From Alberta To British Columbia (West Coast Girl, Pt 7)

(Photo source: Kourtney Gundersen : https://www.pexels.com)

Summer 2014

When I woke up on the Greyhound bus, I was in British Columbia. Beautiful mountains, trees, lakes, and valleys passed by me as I looked out the window. For the first time in my life, I was in the very province I always dreamed of living in. I was getting closer to living my dream life in Vancouver, but my heart ached at who I’d left behind. Memories of Seb’s final hug and my time in Banff swirled about in my mind. It had been over a year since I left my hometown in Ontario, but so much happened. Now I was on the vessel that would take me to a new chapter of my personal and writing journey. It would take me through the Okanagan, past Prince George, and into Smithers. The crazy thing about this part of my journey is that I didn’t have a proper phone – I bought a flip phone to save money, so I got no pictures from this picturesque drive. I was truly in the moment for this road trip. I did have my lap top and attempted to write a little bit about my experience in Banff with Seb, but nothing seemed to do it justice. I’ve always been a fictional author at heart. There’s something about writing fiction – maybe it’s less vulnerable, but you can still show the beauty of life and people in stories.

The thing that surprised me the most were the rolling green mountains around Kamloops, BC. The area is much like a mountainous Texas. The mountains are small enough to hike up within an hour or less which is cool.

Photo source: cottonbro studio: https://www.pexels.com

The mountains became more majestic again as the bus traveled through B.C.’s interior. It was an amazing drive and I enjoyed the little stops we made along the way so we could stretch our legs. I highly recommend traveling the highway between Banff, AB and B.C. The scenery is out of this world.

Once the bus stopped in Smithers early in the morning, my soon-to-be manager picked me up at the little station and we drove north in the dark. It wasn’t until we were a few hours in that she told me some sad and scary truths.

“You might want to text your family now, before we lose cell service. They don’t have any cell service out this way. Also, I’m not sure if you’re aware, but this is the Highway of Tears.”

She told me about the missing and murdered indigenous women who were abducted and never seen again on this highway – and some were found dead days after they’d gone missing. I texted my family that I was on my way to the lodge then focused on the beautiful landscapes all around us. What surprised me is how many power lines there were among the gorgeous evergreens. There was a lot of development going on far north in BC to connect remote areas with modern services.

When we reached the lodge, it was in the middle of the afternoon and I was ready for a nap. I hadn’t slept well on the bus and my grief of losing Seb was still fresh. I was greeted by some team members at the lodge then they graciously let me go nap and spend the rest of the day in my room. The next morning, I was trained by a girl around my age to work in the variety store/gas station. It was the only gas station for hours on the Stewart-Cassier highway, so we were an important stop for travelers, truckers, and powerline workers alike.

My coworkers were all chill, nice people. I quickly got along with everyone – even one of the rougher kitchen guys who was known to cause drama. With there being few people willing to work at a remote lodge on the side of a highway, the managers were happy with anyone who worked there. I tried my best, made some mistakes, and faced one of my biggest fears – serving at a restaurant. I always said that I would never be a server, because I’d forget everyone’s orders, but the team thought I would be a good fit for the role when the main server was away on her days off. So, my first few shifts at the restaurant went well, but one day I was feeling a little off and I forgot the order of the tables I took orders from. I ran and hid in the variety store, feeling like an idiot and distraught that there was no way out. The chef, Jamie, came out to find me.

“Hey Sara, you’ve got orders waiting,” he said, looking a little confused.

When he saw I had been crying, his expression softened.

“I messed up the orders out there … I give up,” I said.

“You didn’t mess the orders up,” he said kindly. “You just got the order wrong. Here, we’ll all help you while you regroup. How does that sound?”

I’m so grateful I was able to work with such a kind and supportive team. Everyone pitched in while I took a few deep breaths in the kitchen. After that, I never messed up someone’s order again.

One group of powerline workers stayed at the lodge for a week since they were working close by. They were relieved they could get a break from living at a camp – and the fact that there were girls at the lodge. One guy in particular took a liking to me. I planned to teach myself to play guitar on my spare time and was starting to learn it through a Youtube video when this guy showed up on the balcony. He had climbed up there – it wasn’t accessible unless you were already inside of the lodge. He stared at me through the glass door with a pout.

“I climbed up here to see you!” he called from outside.

I shook my head, amazed at how unwilling people are at leaving me alone when I want to create. I opened the door. When he stepped inside, he started to complain about how lonely he was and how uncomfortable he was with some of the guys he worked with. I wasn’t sure if he was creating a sob story to make me feel sorry for him or if he really had those feelings, but I decided to be a friend and give him the benefit of the doubt. While I was talking, he suddenly kissed me. I stepped back, startled. I was still processing the breakup with Seb and now a random guy I met had stolen my first kiss in BC. I managed to excuse myself and made my way back to the lodge.

One of my coworkers was sitting on the couch in the common area, so I told her about what happened.

“It just sucks that he had to be so pushy. I’m still getting over my ex.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

We talked for a little longer before retiring to bed.

Some evenings I’d join them at their campfires by the river. While most of them were loud and boisterous, a few of them were quieter. I met two nice brothers – one of whom was already married despite looking very young. I would sit with them and we’d have nice conversations about life. I think the single one might have liked me, but I would spend a lot of time in my room after working with customers all day. They weren’t scheduled to be at the lodge very long either, so it was a connection that wasn’t able to form. Sometimes I’d think about that, but if he wanted to stay in touch, he could have given me his contact information.

