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Wilderness Adventures - Dec., Week Two/2007

This is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without the smog!
If you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes, exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read stories like 'Lake Monsters' - just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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Check out the Picture of the Day.

31/12/2007 12:05 PM

The End Of The Line

Well folks, tonight at midnight will spell that last of the year 2007. I don't know about you but I'm still not sure where I misplaced 2006. Even as a child I remember overhearing adults comment on how much faster time goes as you grow older. Boy, they weren't kidding! It's gone by so fast that every once in awhile I still catch myself starting my cheques off with 199....oops, wrong year. Nope, wrong century!
Yesterday we spent the afternoon decorating the Hall with John, a.k.a. Oscar, (as in the grouch on Sesame Street) and Len, both members of the community that you can always call on to help out. Surprisingly, neither are Directors but they're always there. It would seem that many of our Directors went out snowmobiling yesterday. Hall? What Hall?
John has great imagination and should have been a wedding planner. (He'd kill me if he knew I just said that!) Man, there's enough shiny stuff hanging around that Hall that we won't even need to turn the lights on! It looks great though. Spent yesterday evening putting together snackies and since I'll spend most of today doing the same thing, this won't be a long blog.
Getting ready for our party of the year really isn't that big a deal but it's time consuming enough that I wouldn't mind handing off the responsibility to someone else next year. Not that it will happen. We just don't have enough people in this community and many community members have done their stint over the years so it's our turn. I would rather concentrate on 2010. No....not because the winter Olympics are coming to British Columbia. Oh, you didn't know that? Well, they are. But that aside, we had a huge blowout on the ice to ring in the new century in 1999/2000. We talked about having a New Year's party on the ice again a couple of years ago, but since it turned out to be such a huge job to put on, we've kicked around the idea of waiting ten years to ring in 2010, ice allowing.
I don't know if I've described the 2000 party before, but you can bet everyone still talks about it in these parts. It was something else considering it was put on with short notice, (just a bunch of people sitting around talking one day and they came up with an idea, and then more ideas) but a lot of people jumped in to make it great.
The ice was really good that year but the guys still cleared a huge parking lot on the ice well away from the party area, which was also cleared of snow. Then they drilled holes all around the party area and planted everyone's left over Christmas tree or other little saplings in the ice. They strung the trees with lights and ran a long extension cord over to The Dean where Donn kindly donated the electricity for the duration.
The party area consisted of a place to play broom ball and skate, a dance floor, and areas for the huge bonfires fed by a logging truck load of trees. The guys built an ice bar carved out of two foot blocks of ice, and then put colored light bulbs behind it so that the ice lit up with an unearthly glow. They brought in a bunch of hay bales so that everyone, especially the kids, had a warm place to sit around the dance floor. A kind community member brought in several thousand dollars worth of spectacular fireworks and soft drinks for the kids were free for the taking. Music blared out over the lake, over excited kids were running around a hundred miles an hour and snowmobiles zipped back and forth, some pulling kids around on sleds and inner tubes.
By after midnight, the huge bonfires had burned into the ice slightly forming a saucer shape filled with melt water under them and a slope toward the fire. You would be standing there talking to someone warming your backside when you would slowly start sliding backward into the fire and someone would have to grab you. Of course the more liquor imbibed, the more often people started to slide in and we still get a laugh at the expense of those we had to pull out of the water laying under the fires most often.
Clean up crews over the next few days made absolutely sure nothing was left on the ice that could possibly endanger Nimpo Lake and you would never have known one of the best New Year's parties I have ever been to had been held there. Enough people have talked about it that I would like to see the event repeated. A lot of people from Anahim Lake came to the party and you would want to make sure you had a van for those folks, but an ice party sure is nice for the people that live on Nimpo Lake. Then everyone can go home with no need to drive on the highway, or any public road for that matter and I guess if the police want to attend the event, they're more than welcome but since they can't take a public vehicle on lake ice, they'll have to walk out.
Some folks, including resorts, often have an annual New Year's party on the ice, mostly for the kids. Ice fishing during the day with hot dog roasts and then a hot dinner and party in the evening with some fireworks. It's a really nice way to spend New Year's, especially if there are kids around because then they can be involved in the event. Unlike the States, our laws are so draconian when it comes to having children at an event where there is also a liquor bar that many people with families often will not attend just for that reason.
In any case, as I reminisce over parties past, the goodies are not being made for tonight so I'll finish up with saying this: I have received numerous emails in the past two years from people who have commented on an article, or encouraged me to continue with the blog, commenting that they really enjoy reading it and keeping up with what's happening in the Chilcotin. Or, as in the case of the recent RCMP articles, expressing my own, sometimes very strong, opinions. Surprisingly, on that subject alone, I received numerous emails of support, encouragement, and some excellent resource information and material. I would really like to thank those folks for sending that on to me.
For those of you that have sent me short bits, tales or stories about life out here in the Chilcotin years ago, thank you. You have no idea how much fun it is to read real time stories about the 'old days', and I think folks who read the blog get a real kick out of it as well. Thank you as well to those of you that have sent me an email about your vacation and allowed me to reprint it.
I've met so many great people because of this blog that I only still know through email, or that I have had the pleasure of meeting and we have become friends. And there are many of you that I still look forward to meeting in person one day. I thank you all for patiently wading through the blog when I get long winded, or patiently waiting when I get too busy to write anything. There many days when I just don't have anything to say of any interest to anyone, or days when I just want to quit because writing it is so time consuming. But I wouldn't feel right about doing that because through your emails I have learned that people who are away or are coming for a vacation really want to know what the weather is doing, (Ruddy cold last night and today, by the way, with temps down to -24C or -11F last night.) or rely on daily updates such as ice out or ice in, Break up, forest fires, etc. without having to call friends up here. So I just want you all to know that your continued encouragement and readership is what keeps me wanting to write the blog. I really appreciate it. Thank you!
Happy New Year to all of you and I'll see you in 2008!
Jeepers, now I have to get used to writing that on my cheques....

