It has been a busy and eventful past two years around this southern Van. Island hearth!
To start, after some four years together my girlfriend and I got married in June of 2018. Lacking any Heathen community in the area, we had the J.P. take care of the official stuff at our home, first thing in the morning, before heading over to Caleb Pike Heritage Park and taking our vows, before the gods and our gathered friends and family. Some of these, namely family, could not make it as a result of the distances involved (2000+ kms!), but we nevertheless had an intimate turn of about a dozen or so people; the perfect size for both our venue and allotted budget!
The venue couldn’t have been better; a heritage park with heritage house situated on an old apple orchard, in a rural setting, and just down the road from the southern parking lot of some of our most memorable hikes, along the Gowlland Tod range. The weather was threatening in the distance, but a nice blue patch of sky remained overhead for the duration of the event. We took our vows outside, and the rustic setting was punctuated by a small family of deer that took it upon themselves to attend.
The ceremony itself, which blended the popular expectations of our intimates with the essentials of the elder beliefs, was officiated by our close friend, renowned academic and author, and fellow Anglo-Nordic Heathen, Richard Rudgley.
Within two days we were off to Vancouver for an old school train ride up through the Rocky Mountains to Valemont, British Columbia. As we neared our destination, I decided to take one more look at all the particulars and found that the taxi service we were relying on to get us up to our first cabin, just a few kms outside of Mount Robson Park, but some 35 kms from our drop-off point, had just up and gone out of business! For all of that, the owner of the second cabin we would be staying at, Sandy of Twin Peaks Resort, agreed to come pick us up and give us a ride up to our first cabin; while Kurtis, proprietor of Mount Robson Mountain River Lodge (our first cabin), gave us a ride back down to Valemont when our stay with him had concluded.
And speaking of Mount Robson Mountain River Lodge, this was the view we enjoyed from our private cabin…
As per the resort’s name, that is Mount Robson dominating the scene; the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, coming in at 3,954 meters in elevation (above sea-level). And absolutely breath-taking. We could have just sat there on our deck, or lounging in bed if we preferred, and looked at it for the next 3 days. And it would have been worth every penny! Absolutely recommended for anyone ever thinking of heading out that way!
As it was, we had plans. Plans which involved, not admiring Mount Robson from an easy distance, but getting right up into his face, to soak our feet in Berg Lake, which sits at the base of the peak and is fed from the glacier that sits atop it.
And so we set out around 5am to do exactly that the first morning after our arrival. The first leg of our journey carried us to the entrance of the park, some 3 to 4 kms from our cabin, which we reached just after bright Sunne had crested the mountainous horizon and furnishing us with another breath-taking view of all the surrounding peaks.
Again we could have just sat ourselves down at that point and soaked it up all day. And truth be told, there was not a single step along the way — not a SINGLE step — where we were not utterly enthralled by the beauty and majesty of our surroundings. Okay. The second leg that carried us another 3 to 4 kms to the trailhead was what it was, ie. a nice walk amidst the trees, but from there forward we had to keep reminding ourselves that, while we afforded ourselves time to enjoy the hike, we were, ultimately, on the clock and could not lose ourselves in it.
This is is what greeted us soon after getting on to the trail, as we reached Kinney Lake…
As so it continued as we made our way up around Kinney Lake and into the Valley of a Thousands Falls. Now, I didn’t see a thousand. Or even a hundred. Maybe it was the time of year? Or a dry year? Or marketing hyperbole! But if one kept one’s eyes peeled, quite a number like this dotted the valley,
And then it was up, up, up(!) until we at last came to the roaring Emperor Falls, which one is able to get up close and personal with, as close as wisdom will allow, and cool off in the heavy spray of.
The picture doesn’t do it justice. Nor even the video I have. In its presence, the sense of its power is immense and palpable. Only to be compared with a good, prairie thunderstorm. Naturally, I had to get even closer than this pic indicates, but one would be a fool to underestimate the might of this etin-force.
