Procut Portable Sawmills in Prince George, BC Back to Stories and Laughs

THE HARD WAY HOME

In the early 70’s my friend ( Murray) and I had a shake block business. We used to go on different sites that had been logged off in cedar and salvage what we could from slabs left on the ground and also from the high stumps left from the logging that was done in the winter. These stumps were quite high because the snow pack when logged was very deep and the faller at the time was starting about 6ft up the butt, standing on the top of the snow. We use to go  in the summer and utilize these stumps for shake blocks, cut them right to the ground as this is the best for shakes as the butt is usually clear wood and no knots.

For a long time we went into these different logging sites in all kinds of weather, then we got the idea to be on an active logging site. We negotiated with a logging contractor to have a small portion of the landing site we could use and we would use the butt end of the cedar log that they use to buck off so the log was more easily transported by truck. These butt ends , clear of knots were usually put in a pile for burning in the winter. It would have been very nice to get into these sites and into these piles when they were finished with logging but we never could because of closed roads etc and snow.
This arrangement being on the active landing site worked very well for us and for the active crew as it cut down on the waste they had to manage and we got the use of a loader on site.
We would buck off a portion of the butt end we wanted and the loader would bring this butt to our portion of the site. We then cut these butts into 24” rounds, flipped down onto the flat face and split the logs into shake blocks. There was usually a big fire going all the time at this site for the waste and the loader was always there to clean up the mess from cutting blocks.

This logging site was above  Adams Lake, very high up in the mountains, up a restricted active logging road of about 6 miles ( aprrox.10 k.m.’s) long. It had only a small amount of pull outs which was controlled by radio in the trucks, mostly for the logging trucks going up and coming down. They could radio when they started out from either direction and then make it to a pull out, especially the trucks going up, very hard to stop a loaded truck going down.

We could not afford a radio in our pickup, too expensive, so we either arrived very early in the morning when we knew there would be no trucks running yet, if we were just a little late, then we would wait at the start of the road until a logging truck was heading up and follow him up. This worked out great for a while, we even went on the weekends when the crew was not working, had the loader lay a pile of butts down for us so we could work through the weekend.

This one weekend started out like any other, got up early as the loader had layed down some really prime shake wood butts and we could not wait to start on them. We had a good breakfast and went off to what we thought was a regular day of work, it ended up anything but. We arrived at the logging road at around 6am and started up, it started to get very cold as we climbed and we were thinking it will be very nice with the large fire going by our portion of the site. It got progressively colder until the temp gauge we had on the outside of the truck showed it was -23, but we were not concerned, we had worked in temps all the way down to -35 before with a fire going to warm us as we worked. As we rolled along in the pickup, we had the stereo on, quite loudly as I remember and Murray was having difficulty keeping traction as the road was fairly steep and it was icy. The tape was in between songs and I thought I heard a jake brake. A jake brake is what a large truck uses to slow down instead of using the brakes, uses the back pressure from the engine, anyway, I thought I heard this, it is distinctive and I told Murray, turn off the stereo I thought I heard a truck. Naww he said it is Saturday and they are not working, you must be imagining it, and then, he said oh  ##!!!! I just heard it too. We frantically tried to remember where the next pull out was and then realized there was not any more pull outs as it was only less than 1 mile to the top. This is bad,….oh very bad said Murray as we could not back down to the last pull out, too icy, and the last section of the road had quite a few sharp corners. I will make a mention here also that the road is cut into the side of a mountain, a long drop down on one side. We stopped on a straight section, turned off the engine to listen and sure enough the loud bark of a jake brake and by the sound of it, a fully loaded logging truck coming down. We had nowhere to go, the road is only wide enough for a 1 truck and we knew there was NO way a loaded truck could stop in time. We both looked at each other and knew what we had to do, came to the same conclusion at the same time, we had to get the pickup of the road. Just up ahead I saw a section on the side of the road where there were a lot of trees and told Murray we are going to have to put the truck into those trees off the road. I was hoping the trees would hold the pickup from just going straight down the mountain side. We quickly positioned the pickup climbed out and then Murray reached in and put it in drive and the old truck went straight over the side, ploughed down the small trees and kept right on going, crashing through the small bushes, bouncing off larger trees, it was quite spectacular, just like you see in the movies, rolled many many times until we lost sight of it in the forest growing on the side of the mountain.

The logging truck went by at this instant and blew his horn and just waved, we did not even get a chance to try to stop him to get a ride and to this day I do not know what was going through his mind. If he thought we were just walking up the road, it must have gone through his head what the temperature was, but I guess to try and stop his truck it would have been very difficult and then just to find out we were out hiking etc.So, here we were, on a mountain road that is a closed road and no chance for anyone to come by. We started walking down the road, a long way to go down and we started to get colder. It is at this moment we decided to do the most stupid thing anyone can do in this instance. We knew better, but, it was a long way down that road and it switched back and forth up the mountain, we decided to take a short cut, straight down off the road. We figured it is a few miles by road, much less straight down off the road.

We picked a good spot to start down, made sure there were lots of trees to hang onto if we started to slide. It was steep but nothing a person could not navigate. We started down and at first it was fairly easy just going from one small tree to another, sliding in some places, but always having another tree to hang on too to stop.It progressively got harder as the snow got deeper, we started to sweat and then got colder as the sweat dried, the wind came up and then it started to snow. It is a very good thing that we were on a steep mountainside going down as now we had no reference of where we were. We were covered in snow, inside our clothes also and now our clothes were very wet, we both wanted to stop and have a rest, but we knew if we did we would die on this mountain as we were both very very cold, tired, and in the first stages of hypothermia. We kept going, we never did see the road again, even though the road switched back and forth coming up the mountain. When we finally reached the bottom and the regular Adams river road we were not thinking straight at all. We just sat on the side of this lonely road, which  is not much traveled, and slowly started to fall asleep, covered in snow, ice on us everywhere as our body heat had lowered so much. For a time we yelled at each other to try and stay awake, we lost that ability also after a short time.

Then, I heard a car, could not even raise my arm to wave, just sat there hoping they would stop, actually I thought I was dreaming it, in my mind I had already said goodbye to everyone, I knew I was going to die and this person stopped. He had a terrible time trying to get us into his car, but he managed, he turned up the heat all the way and went as fast as he could to the nearest hospital, he said after that he thought he must have lost quite a bit of weight because he had the heater on high and all the windows up and it was like a sauna in the car. Needless to say we made it o.k., only had a little frostbite on the ends of my fingers and they turned black, BUT if you see my other stories, cut those fingers off later anyway…..laugh.

Allan at Procut


PROCUT Portable Sawmills
2468 McBride Crescent
Prince George, B.C. Canada V2M 2A1
Phone: 1-250-562-6422 or Contact Us

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