March 9, 2007
Volume 35
Issue 10
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Sunday, Jan 24, 2021



The Road to Nimpo
The Road to Nimpo
by Rev. Barbara Allen, CMP - SGN Contributing Writer

It was a early Saturday morning when I headed west on B.C. 20, 14 miles west of Williams Lake. We crossed the mighty Fraser River on Sheep Creek Bridge, then climbed steep Sheep Creek "Hill," which features a spectacular view of the area. Eight miles further, we noticed the strange looking Loran Navigational Towers, which absolutely didn't fit into the landscape.

The small community of Riske Creek was 32 miles west. Although the earliest activity here was trading, a Polish gentleman founded one of the earliest cattle ranches in the 1860's. History is relived in summer's Riske Creek Rodeo and Frontier Days. There are historical Indian pictographs on nearby cliffs; native fishermen still dip net for salmon.

Hanceville B.C., population 68, is 26 miles west of Riske Creek. Here, Norman Lee, cattle rancher, pushed his herd almost 1,550 miles through the wilds. When his horses died, and winter arrived, he continued afoot, butchered the herd, and lived to write his book "Klondike Cattle Drive," which outlines the event in detail. Ranching remains an industry.

West from Hanceville on Highway 20 brought us to the community of Alexis Creek, named after Chief Alexis, of the Chilcotin Indians. This settlement services the area with a RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and Red Cross Station, church, British Columbia Forest Service office, and a school. You can also find a post office, store and gas station here. We didn't see a single human, although I'd hoped for a handsome red coated Mountie.

Tatla Lake, 76 miles west of Alexis Creek on Highway 20, offers accommodation, food and other necessary supplies. There are several resorts and guiding operations in the area.

The entire route is worthy of many stops for photography with a dramatically varied landscape on a giant scale.

I took no pictures, just sweated the highway. Average grades, were 8 degrees. This wouldn't have meant much in my car, but was more than challenging to the overloaded rig and toad, which were more than 40 feet long. In order to climb or descend steep grades, I had to go into the lowest possible gear, manually, before the automatic transmission overheated. When the road wasn't almost perpendicular, I could go to second gear. There was no way to leave the transmission on automatic because if I did, the engine heated up alarmingly. Some folks can drive their cars by tachometer; I had to drive according to grade, engine heat, and lowest gears. It was stressful and somewhat scary, made more so when the transmission would not shift smoothly between first and second! I could not ride the brakes on the down-slopes without being in a low gear, or they would have possibly failed. Crawling up slope in low gear required patience.

Those parts of Hwy. 20 that were fairly level, were not exactly paved, or, we need new definitions of what "paved" means. I guess loose gravel, with holes the size of trenches is the best that can be managed in this area for the most part. (We later learned as we continued towards the Arctic Circle what long hard winters could do to roads, and that spring and summer were times for repairs, if there was enough government funding.)

The sun disappeared, what little there'd been of it that day -- in its own way a relief from the heat. There were signboards along the highway advertising a restaurant with hot food, including buffalo burgers and steaks. I was so ready for a nice big buffalo steak or burger, and wondered where they got their meat! This didn't look like buffalo roaming territory. (I'd find out later how wrong I was, in the Yukon Territory.)

When we got there, in the middle of nowhere, the place was closed, no one to be seen. We ate a quick, light lunch in the rig, and then proceeded west.

Did I mention that herds of cattle mill about in the middle of the "highway"? We learned what "open range" meant; cattle had the right of way. They were big and many.

We passed a farm and saw a man working on a beef carcass strung from a tripod of some kind, which looked like it had been recently butchered. I thought about barbequing one of the beefs blocking the "highway", just a fantasy, of course&and wondered if the animal being hung had been hit by a motor vehicle, and this was the best the rancher could do to salvage some of his loss.

There were subsidiary dirt tracks, just wide enough for a small truck, on both sides of the road and signs for lodges and guest ranches, fishing, float trips, but for the most part buildings were not visible from Hwy. 20. Towards dusk, we reached our destination. I was hot, exhausted, hoping all of this would be worth the learning experience.

