B.C.’s wilderness: use it or lose it

Computers no substitute for memories forged in the great outdoors.

We live in a world, or so it seems, filled with anger, pettiness, and a level of viciousness that seems to define humanity these days. And with a younger generation with their proverbial heads up their computers and iPods, what does the future hold for us as a species?

More importantly, what does the future hold for nature, that which gives life and nurtures us until we are ready to give back to the earth? Especially when we talk about destroying the natural world by building pipelines and concrete jungles, and supporting such destruction with the term “progress”; a fascinating concept.

B.C., the Yukon, and the North West Territories are the last bastions of vast tracks of land and wildlife populations that haven’t been destroyed by humanity’s progress. Of course, that may change in B.C. if Christy “The Sacker of Nature” Clark gets her way by mining B.C.’s wilderness into oblivion.

Our wilderness draws people from around the world to her vast beauty, the diversity of her regions and wildlife. Over many years I’ve met many interesting individuals who have been drawn back to B.C., like a babe to its mother.

One such man was Frank from Seattle, Washington, who had a cancerous tumour. The first place he wanted to return after his surgery was to share his earlier experience of the Bowron Lake circuit with his family. It had been almost thirty years since his last circuit paddle, when the portage trails were still muddy tracks and you could line Babcock Creek, and canoe carts and kayaks were nowhere to be seen on the lakes. Tagging along with him were his wife, daughter and son, both kids in their late teens.

We ended up spending two evenings with them, the first on Unna Lake, an eventful evening sitting around the campfire at dusk swapping colourful fish tales. Our storytelling was interrupted as the eastern shoreline exploded in white spray as a young bull moose sprinted across a narrow gap closely followed by a grizzly. This is one of those moments when nothing else matters; Frank attempted to lure his son from the tent who was on his computer to share the view, his basic reply was, “That’s great,” and he remained in the tent. This was the family’s first sighting of a grizzly, and what an introduction. Frank’s daughter was, to state it mildly, excited. Sleep came easily that night as the chorus of sorrowful bellows of loons and the hoo-h’hooo-hoo-hoo of great horned owls lulled us to sleep.

With military precision, we were on the water the following morning before sunrise, and our silent and early departure was rewarded with several bears, and moose. Frank’s family ended up at Pat’s Point with us, where Frank lamented his ongoing bad luck fishing. I explained to Frank about using pink lures; naturally, he wasn’t too sure if I was pulling his leg. After dinner they paddled out to fish. His daughter had raided her Tampax stock and wrapped her lure with the pink cellophane wrapper, and within 10 minutes she had herself a two-pound rainbow, which was followed shortly afterwards by a smaller rainbow.

Through this whole process the son remained in the tent on his computer. His whole life experience came down to what was on the screen in front of him. What would be the highlight of his life, the high score in a computer game? Meanwhile, father and daughter shared an adventure that they could always treasure, a happy and peaceful time.

We can only hope there will always be enough youngsters out there to take interest in nature, and the important role it plays in our health and psyche. Maybe Frank’s daughter, who enjoyed the whole experience, will be one of those to protect the wilderness, because once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Lawrence Woodall is a longtime naturalist who has spent much of his life in the outdoors.

 

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