03-Aug-2001 -- the narrative i've included below comes directly from a letter i wrote to a friend that week.
i've included notes where it helps the story along. i brought two cameras with me, one digital and one film - both were soaked from the ambient wetness of the confluence area. note that while the confluence sits on land, the only way to get there is by water.
... next stop: 50N 124W.
even the gas station attendants are friendly. i ask them for
directions and they're curious about where i'm going and what i'm
doing. small town folks want to know everything about outsiders. i am
vague but nice about it. there are only so many times in one day i can
muster up the energy to exclaim the spiritual implications of an
online database that samples and unifies all global points through
photographs and words. so i reinvent myself as a ficticious
photographer. simply saying "i'm a photographer" is enough for most
anyone who asks.
i head north on hwy 101. it's much like our 101 through mendocino
county except that the twisty highway is surrounded by pine trees
rather than redwoods, and runs much closer to the ocean. fog and
mist floats apart, revealing bits of water inlets and island views. i
feel like i'm watching a nature peep show. everything surrounding
me is so beautiful that it's erotic.
i arrive at the next ferry terminal north. if i remember right, this
is the saltery cove ferry that connects the sunshine coast to the
powell river area. there must be a marina nearby, i reason. i ask
around. the BC ferries operator tells me to drive east 6 miles into
egmont and i can hire a water taxi from there.
egmont is barely even a town. egmont consists of a handful of cabins,
the marina, and the backeddy pub. and egmont is also my gateway to the
confluence - it's the last point on the map i can drive to. as it turns
out, it's impossible to drive to the confluence, even though it's on
land. the rainforest is too thick and no logging roads exist anywhere
nearby. so i flip on my GPS and load up the cameras (film for the
analogue, batteries for the digital). my gut tells me that everything
the bar in the backeddy pub is everything you'd expect in a small town
bar. it's rustic and quaint. a few townies are playing pool. everyone
turns their heads as i walk up to the bar. i feel like i'm in a movie.
i ask, "where can i hire a water taxi around here?" the bartender
tells me i should walk downstairs to the office and ask the woman
the office is more like a general store. the woman is completely
confused by everything, especially the phone that keeps
ringing. "everyone always has something - never get a moment of peace
around here - where the heck - oh great - i can't find anything here -
yes can i help you."
i explain my story: "i'm a photographer." it's 3pm now, and i want to
hire a boat to take me up jervis inlet up to the mouth of britain
river (about 25km up the channel) so i can take some pictures, then
come right back. the last ferry leaves langdale for vancouver at
8:20pm and i need to make it back in time. i explain all this and she
calls for the water taxi.
the water taxi service is really just some guy named mark who owns a
boat. his wife, linda, does all the scheduling and dispatch on their
cordless phone. the desk woman ("darlene, dar for short, but NEVER
charlene") says he can show up at 4:30pm. (i overhear her say "does it
help that he's this cute blonde guy?") 4:30pm: 2 hours there and back,
a few minutes to shoot pictures. no problem. plenty of time to make
the last ferry into vancouver; i could still make olympia later
tonight. mark shows up a half hour late. 5pm now. i can still make it,
though secretly my intuition tells me i won't.
i introduce myself to mark and climb into his boat. i tell him all
about the project, and his curiosity is piqued. we open up to each
other a bit. mark is a good sailor. he has all the right gear and
charts, but mostly he uses his instinct. i can't decide if he's a
virgo or a scorpio. for that matter, he starts to remind me of dan
[my mother's boyfriend] - a scorpio with lots of virgo in his chart.
they have the same manner at sea, the same style of dress, the
same mysterious approach to everything, the same fingers and hands.
conversation is heavy from the get-go, as we talk about the thin
boundary between life and death. at this point i realize that i've put
my life completely into the hands of this unknown sailor. his gaze
turns deep and i begin to wonder about his fantasy world. for all i
know, he could be crazy and i could be an easy target. so i lighten up
conversation; i ask if he's married, if he has kids, etc etc. small
talk. small talk to shift conversation away from death and
transformation, back towards the lighter things.
