RIGGING SHACK "CLASSIC"
(This column originally appeared in the August 1973 edition of Loggers World.)
As I write this I'm sitting by the edge of Dragon Lake in British Columbia about 85 miles generally north of Terrace. The day is uncertain windy and sometimes warm sometimes cool. If it isn't windy then the no-see-ums, mosquitoes and black flies pay us a dedicated visit.
But in spite of all that, or because of it, most comfortable and enjoyable. I have with me my wife, her poodle dog (Mitzi) and my mixed breed but mostly Lab, Patty. We have a small camper, more of a canopy really, and an eight by ten tent. Have two outside tables and an outside campfire for getting warm and doing the cooking. Since our arrival, one week ago this evening, the weather has been of all kinds with a couple of days of hard rain.
We also have a small boat (glass) and a 9 1/2 horse kicker, plus lots of fishing tackle. Arrived here with four reels and now have two operating, one spinning reel and one fly rod reel. Fishing hasn't been great but good enough for all we want to eat and then some.
Dragon Lake covers maybe 100 acres of ground and is surrounded by woods and farther back a ring of snow topped mountains-some with glaciers.
Since we have been here have spent time clearing more camp ground, cutting lots of wood, some fishing and in the company of Budge Crick traveling by pick-up, several different kinds of boats and am now awaiting the arrival of a sea plane. If I'm lucky will get a ride up and down the Nass River in this plane. Depends upon how many people come out with it. Should be here within the hour and then I'll know.
At least once each year like to take a good trip and look at logging and related things a long ways from our backyard. Last February Budge Crick stopped in at our office to say hello during his holidays. He introduced himself and told of his work driving logs down the Nass River. Asked if later in the year we could come up and watch this operation. His invitation was answered quickly and sincerely.
On the trip north our first check point was Prince George, B.C. which is about 500 miles north of where we cross the U.S.-Canadian border at Sumas, Washington. Our traveling outfit consisted of the Ford pick-up carrying the small camper and pulling a two wheel trailer. Took with us lots of hardware, toys and tools for good outdoor living. One of the handiest of toys and tools was the little chain saw.
Had been to Prince George about six times so that part of the trip was enjoyable but somewhat familiar. One day we traveled about three hundred and fifty miles west to Terrace. Terrace is a fair sized booming city located about one hundred miles east of Prince Rupert and the Salt Water. We stayed the night in Terrace. Next morning we got some last minute items and set sail over the private logging road of Columbia Cellulose. Seventy one miles north of Terrace we came to the Nass Camp and checked in to contact Budge Crick.
It rained all the way. Rain and low clouds prevented us from seeing as much of the country as we'd of liked to. For the driver there wasn't that much chance for gawking. We were constantly meeting logging trucks-huge off-highway rigs with giant loads of long long logs. Most of the logs, or at least many of them, were tree length and loaded butts ahead. Most of the road was very good but some was sort of hairy. Total trip took us about three hours of slow but steady driving.
After finding that Budge was out and about his normal business we traveled about four miles up more logging road to Dragon Lake and set up camp, in the rain. Columbia Cellulose furnished the campgrounds. Excellent place, rain or no.
That evening back to Nass Camp to meet Budge and his wife Mickey. Hospitable people that they are, they wanted us to stay with them, and felt bad that we were subject to the elements and the bugs. Budge said that of all the country he has been in the bugs were worse here than anyplace else. Don't know but what he is right. We gratefully declined their invitation to stay because we had been planning and looking forward to this camping trip for a long long time and were determined to spend it as planned, in spite of bugs and rain. The rains declined but the bugs never did. However, they weren't really much of a problem because we had sprays and rub on lotions that discouraged the weaker and more timid of them.
First day after arriving, I took the day off to catch up on sleep, to finish the camp and to do some fishing. Enjoyed it.
Next day Budge came along and we went on a long look-see trip up the river. They weren't dumping logs in the river because it came up over the ten foot mark due to rain and melting snows. While most of the country got less than their normal share of snow last winter, this area got more than normal.
Excuse me while I go put more bug dope on.
This is a big big country that is booming and will grow and attract more people and industry for many years. Lots of logging going on and the travel on the roads attest to its attraction as a recreation area. Tourist traffic is supposed to be off the roads during working hours, although this rule is constantly broken. They are welcome after working hours and over the weekend and hundreds of assorted vehicles and people take advantage of this hospitality extended by Columbia Cellulose.