29/12/2007 2:54 PM

Revisiting Rimarko

I received an interesting email from a fellow that worked on Rimarko Ranch in the late 1960's as head fishing guide. If you recall, I wrote about Rimarko Ranch located on Charlotte Lake last year. It has a long and colorful history and you'll find a little bit of it at The Remarkable Tales of Rimarko about halfway down the page.
Do you know something? I just realized how ruddy useless the search function is on this site. I was just trying to find the reference to Rimarko Ranch above and finally had to resort to Google Search to find the page I was looking for. How frustrating. I can just see people that read this blog nodding their heads going, "Yeah, dimwit. We could have told you that!" Sorry about that folks. I'll have to see if I can hunt down a different search function for this website when I get time.
Although I've made reference to the past owner of the resort on Charlotte Lake, a lot about Rimarko Ranch seems shrouded in mystery. Perhaps because most people living in the area just didn't hob nob with the folks at Rimarko. Kind of out of their league for the most part, I think.
Tom, the fellow that wrote me, has given me a little insight on the fascinating owner of the famous resort and given me kind permission to reprint his email as follows:

- "I was reading about Rimarko ranch. I worked there for a couple of summers in the late 60's as head fishing guide, among other things, and fell in love with the area and Canada and immigrated here in 1972. Got to know many locals of the Anahim area. Anyway, the owner was Chalmers H Morse Jr., originally from Lake Forest, Ilinois, and later from Pasadena, CA. His daughter was named Charlotte, as was his mother and grand mother and he had a son, C.H Morse 3rd. He was from the Fairbanks Morse company fortune (weigh scales, PT boats, other things).
He had been looking for a place for a resort and his plane was running out of gas when they made an emergency landing at the ranch. When he heard the name of the lake, he took it as a sign and bought the place. The story I heard was that he had a trust fund that yielded several million dollars a year, but it could not be used for any business reason, only personal use. That caused him some financial problems in maintaining the resort.
All of the guests were very rich, and I learned there that money did not make you a happy person. One group of guests was the board of directors of Standard Oil. The Canadian air force flew in a large transport just to deliver their liquor and hors' d'heourves.
I have some pictures of my time there, as well as many memories and stories. I've got to get back there again."
Tom sent a neat picture of the staff from August 1970 stating, "That's me on the far right, wearing the sport coat and tie. It was taken just before we all flew out." Looks like a pretty fun bunch to me! I'm posting the picture up on the right but because it won't show up well, I'll also post it on the Picture of the Day.
I'm hoping to hear more from Tom since the infamous Rimarko Ranch has so much history and it sounds like he could give us some great insight.
On the local front, it dropped to -20C or -4F while I was at poker last night but had already come up 3 degrees by the time I got home. The temperature fluctuations are really unusual this winter but last night may have been partly due to fog. I'm not sure where it was rolling in from but I can only assume Charlotte Lake where some of the lake is still open, and McClinchy, because we could see fog roiling up above the foothills between us and Kleena Kleene this morning. Midmorning was nice with the sun breaking through high haze but some heavy grey moved in from over the mountains and brought fine snow this afternoon. Looks like we're going to get some nice weather New Year's Eve though. That would be great because we're putting on the New Year's Eve dance again at the Nimpo Lake Community Hall and the turnout will be much better if people aren't fighting snow on the roads to get there. For the locals that read this, if you need tickets, they're at the stores. Not many places you pay only $7.50 for a dance, cheap drinks, free food, designated drivers and great company! Everyone's welcome!

