Friday, February 24, 2017

Passing On The Skills

My daughter Caitlin has come out to spend some time with her old Dad at the hotspring, it has been 12 years since she was here last, almost a lifetime for her, and I've been beside myself showing her around and giving her a taste of life out here in the wilds. We had a good frost last night making a firm crust on the snow and figured today might be a good one to take her up and pass on some skills on how to survive in the mountains. 
   We hopped on the quad and charged up the mountain, stopping at the intake-pond to replace the screen that was washed-out in the storm last week.
"This is where I've been disappearing to when the power goes off at night." I told her.
I also told her of when she was very young, before the road up here was constructed, and during problems with the intake I often brought her up with me strapped to my back, straight up the mountainside.
I don't think I could do that anymore.

We continued up to a higher level at a look-out over the valley.
The first wilderness survival lesson was to remember to bring your axe along with you, rather than leaving it sitting back home outside the shop door.
Certainly that axe would have made life easier alright, but I managed to round-up enough more or less dry wood, piled it up on top of the snow and poked the lighter in there.

A one lighter fire, and after much blowing, a burnt mustache and a few lung-fulls of smoke we had a survival fire going, and it was time to forage around for a mountain lunch.

   Luckily we didn't have to forage any further than the trunk of the quad. I had forgotten my knife back home with the axe, but using the ignition key I managed to hack my way into the pack of mountain survival food. Roasting-sticks were located close by sticking out of the snow, broke off by hand and used un-sharpened. The knife would have come in handy for this also I reminded her.
   Well, not quite living off the land, but I thought it was a wonderful way to spend a winter's afternoon with your favorite person, and found time when we got back for a full-throttle thrill-ride down the airstrip on the rocket-sled, where the survival lesson here is to 'Hold On Tight'!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Messin' With The Guests...

    There's been several outfits come and stay out in the guest cabin recently, and out here in the middle of Winter with no TV you need to come up with your own entertainment sometimes, or maybe small things amuse small minds.
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...

   I don't know if I fooled anyone, or if anybody even noticed, but if they did they never said anything. I thought it odd that one outfit went home a day early though.

Groundhog Day, and Diggin' Out The Girls

   We survived the series of Mango Monsoons that rolled through here a few weeks back, then it colded-up all over again. This has been a real Winter this year and was looking forward to it breaking it's back and some milder temperatures prevailing.
   Centuries ago, in what is now Germany, folks got the strange belief that a badger could predict the weather, and planted their crops based on a rodent's reaction to a crowd of spear-carrying people standing there looking at him. According to folklore, if he sees his shadow on February 2 it will return to it's burrow for another 6 weeks, but if he doesn't Spring is on the way. The mindless custom was brought to North America and made more ridiculous by groundhogs with such names a Wairton Willy, Shudenacade Sam, Brandon Bob and others.
   No stranger to the mindless or ridiculous, I remembered the groundhog burrow that was not far from here, and seeing it was February 2, I thought it might be worthwhile to sneak over there and see if he might appear. So I took the quad over on the crust and parked myself there on the snow awaiting the appearance of our local forecasting groundhog, or whatever he is, 420 Larry.

   I was about to give up, thinking I had made the mistake of staking-out the bear den by mistake again, when suddenly the crust crumbled from beneath. Snow began to fly out in all directions, the activity coming to a halt for brief periods when a puff of smoke would rise up, and I thought I could hear some muffled ACDC playing down there somewhere.

Patience payed off again, capturing 420 Larry's emergence from his burrow.
Well I was as surprised as you are probably. Keeping in mind 420 Larry's track record of mis-forecasts, and the fact that if he had only turned around he would have seen his shadow, according to lore and Larry, Spring was just around the corner.
  But he didn't mention the horrendous dump of snow a week later. A thick white cloud descended on the valley few nights ago, dropping a couple feet of the lovely white pain-in-the-ass. Naturally all this snow falling in the creek up the mountain clogged up my intake and the power went off at 4 am. and I reluctantly got out of bed and slugged my way through the deep snow over to the pelton-wheel. It was obvious the screens up the mountain were clogged with slush so all I could do was turn off the main valve and let them soak in that mountain slushie up there at the intake-pond and see if it will loosen up enough to flow enough water to crank up the electricity the next morning. At least I hoped that would happen, I didn't relish the though of digging my up the mountain to service the intake-screen.

    I spent several hours the next day digging a tunnel from the house out to the shop and over to the wood-shed, and it was snowing so hard I could have used a shovel sticking out of both ends. The snow let off, and I dug my way back over to the pelton-wheel and turned on the main valve, the screen had shed enough slush in 4 hours that the generator fired right up. I turned my attention to the next priority, that being digging myself out of here, not that I had to go anywhere, but there was going to be a hell of a mess around if I didn't. 
   My poor old Tractor and main plowing machine has been in a bad state through all this cold weather we had. I keep a block-heater plugged in but failed to realize at some point it had gone on the fritz and not doing it's thing. So the tractor had frost coming off the engine block and it hadn't been above freezing for I don't know how long. I was hoping not to spend money on a new block-heater this time of year, if I can get this far along in the year starting the tractor is usually not a problem as any major snowfalls should be done with.  But I had a big problem now.
   Out of desperation I had put a heat-lamp underneath the oil pan in anticipation of the storm, but there was no way the old bugger would crank fast enough to catch.

 Within hours of the snow abating, it started to rain and by morning put an inch crust on the 2 feet of snow with water collecting in large puddles on the surface. 

   I went out this morning and dug a trench over to the tractor, fully prepared to drain the oil out and bring it in and heat it up on the wood-stove, and the froze-up old bugger didn't look encouraging as far as it cranking-up anytime soon. I hooked up the jumper cables from my pickup that was conveniently stuck right next to it, and thought I'd just give it a quick try, and to my surprise fired right up and settled down to a nice idle.
The heat-lamp and a day of above freezing had done the trick.

I got the yard and driveway passable, but it was about all the old machine could do to push the deep heavy wet snow.
The driveway taken care of for the time being, I moved on to the next pressing issue.
   The day previous, there had been a surprise knock at the door, a couple of gals had arrived for a night of camping at the hot spring, only to wake up in the morning with their vehicle buried under a couple feet of snow. Later that day, after what must have been a godawful slug through knee-high drifts they arrived on the door-step here inquiring when they should expect the grader to come and plow around the campsite, followed soon after by the sanding truck no doubt. 
I pointed at the 'grader', told them I had a light-bulb underneath, and with a little luck and some warmer weather there was a pretty good chance of me getting it going someday. 
The girls looked forlornly at the half-buried, frost-bitten, frozen old heap in the driveway, and must have thought they were going to be marooned for weeks, if not months.
Were them two marooned girls ever going to be glad to see me, and a good opportunity for a selfie.

Saved at last.
I broke a rough trail in there and got them out of their current situation, which was high-centered in a hole with all four wheels spinning, and back-bladed all the way out to the main road. Sorry ladies, your names went in one ear and out the other in all the excitement, I don't get out much, but from California by the plate and enrolled at Quest University in Squamish I beleive.

This is my favorite part about rescues.
Once the arms go around it always takes me a long time to take the selfies...
"Always take two!" I say.
"That one might have been blurry, we better take another."
"I think I closed my eyes that time... we better do that again."
"Let's try a few with me in the middle!" I suggested hopefully.
"Umm, we had better be getting along now." they finally told me.

   The formerly stranded pair hit the main road towards civilization, I told them they would probably run into a slide a ways down the road but that a real grader would be along sometime later that day to open it up, and off they went, and will probably never forget the time they went for an evening's camp at a hot spring in Canada.