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Wilderness Adventures - Feb., Week 2/2008

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.


14/02/2008 8:49 PM

Clayton Mack

I've got a great tale about one of the best known guides in the west that John was kind enough to send over today.

- "Clayton MACK - THE MAN FROM BELLA COOLA
I only ever met Clayton MACK one time as I remember. It was many years ago at A.C. CHRISTENSEN & SON General Store. It was in the Old Store for sure and long before it burned down.
I was out at Anahim Lake visiting D'Arcy in the Store and D'Arcy introduces me to Clayton. I was of course very familiar with the man as he was a very highly respected Man from Bella Coola. Clayton asked me what relation I was to Slim BRECKNOCK and I of course reply that he is my eldest brother. Clayton informs me that he and Slim are Best Friends. At the time I was still probably a very young member of the Mounted Police. It must have been late fall or early spring because that old 45 Gallon Barrel wood stove was really puttin' out the BTU's.
I do believe that Clayton was an honorary member of the Safari Club out of California and was a guest of theirs on a trip to Africa one time. I also believe he guided Ronald Reagan once and Fess Parker (Davey CROCKETT) and countless others. He was "Mr. Grizzly Bear!"
Anyways… I was fortunate enough to visit with Clayton what seemed like for hours. He had soooo many stories to tell and I had a million questions. We sat around the old wood stove and swapped stories 'till one of us had to go hours later. I was so privileged that he took the time to BS with me and truly gave me an education on Bears, culture and his general experience in Bella Coola and the Anahim Lake area.
Clayton was of course one of the most famous Guides on the West Coast. Seems like every one of these "Old Timers" has some sort of "Schtick" they like to play on their hunters. Certainly Lester DORSEY, Pan PHILLIPS ET AL were all known for one thing or another and each had their "Schtick". Floyd elaborates on Lester's somewhat in previous stories.
Clayton was of course a very modest man. Not prone to be flashy or in any way ostentatious. He was a "Man's Man" to my way of thinking and I wish I could have gotten to know him better.
Clayton told me of his "Schtick" he use to like to play on some of his hunters. Now most all his clients were wealthy and mostly American. They came up country with the very best of equipment, rifles and "KNIVES". Clayton would take a bead on one or more of a Client's knives and it was his "Schtick" to get that Client to give that knife to him.
Where and whenever a client bagged a big Bear (hell, any bear) Clayton would pull out what I would refer to as a "$1.95 Bacon knife" you might purchase at A.C. CHRISTENSEN & Sons. This would be a honkin' big bladed thing all stained up with an old wooden handle on it riveted to the shank. An "ugly knife" to be sure.
Now the Hunter would be "aghast" that a famous Guide and man of "Renown Fame" would go about skinning out his Bear with a "Bacon Knife". Clayton would go into his "Schtick" about how good a knife it was he was using and good enough and that it was the only knife he needed or even possessed. He had a complete repertoire that he had down pat. Almost without exception, Clayton would end up with the Client giving up his knife to Clayton and damn proud to be able to do it. Clayton informed me he had a whole trunk full of these knives down in Bella Coola. "Real expensive good looking knives too ya know." He let out a giggle I can still recall. Now I wonder how many Old Clients of Clayton's might read this and know they were "Had".
Clayton use to always get my brother Slim a couple of Big Spring Salmon when the season was right and it would be the biggest salmon he could lay hands on out of Bella Coola. I do think Clayton did some Commercial Salmon Fishing on top of everything else he did. Slim informed Clayton that he liked to give me a fish to take back to Alberta with me after one of my annual or semi annual visits to the Chilcotin. For years thereafter I always brought home a monster Spring Salmon to Alberta and presented it to my Father-in-law here in Vermilion, Alberta. Usually something over 50 pounds or so. I remember one that I brought home one time, half a fish, from the anus back and it weighed about 30 pounds or more. That's Big Salmon" Especially for the "Stubble Jumpers" around Vermilion, Alberta. My Father-in-law took "Huge Pride" in taking this fish to the Packing plant and putting it into the "Freezer locker" or cut up into "salmon steaks". He would show that fish to as many people he could and brag about his connections to Bella Coola and Clayton Mack.
Regards,
John D. BRECKNOCK" -

