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Wilderness Adventures - October, Week 3/2007

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.

Rolling over an image will give you its description.
Check out the Picture of the Day.

19/10/2007 7:57 PM

Snowstorm, Moonshine And Bootleggers

We woke up to snow on the ground this morning. Bit of a surprise actually although I suppose we should have expected it. They were calling for rain in many areas of BC and snow at higher elevations. That's us! I think the system sweeping the province was supposed to be what was left of 'Ling Ling', (I don't know if the spelling is correct) a cyclone coming across the Pacific. It looks like most of it slid down into Washington State and so didn't affect BC as much as expected. Still, snow does tend to be noticeable. Most of it had melted everywhere except in really shady spots by this afternoon. It hasn't been the first this Fall and certainly won't be the last for the next five or six months.
We can now finally shut up our guest cabin and drain down the water in preparation for winter. We had been waiting for two people from Williams Lake that are gas fitters to come out and install a new propane furnace at the Nimpo Lake Community Hall. We put in an application this summer on behalf of the community and were fortunate to get a grant from the government to update our heating system, (it looked like it might be about 50 years old) and install new doors on the Hall. (More energy efficient than the existing plywood ones that cold winter drafts would roar through.) The Community Association has to put up some money too to match the grant funds, but it's certainly a help and I've seen my tax dollars go to worse things.
In any case, we agreed to put the gas fitters up and to provide their meals because both restaurants in Nimpo Lake are closed right now and there was no place locally for them to eat. Now that they're gone, we can winterize and that's one more chore done before temperatures get too much colder.
That reminds me, for those of you coming out in the near future, Pilot's Restaurant at The Dean on Nimpo will be closed from now until spring. The Dutchman in Anahim Lake is open most days in the winter and the Bakery in Nimpo will be open again next week.
I got my materials for calendar manufacture back by truck from Williams Lake yesterday so my little reprieve this week is pretty much over with and I'm back to work. As a result, it might be far and few between articles for the next week or so unless something momentous happens. In the meanwhile, I'll leave you with another excellent story about the Chilcotin from John Brecknock.

I was talking to my brother 10 years my senior just yesterday and we were reminiscing about Anahim Stampede days of long ago and a Nimpo Lake resident known for his home brew and bootlegging.
My brother recalls Swede coming around the Stampede Grounds looking for someone who was a good swimmer as he needed a hand in retrieving some property in about 10-12 feet of water. My brother volunteered to help out. It seems that Swede was tipped off that the Mounties were closing in on his moonshine and home brew operation. Now Swede not being stupid or anxious to lose his cache, took about 5 or 6 gallon bottles of his brew, tied some string to the handles, attached some little floats and sunk the brew into some lily pads of a lake very close to Anahim. This action would thereby guarantee his supply for the forth coming Annual Anahim Lake Stampede. (1962 maybe)
Anyways.... come Stampede time, Swede returns to his nearby lake to retrieve his cache. He snags the float, grabs the string and tries to surface one of his gallon jugs. Unfortunately the string breaks on all of his jugs. Too long in the water I guess. Swede's dilemma; unable to swim a stroke! Swede recruits my brother to make like an otter and retrieve the priceless commodity. Over to the lake they drive. My brother makes like the Otter and is able to retrieve the Home Brew. My brother recalls this event vividly and especially the trip back to the Stampede Grounds with the five jugs of Moonshine. As they were driving back on the typically rough roads, the jugs of moon were rattling somewhat against each other. My Brother remembers Swede looking over at him with a huge grin on his kisser and saying, "Listen to that Don, it's music to my ears." Thus another absolutely true Anahim Stampede story.

