skookum = water chuck= flows
‘where the rapid water flows’
A 3-hour round-trip hike through the sword fern-black slug laden path – an early morning hike takes us past Brown Lake. All is quiet. We are alone.
I look up at a fallen log overhead – one tree leaning on another – forming a suspended bridge.
Backtrack to the beginning…
A slug sits in the middle of the path. My daughter picks it up to save it from crushing feet. We walk casually along noticing the mossy branches, when a tiny, skittering creature catches my eye. A vole. My partner tries to pick it up. It dashes off into the undergrowth.
We meet a man carrying a large camera and tripod.
We nod and are ready to pass when he continues:
“I talked to a guy along the trail who saw a cougar.” He said it as if it was a normal occurrence.
The four of us are quiet.
“Really, a cougar? What do you do – yell or…”
“Don’t run, but make noise – you should be ok. But it’s your decision.”
We look at each other – to continue or not?
The girls (both 9) are leery, but we, the adults, say: ‘It’s an adventure. Let’s go!’
What were the odds of seeing it again?
Just in case we picked up rocks and started singing: ‘the ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah…’
Back at the fallen log overhead:
Would a cougar like to cross over or even lounge on it?
But about a hundred metres later, I see something at the next bend – there she/he is!
Not ferocious looking, but rather cute – gangly legs, thick tail, rounded ears…
It stops on the trail. I stop. Our eyes meet. Before I can react– she/he jumps back into the ferned forest – my heat beats faster – my partner sees the back of it, the girls see the tail – it’s not a mirage.
Without discussion, we turn back and start singing – even more loudly.
“my mother was a baker, a baker…”
No pictures to prove the encounter, but it will always be imprinted in my memory. We never made it to Roland Point to see the ‘strong flowing water’ of Skookumchuck Narrows or the natural wonder of a standing wave.
Maybe another time.