Good one, eh? I've long heard of Clayton Mack and have read some excerpts from a couple of books written about him, his guiding experiences, and even his possible run ins with Saskquatch. Very interesting reading, especially 'Bella Coola Man'. Thanks John!
The weather was incredibly warm again today, and melting. This morning I spotted a shape out on the lake and thinking it might be a coyote, started checking it out through binoculars. Nope. Golden Retriever. Just about that time a group of people going for a walk on the ice road appeared from behind the small island. It all must have been too much for the moose standing only a hundred yards away and it finally broke out from the bigger island nearby. It trotted across the lake in front of them to a little bay where it must still have been in sight for a while because I could see the group still watching it. Must have been a nice thrill for them to see since the animal wasn't very far from them at all.
Gotta love the Chilcotin! Oh yeah, Happy Valentine's Day. I was pretty lucky. I got a card this morning because Andy was smart enough to buy one when he was in town back in January. Unfortunately, the last time I was in town was before Christmas, and trust me, they don't have Valentine cards out on the shelf until after New Year's is over. So I was kind of on a stick and out of luck and was trying to figure out how to create something. In the end, I got lucky because my Mother was going through town yesterday on her way out here and I got her to pick a card up for me. And a good job she did too. But somehow, it's not quite the same when someone else has to pick out the Valentine card for you. It's bad enough that I'm not very good in the flower and card department as it is, and forgetting my anniversary is pretty much expected around here. Getting someone else to pick out your honey's Valentine card is probably definitely not acceptable romantic behavior, nowadays. Fortunately, I live in the Chilcotin and you're allowed to be a little bit Redneck out here and I'm just very lucky to have a very understanding partner. Besides, guys used to get their secretaries to pick out flowers and cards for their wives all the time, right?

13/02/2008 10:31 PM

Little Paddy Dog

Fortunately, John sent a story by email today or you guys probably wouldn't have seen much for an article. But before I get on with it, I'll do a quick update.
There's the Kid's 139 Function going on at the Anahim Lake Community Hall Saturday night to raise money for the Variety of Hearts. There will also be a poker run starting at 10:30 Saturday morning at the Stampede grounds, raising money for the same thing. Everyone welcome. Weenie roast on Nimpo Lake for lunch.
The last three days have been utterly glorious with our first warm up holding at above freezing during the day in over three months. In fact the first day it went to 7C or nearly 50F, fully 15 degrees Fahrenheit higher than what we've seen in a long, long time. And if you don't think people are smiling! Of course it also means walking on ice which we've thankfully skipped for most of the winter, but it's worth it. The snow is finally sliding off of roofs that haven't seen the light of day since November. It's good to get the weight off.
Andy got a picture of a moose that sauntered across Nimpo Lake this morning. In fact she stopped and watched the neighbour for the longest while while she went for a walk across the lake. I got some pictures of three planes that came in on skiis around noon today, presumably for lunch at the Dean. The restaurant isn't open through the winter but maybe Donn threw something together for them. They looked pretty cool so I'll have to post them here next opportunity. It's amazing what a little warm weather will do. Suddenly, everyone's out and about.
Happy Valentine's Day to everyone tomorrow. Have a great one!
Okay, I think that's it! Enjoy the story below but word of warning, it's pretty risqué. So if you've a 'delicate' nature, I suggest you skip it and wait for the next blog. On the other hand, if you like Chilcotin humour, you'll get a kick out of this. Thanks John.


