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  • Writer's pictureTim Madison


White Rock & Harrison Hot Springs

June 1, 2022

Our last trout fishing expedition to Canada was 2019. Our reservations for 2020 were canceled along with everyone else's. We're anxious to get back to the B.C. high country. We begin the day on Lopez Island for a ferry powered swim across to Anacortes. We manage this without trouble which we consider a lucky thing these days. The next trick is to find gas that isn't $5.25@. Costco seems to deliver under $4.90. Ouch. Gassed up and financially crippled we point the nose of the truck north to the Canada-US border at about 9:30 am.

The border. We are chuffed to hear that the Canadians have dropped the Covid Test Requirement, you know, the one that required a technical lab to evaluate and at least a 24 hour wait. But there's still a bunch of paperwork to deal with, namely, organizing the evidence of our vaccinations and loading them into the ArriveCan app. CK doesn't trust the internet to get our documents straight so she gathers a paper-copy dossier of all our vaccinations as well as evidence that we cooperated with the ArriveCan directives. As we approach the border guard's booth the tension runs high as CK steels herself for 100 questions and a body cavity search. We get none of that. There is one car ahead of us in line. In less than a minute we roll up to speak with the border agent. She asks where we are going. I tell her about friends near Vancouver and our fishing reservation. “Have a nice trip!”, she mumbles and dismisses us. CK is fuming as she clutches her thick folder of documents. All of her effort and documentation goes unexamined, unappreciated. She wants to go back and demand that our papers be inspected.

John & Linda's kitty

We aren't going directly to our fishing destination, which is Corbett Lake again, by the way. We are on our way to visit John and Linda at their home in White Rock. We haven't seen them for months, another result of Covid restrictions and cancellations. We usually see them at Yellow Point but with all the pandemic argy-bargy we haven't been able to connect. John offers us refreshment and I opt for water. He pours out a glass and puts it on the counter top. I thank him as I turn around and pick up a cup. The water is room temperature and tastes a little stale but I'm content not to mention it. I thought he was using bottled water from the fridge. Puzzling. I take another sip hoping that my first impression was hallucination. Nope. Same result. John saunters up, chuckles, and takes the water from my hand. “That's the cat's water. She may not be happy to share it with you.” I've never sampled cat water before. I can tick this one off the bucket list now and thump my chest. How long do feline viruses need to incubate? I ask the Google.

With water proper for a human in hand we lounge on their deck in warm sunlight. We congratulate the sun for making an appearance, this being one of the wettest springs anyone can recall. From here we examine the plight of a neighbor who owns a house with a flat roof. It isn't draining like it should and has become something resembling a shallow wading pool, a result of the nearly continuous rain. We are all silently thankful that we do not own that house. Linda serves us a lovely lunch of green salad and vegan Shepherd's Pie. Yum! Later we decide that everyone else in the world is insane except for us and promise to meet up again on Vancouver Island during Yellow Point season.

First Nation's Art at Harrison Hot Springs

We're off down the road, heading for Highway 1 toward Hope. The Google navigation lady, who we have named Griselda, guides us through farm country for several miles steering us away from the traffic carnage of Vancouver. “Take a left on Zero-th Avenue”, she commands. We obey. Sure enough, the street sign say 0th Avenue. Soon it becomes clear that this two lane road is right next to the political border between the US and Canada on the Canadian side. Just a stone's toss across the ditch to the south is US territory. It's all just pasture and a few patches of brush, Alder, and Cottonwood. A US border patrol car lurks behind a shrub, there to nab any who think to stroll across this unguarded bit of politics. Odd.

CK checks her email and reports a note from John. It reads:

“We very much enjoyed our visit with you both. Cats, however, have somewhat mixed feelings. They are not bothered by Tim drinking their water as we have lots but they did express concern their food might be his next target. We did our best to reassure them their food supply was safe but they seemed somewhat unconvinced. Hopefully their trauma has not caused any permanent psychological damage.”

