John and I visited the Kootenays in late March to connect with our friends who still live there – where we spent 25 happy years. Mid-way between those two weeks a Clearwater buddy asked this question over the phone: “Wot’s the weather like there?”
“I haven’t a clue,” I answered, “but the sun was shining when my Kaslo friend and I were catching up while soaking at Ainsworth Hot Springs.” This trip was all about seeing people we so seldom see now, and being part of that world again – even if briefly.
We did notice the surroundings on our eight-hour drive there, seeing winter’s white overcoat spotted with dark patches under a drab sky. Frozen ground held melt-water in temporary mini-lakes; real lakes were thawing with ducks and geese testing their take-off and landing skills where the “runway” was just long enough. We stayed with various lovely friends in their rural settings, and at all those places deer, not necessarily welcome as garden patches emerged, also visited. A large herd of elk grazed on a farm beside Highway 31; at least they’ll leave calling cards to fertilize the spring growth of hay!
In Kaslo we looked for changes for it is now almost five years since we left, but well-loved familiar scenes and buildings brought back memories galore. Two heritage buildings and their museum-like contents have burnt: the mine building at Woodbury and Silver Lodge Hotel at Ainsworth. Both of our former homes are changed, one bringing this comment: “What a ghastly colour,” and “All that work we did; now the place is unrecognizable,” for the other.
But the friendships do not change. Eyes light up when we see each other and no time is needed to re-invent a connection. Others have moved away too, but we have been lucky enough to see many of them recently; in fact, we visited one such couple in Penticton on our way home. Then there are the dear departed, whom we will miss forever. Some recent losses have been especially painful. I can’t leave out doggie friends, most of them having visited us here in Clearwater, and whose welcome was every bit as warm as their people’s – with a few licks instead of hugs! They, like their humans, did not seem to mind that our walks were slow and short because of my gimpy hip. Our shared enthusiasm for being out there together was all that mattered. A special request to walk down the dike beside Kaslo River and along the edge of Kootenay Lake was granted; happily, my slow pace facilitates close communication.
In the past, we have spent lots of time in Purcell and Selkirk Mountains – John in search of elusive minerals and me on many of the trails. Catching sight of side roads, we remembered places we have camped, and trail heads that lead to spectacular alpine scenes filled with wildflowers and mountain tarns rippling in the sunlight, reflecting jagged peaks. But mostly we think of the people who shared such experiences with us. One of them had tracked me down on Facebook: “Are you the Kay Knox who used to be the Guide Leader…?” We saw her in Nelson; she’s now a Sparks Guider with her own daughter enjoying being part of this 101-year-old organization for girls and women. That’s just one example of so many special moments that made this trip nostalgic and precious.