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Creating Nowhere

Oct. 6th, 2014 | 02:13 pm

Creating Nowhere - A brief account of a hike through Stein Valley Nlaka'Pamux Heritage Park, Sept 16 - 22, 2014
No need to read all my ramblings if you don't want - the meaty stuff is in italics and has headings. Also, I changed tense quite a bit. I'm fixing it.

Tuesday Sept 16
Pemberton Taxi took me only 700 metres along Blowdown FSR on a very warm Tuesday September 16th - about 29 degrees. After adjusting my 20 kilogram pack and making sure my skin was protected from the sun and adjusting the bear bell so it made noise as I walked along the road, I set out at 1 PM for Blowdown Lake, 13 kilometres away. Halfway and a couple hours up the road, two "Eco Tours" trucks with wagons in tow containing the packs of the people inside the cab drove by. "Is this a sign?" I thought. A couple other trucks were at the parking lot at the end of the 2WD section along with the tour trucks - these had bumper stickers that indicated some semi-official purpose in the park. From the bottom of a steeper section that switched back once before heading straight for Blowdown Pass that marks the actual Western border of Stein Valley Nlaka'Pamux Heritage Park, it took another three hours to reach Blowdown Lake. Initially, as I heard many voices across the water, I wanted to keep going to the pass, but on encountering a truck that had braved the rougher section of the road that was gone a couple hundred metres on, and after talking to the two fellows were gathering their stuff from the cab, I decided to camp on the shore of the lake as they were in spite of the lively tour group at the cabin, who we could hear distinctly. I set up camp and ate hurriedly, chatted briefly with one of the guys camped 60 paces away, and wanting to get an early start so I could beat the group to Blowdown Pass in the morning, went to sleep. No dreams.

Distance 13.9 km.

Wednesday Sept 17

On waking, I walked around the lake and took a few pictures, looked up at the pass, about a kilometre away and a bit over 200 metres up. Made coffee, packed up, and walked back to the path that took the place of the collapse road a little higher up the side of the mountain. The road closer to the pass was still in great condition. Just before reaching the pass, however, maybe 150 metres from it, I could hear voices behind me. The tour group was no more than 600 metres behind, coming up the slope. I picked up the pace as I did not want to be overtaken by them. They were packed for only the day - they'd be going up Gott and Gotcha Peaks, probably, which I had wanted to do, but not with them around. I motored straight through the pass without stopping for photos, and didn't look back until I was a good 800 metres beyond the pass. Sure enough, they reached the pass at just that time, and I took a photo of the last people I'd see for three and a half days.


The meadows just below the alpine were colourful and quiet. So late in the season there were no bugs, and as I descended into the forest, the only sign of any wildlife was a single Grizzly scat. Around noon I rested near the collapsed bridge at the Silver Queen Mine turnoff, where there was a tiny fire-pit and three log seats (more on this later), a blue umbrella, and some pink rope laid out on the ground - marking the trail south to the mine. I thought about going up there instead, but was worried about the group behind. What if they decided to come this way? To Cottonwood Junction.


Lots of photos of various wooden surfaces signed with a black marker conveniently left in the bear proof steel cache. I sign “DF solo Sept 18, 2014” just below “RCMP patrol, Sept 17, 2014 – Smith Drouin.”

Distance 13 km.

Thursday Sept 18

Slow getting started on a cool morning, as it had rained and the tent fly needed to dry out a bit. Went through my backpack because something was missing. After an hour I realized the extra batteries for the camera must be sitting on the kitchen table back in Vancouver. Fine. Batteries for the T3i are very good and last 500 or more photos. Nonetheless, it began to feel this hike was not about taking pictures at all, even though I had been saying it was.

It was 12:30 PM before the tent fly was dry enough to pack up, but making my way through the forest was wet going still – really should have put the gaiters on, as the undergrowth was soaking from the rain the night before. And and there were thousands of spider webs to be brushed aside with hiking poles. This section of Cottonwood Creek after the junction leading to the Stein River is known as the most difficult section of the mini-traverse, but I think it was compounded by the fact that the much of the section was burnt five or six years ago. Alternate pushing one's way through (still wet) undergrowth by the water taller than oneself with following a flagged path higher up through blackened forest for three or four kilometres. Occasionally I saw the footprints of the two RCMP officers a day ahead of me.


Somewhere I passed without noticing a rough campsite (probably a ring of stones with three or so stumps to sit on) where Texas Creek meets the Cottonwood. Why was I moving so slow? I wondered.


