Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trees Behaving Badly... or, Why You Need Liability Insurance.

      I imagine it was just a cottonwood sapling when I first visited the hot spring with my dad in the mid sixties. Growing within a few meters of the hot spring source, it probably wouldn't warrant a second look at the time. If I had only known how that same sapling and I would cross paths again, I would have taken it for a wiener stick then when I had the chance.
                                         circa 1996  Note mature wiener stick, center.

Jump ahead over 30 years, I've noted this day in my journal, and can pin point the date. Monday June22 1998
 I had spent the morning mowing the airstrip and hopped on my mountain bike which was my habit to ride  to and from the hot spring campsite back in those days. I would have  wheeled right down over the bridge and skidded to a stop next to the big log bench that I would  lean my bike on. It had been a hot, busy weekend, but on Monday had whittled down to a handful of regulars. It was nice at the tubs, quiet, shady, with a slight summer breeze from the south., and  hardly anyone  there. Pierre Poirier and a friend relaxed in the far 'jacuzzi' tub. Someone was just packing up and leaving the A-frame. I had an idea of just stopping in for a minute, but happened to strike up a conversation with a couple sitting at the large uncovered outside tub that were there for the first time.  I was leaning up against  the upright on the lean-to shelter there, conversing with Mike who is a nice fella settled into the water, probably answering the same questions I always got asked. 
Suddenly, there was a rush of wind that went overhead, one that got our attention. We didn't feel it on the ground, but a quick, short blast had barreled up the valley. I scanned up the hill and could see large fir trees swaying higher up the mountainside. From her seat on the edge of the tub Sandy says in her Australian accent, "Wow, that was almost scary". Hmm, I thought to my self, it was rather odd. 
Right then we hear a deep, hollow 'crack'! You would think a branch had broken, but at the same time, it sure didn't sound like a branch, this was kind of hollow sounding, and came from low down seemed. Puzzled, after several seconds I took a couple of steps backwards to see clear of the lean-to structure which was obstructing my vision to the right. Meanwhile, over in the far tub, Pierre and friend have noted the huge, fully mature 80 foot cottonwood  next to the A-frame break 3 feet off the ground and slowly begin to lean towards the unsuspecting trio at the outside tub. He starts trying for my attention, but things happened too fast.  He finally resigns himself to seeing me mashed all over the deck and stands  there open mouthed as the events unfold before him in seemingly slow motion. Once clear of the lean-to structure I glanced up over the direction behind the A-frame. I'm staring at this huge cottonwood, and it takes a second to realise the leaves are turning back as it begins to pick up speed making a quickly accelerating bee-line right for us. 
John Wayne may have stood there waving his arms directing women and children out of harms way,  but in real life, you just react to save your hide. Sandy saw my eyes go "Holy shit!",  right before I spun around and took off like a shot, which certainly aroused her curiosity.  Funny what goes through your head at a time like that. I didn't want to go left because I was afraid of slipping on the wet deck, and I thought twice about going right as I was afraid of colliding with  the newly planted donation box.  
So off across the bridge I went like my hair was on fire. Sandy, bless her heart, pondered my departure for a moment, then stepped out to see for herself. 
Funny I had actually considered falling that same tree a year earlier during construction of the A-frame, and braced myself at the base with a snarling chainsaw. I judged the natural lean was directly in-line with the bridge. I knew just how far the tree would reach if it came down, and I didn't fall it then because I didn't want to deal with the mess right then. I figure the tree had it in for me. I knew I needed to at least reach the large boulder-barriers at the hotspring entrance. I was hoofing it across the walkway nearly lifting the planking behind me, and all I hear is an ever increasing whoosh of branches, leaves, and destruction coming  from above. I was going along at a pretty good clip already, but somehow found another gear and really poured it on, nearly stepping right out of my boots. Just as I reached the boulders I dove as far as I could. The top of the tree struck me from behind in mid-air and smacked me into the ground, and with the velocity I think I skidded on my face uphill for another 20 feet.

