Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bridge To Bubbled Waters

 The original walkways across the small creek at T'sek hot spring, in my memory anyways, from what I understand were put in by the Army Engineers from Camp Chilliwack. They were constructed of poles  which someone later covered with asphalt shingles.
 By 1996 it was time to replace them. In September, according to my journal, I prefabbed the first of the replacements at home a week before, staining it then taking it down and pulling out the old one, then assembling the replacement in one long day.
These two before and after pictures were taken the same day.

It served for two years before being nearly destroyed by a falling tree in June 1998.
The story of this event that was nearly the end of me was the subject of one of my first blog/stories published here in Nov. 2011, Trees Behaving Badly.

I pulled the broken deck, squared and leveled the base once more, and saw milled new decking all over and rebuilt it to its former glory.

After 14 hard years of near daily use,  coast mountain weather, and about 80 thousand pairs of running shoes, sandals, flip flops, gumboots and snow boots, and numerous people on their hands and knees I'm sure, it was time for a refit.
   To the surprise of many, I actually do work on occasion. But only when I have to, and I like to keep the duration short. Well, first thing....I need to take my nice clean little saw mill out from its warm dry storage area, after I move all the junk I've got stored on top of it out there. Then I'll have to go out and level it up some place and drag a heavy log over and with no little amount of effort roll and heave said log up on mill, accompanied by a lot of loud words no doubt, a job that would made be easier if my tractor were not of the incapacitated variety. I'll have to repeat the process several times, after which I get to clean up the big sawdust pile and heap of bark slab mess, take the mill apart, clean it and put it away, then re-pile everything back on top of it.
It is that point, I'm ready to start my intended afternoon project.
To hell with that. There was a time when it was important to mill my own wood, but I've got over it. These days I prefer to shop locally and support the local economy, and save a whole lot of wear and tear on myself. I'll just take a run downtown and pick up my order like people do out there in the city.
My friend Cedric down valley at the tiny community of Skatin has himself set up with a little mill and a machine for moving the wood, so I conveniently headed downtown with my little trailer rattling along behind.
I took the Skatin off ramp, being Sunday there wasn't much traffic.

In fact I didn't see anyone, even Cedric. I found my order and hand piled it on my poor old converted motorcycle trailer, half flattening the tires. These where the longest cuts, he would have the decking ready for me a week later.

Next time I smartly waited until I knew he was home for sure and we had some fun with his little machine.
I talked him out of all the long bark slabs from the job and he piled that on top of the load of heavy decking, I'll buck that up and sell it to the campers later in the year when it dries.

I off loaded the works back at home. Then re-loaded one almost complete bridge. I picked a week day when I knew there wasn't going to anyone around, backing it skillfully beyond the barriers and down close.
The old 22 foot walkway has served us well all these years.
I had hearing protection on and I fired up my chainsaw, letting it idle while it warmed up. I figured what the hell, I had to take one last picture. I put the Husky down and took the camera from my belt.
And there it is, for everyone whom has had a T'sek experience in the last 15 years. They have all left across that walkway, wearing the cedar decking thin, and have all carried their particular memory of the hot spring with them via this route. I have probably been over it 5000 times myself.
I walked out one last time and looked around, then pushed hard on the hand rail with my boot until it broke loose from the rotten log, then made a pass with the chainsaw the length in both directions and it fell into itself. I brought the winch line from the quad down, then dragged the better part of it out to the day use area in two trips. I went back and fired all the loose broken up old boards out of the way and got to work.
   I certainly know when to pick my days to work down there. It was more of a job than I expected of course to join all the beams together to equal the span across the hot spring outflow creek. I only saw a handful of people the whole time, and poor Andrew showed up just when the heavy lifting came up.
I nailed down the rough cut decking with galvanized nails and cleaned up the area and raked out any evidence of my being there then hurried home to salvage what was left of my nap time.
The far little 22 foot bridge, the bouncy one, is going to be replaced, and be recycled into something else.
I will sure miss bouncing on it every time I cross.
I'll get to it at a later date, or not. I'll have to check my schedule.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Princess ChYk, Monster Slayer.