You see? I would never have thought of sinking moonshine in a lake yet I come from a long, long line of Hillbilly moonshiners who were more than experienced at outsmarting the Revenue Men. I wish I had known this before. The horse farm I had in Saskatchewan was owned previously by a man infamous for his moonshine. He was relied upon heavily to supply the 'spirited' refreshment for all the young bucks and gentlemen attending community dances and social gatherings like weddings and such.
The farm sat right on the crossroads servicing many local homesteads and two Community Halls and churches. So the person wanting some moonshine would leave a bottle stashed with money at the corner fence post of the farm right on the crossroads. A day or so later they would stop to pick up the now full bottle on the way to their party.
When we bought the farm we needed to repair that corner fence post because we were replacing the fencing for our horses. Once we started digging, we came across hundreds of old bottles of every shape and color that had been left there over the years and never picked up by the bootlegger. He just filled a fresh bottle and left that for the buyers instead.
We had been told about where his old still should be. The real one that is. Every moonshiner has a throwaway so that when found by the law and busted up, the law's happy because they figure they've done their job and the moonshiner doesn't care because he hasn't lost his actual still. Rather a mockup or old out-of-use still has been busted up instead of the real McCoy.
Paul's still was supposed to be up on a densely treed hillside thicketed with some of the nastiest thorned vegetation ever invented and though we poked around a bit and found a few interesting bits and pieces, we were never sufficiently armored enough against the thorns to risk further investigation. Oddly enough, there was a large pond at the foot of this hillside said to be quite deep. Now after reading John's story about Swede, the location of Paul's still makes a lot of sense where it never did before. After all, what better place to store 'shine than where no one would think to look for it? As I mentioned above, I wish I had known before to look in the water but since it was always so difficult to reach the water from that dense thicket, I never bothered to look and see what rigging old Paul might have had for sinking his moonshine.
In any case, I'm really hoping John is willing to provide you all with some of his great tales over the next week or so while I'm up to my neck in work.
Have a great weekend everyone!

17/10/2007 8:32 PM

The Poem

Sometimes good friends need to express their loss and John Brecknock did a remarkable job of just that. John was the one that gave us a little insight into life in the Anahim Lake area between forty and fifty years ago as written in last week's blog. He sent me a poem he had written in memory of a good friend and good riding buddy. I reprint it here because not only is it one hell of a poem, but I think it's representative of the caliber of person that it took to help settle this country right from the first person that ever rode in here. First though, I'd like to preface the poem with some of John's comments about his friendship with a cowboy I would have liked to have known. And just to point out this man's apparent skill with horses, if you aren't familiar with the animals, his performance was an amazing feat.
Jim BRYDEN was a good friend and the best teamster I have ever seen or even heard of. A few years ago Jim performed annually at the Calgary Stampede with his 8 horse hitch of Clydesdales sponsored by the Alberta UFA. He also performed in Fort St. John & Dawson Creek Rodeos. He would enter the arena at a full gallop, figure 8 the team. Back them through pylons, fan them 180 degrees and all mostly by voice command. He could talk to each horse individually and they would respond believe you me. One hell of a cowboy too. He was killed in a real fluke traffic accident 2 years ago come this winter just on the road by his ranch.

Ridin' With Bryden

Ever been out ridin' with Jim? Seen that mischievous grin?
Spun a wild yarn out ther' in the barn and then start all over again?

He rode a tall horse and rarely with force but capable if ya know what I mean.
Fit as a fiddle with often a giggle, as good a man as I've seen.

Have you camped under stars and snor'd a few bars after a Whiskey or two.
Rode along side with considerable pride just to be his friend.

Never much on fashion, but a man of passion, of truth and integrity.
Generous and kind and to me, sublime. And sharer of prosperity.

Have you seen him throw a Hoolie, chased cows in the coulee? Or heard him brag of his boys?
Been shown his new toys or talk of his ploys, to go to the mountains again.

We'd planned more trips and were slimmin' our hips to fit our old saddles again.
Huntin', fishin' and maybe some drinkin', maybe a yarn to refrain.

Our horses are ready and they're real steady, and will carry us hither and yon.
We'll still make that trip, but now in the Great Beyond.

There might be better men. I've never met any of them, but one thing I know for sure.
You lose a friend, part of you ends and there sure as Hell ain't no Cure.

Your Buddy


Told you it was a good poem. You'll find it posted in its original and much better format on Picture of the Day.

