Bella Coola May 2017

A couple of days before The Lion King was performed, I went to Williams Lake and picked up a couple of Volunteers.  Florian and Iris are both from the Netherlands although they hadn’t met until they got on the bus.  They helped with the play but as soon as that was over, I put them to work on the woodpile.  The amount of work they did was phenominal.  Between them they cut, hauled and split almost the whole supply for next winter.  Involvement with The Lion King had me feeling way behind in my spring work, but between them and Carlos the cyclist, I now feel well ahead.  Florian and Iris also dug and manured the garden, and helped organize the drip hoses.

They were both huge bread eaters, and so it wasn’t long before I had them making their own.A couple of years ago I built an outdoor stone oven.  The firebox was not high enough to get a really hot fire going, so as Florian was so strong, I got him to left up the roof and split the necessary 3 wheelbarrow loads of wood we would need.The fire burned beautifully – but disaster struck.  One of the roof slabs split and the whole thing collapsed.  I tested the oven for heat but it was not hot enough and the baking had to be done in my wood cookstove.  The volunteers had to leave before the oven could be repaired.

Just before I took them back to town, in early May, we went to Bella Coola, my first trip down the valley for 2017.  Like everywhere, the frost went deep into the ground last winter, and once the gravel road west of Anahim Lake was reached, there were some magnificent potholes.Although the road was bare, snow still blanketed the ground near Heckman Pass, the high point of Highway 20.But half way down The Bella Coola Hill on the other side we saw the first green leaves!The bottom of the valley was so lush!  Florian and Iris spent an hour or so shovelling manure for my friends at Stuie – while I went on an orchid hunt!These Fairy Slippers, or Calypso Orchids, are usually prime a bit earlier than this, but because of the late year I hit them perfectly.  They live on the forest floor among the great Douglas Firs of the coastal forest.Fir bark is designed to survive fires and many of the trees boast dark burn scars.  The bark is full of character. The calypso orchids were a real treat.Then I rounded up my brood and took them down the valley to see the sights.  We were accompanied by a young man from Chile, Jorge, who was staying with my friends.  Not far down the road we saw our first bear of the day.He was feeding happily while we watched, but suddenly a car roared past us and he jumped for a tree.  He was a big guy for a black bear so am not sure how well he would actually have climbed the tree, but he posed nicely for us!When the other car had gone, he came down and resumed eating.

Our first stop was the Big Trees trail.Devil’s Club was just leafing out,Skunk Cabbage was filling the air with it’s unmistakable perfume,And the Salmon Berries were in flower.We lunched in the cold wind on the Bella Coola waterfront.Then visited the petroglyphs.Sun poked through the trees in places.and along the open part of the trail, fir shoots and black twinberry were showing their spring colours.On our way back out of the valley, we encountered our third bear of the day (the second was a young grizzly who ran off too quickly to photograph).  Bear #3 was right at the bottom of the Bella Coola Hill.His feast of choice, unfortunately, was a renowned burdock patch.  This introduced weed might have all kinds of good properties for both bears and humans, but the burrs make a terrible mess of their fur.Our luck had not yet run out, for not far from the top of The Hill, we saw a movement on the road in the twilight.  Two dark-phase foxes were eating something on the road.  Obviously people had been feeding them.  They were asking us for more.

It was really too dark to take pictures.

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