Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Human nature exposed in the woods



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It may be man’s quest to overcome the laws of nature, or the timeless desire to achieve some magical, alchemical transformation, but I suspect it’s more likely laziness and a total lack of concern for their surroundings that move people to try and burn foil. The paradox of why they drive all the way to a remote lake to conduct this experiment still eludes me but I have spent many zenlike moments ruminating on it as I pick foil out of cold ashes wherever I camp.

While ubiquitous, foil is not the most puzzling thing I find in abandoned fire rings and around camp sites. At a tiny, perfect lake in the B.C. Interior – site of an apparent potato massacre – someone tried to burn a speaker out of his radio. I assume it was a him because I can’t imagine any woman who would ever think sitting around a fire and burning a speaker would be cool, but hey, who knows? I’m sure there is a story behind the speaker but I suspect it is a short one.

Moron One: "Whoa dude, the freakin’ speaker just quit workin’."

Moron Two: "Throw it in the fire."

Moron One: "But the foil’s not all burned up yet, man."

It you have an active imagination, you can almost understand finding a burned-out speaker in a fire pit, you say. Okay, how about a core sample? After spending the day backtracking over miles of logging roads in the forest outside of Quilchena, we found ourselves not exactly lost – the accuracy of Forest District maps being a whole different column – but unexpectedly on the shore of a stunning lake that turned out to be at about the same elevation as Flute. It was chilly, drizzly, and the sun played peekaboo with way too many clouds... a B.C. kind of day.

Being short on sun and long on altitude, we were well along the path to hypothermia when the sun began to set, a supposition on our part since we only noticed the sky getting darker, not the sun going down. While my numb fingers picked foil out of the fire ring, I uncovered a cylindrical hunk of rock. About eight inches – metrically-challenged zone – long, blackened, polished, and marbleized, it was a drilling core sample from God knows where. Even I can’t make up an interesting story about how in the world it might have found its way into someone’s campfire. Not surprisingly, it didn’t burn either.

If human garbage is a source of endless amusement in the woods, human avarice lacks any semblance of humour. Making a turn in the road and coming into a cutblock, I couldn’t shake the feeling of stumbling onto a battleground. Like the site of any massacre, the more recent the battle, the more grisly the carnage. The rubble of a forest lay in a tumbled heap on the ground. Land unaccustomed to direct sunlight seemed to shrivel in the glare of its nakedness. Spirits of the wounded cried out.

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