Apocalyptic insignificance.

Last night, Yann and I laced up our Nike Decades and headed up to Gonzales Hill Observatory with a flask of phenobarbital to catch a glimpse of NEOWISE before it disappears for the next 6000 years.

The observatory itself is an old weather station and is off-limits to the public; however, the Capital Regional District was kind enough to provide a park bench 20 metres away from the building.

Yann and I settled down on this bench as the sun sunk below the horizon. As usual, Sirius was the first to seep through the evening twilight, followed by the Grande Ourse, which is French for Big Bear, which how they refer to The Big Dipper. Or you’re in the UK, The Plough. Whatever it’s called, it’s the one constellation most Northern Hemispherians can identify. The Big Dipper was to direct us to NEOWISE’s position in the sky.

We sat in the darkness, shivering among the wind-warped Garry oak trees for an hour before scoping the dim smudge that is NEOWISE in the sky. It was expectedly anti-climactic, as we had long missed the window when it was the most brilliant.

Also, there was no flask of phenobarbital, and I wear Adidas kicks.

I missed out on seeing Hale-Bopp in ’97, instead choosing to focus on the brightest, strangest star on TV at the time: the wide-eyed cult leader, Marshall Applewhite. I was obsessed with the show Unsolved Mysteries, UFOs, and alien sightings, not because I genuinely believed the abductees the show would interview, but because it let my imagination run amok. Applewhite appealed to my fascination more than a dot in the sky.

Now that my obsession with extraterrestrial life has waned, I was better able to appreciate the vague suggestion of a once-in-a-lifetime comet, while reminiscing about Applewhite.

(Side note: Applewhite is such a cute name.)

I have a proclivity for being more invested in behind-the-scene events as opposed to the centerpiece. Show me a picture, and I’ll scan the background for anything out-of-the-ordinary. When I wrote about my vacation last week, it was more focused on the queue at Ikea and the pruning of my thirsty locks. Hardly a fair representation of how the vacation went, so I’m going to correct that now.

Upon arriving at our luxury resort in Maple Ridge, aka Dad’s house, Yann and I immediately headed down to Kanaka Creek. Dad figured that the first thing we’d like to do after spending almost two hours on a massive boat was to get into two personal-sized boats that we were to propel ourselves.

He wasn’t wrong.

Yann's POV from a red kayak showing me paddling a yellow kayak in front, to the right. A bridge is visible in the background.

“Don’t worry, the current isn’t very strong”, he told us, not counting on us to paddle far enough to be spit into the Fraser River. I was drifting backward as I posed for this photo:

An outline of me posing in a yellow kayak. My chin rests on my right arm, which is supported by my right knee, as my left hand holds onto the paddle.

Every time we had to stop to hydrate, the current sucked us back, forcing us to paddle twice as hard to make up for lost ground (uh… water). At one point, I desperately needed to re-apply sunblock, but doing so would undo all that hard work propelling myself against the river’s current. Luckily, I was able to latch onto a wooden piling for long enough to mist myself with sun protection.

To get back onto Kanaka Creek, Yann and I didn’t bother wetting our paddles. We shared a bag of assorted nuts (yes, I eat nuts, just not peanuts, which are a legume anyway) and watched the birds as the current carried us back to the mouth of the creek. That part was relaxing.

My first sunburn of the year had to wait until our Mount Strachan hike, with Zoée as a witness. I don’t have photographic evidence of her presence, but here’s Yann grimacing in front of The Lions.

A grimacing Yann cups his chin with his left hand while holding his DSLR camera in his right hand. The Lions (twin peaks) can be seen in the distance.

When I travel, I often get asked by other travellers not from Canada/BC whether I’ve ever seen a bear. Europeans are especially frightened by bears. I don’t know any British Columbian hiker who’s never spotted a bear on one of their outings.

When we arrived at Cypress Provincial Park right, we saw a black bear right away. It was grazing in a meadow, looking positively adorable and non-threatening. We didn’t approach it, because it’s a fucking bear and we’re not rubes. I don’t have photographic evidence of the bear, but here’s a piece of a fighter jet that crashed 57 years ago:

A crumpled metal panel reads DO NOT OPERATE SHELL EJECTION (word is illegible)  GROUND UNLESS NOSE LANDING GEAR IS STRAIGHT.

In true Laura fashion, I applied sunblock like the devil and got scorched anyway.

We had wanted to do two nights of camping, but because all Provincial Parks within 150km of Vancouver were fully booked, we were only able to reserve one night at Golden Ears Park. It was the last available campsite, too!

At last, I got a photo of Zoée. Here she is, starting our fire at campsite Birch 4 while Yann lurks in the background judging her technique:

Zoee is seen in the foreground putting kindle in a fire pit. She has short brown hair and is wearing a black fleece jacket, black jeans, and navy blue New Balance sneakers. Yann stands to the left in the background scoping Zoee's fire starting technique. He is wearing a black hat, a dark grey t-shirt with a white van on it and dark pants.

Before warming up in front of the fire pit, Zoée and I went for a dip in Alouette Lake. Yann, on the other hand, stood thigh-deep in the lake questioning his life choices, before deciding that he didn’t feel like fully submerging his body in the glacial lake for bravado.

Yann in swim trunks stands knee-deep in the middle of a lake which is dotted with a few waders and even fewer swimmers. Tree-blanketed mountains are visible in the background.

I did it, knowing that I used to spend hours and in and out of that lake as a kid. I knew better than to ease myself into the water and threw myself underwater straight away. I almost regretted it. At the end of the day, my biggest regret was forgetting to put sunblock on the top of my right foot. Ow.

As an aside, how are children able to tolerate icy waters so well? I also used to swim in the 49th parallel of the freaking Pacific Ocean without a wetsuit. How…. and why? I may not be as tough now, but at least I’ve outgrown my alien abduction paranoia.

An 8-bit gif featuring a motionless flying saucer in the centre. The text block reads A UFO APPEARS! and two options are given below: BELIEVE or RUN.  A flashing arrow points at BELIEVE.

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