27/12/2007 8:24 PM

Boxing Day Snowmobile Run

Yesterday, four of us went out on a great snowmobile run. There were only four because a lot of people take off for the holidays but my brother is in from Ohio and really wanted to get a ride in before he had to go back. A trail had been broken in through Goat Pass the week before so we made it to Serenity Valley on top without incident after a nice stop at kilometer 24 on Charlotte Main. We got out from under overcast down around Nimpo into bright sunshine, which warmed up the temperatures considerably and made for a pleasant sit on the machines while we admired Charlotte Lake from high above. Not all of the huge lake is frozen and you could see great patches of deep blue, indicating open water. At our rest stop I took pictures of wolf tracks that we had followed up Charlotte Main. My best guess was that the wolf pack consisted of at least four animals and up to six and one set of tracks were pretty big. It looked like they were checking for the moose that feed on buck brush in the meadows along Charlotte Main.
The snow is pretty deep on the trail in places but we had a good run through the pass. However, the wind has very obviously been just wicked up there. The lake was covered in hard, bumpy drifts and the usual fun sidehilling going through the narrow pass itself wasn't possible because there were a lot of exposed rocks. Serenity Valley was also hardened by the wind but we sat and had our lunch there anyway.
Although the guys mentioned breaking out a trail through the trees to the 'Play Bowl', I admit I was not keen. First of all, although in the military, very fit and agile, my brother is still a novice rider and was on my Mom's new Christmas present to herself, which although broke in, still hadn't received its first scratch. I'm not a bad rider but I hate being stuck in deep snow, and I figured it would be way nasty for our little party of four.
We chose to ride to the Inukshuk staying out of the trees and sidehilling over the windswept rocky hillsides instead. We were just about blown off of our feet by a cold howling wind up at the Inukshuk and didn't waste a lot of time taking pictures. It wasn't until we left there and descended below tree line on the way to the 'Cornice' playbowl that the trouble started.
Aside from being deep, the snow was really funny, of sugar consistency with a crust formed by wind on top. Break through the crust, and there was no bottom. To me it was a cross between cornstarch and sugar, slippery as hell and sidehilling in it was not easy! More than once I couldn't get my machine to turn, but actually only got stuck once after falling into a hole. It wasn't a bad stuck, just the kind you need help with. However, my brother didn't fare as well, and ended up with several stucks to his credit, partly because the track on his sled didn't have the deep lugs of a mountain machine. Logan didn't get stuck so much as turned over several times because he was still trying to get used to the different kind of riding on the new style of Polaris. My brother and I both dove for our cameras after putting them away when Logan gave us a fine Kodak moment after taking a final run at the 'Cornice'. Conditions after leaving there weren't helpful at all and both Andy and I started to submarine a couple of times coming down through the Lonesome Lake burn. Get off the trail at all, or break through the crust, and you better give'r snoose or get out the shovel. Not my favorite conditions but since not many people have been up on the mountain yet this year, there aren't much for trails. Lots of great powder though.
We had to go to dinner down at the other end of Nimpo Lake so we couldn't spend too long up above. It was just as well that we left when we did because we still didn't make it home until nearly five, just in time to clean up and drive to supper. Getting home is more time consuming than usual because we still have to come through the back trails to get home rather than down the lake. Terry B. has been up flying and suggested that if we do snowmobile down the length of the lake, stick close to the shore because the ice in the middle may still be unsafe, and there's a lot of overflow everywhere. However, Bill came across the lake from his place today drilling all the way, and says it seems plenty safe on the south end of the Main Arm. We actually suspected it would be since it froze up several days before the middle of the Main Arm and before that big snowfall.
All in all, it was an excellent day yesterday with perfect weather and lots of snow, and a super way to celebrate Boxing Day. Today was a different matter.
It dropped below -20C or 4 below zero Fahrenheit last night and we woke up to heavy overcast and very fine snow this morning. It didn't change much throughout the day and although you'll rarely find either of us just sitting around during the day, it turned out to be a perfect day to watch some movies about Ice Road Truckers that we borrowed from my brother. Tell you what, if you've never heard of it or seen the show, check it out. It was a series that premiered this summer on History Television about truckers that have a two month window to haul cargo over hundreds of miles of ice roads to remote settlements and mines in Canada's north. The only other way into these places is by plane, both exorbitant in cost and impossible to haul some of the heavy equipment needed into the diamond mines by plane.
We're quite familiar with driving our own ice road on Nimpo Lake in winter so we might know a little more about it than some of the rookies that first haul over the winter roads in the north, but still, the series is quite a thrill to watch and we had to get it all watched before my brother returned to Ohio. As I said, if you've an A type personality and you're crazy as hell, you'll really enjoy this. You can buy the three DVD box set of the first year's series online for about twenty dollars from History Television.
So...I made out like a bandit on Christmas Day and one of the gifts will be useful for this blog. Since I take a huge number of pictures, a lot on the fly and a lot of long distance shots, a telephoto lens is very handy. Except that the other day while trying to take pictures of those coyotes on the lake, I discovered that Andy's SLR telephoto lenses were not adaptable to my camera as we had initially thought they were. Fortunately, I received a telephoto with built in image stabilizer and man, can it suck the images in! Unbelievable! I'm so excited about the long distance shots I might now be able to take, that I just can't wait until an animal crosses Nimpo Lake way out there.
Another large gift was a real mind bender and absolutely perfect. There had been some secret project going on in the garage and I had been made aware that it was the assembly of my Christmas present. I had been curious about it ever since Andy needed the help of a neighbour to unload this large, heavy object from the back of the truck. I was told it was a snowblower and it was referred to as such by everyone that laughingly mentioned how much I was going to like my new 'snowblower'.
On Christmas morning, Andy opened up the garage doors to a shiny stainless steel barbecue so big it's just about the size of a small car and a cadillac in its own right. I barbecue year round and our poor, beat up, old cast barbecue had to be moved from the deck in front of the house to the back this fall just so I could cook on it. The bottom was about burned out of it and since our prevailing winds would nail it head on, the flames would be sucked right out the bottom and so would the heat. On a cold windy day flames would be blowing like a blowtorch toward the deck floor while food on the barbecue sogged on the grill and stayed ice cold to the touch. In addition to that, the hinge on the lid broke a couple of years ago and a bolt was used to replace it. I'm sure you're thinking, "How ingenious!" Except that the lid no longer stayed straight up but rather flipped right back and you had to lean right over the grill to slowly lower the grill to its stop point. Thus putting both hair, eyebrows and certain portions of the upper anatomy in danger of singing. Needless to say, I'm pretty happy about my little silver cadillac and somewhat relieved that it didn't turn out to be the infamous snowblower I had been hearing about. I'm gonna put bigger wheels on it, spike that rotisserie motor up a bit, and drive it around the lake!
Hope you all had as great a set of holidays as I, and that Santa treated you equally well.

