Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Mystery Generated, The Legend Of Bluff Corner

    One Saturday a number of years back there was a clomp up the steps and a knock at the Lodge door.
Before I opened it, I speculated on what it was going to be this time. Someone with a flat tire, or two,  they could be needing gas, or a jump start, or maybe just going to ask if I knew where the hot spring was.
An unhappy looking man stood there, "Do you know where I could launch a boat?" he asked, hesitantly.
This rightly aroused my curiosity, as two words that seldom come up in the same sentence, are boat, and the local fast moving river, "Doing a little fishing?" I asked.
"Not if I can help it!" he says. Well it turns out a few days before, the company he works for had sent a junior member of the team out to the middle of no-where to retrieve their large 25kw diesel trailer mounted genset that had been on rental to an outfit building a school down at the small remote first nation community of Skatin'. He didn't make it far down the road before the tow vehicle hitch came loose. Normally that is bad enough, but as luck would have it, it happened at an area known locally as "The Bluff", which is just a short distance downstream of the hot spring here. The industrial size genset is mounted in an enclosed trailer that sets on tandem axles, so once freed from the restraints of the hitch it looses no enthusiasm for the journey, but fails to follow the tow vehicle around the Bluff Corner corner, launching off the cliff side berm and doing a spectacular backwards somersault and dropping into the Lillooett River below making a tremendous white splash.
    There are some things in life you just wish you had been there to see, unless you were the guy driving the tow vehicle. The scene in his rear view mirror will be forever etched into his mind, and it must have been a very long drive back to Vancouver.
His replacement speaks of him with disgust, and refers to him as 'the ex-employee'.
I jumped in his pickup and we headed the few clicks down the road to the notorious bluff. Along the way he told me how, with the exception of the boss, everyone back at the shop had such a big laugh out of the new kid being gone for an entire shift and coming back with no generator. The loud firing that followed will long be remembered within the organisation, and a further source of jokes around the lunchroom coffee machine for months to come.
   We stood on the Bluff corner and sure as hell, you could see these tandem axle tire tracks continue off the corner then blast off the graders berm on the edge, and what ever made them now lay submerged in the cold green, boiling waters. I can tell any initial mirth he might have found in the plight of the ex-employee left him when he was singled out and assigned to drive out to the middle of no-where on his normal day off to asses the situation for salvage. He tells me his boss, whom he starts to refer to as "that old bastard", had suggested he go out into the river in a small boat dragging the bottom with a hook in an attempt to 'snag' onto the chassis of the genset, bringing the line back to shore then drag the unit in close enough to fish it out of there by some means, like a  tow truck. "That's easy for him to say, old bastard!" he says.
  This was late Spring, and the river was fast with melt. I suggested he wait until the water dropped later in the season before launching his creaky row-boat, and stated the large slurping whirlpools would be smaller then too. That was all the encouragement he needed, and tore off in an attempt to get home before the game started. "Let me know when you come back!" I had told him, not wishing to miss out on the entertainment.
   I half expected an insurance company to get involved and there would be some activity, and it would have to come out you would think, with the coolant, engine oil, and diesel tank. I was familiar with the unit, it was an older model that had seen many hours and paid for its self twice over, I think the owner decided it would be less trouble to just take it off the books.
Rumours of the Bluff Corner Genset persisted over the years, becoming part of the local lore told around smoky fires, with the odd reported sighting from a helicopter pilot at low water.
  Every time I drove by there I was always haunted by the spirit of the generating plant. Or what would be left of it, metal objects , like vehicles, get torn apart by the water's force. I wondered if it had possibly rolled onto its wheels, and on the bumpy river bottom could go quite a ways downstream.
   Last week there was a clomping up the steps, and a frantic knock at the Lodge door.
A passing hiker had made a fleeting sighting of the legendary genset. An expedition was hastily organised and the party fought their way down the bank through the buck brush and boulders and out onto the exposed river channel, sneaking up on the subject and snapping the following pictures, seen here for the first time.
Another myth, busted.

That point you can just see way upstream on the right is where it landed in the river upon re-entry. In the past 8 years the force of the river in flood stage has tumbled it along tearing away the enclosure and the chassis and wheels, only the heaviest single chunk, the Caterpillar engine, remains.

Any lubricants or coolant have long since been washed away, but knowing this thing is sitting in the pristine river bothers me a few times every day. I've brought it to the attention of a contact of mine in the environmental field, and I'm not above tackling the job myself either. It would be a good challenge for me to drag this out of the river, I have enough cable, I would need to use blocks and pulleys and a swear word or two. At least if you can get it to the edge of the far away road  where it could be reached with a picker truck or something.
It could no doubt be the source of a good post too, with proper censuring.

Years ago, I'm guessing 1998, I received complaints from campers down at the hot spring one morning regarding some young knot-heads that had pulled in really late, roaring around, then blasting music and being rude until light and made a can mess at the tubs and generally got it wrong all around. I don't recall what it was that I said, but it was sufficient that they soon pulled out. One vehicle in the group, a black Volkswagen Rabbit, later turned up down river, at this very spot, more or less, where the generator motor now rests. It sat on its roof there for the longest time, visible from the road, but just barely.  Turns out it was reported stolen from the lower mainland. When they had been woke up and challenged at the hot spring by the mad guy with the radio they decided to go down the road to dump the car.
Choosing to let it go off The Bluff Corner with a rock stuck on the gas pedal.


  1. Sure hope you can get that piece of junk out of the river before the spring run off hides it again.

  2. I've seen that Volkswagen in the river! It has kind of haunted me to this day as I always wondered if maybe someone was in it and needed our help. At the time we noticed it had no license plate on the back so we assumed it was stolen and someone dumped the evidence.