Early in the week Laura informed me that the outlook for the weekend was rain everywhere. Tenting didn't seem that attractive with that forecast. We thought of taking the RV but the Ford F350 engine glitch remains. $2000 of maintenance later and the truck wrench icon screams imminent death with uphill acceleration.
Still One Hundred Mile House is one of the most incredible places for wildlife with nearby Lac La Hache great for fishing.
Laura was still up for tenting, trooper that she is. However, when I emailed her the website for Ramada Limitted, I got a text back saying immediately, "that looks fabulous and would be nicer if it's raining."
While Laura and I had a short but hectic week of work, with the increasing distress of the overburdened health care system, Tom was doing his best to ensure that the Ford and the Honda 500 Pioneer were ready for action. It was a good division of labour.
I didn't get out of the office till 8 pm. Any day out of the office means 2 for preparation and payback. There's no robot doctor. What once was once a steady stream of work has for many if not most of us become a constant torrent. The paperwork has multiplied exponentially, with a similiar rise in laws, minefields, dragons, protocols and players. Most of the newbies really are just overpaid critics without accountability and jolly good at spending other peoples money. With all the hostility and workplace toxicity, physician suicides at an all time high, doctors threatening strikes, patient waitlists till forever, nurses unhappy, unrealistic demands, beaurocratic vampires, impossible political promises. and public hangings , shame and hypocrisy; every weekend away is like a blood transfusion. I come back to the front revived ready for the next declaration of cutbacks and shortages.
I finally arrived home to see Laura pulling her Eagle Ridge wheeled luggage bag out of her little red Smart Car. The skies opened and the streets flooded. Tom was already at the RV sitting under the awning.
"The Ford and Honda are ready!" he said. Great news.
"Whose for pizza?"I asked.
Laura and Tom nodded while Gilbert's tail began to wag at the word 'pizza'. Dogs know the human words that are important to them.
Canadian Pizza brought us the best meatlovers Pizza. With the propane heater turned on and heavy rain beating on the roof we ate ravenously, sharing tidbits with Gilbert. We watched a TV episode of the Big Bang Theory, this generations Seinfeld cum Friends mix. My parents watched Honeymooners in their day.
Morning early we loaded the truck with our bows and cammo gear. We stopped again at Cabelas for arrows and a new hard cross bow case for my Barnet Compound Cross Bow. My Excalibur Max has it's own soft case. I'd hoped the Barnett would take an attached quiver like my Excalibur but it didn't. I got Tom a canvas hip hung quiver like the one my ex wife had made me when I'd had a Browning compound crossbow. More arrows and razor blade points. Also a white tail deer tag, just in case. Laura got a conservative comfy tartan camo pj set. I got a couple of winter sleeping bags. Good to 20 below. It's past the summer sleeping bag weather so if we do choose to tent again we're now ready. At Tom's we hitched up my AB boat with the Honda 30 hp hoping to get in some lake fishing.
Tom drove us up and out of the Valley. Leaving the rain forrest and coming up into fresh air and tumbleweed country of Ashcroft and Cache Creek is always a joy.
At Clinton we headed off the highway onto the logging roads. Immediately we saw a huge female moose moseying across the road. After that we saw a big mule deer. It was black bear season and we had tags but the black bear we saw next seemed to know it was safe in the Provincial Park on the other side of a fence. It was just standing there looking at Gilbert and us all. But I don't take shots unless I'm absolutely certain it's legal. The consequence of breaking the BC Conservation Law is that all of one's gear can be confiscated on the spot, ATV's Boats, Rifles etc.
"I think of hunting as a sacred matter. Everything must come together in a Godly way. Sure we could shoot the bear and no one would be the wiser. But we both know 'we'd know'. " We're probably past the park boundary but it just doesn't seem right, " I said.
"There's still the fence, " Tom said.
BC Hunting regs say that you can only hunt on 'private land' with permission. In the past, the land had to be 'posted', i.e. 'no hunting signs' but now the onus is on the hunter to know. Even if we were outside the park boundary, and shot the bear,we could be breaking the law. We didn't know whose fence this was. It's just all round easier to hunt in true wilderness.
"When in doubt, it's best to say no," Laura said.
Gilbert thought we were all fools!