Lots of logging is done by Colcel and lots of it is done by logging contractors working for Colcel. Have no idea of the amounts or the operations, but the log truck traffic is heavy and most roads are used by the big off-highway trucks. Some of the logs go clear thru to Terrace and others are put in the river. Most of the logs in the river drive are pulp logs. They are sent down river where they are bundled and rafted for the 90 mile tow to the big pulp mill at Prince Rupert.
No logs were dumped in the river on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. They started putting hot logs on Monday but not putting in any decked logs. This all due to high water.
During the following days spent most of my time on the river with Budge and his crews. Interesting and very informative watching the way they handle the logs and their boats and machinery.
Budge is a good man to travel with. There are about a half a dozen different logging camps up and down this river. Budge knows every cook and cookhouse. Three of the camps, Iceberg Bay, Kseaden and Nass, belong to Colcel. The rest of them belong to other logging operators who contract for them.
While I'm banging around, my wife is back at camp doing the chores and spending most of her time working on the work that she brought from headquarters. Although the work goes on, it is in a relaxing mood and atmosphere. Last Sunday we loaded up the Ford and drove a hundred miles exploring, looking and wondering. Fine country. Glad we could come and enjoy it. Hope that you can one day!
LATER (by a couple of days):
My adventure goes on. After I finished the upper paragraph the wind came up right brisk and the airplane came for the trip. Fine airplane-a De Havilland Beaver belonging to Trans-Provincial of Prince Rupert and expertly piloted by Larry Veith. Five people in the plane, (it holds six), we flew out of Dragon Lake and fifty miles up the Nass river. I was toward the rear and shooting pictures like mad. The air was bumpy and the view was all side window looking. All at once it came to me that I was feeling a bit ill. I wasn't stopped by this-kept taking pictures. Iller and iller I became until finally I laid the cameras aside and looked forward, concentrating on feeling better. Down the river to Iceberg Bay, circled the camp there and back up fifty miles and finished the flight by landing in Dragon Lake. I was one glad bird to finish flying and get nailed to the ground again.
Found later that my feeling bad made the rest of the people on the flight feel good. So it was of some benefit.
Viewing the river from the air brought home the fact that these "river people" know their jobs, and their river. Miles and miles of fin booms. Now this plane trip wasn't just for fun. The purpose was for Budge Crick, Everett Crick and Peter Clayton to see the river full length from each side. They could see what had been done, how it worked and what needed doing. In spite of the attendant nausea no one enjoyed the flight more, or looked harder, than I did.
Loggers are loggers because by golly they are loggers. It doesn't matter where or how, if they are in the business of getting out logs they share many things.
Finished most of the information and pictures needed for the River Drive part of Loggers World and then spent a day visiting and watching the people that man the log dumps. Watched them dump trucks and put logs into the water. (From Iceberg Bay to Monkley is about 12 miles. From Iceberg Bay to Van Dyke is about a hundred miles. Monkley is the first log dump upstream of Iceberg Bay. Van Dyke is the last one. In between these two is maybe a dozen places for dumping logs, not all of them in operation at the present time.) There are some big piles of logs sitting on the Nass river bank waiting to be put into the river. These will be fed in gradually as the crews can get around to doing it. All the hot logs are put into the river.
The river drive must have a flow of logs that can be handled by the booming and rafting crews. No use floating a lot more logs than they can handle. As it is, the booming crew can make four bundles at one time with their bundling machines. These bundles are fit into booms and then are towed to the big pulp mill at Prince Rupert.
Jack Kester is in charge of Iceberg Camp and all of the booming and rafting activities. The first night we got into this country Jack had a bunkhouse catch fire and burn up. This meant about forty men had no beds. Understand they were flown back and forth until a new bunkhouse could be moved in for them. Also heard that this bunkhouse was the second one to burn, and on the same location. The third bunkhouse will be put in a different location.
Those people who think the days of logging camps are gone, ought to visit the Nass River. At the mouth of the Nass, in Iceberg Bay, is a logging camp. Across the river and upriver is the Portier Logging Company Camp. Farther upstream is the Skoglund Logging Company Camp. Then next, on the south side of the Nass, is a camp for Tower Logging Company. Farther upstream, and all on the south side, is the Twin Rivers Kseaden Camp and next is the big main Nass Camp. About 25 miles upstream from the Nass Camp is one for Williamson Logging Co. Another ten miles and you come to one for a construction company. Go upstream another 25-30 miles and you come to the camp owned and operated by Hal Timber Limited. Even then I don't think that's all of them. Just all of them I know about.