunity was going to be during the busiest month I've had in years. But a promise was a promise, and I had no intention of breaking it... to the potential dismay of Stacey and her family, or even myself. My destination was Terrace, BC, where I'd been a few times before, but it had been a while since the last visit. With 16+ hours of driving time between us, my college bestie and I don't get a chance to visit often enough. But over two decades of friendship makes it a priority now and again.

So, four days after moving from the house I had owned for four years, I hit the road and headed north. Now for some, two days worth of driving might seem like absolute torture, but I rather like it. Road trips by far are my favourite way to travel. And for me, the exploration that comes from travel is part what I see in the landscape and part what I see in myself. Nothing like two days with yourself in a vehicle to get some inner exploring done! I found it took me a while to let go of the moving tension and not knowing where my life was going and the fact that this was the longest drive I've done solo - ever. As the kilometers started to add up, my comfort zone started to shrink. When I finally arrived in Terrace, I found out that there was a raging forest fire that had gone through the town of  Rock Creek and the surrounding area and a portion of Highway 33, that I had driven on the day before, was now closed. There was news of another fire very near Oliver (my alternate route home) and everyone was getting worried about the super dry conditions and potential for more fires. My comfort zone all but disappeared hearing about my part of the world burning up and highways being closed... and camping (which I hadn't done in over a decade) was on the agenda... and it was going to be out of range of cell service! All I could do was put on my brave face (which Stacey read right through, because that's what friendship is all about) and told myself I would survive all this. The best thing to do when you're outside your comfort zone, is to stay there. Because amazing things will happen.

At 26 kilometers up a forest service road out of Terrace, I got my first glimpse of Kitsumkalum - or 'Kalum' to the locals - Lake. This is a stunning, blue-green coloured, glacier-fed lake that the Kitsumkalum River flows from, eventually emptying into the Skeena River to the south. The Nisga'a Highway runs along the eastern side and traveling north on it you will get to the Nass Valley and see lava beds. It is gorgeous and remote country. This is where you realize how big British Columbia really is. At this latitude, I was more or less only halfway up the province, but I was still considered to be up north despite that. The water in Kalum Lake may have been cold, but the view melted away my uneasiness. This was home for three days and time just stopped ticking. Being unplugged, among tall pines and expansive sky, I was able to focus and be mindful of my actual presence in life. Disconnecting from one world allowed the connection to another, where existence just was. Expectations dropped away. It was like a book without chapters, consisting of sentences without periods. Everything flowed easily. And thinking about it now, I realize it mirrored the important friendships in my life where, regardless of time or distance, the story is continuous... it just gets added to when those friends and I get together. 

Over the weekend, we were treated to a slide show of colours, reflections, clouds, birds, stars, and lights. Kalum Lake presented a different view every hour. Nature moved continuously all around us as we stayed put and watched. Sometimes we participated by canoeing or hiking or taking pictures. Nothing in the man-made world can rival what the Universe has to share. I felt more connected to life because the blinders were gone. The stories with my Terrace family picked up from where they had left off the last time we saw each other... years ago. But, again, who cared when that was, because the time was... now.

Eventually, we had to return to town to plug in. There was summer camp and work and photo school to get to. I had the return trip of 1,521 kilometers to make. And another forest fire closer to my home to learn about. The pace of life was to pick up again, but without that little break I'm not sure how tolerable it would have been. So I'm grateful for the opportunity I had and my important people up north: Stacey, James, and Sola (and not to forget the furballs Ruby and Jack). The day I drove away from Terrace, I experienced a spectacular sunset behind me. At first I thought it was calling me back - showing me what I left behind. But I think it was more of a wink from the Universe - reminding me of what amazing things I can see, when I step outside my comfort zone.