Those Golden July Days

There are memories in life that are golden. The memories that you never forget, no matter how long or fleeting they may be. I’m fortunate to have plenty of these golden moments. When I stop and let my mind drift away to happy days of the past, I’m flooded with them. It could be that I’m generally an optimistic person, seeing the beauty in a situation, or the positives in a possibly negative situation, but I’ve had some really great times and adventures in life.
This past summer, I was fortunate enough to be part of some really memorable fun in my area. My friend Julie has a friend, Scott, an electrician, who was in the area working for a couple of years. His job had come to an end and he was soon leaving. He had a few weeks of free time in town before heading out in his jeep for a road trip across Canada & the US to his home in eastern Canada.
Scott hadn’t had much time to explore northern BC during his time here, so Julie made it her mission to show him the best parts of our local northwest before he left. The adventures that follow included Julie, Scott, Julie’s dog Kitsci, myself and joining later, Scott’s buddy Grayden, who would accompany him on his cross country trip. This is the first instalment of a bunch of adventures that we had over the next few weeks. 

Julie had talked to me about Scott, but I’d never had the opportunity to meet him because he worked permanent night shift. When his work term was finally up, I finally was able to meet him and the adventures began.

The day that I met Scott, Julie sent me a text saying that they were out 4 wheeling and that they were stuck in a mud hole! She had taken him to the powerline ridge behind my home. I had just left work and when I arrived in my neighborhood, I drove past my street and wheeled directly up the 3 minute dirt trail to the ridge. The weather was great, sunny and about 30C (about 90F) and my jeep’s top was off. Before I ripped up the trail, I texted her asking where they were and she said that after a white knuckle half hour or so, they finally bogged their way out of the mud hole and were at the top of the ridge looking at the view. I ripped along the trail to meet them, my tunes blasting. Julie later told me that as I approached them, before they saw me, they heard my music and thought “oh, sounds like a bunch of kids coming up here” and laughed when she saw that it was me! I saw Scott’s black jeep and that it was covered in mud and I had a good idea where they’d been. I wouldn’t go into that pit by myself, but they did and were lucky to get out without help! They did, however. get out of the pit and the jeep looked great with the red clay-like mud on the shiny black paint. We all chatted for a while and made some plans for later on, fishing on the Skeena River, chose a location close to home and headed down the ridge to go get ready.

They headed to Julie’s house, I headed home and within a couple of hours we were ready to roll. We chose a spot a little ways out of town, a short distance past my neighborhood so I didn’t have far to go. We all met up on the river bank that is a wide open, old, rocky river bed known as Copper Flats, named for the mountain by my house and the Copper river that flowed beside it, into the Skeena. We set up camp near the Copper river, but on the banks of the Skeena, got our rods in the water and waited for some fish. We were fishing for salmon and this type of fishing is slow and easy. Pound a rod holder, most often homemade, (as in this case) into the ground, set up a chair beside it and crack a beer. That’s the Canadian way on this river… (ok not everybody cracks a beer, but we did). There’s always a small bell that us fisher-people attach to the tip of the rod so that when a fish strikes, we can leap into action and try to hook the fish. In our province, we’re not allowed to use barbed fishing hooks so we need to have some skill to keep a hook in a fish’s mouth. So sometimes we plant our chairs somewhat close to each other so that we can chat, while our rods are at least 10 – 20 feet away from each other. If that bell rings, it’s a mad scramble over the rocks in a race against the fish!  Fortunately, on this day, no ankles were turned in the pursuit of fish.

