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
Wilderness Adventures - February, Week 3/06
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.
You can search this site for a subject of interest to you
at the bottom of this page.
Hobson and Gloria visit Pan Phillips and his new wife
Betty on the Home Ranch about 40 miles north of Anahim
The spring before Pan had shown up to see Rich and meet
Gloria after a 200 mile ride in from his ranch. He and
Rich had a lot of business to go over, including the lease
of 250 head of Frontier cattle from the Home Ranch to
Rich's new Rimrock Ranch to be moved in the fall. Rich
had already purchased 60 head of Frontier owned cattle
from the Batnuni Ranch the previous fall. It was
early in the summer when Pan sent a note over the mountains
to Rich telling him he had gotten married and
to bring Gloria over to meet Betty when they went to the
Home Ranch to cut out the 250 head of lease animals from
the big herd.
The visit went pleasantly enough with Gloria and Betty
really enjoying each other's company. One nice day the
four saddled up to go for a ride out to the huge, lush
meadows because Rich wanted to show Gloria the improvements
he and Pan had made ten years before.
Where once there had been eight foot high willow brush,
hard topped hummocks and deep holes, there were now miles
of lush green grassy meadow for cattle hay.
Pan explained to the women how he and Lester Dorsey
of Anahim Lake built a monstrous harrow to be dragged
across the bush and hummocks to knock them down.
I know exactly the kind of meadow they are talking about
as this country is dotted with them, some hundreds of
acres and larger in size. The Chilcotin type meadow is
usually surrounded by heavy willow on the edges and into
the middle anywhere the land is slightly higher. Where
the land is lowest, there is boggy black soil, water,
and sometimes grey muskeg. The rest of the meadow
is made up of hummocks and they have to be the most frustrating
creation ever. Hummocks can be one to three feet
high and vary in size from little tiny six inch ones to
four feet across. They have rounded tops with slippery
saw grass growing out of the top and stepping from
one to the next is a nasty proposition because you will
slip. There's no maybe. It's a guarantee that
you might make it across four hummocks, but you will soon
slip off into the watery muck below, or if late in fall,
dried muck. I don't know how hummocks are created, but
you can't mow hay off a meadow like that, you can't even
walk across it and it's difficult even for cattle to feed
on them. But if you can flatten that meadow out, burn
it off in spring, ditch it for flooding in early summer
and draining later, you will have some of the finest
quality hay and grazing grass in North America.
Pan and Rich had recognized this years before and so as
the four rode, they eventually came upon this huge contraption
that had cleared land where no tractor could ever have
Pan explained that ten years before, he and Lester built
a ten foot tall lookout tower of wood toward the front
of this thing that would be the driver's seat. Seven hundred
pounds of square iron, over a hundred pounds of bolts
a flock of sharpened car springs and twelve inch squared
logs made up the floor of this giant harrow.
They hooked up eighteen horses for the first time to pull
it with Lester Dorsey sitting up in the tower with all
these harness lines in his hands and the only way they
could be started out evenly was for the boys to shoot
off their pistols and bang on tin cans.
The result was disasterous and Pan's face took on
a deeply sad look as he related the story to the
Someone had pulled the king pin out of the contraption
so that the horses, five gentle horses on the outsides
and thirteen unbroken broncs in the middle, suddenly parted
company with the harrow. As they took off, Lester tried
to throw the lines down to Pan who missed them as
the horses banged into each other on a terrified run across
the meadow. Two of their best pulling horses landed
in a tangle in a gully with broken legs and had to be
Lester was determined to try again, and this time they
hooked up sixteen horses, eight abreast in two rows with
the gentle harness horses on the outside, and the jumping
broncs in the middle. More noise, and the huge team
exploded out into the field with Lester swaying and rocking
ten feet above the contraption, harness lines in hand
and brush flying in all directions. As Pan said,
he still doesn't know how Lester stuck with the tower
because it was like riding a bronc. Eventually Lester
got the team turned, stopped for a 10 minute breather,
then shot his pistol in the air and they were off again
creating another wide swath in the meadow.
Pan said they needed 32 sets of harness to keep two teams
of sixteen alternating on the harrow all summer, but it
An eight horse team pulling a ditch digger put the irrigation
ditch in the middle of the meadow and a giant heavy duty
disc built by Massey-Harris just for them took another
fourteen horses to pull it about what had previously been
a willow jungle. The meadow was leveled and finished off
by a huge spruce tree float that required ten horses to
pull it. By the end of the summer, flat, clear ground
ran for as far as the eye could see.
