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Wilderness Adventures - Sept., Week 3/2008

This is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without the smog!
If you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes, exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read stories like 'Lake Monsters' about the Lakesounds just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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Check out the Picture of the Day.


19/09/2008 7:06 PM

Goodbye To A Good Friend

We had a great day in Bella Coola yesterday. It was a clear, sunny day and the autumn colors were just beautiful. I look forward to posting some of the pictures on the next blog.
Today was a really nice day here with sunny skies, although a little smoky over the mountains. There must be a forest fire somewhere. It got up to 22C or 71.6F in the shade this afternoon and was darned hot in the sun. It can keep it up though. It might not be great for hunting but we are getting stuff done outside and I like the heat!
I have to say good-bye to a good friend today. Lloyd Wilson and I go back 20 years and we built a house together. No, we weren't married but it's probably as close as you can come to it. Lloyd was my carpenter and was in the process of building a little A-frame at the other end of the lake that I ended up renting for a few years. Since it was being built up on the hill above the cabin I was renting I would often take Lloyd and Henry, another carpenter, some fresh coffee and sometimes some goodies. I wanted to get some pointers on building a house because it had long been my dream to build one of my own.
Both Lloyd and Henry were very gracious and free with advice and information, and shortly after I moved into my new rental digs, I began discussing house building with Lloyd. I had loads of house plans and books on it but didn't like any of the plans I saw. I had in mind what I wanted and needed someone that had a good grasp on structural engineering to help me. I had decided Lloyd was my man!
Lloyd was intrigued with the idea of building a house that had never been on paper but he had a few strict rules. He was retired and wished to remain so. Therefor, if he wanted to go mushroom picking, hunting, flying or just take a day, week or month off, he was going to. Cash only and he wouldn't show up before eleven in the morning at the soonest. Sounded good to me!
It took us four years to get my dream house to where it was livable and before I was talked into selling it. It took that long because I was determined to not owe money on it, so I would accumulate building materials over the winter and save some money, then Lloyd and I would work on it until the materials and money ran out. The other reason it took so long is that we usually got to the point where we were about ready to kill each other and would often go months without talking. Then I would stop over at his house in late winter or early spring with a bottle of Baileys and talk him into coming back to work for me. That was probably as close to begging I've ever been in my life but it became a ritual and one he expected.
I've often been told that many marriages barely survive the building of a house so I'm not sure how Lloyd and I managed to keep plugging on without being married to each other. He was exactly 30 years and one day older than I, had never been married and was not only shy with women but actively scared to death of them. At least of them taking over his life. I, on the other hand, was outgoing, bossy, domineering, intolerant, impatient, short tempered and just plain hard to put up with. I also generally had a string of boyfriends on the line at any one time....something totally alien to Lloyd.
Lloyd was as stubborn as the day was long, and I could beat him at that trait. But somehow, over the course of those four years we both learned a lot of valuable life lessons from each other. His out and out stubbornness and own timeline taught me patience and tolerance. My stubbornness taught him that sometimes other people's ideas are valid too. I learned from him that if you had a neat idea, worked hard and long, you could make it come to life. We both learned that you can make adjustments just about anywhere in both construction and in your life and that nothing is written in stone. And we both learned that sometimes you just have to give in.
Lloyd had never been in a relationship and never had to learn all those things we all have to learn in order to maintain a marriage or relationship, so building that house with a spoiled rotten female that had always gotten her way was a real adjustment for him, I think.
Out of it we created a house that was beautiful, had never been drawn out on anything but a napkin or a board when we met for our morning coffee before starting work, born of vivid imagination and Lloyd's tremendous ability. Thank goodness his friend Henry helped, his good humour and peacemaking ability helping the whole process out by quite a lot.
In the end, I considered Lloyd Wilson one of the best friends I will ever have had the pleasure to know. Whether by accident or by design, the byproduct of building that house with him made me into a much better person than I had been before. And in fact, I trusted his judgment so much that I asked if he would approve of Andy and I becoming a couple eight years after we finished working on the house.
I know this sounds like it's all about Lloyd and I and it is. Because that's the person I knew. Everyone that knew Lloyd, snowmobiled, quadded or cut trail with him all have their stories about him as well. We can all agree on a lot of things about him, and few of us would disagree on who that man was. He was definite about who he was, and like it or not, you liked him, or not. Few people didn't. Though stubborn, he was also one of the most courteous people I've ever met, hated gossip, and was a good neighbour. More often than not, those neighbours never even knew he had helped them out unless they were told by someone else. He is going to be sorely missed both as a neighbour and a friend.
Lloyd's nephew and his wife have been staying over at his house off and on all summer and have done a lot of improvements. It seems they like the country and may be here quite a bit year round. I hope so. They too have turned out to be damned good neighbours. The kind you want to keep. They've were thrown into the thick of things when neither we, nor all his friends could any longer cope with his disease, and have done a remarkable job of sorting things out.
Lloyd died this morning in Williams Lake of ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. He told few people what he had because he didn't want his friends or neighbours to worry about or feel sorry for him. It's a cruel disease, especially for someone that was as active and fit as Lloyd. Selfishly, I'm glad it wasn't heart failure or stroke because I'm sure I was the cause of more than one sleepless night and much agitation for the man while we worked on the house. In fact I'm sure that he regretted ever agreeing to help me build it about every minute or so over the course of the four years. But it was the finest accomplishment of my life, and he was the one that helped me to achieve it.
If there really is a Happy Hunting Ground, may you see at least a four pointer every day Lloyd.

