Thanks Chris

20 05 2010

Andrew and I decided to bag a peak on Tuesday. Rather, Andrew wanted to bag a peak, and he just ended up convincing me to accompany him.

Our initial objective was Prairie Mountain, however as we neared the parking area, both of us noticed that the winter gate had been opened (they do this every year on May 16th, but each year I seem to forget). We both agreed Nihahi ridge, further to the west was in order, even if the thunderheads were building overhead and all the food we had between us was a tube of Pringles sour cream and onion chips.

We didn’t hit the trail head parking lot  until 2pm or so, and had a lengthy stroll through the Little Elbow campground before reaching the actual trail head. 2/3 of the way in, I spotted a dude with a hundred liter pack and a full beard approaching from the west.

Dumbfounded, as this gentleman had the appearance of someone who has been in the bush a while, I stopped and asked him if he had just forgotten something in the car, and simply neglected hygiene for a week or so (the winter gate some 15km east had JUST beent opened).

Chris then went on to elaborate about getting dropped off at the gate in mid February….how the whole area is vacant of humans until now, how he had been tracking cougars, and had stashes of supplies scattered throughout the wilderness. His pack held 50 lbs of library books that needed to be returned, hence the walk-out.

Since I’ve spent a lot of time back where Chris had been living, I asked a few rudimentary questions that quickly verified him as genuine, as opposed to “Crazy bush-man lunatic with an extremely accessible  axe”.

Andrew and I decided to offer sociables to this mountain-man, and found our trip extended another 40 minutes as we sat at one of the campground’s picnic tables and  had Chris blow our minds.

This guy has gotten to know all the local cats, including conservation officers. He shared stories of both unnecessary harassment and enlightened law enforcement practices.  He had been fairly mobile, moving from one place to the next and experimenting with local cuisine. Apparently, rice and certain insects (roasted) is a fine back-country dish.

As Chris described his travels and disclosed solid information on wild berry crops, I thought about my life – long aspiration to be “Bush Man”. This guy was the literal example of the kind of life I’ve dreamed about. Then I thought of my bed. And I realized that unlike Chris, I have 2 kids that I’m crazy about and no wealthy relatives to fund my chronic unemployment.

Inevitably, we exchanged numbers  and went on our way.

Andrew and I reached the summit ridge of Nihahi amid hurricane force winds, and on our way back down, I sincerely found myself appreciating everything that I have. Which at that point included a half full tube of Pringles.

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