Things were pretty quiet after the workers left. I got to get to know my coworkers a lot better – the girls in particular were amazing to hang out with. We’d always laugh or find something amusing to do. Sometimes me and Deanna would go for a short walk together to the bridge and overlook the river. When a truck would pass over it, the whole bridge would vibrate and we’d hold on to the bars. That was our idea of an adrenaline rush – it was hilarious.

As you might imagine, the mountains in northern BC are spectacular. They are the Skeena Mountain Range. Right next to the lodge was a majestic mountain that still had snow on it.

Photo by Oshko Rush: https://www.pexels.com

On my days off, I would write. I admired the beautiful BC summer rains as I wrote away in my room. This was when I worked on A Season To Fight the most. I also showed my final edit of Eve & Adam to Wendel, one of the cooks, and he genuinely liked it. He actually had tears when he read the first chapter. I was very flattered.

With it being wild out there (There were so many bears that one couldn’t walk for fifteen minutes without seeing one), I didn’t venture far from the lodge unless I was with someone else. They had a gym on site, so I got back into working out, which boosted my mood and outlook considerably. I was shocked that I let myself give up on my fitness regime when it did so much for my mental and physical health.

I managed to save over $4,000 within a few months of working at the lodge. My time to leave and see Vancouver was approaching. The staff threw an amazing going away party for me and when it was around 2 AM, I ventured outside with Jamie, whom I’d been talking to for the last few hours. I mentioned I was hoping to see the northern lights while I was up there, but still hadn’t been able to. As the words barely left my mouth, beautiful green lights began to dance along the starry sky. It was wonderful timing.

“Oh my gosh … it’s really the northern lights,” I breathed.

Jamie grinned. “It looks like they came out just for you on your last night here.”

We watched them in awe. They were an intense green hue. I didn’t have my camera, and maybe that’s what made the moment so much more special. Looking back, I can see how this time in my life was about more than just saving money – it did wonders for my creative inspiration and I met some really kind people, too.

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22 comments

  1. OMG those Northern lights!!! YAAASSS!!! I’m so glad you’re enjoying your new job and that you have time to work on your writing. I was a bit alarmed at the guy who climbed up to your balcony. I’ve been stalked before and ALL MY ALARMS went off reading about him. Please stay safe, keep your doors/windows locked tight and don’t go walking out alone in the night, Sara. You are so precious to us all xx

    • Thank you – this is actually a part of my memoir so this happened back in 2014. However, I have been stalked a few times in the past. He wasn’t a very good guy and kept asking me to sleep in his room with him LOL. He didn’t know the meaning of subtlety that one. True and climbing up was extra. It’s why I included it in the story, because I am still floored he actually did that.
      Lol well, I do enjoy my night walks, but your comment kinda gave me goosbumps. I think just after dusk is probably okay but anything later is risky – or super early mornings. O.O

      • Hi Sara, oh I definitely don’t want to ruin your walks with fear, I just want to keep you safe. Hopefully you can still go on long walks – just keep your wits about you. You mean so much to so many.

        I was stalked by an ex boyfriend who unfortunately got eaten away by paranoid schizophrenia. Troy jumped our fence and tried breaking into the house I live in with my husband a few times. I tried the compassionate approach the first few times “Mate, you can’t break in whenever you want to see me, you have to respect our boundaries and I’ll try to visit you whenever I can” but each time was more violent and destructive. The 4th time, he brought a small wooden club (!!!) with him, I had to call the police and get a restraining order. It was terrifying. I’d lost Troy and he’d been completely replaced by a violent, empty version of himself who probably would have killed me that day, he was convinced I “was a witch” and needed to be killed “to be free”

        *shudder*

      • That’s very scary. 😦 Wow. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I’m glad that you were able to move on from that and the cops dealt with him.
        And yeah I made a crazy mistake walking home from the club last month late and won’t ever do that again. I know better.

  2. β€œI highly recommend traveling the highway between Banff, AB and B.C. The scenery is out of this world.” – I certainly would like to do that one day. I love beautiful scenery. I had never heard of the Highway of Tears before reading this, so I looked it up, more than 80 murdered or missing women. That is so crazy, and they never found the culprit(s). That’s dark. One thing that was great about growing up in northern Sweden, which is on the same latitudes as Alaska, is that it easy to see the northern lights. I saw some spectacular ones as a kid.

    • It’s really an amazing drive. I’ve traveled it a few times now and it’s always worth it. It gives you a lovely tour of BC and the Bow Valley. πŸ™‚
      Yes it’s really sad about missing and murdered women, most of them being indigenous. 😦 It’s crazy because there’s no reception there so people can sort of disappear or get away with things they normally couldn’t. It’s scary as heck. My manager said she never stops on that highway til the lodge, but once she did at this little washroom stop and there was a guy lurking in the parking lot so she sprinted back to her truck and sped off.
      Sweden sounds so beautiful. πŸ™‚ It reminds me of Norway/Alaska.

  3. I can understand why your new boss-to-be would tell you there was no cell service (everyone would want to know that). Still, I would feel uncomfortable if someone I just met was telling me indigenous women were murdered on this highway and never seen again. It may have been very well true, but it’s a weird thing to tell someone you don’t know.

    • Now that you mention it, that is weird she’d say that as we were driving up right before there’s no cell service. I got a very managerial country mom kinda vibe from her so it wasn’t tooo weird, but I was surprised when she told me. My parents thought it was weird there wasn’t any cell reception beyond a certain point past Smithers, BC, but I guess there really are still some parts of the world that are so remote.
      Thanks for reading and commenting. πŸ™‚

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