I hadn't considered the cat's food as a possibility. But since those two creatures were naturally suspicious of any intruder, also known as guest, I'm not surprised they accused me. They are also irredeemable cowards. I could take their food any time I like and suffer only a bucket of dirty looks.

The view from our room, Harrison Hot Springs

We find TransCanada Highway 1 East near Abbotsford. It is loaded with traffic and we aren't anywhere near Vancouver. We don't have far to go to reach Harrison Hot Springs, our sleep for the night. We arrive in the afternoon, plenty of time to enjoy some of the hot pools they are so proud of. Harrison is a pleasant place, a resort at the foot of a large lake with tall peaks in the distance. It is designed for summer vacationers.

Harrison Hot Springs in earlier times

There is a large, controlled splash & giggle zone in the lake and several shallow heated pools for conspicuous lounging in a public bath kind of way. It was first exploited as a mineral springs resort in 1886 back in the days when one 'took the waters' for one's health. There are some features of our room that date back to that period, we reckon. The photo is me trying to manage the single electrical outlet provided. Coffee machine, lamp, multiple chargers, two laptops and they have one outlet. This may as well be the 19th century.

Only one outlet? Gah!

CK loves it. She paddles and soaks in the water until she prunes up. Later, we take a stroll out to the edge of the property. Here we discover an artistic display showcasing the First Nation's definition of Sasquatch, a shape-shifting spirit creature that could turn itself into anything at all. This is nothing like the wild-man of the forest that white culture wants to promote. I think the First Nations folk have it right. Sasquatch is the hide & seek champion of all time and being a first class shape shifter really kinda explains it.

Corbett Lake

June 2

We leave Harrison Hot Springs this morning and follow a road on the north side of the Fraser River that we've never taken before. It steers us into Hope, B.C. where we pick up The Coquihalla Highway. This is a spectacular road that takes us out of the 'Lower Mainland' up to the Nicola Plateau and Merritt. I curse this highway because long ago its construction led to the destruction of my ancient favorite fishing spot, Surrey Lake. Grrrr. As we drive we are unable to drive the speed limit due to multiple road repair projects. There seems to be a new project every five miles. We get smacked by a short ice storm.

A brief stop in Merritt for supplies is required. We gather more food than we need after getting the news from Ann, the Corbett Lake manager, that their food service is non-functional. That's a shame because the meals, when they have them, are quite excellent. The reason is a familiar one in the Age of Covid: she can't find staff. At the Super we are gathering goods as planned until we emerge with our basket. At the moment of loading up the truck the cloud-darkened skies douse us with ice water. This is how spring is here in south-central British Columbia. The weather could be anything from 27°C (81°F) and dry to freezing cold with snow. The truck cab is dense with clammy humidity due to the fresh rain we're wearing but at last we're ready to move up the hill to Corbett Lake Resort. Driving on, gaining altitude, hail beats against the sheet metal like a thousand angry Gremlins.

The resort is only about 15 miles from town so we arrive in short order. Our altitude is 1950 ft. We get a thunderous welcome from a super-cell floating just to the west of us. Sunlight is darting between the ultra-black clouds. More thunder echoes off the hills, rumbling like rampaging boulders in the distance. After checking in we hurry to unload our gear into Cabin 10. Good that we hustled. 15 minutes after clearing the truck a serious electrical cell rolls right over the lake. For 30 minutes we have frog-strangling rain and thunder. Several lightning bolts light the landscape very close overhead and the thunder rattles the windows. CK worries that we don't have enough wine. I fear she may be correct.

We release them all!

These spring storms have a habit of hitting fast, hard, then moving on just as quickly. This one is no exception. By 4:30 pm the rain stops and the atmospheric conditions tame to a level proper for fishing. We take advantage. Some time is needed to bail the rainwater out of a boat and mount my electric motor but soon we're off on the lake. We're happy to be back. The last time we wetted a line here was September 2019, 2 years 9 months ago. And Corbett Lake welcomes us not only with thunder and celestial fireworks but with a nice rainbow (trout) of about 20 inches. We only get the one before darkness chases us to the shore but we'll be back tomorrow.

