After navigating the front gate, I rolled in to Valens just before 6 pm and was greeted by the big smiles of 76 Highboy, LuvMyBonnett and Niagara. Two picnic tables were flanking a blazing fire and a large dutch oven was placed lovingly by the fire, a healthy supply of coals above and below. Three hammocks and an extra low tarp were scattered about and most of the ground was coated in ice and uniformly slippery.

After greetings all around, Niagara reached down, lifted the lid of the dutch oven and introduced me to the guest of honour, a wonderful slab of corned beef simmering happily beside onions and cabbage. These EGL guys are absolutely incredible. ConnieB showed up soon and soon the five of us were sitting around a fire chatting about everything and nothing. Apparently the guys had stayed the night before and enjoyed all sorts of erratic weather.

Truth be told, I stopped by a grocery store on the way in and had a steak, baking potatoes and potato salad in the car, and there they would stay. Niagara took out a chunk of meat. It all but collapsed under its own weight into tender strings of heaven; there was much rejoicing. A little later as some of the corned beef, cabbage and onions in a pan, I placed a big slice of cheese into a sliced roll, put on some thousand island dressing. Assembly was followed by placing the sandwich back into the pan to warm the whole thing through. The Valen's Reuben! Washed down with a cold beer, it was one of the best sandwiches ever!

ConnieB grilled up some pork and only a little survived the night to make it into her breakfast, but the real treat was the Portuguese coconut cake she brought out for dessert. Once again, there was much rejoicing.

I hit the sack early and drifted off to sleep with the sounds of talking by the fire. In the middle of the night I was awakened by the clatter of pans by the firepit and rightly assumed that the resident bandits were carrying on the feast. Sure enough, on my next scheduled bladder break, I saw a furry little raccoon disappear into the forest, only to hear him later gnawing persistently on something.

We were up and about by nine, and the gang set to making breakfast by a blazing morning fire. I had a full day ahead of me so I bowed out early and grabbed a bite at a roadside diner along the way home.

Sixteen hours in Valens never seemed so good!