Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Here we go into the alpine

David Zirnhelt describes the joy he feels when getting into an alpine area of the Cariboo

Here we go: summer has come and gone. The nights are cooler and frost is probably just around the corner. Some higher elevations are reporting near zero overnight.

I thought when haying was over that we might get some days off and we did get precious few.

Precious, I say because what could be better than a few days in the mountains with grandchildren, their parents and some well-broke horses.

The children are getting to be good hands with horses and appreciative of the views near and far in the alpine meadows. I love to share my feelings that come back to me when viewing the sacredness of the “garden of Eden” of mountain tops.

My first experience with the alpine was when as a teenager I got to go through Barkerville when it was truly a ghost town with only a few inhabitants living out their days in small shacks left over from then boom days, and then driving on up to Yank’s Peak.

Invariably there was a window box with a few flowers brightly offsetting the graying wood cladding on those tiny homes.

The road (trail) was from Barkerville to Keithley Creek, not far from Likely. We went that way because getting up to Yank’s Peak was nearly impossible from the Keithley Creek side-especially since we had two-wheel drive vehicles.

A Volkswagen “bug” shone under the unmaintained conditions of the road.

The higher we went up the mountain the higher our mood became. I have never forgotten that feeling of being on top of the world with the view of many miles around and the Eden-like view of the rolling meadows.

Then there was the red snow in the gullies (it was July) which I learned was a particular algae bloom. As kids it was fun to throw red snowballs in the middle of summer.

If I were to depict what Heaven on Earth might look like as a landscape, it would certainly have an alpine component. When I saw and heard the joy in the grandkids I could feel with them and remember why I was happy to share their feelings.

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These experiences are spiritual.

We were in the Cariboo Mountains trying to access the alpine with some horseback riders, some hikers (some were allergic to horses) and pack horses. The trails known to our crew were winter trails utilized by snowmobilers and skiers, not horseback riders.

Our camp was much lower than the alpine where there was feed (and water) for the horses. I had mentioned to an up-and-coming singer and songwriter in our party that I had been musing about writing an article about what Heaven (on Earth) might look like.

She shared with us an opportunity around the campfire to compose the idea into a song. We got about three people to contribute but then the “heavens opened up” and drove us to our tents before we got soaking wet. Unfinished business!

Many people create gardens and landscapes to mould parts of the earth to their aesthetic image. Others and in different places see that the earth is whole and we should keep it that way. My Earth includes the alpine as it is.

And on the Seventh Day, some Christians say, He/She rested and looked at the beauty of what was created. And this is the Earth with its unbridled beauty. I would like for myself, other farmers/ranchers and gardeners to rest more often to celebrate what we have inherited.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

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