Friday, 2 January 2015

Old Stomping Grounds

     A few days after Christmas we headed for Grande Prairie for a visit to see friends and relatives. I also wanted to tour the area south of Grande Prairie where I worked as a logger for Proctor and Gamble at the time. When I left the city around 9:00 it was -27 degrees Celsius but the sun was bright and lightening the hoar frost and snow covered forest. The main haul road south from the Weyerhaeuser pulp mill was in beautiful shape as it used to be with the help of winter frost and snow filled potholes. It was 1979 when I last travelled this road, 35 years already. Where has the time gone? As I drove along I remembered incidents and landmarks from my past.
     Mile 11 was the spot a loaded log truck driver dodged a coyote and ended up out in the swamp, still upright but now jobless.

     Here at mile 29 was the spot another fellow tipped his truck over and scattered logs for more than a hundred yards after hitting a bump and losing control on the down hill slope.
     Right here we were travelling home after a late shift around 2:00 in the morning. I was driving a crew cab with three or four work mates, including my friend Smokey, an East Indian immigrant. It was a bright moonlit, cold winter night when suddenly several timber wolves crossed through the high beam headlights. I immediately stopped and shut the truck off, hoping to see more wolves. We stood outside the truck and enjoyed listening to the wolves howl back and forth from each side of the road. We were surrounded by spectacular wilderness symphony. What a memorable few minutes. I could not convince Smokey to sit beside the road while we drove away.
     There is the spot I shot a moose while hunting with my wife and first son Michael when he was around a year or a bit more old. I remember having a friend of mine help carry that moose to the road. He was a big strong Frenchman who broke trail while I staggered along behind trying to hold up my end of the moose load.
Trees planted around 1975

     Mile 32 corner is where I planted my first trees into the naked cut block. Those trees now stand more than thirty feet tall. It worked! This was the same area that the company helicopter landed in front of one of our delimbing machines to inform the operator that he was on fire. The rear engine was burning giant billows of smoke and flames while he was driving down the road.
Compressor Station

     It is difficult to see some of the landmarks as there are new roads, oil well sites, compressor stations, pipelines and gas plants scattered all the way along the road. The old airstrip is not even noticeable.
5 or 6 year old Lodgepole Pine 

     There are no more mature trees left, or very few. This forest has been infested by the Mountain Pine Beetle which has destroyed millions of Lodgepole pine from B.C. through Alberta and beyond. The company is trying to salvage as much of the dead and dying timber as possible. When I was logging here the plan was to cycle through the forest on a eighty year cycle. Timber was supposed to last forever if this allowable cut could be maintained.
Mountain Pine Beetle Infested Trees 

     It is now 40 years since the first trees were cut in 1972 and there are few mature trees left in the Weyerhaeuser district one area. I wonder what will happen in the next few years to the forest, the wildlife and the land. What new pest or fire will come through to disrupt man's best laid plans.
Healthy Looking Coyote
      I did so enjoy spending time with a coyote who has discovered that there may be a few scraps of food at a mandatory truck stop where the drivers must check their load security and equipment. This coyote will hopefully not become another blotch on the road, himself food for scavengers. This is mile 42 and it is plus 2 degrees C. It always seems to be warmer out here than in town.
Snowy Cattails

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