Small Frye’s Big Adventure: Part Ten

Violet Cruse, Mike Frye’s first wife.
Violet Cruse, Mike Frye’s first wife.

Stories by Mike Frye - edited by Leonard Lea Frazer

We cross the mountains, head for the deep woods and we get lost and how, we find another paradise, The End of the Trail, and What an Ending! 

Introduction: We enjoyed our trip across the mountain range as no two people could have. Through the entire trip, we both had been so very happy, and enjoyed the good with the bad, the rain with the sunshine and had been so gloriously thrilled with each others’ company, so divinely happy that we had no idea of anything occurring that could upset our destiny. However, there seems to always be an ending along the line to everything.  Well, so much for that. On with the story, and this part is going to be hard to write, but write it I shall.

We had a fair camp at Alkali Lake and were rather reluctant to leave it, but had to get on with our trip. Both of us knew of a small lake not too far out of Little Fort that was loaded with a good sized fish and also near this shore, was what our entire trip was made for. An abandoned gold mine was supposed to be close to the lake. We had heard about this and were anxious to try and find it and stake some claims on it, also to get a lease on the lake itself. It was supposed to be a very beautiful lake in a marvellous setting, and this was what both of us wanted, a place to ourselves, where we could prospect and fish the rest of our lives in solitude. Of course, we planned to take Violet’s mother with us.

So, we headed out for our proposed destination. Lakeview or bust. From Alkali Lake to Lakeview should have only taken us around ten or twelve days, but on crossing the old caribou highway at Sheridan Lake we were treated to so much lovely country and such good fishing in all the lakes and streams that we just took our time and took in every second we could, eating fresh fish, wild fruit and greens. So, with all these diversions it took us well over fifteen days travelling along the old cattle trail to get there, but when we did arrive on the west end we found it to be everything we had looked forward to and then some.

As we broke out into the opening of the lake shore, a lone loon greeted us with his raucous call and told us that this lake was his. We were so thrilled by the sight of this jewel of a lake that all we could do was to throw our packs down and sit on the grass lined shore and watch the fish as they broke the surface of the lake and dropped back into the azure blue water.

Violet was the one that spotted a building on the far end. She was overjoyed. "How about that, Mike," she spoke in a soft voice. "We have a cabin all built, hope it is liveable.” I looked up the lake and soon spotted what seemed to be a fair sized building, not far from the shoreline. Now, this got us excited and so we headed out for the other end of the lake, being only half a mile long. We were not very long getting to the building, and were enthused with what we saw. It proved to be a huge mining camp, two buildings for that matter, with a built-in shed hooked in between. This made a lovely place to pile wood or store stuff.

Violet was into the cookhouse at once and gave a scream of delight. The big cook house was complete with a monster of a big cook stove, with shelves and cupboards all along one end, a big cook table and a table about fourteen feet long made out of planed lumber, evidently packed in on horses, as we could see no sign of a road of any sort.

The buildings were as clean as the day they had left it, no sign of packrats, no porcupines at all, only a damp smell from being closed for so long. We opened all the doors and windows, and danced around the floor like a couple of kids gone wild. Clean planed lumber floor, Oh Boy! Violet was over enthused about the big stove and huge oven, and all the cupboard space, and a big rocking chair in the middle of the room. It must have been made for Violet’s Mom.

Violet sat in the rocker and leaned back, looking out the door. Right in front she could watch the full length of the lake. She looked at me with a smile. "You know, Mike, this place must have been built for you and me. We could raise a whole family of little Frye’s here and feed them on fish and potatoes, and once in a while, the odd feed of blueberries or huckleberries, what do you think? I'm sure I could live here the rest of my life.” (And today, those words come back to me and haunt me. Oh, if only she could have! But what is to be, shall be.)

