Thursday, 1 September 2011

HiHiuman Weddings, Biker Cousins, and the Rainbow Trout Strike Out.

I woke in Edmonton, inside my Uncle Ricky’s trailer park suburb.  I was pretty disoriented after a long day of travel and a short night of sleep.  I gave my uncle a quick call and told him I was close, I said I would drop in for a coffee before heading through Jasper and into BC.

His trailer was surrounded by a six foot high wooden fence and when I rapped my knuckles on the front door of his gate an eruption of loud barks erupted from the other side.   I could see through the cracks of the fence a protective German shepherd eying me up.  My uncle came out and grabbed the dog, and invited me in.  I did the “smell-my-hand” gesture with the dog and it calmed down.

I hadn’t seen Uncle Ricky in over a decade and he looked pretty much the same, although he had locks of golden hair.  I only had about an hour with him and my Aunt Rose before he had to get to work.  It was a brief visit, but a good one none the less.

Outside we said goodbye and he slipped a twenty into my hand.. completely unexpected.  I said thank you and gave him a big hug.  I grabbed a decent breakfast of sausage and eggs at a local diner, filled up my car and my reserve 10 liter plastic can with cheap Alberta, cowboy gas.  I hit the road and headed to Jasper and into BC.

The drive though Jasper was beautiful, and there is nothing like driving into the Rockies that stirs ones soul.  It’s hard not to be in awe of the majestic beauty of the area coming into BC from Alberta.  Green lakes and snow-capped mountains littered the panoramas east, west, north and south.  

Rocky mountain hop.

I was heading for the Kamloops airport, where I was en route to meet my cousin Casey and Uncle Victor who was flying in that night from Winnipeg.  I made the airport a half hour before my Uncle’s flight and went to the tiny airport’s cafeteria/restaurant and tried unsuccessfully to get some wi-fi on my laptop.  In the midst of my frustrations the deep bellowing voice of my cousin erupted from behind me, I turned to see his chiseled Abe Lincoln face.  He was sporting a brown cowboy hat and a brand new pair of cowboy boots.  I gave him a big hug, and got into the nitty gritty details of my trip across the country.  I knew he wasn’t reading my blog (this one) because he was in the mountains at an off-grid, resort called Hi-Hium (pronounced high – hume).  He was caretaker, general manager and boss on at the family operated fishing resort.  This was to be our destination.

We watched Uncle V get off the plane, a big smirk on his face.  He knew we were watching.
We grabbed some supplies in Kamloops and my Honda followed Uncle V and Casey in my cousin’s pick up.  We hit the dusty back roads shortly after sundown; we were in desert country now, the rolling hills around us covered in sage brush and cacti.  I choked on the dusty trail churned up from the truck in front of me and we began a climb of a couple thousand feet up rugged (non-honda friendly) back roads.  To our right side was a plunge to certain death, and the waxing moon guided our journey as it peeked through the thickening pines around us.

We got to Hi-Hium and  were greeted to a small party of friends and family.  My cousin Candace and her fiancé Greg were having a pre-wedding party.  My Dad was there, half in the bag, with my cousin Gary, the one I had just missed when I left Sioux.  I hadn’t seen him in at least two decades.  He wore all black, had a shaved head, a handle bar mustache and a leather vest.  He looked like a biker.. he is a biker.  I will not confirm nor deny this fact however.  

I was a tad afraid of him, I have never had too much interaction with biker dudes and had no idea what to expect.  We started talking and I liked him immediately.  He was funny, personable and kind, really, really nice.   Again I was taught that judging based on appearance was not a good policy to adopt, unless you want to live your life in fear and judgement.  I don’t, not anymore.

So we hung out, people got wasted and then I grabbed my Dad and we went back to our off-grid, wood-stove heated one room cabin and had a great sleep.

The next morning was all about getting ready to go fishing.  Hi-Hium is a stocked lake, meaning that the Department of Fisheries comes by and drops thousands of rainbow trout fry into the lake, letting them grow and mature in optimal conditions.  The lake has one kind of fish, and one kind of fish only; rainbows.
Now my fly-rod has been round the entire country and had yet to catch a fish.. I was certain Hi-Hium was going to change all that.  My uncle, Casey and I hit the lake and the fun began.  We took out the barge; a giant floating, blue rectangle with an 8 horsepower motor on the back.  We had a great time fishing, but no luck on our first excursion.  The second trip was different, they both caught fish, a “double-header”, two fish at the same time as I looked on in admiration and anticipation.  We fished a few hours and could see fish “rising” all around us, but they weren’t biting on what we were feeding them.  Still it was great to be out on the lake with two of my favourite people.

The next day was the big day; wedding day.  The camp was turned into an impromptu wedding destination.  Pick-up trucks rolled in en masse for one of the most interesting and awesome wedding locations I’ve seen.  There aren’t too many weddings that are held at fishing resorts on lakes at 4000 feet above sea level.  Cousuncle Gary took on the role of parking police and guided all the guests into their respective locations.

The wedding began, my cousin Candace looked gorgeous and Greg looked dapper in his western attire. It was a beautiful ceremony that began with my my cousin Casey and his younger teenage cousin Sam playing a live rendition of “Time of your Life” by Greenday.  The ceremony evolved into a beautiful one where the vows were exchanged by the glistening waters of Hi-hium under a cloudless sunny, summer sky.  It was everything a bride could have asked for, and more.

The technical issue was getting everyone down the mountain and into Clinton BC, an hour and a half away.  There were some lost vehicles, which were eventually found.  There were some country style, impromptu tail gate parties, and a beautiful vintage mustang that drove the bride and groom to their wedding hall in style.

Two hundred guests packed into the town hall and the festivities began.  There were a few rounds of speeches, designed to embarrass and vilify the bride and groom.  There was an amazingly well done edited video production courtesy of Candace and Casey’s Uncle Dennis.  There was a roasted pig and lots of good home cooking.  There was a relative who fainted and was attended to by paramedics, and of course there was a celebration of booze, lights and music that carried on late into the night.  

The next day was cleanup day.  There was the bride and groom and their parents, cleaning up.  That is the country way, and I have nothing but respect for the country way.  

I took it easy that day and spent the day and night with my Aunty Anita, I was pretty exhausted.  I kept it low key and the next day we headed up to Hi-Hium.

I was still skunked, and I had yet to catch me a fish.  Out Casey and Uncle Vic and I went again.  They both caught fish, and I caught none… well, I did have a bite, and it was a big one, he just got away on me.   Wanh wanh.

I hung out at Hi Hium the rest of the day fishing, boating and snacking.  Didn’t catch my trout, but I did catch a cold.  My dad and cousuncle Gary left for Calgary early the next day and I promised to visit upon my return through the east.  I grabbed a few vacuum packed smoked trout that were caught and forgotten, this would be my primary sustenance on the longest leg yet of my Journey, My trip into the North, to Whitehorse.  We headed back to my Aunt Anita’s place down mountain, and early that morning I took my Uncle V through the waking desert canyons to catch his plane in Kamloops.  

I stayed at my Aunt’s for another day, taking care of some laundry and blogging and packed up.  Over two thousand kilometers north lay the frontier, gold rush country, the untouched landscapes of the Yukon. 
They beckoned me.

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