THE STORY OF FEAR
that birthed the Four Elements Adventure Race
It all started when...
In the early days of exploration and adventure a wave of brave souls began migrating up the banks of the Columbia River and surrounding lands that hinted at promise of adventure and unheard of wealth.
Among the groups of wide eyed dreamers was a contingent of Irish. The most notable being Edward Mohan that in 1890 purchased 320 acres of land on the west side of the Columbia river to open up a mining operation dead set on striking it rich. He named this parcel of land Castlegar after his family’s estate at Ahascragh County in Galway, Ireland.
This is, however, not the story of a wealthy gentleman in a proper suit and hat taking business meetings over delicate imported tea but of a lesser known countryman that couldn’t be further from the honorable Mr. Mahon in status, financial capacity and societal savy.
Timothy McDavid was a farmer from Killarney that cashed in all his chips on Castlegar for the promise of gold nestled in the grounds where the mountains meet and the rivers converge. A strong and capable man, what he lacked in honesty, couth, manners and hygiene he gained in charisma, fortitude and eternal confidence, not to mention his ability to bend an ear and weave a legendary yarn.
Rumour has his most infamous yarn starting on a late and cold September night. McDavid was partaking in some libations to ward off the cold with some fellow prospectors when he overheard in the corner of the room the rumblings of some men speaking of a strip of land that could very well contain the Motherlode.
Timothy ever so slightly shifted his chair and ear closer towards the men in the corner straining to take in every detail of their description and commit it to memory. It was hard for him to hear the men speaking amongst the noise of his fellow rabble-rousers. There was also a constant glint coming off of the carbide lamp attached to one of the men’s mining hats facing Timothy. Carbide lamps were simple lamps that combined calcium carbide and water to produce and burn acetylene and a flame to navigate by. The light reflected from the candle on the table off the carbide lamp made the features of the men at the table indiscernible therefore making lip reading not an option.
After a few more minutes of rocking and sliding Timothy had positioned himself close enough to hear all of the men clearly. The depiction was so vivid and told with such exuberant detail that he was confident he could find this land of plenty with his eyes closed.
The conversation amongst the men in the corner quickly shifted towards their plans to head out in the morning to stake this claim. As soon as their conversation shifted towards logistics Timothy knew what he needed to do. After finishing his fourth drink of the night he uncharacteristically left the bar a full four hours before closing to hastily pack provisions for his dawn departure.
He quickly packed his rifle, compass, pan, grub hoe hammer and pick thinking he should be able to find and stake the spot in a day and might as well do some prospecting on his new claim. He was admittedly light on food and water but had an inside tip on how he could ‘acquire’ some free hooch on his way out of camp and wanted to make sure he had room to carry it.
Fully loaded, save for the space he was allotting for the hooch, Timothy walked through town passing the bar he had left the previous night. He quietly slinked around the back of the building towards a padlocked rear door. He reached up delicately and pulled ever-so-slowly on the lock and it magically gave way and opened without protest. Timothy had been given a top tip a week prior from a fellow prospector, who was owed money from the bartender, that the lock had been malfunctioning. An agreement was made between the prospector and the bartender that if a bottle or two ‘vanished’ over the next few weeks so to would the bartender’s debt.
Timothy had pried this information out of his prospector friend one night and admittedly taken advantage of this bit of knowledge every night he was in town the past week.
Once the door was open Timothy quickly grabbed the only two bottles strangely sitting on their own off the back shelf, replaced the lock and bounded out of town towards fame and fortune.
There was one trail in and out of town that Timothy quickly reached the end of. He was however not deterred as he had a mental map engrained in his head to guide his way and had also picked up some navigational tips during his time in town.
After what must have been two hours Timothy decided to stop for a break (INSERT super noticeable land area here) have a piece of dried meat and sample some of the hooch that he was so fortunate to come across. While the dried meat tasted all too familiar the hooch had a distinct flavour that was foreign to Timothy, which is saying something considering his opportunistic sensibilities when it came to cheap or free drink...
... Fast forward two more hours and Timothy found himself nearly out of food and staring through the bottom of his second, and last, bottle of hooch. He blinked hard once and realised he had been looking down at his leathery hands for an amount of time that he knew not. When his eyes lifted he realised he was standing in a bank of fog. He could barely see where he had come from and less than one metre ahead.
