5 DAYS IN A MOG: PART 2
THE LEGEND OF CHILCO CHOATES
I had been given an offer I couldn’t resist, five days riding shotgun in a Unimog (known as “Heavy”) on the “Tribe’s” annual man camp. The idea behind the trip was simple; follow up on an idea I’d gained from reading Chilco Choate’s Unfriendly
Neighbours. We planned five days of trails, which would include Kookapi, the West side of the Fraser Canyon, Churn Protected area, Gang Ranch (hopefully finding the legendary Chilco Choate), Poison and Mud Lakes, then the highline road out of Seton Portage and home via West Harrison. The second part of our story begins on day three in the Churn Creek Protected Area. We awoke and headed down the Empire Road to further explore the Gang Ranch Lands. Those of us in Heavy had an alternate goal which was to get as close as possible to the peak of Black Dome Mountain. Travelling up the quickly increasing elevation lines, the vistas opened before us, awash in the strokes of every imaginable hue of gold. As much as I enjoyed the 360-degree views at the top of BC’s mountain ranges, there is a unique beauty found in the Chilcotin that seems almost surreal, like an artist sketching them on a canvas. We unfortunately ran into a gate and had to turn back, and although it was a disappointment not to make it to the peak, we were grateful to make it as far as we did.
On the way back along the winding road we found a variety of very well taken care of hunting sites. Like most areas frequented by true backwoods men, traces of the human element were hard to find; except a poor lost fork that needed to be rescued and given a new home.
We re-joined the Tribe in an area that seemed as devoid of life as frozen tundra, but when you take a deeper look, you will see it is teeming with life, from butterflies and crickets to the numerous larger wildlife that frequent the area. This was made even more obvious by the beautiful two year-old bear tumbling down the hill after darting across in front of us.
As Heavy isn’t the fastest vehicle, we spent the majority of the trip watching the dust settle in front of us, relaying road choices on the VHF. We travelled past the remainder of the Gang Ranch structures, including several very picturesque rustic cabins. Hitting the main road, we parked at Dead Man’s lean-to for lunch; a sight obviously used and loved by hunters. The welcome mat hanging on the well-worn frame did its job, and you could feel the warm memories and comradeship radiating from the shelter. I wandered around the area for a bit as everyone ate, pausing at a memorial for someone whose ashes had been spread here.
We continued west on the old abandoned trail alongside the marsh, passing the ancient remnants of the implements that had worked the land over the years. We came across the reservoir at the dammed end of