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Fort Saint James

7 June 2005

Paarens Beach PP
Fort Saint James, BC

I seem to be developing a dangerous talent for driving right past Provincial Parks. I don't mean to. I set out from Juniper Beach, on the Thompson River north of Kamloops, yesterday about noon. I intended to drive perhaps 4 hours.

I drove 10.

By the way, I've already fallen into certain patterns on this trip, and a noon departure is one of them. I find I like my mornings sedentary. I wake up stiff and crabby. My eyes open fully only halfway through the shower. This makes the pre-shower shave something of an adventure. Then I drink several cups of coffee, sitting outside if the bugs allow it, maybe do a little writing, and fry up a late breakfast. Out of respect for the innocent drivers of Canada, I don't actually get on the road until fully human. This happens around noon.

In other words, I behave much as I do at home, minus browsing the newspaper. Out here, Nature is my newspaper. Yesterday it arrived wet.

I stopped off in Chasm, which is where I camped on my first night out of hospital in 2003, after a stent operation in Edmonton. It is still just a muddy flat spot along a cliff, with a pretty view. No enormous fires on the horizon this time round. Unimpressive, but yet it has a place in my heart. So to speak.

The store at 70 mile house has some VERY good home made jerky. Pretty cheap too. Load up.

On and on, through Williams Lake, and Quesnel. The scenery is nice, but monotonous. Most anything gets monotonous, on a long drive day. Around Hixon I stopped for the "famous Hixonburger" and a plate of Poutine. Poutine is a mess of fries covered in white cheese and brown gravy. Very hearty, and more savory than it's name suggests. I started seriously looking for a Provincial Park. And then drove obliviously past 3 of them, and on into Prince George. I never saw a sign.

Prince George is a ghost town after 5 PM. One of those places where they roll up the sidewalks. I stopped in a substantial strip mall to pick up a six pack. It wasn't until leaving the liquor store that I noticed a big sign on a lamp post. It had a lot of small print on it, but the gist was that no one could park in this side of the lot without a permit, by golly, and was liable to be towed away if they tried.

There was an old man out there sweeping the parking lot with a straight broom and a shovel. Let's call him Sisyphus. I asked him about the sign.

"Oh, nobody pays any attention to that. Those guys are just dull knives. There's a property line through here somewhere, and someone thought the pizza place patrons were taking up more than their share of the parking."

"I never heard of a parking permit for a commercial parking lot. Looks like it would run off casual customers. Where would you get a permit, anyway?"

"Nobody really knows," says Sisyphus. "It hasn't come up."

It isn't that there aren't plenty of campgrounds around Prince George. It's just that all of them I saw signs for were commercial campgrounds, and I avoid those. I may have to reconsider that policy. I drove and drove and drove up Hwy 16. The sun got lower and lower. Finally I turned off around 8 PM toward Fort Saint James.

They were resurfacing the road. It took 2 hours to go 50 kilometers or so. I made the mistake of cracking the window an inch. About 853 mosquitoes swarmed in. I wondered why the traffic drudge kept waving that stop sign in front of his face. He just wanted to live out the shift.

I finally got most of the mosquitoes out by lowering both windows during the intermittent 20 mph forward lunges that the construction permitted. Of course that let in all the choking dust. It was a tough choice.

I got into Paarens Beach PP about 10, just as the setting sun was painting the placid surface of Stuart Lake. I batted away the bugs long enough for a picture, then dove into the trailer and spent the next 30 minutes flailing about with the flyswatter. Then I went straight to bed.

I woke this morning to the sound of surf. The sun was up. It was 4:30 am.

There was a nice cool breeze off the water. A beautiful day. No mosquitoes. I expected to see windrows of them in their millions, but somehow they all just snuck off somewhere.

I suspect they or their cousins will be back. Meanwhile, this is my chance for a walk along the beach.


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