We’re back in the Nicola Valley, staying at the Quilchena Hotel — a birthday treat for Angelica. For so many years we camped in the valley every summer and gazed across the lake at Quilchena from the campsite at Monck Park. The hotel is an old-fashioned pleasure: the rooms have high ceilings and lazy fans; the saloon serves cold beer and snacks and there are bullet holes on the lower part of the bar. The provenance of the bullet holes is unclear. I know that Bill Miner and his two accomplices were held in the earlier Quilchena Hotel — this one dates from 1908, two years after his capture on the Douglas plateau (readers of my novel Sisters of Grass will be familiar with the story!); the original hotel hosted a jail in its cellar. And I can’t imagine the Grey Fox shooting it up in a gracious hotel. Still, this place has lots of atmosphere. Yesterday we walked over to the barn and saw a corral of foals — I want to say they’re about 6 months old but I can’t rely on my horse-sense anymore — as skittish and pretty as anything. We heard other horses — their mothers? — calling from a field and these guys raised their delicate heads to the sound and answered. The old story of the young leaving the safety of their mothers.
Later, while I visited the dead in the Murray churchyard, Angelica visited two horses in a paddock behind the old Courthouse at the Nicola Ranch.
I love everything about this country. We drove up the Pennask Lake Road and the shadows on the hills were so palpable somehow, like buckskin. We watched a hawk whirling over the golden grass and then another. Our windows were open to the smell of dry grass and pines. I felt my heart widen as we drove back down to Quilchena. And on a more practical note, I wondered how to get the sense of the grass, the hills, the flowering rabbit brush, soft sage, reddsih trunks of Ponderosa pines to translate to a quilt. I’m going to try when I get home.