And so we carried on, in awe, until, at length we at last arrived at Berg Lake, sitting in the shadow of the peak of Mount Robson. It was a hot day, in the upper 20s Celsius, and the last leg of the journey to the lake was rocky, dry, treeless, and anything but shadowy. And the ice-cold spray from Emperor Falls had long since evaporated. I used our coats and sweaters from the morning, along with the hardy bushes that dot the terrain there, to set us up a little shelter from the heat, and despite the rocky, broken terrain, it was shoes and socks off and into the glacial lake (chunks of ice were floating in it). The sheer contrast in temperatures, and the difficulty walking shoe-less, didn’t make an actual swim all that inviting, but feet in, a good soaking of the head and neck, et al. was infinitely refreshing. And possibly even necessary to avoid heat stroke.
Mount Robson peak is just off camera to the right in the above picture. I’m looking out across the lake at the glacier as it creeps, imperceptibly down the side of the mountain and into the lake.
Incidentally, in answer to the famous meme, yes, I do still see frost giants around.
Here we have a pic of Mount Robson from the shore of Berg Lake:
One of the rules that we made on our hike up was “no looking back”, with the logic being to make good time on the one hand, and to save some sights for the hike back down on the other. Needless to say, it was regularly broken. And likewise, it really didn’t matter with vistas like this spread out before us:
We finally made it back to our cabin … sometime between 7 and 8 pm that evening; having covered a distance of 47.2 kms, with an elevation gain of some 1,384 meters, the better bulk of which took place over 2 to 3 kms as you leave the Valley of a Thousand Falls and start moving toward Emperor Falls and, further on, Berg Lake.
We were exhausted to say the least. “Smiling and fulfilled” exhausted!
Down points of the hike? Virtually none. Other than that the trail is very tame and sees a fair amount of tourist traffic in high season. It is not as “backwoods” as one might imagine; though I’d still much prefer to get lost in the backwoods of the island than in the middle of hundreds of miles of unbounded Canadian wilderness. Which, if you’re not a moron, won’t happen here. While we saw some interesting birds, and a (not at all unfamiliar) sign that warned of a cougar in the area, our BIG wildlife sighting of the hike was a lone marmot.
Anyway, my wife hit the hay almost immediately after walking through the door, while I decided I was going to get a look at the stars once the daylight had vanished. Having forgotten what time of year it was, and how far north we were, it was around 1am before I finally realized that the daylight was not going to disappear from the horizon and I crawled into bed. In fact, as I learned, we would get solid night, but not until about 3am.
The next couple of days were spent lounging, enjoying the view, small walks up the river, dinner with our hosts, Kurtis and Claudia, and their other guests, and even a few cracks of thunder and flashes of lighting… though don’t let the locals know what a thrill you get from them, ie. forest fires, underscoring a point that I have always emphasized about Thunor’s popular designation as “god of thunder” and that none of our ancestors ever prayed for thunder and lightning or violent weather. Not that I don’t get it. You have no idea! But the point remains.
And then it was down to Twin Peaks Resort, a very nice cabin, with a very nice view in its own right, and the fine hospitality of our hosts, Sandy and Donna. Sandy (Alex) was a bit of a character — of the pop-to-the-chops variety the Havamal speaks of and we guys all know very well from our common interactions with each other, ie. male “flirtation/teasing” — but all-in-all a friendly, good natured man, and an impeccable host. Beyond helping us out to our first cabin, he and Donna also gave us a lift from town or to town on a couple of occasions, and dropped us off dark and early at the bus station the morning of our departure.