- LITTLE "PADDY DOG" OF THE CORCKSCREW CREEK RANCH
I was telling a story the other day about D'Arcy's little Border Collie "Paddy". In all the years I worked for D'Arcy and the Corkscrew Creek Ranch, I don't remember a time when Paddy wasn't there. Now that I come to think about it, there was a replacement and I think that was the last year I worked for D'Arcy. Another Border collie and I don't remember what they might have named her. She was nothing like little Paddy but a border collie none the less.
Now little "Paddy" dog had quite the personality. He was good as gold and always behaved impeccably. ('nother big word) He was quiet, not prone to barking (unless there was really something to bark about)
I marveled how this little dog would take off after a rabbit in the Buck Brush. If you were watching, he would put on quite the performance. I still have a vision of him bolting through the buck brush and every now and then leaping high over the buck brush trying to get an eyeball on his quarry. Most times as not you would hear that rabbit squeal when little Paddy put the clamp on him.
In no time he would come back, to wherever you were, packing his prize. You could tell he was damned proud of himself. Usually a young rabbit. Now try and get that rabbit away from him! You had a snowball's chance in Hell. That was his dinner and when he was finished, there wasn't much left. Hair, bones, head and all; gone!! Like I stated in previous writing; there was no such thing as dog food at Anahim Lake.
Little Paddy followed D'Arcy everywhere except maybe to Town. He would follow us out to the fields when haying and then find himself a nice shady spot near the edge of the timber and watch us all day. Maybe do a little rabbit hunting or catch a field mouse or two. He was as good as any fox at providing for himself. He literally had to!!
When lunch time came, Paddy would come sit with us. God Forbid he should even look at D'Arcy or me when we were eating anything. D'Arcy would let out some kind of growl and the little dog would look completely away. There was no beggin' allowed; period!
Now I have told you about the Stack Yard Grizzly incident where little Paddy dog saved the day and most likely my (then) skinny ass. D'Arcy's too! Well I'm thinking it was not too long after the Bear incident. Once again, D'Arcy and I were enjoying our lunch by one of the many Stack yards at any one of the meadows where we made hay.
Paddy let out a bit of yip that brought both D'Arcy and I instantly to our feet. We still had Grizz Bear on our mind! Now we scan the bushes and horizon and see nothing. After a minute or two, we go and settle down to our lunch and there is poor little, hungry Paddy dog. He's got his face buried in a piece of tin foil that contained a huge piece of Chocolate cake with thick Chocolate frosting. The kind of cake you look forward to all morning long with great anticipation. D'Arcy sees this and can't believe it. He kicks that dog in the ass so hard! For the next three hours that dog looks like he's wearing a turtle neck sweater! D'Arcy picks up the tin foil to see what he could salvage of his piece of cake. Gone!! It's funny how you remember certain one liners. With enormous disappointment, D'Arcy whines, "I was saving the best for Last too!" He cursed that dog for the rest of the day. Now.... did I share my big piece of beautiful frosted chocolate cake with D'Arcy?? NOT!!
Now I'll tell you about the female Border Collie (None the Less) that as I recall replaced ole Paddy. In the summer of 1966 I returned to the Corckscrew Creek ranch with a little brown dog, a Heinz 57, a friend had given me when attending High School down in White Rock, BC. I called him "Butch" and gave him to Ole' Mac McEwen. Mac was a frequent fixture around Anahim Lake in the Old days and frequently worked for D'Arcy at the Ranch. He was back and forth from Bella Coola in those days. I remember sharing the Tractor Shed with Mac for a time. He came and went pretty much as he pleased and was a lot like family. He was the best built-in Babysitter Judy ever had.
Anyways… I recall arriving back at the ranch from working in the Meadow with D'Arcy. We frequently used the Massey 35 to commute back and forth to the meadows when they were not hooked up to equipment. D'Arcy driving and I sitting/sort of standing on the running board with my butt on the fender. We pull into the yard and there is little "Butch". He's trying to put the blocks to the Border Collie, who was no doubt, in serious "heat". D'Arcy was livid! This Border Collie was going to be bred to a neighbor's Border collie and populate the entire west Chilcotin. There was money to be made with this program! And money was in short supply at the Corkscrew Creek Ranch in those days. No way was that little Heinz 57 going to spoil the program. "Here Butch, Butch, Butch." "Come to D'Arcy." "That's a good fella". Within about a minute poor little Butch was walking real funny. Big hump in his back and back legs spread out sort'a straddle like. A dog is prone to do that with an elastic band tight around his nuts ya know.
It took but a few days and Butch was singing Soprano. His "goods" having simply fallen off due to the lack of circulation. Not a whole lot worse for wear. D'Arcy use to call it "Brain Surgery" when castrating bull calves. He use to say; "It changed their minds from Ass to Grass!"
For a week or two thereafter, it was real funny to watch; at any given time you could see this little dog tossing his own nuts in the air and playing with them as if they were a toy. He seemed to enjoy it too. How sad!!
Regards, John D. BRECKNOCK" -

11/02/2008 10:32 AM

The Warm Spell

It has been warm for two days in a row now and it feels almost alien it's so unusual, for us anyway. Yesterday it warmed right up to 1 degree above zero and I decided it would be nice to get out for some fresh air. I had intended to go for a walk but when friends sledded by with the intention of going ice fishing down at the south end of the lake I thought I would ski over there. Since one of them was pulling a sled that made perfect tracks for skies, I figured it would be a nice run and me and the dogs just trucked along until I got to the island. I had just crossed the ice road when the snow suddenly changed and I just about fell flat on my face! The snow became so sticky at just the right temperature that it balled up under my skies to about four inches thick and I wasn't going anywhere. I had just removed my skies with the intention of walking back home when Andy came by testing out a neighbour's new Skidoo. So I caught a ride back and machined down the lake instead to stand around a hole in the ice in the sunshine and the wind and breathed in all the fresh air I wanted.
Last night it dropped to -8C or about 18F in early evening but by the time I went to bed it was 1 degree above and a stiff wind was blowing out of the south bringing a warm front right at us. It's already 4 above this morning and I'm very much looking forward to a walk today. Finally! Our first warm spell in months!
The guys have gone snowmobiling today, presumably up to Trumpeter and should have an excellent day. There's a few of them that were pretty stiff yesterday from the Tatla ride on Saturday. Those of us that couldn't make it are breathing a sigh of relief that we didn't go. The more I hear about that trail they bumped over, the worse it sounds. Rocks, logs and hard drifts are no fun to pound over, especially if your machine is new.
One of the neighbours sent me pictures of he and his 'step' daughter's trip to try and get up the mountain the other day. I'll post them here as I can. They hadn't been up for a couple of years and didn't realize that the trail has changed drastically since the Lonesome Lake Fire when the fire guard took out the lower part of our trail. As a result, they lost the trail and it looks like they were stuck a bit. Quite a bit in fact.
Just a reminder that there is a meeting tonight at the Nimpo Lake Community Hall at 7:00 about the cooperative deal between West Chilcotin Forest Products and Pristine Power. It's an informational meeting so if you have questions about the project, that's the place to be.
It's time for me to get back to work and I don't know when I'll write next. Depends on how many pictures come down off the mountain this evening I guess.