We saw more grouse along the road. Gilbert was not impressed with his hunting team. By the time we came back on the highway darkness was coming on. At 100 mile House we immediately saw the Ramada sign coming into town. Checking into the Ramada Limited the young good looking manager was terrific, friendly and helpful. The Ramada was clean and the staff were the best. Gilbert was welcome but had to be on a leash. Lots of parking. W'e saw others had boats and ATV's with them. Lots of expensive new trucks in the country. The manager said the parking lot was safe, they'd not had any problems. Away from the centre of town it's less likely to attract thieves.
Each day the Ramada had a morning continental breakfast which I only got to enjoy the final day. It reminded me of the European hotels we enjoy. I talked to young manager and learned that he'd been to University of Bombay. I'd been there and loved Bombay. He told me about all the development since I'd been and discussed the changes that have taken place there and in Canada in recent years.
Tom and I were up at 7 am to go hunting, leaving Laura and Gilbert to sleep in. Tom had bought a whole new set of cammo gear on sale at Cabelas and was looking way too spiffy. We loaded up with the A&W breakfast sandwiches and coffee then headed up Exeter Station road to the trails. Parking the F350 we unloaded the Honda 500 side by side Pioneer. Tom and I named it "Charles'. Because it was called 'pioneer' we thought of 'chuck wagon' , considered calling it Chuck but thought 'Charles' was more distinguished and fitting.
Soon we were motoring along at about a jogging pace enjoying the drizzly morning. I just love being out in the wilderness. We had our cross bows strapped on the back of Charles and a rifle each in the cab. I'd ridden enough rainy and snowy times on my Yamaha and the Polaris before it to appreciate the joy of the Honda 500 Pioneer's roof and windshield.
We came over a hill and there was a whole herd of magnificent mule deer a couple of hundred yards away. They actually let us stop and observe them. One buck had 4 points with it's velvet still on the horns. Another buck was a two point and another a spike. In addition there were a half dozen does. I sure wished it was rifle season because I'd have had the 4 point for sure. The cross bow is best at 50 to 100 yards in my hands though others can shoot further more acurately. It was Tom's first bow hunt so I cautioned waiting for a better shot. As we stalked closer on foot the bucks took off bouncing into the woods leaving the doe to watch us unperturbed.
We left the ATV and with radios, bow and gear, separated for a stalk and sit. I hurt my back drawing and cocking my bow. That was humiliating. I have a draw string to reduce the tension but had it improperly positioned so really did everything every back doctor or chiropracter says not to do bending straight over and pulling straight up with straight legs. Humbug!
With my bow cocked and my back hurting I headed out into the woods realizing my knees were not happy either. They simply were not used to climbing over big rocks and my stability wasn't what it used to be. I really had to be more careful. What a change from a man who ran up and down hills scarce years before. Still I'm thankful for the mobility. Injuries to my foot and knee in recent years had made it so I'd not even been able to stalk the previous season. It really felt good, if a little painful, to be stalking along deer paths in the deep woods. I found just the right clearing where I could sit in ambush. I started out meditating then settled for a nap, drifting in and out with an ear cockd for snapping twigs. Nothing.
Three great Sandhill Crane however suddenly rose up in the air not a hundred yards away from me. What a surprise. I'd later see there was a little pond they must have spent the night in. What majestic prehistoric looking birds they are.
Around 10 am I was stiff and cold and not a little restless. Only a couple of hours into the hunt and wanting to be moving about. My former guide friend old Bill who was big on morning ambushes would have shook his head. I went looking for Tom surprised I was so close to the road having walked through the woods and come back on the road we came in on. I climbed around the hills some more before getting back to Charles. I was glad for the thermos of coffee. The rain had stopped. The sun was poking out of the clouds. Such a lovely place. Pine and spruce trees, green everywhere. I discharged my crossbow, stupidly losing the old broken arrow I used to save the bow string. I drove the ATV down to the end of the road and then back again to find Tom who'd seen me go by and walked back to the road to join up. He told me he'd come across another herd of deer with a couple of bucks.
"If I'd had my bow cocked and a little more confidence, I 'm sure I could have got the second buck. It walked right in front of me at about 75 yards." he said, excited.
