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From the Finish of My Avenue to the Fringe of the World


In western Canada, you don’t should journey far to seek out heaven

Chilliwack Lake. Photograph by creator.

And Chilliwack is nowhere close to something. It takes an hour to succeed in the city the place I reside from Vancouver, and one other hour to succeed in the lake that shares its title.

However what a drive. The street rises steadily, following the course of the dashing Chilliwack River because it swirls and plunges over boulders and gravel banks, previous chilly caves, driving via limitless forests on its technique to the distant sea.

That is my yard. The wild world begins on the finish of my road, mountains and forests and deep chilly lakes only a brief drive away. It’s why I purchased a kayak, to raised discover the waterways of the realm.

Chilliwack appears like a foolish phrase to English ears. However within the Halq’eméylem language of the First Nations individuals who reside right here, Tcil’Qe’uk means ‘the valley of many streams.’ This strip of flat land surrounded by mountains is the place all of the rain and melted snow of a British Columbia winter gather. Canada has 20 percent of the entire world’s supply of freshwater, and BC definitely has its share.

However I had by no means been to Chilliwack Lake. I’ve explored Cultus and Hicks and Deer, and the deep darkish waters of the huge Harrison Lake have turn into just about a second house to me whereas the pandemic retains me on this valley. Though I’ve lived within the space for years now, I by no means made the drive out to Chilliwack Lake.

Higher late than by no means.

Chilliwack Lake as seen from the seaside at its northern finish. Photograph by creator.

The graceful pavement abruptly ended, changed by packed gravel that raised a cloud of orange mud to drift within the daylight lancing via the bushes. Our small automobile wasn’t made for roads like this. Then once more, it wasn’t made for hauling kayaks both, however that didn’t cease me strapping two to the roof and setting out. My spouse likes to drive, so I sat again, feeling each rut and pothole within the weatherbeaten street that wound via the forest towards the lake.

Then we reached it.

Like a lot of the lakes round right here, Chilliwack Lake was shaped by grinding glaciers that carved gouges within the mountains tens of millions of years in the past. It was early sufficient within the yr that snow nonetheless shone on the peaks surrounding the water, their sensible crowns mirrored on the flawless floor. Parking on the concrete boat launch, we received out to look over the emerald inexperienced water that light slowly to deep blue.

We have been nearly alone. One of many joys of working for ourselves is that we will make the most of sunny weekdays. A number of folks sat on the seaside, socially distanced and mercifully quiet. There was nobody out on the water.

There’s a dreamlike high quality to paddling when it’s like this. The boat glides frictionless over the water, and the one sound is the lake peeling again from the bow and the slap and suck of the paddle blade transferring the water. At occasions, within the forest, we heard the joyful rush of one other icy waterfall filling the lake. On the far finish, simply past the seaside, the invisible border between Canada and the US sits, and if it wasn’t for pesky issues like worldwide regulation, you could possibly paddle proper from one into the opposite. However we had no want to be wherever aside from the place we have been.

On the brink of launch. Photograph by creator.

In Halq’eméylem, its title is Sxotsaqel — Sacred Lake. Supposedly the house of water babies, magical beings that may imitate the cry of a human youngster as an omen of dying or misfortune.

You don’t must share the animist beliefs of the indigenous folks of the realm to know why the lake is sacred. It feels it. The astonishingly pure water and the encircling mountains and the deep profound silence of the place make it really feel like a cathedral. A spot distant not solely in kilometers however in time. A imaginative and prescient of a pristine and unspoiled phrase that existed earlier than a phrase was spoken, earlier than a single child cried.

A silence that you may bathe in like water, that seeps via the pores of your pores and skin and settles someplace in your chest. A way of crystalline peacefulness that adheres to you just like the pollen of paradise.

We hear what we’re tuned to. Our personal names leap out at us within the babbel of the group. New mother and father hear their infants crying even once they’re not, a phantom sound that rings in ears that have changed to pick it up over all the things else. The scientific rationalization does nothing to decrease the sacred really feel of the lake. Water infants or not, Chilliwack Lake feels otherworldly.

Paddling within the shallows. Photograph by creator.

Slowly, we paddled alongside the densely forested shoreline of the lake. Turning again towards our place to begin after a few hours, I observed one thing floating within the water. Ever since I learn this text by Mike Alexander, I attempt to make a behavior of choosing up rubbish that I discover. Who else however us will hold these locations sacred?

However as I steered my kayak towards the intense silver flash of an aluminium can bobbing at nighttime water, my arms closed round sudden weight. The can was nonetheless sealed. A premixed Moscow mule cocktail, chilled to icy coolness by the recent water.

My spouse grinned as I held up the copper-colored can triumphantly. Every so often, doing the appropriate factor will get rewarded.

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