August 1, 2017 – I usually come up to Bella Coola in September, for a couple of days of Chinook collection on the Atnarko. It’s usually a couple of amazing days of drift boats, tangle nets, big fish, and lots of grizzly bears. But I thought I’d switch it up this year since I have a couple of new sites to work with and a fair bit of overlapping timing of programs to navigate. So I bowed out of the Chinook and came up for the chum instead.
Coming now came with its own challenges. Booking a flight was certainly easier this time, and I didn’t need to book a hotel room since the rebuild at the hatchery inclues a small visitors suite. But there are fires raging across the interior of the province and that meant that the truck with the furniture for the suite hasn’t made it in, because of highway closures.
No problem, I have a sleeping bag if someone could scrounge me up a foamie. I wondered about buying food since there had been a CBC news story recently that the trucks also weren’t getting in to supply the community with many other common needs.
The sky was smoky in Vancouver this morning, and the sun was a red ball in the sky. The smoke hanging over the city extended up the entire coastline and obscured the Coast Mountain range normally visible below the plane.
When we flew into Bella Coola the plane came in from a completely different direction than I’ve ever flown in before, up the inlet. It provided a totally different perspective and below I could see some of the spots I like to visit for photography. The air was mostly clear at this end, over the inlet, so presumably the plane came in this was due to teh smoke farther up the valley. The Bella Coola Valley is a tight flight at the best of times, and in poor visibility planes can’t land because of the short runway and narrow confines.
When I landed I had a tour of the site to see where the rebuild is at, ran out for some groceries, ran into someone I knew while getting groceries and ended up with a dinner invitation, and then ran back to the hatchery to grab my waders and get in on an egg take down at the Snootli Creek fence before going down to the dock to help pull out someone’s boat.
When the boat was trailered and stored, when the eggs were fertilized and put to bed, I sorted out my little suite on site; I am the first visitor, and it’s not quite ready. The furniture hadn’t arrived because the highway was closed for so long and the trucks couldn’t get in. So there were no window coverings (no biggie since it’s well back on the property and faces directly into the forest), and only a table with two chairs and a small bed that one of the staff scrouged up for me. That was all. But it was better than the floor I was expecting. If I’d been thinking I would have made a backup reservation at one of the local lodges. But it was clean, and had air conditioning, and a fridge, and a kettle, and a working shower, so it was fine.
But no internet. Again, owing to the fires, Telus has not made it in to connect the lines. So to get email requires some work. There are one or two spots on site where one can get a single bar on the service availability….not enough to do much, so if one wants service one has to drive up the road a few kilometres.
It wasn’t that important to me, thus I am only finally getting around to posting my trip several days after getting home, and backdating them.
While wandering the site waving my phone for service, my ride pulled into the drive to pick me up and off we went for dinner up the Valley where we were greeted with fresh caught grilled salmon, fresh caught halibut baked under a layer of right from the garden tomatoes, an amazing vegetable and rice noodle salad, creamy macaroni salad, Caesar salad, toasted Portugese buns, corn on the cob, and for dessert, a just baked sponge cake covered in whipped cream and raspberries and blackberries just picked from the garden out back.
That certainly beat any fare I’d have found at one of the two local eateries in town.
And at the edge of Sandy’s yard, beside the deep gloom of the forest, sat a piano that caught my eye. Piano’s are almost impossible to re-home, and on taking in a new one, Sandy’s old piano had nowhere to go and now sits looking as if it is waiting for the forest creatures to play a song to the trees.
Not a bad first day.