   Monsters still exist out here in the valley of the Lodge.
Everyone has their own idea of a monster, and I have mine.
They routinely pass by on occasion, under cover of darkness usually, but as a rule give my immediate area a wide birth. In all the years I've been here, I've managed for the most part to coexist with every one the area's various monsters. My scent left behind on my normal every day wanderings over the years and body language have have earned me a territory and a position up near the top in the local hierarchy of critters that use the area. That is, until recently.
   I don't worry about monsters myself so much anymore since I grew up, it is unlikely there are any around out here that would be willing take me on. There have been a few two legged ones down at the campsite over the years whom have thought different, but that's going to have to be a different post.
It is my cats that cause the concern, being a few more notches down the natural food chain than myself.
   In the past few months a particular monster decided to help me with the cat infestation problem he figured I had around here. I may be part cat myself and always picked up on their reaction when letting my babies out. Monsters have a right to make a living too, but they need to stick to their normal prey envelope.
Cats and campers are off the list, and in that order. I would consider a selective cull of campers some weekends, but only if I had a say in the selection process.
   Due to its nature, a monster will let you see it only if it chooses too.
You can go looking for a monster in earnest and never find him,  I know that for a fact.
When at all possible I try to avoid them, but I've looked for a few in my lifetime.
Some monsters were imagined, I hope, like the bastards that lived in my closet when I was a kid.
Some were very real, that I had to deal with out of necessity in remote locations.
One so called 'monster' I spent a part of my life searching for fell somewhere between myth and reality, and in the end, I decided to just wait for one to find me. But that's going to have to be another story too.
There was a monster of more pressing nature.
    The most dangerous to those closest to me are in the same feline form, only many times larger, able to take down prey many times its size. Capable of anything mine are, only quicker, and deadlier. It survives by cunning, and predator stealth.
This particular specimen began to case the yard several months ago from the cover of the wild beyond the yard lights. He began to grow bold, hanging silently around during the day as well. There were a few sightings on the road out behind here by people heading to the hot spring. Those poor Asian folks in the Mitsubishi van were so excited I'm not sure if they will ever be back.
It seemed this demon had decided to challenge the two leg that lives in the log pile next to the creek, letting himself be seen with his new bold, indifferent attitude.
   I had my old motor home rented out for the Easter weekend and wandered out back of the shop to look inside before I took it down to the campsite. As they often do, the cats follow me.  ChYk appeared on my heels and climbed up on the dash inside while I puttered with something at the door. Soon I look up and see she is still up on the dashboard and staring intently at something out the window.
"Whatta ya got there ChYk, a bird, or a chipmunk?" I asked her, which usually would have got a response.
In fact, it surprised my cat inner self that if that were the case, she would have jumped down and gone by me to have a better look from outside. I pressed my tongue against my teeth and made a clicking sound to get her attention. She ignored me.
I curiously took a few backwards steps towards the front of the motor home to see a bird, or hear a squirrel going up a tree. My broken down old tractor was broke down right there and I stopped and listened. Surprisingly, it was dead quiet, strangely so. I looked up at ChYk, whom I could see through the windshield. I did a few little things and noises to get her attention.
She ignored me, and the hair fluffed up on my inner tail.
  Right then, from my left, the other one, the chicken of everything orange cat ChUk, walks calmly out from under the motor home. He meanders casually towards me with out a care in the world, which struck me as odd considering the way ChYk was acting. I looked up at ChYk once more, through the windscreen I can see her tail is fluffed up about three times its normal size, and I went on heightened awareness.
Right then this great friggin' monster explodes from under the tractor and makes several bounds towards ChUk. I reacted on an instant and still the monster was already going by a few paces away.
I lunged and yelled and I saw ChUk react and scoot back underneath the motor home.
Monster landed right where he just was but hesitated going under. I came right in with a boot and it took off like it was going to press the attack on ChUk from the other side of the motor home, it stopped there and spun and stared at me. That may have been the first time it was aware of me at all. I still had a pretty good head of steam going and I let out this huge loud roar of "GO AWAY!!" Monster jumps in the air and scrambles effortlessly to the edge of the clearing, stopping once more to see if I press the attack. Probably not very often in the wild he has been challenged, not like this anyways. After a few minutes of hollering myself hoarse and getting all scratched up thrashing around in the bush trying to get another indication of where he may have gone I decided I had probably scared him enough.