Up the first of two ascents on the way to where the Cottonwood meets the Stein, through more burnt forest on a vague, dislikable trail partly cairned and partly flagged and partly flashed. It was already late - at least 4 PM. What had I been doing? I decided to ignore the bright blue marking and sidehill for a bit. The view is actually quite good across the valley, and the sound of Cottonwood Falls was loud – no doubt because the trees were all burnt. But of course it was difficult and slow off trail, though I saw footprints where someone had gone before – and eventually it became clear I'd have to stop somewhere up there for the night, with half a litre of water (forgot to fill it by the creek earlier). I chose a small flat area above a 40 metre drop between two debris channels, set up the tent in an area roughly twice its size, ate a small amount and had a gulp of water, and went to sleep to the sound of the river 300 metres below.

Distance - about 5 km.

The First Dream

Walking the alley in an older section of town I see the tortured face of a tiny black woman peering out of a small unglazed window in a wooden door. “Hi. You look a bit sad. Are you okay?” I ask her. The face disappears and immediately a large white woman with a broad face opens the door, and explains that the woman whose face I saw was acting. “She's just playing a role. She's not sad at all.” The black woman I'd seen is to the left, hidden by the now open door. I notice in the background to the right there are a bunch of people holding scripts and walking back and forth, apparently memorizing their lines, but also obviously aware of what's happening at the doorway, though they say nothing. Heads bent over their scripts.

Friday Sept 19

I woke about 8 AM thinking that dream was about the mechanics of racism, and ruminated on this while packing up. Only when everything was done and I turned toward the ascent I had to make did I realize that before me was a slope of slightly greater than 60 degrees and a distance of 80 metres back to the trail. (Through binoculars I saw a flag at the crest of the hill a bit further south.) With a 20 kilo pack this is was slow process, and all my senses seemed heightened, even though the dream I'd had was clear in my mind and wouldn't fade as I ascended. Sooner than I thought it would the trail was gained, however, and immediately it descended again, switching back to the base of Unnecessary Knob, the final hump before reaching the Stein. One good thing - the trees on the other side weren't burnt! That, at least, deserved a photo.


I should have eaten then, but didn't. I drank a litre of water from a swiftly running little creek, climbed up the steep section before me, checked out the view from the top, but took no pictures, and then descended the boulder field to Cottonwood Camp, which I reach by 1 PM.

I was halfway through the hike, but the section before me to the trailhead was easy compared to where I'd just hiked. Was I too fast or too slow? By what clock could I judge? The photographs I was taking were becoming more about the landscape and some internal state of mine than about prettiness or beauty. Perhaps this hike was an internal one as much as a test of will or endurance.

Cottonwood Camp was lovely, and a short hike to the falls to the north and to the cable crossing to the south. I intentionally left the camera at camp.

Distance - about 5 km.

The Second Dream

There is a house at the edge of town and five men are living in the top floor. The house had been abandoned. We are all dressed in black (the Black Block?) but there is some internal strife. I can hear the couple downstairs, who appear to be from the business world, going about their lives also in the abandoned house, but up here one guy is ripping off his shirt and challenging another to a fight. No idea what it is about. “Guys, we don't need to do this. No one needs to get hurt,” I say, but it is useless, and there is a fight. My son, about 8 years old in the dream, appears suddenly, and I think his ears are hurt, but he points to a fresh cut beneath his right eye.

Saturday, Sept 20

Well, that's about the mechanics of violence among the disenfranchised or dispossessed, I thought.

The next section of the trail was a bit unpleasant at times when near the Stein in thick underbrush, but the forest sections were lovely. I decided I was ahead of schedule and made camp at Ponderosa Creek where, at 5:30 PM, Roy and Sophie from Vancouver shout hello. The have come here from the trailhead in the morning and are tired, but eventually decide to go 2 km to the previous campsite, which is down by the river and beautiful, they tell me. These are the first people I've seen since Wednesday about 11 AM when I looked back toward the hikers at Blowdown Pass. They are actually quite delightful people, and I'll run into them again.

Distance - 8 km.

Sunday, Sept 21

Don't remember any dreams from that night, but in the morning as I made breakfast a memory from high school flooded my mind.

A Memory of High School

At 3 PM on a Friday in spring I hear him call out to me where I'm standing by the high school exit “Pak Pak Pakeeeee!” (It is the mid seventies and there are many Pakistani refugees seeking a place to live in Canada.) I run up to him and push him hard. “What the fuck did you say that for?” He pushes back. “Take off your glasses. I'm going to punch you and I don't want to take your eye out,” I say. He says, “what?!?” Adjusts his glasses and then walks away with his friends. I yell behind him, “you're a racist prick!” About a month later, when the high school creative writing publication we started up again comes out, he tells me the poem I wrote for it is good. It is an appology.

I've known for some time that this person has gone into a field not known for activism and change and attempted to make it so, insofar as that is possible, in particular in work with aboriginal organizations. I know the incident in the schoolyard had an effect on me. Surely it affected him too?