As they ride on through the meadow they first scare
up a small herd of moose, then later a grizzly bear sow
and cubs. Betty states then how much she dislikes
them and in her isolated home some while later, it would
turn out she would have a terrible run in with grizzly.
As Rich and Gloria leave the Home Ranch to go back to
Rimrock Ranch, Gloria has a premonition that something
terrible is going to happen to Pan and Betty at their
ranch, 200 miles from the nearest small town and the most
isolated cattle ranch operation in North America at that
For anyone that might be interested, various members
of Lester Dorsey's family still ranch near Anahim Lake
and run several guide outfitting operations here. You
can take exciting seven to fourteen day horse pack trips
with Itcha Ilgatchuz Mountain Outfitters
into the very same mountains Rich Hobson and Pan Phillips
had to cross to find their fabulous frontier range, or
join David and Joyce Dorsey of Rainbow Mountain
Outfitting in Tweedsmuir Park for five to ten
day guided trips into the spectacular Rainbow mountains.
A few other outfitters such as Corkscrew Creek Adventures
offer guided hunts.
"The Rancher Takes A Wife"
is the third in the series of books written by Rich Hobson
in 1966. In the second book he relates how he kept
getting these dreams about this pretty blonde girl whom
he had never met. At the end of that book, he
sees her picture on friend's fireplace mantle while in
Vancover on business and recognizes her right away from
his dreams. In the picture she is holding the halter rope
of a prize Jersey bull. He finds out as much as he can
about her and where she would be. She happens to be at
a cattle show that very day and he rushes off to see her.
The resulting meeting is hilarious but after weeks she
starts to take Rich seriously and soon they are engaged.
The third book, "The Rancher Takes A Wife"
describes Gloria's introduction to the Chilcotin country
in the middle of winter when Rich brings his new
Because the pass through the Itcha Mountains from Anahim
Lake is choked with snow and impassable in winter, they
must make their way by sleigh and saddle horses 75 miles
to the Batnuni Ranch from Vanderhoof in twenty below weather
and Rich can only hope his new bride doesn't freeze
to death before they get there.
They eventually arrive after Gloria has had the opportunity
to meet some of the 'interesting' and colorful characters
that inhabit the country and after she has become somewhat
acclimatized, she and Rich along with a couple of other
cowboys decide to make a midwinter trek to Pan Meadow
to pick up some equipment. The adventures along the way
are a must read, especially where they, their sleigh and
a heavy team of four horses must cross the roaring
Blackwater on only three inches of ice at a dead run
and hope they don't fall through. The temperature on this
same trip eventually drops to forty below zero and the
trip becomes a deadly one.
Money from shareholders in the Frontier Cattle Company
and a supply of workers had dried up to such an extent
that the line cabins were no longer in use and the only
operating ranches on this huge spread were the Home
Ranch run by Pan Phillips and the Batnuni run by Rich.
Eventually, the only way to continue operating was doing
a cow share operation, and Rich and Gloria choose to buy
their own spread to run Frontier cattle on.
The one they choose is a beautiful creek fed basin surrounded
by high rimrock but the ranch buildings and surrounding
yard are in horrific condition.
Gloria does a good job of rolling her sleeves up and jumping
into ranch life, however, there are many occasions when
she nearly gets herself killed because
of a stubborn will and her refusal to listen to Rich in
Lake and Anahim Lake are wonderful at turning out for
the important things in life. Last night Anahim
Lake hosted the Kids 139 at the community hall. An auction
held entirely with items donated by community members
and dinner raised $17,000 for the 139 Kids Fund, an incredible
feat considering how small these two little wide places
in the road really are and that our winter population
is quite small. I didn't get an opportunity to go to the
event but it's one of the biggest ones of the year and
it sounds like last night was just super.
Our neighbour's wife held a surprise birthday party for
her husband and again, the turnout was huge. Nearly
all of the Nimpo Lake residents and quite a few from Anahim
were there and their house was so crowded with well wishers
that there was standing room only. For every two people
that left in the short time I was there, another six showed
up. Unfortunately, it's tax time, and I'm sure you all
know what that's like, and since I own three businesses
that generate more paper than income, I had to scurry
home and get back to work. Just as well, there were almost
too many people in that space, even for me.
Our cold front has finally withdrawn and although
last night was still quite chilly, today was sunny
and pleasant and reached above freezing in the sun. Things
were a little disasterous for Ontario and Quebec Thursday
night into Friday afternoon. A 40 car pileup caused
by freezing rain and blowing snow in Ontario killed four
while a 60 car pileup in Quebec injured 40 people.
140,000 people were without power Friday in Quebec due
to ice and high winds, so I guess we got off pretty lucky
here with cold air and not a breath of wind.
