Imagine contacting someone you don't know and asking to spend not one but two nights with them. Not only do they agree, but even before meeting they offer us the use of their car! The home is in the countryside outside of Smithers, 2 kilometers down a dirt road. We arrive to find a secluded location with mountains looming over the back deck. We are in awe.
Our hosts are not home from work yet. But they have informed us where to find our bedroom and shower, and told to make ourselves comfortable. It doesn't take me long to clean up and install myself in the sunshine on the deck.
When Kirsteen and Andy get home we immediately fall into conversation and click right away. It seems we can't talk fast enough, trading cycling stories, filling in our life status and sharing the common bonds of family and love of the outdoors. Such are the friendships forged through Warm Showers, the organization of cyclists who host cyclists.
Friends often ask how can stay with strangers. While we understand their perspective, we don't see it that way at all. In the case of both hosting and being hosted, we know we already have cycle touring in common. That translates to a certain outlook on life, a commitment to physical activity and an openness to meeting others. We feel a strong connection before we even meet. This is our third Warm Showers stay on this trip, and each has been equally warm and hospitable.
The best part of staying with hosts is the advice they provide. From cycling routes, to road conditions and local sights to see, their suggestions invariably enhance our stay. For our rest day today, we make good use of that car and take Kirsteen's advice to hike up to Malkow Lookout.
It is a short, family friendly hike yet with varied terrain. We start out crossing a meadow populated with noisy cows, then enter a section of forest. It is the ground plants that draw my attention more than the trees. They are thick and abundant, threating to overtake the well trodden trail. I have daisies at my knees, yellow and purple flowers brushing my shoulders and deep pink fireweed towering overhead. In between is a crush of greenery. Even Rich looks overwhelmed by the flora.
A little used dirt road takes us to the top, no doubt the route that foresters used to reach the lookout tower originally perched on the summit. Now it must be the maintenance road for the cell tower that has taken its place. As promised, we can see peaks in all directions. Under the hot noon day sun, each mountain stands unencumbered by clouds. We don't remember the names, we just enjoy the view. And of course take pictures.
Evenings are the highlight of our stay. Upon Kirsteen and Andy's return from work, we linger over happy hour while they prepare a sumptuous meal. There is no shortage of conversation, as we find that we share a passion for not only cycling but cross-country skiing. We are also interested to learn more about their sawmill.
Andy spent two years building the mill, and it has now been in operation about a year. They mill “dry balsam” which are trees that are harvested after they have died. Left behind by normal lumber operations, they usually become waste. But Andy has developed a way to process them for construction purposes.
The finale of our visit is a tour of the mill. Since it is right on our way, we eagerly accept the invitation. Never having been in a sawmill before, we are fascinated by the process. And it is amazing to think that the whole operation makes something out of nothing.
Our goodbyes don't feel final. And we hope they aren't. It wouldn't be the first time we came full circle with Warm Showers friends. We look forward to a future day when they come to our house and stay the night.