From where I’m sitting I can see a robin, fat and glossy, his red breast shiny and plump as he hops in a patch of grass starred with tiny yellow daisies. I’m sitting on a weathered silver cedar deck, and stretched out in splendor beyond the spot of grass at the end of the deck is a tidal estuary of long, blowing marsh grass. The Skeena River, ruffled with evening breeze, is an expanse of rich silvery olive, so large I thought it was the ocean, studded with logs lazily turning in the current. A black crane of some sort, long legs trailing, flaps by toward the pine-covered mound of the opposite shore. Seated here in the sunlight, for the first time on this trip I’m a little too warm, and it feels glorious.
We’re staying two nights in a lovely restored cottage at Cassiar Cannery, a collection of rugged, surviving buildings from the cannery’s establishment in 1889 on the bank of the mighty river. Our hosts, Mark and Justine, are an enterprising and energetic young couple with a little two year old boy who bought the run-down cannery from a biker gang. The gang hung out there for years, collecting wrecked cars and scrap metal and growing dope. The property was in such disrepair that they got it for a song—and paid in years of hard work. Mark is a woodworker and boat repairman, and his wood ship, sawmill, and tools are enough to make Mike drool, not to mention how he’s built furniture for the cottages with logs he milled from the river, which is exactly what Mike would do if he were twenty years younger and lived in this spectacular place.
Justine, a fellow redhead, loves mysteries if the cottage's bookshelf is anything to go by. She's the design genius behind the cottages' pretty, modern decorating. She handles the booking and guests, and a two year old, too.
I get to spend all day tomorrow writing by myself as Mike has a full day of fishing and a bear sanctuary photography tour planned. I can already feel my bones melting into the Adirondack chair as I scan over the river for bald eagles—apparently there are several roosting nearby.
We got on the road early again this morning, not smitten with the charms of Smithers, and found the intervening miles and hours between there and here some of the most spectacular of the trip so far. We experimented with videos taken with cameras and phones
on the dash of the car and Mike got some great footage in various formats of the clean, curving road, the towering pines, the blue, snow-capped peaks.
By lunchtime we reached Terrace, and determined to keep to our resolution to eat at “local color” restaurants, we drove around until we found the Bear County Inn and Restaurant, mobbed because it was Father’s Day. We were able to sneak onto a table for two since most of the locals eating there were large parties.
We were glad we did. The service was a lovely woman who genuinely seemed to care that we liked our meal, and the homemade lemon cream pie we shared for dessert was ono-licious. I’d never eaten anything quite like its fluffy tart goodness. Even the crust was crispy.
We stopped to fish along the way, as the rivers got cleaner and calmer here and there. Mike spotted a provincial park and pulled over, and we had a delightful hike (I was badly in need of exercise) and I caught the biggest trout of my life on my first cast into a crystalline pool—a three pound bull trout. He fought like a hero and I didn’t want to kill him, and because we were uncertain about our cooking arrangements, let him go—though I second-guessed that decision several times the rest of the day.
Mike just returned from his evening scouting and tonight we are having Father’s Day dinner in our cottage on the river: fresh Dungeness crab, salmon, and steak with barbecued corn on the cob and even some broccoli. I remember thinking, thirty years ago when we were going out and Mike was cooking us a meal of things he’d caught on the reef—lobster and fish, with a couple of ears of store-bought corn, everything wrapped in foil and butter and cooked in the wood fire on the beach—that I was going to eat good if I married this man.
And so I have.
We don’t have to leave until day after tomorrow, and we’re talking with Mark and Justine about house swapping someday. Ah, paradise. It’s on both sides of the planet.