A Chilcotin Hogyssey with Kenny Smith
Buddy..." Kenny’s voice sputtered through the phone.
"What’s up Ken?" I asked. It was early spring 2018, six months before our trip.
"I got it," he replied.
"I got the hog."
"Mt. Matier, tomorrow."
"Dude, I'm in Prince George. I'm working."
"Just quit your job, get in your truck and start driving."
"I can't. I work for myself and drive a ‘99 Safari work van." He knows that, I thought to myself.
"Buddy..." he replied, intuitively taking that as a definite no.
It’s never easy to turn down an invitation from Ken. Often, they were “The best days ever” but usually I had only a few days to commit. The next time he called, however, it would be different. The next time, I didn’t have or need an excuse.
"What’s up Ken?"
"I got the hog."
I laugh out loud, "Nice, where?", thinking he meant another weekend ski tour in the Sea to Sky.
"Seriously, this is the one," he replied, surprised that I had laughed at his first statement.
Intrigued, I asked where again.
"Chilcotins, Something Lake to Chilko Lake to another lake, river crossing, something creek, super haney then back to Tyax. River crossings… we have to build a raft. Float plane, boat ride. This is the Hog, Chet, this is the one."
It sounded intense and so ridiculous that if I said yes, it was too ridiculous to actually happen, so I wouldn’t have much to worry about.
“Sweet, I’m in.”
“It’s going to be hard,” Kenny said with a nervous chuckle. “Eight days out there Chet, you better start training.”
I took his advice, but looking back, what I should have done was sleep in my backyard, wake up in the morning, stuff my backpack, walk to the river, fall into it, then ride my bike to the nearest hill and take my bike up and down it all day hoping to step on a few wasp nests in order to get used to the feeling that would soon become so familiar.
Only a few weeks before the trip, the team assembled on a misty Vancouver day. We bought our stuff, had lunch and high fived. It was the last chance for anyone to bail before this once-in-a-lifetime expedition. No one did, and so it was: we had our team.