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Wilderness Adventures - October Week 3

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.
You can search this site for a subject of interest to you at the bottom of this page.

31/10/2005 8:43 PM

Bravery and Guts

Sheer 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 too.
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 acres."

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 at Wilderness 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!

30/10/2005 10:14 PM

The Adventure Continues

The 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 with moose.
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.

29/10/2005 10:59 PM

The Cowboys Reach Anahim Lake

The 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 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 looking for.
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...
28/10/2005 8:49 PM

"Grass Beyond The Mountain"

This 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 had neither.
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...

26/10/2005 8:28 PM

News Item Tonite

I 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.
Excuse me?
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.

21/10/2005 12:20 PM

The Snowstorm

Yes, 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.

19/10/2005 2:26 PM

Quiet on the Home Front

As 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 article.
Hope you have a great day!

15/10/2005 7:36 PM

Foggy and Fishy

Low 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 animals.
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.
Goodbye Baron.
This is the beginning of a new week. Last week's stories can be found at October Week Two.

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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!
Happy Halloween! This year's pumpkin.
Pan Phillips and Rich Hobson built this tiny cabin just before winter hit at Anahim Lake in 1934
Snow continues to fall on buried vehicles
Digging people out of their bunkhouses
A tiny path meanders through settled snow and is my only source of water and way to my truck
Baron, the whitetail deer on the left was five years old


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