I immediately jumped to my feet, re-born, laughing and holding my arms triumphantly in the air. My back felt like I was hit with a cat o' nine tails, and the bark was missing off a few spots on the front from the slide. But I was intact. Turning my attention back down to the hot spring area, I see  Mike standing up dripping in the tub with a stunned look on his face, studying the huge tree that has suddenly appeared on the scene. I can not see Sandy and get a sinking feeling in my gut. But wait! A squeal comes out from under the heap of branches and I reach the spot in about 3 bounds, pulling branches out of the way to reach the victim buried down in the muddy creek, swearing in Australian. I got a hold of her by the waist and pulled her out of the tangled heap of branches and broken boards. I've never been so glad to see anyone alive in my life. Next to myself that is.
Sandy rubbed her head and says, "What the hell do you Canadians call that?" .
"Good adventure", I said, "...and none lost!".

              My poor mountain bike!! Only the log bench saved it from getting flattened.

 That would get your attention if you were relaxing in there. Buggered the tub too.

 I walked home for my chainsaw, giggling most of the way, and clean up began immediately.

 We found my ball cap pushed down through the planking, guess it flew off at warp speed.

Thumbs up for sure.
They build those Australian gals tough, drop a tree on them and and they get right back up.
She was fine, got a few scuffs and a bit of a bonk on the noggin, and a great story to send back to Australia. When I turned and ran, she stepped out in my tracks, actually watching me go, and got hit from behind, I guess branches knocked her forward and pushed her into the soft bottom of the creek.  Very lucky.
I venture that the T'sek spirit  intervened at the last moment. 

Postscript. About an hour after, the owner of the bike shop in Pemberton drove in for another free soak.
He took my pretzel bike back to town with him, and of course charged me full retail to fix it.

Donation Box Notes

   I was digging around in my old desk this morning and came across a familiar bulging folder overflowing with hundreds of little notes, all crinkled still from being stuffed into the enlarged coin-slot of the donation-box I installed down at the hot spring years ago. 
Chances are, if you ever put a note the the old donation box, I still have it.

   In 1996 I installed a donation box down at the hot spring between the two foot-walks to help out with some direct costs and a few small improvements, the donation box itself being one of them.
I recall being excited over maybe getting $25 on a packed weekend, and used to joke that I was having a hard time paying for the donation box.
   After a bit people did warm up to the idea a little more and it was not unusual to have an outfit leave a thank you note with $5 to $20 or more.
   Also stuffed into the coin-slot was all manner of proposed legal tender such as, and not limited to, Canadian Tire money, a partly used boarding pass to Bowen Island, cigarettes, joints, cigarette butts, pull-tabs, and pounds of flatted beer bottle caps.
   Crinkled-up notes often tumbled out with the debris when I unlocked the bottom. Strips of cigarette pack was a common medium, as were words written on the back of Petrocan, or government liquor store receipts, or maybe a spare coffee filter.
One notable exception was written on a strip of paper thin birch bark.

Some were a few bold words with a stubby felt tip pen, while others wrote carefully on both sides, or scripted carefully on a sheet of toilet paper.
Generally they followed the same theme of, "Thank you Thank you Thank you!!

Some were propositions, such as the offer of a sail boat trip,  dinner and places to stay in the city, ...and worse. 
A scented note of the same hand would appear every few months, all it would say was, "Cute bum!". 
I like to assume it was from a woman.

                                         They came from all over to enjoy Tsek.

    As awful as it may sound now, I used to have my name and address in all the old outhouses at the hot spring campsite. I had notices stapled up in there with some basic rules of the establishment, and a box number in Mt. Currie for the campers who didn't have money at the time, but wished to mail a cheque, flattened beer caps or Canadian Tire money later.
Well OK that only happened a few times but still.
   Most of my notices ended up down the outhouse hole for purposes other than reading, and I had a hard time keeping them up..
If you look on the walls of the older outhouses, you will see about a million staples.
Eventually I managed to get my notices printed up on sheets of sand-paper which drastically slowed down the consumption in the outhouses. 
   I almost hate to bring this next one up, but a letter arrived once from a large young couple I remembered from a summer or two before. I recalled them as, 'The Splashers'.
It was a full page and neatly typed, and went on to explain they,
"...had tried for a considerable time to conceive a child prior to their camping trip to the hot spring". They mentioned a 'particular evening' one starlit night. I'll quote their words,
"...however, it was the magic of Tsek that did the trick'.
The letter came with  a picture of a newborn baby of huge proportions.