Nimpo Lake is seven miles long and has numerous waterfront resorts and boasts some of the best boating and rainbow trout fishing in B.C. It's also the float plane capital of B.C. as we learned from the constant take offs and landings all day long while staying there. Floyd and Lora Vaughan were our hosts at Vagabond R.V. Park and Resort, on the water. Floyd's an old float plane bush pilot who still loves to fly, and, it's one of the best ways to get around this wilderness. They helped get us settled in, made sure we knew where the dock was for enjoying the sunset across the water. They didn't seem to notice the mosquitoes, which were fierce and numerous. We were too tired to begin re-packing that night after the long drive, so just cooked dinner and kicked back.

We spent all day Sunday re-packing into the limited luggage that would fit on the plane flying us into Eucheniko Lake Lodge the next morning. There were two challenges: how to get fly rods, tackle box, neoprene waders, clothing, personal items, camera gear, into the limited space allowed; how to do most of this outside in the misting rain while undergoing unremitting mosquito attacks.

Hearing that bugs would be a problem, I'd researched repellants and other means of avoiding being bitten. One hundred percent DEET is the most effective repellant&however&it will melt or dissolve synthetics like nylon and polyester, Velcro wrist watch bands, and plastics. DEET loses effectiveness the more it's diluted. There are natural repellants, but, they didn't seem to work as well. Fearing the worst, I'd purchased two mosquito protective netted hats, which look somewhat like what beekeepers wear, netted jacket, pants, gloves, and socks. DEET could not be used on them, as they were mostly nylon. They worked, if you could stand it in the heat and humidity. It was still humid, and wearing this "protection" meant limited visibility and mobility, as well as sweating copiously.

My companion, who mosquitoes loved a little less than me, was the superior person to do any packing, worked on the huge wooden picnic table next to our rig. I prepared things, inside, brought them out to her, cooked all meals, and cleaned up after. I was armed with a tool I'd learned to appreciate on a prior visit to Alaska, a bug zapper. It looks like a toy badminton racquet, takes two batteries, the mesh is metal, and when you press the button an electrical charge electrocutes any mosquito it contacts. I set about trying to kill the bugs that zoomed in whenever the door was opened, zapping dozens that evening alone, inside the RV, while wondering how long the batteries would hold out, and re-applying repellent. (These chemicals repel bugs, and people.)

The next morning Flora picked us and our gear up in her car and escorted us to the dock. A skinny red headed kid was climbing about on the pontoons of the plane checking things out. He didn't look of shaving age yet, and might have been 120 lbs. dripping wet. Flora advised me that Garth did shave, was our pilot, and knew what he was doing. Another couple arrived from California, headed to the Lodge, exhausted from their long journey. (They'd flown from Los Angeles to Vancouver, B.C., then to Anahim Lake, from which they got transport to this dock.) Within moments we were airborn.

I'd learned on a prior cruise to Alaska that the most reliable float planes in the great north are DeHavillands. We were in a Beaver model. This make of plane is sturdy, reliable, and NOISY! All aboard would be wise to wear hearing protection. Pilots (who wear headsets) hand these soft little plugs out to passengers before starting the engine. It's a good thing.

We rose above the silvery then blue water, seeing the forest from above; rolling hills and mountains. Within an hour, we landed at the float dock on Eucheniko Lake, were welcomed by the Lodge owners and staff. Luggage and gear were taken to our private rustic log cabin. Immediately after a light lunch, Garth, our guide (who looked as though he'd recently begun to shave), had us both in an aluminum boat with outboard motor headed up-lake for his favorite fishing spot on the Blackwater. I'd had a few hours of instruction from Dusty, my companion, but no actual fishing. It had been many weeks since lessons, and I wondered if I'd disgrace myself. The Canadian wilderness fly fishing adventure truly began, with unanticipated surprising results!

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