i start to clue into the fact that he also doesn't know what to make
of me, but he's equally intrigued. he tells me all about the old
caves, where the ancient native tribes would paint murals after the
hunt. he's explored many of the secret caves along the shore and
recites all the details to back it up. i still can't decided between
virgo or scorpio.
we arrive at the shore of the confluence point. he hitches the boat to
the rocks so he can hike up with me. this reassures my paranoid side,
which had been busy at work crafting delusions of him sailing off
without me. after a quick scan, we decide that the confluence point is
"up in the bush". up in the bush is canadian for "you have to dig
through thick trees and vines and rocks and mud". oh and also, up a
steep incline, over the rocks, up past the ridge. he says "are you
ready to be a mountain goat?" how did he know i was a capricorn. of
course i'm ready.
my camera gear is strapped on. we dig our way up the side of the hill,
grabbing branches and rocks and trees and vines, pulling our way up,
sliding around, slipping, stopping to rest in clearings. the GPS
signal goes in and out. we climb through waterfalls. we are both
completely drenched and laughing and exploring. this is somewhere
between male bonding and vietnam.
an hour and a half of this, and we're finally near the confluence. we
switch to his GPS because mine isn't calibrated for british
columbia. now we're about 100 meters away, and he goes back to redock
the boat closer to where i'm at. he's a much more experienced hiker
than i am. i am, without a doubt, from the city.
we get as close to the point as satellite reception will allow [49 degrees
59 minutes 59.1 seconds north]. the view is amazing. i can't even describe the
feeling of being up there, high up above the water, after the grand search
for arbitrary coordinates. i take photographs. my cameras are waterlogged
but still working. though i am unsure of the focus.
i'm about to take another photo of the GPS, when suddenly mark hears
things. bears. breaking twigs and bear groaning sounds. he yells at
the bears then tells me "let's go right now" with a look of life or
death in his eyes. without questioning why, i join him in the
fight-or-flight, running through the recently impassable vines and
slippery rocks, trying not to fall, trying not to become food. we
finally reach a clearing and stop running. he points out a large pile
of bear shit as proof that they've been nearby. we climb back down to
the boat, breathless, still marveling over the adventure and the
success of the adventure. i flip through the digital photos and
breathe deeply. there are high-fives and water bottles.
lesson learned: trust your guides. always trust your guides.
we head back and get to know each other more. he tells me about his
strong connection to egypt; how he someday wants to leave canada to
see the pyramids, how he wants to live on a sailboat and sail around
the world. i tell him a few of my stories in exchange.
it's 8pm. the ferry is an hour and a half drive away. i'm stuck on the
sunshine coast tonight, like it or not. i secretly like it. the thought of
being trapped in this small town with no way to get back feels
exciting. mark offers to let me stay at his cabin with him and his
wife. i agree to it, knowing full well that everything only gets more
bizarre from here.
we're at the backeddy pub and things are rocking. busy night tonight,
busier than usual. the fishermen, sailors, and tug boat crew swarm
around the pool tables. tourists and a few locals sit at the tables. i
sit at the bar. mark sits a few stools down. just about everyone else
at the bar works at the pub or at the marina. dar is here too. the guy
sitting next to me doesn't move or talk, except to sip on his
beer. iris, the owner, is slammed tonight. she's the only person
working so she's manic. i wait patiently and eventually a menu drops
in front of me. lucky for me, the universe is on my side
tonight. somehow, someone had the forsight to include boca burgers as
a bar food choice. [note: i'm vegetarian]
iris calls me "honey" and "sweetie" as she takes my order and delivers
me beer - a dream come true. i settle into my food and just listen for
all the local gossip, sometimes adding my two cents. dar complains
about the store, how they should never have hired that 16 year old. "i
drink more this year than i did last year." i hear about rick, the
local crossdresser, who everyone calls cupcake. i hear about
competition between water taxis. i hear about the creepy vietnamese
tourist that rammed his tongue in dar's ear. i hear just about every
bit of dirt this small town can dig up.
