by Esther Darlington MacDonald
There’s a string of lakes up there in the Highland Valley above Spences Bridge, above Ashcroft, above just about everything resembling habitation, that was for some of us a generation ago, the place to be when you wanted to get away from civilization and taste the silence.
Of course, there was fishing. The three small lakes were as likely a place to angle for trout as any in the Cariboo. Not large trout. But they filled the pan, and were as fresh tasting as Pavilion Lake’s. We stayed at Pimainus Fishing Camp owned by Jack and the late Reta Kirkpatrick. Son Bob was often around to help as well. Eventually, Bob took the operation over.
This resort held several cabins, and the Kirkpatricks stayed in the lodge, a handsome log building facing the first lake, the largest in the string. We sometimes rented a cabin, or we brought our tent trailer up and camped. We also rented a log cabin a mile or so from the lower lake. It had been built by Forestry for the staff overseeing the ridge way back in the 20’s and 30’s. Jack bought the cabin which was as comfortable and as rustic as any one liking the life would wish for.
In those days, the trip up to Pimainus Lakes was a formidable climb for our aging Chevy 4×4. And God help you if a logging truck came around one of those blind corners. You had to back up, if there wasn’t an opening you could tuck yourself into.
Sometimes, we would encounter Spences Bridge rancher, Mary Curnow. In those days, she was on a horse, checking her cattle ranging on the ridge. That round cherry cheeked tanned face under the cowboy hat was always a sight for sore eyes. She’d wave and we’d stop and have a few words with her.
There is nothing like spending an extended period on a mountain top that entertains every kind of weather. If the weather is just too bad, you hunker down and wait for it to pass. Or you go up to the Lodge and have a have a mug of coffee and some good, just about everything kind of, talk. Or you work a crossword puzzle and periodically look out of the cabin window and watch the wind blow every which way. But when the weather’s good, you can explore the lakes’ boundaries and marvel at the variety of flora and fauna. There is no air fresher, cleaner smelling. You breathe it in deeply. It is as purer air as you are ever likely to breathe.
On those warm afternoons, you can walk through the woods, filled with grass and wild flowers, and wash your hair in a little pool hidden behind the grassy rump of a boulder left by the Ice Age, and you can sit by the weir watching the lake rippling beyond. And when you bring your catch into the camp after a long session out on the lake, you can clean and fillet it. We smoked some of the trout and took it back to Ashcroft and enjoyed munching that smoky, salty flavor of an evening.
In the evening, wood smoke filters through the camp. Food takes on a flavor more intense, along with appetite. And as every angler will tell you, there is nothing tastier than fresh trout fried in a little salt over a camp fire. You get up at sunrise and push the boat into the lake, and jump in and paddle off. Even if you get skunked that day, it is still one of life’s greatest pleasures to contemplate the sky, the lake and the light that changes with every shift of the clouds.
You can build your own dreams on a lake like that. Poetize, paint, philosophize. And wonder about the mysteries that Nature, inspires. And at night, you are close enough to the stars to reach out and touch them. At least with your eyes.