09/02/2008 9:53 PM

Tatla Lake Poker Run

About thirty machines showed up for the Snowmobile Poker Run in Tatla Lake today. That's a pretty darned good turnout and besides participants as far away as Williams Lake and Puntzi, a small bunch came from Charlotte Lake and five of our own, including Andy, went from Nimpo.
It was pretty cold in the morning with a brisk wind and not a lot of sun, so the weather wasn't really cooperating for niceness, but I guess the sun came out and it improved substantially when they stopped for a weenie roast at lunch time.
The trail turned out to be 64 miles long rather than the estimated 55 and pretty rough going from the sounds of it. Andy said there wasn't much snow down low and it was pure sugar so going off of the trail meant bending something. It doesn't sound like they've done a lot to keep their trails cleaned up because they were bumping over logs in the middle of the trail in some cases and there were some pretty tight turns in others.
They had a trail that was 15 miles shorter and supposed to be much easier than the main trail that the novice riders and women could go on if they didn't want to go the long way. I guess it turned out to be way worse with blow down on the trail and these girls were trying to cut the logs out of the way so that they could get through. They arrived at the checkpoint only moments before the long trail riders. Testament as to just how rough the 'easy' trail was when with a 15 mile difference there should have been a substantial time gap.
I guess it just goes to show you how lucky we are here to have the group of guys that go out on their fourwheelers in the summer and fall and clean up our snowmobile trails before winter hits.
Apparently a couple people wrecked their machines when they hit power poles cut off low below the snow along the highway on the last bit of the run. The old creosote poles couldn't be seen in time to be avoided and people that knew about them completely forgot they were there and a danger. At least no one was badly hurt although it did sound like they went flying over their machines at mach speed. Since the machines got pretty bent up, that means there'll be a few dead soldiers to recover tomorrow.
All in all, it sounds like everyone had loads of fun, enjoyed Tatla and Eagle Lake's wonderful hospitality, and the added bonus is that Andy won the run with the winning poker hand. Of course I think he'll be paying for it with a few stiff muscles tomorrow, but it serves him right for going out and having fun today when I couldn't...lol.
Our weather hasn't been anything to write home about the last couple of days. Mixed sun and cloud, cold breeze, about four inches of snow on the ground yesterday and another inch or so today. It drops down pretty good at night to around -17 or -18C or about zero Fahrenheit and then warms up to a little below freezing during the day. Although yesterday, we actually had a melt day if you can believe it. It got above freezing briefly. Awesome!
Floyd sent me a short tale today. However, if you have delicate sensibilities at all, or lack a wry sense of humour, I suggest you skip the story. Don't say I didn't warn you about the Chilcotin version of a good joke.
- "THE STORY JOHN SENT YOU ABOUT THE STACKYARD BEAR REMINDED ME OF ANOTHER STORY ABOUT LESTER DORSEY.
Lester and his crew were at Tanya Lake again with a bunch of American hunters, and one of them was looking to get a Grizzly. It was a ten day hunt, but on the third day this bear hunter kept bugging Lester because they hadn't seen any Grizzly Bears yet. Early on the morning of the fourth day Lester got up early and walked up the trail above the cabin about 100 yards, and let nature take its course.
When he got back to the cabin the hunter started in again wondering when they would see a bear. Lester told him that he thought he had seen some bear crap on the trail above the cabin, and for him to go up there and get a stick and dig around in it to see what the bear had been eating. He explained to the hunter how if they knew what they were eating they would know better where to look for them. When the hunter came back later, and said that the bear had been eating corn, Lester told him that that bear must of came from Cornlick Creek, and was probably on his way back, so too far away for them to get. Lester had the kind of personality that could pull something like this off." -

Thanks Floyd!
And if you didn't get that story I'm not going to explain it to you, folks. Suffice to say that corn does not grow wild anywhere in the Chilcotin.

This is the start of a new week so you'll find last week's great stories about grizzly bears and pack rats at February Week 1

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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!
Steep snow turns on a snowmobile.
 
Moose walks across the ice at sunrise.
 
Snowmachine stuck on a hill.
 
Snowmachine wrapped up in a tree.
 
Preparing to go out on the snowmobile run.
 
Snowmobile riders stopped before entering a second growth clearcut.
 
Machines lined up on a lake.
 
Rest stop.
 
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