Although he was nearly out of food he felt light on his feet and optimistic that he was headed in the right direction. In hindsight, he was extremely intoxicated and had lost ¾ of his gear stumbling across this new landscape functionally blind as a result of the smothering fog. As he continued to cross-step through the discernable fog like a cancan dancer cross stepping with slightly less height on his kicks he began to hear baying noises.
As Timothy tells it the next four hours consisted of him swimming through blankets of fog while large sleek animals darted in an out of his field of vision. His ears were bathed in howling which disoriented him even further eventually causing him to sit down. Dejected, he scanned 360° and every corner of his vision was as blank and indiscernible as the next. He knew he needed to try and keep warm so he patted his pockets and checked his pack for anything he could burn. He found a small piece of paper balled up in his pocket and unfolded it. The paper had “Fear of Heights” scribbled on it. He couldn’t help but smile at the recollection of him writing his biggest fear down on a piece of paper in the presence of a beautiful young lady he met in the bar in an attempt to show her his vulnerable and sensitive side. It did not work.
Timothy unsheathed his knife and pulled out his Swedish Fire Steel (often referred to as Fire Starter) consisting of a block of magnesium with a striker bar. Timothy scraped a pile of magnesium shavings on to a flat rock he found at his feet then began vigorously sliding his knife against the striker bar to produce sparks he hoped would ignite the magnesium. After enough time to make his hand start to cramp, Timothy succeeded in creating a flame. He burnt the small ball of paper from his pocket, added a few twigs he could corral from his immediate area, placed his hands over his ears and pass out.
When Timothy woke it was morning. It was still windy and the fog had not cleared and he had no idea where he was and all his gear but his pack was gone. He would later tell everyone he was certain it was the baying animals gliding through the fog that must have taken his supplies. He emptied his pack onto the ground a took stock of what he had left. A ball of twine wrapped around a thin bundle of stakes and, low and behold, a pack of matches wrapped in a section of thick plastic almost 12” square. He could have used the matches the night before but now coveted the plastic sheet over all else. Timothy had spent the long ship ride from the UK to Canada doing what he did best, talking. He ended up spending a long portion of the trip speaking to an older man named Pierce that had spent his youth on boats exploring the northern Orkney, Shetland and Outer Hebrides islands of Scotland.
Pierce regaled Timothy of navigational tips using the prevailing winds from land and at sea. Timothy remembered that on land you could often gain navigational insight based on the growth of trees, which was currently useless information based on the bank of fog surrounding him. The piece of information Timothy was pondering was however what Pierce told him about navigating on the sea in ungodly storms away from land. While not an exact science, Mariners could get a sense of direction by using the prevailing winds and how they hit their sails to make educated guesses on direction. Timothy thought long and hard about the wind storms that often slapped against the outer walls of his tent and was confident he could find his bearings if he had some help from the wind.
After licking his crusty finger a time or two and holding it into the wind without much confidence he built himself a kite out of the plastic, stakes and twine. He was supremely confident in his creation until it caught its first gust of wind and splintered into 500 pieces. As if mother nature had had her fun and appreciated his effort, the wall of grey that had surrounded him since the previous day lifted to display the shrapnel of his kite strewn along the base of a small hill.
He decided to continue moving and when he crested the hill he saw his savior, the Columbia River. He plodded down the banks towards the river and, exhausted, knelt down and drank. His head was pounding and he was exhausted from his ordeal. ‘What was in those bottles of hooch?’ Timothy would later say that he was so out of sorts from the evening prior that he stood up and walked directly into the Columbia River up to his neck. He said that the cool waters helped cleanse his head of all the craziness that had ensued in the night prior.
After exiting the river Timothy gathered the last of his strength to pull himself north along the river as he knew it would lead him home. By late evening Timothy arrived in Castlegar dejected, stripped of his foolish expectations, but alive.
After a few days of recovery Timothy started to evaluate his latest adventure. This process however left him with more questions than answers.
Was he even close to the land with which those prospectors were speaking of?
Why hadn’t he ran into the group of four men planning to stake their claim the same day?
Why now was there a new padlock on the back door of the bar?
Premise: One of the prospectors in the corner of the room with the hat on with the carbide lamp was the owner of the bar. He had figured out that the bartender was allowing people to take ‘free samples’ out the back of the bar after hours to settle his debts. The bartender was made to confess who the prospector was that was stealing hooch but after running the prospector out of town bottles were still going missing. The bar owner set up an elaborate plan to make whomever was stealing the bottles pay by mixing a poison in with the hooch and leaving it out. Timothy was such an established drinker that the poison did not kill him but make him hallucinate badly. Talk about skullduggery.