i'm the stranger in town so the folks at the bar engage me in
conversation. we start off light, talking about the differences
between living in the country and living in the city ("i'll walk
through the ghetto anytime of night, but bears? no way."). then i hear
all about how everyone smokes pot and grows to make extra cash for the
winter. everyone at the bar understands the inner workings of
hydroponic technology and how to wire your home so all the energy
consumption on your electric bill doesn't raise attention. we talk
about medical marijuana and the differences between US and canadian
law. i use the phrase "police state" and the bar nods knowingly. linda
shows up and joins in the conversation. i suddenly become the center
of attention. women in their 40s are flirting with me, shamelessly, at
a bar in the middle of canada.
i move over where linda is sitting so we can hear each other. the
conversation quickly moves to astrology and metaphysics. linda is 48,
an aquarius, and married to mark, the virgo with venus in scorpio
(aha! mystery solved). they both have moon in taurus. as an aquarian,
all she wants to talk about are astrology, computers, the internet,
and grand visionary ideas. i'm all for it. this is the conversation i
never expected to have tonight. i drink three beers and gab away with
linda until midnight. we talk about relationships, past and present,
and the balance of male and female energies in everyone.
we also catalogue our views of music, physics, and psychic
experiences, while swapping names of authors and book titles. some
overlap, some conflicts. all in all, good solid aquarian rambling. she
asks me why i think we're here (we = the human race). i tell her my
soundbites, rooted somewhere between my spirtual and scientific
"this is what i think it is. and i'm telling you this because i know
it's true. we are here because we are a gene splicing experiment, put
on earth by aliens," she explains to me, with full conviction and
authority. she tells me all about the
, a group that's supposedly at the center of this conspiracy
theory involving aliens, the NSA, and a cdrom encoded with all the
answers. the cdrom was found in a cave, and was delivered to us from
the future. i decide to believe every word. i mean, why not? what else
am i going to do tonight.
i follow linda and mark back to their cabin. on the way home, they
pick up their 8 year old daughter named breezy. we pull into their
"driveway". the driveway is really a quarter mile long dirt road
through the trees. i wish for four wheel drive: the dirt road is full
of hazards and deep puddles.
the cabin is very rustic and very remote. once we park at the end of
the driveway, the next step is to walk a couple hundred yards down the
hill. it's dark and the hill is steep. the staircase to the house is
really a series of rocks, tree trunks, pieces of ladder, and the
occasional rope to help you climb down. we are greeted halfway down
the stairs by their pet wolf named seth.
seth is huge. seth is like a person in a dog suit. he has giant ears
and sad eyes. once at the house, i am greeted by their pet goose and
grey kitty named sandles. the kitty and i bond instantly. the goose
nips at my pants. their cabin is as rustic as it gets; there's even an
outhouse. the indoors are really the outdoors with some wood
overhead. i make tea and we all continue various threads of earlier
conversations. i chat about sailing with the virgo and conspiracy
theories with the aquarius. breezy demands to watch "gremlins" even
though it's past her bedtime.
at this point, i realize that mark and linda interact with me and with
each other in exactly the same way as dan and my mom. (and notice that
their astrological makeup is very similar - he: virgo/scorpio. she:
aquarius.) it's like i was karmically drawn to the random sailor and
his eccentric wife just so i could stay overnight and relive scenes
from my childhood.
i brush my teeth and find the spare bed in the laundry room. i fall
asleep reading printouts of alien invasion theories she pulled from
i wake up. linda makes coffee. mark shows me his 35 foot sailboat
(sleeps 4, with kitchen and bathroom) that he wants to sell so he buy
something bigger to live in. they try to convince me to stay just one
more day (just one more day!) - it seems that i make friends very
quickly. i swap email addresses with my newfound backcountry
friends. i sip coffee while linda tells me all about wolf psychology,
and why they make such good pets.
finally i get myself ready to leave for the ferry. i say several
goodbyes and thank-yous for the place to stay. 8 hours later, i'm in