Sunday, September 2, 2012

Merritt BC - Rustic Wilderness

Marquart Lake is just 15 minutes south east of Merritt. I was able to get in to the lake on my motorcycle a few years back despite the stretch of logging road. Great memories of camping in the pup tent by the side of the lake with the open range about. Real ranch country. Lots of heffords about. Big tan brown and white cattle who stand dumb on the road always acting like you're the first vehicle they've ever seen.
Another time I came up to Lundbom Lake with Gilbert and Laura. We had the new canoe along and probably the Ranger truck. It was his first year camping and all he seemed interested in was digging. There are corrals up by these lakes and horse folk bring their beautiful mounts to ride the trails. I remember horses by the lake in the morning that first year with Gilbert. I never did catch any fish, though I tried. The lakes around here are stocked with trout and others surely caught fish, but I didn't.
I brought Luke up hunting here late one season with the ATV. He went off on the trails and I followed the roads a goodly way back through the range country. There was snow on the ground then and it was a harsh and cold terrain. We saw game but didn't shoot any. I've often stayed in hotels in Merritt and they've all been fine. A couple of outdoors stores are well stocked. There's everything one could need from a town here.
This year I've brought the Rockwood Mini Lite RV and we're staying in this great RV place called Moonshadow.  It has all the amenities and terrific people are the owners.  They really take pride in the place and are down home friendly as well. 60 sites, open year round. We've got water and electricity and there are showers and such in the main hall.
I've brought the Clipper kevlar canoe which is a bit of an irritation because I haven't used it yet. It was heavy putting on with my back still a little weak from rolling the ATV last year. It's been easier to explore 4x4 in the truck. I really wanted to fish at Corbett Lake but the idea of lifting the canoe back onto the truck changed my mind.  I've got the electric motor I "won"  at the Chilliwack silent auction with my Scottish Canadian accountant friend, Lorne. Laura and I enjoyed dancing and hanging out with Lorne and his friend  Judith that night. Never did I expect to leave with an outboard motor, though.    I tested it off the back of the truck with a battery yesterday so would really like to try it out at the back of my canoe.
Yesterday I slept in. Didn't get away till 1 30  pm. Enjoyed reading and Laura's bacon sandwich breckie. Hot shower was good too.  I'm not moving very quickly this morning either. This blog is a good excuse to hang out drinking coffee.  I'm overwhelmed with decisions.  Corbett Lake looks most attractive but this morning I was thinking I should get back up on the Quilchena Trail with my bow and shoot a buck. Then too I could drive into Kane Valley and look for a black bear.  There's been too many around here apparently so people would be happy to have some of them culled.  Bear hamm sounds good but fresh fish and playing with an electric motor seems like it might win out.  "Cadillac problems".  Laura is happy to hang out at the RV. She's got her blackberry cell phone nearby and hopes to hear soon that her latest grandchild has come happily into this world.  Her daughter hoped for a blue moon baby but now Laura thinks it' might ironically be a Labour day baby.
Yesterday I eventually headed out taking the 97C connector route south east. I had a vague idea I'd go to the Kane Valley, maybe fish Harmon Lake where there's great country with  very deer friendly places. I've an Excalibur Max cross bow along and ostensibly I'm here for the opening of bow hunting season. I had the idea of bringing the canoe so I'd cross some lake and hunt the backside where no one goes. I passed the Lundbom Lake turn off and then passed Kane Valley. I was going at 110 km in the Ford 350 diesel truck with the canoe high on top and had the fleeting thought there'd be a lot of campers in those places so I thought I'd go further afield.
Next I saw Corbett Lake. There were some boats out on this small lake with folk fishing. This is a good sign. A nice looking lake with reeds at one end, good size, not too big, not too small, and a little area to park and unload the boat too. I saw all this as I drove by thinking I wanted something to myself. I'm still going a 100 km/hr making recreational decisions based on a whim. It's a whole shopping mall of wilderness out here and I can easily get stuck in my truck. I had this new Matt Maher CD I was enjoying. The dog was with me. The views are spectacular. I could just keep on going but I remembered this lake I'd explored one year off the north end of 5A. So that's where I headed.
I remember it was near the Kentucky Alleyne Provincial Park. Couldn't find if it was legal to hunt there but despite the fact I was hunting decided to drive around to see.
I think the whole city of Merritt, Vancouver, and Princeton, and Kelowna had decided to come here too. I'd forgotten how bad the road was too. Definitely 4x4 but wide enough to avoid bushburns on the side, just gravel up and down, up and down and steep so the canoe slid forward. Then every 5 minutes or so young people in four by fours would want to get by so they'd back up or I'd back up to where there was room for two vehicles. Some of their vehicles had 8 or 9 people hanging out and standing in the back. Several families were target practicing at the place I remember sighting in my rifle one year. Dad's with military rifle and 8 year old kids learning to shoot handguns. Gorgeous women in short shorts sighting in 22's while others sun tanned in bikinis on top of their car roofs. I was impressed.
 Yet my idea of sighting in my bow and doing some target practice with the 223 at this secluded gravel pit went out the window. From the looks of the beautiful women and young men I was concerned that dressed in sloppy old khacky I wasn't in the latest of Cabelas haute courture too.   At the lake there were a half dozen tents. I was glad to turn around always feeling easier having found a spot to turn the extended truck around and be heading out rather than in with ever the fear of road being blocked somehow and then facing backing out forever with cliff falls off one side. I've done that too much in my life.
The Kentucky Alleyne Provincial Camp looked wholly too civilized. It's a beautiful place and back in my 30's when I just loved to tent and go for hikes, this would be the ideal place. Lots of kids about too. When I see that I'm reminded of camping in the 60's and 70's with the bit of Woodstock in the air. Nowadays it's always more European with the typical Canadian camper carrying a mountain bike or dashing about in Mountain Coop hiking boots. I'm the guy who in contrast is armed to the teeth with bow, rifle and fishing rod, definitely not into 'catch and release'.
