November 4th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 44
Looking Back - John Kinnear
Looking for My Lorraine
Looking Back
John Kinnear photo
Frank Slide trail hillside covered in balsam root
I fled into the forest,
To escape my choking grief,
I immersed myself in nature,
To try and find relief.
There is some joy in solitude,
Standing neath a waterfall,
Though it is short lived and fades away,
Still I choose to answer its call.
I roam all paths both high and low,
Looking for her promised sign,
Till winter’s cloak surrounds me,
To numb my desperate mind.
John Kinnear
I have never been a solitary man until now. An undistracted brain will drive one crazy and loneliness can swallow your soul. So this spring, soon after Lorraine left me, I set out on a journey to search our varied landscape. I went looking to see if I could find her. I searched everywhere I could think of and I am still looking.

I started my journey slowly as I had been sedentary for quite some time. Spring was finally emerging and I thought perhaps I might find her in amongst the glory of the season she so loved.

At first I walked down every alley and every street of my beloved town using it as a training ground to test my stamina and pick up my pace. I had no idea how long my search would be or where to look. I pushed harder each day and when I finally thought I was ready I widened my probing into our remarkable surroundings, to begin to try and fulfill my quest. They were short trips at first because I felt uncertain about leaving my safe place.

In June I walked almost every single day, making note of the number of steps on my heart app and taking hundreds of pictures. Each day I awoke to a “where to now” question. I went to Lower Star Creek Falls, the hills around the Passburg Cemetery, the old highway to Emerald Lake and upper McGillivray mine road. I walked the CPR tracks around Crowsnest Lake to the source cave, revisited the sulphur pool at Frank, and dozens more places.

When I was stuck for a new route I would head for the Miner’s Path, a place she loved and a place I am historically tied to. My grandfather built the original stairs, my father repaired them years later and my brother has worked on the path restoration on several occasions with the Ed Gregor program. It is a good place for calm reflection but this summer is was a circus with a continuous stream of escaping visitors. And she was not there.
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In mid-June, with spring bursting out everywhere, I chose to walk the Frank Slide trail which was perfectly timed to witness the spectacular floral displays there. The hillsides above the trail were smothered in the bright yellow flowers of balsam root and blue mist penstemons, paintbrush, shooting stars and wild geranium turned that meandering path into a mountain garden. I then turned my searching eye westwards towards Saskatoon Mountain (Sasky) and recalled that, in 2005 after moving back here, I had revisited this childhood rocky promontory hangout. I took a mirror with me back then so I could flash Lorraine down below at our house at an appointed time from that southern outcrop.

When I went back up Sasky I experienced a phenomenon here-to-for unknown to me. The last stretch is very steep and I faltered, winded and uncertain. I pushed a bit harder and then came that wonderful surge they refer to as a second wind. The well worn trail at the summit had purple penstemons scattered everywhere and there was a brief whiff of joy that came with that spectacular valley-wide view. But I didn’t find her there.

I walked Willow Drive to the old sulphur plant through the Nature Conservancy lands which may be some day be split asunder by the proposed highway bypass. Spring on the Coleman to Blairmore walking trail is always interesting and it was there I filmed a video of a perfect upside down water reflection of a white transport truck speeding eastward on the highway. It went viral on Facebook. I also surprised some ducklings on that rail side pond and then observed the mother splashing wildly along the pond’s lengthy surface to get to them. It seemed odd that she didn’t take flight until I realized she was in molt and could not.

As I moved into July my search took me to all corners of the Pass. I walked the old Island Lake highway and wandered once again around the iconic Bellevue Union Cemetery. I returned to Il Bosc (East Bushtown) to explore the Mohawk Tipple from below. Lorraine and I had walked that fisherman’s trail when she was rehabbing her knee replacement in 2011. It occurred to me then that I was retracing dozens of her après knee surgery walks we had done, either deliberately or accidentally. But no Lorraine.
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Around then the lilacs finally burst out along with one of my favourites, the Dames Rocket, another beautifully aromatic flower which apparently is considered a noxious weed. Nothing noxious about its smell and day after day as I roamed I picked and filled my empty home with generous bouquets of both. Lorraine had never allowed them inside the house as she worried about introducing bugs to her beloved streptocarpus plants. I felt like I was being a bad boy but their aroma was uplifting and brought a bit of joy home with me, to a place where nothing but painful triggers abounded.

It seemed like every time I lost my way or felt uncertain where to look I would return once again to the Miner’s Path, my touchstone trail. Its plentiful crop of Dame’s Rocket along the Nez Perce creek bed persisted well into late July. In the upper reaches of the path I experimented with an I-phone camera technique known as shooting live and converted some creek images to “long exposure mode” to create those special blurred waterfall moments. I watched as the Rainbow Falls slowly diminished in flow through the early summer and noted the raft of families wending their way up to the falls, trying to escape the confines of Covid restrictions.

In late July my granddaughter Jodi flew in from Whitehorse to join in my search and the walks turned into a week of marathon events with double trips some days. We returned to the Mohawk Tipple to explore the tagging culture that had swept through there, roamed the Frank Slide lime kiln trails, fossil hunted around the limestones of Emerald Lake and out near Lee Lake where a remarkable prehistoric oyster bed was mined with delight. We walked the upper Star Creek trail to behold that magical falls from above and ventured into BC to the Hosmer ruins and up the old Morrissey Mine trail near Elko. Most of these places I had roamed with Lorraine in years past. Where was she?
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After Jodi self isolated in BC and then returned to the Yukon I continued on through into August looking in places I had never seen before like the beautiful out of the way York Creek Falls. It seemed like I was being drawn to the magic of falling water and so revisited that close by gem McGillivray Falls and later bushwhacked up Allison Creek to the stunning stepped waterfall known as Allison Creek Falls. There I finally got to see the remains of the remarkable ancient log flume and dam. Not a sign of her anywhere.

I joined one of Heather Davis’s (Uplift Adventures) bi-weekly summer tours up the Miner’s Path in late July and got to connect with that extraordinary guide and visionary. She is only getting started unfolding a business plan that will transform adventures in the Pass. I hiked all runs on the amazing Powder Keg Ski Hill, got to see the remnants of a classic old mine fan house above Bellevue, roamed all over the Greenhills mine site area again and continued exploring the myriad of trails that criss-cross below Sasky and up McGillivray to the Prospect.

Before I realized it, it was mid September and I had managed to explore the area around the new golf course fairways, scrambled to the end of Ironstone Ridge and hiked up to that wonderful old concrete dish that once was Bellevue’s water reservoir. It amazing anything can grow at all on the volcanic Ironstone massive. I made three more trips up the Miner’s Path including one in which I walked with 90 year old Bill Petrunik from Lethbridge.
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For two years while living in Bushtown and being a high school student, Bill had packed a lunch each morning and walked to school to classes and then up the Miner’s Path to work afternoon shift in the mine.

By early autumn I was getting desperate to find her. In October I hiked Vicky Ridge out near Beaver Mines to help map the southern flyway raptor migration and then immersed myself in the autumn splendor reflected in the old water-filled York Creek strip mine pits. I chased fall colours around Crowsnest Lake, the west side of Bellevue near Connors Lake and down into River Bottom and Frank Lake area. How could she not be in amongst all this spectacular seasonal beauty?

But she was not in any of these places and so I will continue, when I can, to see where she might be. And I will never ever stop looking for my Lorraine.
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November 4th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 44
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