Some of the guys went out snowmobiling yesterday but since
they had a new couple from Williams Lake with them, they
stayed low and toured some of the local trails. Logan
said the riding was pretty good and wanted to know when
we could go out. Soon, I think, so long as the weather
Brrreeeport. A New Word?
does the word brrreeeport have to do with Wilderness Adventures
in Nimpo Lake? Well,
a lot actually. The word was invented by a controversial
blogger for Microsoft who invited people who wrote blogs
to use the word in their text for a search engine experiment.
His view is that only a certain number of high ranking
articles are recognized by the big three search engines,
with Google being the one search engine to claim the most
number of returns on search but in actuality, shows the
least. It's a valuable experiment for those of us attempting
to draw recognition to our websites, and in my case, recognition
for the West Chilcotin area. This in turn helps those
people living and working here who depend on the travel
and tourism industry, particularly Anahim Lake and
Nimpo Lake where there is very little industry besides
tourism. The experiment also shows that the results
that the engines are returning to searchers on the Internet
may not be accurate in number. That knowledge also helps
both myself and other webmasters.
Ok, now that I have you totally confused and bored, lets
just talk about the weather!
It was -30C or 20 below zero Fahrenheit when I went
to bed last night and it was the same when I got up.
Since I am not an early riser and completely missed sunrise
when it is at its coldest, I'm assuming it got a whole
lot colder than that.
When the house, deck and surrounding trees start popping
and snapping, it's usually a little chilly. Last night
the lake was making that quiet 'shuffle' noise from ice
cracking and the snow settling as a result. Today
it's been rumbling a lot from the extreme difference in
temperature from ice under the frozen snow, and
the snow on top that is being warmed by the sun. At least
it's another glorious, cloudless day with no wind which
is a real blessing compared to the four provinces in Canada
that had wind warnings out for 40 below zero and colder.
The Chickadees are feeding hard on sunflower seeds at
the feeder which is usually a sign that it'll be cold
for another day yet. According to the weather man, we
should see it warm up over the weekend which would be
nice. I've seen a few people out on the lake with
fourwheelers to go get their mail up at Nimpo,
but not much of anyone walking or skiing today...including
Crossing The Blackwater
of Pan Phillips and Rich Hobson's 'Nothing Too Good For
A Cowboy'. When the riders and their herd arrived
at the Blackwater crossing it was after eight days of
frostbitten cold and blizzards. It was pitch dark
and the cattle milled in sheer panic upon arrival at the
three hundred foot wide rushing cold river. The men could
not get them across and exhaustion and despair was setting
in. Finally, Rich chose to drive the cattle down along
the river in the hopes they would find a meadow and feed
and a way of holding the cattle from plunging down the
backtrail in hunger and terror. Unbelievably, they came
upon a basin full of rich grass just under the snow and
the cattle fell to feeding. Then the men rode two miles
back up to the crossing, plunged across well after midnight
and reached the bunkhouse at Pan Meadow on the other side.
There they slept the full day through only to wake
in panic at the thought the cattle had been unattended
the whole time with wolf packs all around. What
happens next is amazing, and their solution for getting
the cattle across is ingenious.
The whole book excellent, but the 'Frozen Drive'
as it was called after that, is a must read part
of the book.
For years after, men on that drive suffered from frostbitten
extremities and one fellow who had been snow blinded for
a few days eventually went completely blind. Still, the
miracle of that drive was that it went against all odds
of it being completed, and without the loss of one cow.
Rich Hobson continues on in the book to give a lot of
background that really rounds out the characters and gives
depth to each story. One story tells of Stanley
Dowling, who came into the Anahim Lake country
and after working for wages and selling two horses to
Rich, had accumulated the grand sum of $115. He decided
he was going to start a trucking company that would bring
freight from Vancouver to Anahim Lake. How he did it is
amazing and he soon had a thriving store that provided
goods that many people had never had access to before,
including store bought fruit and vegetables, as well as
machinery and hardware that would have taken hundreds
of packhorse trips to bring in overland prior to this.
The picture of the store on the right that is now
McLean Trading was first opened up by Stan Dowling.
Shortly after this Stan Dowling decided he was going to
start a Rodeo in Anahim Lake, to be called the Annual
Anahim Lake Stampede at about the same time Pan
Phillips was trying to figure a way to build a road from
the Blackwater 55 miles over the 7000 foot Itcha Mountain
Range to Stan Dowling's store. Pan devises a plan that
is not only hilarious, but down right sneaky, to get his
road with no effort on his part. I am not going to ruin
a great story by condensing it here because it's just
too good to not be read in its entirety.
