Sunday, May 13, 2012

Valemount

Valemount is a small town in a valley of extraordinary beauty where three different mountain ranges converge: the Caribou, the Monashees, and the Rockies. Getting up each morning, you feel like a little ant dwarfed by the monstrous crags of the surrounding white peaks. The McKirdy clan is the original family to settle the area, and several families of relatives live at different heights on the side of McKirdy mountain. They have built their houses from the logs of the mountainside, and each home is connected to a damn that catches the glacial streams and provides a source of water and electricity. The Carson family in particular have created an almost Lord of the Ringsian palace partway up the mountain, embedding twisted tree limbs into their staircase and great soaring and knobbly trunks as pillars in their home. At the very top, they have an observatory from which you can gaze down on the valley stretching out below you. They are the highest home on the mountainside, and the air is noticeably chillier up there. The dad, Gordon Carson, is one of the most creative and innovative of builders. He finds things in the woods and turns them into parts of his home or structures for his sons. He took an enormous hollow log and set it on top of his workshop like a tower. Then he build a ladder inside so that you can climb up through the middle of the tree-trunk to a tree-fort up above. It's quite amazing!

My dear and energetic friend Miwa guided me up McKirdy Mountain and left me there to camp for the night. It's early May, but we were using snowshoes to get through the snow. By the time we reached a little cabin just below alpine, the snow was about a meter and a half deep (I'm not kidding)! You can tell by the depth of the bowls around the tree bases. The Carsons built this cabin for hikers, using helicopters to get the supplies up.

Hiking back down the mountain the next day was like a fast-forward through the seasons. Up top, there is dead and heavy silence, steadily falling snow, and deep snow everywhere. Then part-way down, the snow gets wet and the woods are a luscious steam bath in the gradually warming air. The woods grow greener and greener, snow-shoes can be peeled off of your sodden feet, and choirs of birds start chattering enthusiastically around as you leave the snow-clouds behind. It reminded me of Lewis's The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, when the four children pass through the magic wardrobe and step into Narnia, which is imprisoned by a never-ending winter. Then towards the end, when the power of the White Witch is conquered, all the snow begins to melt and disappear, leaving the country rapidly bursting into Spring!

I forgot to mention, that I was totally impressed by the people here who have built their own homes and are living in them. People in their twenties who build a log cabin, relax by skipping up the nearest mountain, grow their own food, and are glowing with health!

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