   Not all the notes were complimentary either, at times there were complaints about users who disrespect the place, or to bring my attention to a certain outhouse that required attention, or had run out of notices.
There was a nasty one too...
Well you can't please them all. 
That was the first time I've been called a loser, goof, and an a-hole in the same sentence.
I recall it was over a disagreement the night before about the level of his music.

                               Might be my favorite, pretty much sums it up.

   Well, you get the idea. Theres been times over the years I've come across the note-folder and had to question keeping them all. But I always put them away again, thinking I might want to write about them someday, which time has come.  I remember the good feeling I always got from these notes way back, simple thanks in a different time.  It is the same thing now, when I open that folder during a desk clean and then sit going through them all. They always make me smile, and a few make me laugh. While most are from people who have gone on to other places in life, some are from folks that still frequent the hot spring, while some are from those that have passed on in the ensuing years. 
   I think I better put all those notes away once again to enjoy another day, they always take me back to a simpler time and the prime of life.
I'll save them to enjoy at the old folks home someday.
Thank you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wet Weather Woes, Power Interruptus.

My power went off this morning. I have a sixth sense when the power goes off and wake right up.  Can't say I was surprised, there was a storm that hit the south coast in the last day or so. It rained all yesterday, not hard but steady. It was raining high up the mountain side and all that rain coming down on wet snow with frozen ground under it means trouble. It continued into the night and around 10 o'clock there were a half dozen flashes and thunder that sounded like it was right above me. Then finally at 5 am off it went. I need to get up and deal with the problem to some extent. Theres no pulling the covers over your head and waiting for a hydro guy to come and turn your lights back on. So I stumble around in my unusually dark cabin trying to find my attire I've strewn around the night before. The cabin was still warm through out so I knew the power had gone out suddenly, like something came down the line and clogged the nozzle, rather than say if it was a debris clog on the intake screen that may take awhile to happen all the while there is reduced voltage going to the baseboard heaters, then eventually the hot tub will kick on and the system can't maintain the load and a sensor over at the pelton wheel shack releases a counter weighted diverter that drops in front of the water jet, shutting the system down. Non the less, I need to get up and go over and at least turn off the main valve to avoid the possibility of making things worse.
Heading off the front deck in the predawn darkness I can hear the creek that flows by. I can't see it through the drizzle with my flashlight but I can sense that it has probably grown by threefold over night. Moving away from the sound of the creek I can clearly hear the waterfalls up the mountain behind. They sound like a jet taking off. Somewhere up there in the clouds at the top of the falls was my by now much battered intake screen. It takes only a few minutes to trudge my way over to the pelton wheel enclosure. First thing I check is the pressure gauge, its right up there around 200 psi. I can't read it with normal glasses but I felt tip penned a little mark right at the "needle should be here" point. If it is reading low I know the intake is clogged, but if it reads correct the problem has to be at the nozzle. I turned off the large main valve and elected go crawl back into bed and deal with this further in the light of the new day.
There is a large inspection plate held on with twelve bolts. The foam board is to kneel on. Note the weighted drop arm for the jet stream diverter.
Close up of jet, that is where it generally clogs. Note diverter, there is still a stream of water coming out, I have the main valve closed but I think there must be a little trash holding it open a sliver. At any rate the nozzle appears to be free of obstuction, I expected the usual finger sized piece of bark. Something less than the diameter of a pencil can seriously restrict it, then with some debris like moss or pine needles coming down behind it will cause your electric blanket to go off in the middle of the night. Somewhat mystified I buttoned it back up for a short trial run. Opening up the large wheeled main valve it speeds up but I can tell it has got the pressure, but not the volume, meaning there must be some larger debris a little further in, restricting the flow. That involves pulling apart the taper and nozzle and entails heavy wrenches and a floor jack and a sore back and I need to sort out that valve leakage deal, I can't work on it like that. I may leave that for later, or better yet, tomorrow. At any rate it is not wise to run it until I have learned the fate of the intake screen, the last thing I need is to suck more debris down the line. So the only thing I can do is wait for the rain to abate, and the creek to peak and begin to subside.
I'm kind of set up for this sort of thing but I am by far a happier camper with the power on. I have a gas powered generator I guess I could fire up but I hate pouring gas into the thing. I loaded up the stove and kicked back with a book and waited for the weather.
                                          Cat food powered lap warmer.

