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

Closed Black­dome

Em­pire views

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