In the fall of 1976, I was on my way into the northwest for a job with a Terrace newspaper when I passed that sign planted on a hill just above the highway somewhere between Burns and Decker lakes. Where would I be? Well, I knew it wasn’t going to here. After a few months, I was heading back down south, back to school, back to a place stinking with sin. Vancouver.
But before that, I had a trip to complete. Coming down the from the China Knows summit, the muffler on my first car – a rusted-out Toyota Corolla crammed with clothes, books, a wicker basket stuffed with fleece, and a spinning wheel – dropped into a dragging banging rattling sparking percussion accompaniment to my precipitous descent. Instant punishment for my sneer at eternity. At the bottom of the hill, I found a house and some wire to bind the muffler back in place until I reached the little garage in Topley.
So, about the sign. Where it used to be. (You know you’ve been around a while when you start giving directions that include where it used to be.) As near as I can tell, it was located right about where the Enbridge pipeline would cross Highway 16, (notice I say would cross, not will cross – the conditional would is essential in telling these stories), would cross the Endako River and the CN track, and continue west across Gerow Creek (still in the Fraser River watershed) to Maxan Creek. Another one of those nondescript heights of land. Maxan Creek flows into Bulkley Lake, the headwaters of the Bulkley River. The Skeena watershed. The pipeline would then cross Foxy and Klo and Buck creeks, Owen Creek and Fenton Creek all on its way to the Morice that used to be called Watsonquah. All the history in those names.
But before that the pipeline would cross Tintagel Creek, Stearns Creek, the big transmission line, and finally Sauls Creek. A good place for a blockade, I’d think. We could hope for an Enbridge conversion on the road to Damascus…
There’s a new sign there now (I can’t remember what it says) and I’m just a bit tickled to have outlasted the old one. And while I admit my age is showing, the wear and tear of this and that, it’s nothing like the wear and tear on the landscape this pipeline is planned to cross. It’s been burned, logged, fenced, sprayed, flooded, and pine beetled. The constructed veins of roads, railways, transmission lines, and gas pipelines blur the arteries of water that give both coming and going – the water we need to drink, to cleanse ourselves, the arteries that bring salmon deep into the heart of the watershed. The arteries that connect all of us.
Go down to the creeks and listen. They’re asking us the same question. Eternity – where will we be?