Monday, December 12, 2011

Power System Project

    The original power system was put in the Fall of '94. There was a suitable natural pond at the top of the falls that would give around a 400 foot head to the line and lots of pressure. It took 2500' of inch and a half thick walled water line to reach there from the cabin,  we got about 4 good strong local lads and one middle aged t'sama on the end and hauled it straight up that steep rocky mountainside. From the natural pond up there water was fed into a barrel with a screened inlet which we hooked the line to.
Back down at the cabin the high pressure water ran through a nozzle which turned a cupped wheel that drove a truck alternator. That charged up a bank of deep cell batteries hooked to an inverter which changed  12 volt into 120 volt household current. I had lights, VCR, toaster and could run a power tool for a short period, so it had its limitations.
It worked out to about 1000 watts continuous, and 2000 (2kw) watts short term demand.
In 1999 a decision was made to install a much larger system, capable of generating  25,000 watts.(25kw)  This would open a whole new world that included baseboard heaters, washer and dryer, welder, and most anything else, but most importantly, a hot tub.

The pond depth up the hill needed to be increased first thing. We needed to get a bunch of sand filled bags up to the dam site to experiment with the height we needed and to estimate the flow.  There was no road up there in those days and everything needed to be packed up with beasts of burden. I enlisted the help of some neighbors from Skatin as well as some energetic campers that were into a little extra money. I recall paying $7 a bag delivered to the dam site. It sounded like a pretty good deal until they found out they had to be filled with sand first. It took about 20 minutes to climb the 1400 foot trail up to the top of the falls, there were ropes strung on the steepest sections.
Main beasts, Robin T, Pierre Poirier, Harry Williams, Fred Charlie (kneeling), Sid Hunter.

Once we knew the height we could figure out what we needed for cement bags to complete the job later. When word got out a load of cement bags had arrived, I had a hard time finding volunteers, it was a heck of a steep mountainside to pack a 40 lbs load on your back. I forget how, but some how we managed to talk a friend into coming up to visit that owned a helicopter. Once here he was put to work long-lining the load to a small helipad near the dam site, and in an hour the whole load was up there.

A gasoline powered rock drill was packed up the hill and a series of holes had been drilled in the solid rock  lip of the pool. Steel rods were driven into the holes for anchors.  The cement bags were stacked on top of each other with the steel rods poking through to build up the height to the desired level, then the protruding rod ends nipped off with bolt cutters.

The cement bags cured right in the water, forming a simple, effective, and so far, indestructible dam.

A load of 8" diameter flexible PVC pipeline arrived.

A special machine gripped the pipe, heated it up and welded the 60' lengths together and attached flanges to bolt them together. We made up 4x 300' lengths, stretched across the airstrip.

A four wheel drive backhoe was used to drag the sections across the road and up to the base of the falls.
 A large pulley had been secured way up the hillside, 2000' of cable was run up to the pulley and back down to this point. The machine would pull on the one end of the cable and skid the long length of line up the mountain side. The first section went right to the top and plugged into the dam, the rest were hauled up and bolted together. We used a small chainsaw winch to 'steer' the pipeline around trees and obstacles on the way up.

This was taken two thirds the way up. Uncle Al and I, he originally bought the hot spring property in the 50's, and hiked up the hill at 73 to have a look, keenly interested in the project.

Over the Winter a pelton wheel was made to order and coupled with a 25kw generator.
 First thing the next Spring I began installation and connecting it to the penstock. The water comes in the line and blows on the pelton wheel then dumps into a box underneath and runs out a culvert to the side. It was a trying chore to line up the shafts of the pelton wheel and the generator, you are only allowed a few hairs either way, and to make it worse, the shafts were different diameters.

Don't even ask what it costs to land a cement truck out in this country. Actually this was timed when there was some other work being done in the valley and they were out already.


