The First Lee Creek Trail Ride

By Jim Cooperman and Barrie Warkentin (in bold)

Pausing for the camera, en route on a logging road – Eric Lutjen with Jon on Melody, Barrie on Sahara with Aaron, Mary on Ben with Beverly, Debbie on Biscayne with Molly and Larry on Whiskey with Mary Lou. Barrie’s  truck, the Red Devil, on the right, photo by Jim Cooperman

In August 1972, four young families headed up a logging road to a mountain plateau with five horses and friends in support vehicles to camp, explore and party around campfires. Over five days and four nights they enjoyed rides across sub-alpine meadows, picked wild berries, and endured cold rainy weather cramped together in an old cabin.

Whiskey in the corral he shared with the goats and sheep, 1972

Horses were part of the “back to the land” dream that brought us to the North Shuswap in 1969 from Berkeley, California. Despite the fact that there was a lack of suitable pasture for keeping horses fed, we purchased two horses in 1970, which kept us busy building fences and barns and had us buying hay and grain with our sparse dollars.

Whiskey and I in Celista for the Canada Day Parade, circa 1971

Although the horses were a luxury that we could barely afford, they were indeed useful. Whiskey was part quarter horse and perhaps part Morgan and did well in harness. I used him to pull logs for firewood and building, he pulled the tiller in the gardens and in the winter he or Biscayne hauled the kids and the groceries on a car hood up the unploughed road from where we parked at the highway.

Heading to town in the winter began with Debbie and Molly on Whiskey towing Aaron and I on the truck hood down the road to where our truck was parked

We bought Biscayne, who was part Arab, from Jerry Bauer in Magna Bay. We soon became friends with other horse owners, including Frank Deegan and his family, and formed a club to enjoy riding together. In 1971, we went on a trail ride together up to the Adams Plateau and we held a gymkhana on a field in the Neskonlith reserve west of Chase.

Jon on Ben with Larry in the background at Meadow Creek

In April of 1972, the Lutjen families arrived in their school buses from California looking for land. We directed them to Meadow Creek, where they set up on a property at the end of the road owned by Larry Speed. Barrie and Barbara Warkentin lived nearby and soon all of us were often hanging out together. By August, we had organized a trail ride and chose to head the horses again up the logging road from Lee Creek to the Adams Plateau.

Home sweet rustic home, 1972

Barrie recollects:

Like Jim, in those days horses were part of my dream to get back to the country. After living for the first summer with very little work and even less money ,I got a job that winter logging and the next summer after moving back up to the end of Meadow Creek Road the first thing I did was buy a horse, Sahara. I bought her from Herbie Roan of the Lazy R Ranch for just $60.00. He said that was what it cost him to feed her over the previous winter. He also rummaged around in his attic and found an old high backed saddle that he threw in the deal. I thought I’d hit the jackpot. It took me forever to train her and I could never really trust her. Turned out to be the worst horse I ever owned, but then in those days I also had the worst truck, chainsaw and other implements that I’d found in the ditch or were basically free. We were all pretty broke in those days.

Barrie with Sahara, in one of her calmer moods, resting in the Adams Plateau meadow, photo by Jim Cooperman

It was very normal in mid-1970s to jump on your horse, ride to the neighbors, ask if they wanted to go for a ride and then split up and work our way down the Lee Creek hill asking people if they wanted to go for a ride and end up meeting at Bell’s meadow with eight to ten riders. It was really a great time for horses on the hill. We’d ride down to the Adams River mouth and at times ride across it. No one had phones in those days so it was pretty spontaneous that people would drop what they were doing, jump on their horses and away we’d go.

Cris going for it at a gymkhana, circa 1976, photo by Jim Cooperman

Once Cris and Benoit came on the scene when they moved to Lee Creek in 1972  she taught us an Afghan game called Bushkashi.  It was a kind of horse football game that Afghans played with a dead calf. We used a gunny sack filled with hay and we’d play it in the parking lot of Roderick Haig-Brown Park.

Horses were a huge part of our lives back then. I had a sleigh for the winter and a two-wheeled cart for the summer. One year Jim and I harnessed our horses Whiskey and Sahara together and cultivated his field. That was another adventure, at one point as we were dumping the stone boat the horses took off at a gallop and ran through a tree, one on each side and destroyed the single trees, harness and almost our desire to continue. But we persevered and after a few days fixing stuff we did get that field cultivated with our first and only attempt at putting a team together.

Here are my diary entries for the ride, followed by some explanation:

Monday, August 14

Off in a rush. Rode up to Gold Creek in 3 shifts to mine road creek – hot climb

Lunch & huckleberries at the bush

late camp at Gold Creek – cold

crowded evening in the cabin without our gear – Stet never made it.