These thoughts take me to Lower Crossing (I passed Roy and Sophie's tent at the increadibly well-situated Lean-To Creek at 10 AM – they'd gone back to sleep, they tell me later) a bridge to the south side of the Stein and the biggest campsite yet, and a great site for group camping, where I have an idea.

The Idea

There is a large fire-pit and enough stumps and makeshift benches to seat 20 people. In some ways, I think, the most intimate thing you could tell someone is who the other 19 people at your campfire would be.

That's it, but it strikes me as somehow singularly important.

Also, I'm determined to make it to Loop Camp by dinner, 2 km from the Trailhead. This is 20 km from Ponderosa Creek but pretty moderate. There are beautiful views all along this section of the trail, but I want to be in Lytton to catch a bus to Vancouver Monday.

Roy and Sophie caught up to me around 2 PM after I'd stopped for lunch at Earl's Cabin 3 KM before. Earl's Cabin is another very pretty campsite. They motored on ahead, but an hour and a half later they come up behind me again just above Devil's Staircase camp (in all honestly quite an easy section, especially compared to the boulder field on the south side of Unnecessary Knob). They had gone off trail to see some pictographs. I caught up to them again later at Loop Camp, where I told them I was staying one more night in the park.

Loop Camp was huge and has graffiti, being only 2 km from the trailhead. It is lovely and close to the river, and here I notice that there are no fire-pits – at least I haven't seen one – with only two stumps or makeshift seats. The minimum is three. At Loop Camp itself there are four sites with three seats, and the rest have 5 or more.

Distance - 20 km.

More Idea

Is three a more dynamic and creative number of people, some kind of threshold for change? (I mean so much more than I can immediately make clear.)


Or here, a little table with three seats.


Monday Sept 22

It took me only 3 hours to get to Lytton, and the only interesting thing on the way was the river-powered ferry. In town I ate about 3500 calories in two hours, and then waited 4 hours for the bus to Vancouver at 5 pm. Frank, James and Sticko popped in and out of the park where I sat making notes. In the mid afternoon a 62 year old Quebecois man who had been biking across the country and parts of the USA for 147 days responded to my shouts. Raymond joined me in the shade and told me he is a semi-retired French to English, English to French translator, freelance but also worked for a long time for the Quebec ministry that translates legislation and so forth into English on request. He told me just that morning he was watching mountain goats for half an hour, high
above the road, and had to cross a bridge where he'd seen a brown bear only minutes before. The bear had slowly walked away as Raymond rang his bell a few times from about 100 metres away. I gave him a bag of dried cherries, blueberries and cranberries I'd brought but not eaten. And then I got on the bus to Vancouver, waving goodbye to Sticko who was saying goodbye and waving to everyone.

Distance - 8 km.

Tuesday, Sept 23

I didn't know what to do. All the things I normally did during the day seemed arbitrary and strange. I did make a wonderful carrot fennel soup, though.

Wednesday, Sept 24

The Third Dream

A city of the near future, things seem smooth, things figured out. But what is this huge dark circular object moving to the centre, and crushing things in the way, overpowering everything – heavy, cold, black?

People flee the center, but somehow it seems all important that we all get back there to the center, that leaving the centre will destroy all that has been built. Even as the city crumbles around us, I try to get people to move toward the collapsing center.


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a poem

Jun. 9th, 2014 | 10:31 pm

sun from the north
sun from the south
and a garden full of friends
who lean toward you

they hand you raisons and lemons
envelopes full of wind
scented with saffron and cloves
a procession of longing

the great fires of the world
are a veil between us
as I watch them pursue
the bright gazelle of your words

the one true solid

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A Darkening World

May. 1st, 2014 | 06:15 pm

There were dark places in the woods across the road from where I grew up, under damp sienna and umber coloured leaves, in hollow trees, by the black ponds where no one went, but these were living darknesses, full of unseen life, populated by a churning mix of beetles and worms and insects cycling and recycling dead plant matter in a cool loom of fertility. But the days were still bright surrounding the woods, and I wonder now when the darkness began to overtake the light. In all honesty it's been along time coming. I studied the Holocaust, and the war in Vietnam. I studied antarctic exploration and finally feminism. I thought studying these things would equip me with the tools to fight the darkness, but darkness seems overwhelming. it is no longer this or that unlivable horror, separated by time and space - these Montreals, these Breslans - but a darkness closing in, an undeclared war, a blanket of unbroken sorrow and death.

Whenever I take photographs or videos now, no matter how bright and pleasant the day seems, when I look at them, the don't seem true until they have the look of something destroyed.