We climbed on Charles and began driving slowly along the trails. A man and woman on two quads passed us. They were just sight seeing. We'd seen a couple of younger guys on Arctic Cats with long compound bows riding quads earlier but no one else. Heading down another somewhat overgrown road we surprised another herd of deer. We were only thirty yards away when two deer high tailed it out of there while a couple of more just walked ahead of us into the woods. Tom spotted one huge deer when I stopped the vehicle so I jumped out. I'd just cocked my bow with a big mule deer still standing only 30 years away. Tom meanwhile had gone the other way after another deer.
The trouble was I couldn't see if this deer had horns. I stalked as quietly as I could hoping to glimpse the head which was down chomping grass behind some bushes. Without my ever seeing it's head, it moved off leaving me with another great 'one that got away' story'.
Tom had one in his sights only to find he couldn't squeeze the trigger. The deer got tired of waiting and Tom figured out the bow "safety" better so he'd not miss again. I'm not judging, only the week before I'd missed a rabbit because I couldn't get the clip to seat in my rifle.Such mishaps make one appreciate appreciate why soldiers are forever cleaning, oiling and working their equipment.
It was a great morning with a lots of sightings and near misses. We even saw more grouse but only ptarmigan were in season.
"Ptarmigan are the ones with feathers on their feet," Tom said.
"And they're more black and white than brown and red," I said.
Back at the Ramada Laura had been out walking Gilbert who was ecstactic to see us. Much barking and greeting licks before he settled down. Laura had been enjoying the latest Harlan Coban novel and said how much she enjoyed the Ramada service.
That night Tom and I drove around in the truck exploring the region. I'm not much for night hunting anymore. I really did enjoy the seat heater on my back and it was just fun to drive about the backwoods. We actually came out at Lake Helena a fabulous spot full of RV. Lots of ATV's and kids and big fires, boats out fishing and generally a really good feeling wilderness camping place. Two people had the same Keystone Energy toyhauler as I do. I enjoyed talking with one fine fellow about it's load and towing and how well it handled on the rough back country roads.that lead into Lake Helena. I'd only had mine really offload once when we all were moose hunting. I hadn't towed it with the ATV in the garage either. Right now my garage is a really large junk drawer. Towing heavy loads concerned me.
"I just have to go slow on the up hills," he told me. "Otherwise the RV handles well on the back roads. It's a tough built toy hauler. " He had an F350 truck same as me too.We also discussed hitches and tailgates.
Following the road out we came to Lac la Heche and headed south on 97.
Back in 100 Mile House at the Superstore I picked up a barbecued chicken, deli salads, buns, chips and dip, paper plates and plastic cutlery. I even got Hagen Daz ice cream. Back at the Ramada we had a feast watching Fear of the Living Dead. Tom and Laura were not that impressed with my choice of zombie fare but loved the food. It's really roughing it when you have to bring in your own Hagen Daz.
I'd got Gilbert a rabbit squeaky toy. He sure had fun with that.
The next morning Tom was up in the dark and his ludicrous enthusiasm got me going. I dressed like a stiff zombie , somehow getting myself and gear out to the truck.
Back in the wilderness again we had Charles off the truck and loaded up a whole lot more efficiently. Again we drove slowly into the back woods. No talking. Just the quiet chugging along watching for the very well camouflaged deer. When we got to an open area Tom spotted one bounding across the clearing. We parked Charles.
I found a really nice spot on a trail and enjoyed the rain stopping and the sun coming out of the cloud cover. More dawn mediation. No deer came by but I really did enjoy my time sitting in ambush. It's a meditative time. I've had too much on my mind with all the stresses of work and family. It surely helps to sit quietly in prayer, listening to the forest,letting go. No animals came. Eventually I returned and met up with Tom at Charles. I do love thermos coffee.
We drove about after. No bear. No ptarmigan.
Stopping in a clearing we saw a few deer on a hillside about 1000 yards away. We thought of stalking but it was too far and too open and surely the deer would leave.
"Let's ride Charles around the back and come up behind them on another trail." I said.
So that's what we did. Stopping at a place we thought we could stalk in on them. The wind direction was better too. Tom took the one side of the ridge and I went down the other side following along the ridge we thought we'd seen them on.
Sure enough 2 doe passed right in front of me at 50 yards. I waited and looked and looked for a hoped for buck following them. There was one but he saw me before I saw him. We looked at each other 50 yards away with his head in a bunch old tree branches making it impossible for me to know if he had horns. I was trying to lift up my binoculars with the strap caught on something when he turned and literally disappeared. I just had a perfect side view of a perfect 2 point. I thought, if I'd just used the telescope on the crossbow and not messed with the stupid binoculars I'd have got him when he turned It was simply not meant to be. I was winded and sore too after running up the hill after him, vainly hoping for another shot.
