For four years, I have been looking for a cat. I found the eagle, and the turtle. I found a swan, a goose, a duck and a dog that might be a horse. I found all kinds of animals out of the Dreamtime, written in the rock, from Palouse Falls, in the Snake River Watershed, to Grand Coulee in the dry post-glacial bed of the Columbia, to the Wenatchi and the Okanagan in the north of the Columbia Plateau, but the cougar eluded me. Oh, it was plain to see. Up here in the north of the Plateau, there’s a Cougar Point, right next to a Turtle Point, and a Cougar Canyon, but where on earth is the Cougar. I looked and looked. I found a Coyote!
Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park
But a cougar? A very elusive cat. I walked along the far shore of Kalamalka Lake. No cat.
I looked more closely. No cat.
I peered into the distance, from a viewpoint above the old pit house site on the north end of the lake, under the Mountain Goats (stone) of the bluff.
Not a cat. I hiked to Cougar Point. Nothing.
I snuck around from the back side (this took a couple years). Hmmm… of the two heads below, the upper one is … a lynx, for gosh sakes. Not a cougar.
So, why Cougar Point? These things have to fit together into a story, and the story has to be a map, because I don’t think the people who were here 8,000 years ago weren’t smart as all heck. I thought I could look across the valley from Turtle Mountain (another part of the lost story), but I got distracted.
Who wouldn’t! Still, it was no help. Really no help.
Sneaky tricky turtles, or what! Messing with my head. I circled around from the west, across the lake.
I found other bits of the story.
I went to the far side of the next lake over (these lakes are big, up to 135 kilometres long) and peered across.
A second Turtle Point! My house is on the slope in behind the isthmus. That cloud shadow is where much of this blog has taken place. Still, no cougar. So, I went back. I decided I had to do this on foot. Here are some of the rocks on the way down through Kalamalka Lake Park to Cougar Point. Lots of story here, but, yeah, I know, no cougar.
So what is this Cougar Point thing? And right across from it, god bless us, a Cougar Canyon? I kept walking.
No, not a cougar. That’s a Western Yellow-Bellied Racer! Nice. Finally, I got to the base of Cougar Point, and what do you think I found? No, not a cougar. This is a cougar.
When pressed, a cougar will eat critters like me, and won’t even pick its teeth afterwards. No, I found this.
Yeah, rocks, right. Well, yeah, but if you click on it to blow it up, I think you’ll find it’s a tumbled pile of skulls, just like you’d find outside a cougar’s lair. I easily count 9… how many do you find? And the cougar? Ah, what a lovely irony. I found it today at last! I’ve been looking at it for years. Here’s my view, from the street in front of my house, over the shoulder of the city to the East.
Mountains, right? Not so fast. It all depends on the light! This is a story dependent on the season.
A sleeping cougar…but isn’t that the best kind? (The right hand part of the mountain is the cougar’s head.) The valley leading down to Kalamalka Lake and Cougar Point is behind the foreground mountains (Middleton Mountain in the front an Kalamalka Mountain behind it.) OK, so, new question: why does the cougar look like a clown? Ah, that is a question best answered on another day (In other words, I have a hundred thousand photos to sort through to find the right one! I need a professional curator! Help!)
As a closing note for the day, I think it’s possible to read the land as a story, the way it is currently read with maps, with no loss of accuracy or predictability. I have some specific ideas about how this works, which I will be sharing with you over the week to come. Until now, no one has made a map of the old stories. I think it’s about time.