                                           Jefferey Wallace (Kilahuskin)  1949--2011

   I lost an old friend last week. I met Jeff one rainy Fall day not long after I came into this country,  his vehicle broke down near by and I went out and gave him a hand, we were friends ever since.
He and "Auntie" Marie adopted this whiteman from the hot spring soon after, and he stood right up there with her when I received my Indian name at a gathering in 1996. "We are here to give this t'sama a name" they said.
I gave him work when I could, with the addition to the cabin, and the power project, he was responsible for the great rock work around the generator shed. He is missed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hotspring Early Improvements

    It was in the early sixties during an Easter fishing trip out of the logging camp at Port Douglas I first visited the hot spring that would become such a big part of my later life. My Dad parked the crummy on the little used forest access road, and we skidded down a well used trail to the area below.
   The source water percolated up out of the gravels in a tiny pool with a pipe running to the wooden shelters. I remember the top section on the feed pipe, it was an open trough that you could put rocks into, to control the flow of water to the tubs. There didn't seem to be any means of getting cold water to the tubs, and the small hot spring pool meant the water was quite hot so careful regulation of the in-coming flow was essential. By the careful placement of rocks in the trough unwanted hot water would simply spill out. I've always remembered that simple, but effective bush engineering. Dad indicated that the local natives down river at Skookumchuck used the hot spring quite often. He told me of an old timer he knew of that for years walked the 4 mile round trip almost every day.
     This was taken in '58, but pretty much what I recall the first time I was brought to the hot spring as a youngster. I clearly remember the sound of the water, and the heady, steamy aroma of the cedar tubs inside the shacks.

Over the years there were several variations of tubs and shelters initiated by users. This later structure was on site in the 70's, at the site of the present outside lean-to tub.
I visited several times in the early 1980's, and recall a tub of plywood lined with plastic, a little this way to the left of that structure. It must have been  buried by gravel wash from the road above, I've come across bits of it buried there. Quite a bit of the area where the tubs are on the hot spring side of the creek is gravel wash off the road above during bad rainstorms. I dug down 2 feet once putting the donation box in and hit a metallic object. I thought it was a gold rush artifact, but after carefully getting it out with my hands it turned out to be a flattened out old Hires root-beer can. Another time I was planting a tree just across the bridge, in an undisturbed area, and found a beautiful jade hide scraper, that had been lost probably hundreds of years ago. That artifact was given to the Inshuckch people, and is stored behind glass with other important early archaeological finds

This is pretty much what things looked like when I arrived in early '94.
This is the source as it was. 

Cold water was used to dilute the hot. It was drawn from a ditch up on the other side of the road, relying on a siphon effect. It seemed it was all or nothing, and sometimes would drain the slimy ditch above in one great slurping rush. It was natural run off, so in the summer it was not uncommon to have very little 'cool' water to work with. The place had character though.

 The original a-frame was not lacking in character either, it used the same tub as is there now, the a-frame was constructed of odd bits and chunks of timber an driftwood bits packed in by campers mostly, including an old bullet hole ridden road sign or two incorporated into the design.
Inside there were years of scribblings on most every dry surface.
You can see we have just enlarged the hot spring pool, and built a boulder retaining wall behind to divert water and debris from above from getting into the source.

In '94 boulders were brought in and a 'pond' built to better utilize the hot spring flow.                                The 'Peace rock' was a wonderful "accident".

The next year I rolled out  one inch water line all the way from the tub area to a spot halfway up the waterfalls behind. I forget how far is was, but I recall rolls and rolls of it. For the first time there was clean, cold water under pressure that you could regulate at the tubs. I had a time with it, in cool weather it would freeze, and in summer I found that bears would come upon it laying there and they would bite it. I would walk the line to see what happened to the water pressure and there would be a big sprinkler going with water coming out the teeth marks. Finally, in about 2000 a line from the spring was buried back to the cabin here and a more reliable source was initiated.

In 1996 I came up with a plan to replace the decrepit looking old a-frame structure.

Later in '96 I started on the lean-to. The tub was pulled up and timber foundation put in. I had it all figured out with the track of the sun, trying to eliminate as much sunlight as possible into the tub and cut down on the amount of algae. I think it helped.
This is the star gazing tub.

In early '97 the far 'jacuzzi' tub was added. 
It actually sits on four main footings, up off the ground.

The much photographed 5 foot high welcome bench was finished in '98.
 A pattern was traced out on the slab, then a router used to take out everything but the logo.This is the original version, before I painted the letters.

I added some tables in 1998, milled from cedar salvaged out of Whiskey Lake.

In 2003 I hauled in a log with the aid of my tractor. My friend Stefan ( came and camped out for a few days, and created 'Bear".

New phone booths were added periodically over the years.