Happy Trails my friend.


17/09/2008 8:57 PM

Peaches And Lumber

Hi everyone. This will be short tonight. As usual I'm a day late and a dollar short. Somehow I shot down the whole day doing peaches and going to pick up lumber for the greenhouse today. Of course as soon as you stick your neck out past your driveway you have to do some visiting so it was this afternoon before I got back and could help a little on the greenhouse. It's looking pretty good! We've got a ridge beam up now and should be able to get the rafters up in the next few days.
Our weather changed a bit today. When I got up it was heavily overcast and colder than heck in the house. It did clear out pretty decently over the course of the day to where you could see the sun through a high haze and by this evening it had cleared off. Just about, anyway. There was some haze over the mountains that actually looked more like smoke than cloud to the south. It got up to 18C the only time I looked at the thermometer today but has cooled off quickly. The forecast for tomorrow doesn't look too bad, especially for Bella Coola which is where we'll be headed for the day. I think it goes down hill after that though.
We sure have some awesome autumn color happening now. It looks like it's going to be one of those really beautiful falls where everything turns really slowly. We've had the bright reds of wild roses and blueberries for a while but now the gooseberries are turning orange while the willows and buckbrush tend to turn every shade of yellow. Most aspen are still a bright green but some are coloring up to yellow and every shade of orange and red depending on where they are. It would be great if we could have the same kind of unending fall we had two years ago that gave us color for two months.
Carleigh Woods from the central interior sent me an email about Rimarko Ranch and some photos she took while up this summer so I've posted them on the right. Thanks Carleigh! A favorite with everyone that sees Rimarko seems to be those famous old red trucks used by the ranch years ago. I know John and Blair had a few tales to tell about them, especially one that they would drive into Nimpo Lake on occasion, lack of brakes and all!
16/09/2008 8:37 PM

Chalmers Morse, Rimarko Ranch

How Rimarko Ranch Began Continued.
" - As I indicated, the winter of 1961 was a busy one for my father with the planning. As he got into the process he found that operating a kid's camp came with a great deal of government regulations and red tape. So after a great deal of consideration it was decided to build a guest ranch that could accommodate the entire family.

Back in those days the road from both Bella Coola and Williams Lake was pretty rough and the road into Charlotte Lake from Towdystan was just a trail taking several hours and often, especially in the spring required the help of a winch.

With a large construction crew coming in the spring, father needed a place to house and feed them. Bunk houses were built and a coffee shop type trailer was purchased from Home Oil, that they had used in the field. In addition another trailer was constructed that was the same size as the coffee shop and held men's and lady's restrooms with showers and a laundry room. Eventually these two trailers were placed 24 feet apart and incorporated into a large building with additional kitchen space, storage rooms, a rec room for the staff and a number of bedrooms for the staff.

