Take a right instead of a left

👤Joanne Campbell 🕔Oct 09, 2015

I played hooky and went for a drive. And what did I discover? That I can still be amazed by how little I know about where I live.

A few days ago, Paul and Sandra came back from a bike tour around Francois Lake—or at least part of it. Our cover photo shows Paul riding beside a herd of cattle that are hoofing it up the road for no apparent reason, just sprinting from point A to point B, post haste. It’s a fun cover shot, but it was their other photos that really grabbed my attention. So this was Francois Lake?

It’s huge! Not wide, but long. Much of it is wild, but a good stretch of its northern shoreline is neat, tidy and farmy. And a complete surprise. Francois Lake is beautiful, and just a couple hours down the road! Why was I so surprised?

I’m ashamed to say that although I’ve lived in the Bulkley Valley for the best part of my adult life, until I played hooky that day I had never been over the bridge at Burns Lake. Oh, I’ve marvelled at how cold Burns Lake gets in winter, and I know they have fantastic mountain-biking and cross-country skiing. I like their curvy downtown and usually stop for a convenience on the way through. But I’ve always kept going left up the hill to wherever I was going.

What an idiot.

As I sat in my chair at my office in Smithers, doing my job (whatever that is), I wondered about this place, this Francois Lake. The more I thought about it, the more obsessed I became. I got through lunch before I succumbed; I climbed into my dusty Rav4 and drove to Burns Lake, gateway to the Lakes District.

Of course I knew a bit about the Lakes District. I drive by those lakes on Hwy 16 all the time—Rose Lake, Decker Lake, Burns Lake, Fraser Lake and all those little lakes that dot the roadside. On maps, and from the air, I saw bird’s-eye views of Francois Lake, and Ootsa Lake, Uncha, Cheslatta and Eutsuk Lake. My daughter’s always telling me how much she loves camping at Takysie Lake and, judging by the map, these are but a few of the hundreds—perhaps thousands—of lakes literally splashed across the landscape.

But on this day there was just one I wanted to see.

 In case you, too, have yet to venture across the bridge at Burns Lake, let me paint a picture of what you’re missing. (Keep in mind that this is only a tiny part of what you’re missing because I was playing hooky and had to get back before I got in trouble with the boss. I intend to go back for the big picture when I can spend some quality time.)

For starters, let’s talk scale. Do you think Fraser Lake is big? You could fit four or five Fraser Lakes end-to-end into Francois Lake! Of the natural lakes in BC, only Babine Lake is longer.

Despite its amazing length, or maybe because of it, the only boat to be seen that day was the ferry to Southbank—which runs every 50 minutes or so, and is free. The quiet roads meandered through voluptuous, rolling hills, the sparkling…

But wait—you know what? You should see it for yourself. Play hooky if you have to but preferably take some time and explore it properly. Then you won’t have to wonder what you’re missing the next time you don’t cross the bridge at Burns Lake.

Were it not for the racing cows on our cover, I might never have seen Francois Lake (and many others I’ve still to see), and that would have been a shame. That I had driven past—oblivious—all these years makes me wonder: what else have I missed by always turning left when I could have turned right?

So please, tell me! Send me pictures. I’m always looking for a good reason to play hooky.