  What a difference 50 years makes.                                                                                                      

Monday, December 5, 2011

Church Of The Holy Cross

   A fifteen minute drive down valley from the hot spring is the native community of Skatin'.
It was called Skookumchuck, or Skookumchuck Hot Springs for some time before reverting back to the original name of Skatin'.  Missionaries from the Mission Oblates of Mary Immaculate had been venturing into the area since the 1860's, and had established missions at Port Douglas and Skookumchuck. 
In 1905-1906 this church was constructed by the Oblate Fathers using local craftsmen.

This building has been designated a Canadian National Historic Monument.

The most dominating feature is the three spired facade.
To the so inclined it might symbolise the crucifixion of Christ.

Upon entering, the visitor may be overwhelmed by the highly ornate interior, the details of which were crafted by local artisans, from local cedar. The congregational area is separated from the alter by a colonnade, a common feature of early churches in Quebec. At the end of each pew is carved a fleur-de-lis, the symbol of Quebec. The symbol is repeated in the shape of the ceiling as well.
The many windows, imported from Italy, add a Gothic texture to the structure.

Looking to the rear, the curtained booths for confession, and round upper window.
I recall being taken through the church as a young boy, my most vivid memory of the event being the image of a child's casket, leaning up next to the doors.
A Skatin' elder stated they built this church not because they were devout catholics, "They were devoutly spiritual people, originally, they would have prayed on the land, where ever they were. It was a priest who taught them to pray in a church". There was never a resident  priest, one would travel in generally once a year and perform multiple weddings and baptisms.

In 2007 a restoration of the foundation was started, with extensive work done to eliminate rotten timbers. The work was filmed by PTV Productions, and a one hour documentary, Saving Places, was broadcast on the History Channel.
In 2009 Parks Canada entered into a cost sharing agreement, up to $202,000. The volunteers still have to raise at least another $250,000 to complete the conservation o the structure. If you would like to help save this historic monument, contact the Ama Liisaos Heritage Trust Society.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

An Afternoon Adventure.

There has been a problem with the comment area. My technical team might have this straighten out, so if you want to tell me to shut up or comment on posts, I think its back in order.
A publishing milestone today. One week. And they said it would never last.
I'm slowly learning how this technology works. Today I discovered tracking.
There were over 400 readers.
413 in Canada, 16 in the US, 15 in Russia, 5 in Malaysia, 4 in Germany, 2 in Japan, 2 in the Netherlands and 2 over in Turkey.
Goes to show there is a bunch of people out there with too much time on their hands.

An Afternoon Adventure.
It has cooled off again, getting quite nippy at night. Today was a beautiful day to live in the mountains. 
Since we had the high water last week several coho salmon made their way up into the receding creek down in front here. I would have liked to have taken some pictures, but  avoid harassing them as experience tells me these fish only have a very narrow window to do their spawning thing before the creek gets too low for them, or predators are attracted by the splashing.
 Coyote, bobcat, lynx and the long fingered tracks of the raccoon get frozen in the sand as they monitor the spawning fish. It was only a handful of salmon that came in from the main river while they had the chance. Yesterday looking out the window I noticed the fish in the creek had disappeared over night. A little more scanning around and I notice several red splotches that are pretty obvious out across the snow covered channel. I don't know who it was that got lucky, the eagle maybe, but for sure nothing goes to waste.

 This big buck came down off the mountain before the freeze, had a lick of the salt block and walked down the river side trail.
I see wolf tracks more often than I did years ago.

Cooler weather and deer tracks often bring out a primitive desire to go live off the land for an extended period, or maybe a picnic at least. I figured I could probably fit it in, and trudged across the frozen expanse as far as my ATV. I've been dying for the snow to get a crust so I could get up the mountain. I had my old frozen ruts from last week to follow up as far as the intake but it was undisturbed from there on. The only tracks I saw were of that big buck a few days ago on his way to lower ground.

There has been considerable water running up here during that storm last week.

Fire Mountain on left, Glacier Lake is back in the valley.

2000 feet elevation, looking over into Garibaldi Park.

In minutes a fire was going and  I cracked the thermos of tea to celebrate. I had brought some spare-ribs up with me that I threw directly on the fire and ate with my bare hands, flinging the bones over my shoulder. My primitive urges sated once more. Well, that one any ways.
The fire melted a deep hole. I kicked snow into it and started down.
That is InShuckch Mountain way off there.
The sun set in the valley and the temperature dropped drastically.
Like any mountain woodsman back from the hills, when I got to the cabin, I turned the thermostat up a notch, checked the satellite Internet for email, then went and warmed my toes in the hot tub.
Enough primitive urges for one day.