Once upon a time at the edge of a forest beside a river there was a magical place, Glenora, a golden valley in the northern wilds of British Columbia. Even its name had the lilt of birdsong, Glenora: glenn, the Gaelic word for valley; and ora, Spanish for gold.
One Sunday in the summer warmth of June, a man called Magellan and his wife Spice decided they wanted to camp at Glenora after hearing about its charms earlier that afternoon.
Glenora was an abandoned village on sacred Tahltan territory so they felt they should ask permission to camp there at the First Nations hamlet of Telegraph Creek nearby.
“Four o’clock! My girlfriend is going to f***ing beat me up. Oops, sorry for my language ma’am. I just got up. Bad night,” said a young man in his early twenties. “Go for it. You’ll be all alone out there at this time of year,” he said.
After driving seventeen kilometres on a winding road along the mighty Stikine River, Magellan and Spice reached the end of the road. The golden glen outshone its name.
There was no one there except for a woman parked on the bank of the mighty Stikine. “I’m leaving now that my morels are dry,” she said. “Here, take some for your dinner.”
Walking around, Magellan and Spice could see that the Tahltan people still use Glenora as a fish camp.
In the bushes beside the river, they found gravesites, some old and some new.
Glenora was so picturesque that it took them half an hour to choose a camp spot for their vehicle, Rove-Inn. They delayed their dinner of foraged foods, morels and fireweed salad so Magellan could take pictures of the area with his drone.
After dinner Magellan and Spice relaxed on their camping armchairs in the golden valley.
Then all of a sudden, someone in a blue pickup truck drove right up to Rove-Inn.
Spice and Magellan were worried, and Spice was a little bit afraid.
Was the man behind the wheel going to ask them to leave? Or worse yet, would he rob or harm them?
But when Spice and Magellan got close to the man in the truck, they knew everything was going to be all right. A good-looking village elder with a twinkle in his eye, the man was neatly dressed in a checkered shirt stretched taut over a snazzy belt buckle and pressed blue jeans. “I was just up the road to visit a woman who, turns out, wasn’t home, and I thought I saw a vehicle back in here,” said the man who introduced himself as Orville. However, with his dapper glasses and silver-grey hair peeping out from his ball cap, the man and woman later nicknamed him Mr. Fox.
Mr. Fox was an engaging storyteller. He had lived in the area for a long time. He started by telling Spice and Magellan about the fire of August 2018. “It was bad. Twenty-seven houses burned in Telegraph Creek, about forty percent of them. People were evacuated downstream to Glencora and then to places throughout the province. I was in a hotel in Vancouver for five months. I didn’t come home until almost Christmas, December 22.” Mr. Fox described bird skeletons hanging in the blackened branches of deciduous trees. “There’s still cinders in the ground,” he said.
The man and woman asked Mr. Fox about the fish camp. “It doesn’t get busy until late July, then the smokehouse and cannery will be goin’ strong for about six weeks. This year the kings are scarce so they’ve got signs up to say leave them and wait for the sockeye.”
Long ago in olden times many wild animals roamed the mountains and valleys, so many that Mr. Fox said The Hudson’s Bay Company built a fort in Glenora in the 1830s for the growing fur trade.
“Back in the late 1890s the CPR was gonna build a railroad from Glenora to Teslin,” Mr. Fox said, pointing out faint lines in the grass. The railroad was to be part of the all-Canadian route to the Klondike. “It never got built but the Chinese were here pickin’ tracks,” he said.
Magellan asked Mr. Fox about the graveyard. “That was used a lot during the Gold Rush,” he told them.
The man and woman were astonished when Mr. Fox told them what happened when the Gold Rush panned out. “I remember my grandmother tellin’ me that at one time there were nine, maybe ten thousand people here in Glenora, in tents, waitin’ to get out.” Magellan and Spice could not imagine so many people huddled together in this remote spot, their scurvy and frozen feet being treated in the Glenora hospital. Mr. Fox explained that the Stikine River from Glenora was only navigable for steamers between May and August.
Dusk was approaching but Mr. Fox stayed on, telling stories to the man and woman from his truck.
Just then, a fox glided across the field, a gentle amble so fast all you could see was a flash of reddish fur.
“She probably has a den nearby,” Mr. Fox said. “Guess I better be goin’. My wife’s got a bad knee and wouldn’t be able to climb that ladder or I’d be gettin’ the same kinda rig,” he said eyeing Rove-Inn and the rooftop tent. “God bless,” he said as he drove away.
The man and woman counted their blessings—how lucky they were to find this place, to hear Glenora’s stories from the charismatic Mr. Fox. And to glimpse a fox in the wild! Spice was especially fond of foxes, of their cunning nature, lithe shape and wise spirit.
The next morning sunshine greeted the man and woman who decided to linger in the valley and cook a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs. Magellan went off to take more pictures. Scrubbing the fry pan, Spice suddenly felt the presence of someone watching her.
She looked up and who was there but Mrs. Fox—in daylight!
At first Spice was excited.
Then Mrs. Fox edged closer and closer.
Spice shouted at her to go away, which scared Mrs. Fox off.
But soon she came sneaking back from the other direction.
Persistent and aggressive, Mrs. Fox would not leave.
Spice found a small but stout tree branch. She picked it up and hurled it near Mrs. Fox, not wanting to hit her but to ward her off.
Intoxicated by the smell of bacon (and who isn’t I ask you?) Mrs. Fox kept circling back, each time slinking nearer and nearer.
Even when Magellan returned and the two of them chased and shouted at Mrs. Fox, the red vixen slithered back.
“She’s not going to leave. Let’s pack up and go,” said Magellan.
And soon after, the man and woman left Glenora.
The moral of the story according to the woman is this: “Be ready for surprises when a fox comes to visit.”