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 - October Week 3
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.
Bravery and Guts
determination to not die and sheer guts on the part of
many who set out to help him.
That's what this part of the story is about.
When I first read this part of Rich Hobson's "Grass
Beyond the Mountain" years ago, I was thrilled to
the bone. Each time I've read it since, I've felt the
same way. The truly heroic resourcefulness of the people
in the area was, and still is, outstanding.
Rich Hobson had just ridden back over the mountain to
Andy Christenson's place, a ranch I have always known
as Cless Pocket and which is still what I consider to
be the most beautiful ranch I have ever seen. He had only
just been greeted by Andy and his wife when a native
cowpoke came roaring in on a badly lathered horse that
fell to its knees after the man jumped off the animal.
He was there to report that their relative had just been
run over by the haymower when his team ran away and now
lay dying only four miles away. Andy's was one of the
few places in the West Chilcotin that was hooked up to
the telegraph/phone line and his wife quickly put in a
call to civilization for a medivac floatplane and doctor,
and sent someone by horseback to fetch a girl just home
from nursing school. Everyone else gathered up blankets
and supplies and raced on their horses to the scene of
the accident where the fellow was in shock. He was
missing one leg to the knee and the other was badly mangled.
I won't go into detail because I really don't want to
spoil an incredible story for you. But after waiting hours,
then days when no plane arrived, and this poor fellow
suffered without painkillers and hung on to his life by
a single thread, the men of Anahim Lake and Bella
Coola took things into their own hands. An incredible,
fast, night ride took place where cowboys left relay horses
all the way down the Precipice and met with a brave, hard
headed old man dragging the Bella Coola doctor from the
Valley up the hill. We're talking a hundred miles with
most done on horseback, in the dark of night on inky black
trails through brooding forests and along treacherous
rocky faces. The one man was in his 70's and rode
like the wind with the doctor's bag on his saddle horn
just in case the man following him couldn't make it.
That the doctor made it as a young man inexperienced with
riding over these trails was nothing short of miraculous.
As I said, I still thrill to the story. I think you will
Toward the end of that year, Pan is headed to Vancouver
and Rich back to Wyoming to raise capital for their new
cattle venture. I would like to quote from the book here,
and I sure hope it's ok with the author's family. These
are Rich's thoughts.
"I began to realize that we were about to tackle
a cattle proposition that for inaccessibility and remoteness
from town and railroad has no parallel in our times.
Our operation would not run into thousands of raw acres,
or into hundreds of thousands, but into millions. Our
cattle company would control something over four million
Well folks, there are two more books and a lot more adventure
for these two crazy cowpokes before that dream would come
close to reality.
The first book continues into yet another chapter that
describes their efforts to move a small experimental herd
over the mountains to see if they could survive the trail,
their summer range, and then the drive to their winter
range. The first trail drive to their winter range
was known for years in the north as the 'Starvation Drive'
where they fought off wolves, a swollen and dangerous
Blackwater River, snow, cold, and starvation.
Oh, and I forgot, a bride ends up arriving too!
You're just going to have to read the book because I can't
tell you everything....
But if you would like to find the continuation of these
condensed versions of the books, you'll find the next
Adventures Feb 2.
By the way, Happy Halloween everyone. We
got snow this morning which is pretty typical. It almost
always snows on Halloween. That's why most people here
try to design their costumes around winter boots! LOL.
Have a good one!
The Adventure Continues
cowboys have survived the winter and a few adventures.
Throughout the winter, there's been a lot of trading
around of ranch help among the few ranches in the Anahim
Lake area. Fellows would go help out building
fence, a barn, corrals, a cabin or to break saddle horses,
trim up their feet and help repair tack. Pan and Rich
were among these helpful neighbours and it proved a satisfactory
way of paying back the host that most probably saved their
lives that first winter.
Rich had the opportunity to trail down to Bella Coola
during a horrendous cold snap with the teamster son of
their host. The trip was ardous and dangerous
but Rich did get to see how pretty the girls were down
in the valley.
Spring came unusually early and the boys readied their
outfit to go look for that mysterious blank spot on the
map. It was their Holy Grail that they were in search
of. The place they hoped would hold grass and water for
the ranch they wanted to build. The place that to
the best of their knowledge, no white man had been before.
Their ranching friends helped them go over their list
of necessities to take, since they would be gone for months.
The list was approved, even though they had all missed
a key item, and the two men headed out along with the
young son of one of the Anahim Lake ranchers, their half
broke horse stock, and a long line of pack horses.