24/12/2007 4:34 PM

Merry Christmas

From our family to yours, here's wishing you a wonderful Christmas Eve and a very Merry Christmas tomorrow!
23/12/2007 1:25 PM

A Time For Change

I think that it's about time to wrap up the series on the RCMP. Frankly, I'm sick of writing about them and I imagine most people are tired of reading about them. There seems to be some indication that changes to the national police force will be forthcoming. Public outcry may actually force an independent body for internal investigations to be set up rather than the RCMP being able to investigate their own. It's apparent they aren't always capable of complete objectivity when investigating their own police officers. I think the Ian Bush case is a very good example of that and you'll find a link in the article below expanding on that very thing.
Although the RCMP have been highly resistant to reexamining the use of tasers by police officers, it looks as though there may be some changes there as well. At least define more clearly the circumstances under which officers are permitted to use tasers. The old guy in Kelowna that is deaf and blind on one side that was pulled over by a police officer and tasered through the window of his car is a very good example of the complete misuse of tasers. The RCMP have finally admitted that there was a mistake made and the officer responsible will be disciplined when he returns from holidays. I would say mistake is probably an understatement. Apparently the officer stated in his report that the man threw his arm up and resisted arrest. I don't think so Tim. The man was sitting in his car, and the newscast I saw showed the man with a taser burn on the back of his hand. Does that mean the cop was so pissed off at the man that he was going to taser him in the face or head through the window of his vehicle? (The man had been double parked while he picked up his wife from in front of a building. The cop was going to write the man a ticket when the old guy got mad and sped off. His wife made him pull over a block later and wait for the police officer, which he did.) When the cop approached the car he had his taser out and obviously made threats to the man because the old gentleman threw up his hand, presumably to protect his face. The back of his hand was tasered.
I think that the only reason the man and his wife brought this to the news was because it was right around when the video of the YVR tasering had been released and I think the ensuing public outcry over the Dziekanski case gave them the courage to come forward. Reports of wrongful taserings and deaths from tasering suddenly started to bubble forth all over the country. People who had been fighting for some time to find out why a family member died in police custody after being tasered were finally getting public attention.
As with anything, a wrong can be committed many, many times and trying to find out what's going on is like hitting a brick wall until a catalytic event brings it into the light of day and under public scrutiny. In the case of the RCMP, which is a closed society unto itself, trying to get past them to the truth can be difficult if not impossible. Supposedly, in the inner sanctums, upper echelon RCMP have called themselves the biggest, toughest, meanest, gang in Canada. I wish I could find proof that's been said. But true or not, I think it an appropriate description.
About all we've seen from RCMP in most cases, especially initially in the Dziekanski case, is stonewalling. An attitude of, "The public doesn't need to know." The RCMP push the perception that they do no wrong. Unfortunately, when they do, they do a damned good job of closing the ranks, covering it up and presenting a blank wall that's impenetrable to family or friends that have been victimized by RCMP, right up to MP's questioning the Force's actions.
Somehow, some way, and a long time ago, the RCMP strayed from Sir Robert Peele's concept of a police force for the people.
John Brecknock sent me an old newspaper article dated October 1965 titled, "The Mounties. What Happened To Their Image?" In that long article the RCMP again came under attack, and Parliament was calling for investigation into how they were doing things. The headline sentence on the article reads, "Never before have the great red coated police been the object of criticism and ridicule. The RCMP boss believes that this is all a sinister plot to destroy the police." It looks like the biggest problem at that time was the RCMP's penchant for rooting out the 'Red Menace' or anyone that had any communist leanings. This included staking out University students and their professors and a 1939 booklet on crime and police work used by the RCMP as copied in the article states..."The Communists are, on principle, traitors to everything sacred in Canadian democracy...underneath there still beats a black heart of terror and dictatorship." Boy, aren't you glad those days of hysteria are over? Most of the article is about the handling, or mishandling of an investigation. Drilling deeper into the article, you start pulling out some gems that work very well to describe the same problems we see in the Force today. One reference is to the 'Needless delay' in an investigation. Another, the 'Offhand attitude' displayed by the force. Sound familiar?
A member of Parliament at the time that was a leading critic of the RCMP stated that "Nicholson's resignation marked the end of the RCMP's 'sacred cow image' and the start of a more critical attitude by Parliament. Before the Newfoundland strike, to attack the RCMP was like attacking the Queen. As a result, the RCMP had gone unchallenged and weaknesses allowed to grow." I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly and I think it still holds true today. There is nothing wrong with holding your authority figures in high regard and treating the Force with respect. But this breed has long acted more like a secret society than a force tasked with protecting the public. The reason for this? Again, though the following was written in 1965 and there's no longer boots and spurs, I think you can get a very clear idea of what the RCMP were turning out for recruits then, and now.
The following is quoted from the same article and I think holds very true even for today. "Former Commissioner Harvison says the strength of the RCMP lies in its splendid esprit de corps, instilled in recruits during their extensive, 10-month training program. Perhaps this is the force's weakness, too, for the limitations of the military mind are well known. At Rockcliffe and Regina recruits are given some technical instruction but the core of their training is a make-or-break of drills in spurred boots, salutes for everything that moves, spit-and-polish discipline and an emphasis on grooming riding horses that borders on the mystic....Like priests, the recruit must be celibate; marriage is forbidden for two years after enlistment. All this combines to produce a man whose heart and soul are devoted to the force, whose very raison d'etre is the uniform of the RCMP." And therein lies the problem.
The purpose of a police force is to serve and protect the public. We hear the phrase, 'serve and protect' all the time. But stop and think about the first word. Serve.
Sir Robert Peele's concept of a police force was one that served the public. Not a self serving, self protective entity with a military structure that is about itself first and the very reason for its existence scoring second place. And sometimes I think that our present RCMP force has lost track of the meaning of 'Serve'. A closed society, arrogance, an Us Against Them mentality and because they deal so much with the scum of the earth, they think that everyone's a bad guy.
There is no place on the Force in an aging society for a cop that gets angry enough at a half deaf, half blind senior citizen to taser him through his car window. Nor is there any place in our society for a cop that gets angry enough to shoot a man and then lie about how it happened. There is no place in our society for a Force structured on the military. Regardless of what the police think, we are not at war here. They are not at war with the public. This is not Iraq or Afghanistan. The most successful organization is the one that knows how to work together. In this case, the general law abiding public and the police are the organization and should be working together to beat out the criminal element.
Recommendations have been presented in the last week or so as to what changes need to be made. The use of the taser is being reexamined, but more importantly, the training of individuals in the RCMP is being looked at. And so it should. I believe that's the key to improving the working relationship between the public and the Force.
