KAMLOOPS — Last Wednesday, rain made Peterson Creek burst with the freshest green I’ve seen in a long time. At just past 8am, there were no other people. Just rain-bejewelled leaves, tiny buds coaxed by overnight dampness and the wild rushing creek, now a fixture as the snowpack melts up high.
Dog and I start up the Billy Miner Trail, then turn right and follow the Falls View Trail for a view of the falls. At the start of the trail, a sign advises that the trail is now closed to cyclists due to steepness and erosion. There are bike tracks on the steep trail just the same.
I’ve met cyclists on this trail before. Some flew by us without stopping, as we barely got out of the way. Hiking, more so on the bike-restricted trails, can be a wonderfully quiet experience. Not if a trail hairpin becomes a startling encounter.
There are no bikes on this rainy Wednesday. We get to the viewpoint and watch the waterfall exploding down the canyon, volume and brown hues amplified by rain. The muckiness tumbles down and becomes an endless stream of bubbles. Quite the sight. From where I stand I see an undesignated trail that crawls up from the bottom part of Billy Miner. It has become more evident now with the daily pilgrimage to the waterfall and getting wider by the day as more people trample on it. Then there is its sister trail, also undesignated, which starts from the viewpoint and goes all the way up on the plateau.
There is a sign at the viewpoint, Graffiti-scribbled over, but you can still read it. It says that the trail further on is permanently closed due to the many hazards, erosion, etc. Signage or not, people venture on the forbidden trail nonetheless. I see them when I take the trail on the other side. I always check to see if I have my phone with me, in case a 911 call is needed.
We turn back to the Billy Miner and follow it all the way up to the plateau. The rain picks up and it does not slow down either us or the birds. We are in a beautiful place that has so much to whisper if you take the time to listen. Rain adds its coat of magic. Meadowlarks too.
It is a place of resilience, but one that can be harmed. On our way down, I see bike tracks climbing high to the sides of the trail, evidence of high speed and, without a doubt, great technique. I love cycling and the exhilaration of speedy rides, yet this is not the place for it. Wherever the trail bends, the tracks over now almost-naked terrain tell the same story. That explains the ripped balsamroots I keep seeing along these trails. There are so many growing on the side of the path. Sad looking too once they become litter.
The day after, as dog and I walk on the upper path parallel to the main one, a fast-zipping bike rushes towards us from under the bridge. The dog runs ahead startled and barking, I rush to get her. The bike zooms on, not before I get a dirty look from the man riding it. A ‘good morning’ always looks and sounds better. Oh well.
Other people tell me similar stories. Some cyclists zip by, dirty looks, animosity of many shades, plus dogs ‘losing it’ in the face of fast-approaching objects, head on. The most disconcerting story I’ve heard is one of a man and his young kid, both zooming down fast on their bikes. The kid screams ‘This is fun!’ as she rolls downhill, fast as the wind. Again, I know it is fun. But this is not the place. There are people hiking, with or without dogs, children too, very young ones included, and then, there is nature, beautiful and resilient but not for being stomped on, whether by makeshift trails or bikes rolling so fast they have to take wide turns that scrape off part of the vegetation along the trails.
The bike chapter is not all bad though. Of the many cyclists I have encountered, there are some who stop and say hello, pet the dog, and wait until they get a quick sniff, showing that a bike is not an enemy. Some have dogs of their own, either with them or at home. I always make sure to thank them. It means a lot to everyone. This one guy who, coming down on a steep trail, managed to stop quickly and in a flawless manner; he had a big smile on his face as he greeted us.
The dog sniffed him and the bike and paused for petting, while we had a short chat. I thanked him for stopping. He said ‘I always do, we all have to coexist. It’s such a beautiful place to be.’ That’s exactly it. It is a beautiful place where so much can be seen and observed, where you can meet people and chat, or be alone if aloneness is what you’re there for. It’s a place where seasons are revealed in many magical ways. Through never-ending winter wonderlands, or barely visible delicate buds, wildflowers, an endless array of bird song cacophony in the spring, through undulating carpets of dry tall grasses in summer, and the showstopping colours of fall.
It’s a place worth every co-existing effort.