The second challenge of the honeymoon was to hike to the summit of Mount Terry Fox; made even more of a challenge, not only by the accumulation of fatigue, but also by the fact that the region’s only taxi service, now defunct as mentioned above, added upwards of 15 to 20 kms, along the highway, to the hike. But we decided to tackle it anyway, as it wasn’t like we could just come back next weekend. As it worked out however, the fear of heights I so rudely discovered I had a few years back, ie. the Goldstream Trestle, kicked in. Now, don’t get me wrong… Sandy. I have been back to the Goldstream Trestle (internet search it!) on a couple of occasions already, to face it and face it down. And I have hiked some fairly precarious trails and “trails” around the island here, which might not have presented a longer drop, but which would mess a person up all the same, with help every bit as many hours away. I am not easily deterred. And particularly here, realizing the potentially unique opportunity that was before me. And I hold a grudge against my fears. And I saw some of the pictures of people who had made it to the top, eg. “old people”. As it was, we were about 3/4s of the way up the switchbacks — very steep stuff here — before I noticed that I had begun to hyperventilate and my nerve at last broke. My wife, who skips and dances across the aforementioned Goldstream Trestle, perhaps seeking to make me feel better, said that, while she has no phobia regarding heights, was herself very apprehensive of the path and the incline. Very narrow path, Very steep slope. Fairly moist earth, not entirely ungiven to give way beneath one’s step, with a fall resulting in a fast plunge of maybe 50′ tops before one’s descent would have been stopped dead by a tree. With a lot more ground to cover if it was not. And so, as they say, discretion was acknowledged as the better part of valour, all things considered, and we turned back.
The memory of it still hurts. Especially having looked at our hike tracker and seen how close we were to (potentially) more tolerable terrain. But also, providing (further) incentive to one day return!
We filled the remainder of our honeymoon with walks to town and back, a couple of smaller hikes (the pics of which are on my wife’s laptop at the moment), and really, just some well earned rest and relaxation, doing the things newlyweds do on their honeymoon.
All-in-all it was an unforgettable experience. The perfect honeymoon. No matter the taste of humble pie, which any man who has ever put himself out there has to taste on the odd occasion, if he is any kind of man at all.
From there it was on a greyhound bus and back home to the island and the radiant sea!
We’ve been on a few different hikes since that time of course, mostly covering familiar territory, but also out to Botany Beach and Avatar Grove during a vacation in Port Renfrew, on Van Island’s (south) west coast, but we began to ease off on these after we learned that my wife was pregnant. And, on Dec.9th of this year, we welcomed our daughter into the world!
She weighed in at 8 lbs, 9 oz. At least a pound more than most of us expected. On the 18th of December she was placed in my hands, sprinkled with water and named Aelfwynn Victoria-Marie. The middle names are a combination of the names of my maternal grandmother (Victoria) — not to mention Alfie’s city of birth, and the queen it was named after! — and my wife’s paternal grandmother (Marie), while Aelfwynn is of course Old English, in-keeping with my son’s name (Eldred), meaning “elf-joy”, and also being the name of the daughter of Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians, and niece of King Alfred the Great. And here, the picture to the right says it all! Aelfwynn is aelfscinu, radiating with the beauty and joy/friendliness of the elves!
So, it looks like, for the next few years anyway, hiking in general, and “adventurous hikes” in specific, are going to be anywhere from nonexistent to few and far between. That said, we will be building her up for a love of the outdoors. And I also have enough hikes as yet undealt with here to justify another “Heathen Hiking” entry or two, but for the time being, they are on the back-burner. I have however taken to doing some genealogy, which has furnished me with an interesting story or two regarding my early “British North America” (paternal) ancestors, and a lot of historical background concerning Upper Canada and Hasting County, including some of the superstitions held by the English, Scots, Germans and Irish that populated the new province in the late 18th and early 19th century. Ultimately, it’s the kind of thing that anyone outside of my family, or at least outside of North America, might not be all that keen on, but which I’ll probably throw up all the same. If however you are a Canadian, a real Canadian, ie. First and/or Founding Nations, or at least aspire to be — you can do it!!! — this is something you would be wise, and enriched, even obliged, to learn something about… be it from me, or the stories of our ancestors, and anyone but the CBC and its less than wholesome “political narrative” ilk.