The story that follows is a truly incredible one
of loyalty and endurance on both the part of men and horses
as they fought their way over and around the Itcha and
Ulgatchez Mountains. The same bottomless muskeg
that sucked the life from hundreds of men and horses in
the previous century on the Klondike Trail to the north
reached its tentacles into this land as well. There
was a long period when the men and horses were forced
to go without food or water along that trail.
There was biting wit, humour, misery and bravery along
the trail and finally the men won out to the grass heaven
they were looking for.
Now they needed to build corrals and shelter for themselves
for the coming winter. Put up hay and survey this vast
land as well as survive their meetings with the different
native tribes in the area. One such tribe, the Ulgatcho
Indians, were considered a nasty mix of Carrier and Sioux.
Legend said that years before a party of 40 Sioux braves
had come over the Rockies and ended up in a village of
Carrier Indians that consisted of only old men, women
and children. The fighting men had been killed by a raiding
party of the fierce Chilcotin Indians. Apparently the
Sioux party decided it had been blessed by old Manitou
and decided to stay on. It's said the resulting mix of
genes produced a self sufficient, territorial, hawk faced
and warrior like tribe that not too many people cared
to tangle with.
Pan has to go back out to civilization to bring back windows
and haying equipment, a wood stove and winter supplies
and will be gone for months. There are encounters
with grizzlies as well as absurd and dangerous encounters
There is a lot of mention made of a horse called Nimpo
in the book for good reason. He was quite the horse. He
was also named for what is described as "a little
known and little visited lake" between Anahim and
Charlotte Lake. That is the lake I gaze out over every
morning from my windows. It may have remained little known
had it not been for the incredible people in the area
and the same tough breed that followed after.
This truly is an incredible story and since I've
only touched lightly on some of the subject matter, you
really must read the first book.
There is still one chapter in the book that I must tell
you about tomorrow. It is my favorite one and the incredible
bravery and resourcefulness of the people and the horses
of this country is best displayed in that chapter. It
explains the reason why those who settled it not only
survived, but flourished.
The Cowboys Reach Anahim Lake
story of Rich Hobson and Panhandle Phillips continues.
Winter was coming fast and although Rich and Pan had purchased
grub and supplies in Williams Lake and had some money
to buy them, they had no horses yet. Winter would
be coming in hard and fast and they needed to provide
themselves shelter. There is a truly witty passage
in the book regarding Pan's take on how easy it would
be to build a log cabin that they could stay in for the
winter, and Rich's reaction is hilarious.
The Moccasin Grapevine in the Chilcotin works fast
and many of the local ranchers and cowpokes showed up
at the newcomers' fire to learn who they were and what
they were about. The boys kept working for the next few
days to finish the tiny cabin and cut hay and sod for
the roof. The work was slow but they got to it and moved
from their camp tent to the cabin just before the temperatures
dipped in a nasty way and a blizzard moved in. You'll
have to read the book to find out why the cabin didn't
work out too well and the boys moved back into their wall
tent all the while eyeing up the 8'x7' cabin with mistrust.
Even though they were from Wyoming and used to bad winters,
chances are pretty good that they wouldn't have survived
their first Chilcotin winter had one of the ranchers
they had met previously around their fire not come back
to their camp one day in the middle of a snowstorm with
temperatures starting to dip dangerously, and insisted
they come to his ranch for the winter.
There's lots of excitement, and hard rides in blizzards,
horse breaking and horse trading before spring
comes and the boys start to put together their outfit
to get ready for the big trip...to go into no man's
land beyond the Itcha Mountains, where there is nothing
but a blank space on a map. They're off to find
the goldmine in grass and good ranch land that they are
I guess what I have always found so fascinating about
these three small books is that they're based on a true
story. Actuallyl, they are supposed to be
the true story, but all the locals here that knew Rich
Hobson and Panhandle Phillips do
say they could stretch the truth a little. Maybe that's
so on the things I don't know about, but I know the area,
the distances, the places that Rich talks about and the
children and grandchildren of the people he talks about
in the first book. Most people would scoff where he describes
winters where the temperatures drop to 60F degrees below
zero at night and don't come up much above -30F to -40F
degrees during the day for days or weeks on end. I
might scoff too if in February of 1993 the mercury hadn't
dropped to -62F the first night, hovered around there
for a few nights then did a slow climb to -50F and never
came above -20F during the day for two solid weeks.
I happen to remember that specifically because I had a
friend come out and visit at that time and the mill wasn't
running because of the temperatures. I never had a winter
from '88 thru '93 that didn't drop below -60F at least
once in the winter. The same goes with the snowstorms
that you can get in the region. So although Rich and Pan
might have liked to tell tall tales around the campfire,
I haven't seen anything in the books yet that are too
far fetched to happen in this magnificent country.
