Conversation With a Photo
Pictures can invoke amazing memories. Such was the case as I stoked the woodstove, warmed these old bones, and chose a photo from its shoebox repository. It was taken on Highway 19 a few years ago somewhere in the Nimpkish Valley on Northern Vancouver Island, early one March morning. The snows were gone and trees were budding.
I recall my wife and I driving down the Valley in our old ford truck, trailer in tow….. to set up camp by a remote lake. We have traveled the Nimpkish many times before… The Valley cradles our favourite camping spots, in and amongst the recreational paradise of Nimpkish Lake and Nimpkish River’s remarkable 100 km of wilderness habitat.
The Valley ultimately links the west and east coasts of Vancouver Island and served as an important historical indigenous trade route via waterways and linking trails. Such routes were commonly called “Grease trails” because of trade in eulachon grease and other commodities. Alert Bay and other indigenous peoples canoed to Nimpkish River’s mouth to begin a journey west crossing Vancouver Island. Traversing the Valley was arduous, but saved indigenous people from having make to the more treacherous water route around Cape Scott (by dugout canoe).
The Nimpkish is Namgis First Nation territory, and spans the basin of the Nimpkish River and Nimpkish Lake and adjoining parts of the interior of North Vancouver Island. The river was originally called Gwa’ni.
For more than an hour I warmed by the woodstove holding the photo as any good memory… recalling over and over again the Valley’s natural splendor of history, young and old rainforests, steep mountain sides, fast and lazy river courses, water falls, and pristine lake sites… when winter snows give way to Spring’s green renewal. Aaaahh March, when Mother Nature’s paint brush rejuvenates with vigor all the vibrant colours of the spectrum.
I thought of the winding North Island highway’s scenic drive from Sayward, Woss, Port McNeill and finally to Port Hardy. A spectacular moving canvas of steep hillsides, new and old forests. Miles of evolving landscape, an ecological remodeling of new havens for countless wildlife populations. Miles & miles having no buildings, no street lights, no residential blocks, just acres of wonderful new fir, cedar, hemlock, spruce, pine…. evergreen trees, sided by budding alder, maples, and other green leafy deciduous trees.
It gifted looks of snow capped peaks of the Vancouver Island Range, a series of mountains extending along the length of Vancouver Island and home to North Island’s Mount Cain Alpine Park. Subregions mountain ranges include Bonanza, Province, and Sutton Ranges, refuge for wildlife, hikers, campers, and loggers alike. I thought of the bigger picture: Vancouver Island’s Mountains are part of the Insular Mountain system that extends upwards through the Queen Charlotte Sound to the Islands of Haida Gwaii. I recall the awesomeness of Island peaks over 2000 meters (6000 feet) enjoyed by adventurous climbers.
It warmed my heart with memories of many family camping adventures, in the shadow of mountain pillars like Pinder Peak. Imagine 1542 meters of stately prominence (5059 feet), on guard over Lake Diane, Atluck, Anutz, Huson and others. Excellent trout, waterfowl, canoeing, swiming paradises. Pristine forested remoteness, void of urbanization, showcasing Mother Nature’s natural beauty. At the top of Pinder there is a cairn with the names of climbers who have scaled her prominence. (mine not amongst them!)
It called to again to visit the Valley’s trails and natural ecosystems. Camping alongside evergreen lakes, rivers, ferns, salal, moss, and lichen. Harbingers of welcome to the Valley, each site holding special family memories…. recollections of laughter, pure invigorating air, whispers of low mist, and the aroma of lush mountain foliage. Feelings that envelopes all one’s senses… forest magnificence of unfettered beauty, pulling at ones soul.
I again felt absolute pleasure of seeing a forest giant.
The photo reminded me old growth forests are not just plantations of big trees. They are a living, breathing, communicating interdependent ecosystems of new and old growth, locked in an everlasting circle of life. Forests mature, grandeur thousands of years in the making, mixed with new generations of new trees and life. Dead windfall decaying trunks become fungi and moss covered carcasses that transition to “nurse trees” supporting new growth, new life beginnings.
I carefully returned the Highway 19 photo to its shoebox home…. Aahhh the Valley…. natural foraging for the wild kingdom, and my family.
The Wonderful Nimpkish Valley!
Safe Travels © Gordon Patterson