So her she is, well on her way to Vanderhoof.
Cheers all. :)
"We were well hardened to riding. Our main concern was horse flesh. We watched them carefully. the signs along the trail corresponded with the described landmarks. We left the course of the Blackwater River, tarried to inspect the dry lakes, crossed the stream that flowed from the Batnuni Lakes and followed the new course along the shores of Batnuni Lakes. We made our second stop that day by the Batnuni Lake and went swimming. A strong wind started to blow from the lake.
According to our tattered map, an old corral was located in the underbrush close to the peninsula where we were swimming. The peninsula hadn't changed and before long we found the old corral that had been built to hold cattle on the beef drives to Vanderhoof. For several years the Frontier Cattle Company had driven the beef drive through this area. Just behind the corral the trail wound steeply over the hill. In winter it was still used by trappers in the area but we found it difficult to follow. When we lost the cattle trail we followed the game trails; for cattle are excellent engineers and their trails are usually surveyed to give you the easiest climb.
The uncertain wind from the lake had been a storm warming. We were sure of this when we could hear the cry of the gulls circling the lake. We traveled steadily upward. The sky became overcast now, snow fell. Before long we were cold and wet through. It was better to travel than to stop for we were in jackpine and spruce country and horse feed was scarce. Late in the afternoon a hail storm covered the ground with a inch of hailstones. A sleety snow followed and before long it was pitch black on the mountain side. In this blackness the horses could follow the trail much better than we could, but we checked quite often to see that they were not circling back on their tracks and starting home.
Two hours after dark a squall came howling out of the north and we crouched in our saddles and thought about warmer places. The wind cleared some of the blackness and a few feeble stars showed through. We were wet and cold but we were grateful that we were still on the trail.
Just before midnight the trail leveled and started downhill. Peggy dismounted to check the trail for sign and found a freshly chopped jackpine stump. We gave up our idea of camping out and traveled on. Someone must live within a few miles.
Then a dog barked, a welcome joyous bark that made the snowy dropping tress look more like snow clad statues. Our eyes searched the wilderness for a light. The dog continued to bark and a few seconds late we saw a yellow glow from a window. We had crossed the mountain and were at Goodlands Ranch on the Nechako watershed.
Photo Credit Vreni F.
A cheery greeting from an open door and as we entered the corral gate, Mr. Goodland came to take our horses to the barn. The house was warm and before Mrs. Goodland turned up the wick of the brass lamp, I could see a red glow from the front of the heater where a couple of jackpine logs rested on the coals.
The Goodlands had built their ranch on a wild meadow high on a hillside. They had cut their road from Vanderhoof. They provided us with good company, good food and good beds that stormy night. Our horses were fed grain and fresh mown hay while we enjoyed the excellent hospitality. So ended our sixth day on the trail.
We awakened late the following morning. The sun pierced the grey ceiling with a feeble show of light. We dressed in our dry clothes, said our goodbye's and crossed the puddles to the road that led to Vanderhoof. This road was well traveled. We passed the Sinket Mountain lookout, and as we descended the hill before us we could see the wheatland. By evening the settlers homesteads were closer together. We were approaching the railway and civilization. We found lodging eight miles south of the railroad and were in Vanderhoof by noon on our eighth day from home.
Vanderhoof, our destination, was a railroad town in a wheat farming community. Rangeland was limited, but shipments of stock from surrounding areas were driven into the stockyard to be delivered to Prince Rupert by rail.
When we crossed the railroad tracks our horses shied at the unfamiliar sights. Vanderhoof was used to saddle traffic and our arrival was of little consequence. We crossed the bridge on the Nechako River and followed eight miles downstream to the Tritt Ranch.
They were alarmed to hear that we were taking the young stud back with us. He was a beautiful Percheron yearling with a white star on his forehead. I christened him Capan. We spent three days at Vanderhoof. By that time Capan was used to our saddle horses and to us.. We led him daily but his keeper came with us when we departed until we had crossed the tracks and headed into the wilderness. We had ten days left in which to make the return journey.
Capan caused us no trouble. After the first day out he followed us without a lead rope. When we camped he was willing to stay with our horses, and he pranced around and enjoyed his freedom. The third day as we were skirting a swamp, Capan threw his head high in the air and sent a shrill call across the opening. We stopped. There on the far edge of the swamp a bull moose with a mighty rack of horns answered the call. We had been travelling downwind, unnoticed. The moose paused, looked majestically over the landscape and pawed at the muskeg. Capan called again and raced toward the swamp as a challenger. But he was not built for swamp travel and the mud sucked at his feet and started to bog him down. After a struggle he freed himself, looked to the bull moose charging across the swamp, looked to our saddle horses on the hillside, and whinnied in terror for them to wait. Capan realized his mistake as he left the swamp with the snorting bellowing moose close behind him. His coltish clumsiness seemed to disappear as soon as he was back on the trail and we let our horses out. Peggy was in the lead on Honey and Lady was right on her heels. Her mane flew back in my face as I crouched low. She needed no other urging. I glanced back. Capan was running all out now. The bull moose was lumbering along the trail blowing and snorting. When I glanced back again the moose had fallen behind but was still shaking his huge head at the terrified Capan. When the excitement was over we walked our horses until they cooled. When we stopped for our swim we washed them down in the cool river water.
At the Home Ranch we picked up our pack horses and followed the same trail over the Itcha Mountains. There was not extra time left for exploring. On the twenty first day we picked up the baby at the old Hudson Bay House and I hugged him close to me as we rode the six miles to the Pelican Lake Ranch.
It had been a pleasant five hundred mile ride. Capan had been delivered safe and sound. Now it was beef drive time.