The trailers sat out at Towdystan for some time while the road to the ranch was improved. Virtually the entire road had to be widened and built up with proper drainage. Much of the materials coming into the ranch was shipped up from Vancouver through Bella Coola on the old Northland Prince, where ranch trucks would meet it and bring the items up over the hill to the ranch. We're talking about furniture, fixtures and equipment including a number of large generators and trucks and service vehicles of various sizes. Other things were trucked in from Vancouver via Williams Lake with Hobson's and Willis Trucking. Still we needed the airstrip improved, as it could only take a small single engine aircraft at that time. BC Airlines had a 10 passenger Mallard which we often charted to bring in guests and supplies prior to improving the strip that landed on the lake. At one point my father Hired "Red" McQue who had driven for Hobson's for a number of years. Red had a large dump truck and together with the ranch heavy equipment a crew the strip was widened to 150 feet and I think 3600 plus feet long. When completed, many, many aircraft would fly into the ranch. At one point BC airlines operated a scheduled 35 passenger turbo prop nonstop from Vancouver International to the ranch on its route to Powell River. We also chartered a DC-3 several times each summer from Harrison Airways to bring supplies directly in to the ranch, primarily fresh food for the kitchens.

A dam was built above the ranch where my father had engineered a gravity feed water system which supplied water to the entire ranch during the summer seasons. This system supplied water to the two main kitchens as well some 30 bathrooms. For the winter months a different well and pump system had been installed under the old "George Powers" cabin that didn't freeze (most of the time anyway).

It took a number of years to complete the entire building plan and I dare say, I'm not sure we ever did, my father was always coming up with things he wanted added. But basically when completed, there were more than 35 buildings, including out buildings and barns. There was a heated swimming pool, a movie theater (we had top billed movies flown in each week - remember we are talking about the days before satellite TV), a main lodge with 8 guest rooms, a dining room and cocktail lounge, guest cabins, bunk houses and a marina to house the many boats need to accommodate the guests. During the peak of operations (1966 - 1973) the ranch housed between 50 - 75 with staff and guests combined and approached 100 on a couple of occasions.

During this same period of time we also built a camp on the lower Dean River near the lumber camp. This facility had accommodations for about 12 guests and a crew of 4. Many of our guests would spend time at the ranch with the entire family with side trips to the Dean for the more avid fisherman.

- Chalmers I. Morse"


Hi Everyone. That's the last installment I've received from Mr. Morse so far. Like you, I very much look forward to hearing more.
Our weather today, as yesterday, was glorious! I know we made it to 25C yesterday but the only time I had to check the temperature today it was at about 22C. Still, nice and warm! Actually, it was quite hot. I love hot weather but working in it can be a little exhausting if you aren't used to it.
We went out yesterday evening and caught a couple of trout for supper for some night this week. We finally get to fish to eat them instead of freezing them for smoking later. The fishing is still marvelous and everyone's commenting on how good it is this year so get your fishing poles out!
Our weather is supposed to break down here in the next couple of days with high overcast expected tomorrow and Thursday, as a low pushes that high pressure system out of the way. It's supposed to rain in Vancouver by Friday but it's hard to say what it will do here. For sure it will cool down a bit.
Things are looking worse and worse in the States as one financial institution after another fails. Although we saw a bit tonight indicating the US government is going to bail out AIG. It seems strange in light of the comments made only yesterday that the Feds weren't going to bail out any more banks. They may not have a choice if they don't want to see a repeat of the Great Depression but I suspect that the government is just trying to shore things up until after the election in the hopes of helping the Republican party to win.
I see in Canada that Dion of the Liberals is trying to blame the present economic woes in the east on the Conservative party. Not valid at all when you consider that any economic downturn in Canada right now is entirely because of the situation in the US. Layton of the NDP is yapping about changing the banking system in Canada so that the same thing doesn't happen to us as it has in the States. Again laughable since the inner workings of our financial institutions bear little resemblance to those in the US. I'm hoping the Canadian people can see through the rhetoric espoused by them. It would be nice if those two jokers could actually come up with a political platform that made sense instead of the same old bullshit designed to fool the voters. Making outlandish promises about how much money they're going to pump into the economy and spend on saving jobs is designed to do just that. I actually have to back Harper when he states with some honesty that there isn't a lot the government can do that would make sense. We're tied too closely to the American economy and we'll just have to ride it out. Again I hope the Canadian voters can see through all the bull but we'll see, I guess.
.

