Jackfish is a ghost community.
It used to be a depot on the Canadian Pacific Railway where locomotives refueled, the coal being brought in by lake freighters. I had phoned friend Duncan in Terrace, a man with local knowledge. Sure, he said, you can get down to the water there. Just take the old road from the highway, and when you reach the tracks, there’s a walking trail. If you want to visit the old community, that’s another story.
I wanted to reach the water. Duncan’s directions were pretty solid. It took only ten minutes to find the trail. It was actually a quad trail, and you had to know it was there to find it. Perfect for my purposes.
Ten minutes walking brought me to the great inland sea. Ten kilometers offshore, fog shrouded the fabulous Slate Islands. The lake looked calm. Starting at the bush line, a series of terraces descended to the water. Everywhere I looked, cobbles. Beautiful, beautiful cobblestones. The cobble beach curved about a kilometre and a half from point to point. Every few seconds I heard a dull thump.
This was going to be the perfect scene of a crime.
I had already imagined the crime. I had imagined the scene. And now nature was imitating art.
After I crossed the tracks on the way back to my truck, a westbound freight chugged past. Further west I could see a CPR pickup on a siding, headed west, one of those trucks fitted with metal guide wheels so that the rubber tires could stick to the rails. Momentarily the sun came out, taking some of the chill off.
The west was calling me. I had to explore another trail that Duncan had told me about.
Back on the highway, I sped west, and turned into the one-lane access road to the camps at the bottom of Jackfish Lake. Nobody home. Perfect. No questions asked. In a minute I was bumping over a road nobody travelled. Not since the Great Depression anyway. I shifted to 4-wheel drive and mule-train speed. The 4 wheels dealt with ruts and potholes and a collapsing culvert. They could not negotiate a windfall, so I parked and walked.
I heard something railroady whining past on the hidden tracks. As I emerged from the woods, I saw the tracks ahead, and a view up Tunnel Bay. It was a toboggan slide from the rail bed ten metres down to the shore. Perfect. My protagonist would launch from here to accost the perpetrators of the crime on the cobble beach. Nature was still cooperating with art.
And, since it was just a rifle shot away, why didn’t I check out the famous Jackfish Tunnel?
So I did.