Another couple camped out mentioned him too when I asked.
That was interesting, but not the first time someone has tried to hide out in the fringe areas, and I set off to see, checking all the likely places. I followed the river bank up towards home, it being the most likely. My hunch paid off and I picked up fresh tracks and just happened to spot some skimpy blankets stashed in the hollow of a tree. I checked the whole area, but all I could find was the two dirty blankets. I wondered what to do with them, and decided to leave them there as bait. Whoever stashed them, to stay dry and hidden like they did, was coming back for them.
Later on in the evening I headed down the river bank trail and went into sneaky mode as I approached the spot where the blankets were stashed, and I was surprised to see them gone. The clandestine movements, and the fact they used no fire added to the mystery. After a quick hunt around I happened upon the blankets once more, and not far away I spotted a ragged, bearded figure, kneeling down and encouraging the makings of a small fire.
I studied him for a bit, and pondered my next move. He didn't look like a desperado, just a scruffy kid with nothing trying to get a source of heat going.
"Hello!" I called, and came out from my cover.
He stood up quick like a man busted, then sat down nervously on a nearby stump, trembling and avoiding my gaze. "Are you the Ranger around here?" he asked.
"Yes" I chuckled, "I'd be the Ranger, where did you say you where from?".
He told me with some degree of difficulty he originated from northern Ontario, and his name was Craig. His outfit consisted of a garbage bag with a few items of clothing stuffed in it and his blankets, there was no food or gear at all.
"You travel pretty light for this early in the Spring." I said.
He stuttered and stumbled but assured me, "...it was not so bad".
He spoke quietly, his thoughts random, but he told me he had been headed to Lillooett, and someone had brought him out and dumped him off here late at night, assuring him he could probably get a job with the loggers working out here some where. Good grief.
"I can't have someone just hanging around, you know that" I told him.
He nodded his head, but I told him to enjoy his fire and hitch out in the morning.
The young man had problems alright, I'm not sure what an expert would call it, and maybe there was some medication he should be taking, but I just wanted to get him on his way. Over the years, if I took in every stray dog and lost soul that came along I would be up to my eyeballs in them.
Early the following morning I'm sitting at my computer here catching up on world events where I can see up the driveway and I see him coming in the yard in his strange, pigeon toed arm swinging walk he had.
I met him out on the deck and asked him how the hitchhiking was going.
He told me he was heading out now and wanted to thank me for letting him stay the night, "Mostly I get told to leave" he added.
"Well don't forget to write!" I said, eager to get back to my world events.
There was an awkward pause as Craig gathered his thoughts.
"Do you have any hobbies?" he asks, out of the blue.
"Hobbies?" I said, the question taking me by surprise.
"You know, like stamps, or horseback riding."
I had to laugh and told him the only hobby I had was tracking down people hiding out on the property.
He told me the hot spring property was one of the most beautiful places he had ever seen and thanked me for making nice stuff.
I told him he had picked a great day to travel, and to have a nice trip.
There was an uncomfortable silence as I waited for the question I knew was coming... "Do you need a helper?" he asks, "I'd volunteer".
"Oh no, no no, no, no no, no thank you, no no, thanks anyways" I blurted out, shaking my head.
Another uncomfortable silence followed while Craig looked down and shuffled his feet in the sand.
"I think I hear a car coming" I said.
"Well, been nice to meet you Robert" he says, "I should get on my way, thanks again".
I bade him good luck in life, and future journeys, which I'm sure are difficult ones.
He spun around and headed out the driveway in his awkward toe out arm swinging gait he had and I hesitated at the door watching him go.
That was too easy, I thought to myself.
He reached his garbage bag of belongings where he had left it up the driveway and then turned around and waved. Against my better judgement I felt my arm wave back, before catching myself, and returning it to my side. He turned and continued up the driveway almost reaching the main road. That was close.
Got to be a hell of a life I thought, confused, hungry, and a long ways from home.
"Hey!" I heard myself call.
He kept walking.
"HEY!!" I hollered again, I'm not sure why.
He heard that time and started back.
"Oh for crissakes, what the hell did I do that for?" I asked myself.
Next thing I know I've offered him several days work sanding on the cabin for which I assure him I will pay fairly. I said I would provide housing as well and gave him a small one man tent I had around.
"Don't worry I'm going to take it out of your pay" I said, not entirely joking.
Craig showed up early the next day to start sanding. I told him he was going to get dirty(er) but that I would wash his clothes for him when he was done.
"Can you wash my blankets?" he asks.
I get him all fixed up with the grinder and spare discs, mask and goggles and turned him loose on the weathered log wall of the Lodge.
"Don't touch the trim!" I warned him.
I stood there supervising while he worked for a bit, and was just getting ready to wander off when he stops and looks at me, "You got any socks?".
"I walked in a puddle" he says, and shows me his bare feet in his soggy runners.
"Hold on" I said, and went inside and looked for a close matching pair from my holey sock drawer.
So I got two days sanding out of Craig before I figured he had enough of a stake to carry on with his journey. In the course of which I had double washed everything he had, including his blankets, which I delivered nicely folded to his campsite and put them neatly in his garbage bag.
In the morning I walked down to the hot spring to make sure he was getting on his way. He found me there draining a tub and again commented what a wonderful place it was.
I bade him good luck on his life's journey, "Once you hit the pavement, catch a ride over the Duffy to Lillooett!" I said.
"Whats that way?" he asked, motioning the opposite direction, down valley. "What about a job logging?"
"I don't think they are hiring right now, and anyways Craig, you would probably need a union card".
"Some first nation folks live down valley and you will only alarm them and they will probably chase you out of the territory" I said, being straight with him.
I told him his best bet was to head out and see Lillooett.
Despite his challenges he appeared quite intelligent, and had done some reading.
His conversation darted from the Six Days War, to entertainers being elected to office in the states to his own views on life. "I don't always make the best decisions...I don't, don't know why I do that", he would say.
"I want to do something with my life" he said several times, "Because in the end, that's all you have".
I heard a vehicle coming in to the hot spring day use area where we stood chatting. It was Eddie, a native chap I know from Mount Currie whom comes out fairly often fishing. I knew he was headed down valley as I would have seen him go by on the upper road above the hot spring if he had of been headed out.
"He's going the wrong direction Craig, too bad" I said.
Eddie stopped and got out and came over and we had a few laughs and I asked him if he lost any fish today, as I always do.
"Can I get a ride?" asks Craig interrupting the fun.
"I think you probably want to go the other way man", I said.
"I'm taking the first ride" he says, making another questionable life's decision.
I shrugged and Eddie says, "Sure, I can make room", and away they went.
A week later I ran into Eddie again and asked him where had dropped off Craig.
"The road to Sloquet, that's where he wanted".
I had not mentioned Sloquet hot spring to him myself but probably he had heard of them from campers, and often wondered what happened to him, half expecting to go out one day a find him on my doorstep.
A few weeks later I spoke with someone from down valley and he came up in the conversation, it appears Craig had hiked into Sloquet and hung out for a bit subsisting on hand outs from hot spring users and alarming the remote populace before someone finally reported him to the authorities, and as I told him would happen, he was removed from the territory.