I felt like Tom had and later we'd talk about being 'dumb and dumber'.
I had laid a trail of bits of kleenex hung on branches but chasing uphill after that buck I'd got off my trail and decided instead of backtracking to to head back out by dead reckoning. I get lost alot. I knew though that Tom was about and I'd cross the main trail eventually if I couldn't find where we'd parked. I had a Garmin GPS and compass watch but still I didn't find Charles where I thought it should be.
Tom and I were each carrying Motorola Waterproof GMRS 2 way radios. I called him up and told him I was lost, asking him to fire off his rifle to help me get directions. He did and I was a ways away. Getting closer I fired mine off and he tried to triangulate me to his position. I found the original road we'd come in instead so called him up to tell him to come out to me. The trouble was he'd lost the key. Dumb and dumber.
I hiked in to where he was and we looked all over for the key. I had my set but we didn't want to lose his set. Not only was the ATV key on his ring but the titanium chain lock I had as well. We drove back over the places he'd been where he thought he might have had them fall out of his pocket when he'd taken something else out. No luck.
Back at the truck we loaded Charles on and left his cammo rifle cover on the ground. It had got soaked in diesel so we'd not left it in the cab. Dumb and dumber. Now something else was lost. And Neither of us had been able to find the old arrows we'd shot off to protect our strings when we uncocked the bow.
Back at Ramada Gilbert was ecstactic to see us. Laura had taken him for a long walk exploring the town when the rain had stopped and the skies cleared.Tom ,going through his new Cabelas came outfit, found the pocket he hadn't looked in. Sure enough there were the ATV and titanium lock keys. Good find.
In the evening we took Gilbert along for what was planned to be just a drive about the woods in the truck. We saw lots of grouse almost hitting one that flew up as we passed it. No deer. No bear. No ptarmigan.
Then there was a horrid grinding growling noise coming from under the truck. Tom figured it was the brake sticking but that we'd be able to drive back. We drove back picking up some fried chicken and wedges at the gas station..
"Don't call them wedgies," the lively counter lady told me.
It was a great meal and late night television since the morning hunt was off due to the truck problems. I was glad for the sleep in.
Holiday Monday, everything was closed. I'd phoned all the numbers for repairs I could find on line. Lordco Parts was open. We decided to wash the truck before going there. We were able to get the parts to fix the brakes with new calipers and pads. Tom figured he could do the job if needed. The Lordco guys however told us about George at Country Tire. George did emergency repairs. George was great.
"Bring it over in an hour." Tom was up for that. I went back to Ramada and had a very good continental breakfast while Tom went off with the truck to see George. Tom likes to get involved in mechanical things. Normally I might too but with a stiff sore back I was more than happy to let the professional doe the job. A couple of hours later Tom was back with the truck all healed.
"George at Country Tire is a really great guy. He really knows his stuff." Tom said. Now that's great praise coming from an engineer who routinely does his own car and plane repairs.
It was a late start but we actually saw a couple of white tailed doe on the way home.
I drove down the canyon to Hope where we got burgers at DQ. Gilbert sure loves getting his little hamburger paddy which Laura breaks up in bits for him. Tom drove the rest of the way to Vancouver where he dropped us off at midnight taking the truck with him to get it ready for next weekend's opening of rifle season. Gilbert is going to finally get to be a grouse retriever again. No more won't watching with dismay as we let partridge get away.
The Ramada Limitted was really lovely. 100 Mile House is a great town. We've loved all our visits there. Everyone is so friendly and they really have most everything a country person needs. Laura looked at the real estate papers and said that there were some perfect places. We'd seen the same thing in Kamloops. The more uninhabitable Vancouver becomes the more attractive the rest of BC remains.
It really was a great weekend. I certainly appreciated Tom and George solving the truck issues. We both loved Charles the Honda 500 Pioneer. It was Tom's first time bow hunting and I really think he is hooked. Laura enjoyed hanging out with Gilbert and reading Harlan Corban without interruptions.
I am sure the deer and bear were especially glad they out smarted us.