Lots of things happen in the book including an unbelievable
night ride with a cavalcade of horses through the streets
of Vancouver and right at the end, Rich meets a girl!
That, takes us to the book Rich wrote called "The
Rancher Takes A Wife" and what most of the television
show, "Nothing Too Good For A Cowboy" was actually
Last night was extremely chilly with a pale cold moon
glaring down, a bright barbelled cobalt blue star twinkling
over the mountains to the southwest and every once in
a while the lake ice would shiver with vibration from
cracking. You could have heard a pin drop in the silence
and I could easily imagine the sounds of cattle and horse
hooves crunching on hard snow, the song of a wolf pack
drifting in from far away. On nights like last night,
I know that like I, those cowboys that Rich wrote about
would not have wanted to be anywhere else in the world.
The Brutal Winter Drive
adventures of Pan Phillips and Rich Hobson in Chilcotin
Country continues. With the help of the two natives, Rich
gets the herd to the hayman's and arranges for a man to
feed them through the winter. Now he has to return to
Batnuni to gather another three hundred head of cattle
to be moved to Pan Meadow and Lashaway's, two months
later in the season than cattle would normally be moved.
On his way back, a stranger enters his camp and agrees
to cowpunch for him for the winter. With willing men in
such short supply, this is a godsend indeed! Rich and
the new fellow get to Batnuni where with the help of a
few others, gather up the cattle, sleighs and fifty head
of horses that will beat down the two feet of snow for
the cattle, leaving a passable trail and pawed up feed
for the animals following. It would take careful
planning and much forethought to prepare for this drive
because survivability could be low for both men and herd.
In the midst of this preparation an exhausted rider arrives
from the Home Ranch 110 miles away through deep snow with
a scribbled note from Pan. The passes through the
Itcha Mountains to Anahim Lake are plugged with snow
and he's unable to get the three riders he hired in the
fall to come over to help him move his herd off the Home
Ranch meadows where feed was fast being depleted. His
note called on Rich to loan him whatever riders he could.
On the morning of December 20, 1939, Rich and his
riders woke to clear, cold 40F below zero weather and
started the Batnuni herd toward Pan Meadows with
the horse herd in the lead to break trail followed by
the two sleighs with food and equipment and then by the
herd and the cowboys.
The men drove the herd on through days of cold down to
sixty below zero, and then the worst thing that could
It began to snow with blizzard like fury and the
herd was now on a little broken trail with high timber
and no feed for miles. They only had made five
miles that day and still had eight to go before getting
on a meadow with feed and a way of holding the cattle.
If they didn't make it that night, the cattle would drift
into the timber and head back home, with no chance of
surviving the long winter.
Exhausted men and horses pushed cattle until after midnight
finally getting them to a temporary meadow where the horse
herd had pounded out feed under the snow. The men sat
around the fire rubbing coal oil onto badly frostbitten
parts of their faces, hands and feet while the cattle
in the herd, too cold to feed after awhile, spent the
night walking in circles to keep from freezing to death.
Rich Hobson's descriptions of that drive are incredibly
colorful, and I believe, quite accurate. As he describes
in the book, few cowboys in the Chilcotin dressed for
the Arctic, and yet the Government thermometers
at Redstone, between Anahim Lake and Williams Lake, often
registered the lowest temperatures in North America at
70F below zero and colder. That makes the incredible
drive and determination of these cowboys all the more
fantastic. Never mind that Pan and Rich had an obligation
to the shareholders of the Frontier Cattle Company. Their
main concern was for hundreds of head of cattle that if
not moved that winter because of the shortage of hay,
would die of starvation. I can't imagine taking on the
job they did. I consider myself a person with a pretty
strong constitution and even though not that old, I had
the unique experience of being brought up without the
luxury of running water and electricity and where we all
had heavy weight chores and responsibilities from a very
young age. That included packing water in buckets for
cattle and horses in winter, getting in wood, putting
up hay in fall and clearing land by hand in the summer.
I've also worked in cold temperatures and lived
in Nimpo Lake where 60F below zero weather was a guarantee
at least once a winter. But I wouldn't consider
myself equipped to do what those boys did, and know few
people capable of that strength, determination and sheer
will. Probably have to throw in a little bit of 'crazy'
in there too. Or maybe they just didn't know better.
I'll continue the story tomorrow because Rich and
his herd still have to cross the raging Blackwater River
before making it to Pan Meadow. In the meanwhile, if you
would like to read the story before this or any of last
week's articles, you'll find them at Wilderness
Adventures Feb2 .
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!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!