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Edward Artemiev and the Sochi Opening Ceremonies

Feb. 8th, 2014 | 10:13 am

Ha! Was happy that the opening ceremony in Sochi used Edward Artemiev's music a couple times at pretty dramatic moments, but especially the theme music from Stalker in an oddly quiet and introspective moment with imagery reminiscent of Solaris just before the end. The only other mention of the Stalker passage online is here as of yet.
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Favourite Releases of 2013

Dec. 31st, 2013 | 01:08 pm

Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory & Injury (God Alone) (Burnt Year) This deconstruction/reconstruction of genres deservedly won the 2013 Last Rites.
Caladan Brood - Echoes of Battle (To Walk the Ashes of Old Empires) (Wild Autumn Wind) Can't wait to see where this band goes.
Summoning - Old Mornings Dawn (The White Tower) (With Fire and Sword, bonus track). The wait was worth it.
Karen Peris - Violet (Sweet William) (Wales Because the Sun Would Shine)
Light Bearer - Silver Tongue   (Matriarch)
Preterite - From the Wells (Broken Sea)
Deafheaven - Sunbather (Vertigo)
Sun Devoured Earth - A Static Life (Depersonalization)
Thy Light - No Morrow Shall Dawn (Wanderer of Solitude)
Lorna - Heart of Wire
Jachna/Buhl - Tapes (Live)
Julie Holter - Loud City Song (Hello Stranger)
Wintercult - The Last Winter (La Tristesse Durera Toujours)
And of course Tim Hecker's Virgins

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Altar of Plagues

Sep. 5th, 2013 | 07:15 pm

In one month Altar of Plagues, the influential Irish black metal band, will play their last concert. This is a group that in barely 8 years, three full lengh releases and a few eps, managed to define a new direction in extreme metal, and came to be associated, purely by subject and sound, with Cascadian Black Metal - along with actual Cascadian based bands like Ash Borer, Wolves in the Throne Room, Skagos et al. Altar of Plagues output culminated in this year's startling, unforgiving Teethed Glory and Injury. Influenced by multiple genres - post-rock, black metal, electronic, grindcore, even punk - but defined by none, this final release has been recieved with confusion by some critcs. While all admit it's originality, it's uncompromising vision, some are unable to come to terms with the sheer tonal and aural range of the overall package.

Here's Burnt Year from Teethed Glory and Injury. It has to be some kind of short, sharp masterpiece.

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Movies in IMDB's top 250 I Really Can't Stand for One Reason or Another

Aug. 8th, 2013 | 06:03 pm

Of course, this list doesn't include films I don't think should be anywhere near the top 250. Maybe I'll do a top film list of my own. If anyone really cares, I'm willing to say why I hated any individual film.

The Godfather
The Godfather II
The Dark Knight
Forrest Gump
Raiders of the Lost Ark
American History X
Saving Private Ryan
Back to the Future
Life is Beautiful
The Departed
Django Unchained
The Dark Knight Rises
American Beauty
The Green Mile
Toy Story 3
The Prestige
Reservoir Dogs
Cinema Paradiso
The Lion King
Star Wars Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Die Hard
Toy Story
Gran Torino
Good Will Hunting
Sin City
The Thing
The Wizard of Oz
Hotel Rwanda
Gone With the Wind
The Grapes of Wrath
Annie Hall
Into the Wild
There Will Be Blood
The Terminator
Million Dollar Baby
The King's Speech
Groundhog Day
A Beautiful Mind
The Princess Bride
Life of Pi
Monsters, Inc
The Truman Show
Jurassic Park
The Artist
District 9
Rain Man
Mystic River
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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Lost in Austen

Jun. 20th, 2013 | 10:15 am

Finally watched this, and while I liked the acting and characterizations of all the main players, the story itself was bloody boring. More interesting would have been Lizzie's adventures in London, because Amanda just wasn't motivated in the same way. A longing backward glance isn't a life. 4 out of 10.

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The Next Doctor

Jun. 8th, 2013 | 12:08 pm

The next doctor should be female and / or a person of colour, absolutely, I really want that, and I want to add my voice to the chorus. The woman who is currently the doctor's companion is actually perfect for the role, and Jenna Louise Coleman was a welcome change after the Amy/Rory duo became sluggish and enervating starting around 6 episodes into their tenture. I like Matt Smith's doctor well enough, but I'm not sad to see him go either. Clara, however - Clara is cool.

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All I See Are Trees

May. 9th, 2013 | 05:11 pm

Here's yet another piece of music designed to make you sleep. The original tracks were recorded to tape on an SK-1 that was circuit bent very early on - late in 1986, at the start of winter, I took it apart and began modifying it - a project that lasted a couple years. I even used an old Atari 800XL to generate some of the samples in other pieces. Of course, the old tape tracks have been upsampled and anti-aliased and otherwise altered, but the underlying train track from The Canadian 2 somewhere between Winnipeg in Manitoba and Hornepayne in northern Ontario has had only light equalization applied to it. This is aural melatonin.

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