I posted a picture on the right taken of the remains of
the cabin built by Pan Phillips and Rich Hobson just before
winter hit in 1934. It was so bad that they moved
back into their tent.
The adventure continues...
"Grass Beyond The Mountain"
was the title of a book which was first in a series written
about this country by Rich Hobson. This series of
three books were actually the reason my parents moved
to Canada from Arizona in 1966.
Rich Hobson's description of the country and the people
in it, although few in number, fascinated my parents.
They were looking for the last frontier, and that is how
the story started for Pan Phillips, a.k.a. Wild
Horse Panhandle, and Rich Hobson in Wyoming. Both
rode for a ranch there and late one night when Rich wandered
into the bunkhouse after a poker game over at another
ranch, he caught Pan poring over maps and papers on the
bunkhouse floor. Eventually Pan agreed to show Rich the
maps he had gotten from the Government of British Columbia
and he pointed to a place on the map that was all white
with only the thin line of a river called the Blackwater
snaking its way through the empty expanse of white on
the page. No roads or highways, towns or cities.
The thought of a last frontier for herds of cattle where
there were few ranches and no barbed wire fascinated both
men and they set out for Canada where they arrived
in the general area of Anahim Lake in the middle of October,
1934. They were driving an old sausage van they
called the 'Bloater' and had picked up grub and supplies
in Williams Lake. There they were told they could
probably drive right to Tatla Lake before the first snowfall.
At Tatla they were told they could probably make it fairly
close to Anahim Lake on the freeze up. They spent hours
stuck in mud holes and finally made it to what they called
the headwaters of the Dean River (not strictly accurate,
they actually made it past there a few miles) to where
there were some curious rectangles that they later learned
was where a road crew died after days of fighting off
the Chilcotin Indians just a few years before. There
was no road past that point and the only way they would
get any further would be by horse or wagon. Of which they
I reread the description of the meadow where they landed
and went there today. The present landowner was able to
point out exactly where they ended up that late afternoon
along the Dean so many years ago and the route they took
to get in there.
I'm running out of space so I'll continue the true story
of these two crazy cowpokes tomorrow...
News Item Tonite
must comment on this item I saw on the News tonite. Parents
of a young girl were complaining that they had to eat
lunch with their daughter every day at school to monitor
her nearness to milk. Apparently she has an allergy
or highly dangerous sensitivity to milk that can
lead to hospitalization and even death in extreme cases.
Apparently the parents have insisted that the school board
forbid other students to bring milk in their lunch boxes.
Yes, that is indeed what the parents want. Right
now the school does not allow milk to be brought into
the classroom and the teacher supervises students
to make sure of that, and watches the little girl carefully
if the parents don't come at lunch time. I think that
is more than enough. Maybe I'm crazy, but can you imagine
a parent telling a school 40 years ago that other children
can't bring milk or any milk product to school in their
lunchbox because of one child? No parent would even
have dreamed of asking such a thing, much less
expected it! Perhaps, perhaps, if the child was allergic
to peanuts or some substance not necessary to strong bones
and teeth in growing children, you might ask the school
to disallow it. But even then, how many children bring
peanut butter sandwiches to school in their lunches?
Since when are the needs of one more important than
the needs of many? When did that change to become
such a farce.
I would normally feel sorry for the parents, and sympathize
with their situation. But I have absolutely no sympathy
for parents that would ask that of the school system.
Take your child out of school and home school her if the
situation is that desperate. And stop expecting the world
to be handed to you on a silver platter just because that's
the way you were raised.
I know, I'm a day late with this story and I apologize.
I seem to be doing that a lot lately, but bear with me,
it's just been that time of year.
On November 23 of 1990, there was one heck of a snowstorm
in this region. We received exactly 48 inches of
snow in slightly less than 24 hours. It started
on Thursday afternoon of the 22nd just before I went to
work at the mill. They were really fine dry snow flakes
the whole time and you sure wouldn't have thought they
would accumulate the way they did. We were running two
shifts at the planer mill and the sawmill, and Thursday
night was the last shift for nights. Many of the
people working there drove out to homes elsewhere such
as Williams Lake, Prince George, Cache Creek and Clinton.