Gold Creek was the midway point between Lee Creek and the plateau where there was the remains of a log barn and corral for the sheep that used to graze during the summers in the nearby meadow. On the way, we rode through a recent burn, where there were many huckleberry patches. For this ride we had a support crew, Michael Stettner or Stet who was supposed to bring our gear, but apparently did not arrive the first night! Barry’s truck (the Red Devil) made it, so we must have had some food and gear. Stet was a good friend from Berkeley and a partner in our land. He later subdivided his 30-acre portion and sold it to Harry Poliak, Dave Kleer and Zev Chochinov and Sharon Stearns.

Stet with Aaron in 1970photo by Jim Cooperman,

Barrie recollects:

I recall the rides up those logging roads being so dusty and hot with very little food on the side of the road for the horses when we did stop for rests. The good thing was we didn’t have to carry all our camping gear as we had my truck as a tender.  It was so nice when we got to Gold Creek as there was tons of feed and it was cooler. Some people had tents and a few of us just made plastic lean-tos and camped around a big fire. Also we had music around the fire that night and a very beautiful sense of comradery and satisfaction of being there.

Barrie on Sahara, Jim on Biscayne, Larry on Whiskey on the plateau, photo by Jim Cooperman

Tuesday, , August 15

Red Devil run down to farm. Schmidty and Stet on the road.

The big move up to the plateau.

Cat work Joe & Mike

Miners Blasting – Conflicting camping spots

by the lake or near the road? A new plastic fantastic

Evening campfire Deb, Patches & Brian get

it on. Music, wine & weed – evening toasties.

Plateau rides short & sweet afternoon swim

Frogs and ground dogs. Larry, Mary, Jon, Mary Lou

Beverly, Eric, Barrie, Stet, Schmidty, Patches, Brian,

Deb, Aaron, Molly, Coop, Whiskey, Biscayne

Ben, Sahara, Melody, Shadow

Schmidty and Patches camped at the lake on the plateau, photo by Jim Cooperman

While we made the move up to the plateau on horseback, someone headed down the hill to find out what happened to Stet. They found him heading up with Schmidty (Jerry Schmidt), his lady friend, Patches and a friend, Brian. Schmidty had a pig farm up Chase Creek and was part of the scene at Laurie Paynes, where Patches and her friend Beverly D’Angleo were camping. We met some miners who were blasting and decided to camp by the lake. That evening we had a party around the campfire, and were entertained by the musicians, Debbie, Patches and Brian.

Patches, photo by Brad Francis

Barrie recollects:

The plateau was one of the most gorgeous places on earth. Beautiful meadows with little lakes in them and all of them in places you could ride through. We would gather a few people together and just take off in a direction and explore, it felt so free and magical. There was lots of feed for the horses and we all had our fabulous homemade granola that you could probably live on. We’d ride for hours, drink out of crystal clear streams, chat about crazy stuff and just leave reality and all the things we had to do at home behind.

Shadow was our dog and we got him from Stet.  He was apparently half coyote and half Shepard. A really great dog.  Melody was my horse and I bought her from a fellow in Chase for Barbara but she never really got interested in horses. I bred her with Karen and Brad’s crazy horse appaloosa stallion and sold her to Chris Giuffrida with the proviso that I got to keep the foal. That was Twyla and even though she had a bad reputation she was an awesome horse.

Big Red pulling Benoit’s sleigh, circa 1977, photo by Brad Francis

Many people went on buggy and sleigh rides with her and for many winters she was the only way to get supplies up the hill other than pulling them up with a toboggan. When I went away to the movies I gave her to a guy back up Meadow Creek Road with the proviso I could get her back when I returned. Last I heard of him he overdosed on a ferry on its way to Vancouver Island. I tried to find out what happened to Twyla, but never really got any good information. 

Early Wednesday Morning, , August 16

Awoke to rain and more rain.

Life in the clouds – cold wet wind

Fog swirling above the lake. Brian’s tent collapses, only Schmidty is dry. Wet mush in the tents. Miners say No Camping. The wet moved down as the sky cleared. Permanent camp set up at Gold Creek. Far-out ride to the end of the meadow with Barrie & Larry. No lake in sight. Circled the meadow on roads and through the brush. The creek blocked further exploration at the end of the meadow evening whist and cold, cold sleep.

Barry on Sahara at the Plateau with Aaron, Jon and Bev next to the Red Devil, photo by Jim Cooperman

Not sure why the miners told us to leave, but given the weather and the likely need to return home, it was wise to head back down to Gold Creek, where we were looking for another lake that likely did not exist. Parties in those days often included card games, including whist, which is similar to bridge.

Barrie recollects:

     We were not very well equipped for cold rainy weather and it reflected on the wet tired people that got up that morning. One moment of hilarity was when Jim decided to keep Debbie warm in the night and took some hot rocks in his towel into their tent. I thought wow that is so clever and sweet. A few minutes later we hear a scream and then the rocks and a smoldering towel was thrown out of their tent. I guess the rocks were too hot and started the towel on fire. That was another great idea gone south. Even with the cold and rain once we got going the rides were lovely and the terrain spectacular

 Early Thursday Morning, , August 17

Awake to more rain – and the scene is gain cold and wet. After breakfast Barrie & I leave on the cold ride to Bunny’s Cabin. Miners give us the directions. The old timer tells of the sheep herders – 523 lambs! Huge miners cabin – 25′ x 40′ high ceiling and huge loft under high pitch aluminum roof – 2×8 rafters.

