Small Frye’s Big Adventure: Part Nine

stories by Mike Frye - edited by Leonard Lea Frazer

We find our Garden of Eden, more cattails, We enjoy a hot spring bath, Arrival at Morris lake, Building a raft and We get our necks wet and how!

Salal berries can be used for a good body wash in the wilderness.
Salal berries can be used for a good body wash in the wilderness.

We set off down along the small stream, and as we progressed, we were on the lookout for fresh raspberries or any of the many enjoyable eating plants that abound in the British Columbia wilderness. If one was aware of what was good to eat, one could live the “Life of Riley.”

Around three o'clock Violet spoke over her shoulder to me, "Look ahead, Mike. I am sure I can see a field of cattail. It’s just what we need to make some more flour. What do you say to us stopping early today and prepare enough to last us a few days?" I was all for it as there was no need of us to be in a hurry and we did plan to get all we could out of the country as we went.

We picked and prepared all the cattail we needed for some time and were just getting ready to put on our packs, when Violet spoke.

"You know dear, I need a bath badly and I am sure I saw steam rising back there near the creek where I was picking - let's take a look."

False Solomon Seal, with a long and elongated leaf.
False Solomon Seal, with a long and elongated leaf.
Taking our packs, we went back and sure enough, she had located a small pool of really warm water. It was around twenty feet or more across and when I put my finger in, I was surprised how hot it was.

We found that it was a pool to itself apart from the main creek and we could see the hot water seeping in from some ground spring, just right for bathing. This was too good to pass up and we were not long in getting rid of our packs and clothes.

Here we had no need to be encumbered with any bathing suits. Also the hot wind coming up the small valley made it divine. My wife was just the picture of a graceful mermaid as her beautiful brown body dove through the water. It was well over five feet deep so we could dive in and loll like fish. I splashed around for about ten minutes, and then I just lay on my back on the shore and watched her graceful and magnificent body as she swam from one end to the other like a fish. Then, I saw her grab a handful of salal berries that grew close to the pool. These she scrubbed her body with until she was covered with a good froth, then she dove in and scrubbed her body clean. Then she climbed out and rolled in the green grass that lined the pool till she was dry and then snuggled up to me where I had been watching her.

As I grabbed for her, she let out a scream and dived down to the bottom of the pond and, as she emerged, I was overwhelmed by the sight of the water streaming down her lovely form in rivulets and then cascading down her body. That drove me near insane.

Again, she did not dry her body out with a towel. She rolled in the green grass till she was dry and I learned this from her and found out it sure does something for you as you are as fresh as a daisy afterward, especially if you lie down in the sun for a few minutes after bathing.

Of course you may get sunburned to some extent or this may cause other unforeseen circumstances! But not unpleasant!

The next few days we just gloried in the scenery and all the bountiful and delicious food although we did not get much fish or other meat. We had all the food we needed to keep healthy and our stomachs full.

The stream we were following was not very large, and as we had hit it quite high on the mountain valley and, going down all the time at a very gentle grade, it was pleasant walking.

The farther we came down, the lusher the vegetation became and the more fresh green food we had and more variety. We knew we were getting near Morris Lake, and one morning we heard gulls and loons singing. As anxious as we were to see this lake, we stopped at a most delightful campsite that was just asking for someone like us to partake of its hospitality.

Just a bit before dark, we came to a great spot. It was an overhanging boulder that allowed plenty of room for us and our packs, facing a small meadow, and near water with a most magnificent range of mountains in the background.

On making the fire, we also found out that the breeze blew the smoke away from the front of the rock so it did not blow in our face, and we had all the wood we needed in the form of old dead logs and bows. This would make a good fire to cook our bannock on.

Rolling out our beds, we soon were busy making a feast, and I had just got the tea Billy boiling, when two fool hens came flying into a tree close to the camp. "How about that Mike! There is meat for the pot delivered to our door. Shall I take them?" Violet spoke.

Getting the frying pan ready, I told her to shoot them. She missed the first shot but the birds did not move. They only ducked their heads but she made up for it with the next shot and down one came to the ground not ten feet from camp. I never moved till she had the other one and then I picked them up and took them down to the small creek where I stripped the feathers off and cleaned them.

The two birds were too much for one meal so we rolled up what was left and set it in the creek in a tin pail. This would keep it nice and fresh for our breakfast.

That night the sky became overcast and some time in the night, it started to rain and I awoke to hear it pounding down over our roof of rock. Our roof did not leak at all and even our campfire was untouched. I got up from my sleeping bag and put on some more wood to keep the fire going and went back to sleep again. Violet did not even wake up, just hugging me closer to her and slept on. I soon went back to sleep and awoke at daylight and built the fire up again and had a good meal ready for her when she finally rolled out.