You join the RCMP as a snot nosed kid, receive the 'tear them down to nothing and then rebuild them into a Mountie' military style training that you do, and then get sent to some little jerkwater like our community, or the Northwest Territories, or some other little place to get your rookie training where there's not much more to do but break up domestic disputes, pick up drunks and set up roadblocks. You often are not accompanied or trained by a senior officer because there aren't any or there aren't enough in your detachment. Then something happens and you are thrown into a reality that neither your training or your life experiences has prepared you for.
Personally, some of the best cops I've met are the ones that were quite a bit older when they joined the force, or quit and then rejoined a few years later. I strongly believe that getting out there and actually living as a member of the public before becoming a member of a police force is some of the best training you could possibly want to become a good cop. One that recognizes the importance of community from both sides of the fence.
If you can go by that old article from 1965, it would seem that every few years the RCMP goes through an identity crisis. Why not? We all do. Every once in awhile in your life you have to take a long, hard look at yourself and decide if you really like yourself as a person. Especially if a good friend or mate has pointed out something about you that they really don't like. Over the years I think that most people do a self analysis to see if they are a good human being doing a good job of contributing to society in one manner or another. And just as we sometimes have to stop and take stock of ourselves, so should the national police force.
Here's an example of what I'm talking about. If someone comes to me and says, "Hey, you know, I really hate that about you. It hurts me when you do it." I have to take into account the person that said it. If I consider them to be a trustworthy friend or mate, and I'm willing to accept their criticism as constructive, not intentionally hurtful, then I'm going to be doing some soul searching. I might ask for a second opinion. I might say, "Hey Joe, someone told me I have a habit of doing this. Do I? And do you find it hurtful or annoying?" If I get an affirmative answer, then some changes are in order and I set about making those changes to the best of my ability.
That's on a personal level. On a national level, if you are a force that is carrying weaponry and have been tasked with serving the public, you damned well better be doing some self evaluation on a regular basis. And if there's a lot of criticism on the street and in the media all across the country, then more than soul searching is in order. You need to get your head out of your butt, get a committee together to poll the public, find out what needs to be changed and start implementing those changes. Otherwise, you are not serving the public. You are serving yourself. And eventually you will reach the state that I believe the RCMP have reached now. A force that is feared, ridiculed, criticized, hated and mistrusted, not by criminals, but by the general public. The very people you've sworn to serve. And unless the RCMP plan on taking over the country, I think that spells doom for the organization in the long run.
On a local level, I could make suggestions as to what could be changed but whether I would be an authority on the subject is another matter. I am in agreement with the general consensus that there should be more tribal police in Anahim Lake. A large part of our population is native and it's very unfortunate, but the majority of call outs for the RCMP are on the Reserves, whether natives causing a problem, drunk and disorderly, or just drunks having a little nap off of Reserve land.
There is a lot of racism toward whites or non-native people in this region. The natives here are a pretty shy lot for the most part but many have an outright dislike and distrust of white people and particularly white police. If we are going to have a police force in numbers so disproportionate to our population, then that force should at least reflect the culture and ethnicity it is mostly policing. In other words, if we are forced to pay for six cops for such a tiny population, then at least four should be native. And to be honest, I would have a lot less problem with the numbers if that were the case, because then I think you would see the police able to build a much better working relationship with the Band members based on mutual trust rather than outright mistrust because of color and ethnic background.
Obviously we don't live in Utopia but if we did, I guess my suggestion for change would be a willingness for the local detachment commander to sit down with the community once again, this time with a little more open mind and less on the defensive. It's true that at the last meeting at least one person was pretty belligerent in expressing their opinion and that isn't always the best way to get a point across. But by the same token, when a large portion of a community feels an injustice is being done to its community by a police force, there's bound to be some anger. This police force is coming in from the 'outside' into a community that policed itself for nearly a century before the first RCMP officer ever arrived. Whether they liked each other or not, everyone worked together for survival and they played together to maintain their humanity. They did quite well before the first cop arrived, and equally well after the second, third and fourth cop arrived. Because those first RCMP Members understood that they were walking into a unique situation. And although they didn't necessarily come in with hat in hand, they did come in with the attitude of, "I'm an RCMP Officer. How may I serve you?" In return, they quickly had the very public they had sworn to serve, on their side, and helping them to do their jobs.
The jackboot mentality that we are seeing in many cases now may work in the short run. I often wonder which Members think to themselves, or out loud to one another, "Well, it's just tough if the community doesn't like it. What are they gonna do about it?" Which probably explains the reason for the level of frustration of a member of the public that may or may not have fired a round into the police detachment. We're a pretty polite bunch of folks out here and you're right, for the most part, there's not much we can do about it. But this is an unbelievable country with some pretty unbelievable people living in it, and if you gave us half a chance, you would probably leave this place thinking it was the best experience and best posting you have ever had or ever will have. Instead, many of you will leave having unknowingly left behind a legacy of mistrust so profound that many of us now would never dream of calling on you in case of an emergency or otherwise. Where our exuberant youth will grow up not having the tremendous awe and respect I was raised with for the Mountie, but with the dislike, mistrust and lack of respect their parents now have for you and that they have personally learned in their dealings with you. That's your legacy buddy. Feel proud. Because I'm sure that the original Northwest Mounted Police would not be particularly proud of you or your kind as representatives of the Force they built on sheer courage.
For our part, we can only hope that as the Members leave this post and new ones come in, the attitude will change as well. We've got at least one guy now that seems to be pretty good. I understand a female Member has come in now and so far, everyone seems to think pretty highly of her. With the exception of the mountains that guard our plateau, all things change pretty quickly in this world. Perhaps there will be positive changes on a national level and perhaps those will eventually trickle down into our little neck of the woods. Then again, that could be a lot like believing in Santa Claus, but 'tis the season.
I've decided to conclude this series about the RCMP, not because there isn't lots more to write about, but because most of the subject is a negative one, and I would much rather be upbeat and write about the great things in this country, like the weather! In conclusion, I would like to thank those RCMP Members and ex-Members that wrote or contributed material or information to these articles. Your insight and participation has been both invaluable and very much appreciated.
I'm dedicating this series of articles to my Dad who died just before Christmas 15 years ago, but who was instrumental in raising me with a deep respect for the RCMP and the men in the Force that he worked with, but who also taught me to question all things, right or wrong.

