From Loon Lake Road – Changes not just brought on by the seasons

Barbara Hendricks' monthly column of news and community events at Loon Lake.

Let it snow, let it snow

This past month will go down in books as Snovember!

The weather most days this month has been quite suggestive that indoor activities are to be preferred and therefore I have been looking at family photographs that are more than 80 years old.

I just received a big package of old photos from a cousin who was cleaning out her parents papers and among them were many dozens of photographs of her father (my father’s older brother), my father Ike Hendricks and his younger brothers and friends, posed  in various Loon Lake and Bonaparte valley landscapes alongside poles or cars hung with their hunting results; deer, bear and moose figure prominently in the photos as well as the young men and their rifles all showing broad smiles despite holding a pipe or cigarette in their mouths.

The time was the mid 1930s, usually in November. Loon Lake Road was one of those places considered accessible from the Lower Mainland even though the drive through the Fraser and Thompson canyons with their motorcycles or cars would take as much as 12 hours, particularly at this time of the year. The cars of those days didn’t do so well in slushy snow and it was cold inside and out.

A dollar here, a dollar there

Guest ranches and fishing and hunting lodges first established in the area in the late 20’s or early 30’s, like the JT Guest Ranch (now Sands Ranch) provided accommodation, meals, guiding, pack horses and evening entertainment. Most homesteaders along Loon Lake Road offered these services as well, especially guiding and pack horses which brought in needed money in the fall after most of the farming was done and before winter logging began.

At the time, my father and his brothers worked in the Fraser Valley – picking hops and tobacco, working on a dairy farm or whatever else needed to be done. They first came to Loon Lake Road for hunting in 1935 and in hunting seasons today their grandsons continue the tradition.

However the game is nowhere near as abundant now; not many hunters walk the old hunting trails and ATV’s have replaced pack horses. Moose used to roam all along Loon Creek and in the hills above. Now it is quite rare to see a moose in the Loon Creek valley.

Bird watch

Watching birds at the feeder is another of my favourite cold weather past times. This year however the feeders are very quiet with few birds visiting. I am not sure why. Perhaps it is because there has been a bumper crop of pine, fir and spruce cones and the seed eaters are finding lots of food elsewhere.

Perhaps they have chosen another location to winter or perhaps it is because there are fewer birds surviving from year to year.

Even the nuthatches have gone elsewhere and they were here during the summer. I am glad to say that the Steller’s Jays remain as I find them most entertaining.

As most of those that visit my feeder do not migrate south and live year round here in the north I wouldn’t think their survival would have been affected by any major human activity. Project Feeder Watch and other reports like the Christmas Bird Count all help in answering questions about where the birds are and how they are doing. This year the Christmas Bird Count runs from Dec 14 to Jan 5 and I know people from Ashcroft and Cache Creek are active in the count slated for Dec 22. Maybe more Loon Lake Road people will also watch out for the birds.

On-line I found an interesting hint for a pine cone as a bird feeder and as there are many this year I will hang a bunch up in a tree. The suggestion is that you mix one part peanut butter with five parts cornmeal and stuff this mix into the pine cone and hang them out. Of course our ponderosa cones are not as large as those of some other pines – but they work well.

Changing habits

My cats have also changed over to winter habits. Being creatures that seek comfort and warm, they are to be found in a warm spot on a cushion.

I have been reading about studies that claim that cats kill millions if not billions of birds each year; however I do think those numbers are exaggerated for Canada. For the most, ordinary domestic cats do not particularly like being outdoors without protection in the winter and if they are thrown out into nature around here they will likely be dead by the end of the winter.

The study was based on the assumption of a large number of feral cats hunting birds for food year round. This doesn’t happen here – however, cats should still be kept from hunting birds and sitting under the local bird feeder.

Some town people have the mistaken idea that they can just drive unwanted cats to a country road where there are farms and just dump them off and the cats will be okay. They won’t – and it is horrible cruelty to a domestic animal.

At our house, the cats sort of tip toe out into the snow then turn around and come right back in again. Therefore, I was surprised to find a tick on one of my cats recently – on closer combing I found some more.

They were the winter or moose tick and hadn’t bitten in. I know these ticks are a problem for moose, deer and elk – causing them to weaken and die and some are pointing to this tick as a causal factor in the moose die off. I wasn’t aware that pet owners need to be vigilant and check their pets for ticks at this time of the year. Now I know.

Barbara Hendricks

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