Pretty soon with enough getting up and dumping the cat from my lap and looking at the creek it started to drop ever so slightly. That was all the encouragement I needed to break out the Honda and go check out conditions up the hill at the dam. Off I go splashing down the road for about half a klik and get to the dip in the road at the base of logging spur T200 that goes up past my intake pond. There the dip in the road has filled with run off and I wasn't to sure if I wanted to go in there or not.

Of course I had to try and began to slowly nose my way across but chickened out pretty quick when an alternate route came to mind about the time the water was ready to run over the tops of my boots. I backed out and tore back in the direction I had come and did a sharp left up the snow covered bank. The snow had been rained down enough that I was able to bushwack my way across the slope and intercept T200 from another angle.
You may recall in my previous post I mentioned water bars that are cut into road to divert the water and  avoid this type of thing. This is what happens when the water jumps the bar. As it turned out I didn't have much difficulty getting up the mountain to the intake. There was enough water running and and using my previous tracks I could always keep one set of wheels on good traction and the Honda clawed its way up once again.
This is what greeted me at my once docile intake pond.
Some where under the froth is the lip of the dam, and the remnants of my battered intake screen. Its going to have to go down quite a bit more before I can get in there and see whats happened. That elbow you see is a vent for draining the main line (penstock).

 I came back down the hill and headed straight for the hot spring to see how it fared, and if anyone was stranded  there due to  the conditions.
The creek at the hotspring tubs had spillled its banks but nothing too serious, sometimes it comes over top of the walkway. There were 3-4 wet looking campers standing around in the slush down there. The hot spring source had taken in so much rain and snow melt run off that it lowered the temperature enough to make it unsuitable for soaking. The spring  usually recovers back to normal overnight.

Well, anyways, I did manage to get the system running some in the end. I'm having to rough it a little.Not making very much power, but enough for tonight, enough for lights, CBC radio, and computer to sit here and do this. Actually, I've had to write this twice. Often my typing is done with at least one cat draped over an arm. I don't know what Skookie did earlier, but he rolled over and somehow we erased the whole post other than the last sentence, and the first paragraph. I started over without the assistance of a cat this time. Tomorrow I'll have to sort out all the pelton wheel problems, and maybe go up the hill and splash around in the froth at the top of the falls a bit.
Going to be a fun day for sure.

Monday-Well the water continued to recede overnight enough that I was able to get close enough to the pond to fish out the remnants of my beat up screen filter.
The mesh screen is completely tore up, that is that heap of wire and debris sitting on top. I have a new roll of screen here but not quite enough to do the job so I will have to get more on next trip to town. In the mean time I put on a temporary screen, the same one I use in cold weather.

This is the last section of taper on the pelton wheel, you can see the amount of sticks, needles and moss that had packed up behind the nozzle after the screen in the pond up top was damaged.
 I need to make a new gasket every time I remove the pelton nozzle. Simple process on cast, or steel parts, you tap around the sharp edge with a ball peen hammer and it cuts out a professional looking gasket. I remember my dad showing me this technique about 40 years ago, probably something he picked up around grandad's logging operation at Port Douglas when he was young.
I had the system cranked up by noon and all back to normal, that wasn't so bad only being down for a day and a half.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Cold Weather Woes, Pelton Wheel 101

We had some cold weather last week which often raises hell with the intake for my generating system. This particular pelton-wheel requires 250-300 gallons per minute which is fed under pressure from a small intake pond located a ways up the mountain. The water line is 8" in diameter and aprox. 1900' in length with a verticle lift (rise) of 405' so it is pretty steep up to the intake pond which is located at the crest of a fall. That 'head' gives a pressure in the pipeline of 200 psi at the bottom which is plenty to spin the pelton wheel that in turn rotates the shaft connected to the generator. Totally green electricity to burn. I always say its free, but there is probably a direct cost of $150 per year in wear and tear. The only thing that generally puts out the lights is the intake screens clogging up in the pond above. Often in cold weather frazzle ice forms in the frigid stream. This slush clogs up the screened intake and starves the water line which looses its head height and you loose your electricity.

