We were ten minutes away from departure when Jochi drove up on his scooter, pulled up his goggles and said, “You know about the rockslide, right?” I slammed the back hatch of the Jeep closed and grimaced, not wanting to hear the rest of this story. Apparently, an entire cliff face had collapsed onto on the Sea-to-Sky Highway, burying both lanes of traffic in truck-sized boulders and severing the only direct route between Vancouver and Whistler. The $775 million highway upgrade for the 2010 Olympic Games had not proceeded fast enough to prevent the rockslide or to prevent the sudden disruption of our plans to soak in Meager Creek Hot Springs this weekend. “Don’t you watch TV?” Jochi asked incredulously. I could only shake my head and thank him for the news before marching back upstairs to research last-minute alternatives.
Our replacement destination was Clear Creek Hot Springs, which was a significant distance from Vancouver and involved 30 miles of rutted dirt roads, followed by six additional miles of pure vehicular torture that rattled my poor Jeep like a china cabinet in an earthquake. The road had been decommissioned, or technically closed, with deep erosion ditches dug across the road by bulldozers at frequent intervals. I would have appreciated less of a rocky ordeal, but because the area is prone to getting trashed and vandalized, there’s not much incentive for the Forest Service to want to improve the road and make the hot springs more accessible.
On a hill alongside Clear Creek, Starling and I found two circular wooden tubs, a bathtub and a Jacuzzi connected by PVC pipes and a damp, wooden deck that was quickly rotting into sodden splinters. Soothing, hot water coursed through the pipes from tub to tub and helped relax all the muscles that had tightened while I was clutching the steering wheel and hoping the rocks wouldn’t rip open my oil pan. After midnight, the other revelers went back to their camps and fires, and we had the water all to ourselves. Stars glistened overhead through a haze of steam, and the permeating heat engendered a stillness of mind and body that made it hard not to slip from wakefulness into dreams.
We met some pleasant individuals at Clear Creek, but in the daytime I felt put off by the beer cans, the smoking, the homophobic jokes, the shotgun shells, the spray paint, the ATVs and a certain pudgy, obnoxious 8-year old boy with a penchant for splashing, throwing rocks and announcing his farts to the community-at-large. Perhaps I was seeing things from the more snobbish side of a cultural divide, but the lack of social and environmental sensitivity was disheartening to observe in such a beautiful Canadian valley. We packed up the Jeep and endured two hours of bumps and jostling before we were able to return to blessed pavement...