I know it’s time to begin to wind down these Driftwood Creek reflections now that we’ve moved. But images keep arising. This time of year we’d have been looking for harlequins, we’d have been wondering how wild the spring freshet would become. First thing in the morning, we’d hear its muted rumble through the open bedroom window. The creek filled our well and watered our garden. When I think of all the stones we tossed its way! All the rocks we winged at passing sticks – to hit them, to sink them, to unsnag them. Laughing, competing, losing, succeeding and still the sticks floated off, tumbling downstream to join the pile of driftwood at the mouth of the creek. Along the banks of the Skeena all the way to tide water. Cumshewa, the Chinook word for bleached driftwood – or the white men drifting into shore in their big boats and floating off again at high tide.
The creek is a path we seldom take – except in winter. As Eminem sings,
I walk on water
But I ain’t no Jesus
I walk on water
But only when it freezes
We skied from our house down to the confluence one winter, maybe 1979. We snowshoed down in the early 2000s with Jim and Rosamund Pojar. I remember a large wing print in blood-splattered snow, a dipper nest in the canyon by Nageli’s bridge, and a complicated descent over a rockfall. The descent was not as much fun for us as it had been for the otters, the smooth grooves of their slide trails twisting and turning through the boulders.
That rockfall just above the confluence, over forty years old now, stops the salmon that used to come miles up the creek. But the fish still come to the pools below, feeling the tug on their hearts, the ravelling up of an ancient genetic thread.
Once I started the Driftwood Creek project, I wanted to revisit the confluence and find that rockfall again. We even talked about initiating a salmonid enhancement project to clear the rockfall and allow salmon back up the creek.
We found a pleasant route through Walter Faeh’s property down to the Bulkley and downstream to the confluence. We repeated this trip many times over the last couple of years. We tried to follow the creek up to the rockfall, but kept getting blocked by seriously precipitous canyons, the conditions never quite right on foot or snowshoe to persevere.
When we finally had the sense to ask, Tristan and Damien Jones pointed us in the right direction. Last fall we slithered down the slope beside their house to the creek and followed it up to the rockfall. Any thoughts we had of clearing it evaporated. Indeed, it seemed miraculous that the creek had ever found a way through. How we snowshoed our way down the jumble of huge boulders that winter so many years ago baffles me – there must have been tons of snow.
These canyons, where the creek pushes back against the rocks that were once liquid themselves – rocks thrust up into their own future – are special places. They form passages through pools of light, openings in a geological shadow. Secret places away from our roads, our trails, our bridges. You’ll find them in many places along Driftwood Creek, from its beginnings to its end. Like the one just above Al Fletcher’s disintegrating cabin. The one below Nageli’s. And this one.
Hidden from most of us most of the time, but not from the dipper who knows the creek and its canyons summer and winter. And as if in response to my hopes, we found one right at the bottom of the rockfall that day last fall. The animal spirit of the creek, binding it all together.
Thanks to Karen, Bruce, Owen, Jim, Poppy, Joan, Brent, Pica and the others who accompanied us on the trips to the confluence. Some of these pictures are likely theirs.