16/10/2007 8:32 PM

Beaver House

I decided to go looking for where our dastardly beaver might be holing up on my way for a walk this afternoon. I never did get in that walk but I did find the beaver's lodge and his feed bin. Every evening that I've sat out with a pair of binoculars I've been keeping a close eye on the bay where all the docks are parked for the winter. The more I've watched, the more I've suspected it would make the perfect spot for a beaver to hole up and I knew our cut trees had to be hidden somewhere. Sure enough, not two feet from one of the docks was a lodge built against the back of a tree using old weathered sticks but with fresh mud on it. In the water in front of the tree was a good sized feed bin decorated with some of our trees and with lots of freshly peeled sticks laying in the water like a bread crumb trail. Further proof that this was recent lay in the rope buried under the lodge debris that tied Eliguk's dock to the very spruce guarding the lodge's entrance. That dock was moved over there less than two weeks ago.
It's said that the beavers' main predator is the wolf and one reason the beaver population gets out of hand so easily now is because there are so few wolves. You can tell that the dog's ancestor harks back to the wolf when you see one of your overfed mutts try to dig out a beaver lodge. In fact, if I hadn't been sure this was a recently renovated beaver lodge, my proof was in the actions of our dogs who both acted as though there were beaver beneath our feet at that very moment. And, it's quite possible there were.
I carried on down along the steep shoreline to a tiny bay where I had watched muskrat go in and out the night before. Another peeled aspen trunk barely peeked above the algae grunge coating the water. Farther along on the point is a huge old tree that leans out over the water and where you often see otters play. Here too I saw several muskrat scurry in and out from under the tree and the one next to it the evening before, very obviously storing feed. In the water lay lots of bark peeled sticks and trunks of trees, more evidence of beaver activity.
I went back and grabbed Andy to show him my find and we went to work digging out the lodge with the ambitious help of River who was absolutely determined to get in there head first. The only problem is that the bottom chamber of the lodge had water in it and chances of the big clumsy drowning or getting stuck in the hole were very good. I was not relishing pulling the dog out by his tail should that happen.
It would be nice if our efforts caused the beaver to become discouraged and leave, but that isn't likely to happen. Our hope is that the beaver will show itself in the occupation of putting the lodge back together, but who knows.
So far, our best defense seems to be walking around our property late at night with flash lights and leaving scent all over the place. We scared one into a tail slap night before last but nothing last night and I think leaving River loose is helping. If nothing else, perhaps the beaver can smell his abject terror at being left outside in the dark. Actually, I'm just making fun of him. He's really not that bad. I don't think.....
More information was brought out on yesterday's newscast about the Nazko Cone that I mentioned a couple of days ago. Apparently about 12 small earthquakes had been reported in less than 48 hours when scientists from Natural Resources Canada realized that there was more seismic activity than had actually been reported. After mapping activity on their equipment they found record of more than 100 seismic 'events' in a very short time period. So I guess there are a mess of geologists and seismic experts descending on the area.
Of course there can't be any such thing as small news with the media. Everything has to be sensationalized. It's true that activity in the area of the Nazko Cone is really interesting to those of us in a region that hasn't seen any volcanic activity for 7200 years. But on the news they're showing pictures of lava flows from the volcano in Hawaii and the explosive eruption of Mount St. Helen's with mud covered trees flattened for miles and Park vehicles tossed here and there. It's kind of laughable in the face of a hill not even high enough to put a fire lookout station on. In fact, the Nazko Cone is so small and its last eruption so dreary that mining it for landscape rock has diminished it to a barely recognizable hump in the wilderness. Not that I wouldn't welcome a little volcanic excitement. How cool would that be watching geology in action?
Anyway, the media calmed down enough to report that the scientists don't know if this is simply continental movement, one shelf under another, or if magma is rumbling up from deep within the earth. Pan to more pictures of monster lava flows hissing into the sea in Hawaii. I'm serious! They did. That's the pictures the news station showed while talking about the whole thing. I shake my head at the media in BC. If the inaccuracies of news reported that I know about directly are so outrageous, does this mean that everything we see on the news is bull hockey? I would probably have to say yes to that.
I have started a new week, which is too bad because last week's articles were kind of fun. If you haven't read them yet or want to go check out those gorgeous sunrises over Nimpo Lake again, you'll find it all at October Week Two. Oh, and how come no one told me that the link to the first week in October didn't work? Let me know if things don't work folks, please! Sometimes if I'm really busy like I was last week, I just don't have time to check for mistakes.

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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!
Cowboy on sorrel horse.
Two cowboys on horses in rolling hills.
Cowboy in a bowler hat on horseback.
Orange and purple sky over Nimpo Lake.
Bright yellow line in the sky and red waters reflect sunrise.
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