Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Digging in the dirt.

 I thought I'd try and prove I had interests outside Aviation with this post. However, I realized that by starting it out this way, it was then about aviation, or my attempt to avoid looking obsessed with it. I can't win. 

  I am obsessed, so the struggle would be futile anyhow.

  So, I like digging in the dirt. Me and a good friend of mine have always been fascinated with the history of the Gold Rushes in this part of the country. The ghost towns and mines that are still hiding out in the bush, as well as the quiet, hidden little community of active Prospectors that are still searching for the Mother Lode. ( They find it with regularity as well, I might add, but the first rule of Project Prospector is that you don't talk about Projec..... well, you get the idea. ).

  We use to go every year, but the last few years I haven't gone.... other priorities have gotten in the way. We'd go out in the bush and look for gold basically.  Its kind of like a fishing trip, you get an excuse to go out in a beautiful, peaceful setting and don't look like a tool, as you have some other "excuse" to be out there.

  Anyhow, we've had some great adventures in the past and frankly, its the trips where something or multiple somethings have gone wrong, that made them the best. Trucks stuck, recovery vehicles stuck even worse. Getting rained out, snowed in, lost, sunburnt, inebriated, hungry, broke, chased, bitten, scraped, splattered and frozen.

  But my co-hort (  " partner " has been completely subverted, I cant even bring myself to say it! ) still went the last two seasons, and has actually managed to find some gold this time. That's mostly as he stumbled across a guy who owned and was working an active gold mine. Go figure that THATS where the gold would be, on a mine. He met this guy and was helping him out around the mine and was allowed to poke around the property and do a little freelance panwork on an active proven claim. 

  For the most part, a truck is a pretty good idea. a 4x4 truck is nice-to-have but not need to have. In my view, a 4x4 tends to lead you into places that you probably shouldn't be in the first place. 2 wheel drive makes you think twice and frankly, its the second thought that is usually right. A couple years, neither of us had trucks and we took a car instead. 

  But what a car. The oldsmo-thriller is still living, it is hiding on my brothers property, most likely covered in mildew and dirt, with an interior full of fuzzy mold....

  Oh, side note.... if you're like me and like to drink coffee in your car with cloth seats. and you take sugar in your coffee, and maybe little bits of it has spilled from time to time. And then you store the car in a moist, warm environment for a year or so...... you will find every single drop of coffee you ever spilled in that car clearly indicated by a nice fuzzy little patch of mold. 

  It was amazing, almost like some weird CSI blood-spatter analysis. Right around the armrest and center console,  a polka-dot explosion of putridity. Kind of cool, in a gross way.

  So anyway, we took the car/truck hybrid a couple of times and it held its own on most logging roads. Obviously not an off-road machine, but if you look at the chassis and suspension of one of these, theres not a lot of difference between it and a truck anyways. Bit softer suspension, less load-carrying ability and a slightly lower ground clearance. 

  In the spring, ( when you've been cooped up all winter and dying to get out there....and don't wait a sufficient amount of time for the roads to dry out sufficiently ) you get run-off water overloading the ditches on the sides of the logging roads. The roads are usually elevated slightly for drainage and every so often a culvert or drain is run under the road so the water on the upslope side is allowed to run downhill without going over the road. Water can be amazingly destructive in small amounts and in very little time. So these culverts sometimes get blocked in the spring. Ice or debris gets jammed up in them and suddenly the water overflows the uphill ditch an needs to get across the road.

  Quite often, you will come to a road in the springtime, where every single culvert has washed out. Its been blocked, the water has overflowed at that spot ( the culvert is almost always located in a natural low spot ) and the water goes over the road, washing it out to a depth of a few feet and in most cases, the water " digs " out the buried culvert and washes it down the hill. The road is slightly softer where they buried the culvert as well, so that helps in its demise as well...

  So you'll be plodding along up one of these logging roads, bushes brushing against both sides of your vehicle, and then you'll have to navigate these ditches running across the road. Depending on how deep they go, it may be a showstopper, or you may be able to pick your way through by driving carefully across , angling towards higher ground to avoid becoming high-centred.

  Some of these logging roads are immense, you've driven for fours hours into the bush ( ok, your top speed is 30 Kmh, so you haven't crossed any time zones.. ) and then you come to a section of washouts. Maybe you pick your way ever so slowly and carefully across the first dozen or so, spending an hour creeping across, brushing the frame and axles across high spots. But you've come so far, the lake, creek, fabled el dorado, is only ten more kilometres and its getting dark! 
  Come around a corner and theres an impassable washout. Cliff on the uphill side, Cliff on the downhill side and a 6 foot deep 10 foot across washout in the middle of the road.


  So you think....hmmm, if I creep through here, my front bumper is going to touch the bottom and forward motion will stop. Additionally, the heavy engine-end of my vehicle is going to be down in a hole, with the light, drive-wheel end up on a dirt. gravel surface with no traction to pull it out. Not good.
  Maybe if I gave it a little gas and managed to sort of bounce the front end through there, then the momentum would get me across. After all, the last 30 washouts weren't too bad, surely, after this bad one, we can make it.

 And you do! YES!

  but the next 3 are the same, and getting slightly worse.

  And then the road ends, hopelessly washed out, a stream has actually taken out the bridge and theres no chance.

  It gets better. 

  These roads are so narrow, there are usually only a few spots where yo can turn around. A wide bit somewhere or a bit of a hill you can get one end of your vehicle up one to make enough room for a turn.

  So... now....gotta back out, through 4 washouts that were barely passable going forwards, now you have to do them backwards.

  But hey, now your vehicle is technically a front wheel drive right? Don't they get better traction??

  First washout, hopelessly stuck. Actually managed to get the car stuck so that all four wheels were hanging in midair, with the car bridging the washout, resting on the frame/bumpers.

  But there was a stream nearby and we spent a fun day camping there till we were able to excavate the entire road to the point where we could jack and pull it out. 

  Always had a big chain come-along and a few lengths of chain to take out into the woods and wrap around a big tree, hopefully within reach of the care, and brute-force it out inch by inch.

  So yeah, lots of fun.

  We devised a rating system as well for these adventures, it went sort of like this;


  An Episode is an event, wholly contained within a limited time span or geographic proximity.

eg. Wow, that car was stuck. What an Episode that was getting it out.


  An Escapade is a grouping of three or more Episodes that share a common theme or group of individual. An Episode in itself may not be that noteworthy, however, as part of an Episode, it is more than the sum of its parts (or missing parts.. )

eg. Wow, was that car stuck. But when the chain snapped and shattered the back window, boy was it cold that night. Didn't help when the bear woke us up in the morning poking his head through the window either! 


  An Adventure is a grouping of two or more Escapades in a common journey, time-span or goeographic location.

  Adventures can be very expensive and quite often leave scars.



No comments:

Post a Comment