Oakanagan/Cariboo Treeplanting

After I left Texas, I took the greyhound and hauled ass from Big Spring, through New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, into Cascadia, and across the border of Canada. Another 8 hours north and I was in Quesnel, or -Cariboo- as it is known. Quesnel is a historic treeplanting town, an old lady came up to me in a cafe and told of how she remembers treeplanters being in the town as long as she could remember. A wash of pride, and dignity for my role of work filled me instantly. The bushcamp I stayed in was farther back into the Nazko native region. The ride there was nothing short of dusty and depressing however. For nearly 300km we rode in one of our ‘crummies’ as they are so aptly named, because of their sheer grungy interior, down logging roads, while the dirt seeped through the windows. Slash burns, and weak, hardly standing forest surrounded the desolate backways like choking weeds. Our ‘campground’ was actually on a previous plantation block, so even when we would return from the day, the young saplings would still be there to enclose us. This was different for me, but I adapted and tried to make it cozy. I didn’t tramp with my tent, so I built a native style shelter with two crossing logs, and both ends of an opening, a ‘roof beam’ log, and some tarps, then lined the edges with stones, and built a great spirit canoe outside of it, where the ‘tent’ lay steadfast in the earth.

It took me some time to adapt to the B.C. planting style, and inevitably I had to replant some of my pieces. Every day when arriving in the clearcut, the ravyn would come and greet me every morning, and several times throughout the day. On days when my mood was murkier than the mud and gloom, the raven would come, and stealthily as if it did not even need to make any eratic gesture, it would fly over, with its swathe of black wings creating wind sound as it passed. Just revealing its presence, and slowing my thoughts. The ravens and the crows were the first animals I saw when re-entering Canada in almost a year. They spoke in a language I had never heard. I told my lover before I left that I would plant 10,000 trees for her, and that is exactly what I did. Unfortunately, the treeplanting company I planted for, Summit, took many ugly turns early in the season, and it was my time to leave. I listened to my instinct. On the last day of planting I found a dead moose, I did not see the raven this day, and this one alone, only death. Then I tried to take my gifts from the moose by prying out the teeth and cut my hand quite badly, so I would have been unable to plant anyways.

Currently I am in the Oakanagan Valley, and have been working on a farm run by an Indian man. The past week has been spent thinning peach, and nectarine trees, as well as tending to grape vines. I live at a campground called Loose Bay for 5 dollars a day.  I wake up at five am, brew an irish goat milk coffee on the fire and hitch into work. I usually get a ride, but if I don’t it is a 9km walk. I try to put in 6+ hours minimum, and I get paid under the table. A couple days ago, we ended early and drank cherry moonshine under the trees. I have two fires a day and camp and it is where I cook my meals. There seems to be less work these past days, so I may use the time to find another farm or ranch closer in line with ATWA.

I went to Osoyoos on the weekend, near to the US border. I saw mountain goats, scaling the hills, and walked on a sandbar nearly the entire way across the lake. It is a tried and true place for fishing. The indigenous people that used to walk these Oakanagan hills were called the Syilx, and they survived off of the salmon in the Oakanagan river and Wolf Creek. I have been told there are cave paintings in their county if you do a four hour hike. This is something I am bound to try and find before I leave.

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