June 3

Corbett Lake

The weather forecasts all tell us of a day full of rain. However we find a window of two hours in the morning to grab some fishing time. The French Open on so we play it in the boat on low volume through a BT speaker. Nadal vs. Zverev. We lose the signal late in the 2nd set. Too bad. Later we learn that shortly after we were cut off Zverev wrenched his ankle in a disastrous way and that was the end of the match. We retreat off the lake at about 11 or so, because I'm paying attention to the radar and the cloud deck. Something wicked this way comes. 30 minutes later darkness descends accompanied by more lightning, thunder, and other atmospheric violence, namely, rain and hail. We are cozy in our cabin by then, watching the drama while our thoughts go out to those who are getting ice pellets down their necks out on the lake. We net 3 fish in spite of the climate. CK gets a fish! One was a nice 22 inch bruiser.


June 4

We listen to Roland Garros Women's Finals in the morning before fishing. It's Coco Gauff vs. Iga Swiàtek. Poor Coco was out-gunned by the Polish lady. It was over quickly. Weather isn't wonderful for fishing but isn't horrible. We endure a few sun-showers. Other light squalls, drizzle, and clammy breeze spoils our reverie at times. I use my flask of single malt to take a bit of the chill off. CK doesn't do whisky but she has an awesome set of rain gear. 5 fish but should have had 7, most about 18-19 inches. Most fish were caught with a Goddard Caddis pattern on a dry line. CK gets two! A Prince Nymph is getting action. Curious that it gets attention both in June and September here.

June 5

Epic rain (I blame La Niña) has us pinned down in the cabin this morning. So, I'm listening to the men's final at French Open tennis (Nadal vs Casper Ruud; Nadal is winning) and reading the news on the web. It so happens that Keith Richards is still alive, a fact that once surprised us but no longer does. For my money, this is an archiveable comment attributed to him:

“Millions are in love with Metallica and Black Sabbath. I just thought they were great jokes... I don't know where Metallica's inspirations comes from, but if it's from me, then I f---ed up.”

In previous epochs we had to sniff the air and make a cantankerous guess about the weather before going out on the lake. These days, not so. The satellite data tells us pretty much exactly what's coming, how hard, when, and for how long. We can plan our day around this information. For instance, today we see a rain event (with lightning chance) will be with us until shortly before 11 am. After that we'll have good fishing weather until about 2 pm. Another squall with sparks in it will arrive about then. By 4 pm or so we can go back out.

Today we boat 6 fish between the raindrops but if we had hooked all our strikes we would have netted 15. Goddard Caddis got some hits but most were taken on Prince Nymph and Royal Coachman. Three fish broke our line. One probably failed due to a weak knot. My bad. Another actually parted the tip of the casting line. Damn. Would have liked to have seen those fellows up close.

CK has a conversation on the dock with 'Kevin' a fellow with a nifty boat and ready information. He's “ for the hatch”, she reports. He even pointed out the spot on the lake where he expects this event to occur. The question is when. He doesn't know, precisely, except that he expects it some time this week. CK doesn't ask what kind of hatch it is but I expect it must be Mayflies. I resolve to keep and eye on his boat tomorrow.

June 6

This is our last day of fishing and I must get up to the office and pay the bill. I'm also tasked with inquiring about availability in September. If we come back then we need to avoid a certain fly fishing tournament that books in here then. We've collided with them on 'practice days' before the competition and it is annoying when those guys dart all over the lake determined to camp on our favorite spots. We'll see.

Outside our door a chipmunk is munching dandelions. I leave her a couple of dried cranberries for a sweet dessert.

The weather today is nice. Dry with bright sun. Broken cloud would be ideal but we'll take this given the past few days of squalls and lightning. On a day like this the lake resembles an aquarium. The clear water and extensive shoals allow us to see fish as they patrol the area, often right under our boat. I should mention that the rules here are fly fishing only, barbless hooks, no gas motors.

