(Originally published as a column in The Armchair Mayor News on February 28, 2014)
That day last week was the first sunny one in a while. So we picked up the boys after school and walked home along the river. The ice was thick enough to walk on, and smooth enough to skid every which way. Funny makes life better every now and then.
We threw rocks towards the other shore. Frozen solid, the ice held our rocks mid-river until many days later when, on a snappy-cold windy day, we ventured again to one of our favorite spots along the shores. The boys’ cheeks were red, but they kept on walking, holding sticks for swords and turning their backs occasionally on a wild wind.
It is a pleasantly puzzling thing, this river shore walk, especially in winter. We come across different things every time. A beaver pond not far from where we live was the subject of many lively discussions and the mystery of how beavers do it so beautifully is still alive with the boys. Just a few steps away . . .
Other times we see birds galore waddling their slippery ways on the ice, or discover rinks that could not be more perfect for the silliest games of ‘human bowling’. Rules are invented on the spot, in case you were ready to ask.
It is our second winter in Kamloops and the delight keeps growing.
There’s no two things you get to repeat the same way and that is magic. Sure the sun is often taking a multi-day leave of absence, I was warned of gloomy winter as soon as I moved here, but the magic stands.
During the first cold spell this winter we ventured to Lac Le Jeune for some cross-country skiing. It was sunny but cold; very. The wind added to the dreaded chill. I had never heard a creakier sounding snow. We skied and our breaths made any loose hair strands white with frost and the boys kept talking about frostbite.
We realized it is no longer dedicated ski hills or trails that hold the highest appeal for us but the frozen lakes and the gentle long slopes around Kamloops where every hundred steps a thicket of birch trees guarding animal tracks makes us stop and realize once again that we’re but humble visitors. Privy to pure beauty.
The places we visit are alive with sounds of life muffled by thick curtains of snow draped around trees by occasional winds. Silence is a reminder of the necessity to honour our own…
Sometimes the clouds pile up quick and the air becomes thick with white specks. Tracks erased, we stop and become part of it all for a bit. Trees sway sideways, and far away we see farms with thin smoke slithering through the roof and black cows peppered around hay feeders. It’s peaceful.
It simply never gets old. Winter here I mean. A few weeks ago we drove to Stake Lake to see the ice racing. A first for all of us. It was cold but fun. A Kamloops tradition we had to witness, which happened to include parking on a frozen lake. West coast transplants like us find it fascinating.
And why not? Ice and snow transform winter here in Kamloops and surroundings. Lakes and rivers freeze, if you walk along beaches and shores you can find ice caves that have the most beautiful stalagmites and stalactites that sparkle just so when a few sun rays sneak in.
There are countless ice rinks to skate on and clouds wrapped in orange sunset ribbons if you happen to look up at the right time.
There are forests to tiptoe in and spot red-tufted woodpeckers and if you keep on driving on snowy roads you’ll find lakes that have giant upside down old trees trapped in ice and half-covered in white powder, speckled with bunny tracks lining up all the way to a burrow under a pile of frozen branches.
No excuse is good enough to not try and discover yet another place that’s so different than the others when you have the time. No electronic game satisfying enough to compete with the exhilaration of a first perfect no-tumble downhill run under a ski so blue you almost doubt it’s real.
The skies may be glum many days here but there are rewards that go beyond the city limits and even within, if you’re careful enough to look for clues of magic. Because there are plenty.
Because is more to winter in Kamloops than meets the eye (initially)…