Fishing in this river is always risky. Not necessarily a dangerous risk, although there are always dangers around water, but more of a “losing your fishing lure” kind of risk. Also known as getting a SNAG. The rocks in this river are rounded and worn from eons of water running over them and have unlimited hiding spots for a lure to catch. Of which the lures do. Often. Of course this day was no exception and we all had numerous snags.
With years of fishing experience, we learn how to unsnag our lines fairly well, but there’s that other 40% of the time that we can’t, no matter what we do and we lose our lure. We each had a couple of snags, lost a lure or two and had a few fish bite at our lures. Scott fought a couple of fish and ultimately lost them… that barbless hook can be a challenge! As the evening wore on, we visited and laughed as we fished, enjoying each moment. Eventually Julie’s lure got caught up in the rocks no matter what she did, she just couldn’t get it free. She’d already lost a lure or two and really didn’t want to lose another. After valiantly trying to dislodge it she came to the conclusion that she was going to have to cut it off when Scott stepped in and told her that he’d give it a try before she broke the line. He stripped down to his shorts, took the rod and started to wade into the river. That in itself isn’t unusual, but he kept wading until he was up to his chest! He was determined not to have her lose another lure! Now this isn’t a regular thing and not generally recommended in most rivers, but this was an area that was slow moving and Scott wasn’t going to go any farther than safe. He waded out to the area that the lure was hooked and plied the rod around trying to dislodge the lure. I was uneasy seeing him out so far in the river and thought of what we would do if he lost his footing. We were close to the mouth of the Copper river and if all else failed, he’d end up swimming into the shallow pools of the Copper where it was flowing into the Skeena. Having grown up near the ocean in New Brunswick, he’s very confident in the water. I was still nervous though. It took him a good 10 minutes of working the rod but finally the lure finally became free! Julie waded out a bit to help him and when they got back to shore, Julie had her lure and Scott had a soaker!

 I still smile thinking about this, it was so unexpected and so fun!  As midnight approached, and daylight disappeared, we packed up and headed back into town.

I drove ahead of them along the flattened rock road and avoided the sand dunes that I’d definitely drive through in daylight.  I could see Scott’s jeep headlights behind me and as we got to a forested area, I lost sight of them on the winding trail.  To get onto Copper flats from the highway, there’s a short, steep bumpy 4 wheel trail that only a 4 wheeler can navigate.  I happily crawled up the short embankment and waited for Scott & Julie for a minute before deciding to just keep going.  Once I got onto the highway, I still didn’t see their headlights & decided that I’d better go back to make sure that they were ok.  My expectation to see them coming towards me didn’t happen so I gleefully crawled back down the steep bank to where I expected them to be.  Still no headlights.  It was pitch black out by now, there was very limited vision.  Once I got out of the forest, I saw their headlights in the distance and wondered why they were still so far down the river bed.  As I approached, I saw that they were stuck in a sand dune!

Scott wanted to have some fun but not being familiar with our river sand, he drove over it at a normal speed, which will get a vehicle stuck… yes, even a jeep.  They were relieved to see me and we made jokes about them having to sleep in Scott’s jeep, which wouldn’t really happen in our age of cell phones, but it was good for a laugh.  They’d been trying to rock back & forth to get out of the dune but ended up just digging themselves in deeper.  Fortunately, I always carry an emergency equipment and had tow straps ready to go.  When we had the strap in place, I realized that I’d also be partially in the sand and that I could also get stuck too!  That wouldn’t be fun (until later when we’d laugh about it) but for now it was a real concern.  I put Fiona in 4 wheel and slowly started to pull Scott’s jeep… nothing.  I felt Fiona’s back tires sink a bit in the sand and knew that Scott’s tires were deep.  I pulled forward a bit to keep my tires from sinking more, then  tried again with little result.  Time for the 4 low gear.  I threw Fiona into low, Scott got his jeep ready and I backed up a bit to get some weight behind the pull.  We hit the gas at the same time and I lurched ahead, heard the strap tighten and hoped that this time we’d get Scott’s jeep free.  Our engines were growling with the effort and this time it worked!  Scott’s jeep was out! Such a relief!  It had taken a good half hour of digging and pulling and they wouldn’t have to sleep on the river bed with the bears!

The fun thing is that he got stuck twice in one day. That’s real jeeping!

As I headed back towards the highway, I made sure that I could see their headlights in my rear view mirror!



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