For Christmas this year, my sister got us a copy of In The Valleys of the Noble Beyond, by John Zada, a Toronto-area author (a signed copy and everything!). It’s about Zada’s search for the Sasquatch, mostly along the west coast of British Columbia in the Great Bear Rainforest, Bella Bella, Bella Coola, Rivers Inlet, Ocean Falls, and other isolated coastal communities. He follows leads from locals about Sasquatch sightings and experiences, and learns about the Indigenous history of Sasquatch-like creatures.
At first I thought I wouldn’t like it, as I’m not that into Sasquatch stories, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Throughout the book Zada waffles between believing that there is such a thing as a Sasquatch, and not believing it at all. And this is where the book gets interesting, because he talks more about our perceptions and the psychology of being isolated, and how those things could generate something Sasquatch-like in our imagination, or even allow us to see something that seems Sasquatch-like.
I particularly liked the part where he acknowledges that, in the end, the book is really a hero narrative with him as the main subject. He is the key character who ties together all of the sightings and stories about Sasquatches: the warp and weft of the stories all come back to him. He returns home still unconvinced about whether or not the Sasquatch exists, but with a greater appreciation for the small communities along the Coast where it’s been seen and is part of local lore. The story becomes more about these communities and the people who populate them, than the Sasquatch itself.
I felt like I got some insights into my own backyard (the Great Bear Rainforest is just up the west coast of the mainland from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island), and it brought back memories of communities I’d visited before, like Bella Coola and Ocean Falls. It also reminded me of my neighbour in Prince George, who was born and raised in Ocean Falls before it became a ghost town.
I also realized what the coastal rainforest must seem like to a born and bred Torontonian from the centre of the universe. There isn’t the same kind of wilderness in Ontario unless you go to Ontario’s Algonquin Park or something similar, and that boreal forest/Canadian shield wilderness is very different from the coastal wilds.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the culture and history of the mid-coast region of BC and who has even a passing interest in Sasquatch tales.
Speaking of the coastal rainforest – we are definitely experiencing that this week. We had over 50cm of snow last week and now it’s all turned to torrential rain. Thing is, we need it to overcome a winter drought and to refill our aquifers for summer. So I will grin and bear it even though it’s grey and foggy and generally unpleasant outside.
Image by Steve Baxter, free for reuse.