Small Frye episodes - Small Frye’s Big Adventure: Part Seven

Leonard Lea Frazer
“The marmot called out with a sharp sound, not unlike the whistle of a small locomotive.”
“The marmot called out with a sharp sound, not unlike the whistle of a small locomotive.”

Camp chores, Burnt hotcakes, We get in our Winter’s Meat, Preparing to go on our big trip through the mountain range to Bella Coola, Camping on the trail, The Marmot telegraph system, The forbidden cliffs and Mountain Goats.

We now had to enlarge the cabin a bit, to accommodate Mom, but this did not take us very long. Within a week the extension was up and even had windows and a door that led right into the main living room. We had rescued all of Mom's stuff that we had under the canvas and most of it was alright. However, she had lost her house in the flood and a lot of valuable articles. She never complained at all.

One day I awoke, made breakfast and gave Mom and Violet their coffee in bed. I brought my cup in and, sitting on the bed, I smiled at Violet and said, "How would you like to go hunting today? You know, I'm getting tired of that old canned meat from last winter and we don't have too much left."

Sipping her coffee she smiled at me in that provocative way that always set me off. Then yawning, she set her coffee down and slipping her arms around my neck she spoke, "Gosh Mike, I was hoping we could finish what we started yesterday." The glorious smell of her hair nearly drove me crazy as it hung down over my face. "But, I guess you are right. We can leave that for another day and today would be a grand day to climb that hill."

Jumping out of bed, she drew on a bathrobe and stood with her hair flowing like silk down her back. The truth is, hunting deer was no longer on my mind!

Mom was in the kitchen and had saved the hot cakes from burning to a crisp. As we got there she said, "I just don't know what to think of you two kids. You cook a good breakfast and then you let it burn."

"Well Mom," I said, as I speared a hot cake that was not too badly burned, "You know that you can't live on bread alone."

"Yes," she said with a wiry smile, "I was young myself once, so I understand, but get at them hot cakes and get out of here and get us a deer."

"Right-o Mom," I said gulping the last eatable hot cake, "We are on our way. Come on Violet, let's get at it."

By the time I had my clothes on and the rifle ready, she was all dressed and ready to go. Shouldering her rifle, she smiled at me. "God pity the poor deer today, but we need him for our winter’s meat.”

The weather was glorious as we climbed the hill but at the tip of the first bench we saw no sign of deer at all - just the odd bear track. I knew of a place to the left of the bench where we had seen plenty of tracks last time we were up so we softly made our way along through the pines and low brush.

I knew we would soon be coming to an open meadow. If there were any deer, they would be there. We went slowly but not as quiet as we should. As we were coming within sight of the meadow, I saw a big buck run off into the brush. Though I swung my rifle around toward him, I was not fast enough, and the last I saw of him he was tearing through the thick forest and going downhill as though the devil were after him. I thought that was the last time I would get to see him, but knowing an old trick of the deer family, I stood stock still and so did Violet. She was wise to this too. Nine times out of ten a deer will tear off like that and then come sneaking back on his trail and sure enough he did. We were both ready for him and he no more than stuck his head out of the brush to get a good look at us than he had two slugs in him and he was our meat. He dropped right there.

"Darn it Mike," Violet said, "now our hunt is over and we have to skin and clean him. I had hoped we would have a bit of time for other things."

"Well, we have all winter ahead of us, I hope," I smiled as we started to skin the deer. He was a beautiful animal and just loaded with fat and exactly what we wanted. We had to make two trips to get all the meat home that night and this made it a full day for us. After a lovely supper of fresh liver, bacon and onions and a large helping of fresh huckleberries with whip cream, we were both feeling very good.

After supper, as usual, Mom took off for a bit of sleep while Violet and I sat back in our big lounge chair we had made and watched the fire in the fireplace and thought of what a bountiful day it had been.

I am quite sure that no three people ever spent a more enjoyable winter than us. We had everything we needed to eat, plenty of wood and we had dug a small ditch from a stream coming out of the hill near out camp so that the water ran right by our door so we had only to go outside the cabin and get our water. All in all, it was a perfect winter.

When we thought we would get cabin fever, we took off up the hill and explored the country as far as we could in a day and returned back to the cabin.

On bright moonlight nights, we would spend our time just walking up and down the shore of the river. Here, quite often we could see coyotes and the odd deer as they strayed along the shore in the moonlight.

The snow receded fast and one bright spring morning we awoke and decided that this would be the long anticipated day. As most of our outfit had been packed we were ready and raring to go.

Having left Mom with enough food and wood for two months or more, we shouldered our packs and took off down the railway tracks to Usk where we had to cross the Skeena on the ferry. Taking one last look at the settlement, we headed up the hill along a ridge or hogback. This extended for nearly a mile at a fair grade, then, the ground became steeper. When we were out of the devil’s club, we felt a grand relief.