"You know, Mike, if you keep on treating me like this, you are going to spoil me," she yawned, "but I like it, my dear."

"Well, my darling, I promised to love you and see that you were looked after, so I have to do it," I told her serving her a hot cup of coffee, "and you know, I enjoy it, as I know what side my bread (or bannock) is buttered on."

We spent all that day and the next at the spring lolling in that glorious hot water, and, of course, we gorged ourselves on all the fresh fruit that was in season such as blueberries and some raspberries. We found that just a short ways from camp there was all the False Solomon Seal (I always called it Lily of the Valley) the scientific name is Smilacin aracemosa. It is one of the first plants to come out of the ground in the spring. It resembles a tame asparagus. The one way to tell it from the true Solomon Seal is by the very pronounced asparagus looking bulb that is the first thing to shoot out of the ground and the leaf is long and elongated while the true Solomon Seal is short and composed of many short leafs very pointed.

I do know that Solomon Seal is one of the very best tonics you can get in the spring. As to this day, Sadie (Mike’s wife in 1987) and I gather it the first time we can and freeze it for winter greens. It is delicious just boiled slightly as you would spinach and served hot with a bit of butter and vinegar. If you have it, it is just out of this world and good for you too. I have noticed all the grass-eating animals just gorge on it early in the spring but I follow it as it grows clear up the timberline and eat all I can of it fresh as a salad or as a cooked green.

We knew we were getting close to Morris Lake as we saw gulls and heard the loons serenading us as we progressed. Now, we were going down into the Morris Lake Valley and getting into lower country all the time, so, quite naturally the underbrush became thicker. At last we were back into devil’s club and huge cedar, scattered with some mighty fir trees that seemed to reach to the sky, blotting out the sun.

We were happy to reach the bottom end of Morris Lake where we found our way blocked by a fair sized stream, which I was told extended to another lake about five miles from Morris Lake and this lake in turn would lead to the town of Terrace, below Usk.

We located a very comfortable campsite right on the shore of the lake under a huge hanging spruce tree with bows that hung to the ground all the way around and as the sky seemed to be getting overcast, we knew we would be in for a rain. Here under the tree we could loll and let it rain, which we did for the next three days, and it rained. We had plenty of food except Violet got fish hungry and braved the rain to get us a big feed of fresh trout.

We could throw a rock into the lake from where we were safely camped and also watch the fish jumping. They were jumping for flies in the early morning and late afternoon.

On the third day it looked as if the storm was going to let up, so, just for the fun of it, we decided to try and cross the fast running stream on a raft made out of small logs and hemp made from heavy willows. So, cutting six logs 8 feet long and around ten inches thick, we dragged them to the shore and got our willow rope and just intertwined them around and around the logs till they held together. Then, shoving off, we tried to steer the clumsy raft with two slim poles but as soon as we got out about ten feet, we found out that the water was running faster than we realized. We were in trouble! Well, at least we were in danger of getting a soaking in the fast water but, as it was a trial trip, we were not worried too much.

We had intended to come back anyway to our camp on the shore and had taken nothing with us at all, not even our clothes. As the sun was shining and hot, so we were ready for a ducking. I could soon see that the raft was getting out of our control and very soon so we fought to get it back to the same shore but the current was already too fast for us and down river we went. Around and around, slamming into rocks and I could see it was more serious than we thought so I shouted to Violet to jump and swim to shore. I had no more shouted than she dove into the fast water. I was busy trying to save the raft for another try. I did not see too much of Violet until I saw her come up not far from the madly spinning raft and she seemed to be enjoying the swim as she was as graceful as an otter. She just swam with the current alongside me and I got a glimpse of her lovely body. Every once in awhile I'd get a look at her golden auburn hair drifting along on her back and it glittered with all the colours from the sun shining on it.

I could see there was no use of me trying to save the raft so I dove in alongside of her and we fought the stream back to shore we had started from, and the raft went careening on down the river.

We both climbed out onto the grass and looked the situation over. "You know, Frye," Violet smiled at me, puffing like a steam engine, "you had better let me teach you how to swim, that is if I am to get you back in one piece from this trip. I need you in one piece, as you come in handy at times."

Well, that was all for that day, we just lolled around and made another raft, only this time we went up the lake shore and made it where the water was nice and calm, ready to cross the next day.


To be continued . . .

From April 5 & 12, 1987 – Robson Valley Courier