Born from freshly melted glaciers, the white-crested waters of the Cheakamus River gurgle, churn.
Living, beautiful, yet cold. Very cold.
Sedate start, gentle flow, deep clear waters of the Paradise valley run. Imperceptibly the river quickens, becomes crumpled and creased. White water tips and tumbles the surface, gradually transforming crystal sharpness into glacial-silted milk.
Sapphire sky backdrops emerald forests of cottonwood, red cedar, hemlock, Douglas fir. Distant mountains are snow-clothed and magnificent. Glaciers creep downwards. Glinting silver ribbons of waterfalls lace the chiselled mountainsides.
Waters twist and coil through a panorama dominated by awesome Tantalus Mountains and unmistakable peaks of Alfa, Omega, Mount Garibaldi. Sheer cliffs cut down to curdling currents where deep slits and caves’ inky portals are etched randomly into the cliff face. Water fowl hint at their presence and, overhead, birds sail. But the dominant music, the omnipotent sound, is that of gushing water.
‘Eagle on the right.’
Perching high in the womb of the cedar, the unmistakable white head and black folded body of the bald eagle. And beside it, another.
Oars up, breath held, we pay silent homage.
A bridge traverses, and beyond it boulders have jostled themselves into the river, creating a great drop – our taste of the might of the Cheakamus, daring us to collide with the rocky outcrops and nodding tree trunks as they puncture the water’s surface. The river growls, soft green, opaque as we swirl within its exploding maelstrom. Frothy, creamy tongues lap and spray our glistening faces. Elatedly we bounce, dip, dive.
Too soon the river’s rage diminishes. Gradually our world ceases to swirl. Our hearts stop racing.
Then, on a small isthmus of grass-sprouted shingle fingering into the lazily churning river, a golden deer stands, head raised in attentive watchfulness. She has been drinking at the water’s edge and now hesitates. Deciding enough is enough she gently retreats to tangled forest safety.
We drift downstream. Torrent becomes flow. Milky green reverts to crystal. The surface of the river is a thousand sun-specked diamonds.
Closing my eyes I see a gushing river, a downy deer, snow-dressed mountains and spiralling eagles, all etched against the brightest blue sky.