Just like a monster, he has vanished. Bastard.
    I was already pretty puffed out from yelling and my fight with the vine maples but I ran back to the shop for something suitable for monster chasing, returning in minutes to find an even emptier forest. I looked, and looked, and sneaked around and checked every monster hang out spot I knew of. Vanished.
I went back to console a stuttering ChUk, fluffed up several times his normal size.
"Nice to see you again ChUk" I said to him, picking him up and holding him close.
This had got a little personal. I had to get this guy, or he was going to get all my cats. I feared it would be like trying to hunt down a ghost. I spent an hour every day in pursuit of it, to no avail of course.
He would strike or be seen when you least expected it, and if he is that bold when I'm standing right there, what will happen next time when I'm not.
   A week went by. I caught sight of him one afternoon between here and the campsite, I was on the old trail on my quad and I noticed him crouched there as I blasted by and skidding to a near stop burning a donut and came roaring right back at him and skidding up as he disappeared on one bound. He was on this side of the road, between there and the river. I hunted everywhere for it. Vanished once more.
   By chance that afternoon I had burned some grass on the field out front, and had come inside to relax while I started warming up an early dinner. I came from the kitchen area to the desk and computer, where I sit now, checking my mail when I hear a faint scream for help from outside.
I jumped up immediately and hit the door to the front deck, down on the lawn I see the monster has ChYk in his clutches near the base of a tree, she had obviously headed up it and had been hauled back down and was now fighting for her life on the grass. "Daddy!" she cried.
I took off like a rocket across the deck, watching my feet as I ran down the steps so not to trip and I hit the ground running like I've only run a few times before in my life.
I did not yell this time, maybe I was afraid it would get up and run off to the woods with her. I hit the lawn and swung right around the willow tree. I'm conscious of ChYk howling and fighting, but my entire being is focused on the tawny form that has her in his claws, not hesitating to jump right in there, with my bare hands if necessary. I rounded the tree and leaped in the air, and as I was flying silently in slow motion through the air, I was thinking my own weight will not be enough with such a formidable monster, when I land,  I will have to stomp on it as hard as I can. I came down hard with both feet on its ribs and stomped with all my weight, flattening it out and knocking the wind out of it. I was off balance when I landed and  slipped off its ribs and my feet went out from under me,  I fell  backwards, landing on top of the monster with another thump and grabbed on as ChYk wriggled free. I saw a grey form shoot from the scene and that was a good sign she could leave so quickly. When I ran out here I hadn't really had a good plan once I got here, other than to retrieve my cat, that done, I was trying to scramble off the damn thing backwards without leaving my privates too exposed when monster, getting his breath back, decided he had enough too, standing up and bucking me off on my back. It stood there as if to say "WTF?", and gave me a loud hiss as I scrambled to get back on my feet, kicking at it, hissing back, and baring my teeth like some deranged wildman. I was pissed. To his credit, and great restraint, he made no attempt to rip me to friggin ribbons.
It wasn't quite sure what the hell to think about me, but no one wants to fight a crazy man. Monster and I squared off in the orchard. It finally occurred to me, I had a firearm in the shop.
"Sit, stay," I said, pointing my finger at it, "Don't go away".
He showed little fear, walking with me towards the shop.
I came out the door set for action. Again, in what was only seconds, it has vanished.
I checked all around the shop, and thought he must have hit the bush. I stood in one spot, where I could cover the most bases and stood perfectly still. I was thinking I was wasting my time and he had split for the hills to come and strike another day. It was then, I saw a slight movement under the shop, in a place that I always considered a safe spot for my cats, that no monster could fit under. I knelt down and tried to adjust my eyes to the darkness. I clicked my tongue in my cheek to get it to look at me and drew a bead between the eyes. He didn't feel a thing, but I gave him another to make sure. I was going to have to go under there to haul it out so I gave it another just to make damn sure it didn't come to as I was tugging on it.
I hauled it up into the back of my pickup with a thump, and took it away.
It broke my heart to have to destroy such a beautiful creature, but life is like that sometimes. "I told you to go away", I said to it later.
    I got a terrified ChYk out from under the house an hour later, a little chewed up and poked all full of holes. She got a fever from the infection and it didn't look good there for awhile and thought she might have a broken leg, but after a $600 trip to the vet in Whistler for stitches and some expensive pills,  two weeks later, she is just about back to normal.
 Princess ChYk, she fought the monster, and lived to tell about it.