It’s hot. Too hot for early July, truth be told. In the interior of the province, the temperature is reaching the point where it will boil blood. The woods are tinder. Those who live in log homes surrounded by pine forest are anxious, and with good reason. There are 200 fires burning in B.C. and the diviners charged with these prophecies are predicting a lot more.
As we climb the hill and leave Telkwa behind, the CBC host tells us that Okanagan joggers and old people should stay inside due to the amount of particulate matter in the smoke laden air.
That kind of air would be a good day in Beijing, I speculate.
I wonder if there will be any smoke at Francois Lake, says Karen.
At Burns Lake we can see for miles. Despite the fact that the Canadian women were knocked out by Great Britain, I’m really keen to see how the US women’s soccer team fares against the world champion Japanese.
We’ll make the opening kickoff at Houston, I suggest.
Karen takes out her phone and Googles sports bars in Houston, gets hundreds then adds “BC” to the search and narrows the options to one.
There’s the Happy Jack Pub, she tells me, but it’s closed on Sundays.
All right, I say, we’ll aim for Burns Lake. The first part of those games is all hoopla anyway. We should be able to make it there for the opening kickoff.
Mulvaney’s Pub on Highway 16, says Karen moments later. I’ll go into town and pick up some groceries while you watch the game.
I’m suffering behind an RV near Rose Lake. Karen is still on her phone.
The game is under way, she tells me.
Ten minutes. Do you want to know what’s happened?
She reads: The US had scored three times in the opening minutes. The Japanese are running around like zombies. This is just stupid…
I’m sad to have missed it but eager to see how it unfolded. I step on it.
Mulvaney’s is empty save for a couple sitting before a preposterously big screen TV on a large slippery black couch at the far end of the building.
Joy. They’re watching the game.
Can I sit here? I ask.
Of course. Be our guests, says a bespectacled man with an English accent.
Some game, eh? I venture.
Quite extraordinary, really, says the man before taking a sip from his tea cup.
Two Brits drinking tea as they watch a soccer match; this is too stereotypical, I think.
A Canadian, I say to the waitress, wanting to spare her the discomfort of listing all the brews on tap and in the cellar.
She smiles and returns a short time later.
I take a draft.
So where are you from? I ask.
Fort Saint John. South Hampton, he adds, seeing my puzzled look.
I’m in security. Got a good offer two years ago and jumped at it.
During halftime I learn that the Brits are off to Port Clements for their holiday and that life in Fort Saint John is trying and the service industry there hasn’t improved since we were there a few years back.
They leave, leaving me to watch the end of the rout and down another sleeve of bad beer.
We take the Endako Mine Road and can’t help but notice that the traffic is down to a trickle, a good thing. No place is a good place for a mine, and that one, poised over a fish rich watershed, is particularly bad.
Then we’re down the steep hill into the rolling greens of Francois Lake country, and minutes later pulling into the Stellako Lodge. Our first trip here was when Kelly, the indefatigable MLA and his wife ran the place. We tented, then returned a year later, still tenting but a lot more comfortable with a Coleman stove to cook over instead of a campfire. The Kellys had sold the camp to Irwin and Trudy, the hard working Swiss who were 40 then and are 70 now.
We went from a tent to a canopy, from a canopy to a camper, from a camper to a shared cabin as Trudi and Irwin’s kids grew up and had kids of their own, and now, after more than 30 seasons, we’re able to afford a cabin of our own.
The temperature is 29 degrees Celsius, but sitting on our rented porch overlooking the outflow of river with an incessant cool breeze from the lake blowing over us, we’re comfortable and content.
Swallows dip over the water to feed on mayflies. The cries of osprey and the piping of songbirds provide a counterpoint to the steady rush of the river through the bridge timbers and over the rocks just below them.
Every morning when the shadows still lie on the river, fly fisherman Bill Burkland, the Dean of Stellako fly fishermen, and his grandson Jeremy walk the bridge and slip into the river to lure rainbow trout to nymphs and floating flies. Through binoculars, I watch them catch fish and consider joining them later, maybe in a day or two. There is no hurry.