21/12/2007 1:11 PM

Anahim Lake Detachment Commander

Sergeant Paul Strader addresses comments made at the community meeting, in the local paper and on this blog, about policing in Anahim Lake.
The letter was sent to me on December 14 but as you can read in the last article, I haven't had time to post a blog since the first week of December. Copy of the letter as sent to the address is posted below:

A copy of the letter I wrote the Anahim / Nimpo Lake MESSENGER on December 12 follows. I addressed comments made during the community meeting October 25, the paper's published survey on local policing, and posted on your blog. As I was responding in part to comments posted on your blog I fealt it prudent to forward a copy. I have not included the Christmas community events members of this detachment are participating in.
December 12, 2007
Dear Editor:
I wish to address comments printed in Volume 4 Number 6 issue of your publication, expressed at the community meeting held October 25, and published on the Anahim Lake & Nimpo Lake Wilderness Adventures blog.
This year eleven local residents are employed on a part-time or full time basis at this detachment, with three more waiting final approval. Four other local residents provide maintenance, janitorial services and snow removal for the property and buildings.
The topic of road checks creeps into most conversations and correspondence. The last road check conducted by this detachment was December 1, eleven days ago. At the community meeting, one gentleman stated a friend of his had been visiting. The friend had three beer to drink and spent the night to avoid the possibility of being stopped by members of this detachment. The road checks obviously have a positive effective.
For the persons who commented it was not difficult for the Anahim Lake members to solve crime, I invite you to sit through a trial. We must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to the Court that the person charged did commit the offence before the Judge can convict or accept a guilty plea; while ensuring their Charter Rights are not infringed on.
There is a perception we are not involved in the community. Here are some of the community functions, activities and assistance members at this detachment have participated or provided in 2007; the canoe race, branding, Charlotte Lake annual picnic, Water skipping (radar for participants speed), the Anahim Lake Stampede parade, the national anthem at the Stampede, steak dinners, first work bee for stampede grounds renovations, cattlemen s dinners, Anahim Lake School sports day, Anahim Lake School potluck dinner, Anahim Lake Grade 9 graduation ceremony, Natguntl oo School awards ceremony, Anahim Lake School Award ceremony, Anahim Lake School after school sports program, Remembrance Day, Elders Luncheons, Volleyball league (spring and fall leagues), Ulkatcho Graduation ceremony, Catholic Church, Anahim Lake Chapel, Ulkatcho Day Care, the Christmas Cabaret, delivering fire wood to seniors in the community (the pine beetle kill cut down on the RCMP property this year), one memb! er cleans the chimney of senior in the community who does not have family to do it for them, and one of the wives volunteers assistance to the teacher at Natguntl oo School.
It is my understanding that 20 percent of the people who participated in your survey were not satisfied with the current service delivery by this detachment. More significantly 80 percent were.
In closing I wish you and your readers a Merry Christmas, a safe holiday season and Happy New Year.
Yours truly,
Paul Strader Sgt.
NCO i/c
Anahim Lake Detachment.