To celebrate the grand occasion, I went out and picked a big feed of False Solomon Seal and Violet got us a wonderful feast of fresh huckleberries and a lovely frying pan full of fish. With a full stomach and a happy feeling we unfolded our beds and went down to the shore of the lake and just lolled there listening to the sound of birds trying to do their best to serenade us as the sun set behind golden clouds. We sat there till a loon gave us a cry of alarm, as if to tell us to hit the hay for the night, then we very slowly strolled back to our beds and lit a candle until way after dark, then got up and washed the dishes, and in bed we dreamed of the wonderful life we could have here in this lovely spot made for us two.

We had bunks made out of small poles and loaded with wild hay. This made very comfortable sleeping quarters, and we put in a good night, and awoke to a bright morning, with the birds singing and fish jumping all over the lake. After a hurried breakfast we went looking for the prospect, and had gone no more than a hundred feet from the cabin, when I saw the outcropping of ore, and a big open pit dug some years back. We were now really excited and down in the pit we found all sorts of different coloured rocks.

It was not hard to follow the main lead, as they had dug holes all along it. We at once got our axes and staked three claims, one for me, one for Violet and one for her mother, and by then we were ready to try the lake for fish, and, Oh man, that was the best fishing I had ever seen!

We could only fish from the shore, but all you had to do was throw in any sort of black fly, with a bit of red on it, and you were onto a large Kamloops trout. Every cast was a fish, so in no time at all, we had all we needed. We cleaned them and hung the fish in the lake near the camp, and took off exploring our new domain.

We found the stream that ran out of the lake and we followed it. There were fish all the way. That stream ran on into another beautiful lake and it was also full of fish. What a place to live!

The country was loaded with huckleberries, raspberr-ies and Saskatoons, and lots of wild game, deer, bear, moose, partridges and ducks; another perfect “Garden of Eden” for Violet and I.

We swam in the lake, picked berries and ate them till we were so full that we could eat no more, and one morning a small deer came trotting along the trail, just asking us to eat him, and we thought of how nice he would taste, but knew we were near ready to take off for Usk, and could not pack any meat with us, so let him go. But, we did eat plenty of partridges and ducks and fish.

According to our map, we were within a day’s walk of Little Fort on the C.N.R. So at last, as much as we liked it at the lake, we both were in a hurry to get the claims recorded, a lease on the lake and to let Violet's mother know we were alive and so far successful.  We took off down the trail on the last leg of our long journey, and we made it to the Railway in time for me to catch the train down to Kamloops, to record the lake and mining property. I got a room at a friend of mine at Little Fort for Violet to stay overnight.

The train she was to catch to go back to Usk would get in at eight in the morning. She had planned to go back and start to pack up our stuff and get her mother talked into going back to the lake with us, while I would go to Kamloops, record the property then catch another train back and help her pack in Usk.

I could not get the property recorded that night, so I had to stay over one day at a Kamloops’ hotel, and I was eating my late dinner when I was paged in the hall and asked to come to the desk.

I did and there was a telegram waiting for me, from one of the trainmen. I opened it and when I read it, I went berserk. The train Violet had taken had smashed into another one head on, and everyone was killed. No one lived! I took off for the C.N. station at Kamloops at once and got there as a caboose hop was taking off for the wreck. When we arrived at the site we found fire and smashed cars all the way up and down the railway, and I went crazy trying to find Violet. Her body had been burnt beyond all recognition, and I could find no sign of her at all. I was in a trance for many days after that, but did manage to send a message to Violet’s mother, telling her of the disaster, and saying I'd be back again.

I really went wild then, drank till I near died. I was so drunk that I did not know what nor where I was and nearly died. A friend of mine smartened me up and near beat me to death before I calmed down. I took off for the North and hired on with Canadian Bectel of Calgary. I took a job locating a pipeline route through the Rocky Mountains (Trans Mountain Pipeline) and lived a life of hell for some time. 

But, that’s another story. 

From April 26 & May 3, 1978 – Robson Valley Courier