Afternoon ride cancelled due to rain

and more rain. Acid laugh-in cabin

run away children’s games fire dancing

outside hot coals, more whist,

humour lost claustrophobia cabin fever blues

That was one ‘theatre of the absurd’ night, as the cold rain drove us all inside a small cabin. As if being stuck inside like sardines wasn’t bad enough, most of us took acid and the scene became quite animated as it deteriorated. There was much laughter, rancorous bantered punctuated by a screaming baby (Molly Bee). I sure wish I had taken some photos of Bunny’s cabin, as I have just vague recollections. Bunny Bischoff and his brothers hid there during WWII to evade the draft. They did some mining exploration and trapping, while surviving on hunting and wild plants and berries with occasional long hikes to town.

 Barrie recollects:

I don’t remember a lot of this night other than the fact that we were all dry and warm. It was really quite incredible how many people we could comfortably get together in small places in those days. We all lived in small places and it was no big deal to get us all together for a party, play music, dance and sing in our small places.

Friday, , August 18

Sun shining through fast moving clouds

for pack up and ride home

Deb & Barrie ride to Bunny’s cabin & view bluff

Meeting at the cross roads

Lunch at Berries on the Burn

Bell’s, Schmidty & Ivan M.

Aaron & I relax by the creek in wait. Huckleberry decision. Barrie & I off across the burn in search then the long tired ride home

News of bees and sleep

This is quite the cryptic entry. Barrie and I were likely searching for more huckleberries, as they were thick on the burn in those days. Not sure why I mention Bell’s or who that might be (could be the Bells who lived on the property now owned by Terry Berreth and Ivan M. could be Ivan Martinowsky who was Emil’s son).

Barrie recollects:

I recall being so happy that the sun was back and we were all drying out. Through it all I think the greatest part was just being in the middle of nowhere with a great group of friends enjoying an adventure we all dream of. We might not have been the most prepared group of riders but we were definitely one of the most enthusiastically motivated.  

Epilogue

The 1973 Crowfoot Trail Ride gang

This was the first trail ride in what became an annual event. In 1973, we journeyed up to the top of Crowfoot Mountain and down the backside in search of the old sheep trail up to Pukeashun Mt. We were unsuccessful and headed down the 670 Scotch Creek logging road to home.

Likely a scene from the 1973 Crowfoot trail ride

In 1974, we went back up to the Adams Plateau. Some horses were borrowed for Benoit’s brothers to ride and they took off at the top. We spent the next few days searching for them, but were unsuccessful. These horses did not show up until fall. The last trail ride that I participated in was our 1975 trip up the Adams Lake logging road to Momich Lake. We were in search of a route to Seymour Arm and despite many attempts on steep rocky hillsides, through thick bush, or up another road to the alpine, we were not successful. Trail rides continued for a few more years, until folks became too busy to take a week off during the summer to traipse around the bush on horseback.

Resting between events at one our community’s Gymkhanas, circa 1976, photo by Jim Cooperman

Barrie recollects:

On future rides we usually took everything with us on horses and no tender vehicle, this meant packhorses and more frugal supplies. On the next ride up to the plateau we lost two horses that were borrowed by a gal named Rebecca and we lost them on the first day up on the plateau. We’d usually just tether a few horses and let the other one graze on their own. I looked up as we were setting up camp on the first day and saw all the horses that weren’t tethered heading away from camp. I grabbed a rope and jumped on one of the tethered horses and rode after them. I guess I didn’t yell loud enough because no one else came after me. I caught up with my horses and Poncho, (Rod’s horse) and tied them up to each end of the rope with a tree in between. I then rode up to Benoit’s horse that seemed to be leading them, took off my belt and hooked it onto her halter.  I then just turned her around and hoped the other horses would follow. I picked up Sahara and Poncho on the way back and headed into camp with all the horses but two, Rebecca’s borrowed horses. We spent the next week looking for those horses and never did find them but had many adventures looking for them.  We all got lost at one time or another as it’s one meadow after another and in the end they all start to look the same. Luckily there was one hill that you could ride to the top of and then see the lake we were camped by. We never did find them but Benoit, his brother, Cris, a friend from France and I rode down the back side to Adams Lake and we found another horse there, Big Red.

Momich Lake trail ride, 1975, photo by Benoit Charrier

The trail rides became very popular in the end and the last one to Momich Lake had around 12 riders and a couple of packhorses.  It was epic as we tried to get to Seymour Arm from the Momich before the road went in. We never made it but had one of the greatest adventures trying. That was also my last trail ride but I kept horses until just a few years ago and will always cherish my memories of those times.

Horses were part of the party scene at the early annual “Harvest Festivals,” circa 1976

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