I had family in Williams Lake which I intended to go visit
after work. My truck was loaded up with the usual and
I had set in lots of firewood at my house where my landlady
would keep the fire going for me while I was gone on the
three day weekend. I kept watching the snow all evening
and beginning to think I just might not be doing the 200
mile drive to Williams Lake after work after all. At the
end of the shift when I tried to drive home, only 2 miles
away, I couldn't even get off the highway onto the road
home. I ended up stuck in 2 feet of snow pushing
it up over the bumper of the truck. A friend came
along and helped get my truck out and turned around, and
back to the mill I went where I tried to sleep on a hard
wooden bench in the lunch room. While most of the other
guys attempting to drive to town gave up and returned
to their bunkhouses, two crazy young fools from my shift
tried anyway. They got lucky and followed a sandtruck
to McClinchy bridge where it turned around and returned
to Anahim Lake trying to keep the area open. The boys
went on, pushing snow with their little truck until they
got good and stuck. They finally turned around and tried
to make their way back. By this time there was even more
snow on their back trail. They were out there on
the highway with no food, almost out of gas following
sand trucks first one way then the other trying
to get back to the mill, where they finally arrived after
spending 23 hours on the road.
At daybreak I called my mother in Williams Lake to tell
her I wouldn't be in, told her where I was and that I
was going over to the bunkhouses to start digging people
out because their front doors were blocked with snow.
She told me to keep calling her. It was probably a good
thing because after a few hours of wading in knee deep,
then thigh deep, then waist deep snow, I was becoming
exhausted. When I phoned her again she realized
I was slurring my words and was probably suffering from
a mild form of hypothermia. She insisted I stop
and go warm up more often. Even with longjohns and a jackshirt
I was cold and snow was frozen to the top of my head.
We all spent hours trying to dig paths from the bunkhouse
doors and find people's vehicles under the snow. I tried
again to drive toward home but with snow falling, and
everything covered in a blanket of snow, there was no
point of reference. It was a complete whiteout and I couldn't
even get to the mill entrance before I realized how dangerous
it was to try to drive. It was just as well. The highway
was closed and completely plugged with snow. The road
clearing crews had just not been able to keep up with
the snow and could no longer move.
There was a lot of radio traffic and night crews
were stuck out in the bush with their skidders, strokers
and logging trucks, without food and running out of fuel
to keep warm. One fellow, I don't remember his
name but I think it was King, was going out on one of
the Cats to try and clear the roads enough for these guys
to get in. He assured me that when he got back he would
run the Cat down to my place so I could get home. He came
back in 12 hours later exhausted without the equipment.
They had put another driver on it to go rescue a woman
at an isolated ranch who had fallen down and hurt herself
badly. Because it was still snowing an Evac helicopter
couldn't be sent in so the only way to get her out was
with a Cat. I was out of the beef jerky I'd put
in my truck for the trip to town. I was tired, hungry
and wasn't looking forward to sleeping on a wooden bench
again. I just wanted to go home.
One fellow had gotten out because he took an extra day
off and drove to town Wednesday. That was King's bunkhouse
mate and that left one open bed in the entire camp. Thank
God King gave it to me. He fixed me up a great big steak
and I fell into bed and died for the night.
The next day was another day of digging. Cats had
finally cleared the road to Anahim Lake and Nimpo and
one had cleared the road to Nimpo Lake Resort where I
lived. I got home Saturday afternoon. My landlady
had kept a path cleared from her place to mine to keep
the fire going, but there was no wood left on the porch.
Now I had to find my woodpile and dig a path to the outdoor
biffy. Try shovelling in chest deep snow.
You have to throw the snow pretty high over your head
to clear a path. After spending all afternoon clearing
snow it was getting dark. That's when I heard my poor
cats. They lived under the porch and had just a small
hole where they entered and where I had left a big bowl
of food for the weekend. Now they cried pitifully as I
tried to guess where under 4 feet of snow that tiny little
hole was. I finally got them dug out and entered my house.
I couldn't see out my patio doors because of previous
snow and this snowfall, the snow was nearly to the top
of the doors. At least the snow settled pretty
fast over the next day or so, but it still trapped a lot
of wildlife on the roads because that was the only place
clear enough for them to walk. A moose that scared
off the highway on the way to Anahim Lake jumped over
the huge snowbanks and landed chest deep in snow like
he had jumped into a swimming pool. It was a real
struggle for animals that winter and we lost a lot of
wildlife. I had a moose that hung around my place for
part of the winter because he probably felt safer from
the wolves. Once the snow crusted over it would support
predators but not the heavier hoofed animals. When they
fell through the crust they had to struggle through the
deep snow beneath and couldn't outrun their hunters.
