A lone bat decides on a day time hunt. We catch the flash of his dark wings as he flies, helter-skelter, like a leaf in a breeze. He’s in pursuit of insects that flit and weave above the deep pool in Mission creek.
The pool, carved out by centuries of silt-laden water, forced into an endless eddy by a rock the size of a house, is conspicuously deep and cool and attractive to rainbow trout–also in search of water borne insects. And the creek has its share. You can see them glint like fireflies when the sun angles its light through the trees and onto the dark water.
Mission creek–most likely named after the missionary endeavour at Lake Okanagan–is a rocky stream of iron-rich water that runs around boulders, sand and scree, through a canyon with 200 foot sides, and past hoodoos and small caves that hide brown bats. And like all creeks worth their salt, its water music mesmerizes. And like all humans and we are drawn to her ripple and rhythm.
The trail we take skirts the Mission Creek 8 Indian Reserve. The trek down to the creek is steep and must be taken with short strides. Walking stick or not, we step and slide. Slide more than step. When the trail levels out we come across bear scat–of which there is plenty. Old and new and full of chokecherry pits. On a broad trail in the valley, away from the dry cracked earth we spy deer. A doe and a fawn. The fawn’s spots are still prominent.
As we move past the trees and underbrush and onto the creek banks we see the rock horn. It’s independence from the cliff is pronounced as it seemingly lifts itself higher than the canyon walls. Silent and imposing, it’s a tower that confounds our finding names for it. Out of its side, just below the peak, grows a defiant pine tree. It somehow finds the requisite nutrients for life, even as its own roots help grind rock into soil. It’s nurtured, we imagine, by occasional morning mists and traces of rainfall trapped in crevices. But there is no reason for the tree.
We cross the creek. Six of us. Our friends, Terry and Sue, and their two children, Robby and Marissa. The calf-deep water stings us cold. And there are the rocks. Slick and covered by a thin film of algae. On the crossing back, Marissa slips and and crashes her right knee and dips her side in the cold white water.
Having hiked both sides and upper banks of Mission creek we settle back on the sand opposite the house-boulder. It’s here we spot the bat and watch it hunt–briefly. The daytime chase is a fateful decision. Silent as drifting pollen, a sparrow hawk picks him out of midair above the pool–just a few yards from where we sit. It’s the act of a practiced raptor. Natural and remorseless, she flies with the bat in her talons, into the shadows of the thick pines.
Only moments later a young black bear appears on the far ledge across the creek. A quick survey and then a crash through the bush and gone. No time to retrieve a camera.
We rest…our conversation is spaced. Later, we climb the steep trail back out of Mission creek. It takes a while to return to being human.