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Mr. Bigglesworth

Fourteen species of tropical orchids live at the Liard hot springs in northern British Columbia, Canada. Fourteen. Tropical Plants.

Sitting at 59 degrees north, and just south of the border of British Columbia and the Yukon territories, it's an ecological anomaly surrounded by a harsh and unforgiving landscape. Fueled by warm geothermal waters, Liard harbors a rich boreal forest with moss laden branches and perfect natural pools of soothing clear water. It's a utopic setting that attracts every mammal in the region- most recently, road weary homo sapiens.

Once upon a time, it was known as the "tropical valley." Then, in 1957, the U.S. Army built facilities, and the rest is history- some of it dubious. In 1997, bathers and bears clashed in a gory battle in front of the pools. From the Canada Gazette:

"On August 14, 1997, at Liard Hot Springs Provincial Park, British Columbia, a bear attacked a group of Canadian and American tourists, killing two people and severely wounding two others. When an unprovoked bear attacked his mother, 13-yearold Kelly McConnell confronted the animal, kicking it in the jaw then repeatedly hitting it with a stick. The angry bear released the woman and turned on Kelly, clawing and biting him. Alerted by the screams, Mr. Kitchen and others rushed to the scene and attempted to scare the bear by making loud noises. When neither the noise nor stabbing at the animal with sticks diverted its attention, Mr. Kitchen jumped on its back and tried to wrestle it off Kelly, but the bear turned on him and inflicted fatal injuries. Meanwhile, Mr. Hedingham had also rushed to the scene and began pounding on the animal's head with a tree branch, causing it to retreat. While Mr. Hedingham and others attempted to stop the bleeding from Kelly's wounds, the beast returned and tried again to grab the boy and his mother, by then deceased. Mr. Hedingham gave the animal a strong kick on its snout, finally driving it away. As the bear fled, it attacked one more victim before it was killed by a man who had arrived with a shotgun."

What a story, and it will probably hang over the place for a long time to come.

Damn it was cold while we were there, and faithfully abiding to their fine evolutionary ability to handle Yukon winters, the bears were asleep.

It was the kind of cold that thoroughly debilitates. It was the kind of cold that renders your extremities useless within a matter of minutes. It was the kind of cold that freezes your wet shorts into a stiff board in t-minus two seconds. It was the kind of cold that makes you meditate on whether you would rather freeze to death or die of dehydration in an oppressively hot desert. The kind of cold that makes you think heaven is a warm field of tropical orchids flowing in the breeze.

The thermometer read -40 degrees Celcius at one point. What does -40 degrees C mean anyway? That's a made-up number reserved for science experiments in controlled laboratories, not earth. Isn't it minus 40 degrees during the springtime on the former planet Pluto? That number doesn't really mean anything to anyone. It's a fictitious figure- one that doesn't register in conversation, because nobody can relate. After -20 C, does it really matter anymore? What's another 20 degrees of mind numbing, ball-shrinking cold?

Sitting in the hot pools at Liard, with the luscious, sulfur-rich water reheating our frost nipped limbs, it was easy for us to say, "if i were a moose, i would spend all winter in here."