Two people died in that snowfall, and even
that shouldn't have happened. A woman and her child stopped
at Nimpo Lake for fuel on their way to Bella Coola on
Thursday evening. She was advised to not go down the Hill
during a snowstorm and was offered a place to stay for
the night. She refused and continued on. She was
stopped by an avalanche on the Hill, so she parked the
car and left it running to keep her and her child warm,
with the window partially cracked to stave off carbon
monoxide poisoning. Unfortunately, the snow continued
to fall and buried the car. As a result, the exhaust was
trapped under a blanket of snow and went in through the
cracked window. With no fresh air, the woman and her child
died from the carbon monoxide. They found her a few days
later when they were finally able to clear the highway
to where she was.
In the pictures on the right, the snow is still falling
in the morning and continues to cover the vehicles parked
in front of the bunkhouses at the mill. At the end of
the shovelled path you can just see the reflector on a
vehicle dug out from under snow. It shows you how deep
the path is. The last picture taken days later is where
I lived at the time with the lonely little path kept open
by my landlady. It was a week or more before I could dig
out my driveway enough to get a vehicle up to my house.
Quiet on the Home Front
you've probably noticed, there haven't been any articles
in the last few days. There are a couple of reasons for
that. The most pressing is my work. I run a graphics business
and right now I am producing fridge magnet calendars for
my clients. Since most of them need them for a Christmas
mail out to their clients, it's imperative
that I have them manufactured and all ready to go. The
remoteness of our area does add some barriers to this.
Since I must utilize a print shop to do all of my cutting
for me, and I am 200 miles from the nearest one, then
it's necessary for me to time some production around the
next time I, or someone else is going to town. So I've
been on a deadline of sorts and haven't had the time to
write articles for this site.
The other problem is the nature of the vacation season.
Right now is a very quiet time for the area
and since I'm spending most of my time glued to the computer
other than the odd time out for fishing, I don't get out
much to find subjects for articles or take pictures but
I think I may have a solution.
This is a very interesting area with a very interesting
past. There have been some famous characters out
in this country, lots of books written, some well
known legends and some interesting stories of things that
have happened in the past.
I see quite a few searches from people on the Internet
looking for information on 'Crusoe of Lonesome Lake'
and 'The Home Ranch' that was the backdrop
for Rich Hobson's books such as 'Nothing Too Good
for a Cowboy' which spawned a television show
by the same name.
So for now, I may start passing some of those interesting
stories on. I'm just checking into permissions for using
exerpts from those books. In the meanwhile, I'll write
about stories and legends passed down verbally in the
area and about my own experiences here where I don't have
to worry about copyright infringement. So tomorrow, we'll
start off with snowfall day with pictures.
In the meanwhile, thank you all for your patience
and for being willing to hang around waiting for a new
Hope you have a great day!
Foggy and Fishy
fog rolled in and stayed all day so we never saw the sun.
Most of yesterday's snow melted though, so that's a good
thing. Everything is damp and muddy now of course.
Went fishing just after supper tonite. We only
had about a half hour before dark would set in because
of the fog. Only five minutes fishing out in front
of the house and I had a Nimpo Lake beauty on the line.
Regular little fighter that one. I didn't want to lose
it so it took a little while to bring in. As a result,
we ran out of light and although I got one more bite on
my line, that was it for the evening. It would be nice
to get a nice day this week for more fishing.
Just got some bad news tonite. The first Whitetail
deer that I ever bought once I decided to become
a deer producer about four years ago just died. Baron
was just a fawn by Duke (one of the largest scoring deer
in Saskatchewan) when I purchased him. I had done a lot
of research and since I come from a horse breeding background,
decided I would really like to try raising deer. Of course
I bought my animals just before the bottom fell
out from under all the Elk and deer producers in Canada
because of the CWD crisis.
I formed a partnership with good friends of mine in the
north central part of Saskatchewn, and although we've
had more than our share of setbacks time after time, we've
stayed with the deer farming because it's something we
very much enjoy. The losses are starting to get a little
dreary though. Aside from the monetary loss, losing animals
both young and mature that you have such big plans for
starts to wear. We can autopsy until we're blue in the
face but more often than not, the university of
Saskatchewan just can't find a cause of death for mature
As the disappointments have built up, my enthusiasm has
dropped a bit. I no longer look at the deer farm as a
potentially viable business that both my partners and
I have pumped a lot of money, time, and heart into. Instead,
I just look at it as an expensive hobby.
I had a lot of hopes pinned on Baron when I bought him
as a baby for a breeding buck. As you can see from the
picture on your right (Baron is standing on the left)
that this year he finally manifested enough antler on
his head to use him for breeding all my does and market
him this fall. I made the decision to do that last night.
He was found dead today. There you go.... karma.
This is the beginning of a new week. Last week's stories
can be found at October
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!