This means a trip up the mountain to the intake. In the old days it was a slug up that steep hillside, but several years ago, a logging road was built up the mountainside and crossed the creek not far from my intake. Only problem is that any time your intake needs attention, it is always either the darkest, wettest weather, or cold and deep snow, or both. Either way its generally a challenge to get there, or close enough to hoof it in the last section of switchbacks. I started up in my S10 pickup as it has a heater in it. The loggers always de-commission these logging roads in the winter with the occasional cross ditch, or water bar to divert running water. Theses ones just about swallowed my little pickup and fighting the snow on the steep grade I could see it was futile. So I went back and returned with my Honda quad which has never failed yet to claw its way up to the bridge where I scramble down the bank to the small pool..

First order of business is to break the ice on the pond and let it wash out over the lip and down the falls behind me. I get hold of the screen with a modified hoe and a little rocking and a little swearing it pops right off. This can get quite hairy in the really wet weather when the creek is flowing at a much faster rate.
There are some situations, such as a winter or fall rainstorm you can't even get close the the creek and just need to wait for the water to go down enough to see if the screen even survived.

 I replace the normal screen with a more open design that is more resistant to clogging with slush. I try not to have to put my arms in the frigid water but sometimes it is nessesary.

As a side note, it is not uncommon for cougar to come down off the road and cross the creek at the dam, which they leap in a single bound. I reckon they are sometimes wary and avoid using the bridge.
They probably do it all the time, but I only see the tracks when there is snow.
Any time there is deer tracks up there, cougar tracks will follow.

                                         Lynx tracks following the same trail.

Pelton wheel shack
I can adjust the amount of power I generate by means of an adjustable nozzle that directs the high pressure stream of water at the cupped pelton wheel. I try not generate any more than I need as a rule, any excess is just burnt off with an outside heater. Inside the house is a panel that shuffles the available electricity around on a priority basis. There are a series of  red leds that I monitor to tell me what I've got and where its going.
5000 watts of that free green power being put to good use!

Post no 1 Introduction, Heli Trip.

Post #1 
    My name is Robin Trethewey, and I live in one of the most magical places on earth.
Located in the rugged coast mountains of British Columbia north of Vancouver in the InShuckch territory is the most wonderful hotspring. My first nation neighbors called it T'sek. (chick) Others named it St. Agnes Well, or Skookumchuck hotspring.  Not a day goes by that I don't marvel at the sheer good-natured energy of the place, or at some point stop in my tracks in awe at the splendor.
In the twenty years I have been at the remote location it has gone from living in a second hand travel trailer with a herd of mice to residing in a good sized log lodge with numerous out buildings and a gravity fed pelton-wheel to generate electricity.
I live by myself, in a lifestyle that most can only dream of.

I am an intensely private man that keeps much to himself, but I'll let you follow me around a bit if you like. Let me blog you a taste of day to day life out here, a place this big takes quite a lot of effort and different skills to keep up. We might get into adventures up the mountain, chase a bear from the garden, or just go for a walk with my two cats, Chyk n' Chuk. Every day is unique out here.
I will no doubt delve into the local history according to me, explore some local yore, and possibly introduce you to some of the local 4 and 2 legged wildlife. The subject matter will not be specific to lot 1747, I will write about other interests and life experiences.
If things get boring at this end we can always go down and be entertained by the campers antics at the hot spring.

The historic lot 1747 from the air, the residence is to the left, the short air strip is in the center, the hot spring and campsite are in the park like area to the right. The glacier fed Lillooett River flows south.

Heli Trip To Whistler.

There was a helicopter operating out of here for over a month this Fall, it was supporting a mining company's drilling efforts up the Roger's Ck. area near Cloudraker Mtn. The pilot needed to go to Whistler the other day and took me along as ballast.

Just after take off from my front yard, this is looking
up Rogers Creek.

                                                                                   Icefeild inside Garibaldi Park.
Whislter municipality, Green Lake before freeze up.

Whistler helipad, pilot Tryna Faddegon.

   On the way home, looking north towards Lillooett Lake.

 Skook + Chuck
    Around Nov 15 we got our first snow. Helicopter packed up and went home.
I have a break until my next guests arrive in a few weeks.