As we climbed, the timber became less and less and by noon we were in timberline balsam. Now the spring flowers became so thick that their perfume near drove us crazy with ecstasy. They were so overpowering that we had to stop and inhale the fragrance and, for the rest of that day, we didn’t make much distance and any excuse to stop was welcomed.

The first nice camping site we saw we settled in for the night. It was a lovely camp - a huge boulder with an overhang that would cover us from any rain, and there was plenty of room to build a fire, just outside, facing the valley below.

From our camp we could see our cabin at the Lorne Creek with the binoculars and, as I was making supper, Violet viewed her mother's fire and said she could see her as she came out for water.

We stayed in our sleeping bags the next morning till the sun came up high enough to warm us. I then bounded out and made hot cakes, fried eggs and a few slices of bacon and made Violet stay put till I had the coffee bubbling. I then took her a cup. She had her first coffee, on the trip, in bed. "Now honey, I don't want to make this a habit," I told her as I also gave her breakfast. She smiled at me, "But Mike," she said, as she chewed on the hot cakes, "you know this makes me feel like a Queen."

"Well, you are my Queen," I said as I tied into my breakfast.

The weatherman seemed to be with us as there was not a cloud in the sky. We climbed for nearly two hours before we came to a high meadow sloping off to the southeast. This was where we started to head east, keeping as close to the timberline as we could. Our intentions were to keep this high as long as we could. Here we would not have to fight downed timber, thick brush and devil’s club. And, if at all lucky, we could travel through alpine meadows a lot of the way. We could enjoy the lovely terrain, and at that time of year, the timberline flowers were in bloom and everything was getting green. In other words, it was heavenly. We watched mountain goats climbing around the rocks in the high cliffs and often a deer would bound out of the low timber and prance across an open meadow and then disappear again in the woods nearby.

All day long as we travelled we were serenaded by the whistle of a big hairy marmot, the kind that inhabits high cliffs and rocky ridges. It called out with a very sharp sound, not unlike a whistle from a small locomotive. If we did not expect him, his sharp piercing whistle would sometimes startle us.

The marmot is often called the watchdog of the mountains as he is always on the alert and his piercing whistle will warn of coming dangers to all the residents of the surrounding country. When one lets out that whistle, another one, perhaps half a mile away, will do the same. They set up a sort of telegraph system for many miles in each direction.

Violet was in her heaven as she romped among the sweet smelling flowers and the terrain was nice all that day. Not too much climbing at all. We stayed just below the high cliffs and at the upper edge of all the alpine meadows. Once or twice we had to go down into a swale and climb out the other side but nothing to make it hard going. Just before noon, we came to a gorgeous spot to make a campfire and have dinner. It was at the edge of a most magnificent little meadow and a lovely cool spring ran down along the edge of it coming right out of the ground. The water was ice cold. Here we soon built a small campfire and I made bannock while Violet cooked a grouse she had caught with a snare on the way that morning. With a hot pot of tea, fresh bannock and that grouse fried in butter, I'll tell you, we had a meal fit for a king!

We were so entranced by the scenery that we were in no hurry to get going again. It was well passed two o'clock before we reluctantly swung our packs on and continued on our way.

All that day we were too far back from the main valley so did not get a glimpse of it.  At odd times we could see smog from some town near the coast and decided to swing farther back to the east. We knew this might bring us into rugged mountains and valleys. But, if we were careful, we could miss some of them. We tried our best to keep good track of where we were travelling and found that, in order to swing back, we would have to climb a steep summit and work our way through some perilous glaciers.

This, we soon found, was easier said than done but we kept watch for a pass through the rugged cliffs above us. It was well past five before we were able to make our way through the high range. The cliffs surrounding the pass looked foreboding and damn dangerous, steep and rugged with only a chimney to work our way through. If we did make it up to the pass summit, we could make it through and down the other side.

It was then too late to start this adventure so we found a most welcome camp at the edge of some tall timberline balsam and a small stream. I set about making camp while Violet took off after some Ptarmigan that flew up. She had seen them settle about 500 feet from where I was making camp. She was not long when I saw her coming back with two of them in her hands. Our beautiful camp stood facing the high cliffs where we could watch mountain sheep cavorting around the cliffs and, further up, we could see a band of mountain goats.

After a most tantalizing meal, we set back and viewed the beautiful scenery, inhaled the fragrance of the wild flowers and enjoyed a soft wind gently flowing in from the high cliffs. 

To be continued . . .

From  March 8 & 15, 1978 - Robson Valley Courier