My brothers talked endlessly about river trips they took during the summers. They boasted about catching and releasing the largest freshwater fish in North America. White Sturgeons are living dinosaurs from the Jurassic period. They can live to be
over one hundred years old. Typically though they reach six feet long and live about twenty-five years. These majestic titans are designated as endangered and protected under the federal Species At Risk Act.
Fortunately, it is still legal to catch and release them on the Fraser River in British Columbia. I would get up early the next morning and join up with River Monster Adventures, billed as B.C.’s sturgeon whisperer, on a quest to bag my own bragging rights.
“So c’mon Claire do you want to use my secret weapon? Guaranteed to catch you the big one! What do you say?” the guide teasingly asked me. “O.K. but it looks suspiciously like hot sauce to me,” I replied laughing, “let’s see what happens!”
The huge sturgeons breached and sounded repeatedly as fishermen endeavored to lure them in. Sometimes one would be caught causing spontaneous celebrations to erupt. Spirits remained high and the day was glorious. The crew was fantastic, joking and helping me with numerous
hilarious tips on how to land the big one. After hours of dedicated trolling I finally brought mine in at one hundred two kilograms. It felt as though the sturgeons enjoyed playing with us, and having their pictures taken, as much as we humans did. They swam strongly away on their return to the deep.
By the time we headed in I was exhausted but totally exhilarated. The trip had been one of pure joy. Mission accomplished. Adventure of a lifetime, bragging rights achieved.
My campsite overlooked the muddy Fraser River. I maintained my normal routines before heading out on day trips hiking and exploring. The Lillooet Rod and Gun Club welcomed me. They boasted ranges for rifle, handgun and archery shooting. Everyone was friendly. I felt safe here.
My feeling of being watched abated. It was a perfect place to holiday, and a peaceful place to work out my thoughts. I wonder how many of us just go along letting the vagaries of life lead us. If it hadn’t been for the Army I might have worked on a farm, or maybe a ranch. All the years I trained
and specialized as a Signals Officer and where am I now? Attaining the rank of Captain didn’t make me more respected when I brought charges against a Commanding Officer. 'I’ve been posted with tactical Signal Squadrons around the world. I’ve seen as much action as any soldier. Still, it’s
as though no one could hear me. Everyone became deaf and dumb. I wasn’t prepared for Wendall. I’ve seen enough bullying and harassment in the CAF. There were other complaints against Wendall too. What happened to those people I wonder? I should have made it my business to shake the bushes when I had
the authority to do something.' These thoughts did a run around in my head until I finally let them go. Though my charges had been dismissed without prejudice, meaning I could revisit them in the future, I knew I never would. That life was in my rear view mirror now.
Heading back on the highway I was soon coming up on what, in my memory, had been a relatively small ski resort. It had been years since I had visited the Whistler Blackcomb area and it had morphed into an impressive international tourist destination.
I pulled into the village and did a recce. I was amazed at what had been accomplished. 'Wow, this is great. Lots of new hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and bistros to explore and all within walking distance. And young people everywhere. I’m going to check out Tapley’s. It’s dubbed the local’s living room.
Should be good for some pub food and music. Clearly Whistler does not go gently into the night. I need some crazy music and dancing time.' Excited, I put on my happy clothes and hit the nightclub scene. Since it was still early evening I found a stool at the
bar and ordered nachos. Then I settled in to people watch. This was one of my favorite activities. Some of the customers were watching the NFL game, while others were loudly relating their day to one another. The DJ was just starting up. A few hours later I could see that Dance and Be Happy was the local mantra.
It didn’t take long to hook up with a table of partiers who had been zip lining and biking in the mountains all day. Everyone was high on life and looking for a good time. No one cared if they had a dance partner, just got up and started bouncing and howling. It was insane.
“Let me get you a drink little lady,” a tall dark skinned man said. “No, I’m good thanks,” I replied smiling, as I headed back onto the dance floor. When I returned to my seat the man had a drink ready for me. Insistent aren’t you, and obviously hard of hearing.
“I’m Dev,” he said amused, holding out his hand. “Hi Dev,” I replied while shaking my head at the drink. “No drinks, I’ve had enough already.” He put his hand down when I didn’t shake it and leaned in, “You from around here?”
He smelled of sweat, garlic and spices. The scents immediately threw me back to Kandahar. I love the spicy foods and colorful aromas of that region. He looked like he may have been of that origin. I wasn’t going to open that conversation, since I was well aware of the old saying about camels and tents.
“No, just passing through,” I replied, smiling at the memories. “Where from?” he persisted. “Nowhere in particular. Just travelling. Sorry, I’m here to dance!” I whirled off to the dance floor. Joining into a group I swayed, boogied and twirled until I couldn’t stand up anymore.
After noting my admirer now had two drinks lined up in front of my stool, and so as not to cause offence, I stole out of the Club around midnight, avoiding his notice. Lying in my bed, I marveled at the starscape view through the open moon roof, breathing in deeply the pure fresh
air scented heavily of pine. Except for frogs singing, there was total blissful silence. Army nights had never smelled or sounded so good. God, I love being home. Great country. 'Great, great day, Life is wonderful.' I fell asleep smiling sleeping like a baby until seven the next morning.
It was nearing the end of Fall, and snows were showing on the higher slopes as I drove the Sea to Sky Highway to Squamish. Old Bessie behaved herself. This drive involved sharp corners, large cliffs and hard rushing creeks, thick conifer forests and old woods. The day was cool with light winds.
I looked for a moderate climb on the mountain crags in the Garibaldi Highlands. Black Tusk, a stratovolcano and a pinnacle of volcanic rock, was a very popular trail hike. Since it was mid-week fewer people shared the climb with me. Perhaps I had found my calling as a Wanderer.