Personally, I think it's great to get feedback from the local detachment and see that the RCMP are willing to address questions raised about the level of policing. However, I'm afraid I have to disagree with a couple of comments made by the NCO.
I did not like the reference at the end of his letter that states..."More significantly, 80 percent were..." (happy with the policing.) Because nowhere in the local paper where the poll was done did it state that 80 percent of respondents were happy with the level of policing in Anahim Lake. And there is no way in hell with all the people that I have spoken to in the past couple of years that you could find 80 percent of people in the area happy with the level of policing. I would have a very hard time finding 5 percent.
I'll insert here a copy of the survey that was run in the local paper with the editor's permission:
7 out of 10 Chilcotin people believe that Policing at its present level is somewhat or very important, but they were sharply divided. More than half agree that road blocks may be needed but not as frequently as what has been experienced in 2007. 20% of this group feel there should be less police. 10% of Band Members want Tribal Police and less RCMP, while others want Tribal Police and RCMP members to remain as is. The Jury is still out....
(I called Nancy, the editor of the paper, and asked if she had any figures at all representing that 80% of the local people were happy with the present level of policing and she replied, "Most definitely not!")
So my query back to Paul Strader follows:

Hi Paul,
Thank you for your letter. Would you like it printed on the blog? I can't do it without your permission, of course.
I only have one question. On the poll listed in the paper it says ..."20% of this group feel there should be less police..." Unfortunately, I can't find anywhere that it says 80% were satisfied with level of policing. I would very much appreciate it if you could direct me to where it lists that figure. Obviously, if 80% of the community is happy with the policing, then I need to do some serious backtracking on the blog.
Thank you,
J Baker

Paul's answer follows:
I have included Nancy in my e-mail as I am addressing the survey. The survey identified 20% of the respondents were of the opinion there are too many police officers here. If they are of the opinion there are too many police officers then they feel they are over policed. If they feel they are over policed then they are not be satisfied with the service delivery, as they stated there is too much.
During the community meeting I explained that the RCMP falls under the Canada Labour Code. The RCMP has to provide greater personal safety measures for their employees. You will not see a decrease in the number of police officers in this detachment. It is conceivable within five years there could be a fifth constable position here.
I conducted a review of a three month period. On average the residents in the Anahim Lake detachment area received 16.6 hours of on duty policing service per day.
The main reason for writing was to afford the communities some insight as to the involvement this group of police officers have with the community at large. The personnel here are involved and do not remain inside the confines of their dwellings. I felt readers should also be informed of the contribution this detachment makes to the local economy through full time, part time and contracted employment.
In closing, I will leave the posting of my letter on the blog to you. I forwarded you a copy as I made reference to comments posted on the blog in my letter. I thank each of you for the value your media outlets afford the area. Should either or both of you wish to meet to discuss any aspects of my letter I willing to do so. Merry Christmas and a safe and joyous new year.

Now that, folks, is a wonderful letter! It's very carefully crafted and I appreciate the effort that went into it. However, it did not answer my question regarding Paul's declaration that 80% of the people were satisfied with the current service delivery by the local detachment. Just because 20% as listed in the survey expressed unhappiness with a specific point does not automatically make 80% happy. That's playing with the numbers.
My other argument is with perception. On the surface one would perceive from these letters that the Members are very involved with the community. I can not speak for the events listed that I have not been to, but in every one listed that I have been to the Members attended wearing their uniforms. So I called around and asked about events that other people have attended and in nearly all of the cases they knew of or attended, the Members were wearing their uniforms. One exception being the recent Christmas Cabaret where one well liked Member came in casual dress and sang. (He is also the one that is a part of the Volleyball league.)
So in the list above where Members attended events, (I'm sorry but I'm not going to include Church attendance because that is a whole different thing and personally, I don't believe it should have been included to inflate the list above.) In most cases, they were wearing uniforms.
I do not call that becoming a part of the community and participating as a community member. I call that a police presence. And to my mind and the mind of most community members, there's one hell of a difference!
I understand fully that when a Member is on duty but wants to attend an event, it necessitates him wearing a uniform, but they're not all on duty at the same time, I assure you!
Finally, the last problem I have is that it looks like we are getting yet another cop within five years. That brings it to seven. (I know that they refuse to include a rookie in the numbers, but I figure if you have a uniform on, you're a cop. Plain and simple.) Oh goodie! Just what we need!
Actually, the fact that we are even a training ground here for recruits is ludicrous to me. What level of training are you going to get in a tiny place like this where most of what you do is pick up drunk people and sit on roadblocks with the occasional break in thrown in? Is that the level of training that causes a cop that has only been in training for five months to shoot someone in the back of the head?

In the end though, I do appreciate the response to my comments and those made at the community meeting as well as made in the local paper. It means that someone is listening to us. They aren't addressing the problem. But they're listening.
Oh yeah. Speaking of trainees and before I forget, I came across a more detailed report about the blood spatter in the Ian Bush case and how it just does not match up to Constable Koester's version of events. It's very good bed time reading. Check it out at Ian Bush killing It's a must read!

