Ever since I first read M. Wylie Blanchet’s The Curve of Time as a younger woman (I think it was the 1990 edition so I would have been 35), I’ve wanted to see Princess Louisa Inlet. You can only get there by boat or float plane or maybe helicopter. I’ve read other books too that detail trips to the area — Beth Hill’s Upcoast Summers is on my desk as I write. So when a friend called on Tuesday night to ask if John and I would like to join him and another couple (also friends) for an overnight trip there, it took me about 5 seconds to say yes. Our friend grew up in this area and he’s made a life of publishing books that document and celebrate its history and beauty. He’s the ideal host and guide.
It took us 6 hours on Thursday to make the journey. Everything I saw astonished me. We paused by a little gallery of pictographs not too far from where I live, on Agamemnon Channel, though not accessible by road, and they were like sign posts. You’re on the right track.
Everything was astonishing — the mountains, the water, old logging slashes, remnants of camps — and after we came through Malibu Rapids into Princess Louisa Inlet, I had a lump in my throat.
The inlet is about five miles long, a third of a mile wide, and the mountains that flank it on either side are over a mile high. From inside the entrance you can see right down to the far end where it takes the short L-turn to the left. At that distance you can see over the crest to where the upper snowfields lie exposed, with their black beaks breaking through the snow. The scar of a landslide that runs diagonally for four thousand feet is plainly visible. At certain times of the day the whole inlet seems choked with mountains, and there is no apparent line between where the cliffs enter the sea and where the reflections begin.
I don’t really have the words for how beautiful it was to move through those placid waters, the mountains high on either side,
how it felt like I was arriving at a place I somehow knew, and somehow knew I needed right then, a day in early September, with most of my life behind me, but hopefully enough to anticipate and savour, and when we came to the end of the Inlet, where we were to dock for the night, the sight of Chatterbox Falls opened my heart with its cascades of clean water.
Then suddenly, dramatically, in a couple of boat-lengths, the whole abrupt end of the inlet comes into sight–heavily wooded, green, but rising steeply. Your eye is caught first by a long white scar, up about two thousand feet, that slashes across…and disappears into the dark green background. Again, another splash of white, but farther down. Now you can see that it has movement. It is moving down and down, in steep rapids. Disappearing…reappearing…and then in one magnificent leap plunging off the cliff and into the sea a hundred feet below. As your boat draws in closer, the roar and the mist come out to meet you.
It was hot and a few of us immediately plunged into the ocean. A sign warned of lion’s mane jellyfish and we did see a few, one fist-sized and one the size of a large pizza, but we swam away from them. And the water was everything I hoped it would be. I felt new somehow.
We ate Sharon’s delicious spaghetti and meatballs, her focaccia made with potatoes and coarse ground wheat, a salad from our garden, an apple cake made with our Merton Beauty apples, and we drank glasses of cold white wine. When it was bedtime, John and I tucked ourselves into the little berth at the prow, the skylight open to this:
The stars had filled up the long crack of sky above me. Brighter stars than you see anywhere else…bright…so bright…
When I woke just after 5, the stars had all set, except the morning star, Venus, in exactly the same place the moon had lingered the night before, reflected in the calm water.
We had time for a little wander around next morning, talking to a young couple in one of the two boats also moored at the dock (a third belongs to the ranger),
and then it was time to leave. Would I have loved this trip more if I’d been given it twenty years ago? Ten? I don’t know. I carry so many stories already, and some of those are stories I’ve read about Princess Louisa Inlet. They spin out like a fishing line into deep green water. But today I am doing my chores–laundry, watering, picking tomatoes to make into sauce– full of the sound of the waterfall, the memory of two seals gliding through the water as I watched Venus yesterday morning, my head poking out of the skylight, and I am still in that water, swimming, I am lying in my bunk, feeling the gentle movement of water underneath me, and the mergansers are muttering as they pass by us in search of their own breakfast.
Standing in the Present, on the highest point of the curve, you can look back and see the Past, or forward and see the Future, all in the same instant. Or, if you stand off to one side of this curve, as I am doing, your eye wanders from one to the other without any distinction.
Note: the quoted passages are from M. Wylie Blanchet’s The Curve of Time (50th Anniversary Edition, published by Whitecap Books)