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Ice Hiking in British Columbia 4

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(More about a journey made by two young college students in 1952:)

On Monday morning we arrived at the Alert Bay dock at dawn. Immediately a lanky form rose from the shadowy deck of a gill netter and asked if we were ready to go down to Minstrel Island. Yes!

Our host never smiled on that journey, but we became aware that he was altering his course to show us the prettiest views, the great green forest coming right down to the waterline, the dolphins, orca and otters, the crystal clear salt water with its sensuous ripples and the occasional jelly fish floating by.

At Minstrel Island, as if by magic, we were handed off to the little fish packer named "MyOwn" (all the Canadian fishermen had the magic of radio, of course).

I wish I could remember the names of those two sweet guys on the MyOwn. With a flourish, they seated me in the stern. From my queenly perch I watched as we met other small boats and my husband helped our new friends take on the catches of magnificent Sockeye Salmon.

They wanted to serve a very special lunch, so they rummaged through their stores and came up triumphantly with a can of Australian mutton. That festive meal on board the salmon packer was a battered tin plate containing a big dollop of white preserved sheep meat and a watery pile of white potatoes. All of which I ate and praised appreciatively.

We were now well on our way up the wild uninhabited fjord called Knight Inlet. We finally came alongside the huge ice boat, anchored in the silence of Glendale Cove, and unloaded our beautiful fish, each weighing 10 to 40 pounds.

Later, cleaning out the hold, the three men found a "small" leftover salmon. The boys deliberated what to do with it. Toss pieces in the air to be caught by the gulls? Or perhaps use it as halibut bait? I tried to look as wistful as possible and finally one of them said "You wouldn't want it, would you?"

The MyOwn left us at Kwalate Float. The float was made of large logs lashed together and was no bigger than a swimming float in a lake. Anchored in deep cold water, it was far enough out that trying to swim to the uninhabited shore would be terminally hypothermic. We would have to wait there on that little bobbing wooden square for as long as it took for another boat to come along.

At the moment, we didn't much care. We had a tiny gas climber's stove, a small pot lid which doubled as a frying pan, a swiss army knife, and a fresh 10 pound salmon.

More tomorrow.

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