20/12/2007 10:54 AM

The Long Absence

Hi everyone. I'm back! And you have my heartfelt apology for the long absence. It wasn't supposed to be this long and it's not like I was away. Nope. Instead, I've been chained to my desk with the exception of a run to Williams Lake, one afternoon of sledding and an afternoon of ice fishing (during which Leah pulled in a beauty of a rainbow!) But don't worry, I paid because that meant working until late in the night to make up for the time off.
For some strange reason or other I'm getting work for website upgrades just before Christmas and I can't really put them off because I've also got some large design projects with those clients waiting in the wings for their work to be done in good time. It seems every time I turn around now I've got another email or a phone call requesting work to be done. In the meanwhile, it's less than a week before Christmas with no tree, no presents wrapped, little baking done, a house that's a disaster with company coming and my office so cluttered there's no place for them to sleep yet. Trying to chase down presents through the mail that are going to be too late for Christmas, no decorations up, no time for walks, no time for my partner or my pets, and family coming in from Ohio that I'm hoping to spend time with. Which means, I have to get as much business work done as possible before Christmas so that I don't have that niggling little guilty feeling over the holidays for taking time off and enjoying myself. Merry Christmas to me.....Merry Christmas to me.....
Okay, the pity party is over. On to bigger and better things! The weather is cold. Yep. Still cold. I don't think I've seen the temperature raise its little mercury head above freezing more than twice in the past several weeks. Hopefully its hard on the mountain pine beetle. It went to -20C or 4 below zero Fahrenheit this morning and never got above -4C or 25F yesterday. It's a gorgeous, blue, blue sky day out there today with the mountains just gleaming under their fresh dump of snow. It's been snowing over the mountains for the last few days and it's getting awfully deep up there!
The guys went out snowmobiling yesterday trying to break a trail through Goat Pass and up to Trumpeter Mountain. We had gone out Monday but only made it as far as the Lonesome Lake fire guard before we had to turn around. The weather socked in and it was snowing hard enough that it was very difficult to see. The snow loses all definition and with no shadows, it's tough to break trail in deep powder without getting stuck a lot. I suggested that just the guys go out on the next trip to break out the trail, so four of them decided to take another shot at it yesterday, this time with shovels in hand. A good thing too. It sounds like there were lots of stucks as they tried to break trail up to and through the pass. I guess it was sunny enough so that they could see, but blowing hard and so instead of trying to make their way to Trumpeter, they went around by the the inukshuk and then down the Atnarko Valley through the burn back around to Charlotte Lake. They said it was a good run and the powder was great but they were late coming in because they had spent so much time getting stuck in deep snow.
At least now with a trail packed down by four machines, it should hold up as a base until more people can get on it over the holidays. That's the trouble, we've had early snow and lots of it but there haven't been a lot of people breaking the trails out yet, and it'll get a lot tougher left much longer.
Making our way to the mountain is a much longer trip this year than it normally would be. We still don't dare travel across the Main Arm of Nimpo Lake on snowmobiles. That means traveling all the way around the lake on the back trails to a meeting place on the Hooch, which takes a good hour compared to just minutes on the Dot Island route. The back trails are nice riding though with all the snow, and I guess the whole point is to enjoy the ride, not just the destination.
Terry B. was up flying for a couple of days this week and said that the spider holes on Nimpo Lake are like nothing he's ever seen before and the Main Arm is downright dangerous looking. We did suspect that because we had so much snow just after that part of the lake froze over. So, no ice road again this year...sigh.
We've excellent ice out front and in the bays. Auguring down for ice fishing showed 10 inches of hard, clear, black ice with no slush or impurities and you could probably drive a Mack truck across it with no problem at all. But that's because the bays froze up during that long cold snap with no snow in November. At least we can snowmobile safely across to the boat launch going up to Nimpo for mail, etc. and eventually maybe we'll have an ice road there later in the winter. For right now, with eight to ten inches of snow on the ice, it's just caused too much overflow. We noticed that when we were pulling logs for a fire across the ice with the snowmachines and we were running through slush in spots.
For those of you that don't know what overflow is, it's caused by the weight of snow on top of ice pushing it down just like an ice cube in your drink being pushed down, and the liquid flowing over the edges of it. Although a more accurate analogy of what it actually looks like on the lake might be what you see after freezing a carton of soup or some other liquid in the freezer for a period of time. After a while, you'll often see that the ice is higher in the middle of the carton than on the edges, and may have split leaving a hole or indentation in the middle. That's very similar to what happens on the lake. The ice is actually higher in the middle than on the edges, and where there is stress from the shapes of several bays, the ice splits in cracks, or opens up as spider holes to relieve the stress. This allows water to flow up through the cracks or holes, where it usually re-freezes almost immediately. But where it overflows the outer edges of the ice, it stays as water or slush under the snow because it's insulated from freezing except in the very coldest of weather. Once exposed, however, it freezes into solid ice.
Unfortunately, overflow, (water saturating snow) is very heavy and nearly impossible to push with a plow. For that matter, you can get stuck in it with a four wheeler or snowmobile and very easily with a vehicle. So we'll probably just have to wait until later in the season for an ice road across the bay. And I guess this means I won't be cross country skiing across the Main Arm any time soon since I don't much feel like drowning. Skiing in the woods looks to be terrific though. The neighbour has been doing it for weeks now.
We took a trip into Williams Lake the other day to pick up a snowmobile trailer, a couple of snowmobiles and do some final Christmas shopping. Crossing the bridge over the Fraser River at the foot of Sheep Creek was amazing. The river is full of ice pans and I can see how they're having flooding problems up in Prince George. Apparently the Nechako is full of ice that can't make its way into the Fraser because of the ice on it, so there's a huge ice jam backed up along the river in the city. I've posted some of the pictures up on the right.
Tomorrow is officially the first day of winter which you can certainly tell from how low in the sky and how weak our winter sun is from the pictures on the right.
I've received a letter from the Sergeant of the local Anahim Lake RCMP Detachment addressing what I and the local paper have said about being overpoliced. Since I'm a great believer in fair play and every dog having their day, I have his permission to reprint it here which I will do tomorrow. However, be warned. I disagree with some of what is declared in the letter and will be addressing that as well.
For the articles from the first week of December, including that scary run in with the RCMP up in Dawson Creek, go to December Week One.

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The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip of the iceberg, so join me!

Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Several young people lined up on the runway at Charlotte Lake in 1970.
Sitting on snowmachines in the middle of burned trees.
Burned trees in front of a huge mountain.
An upside down snowmobile on a hillside.
Sun reflects off of numerous snowmobile tracks in the snow.
River winds between steep hills.
Ice pans reflect back light from the surface of the Fraser River.
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