The car is full to the brim with tent and backpacks and wet clothes from incessant rain and trekking up a soaked path to some wild hot springs. The boys chirp in the back, exhilarated by the adventure that started with driving up a dirt road where deep, rain-filled holes reigned supreme and placid, and ended at what looked like a path that was blocked on purpose with boulders and deep trenches. Yes, we ventured, and found it all…
It started in early morning with sleepy faces and mops of smoke-smelling hair that would have nothing to do with combs… tent dwellers beware.
Eat soup, slurp if you must, for good measure, explore the shores of Kootenay Lake and stop for ice cream somewhere halfway between lake and mysterious hot springs we have yet to find. We’re on the way back from our trip to the Kootenay Rockies.
A dirt road we almost miss, a sign scribbled on a piece of wood. This is it. Yes?
We follow the trail and reach a steep forested hill, so steep you could peel off of it if distracted. The boys run down towards a river we could hear raging in the valley. We hear their voices, muffled by trees and happy to be exploring places unknown. Like the pixies little boy draws so often, and the creatures they invoke in imaginary games, their earthy-toned wool sweaters camouflaging them against trees and moss and deep green tufts of bushes, the two of them hop towards the valley where we all hope to find the mysterious hot springs.
Slow down? I wish… let them go says the forest. I say it anyway… ‘Slow down…’ knowing the forest will swallow my voice, knowing my pixie boys will keep on running and hopping, knowing they’re powered by restlessness, the same that powered every one of us once upon a time when the sky could be painted in dreams that seemed more tangible than the ground we were standing on. It’s just that we forget, the rush of this and that… though we should not. It only lasts a few beats, this whole adventure called life.
They reach the valley and little boy crouches near a puddle.
‘It’s cold!’ he yells uphill. I smile. Imagine that: we’re hunting for hot springs. Little boy follows his brother.
The forest air is damp and feels almost warm on our faces. We follow the pixie boys descending into the green valley, stepping on ground thick and soft. A blanket of green that’s been soaked by centuries of rain and fog. I think of water bears and the many times I made the boys’ eyes open wide with wonder when we talked of them. The giggles, memories of snuggles… water bears (yes, they are called tardigrades.) The very place we’re in… richness made richer by voices are here to learn the depth of their own world… the wonder.
Thick valley trees guard the white foamy river. No other steam than the cold one that blossoms from the river curling around bounders. The blessing of seeing it all comes with every breath.
The boys’ relentlessness takes us uphill. Little boy slows down, tired and breathing hard. Steep and green. We climb and reach the very open space we left from. A lone tent, incessant rain and a Onceler-like arm pointing to a trail. That way. The arm goes back into the tent and we follow the mysterious hot springs trail.
The path is immersed in a rain-fed stream that reaches up to our ankles. Hide-and-seek, find the springs; we’re alive, just like the water bears we cannot see. A forest full of them.
‘North is over there…’ big boy points out to silent trees and birds’ chirping. He loves the challenge of finding his bearings. Follow the trail, slow down, pick up the pace again… where are the springs? Drip, drip, the rain answers. Trickster.
Keep on… we will find them.
We hear voices and find the side of the mountain that shelters a pool of steam. Two more pools, higher up. Sulphur steam hangs on trees and rain licks our cheeks… Drops fall in the hot pools. No better day to be here. Caves and rocks and fallen trees, pixies alive and plunging in pools… ‘It’s warm, come on in…’
There are other people and they all seem to know each other. Guardians of mysterious hot pools in the water bear forest, they smile at the boys’ antics and tell us of how trees can warn of their impending falls. The boys asked, you see… they see trees, awkward angles and all, they learn and in doing that, they slide lower into the water, safer in the pool that is warm and soothing…
Later afternoon comes too soon and we trail back, rain and hot spring water dripping, rolling down the path with the stream that got fatter during the three hours that we poured into the hot pools… Fog creeps in, hungry pixie boys are tired and happy, their cheeks red with effort and they smile… ‘It’s over too soon, can we do this again?’
The car is full to the brim, and we squeeze in, drenched and tired. We listen to rain licking the windows and there’s an unmistakable pixie magic calling us back. We will, yes, soon… For now we eat cheese sandwiches made with sunflower bread and we peel oranges that spray streams of fragrance into the air.
We drive along the lake to the ferry that sways all the way to the other side of the lake. We get home in the dark and the half-moon sifts gentle brightness.
When will we go next? And where? Could it be like this one? Pixie boys plead. Secretly, we do too. Next time soon?