 Gilbert earlier had run down a ridge and chased a cow in a circle before the cow left and Gilbert decided rolling in fresh cow manure was just the trick. I was making my inaugural call on the Iridium Extreme Satellite phone to Laura's cell phone back at the RV while intermittently calling to Gilbert to get back here. The call went through so Laura had a play by play of Gilbert's return only to be less than welcomed. I was delighted to have communications. The ATV roll last year getting trapped underneath alone and injured had got me thinking I was getting older. The radio hadn't worked back then so I figured it was time for a better phone especially as I'm on call so much for work and felt guilty when I was beyond cell phone range though I'd be able to get calls at night at base camp. Now I was a whole lot safer and connected. Except Gilbert using my distraction had really got up to mischief. I cleaned him off as best as I could with the water I was carrying in a jug in the back of the truck. He didn't like that one bit. I really needed shampoo or soap. Once Gilbert was released from purgatory of bath he immediately began to roll about in the dirt. This actually improved things and the fragrance was reduced considerably. I shared a truck cab with him the rest of the day and the eau de fresh cow manure was never quite absent but it was tolerable.
I slouched off in search of greater wilderness and found it back in a place call the Quilchena trails. I accessed it again off 97c. I sighted in my Excalibur bow with the help of some styrofoam and a sandy hill. Then I confirmed I was shooting fine with my 223 by killing the gingerale bottle I'd just finished. That shot was about 75 yards so I figured I was ready. Looking at the BC Hunting regs on my iphone app I saw that black bear were open for rifle as well as hare. So that meant I could shoot bucks with a bow and bear or hare with rifle. I 'd only brought the rifle along for target practice so this was new to me. More reason to stay in the truck and drive about. It's called 'car hunting' and is frowned upon. Low yield and very lazy but it was windy and there was chill in the air. I'd never been here so was enjoying exploring the country too. All kinds of folk enjoy going for drives back woods and they don't even carry bows and rifles.  I really was enjoying the Matt Maher cd and heated seats too.
I saw three doe standing at the edge of the woods watching me. I stopped the truck and watched them. Eventually one spooked and they all ran back in the woods. A few grouse ran off the road. That got Gilbert excited. I suspect he smelt them rather than saw them. He was standing up with his head out the window. Another hunter in cammo with a bow and his boy behind him came along on an ATV. I felt slightly ridiculous with a canoe back country with no lakes for miles. He'd only seen doe as well. It was the witching hour, time when game come out so I actually parked.
With the rifle over my shoulder carrying the bow cocked I headed up the mountain. It was a steep climb for about a half an hour. Gilbert knows to stay behind me when we're stalking. I had slippers on but the wind wasn't in my face, moving around in the hills. Eventually I got to a place where the deer come down the mountain, lots of tracks, but no fresh sign. Better than nothing. I found a place behind a tree in a shallow and sat. Gilbert missing his heavy winter coat cuddled next to me under my coat, his little body every once in a while shivering. I wasn't sure if it was from the excitement or the cold but he was pressed warmly beside me sitting on a leg that subsequently went to sleep. As dusk settled and no deer appeared on the path I staggered up and headed down the main path.
There at about 75 yards away a snoeshoe hare had kindly chosen to stop .. I wasn't sure till I put the bow down and had him sighted in the rifle scope. I was down on one knee, Gilbert behind me, when I took the shot. In retrospect I could have gone for the head but took the body instead. He went down for sure that way. Gilbert didn't even see him because he was looking for a grouse.
The shot had pretty well severed him at the lumbar spine. I got out a knife and skinned him cutting off both hind legs, head and paws, glad to find a plastic bag in the pocket of my jacket. Gilbert was pretty excited then jumping around me for the rest of the walk down the mountain.
I was glad to see the truck safe. Night was coming on. I shot an arrow into the wood pallet. It went right through. Shooting an arrow is the way I uncock my bow. Dry shooting ruins the string.
I got lost coming out of the woods that night. Not so much lost as unable to find a road that lead off the logging road onto the high way. I had to detour 30 or more km south through Kentucky Alleyne Provincial Park because I couldn't find my way back on the 97c connector in the north. I eventually came out on the 5a and headed north for 97c.
I don't much care for driving back woods cow country because you really have to be on the watch for them. Several times I came around a corner and there was one in the middle of the road. That's why ranchers don't care for hunters, not so much that they mistakenly shoot their cattle but more because they are more likely to hit them with their vehicles. I'd earlier come across the Douglas Ranch signs down by the Kentucky Alleyne loudly declaring their land private and no hunters allowed. Some of the best hunting area in the Okanagan is posted now and I expect it's because some hunter out of the thousands of good ones hit a cow. The full moon helped along with the high beams. I was glad to be back on the highway doing 90 km/hr after going slowly along logging roads at night watching for cows.
It was 10 pm when I got back. I filled up with fuel and that cost $50 so I figured the rabbit cost that much a lone. I was glad to find the RV site. When I got in Laura was ready for bed. Gilbert needed a bath. I was glad I'd bought a salad kit and Laura got that out for me. After bathing Gilbert for the second time, but this time with shampoo, I was beat. I still watched an episode of FarSide before climbing into bed.
I did have a rabbit though. That had gone into the freezer and will become part of a magnificent rabbit stew. I figure there must be something in rabbit that God figures I need right now. I shot quite a few 20 years ago on the island but haven't shot them since so it will be a treat to have rabbit stew again.

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