The final wrap-up to our weekend discussions came in the form of a walk through the valley with those who had not left for their respective homes. A couple from Athabasca, a mother and son from the village in Saranagati, devotees from major cities, and Ramnath from the end of the valley were with me. Off we strolled.
“Ramnath, can you tell us the types of trees we are seeing on both sides of the trail? Some of us know models of cars, but we don’t know our trees.”
Ramnath was happy to respond. “Well, here, it is mostly fir. The tall trees which are practically dead are the ones devastated by the pine beetle. Over there are a few juniper bushes.”
“Don’t you have some poplar trees?” I asked.
“Yes, where there’s more water, down lower in the valley.”
“Where do you see rattlesnakes?
“We are walking in the area where they slither in the summer. This is the sunniest, most dry area in the valley.”
Hearing about snakes always raises eyebrows, and ‘rattlesnakes’ all the more.
Ramnath further explained that Chinese railway workers once lived there. He then pointed to an underground hole where some residents stay in the summer when it’s hot. There is a clear opening with a log-framed entrance.
My walking companions were also intrigued to hear about an abandoned gold mine in the valley. “If you go in, you might not come out,” I warned. Eyebrows, again.