End of day report: Only 3 fish to net and a few breakoffs. The air was breezy in a swirling way. Wind direction changed to include every direction except North, Northwest, and Northeast. Gusts ran up to 25 mph or so. We felt it was tough to find feeding fish but I also suspect other fisherpersons did better because they are smarter than we are. It is whispered along the Flyfishing Underground of Old Wives Tales and Rumor that bright sunlight (like today) spooks the fish and sends them deep into the shadows which they prefer. The Underground also promotes the idea that dropping air pressure accompanied by electrical storms stimulates the fish and makes them more active. Rising barometers encourage the opposite result. I'm certain that none of this can be verified scientifically unless it can. Nevertheless, we enjoy the Red Wing Blackbirds having their buzzy conferences and mating negotiations along the shore. A few ducks are patrolling the zone. I think they may be the Greater Scaup. A pair of Loons float along napping and bathing. These birds actually fly underwater. Awesome creatures. And, of course, turtles sunning themselves on rotting logs. We sometimes see a dozen of them crowded together in a sunny spot almost stacked on top of each other. There's an ancient Osprey nest up a tree along the south shore but the birds aren't here. Mr. Rogers would have called it “a beautiful day in this neighborhood” and we agree... except for the lack of fishing action.

June 7

We feel like we are settling into the groove and rhythm of this fishing camp. Of course, at this very moment we have to leave. It's like the best sleep of the night happens 5 minutes before the alarm goes off. Yeah. Like that.

Shower, coffee, toast and pack the truck. Google says it's a 3 hour 48 minute drive from here to the Anacortes Ferry. We usually take longer because of gas, coffee, and pee stops. There's also all that construction work on Highway 5 (The Coquihalla) but I think Google factors that in somehow. But never mind all of that. We gain the Sumas border crossing without stopping for anything. The U.S. Border agent lectures us on prohibitions to fresh fruit and raw chicken. Cooked chicken is ok, he says. He hands over a brochure. We thank him. Off we roll to search for gas and call our banker to make sure we can afford it.

Another Roadside Attraction in B.C.

We arrive at the ferry in plenty of time to hop the 4 o'clock boat instead of the 6 o'clock we had planned. We even hit Costco to raid a few items, so all is good. We roll up in the ferry queue behind one of our island neighbors, Larry D. and his new pup Lily. Larry is happy to see us and pulls a case of red wine and a bag of chips out from behind his gear. After a few minutes several other Lopezians emerge from their vehicles and a ferry line tailgate party materializes. As 4 p.m. nears we are concerned that ferry boat action is suspiciously suspicious. A moment later the P.A. squawks into life with an announcement that the 4 p.m. boat to Lopez is delayed due to lack of a full crew. We imagine some swab calling in at the last minute declining his opportunity to work today.

Mt Baker from the Anacortes Ferry Dock

Now they are on the phone, madly searching their lists to summon another crew-person. The tailgate party continues. The second bottle of wine is cracked. The 6 p.m. boat loads. Wistfully we watch it sail away. That one we had a reservation for but we aren't on it. We are in a different line because we opted for the 'earlier' boat. At 6:45 p.m. they are able to load us on what should have been the 4 p.m. Off we swim on our 45 minute trip to Lopez.

Our improvised Ferry Line Tailgate

Now, within sight of the Lopez dock, the ferry turns away and steams in a circle before it comes to a complete halt out in the Rosario Channel. Reason: the Sheriff is apprehending a suspect at the terminal. No, we don't know the details but we must wait for the all-clear. At last the ferry lands and we roll off onto our home island. We hit our driveway about 8:30 p.m. From the moment we arrived at the dock in Anacortes it took over 5 hours to get home. It was less than 4 hours to drive from Corbett Lake B.C. to Anacortes. And I'm sorry to say that this is sorta-kinda normal for our ferry service these days.

We were happy to get back to regular travels in Canada and we have more planned. About July 8 we're back to Yellow Point Lodge and again at YPL in late August. But after that we're going for a big adventure. In October we're hopping clear across the Pacific to New Zealand. CK has set us up with a driving tour that covers a lot of ground so stay tuned!

Our next big adventure: New Zealand in October!

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