If you follow Westsyde Road all the way to the McLure ferry — the shortest ferry ride around — keep driving until you hit Highway 5. Drive toward Barriere and just before you enter town, turn right onto Agate Bay Road.
You will find yourself among beautiful, peaceful hills with trees touched by the breath of autumn. Every now and then there’s a farmhouse with a trail of smoke climbing into the overcast and you might be tempted to feel envious of their perfect surroundings.
We did. It was Saturday morning and the world seemed slow paced.
We spotted herds of deer that stopped, turned their heads and stared at us as we drove by. We stopped the car rather abruptly a few times because of some ruffled purple flowers that had to be photographed. Or clouds.
Black cows and calves peppered the fields draping the sides of the road. Everything was calm and quiet and green.
The road ended into a fork that hugged Adams Lake and said Chase on the right side. We turned left and started driving on a slick dirt road all the way to our chosen camping spot: Gordon Bay rec site.
It rained on and off, but we set up the tent and took the canoe for a paddle. We docked on islands and shores that had nothing but driftwood and rocks. We discovered a beaver’s dam and paddled around, looking at mysterious entry tunnels and imagining the busy pitter-patter of feet walking through muck and carrying branches every which way in a never-ending effort to improve the half-submerged home.
The boys have learned to paddle by themselves this fall, so they paddled along the shores and into a small bay. They had secret missions to accomplish and seafarers dialogues to carry out while we got the fire going. We ate, roasted marshmallows — “can we have one more?” is the refrain that comes with us on every camping trip — and then we went for a night paddle.
Try it. Water plants seem asleep as they sway with the gentle canoe wake. If all headlamps are turned off, you will find yourself suspended between the glossy, dark, perfect lake surface and a sky ballooned with ghost-white clouds.
We woke up late and lazy. I went to photograph dew on old summer grass, slugs eating mushrooms and rocks hugged by the gentlest lapping waves.
The sun burst out an hour later and all four of us paddled to the other side of the lake to a sunny rocky shore where we found a baby garter snake, no bigger than a pencil and cuddly if you cupped your hands over one another just so.
A slice of sweetness, to hold the snake, I mean, a first encounter of this kind. We took turns and whispered as to not spook the black and yellow sliver that seemed to carry some emotions with it.
We drove back the next day, stopping by Roderick Hague-Brown Provincial Park to see the salmon run, a celebration of life and its immutable laws.
It had been a good two days.
We got home by seven.
It was the dead quiet that almost gave it away; our house had an eerie feeling to it. It was cold inside, as if windows had been left open the entire day.
“Why did you leave the back door open?” the boys asked as we stepped in. We had not. But the door was wide open. Shudder.
Our trip had all the good things a camping trip should have: lake to paddle on, islands to paddle to, baby snakes to wonder at and hold if you’re so inclined, rocks to collect.
The only thing that did not belong to the trip was finding our home broken into and our computers gone — with them, work and memories.
The people who broke in looked at our photos on the walls; they wrecked the collage with my sons’ baby footprints and their smiling faces, probably thinking it was the gate toward some secret treasure-laden safe.
We had a hard time settling in; eating; going to bed. Our home was hurt and we were hurt with it.
The boys kept asking if the people are still inside or coming back and we kept reassuring them. Memories of the camping trip almost melted away in sadness. How could anyone do this?
It took a whole lot of will power to do the cleanup the next day, as if someone had severed us from our own home. But we did it so we could all have our warm place back.
Then we looked at the trip photos knowing that there are things no one can ever take away.
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