15/09/2008 8:49 PM

Rimarko Ranch Beginnings


There have been many stories and rumors over the years that like most things in the Chilcotin, have grown bigger than a ten gallon hat and Rimarko Ranch has had its share. Long shrouded in mystery and seemingly isolated from the communities of Nimpo Lake and Anahim Lake, stories about Rimarko abound and while some may have their feet in fact, it's hard to separate the truth from the exaggeration and added color.
Chalmers Morse, the son of the previous owner of Rimarko Ranch, has kindly sent me some emails relating the true background of the ranch taking us back into its past life as a resort.

"Let me first begin by saying that my father was not paid to stay away by the family as some have indicated. He served on the Board of Directors for both Fairbanks, Morse & Company as well as the Canadian Fairbanks, Morse & company until they were sold in the late 50's. He was also the general sales manager for the company's locomotive division. Back in those days, Fairbanks, Morse was a major manufacturing company that made 1000's of products ranging from pumps and electric motors to windmills, farming equipment and diesel locomotives.

During the 50's, the children in my town often went away to summer camp in Wisconsin. When the campers would go on overnight camping trips we would often find the parks and campsites crowded, even back then. My parents thought that it would be wonderful if some day they opened a camp somewhere where you would not need to camp one tent on top of another.

In the spring each year, our family would travel to a resort in Arizona that had horseback riding as one of its activities. Over the years we became friends with our wrangler who came from the Kamloops area. It was he that suggested that my parents look in BC for land to build a kids camp. Some may remember Merv Carter. My father hired Merv to look for the perfect place. A beautiful lake surrounded by mountains far from the city.

Merv spent the summer of 1961 investigating properties that were for sale. However the task was not as easy as it sounds, there was always something that tainted the properties that he saw, i.e. overhead power lines, new highways etc. Finally in the fall, Merv had heard of some property that was for sale in the Chilcotins, a place called Anahim Lake. My father and mother traveled from Chicago and met Merv in Kamloops where they chartered a single engine Cessna on (wheels) not floats. Off they went, not knowing that the charter pilot had no idea where he was going.

When they got to Anahim, the pilot reported to my parents and Merv that the Anahim airstrip had not been completed and that it was too short to land on. While the pilot circled the area which included Nimpo and Charlotte Lakes, they spotted a very narrow and short airstrip on Charlotte Lake. (Mind you, back then there was no strip at Nimpo either.) My father ordered the pilot to land at the strip at Charlotte, to which he told my father that there was nothing there. Father pointed out to the pilot that the gas gauge was leaning toward empty and that he'd rather be on the strip with nothing than in the air.

When they landed a fellow by the name of Chick Hudson came out to meet them, he was accompanied by Handy Jack who worked for him. It turned out that Chick was thinking about selling his property where he was trying to build a small resort called Charlotte Lake Resort. He had not been very successful. The end results - My family purchased the property from Chick Hudson, which had been the old George Powers homestead that is mentioned in the book "Grass beyond the Mountains".

Over the winter months, my father was busy laying out a master building plan, getting permits, buying equipment and hiring a staff.

- Chalmers I. Morse"


To be continued, folks!
I've started a new week so you'll find last week's articles at September 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!
Canadian flag hangs from Chilcotin gate into Rimarko Ranch.
 
Old log fences falling down in a field.
 
Vintage truck door.
 
Red truck with big wooden racks on it.
 
Full moon rising above the trees.
 
Streamers of blue, orange and red cross the sky above the lake.
 
Sun reflects off snow on Monarch Mountain.
 
Colorful ground cover and perfect balsam tree.
 
A large lake with island in the middle.
 
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