Chapter Two

A Quest Begins.

After returning home from that first trip to Pitt Lake my imagination was on fire even though I really never even got past the entrance of the lake. I had been there and being there brought its history alive and when I returned to school I had become a different person on the inside because I now had something that was mine. Something that gave me a sense of wonder that could not be taken away by the reality of grades and homework and all that other stuff that the adults around me told me was so important to my future. I found when I was in school my mind was lost in a daydream I dreamed about the gold waiting to be found in the Pitt Lake mountains I dreamed about the day when I would unearth its treasure a dream and for me that dream was becoming magic.

Upon continuing my reading of the Pitt lake file. I looked through the articles for any mention of Debeck Creek following the advice of the Indian man who I meet at the marina I found one in my collection which supported his theory that there may be something of value in that area it was a article from the province which reads as follows:

Old Chief's Secret Told, Claim Posted Fabled Mine Needs No Guardian Ghosts: Nature's Barriers Block Seekers of Gold - by Bill Ryan

Province News Team Discovers How 21 May Have Perished

The Province - April 23, 1952 - The ghosts that guard Slumach's Lost Creek mine, that have warded off a horde of searchers moiling for its gold, are not spirits... they are the forces of nature, in savage combination.

Giant snags and windfalls, night temperatures that dip lower than 12 below freezing In April, yawning canyons that loom at your feet unexpectedly, treacherous snow crevices which could swallow a man while the backs of his companions were turned, snow and rockslides, all lined the trail that carried a Province news team to what may be the fabulous lost creek mine.

Last Wednesday when Province photographer Ray Munro, guide Tommy Williams and this reporter turned our backs on Pitt Lake and began climbing, the lake looked like a miniature Lake Louise in the bright sunshine. Our spirits rode high.

West Shore - Four days later when we came out of the woods, Williams had two wrenched knees and assorted bruises, Munro's stomach was acting up and his shoulder was stiff, this reporter had a stiff right ankle and innumerable cuts and slivers. All of us were wet through, had torn clothes and legs like rubber.

Our Associated Air Taxi aircraft had dropped us on the west shore of Pitt Lake; about ten miles from the south end of the lake, near the point where the lake takes a sharp swing northwestward. You start climbing the moment you step ashore.

An overgrown trail, steep and pitted with rocks, carried us to about the 1500-foot level. On our backs we carried each about 30 pounds: canned beans, dehydrated soup, ready-mix pan cake batter, spaghetti: a 303 army rifle and automatic shot gun, axe, knives, compass, prospector's permits, staking tags, etc.

A leaping boiling stream blocked our path and we were not able to follow the route that our guide knew best. We cut through a wild tangle of windfalls, covering half a mile in 2 and half-hours.

Wednesday evening, deep in giant red and yellow cedar and fir, which would bring a handsome price on the lumber market, we pitched out first camp. Our camp was just within the snow line. We laid out cedar bough beds and turned in at 8 p.m.

Uncertain about bears, and having only two sleeping bags, we each stood four hours guard duty during the night. It passed without incident.

Thursday we threaded our way through a winter wonderland. But the melting corn snow gave way incessantly underfoot and progress was slow. We wound through the trees over a slight grade that lies between a mountain rim on either side with the roar of the wild stream we had been unable to cross constantly in our ears from the left. Munro took compass readings throughout, and Williams was constantly checking landmarks he knew, mountain peaks and blazed trees. We took turns in breaking a trail.

For a time even Williams was lost - then, suddenly, we came to a gentle down slope and a level area beside the foaming creek.

Williams excitedly peered through the trees and upward, points and said: "There it is!"

Munro and I dropped our packs and followed his finger. One thousand feet above us, near the top of a soaring peak whose top and flanks were completely covered in snow, we saw a sheer bluff, and faintly visible, below it, a ledge.

To the Right - "I knew I could find it." beamed Williams. "I told you I could find it."

"Somewhere over here," he added, pointing to the right. "Slumach is supposed to have buried a seal skin full of gold beneath a big blazed tree. He had taken too much gold on one of his trips and couldn't carry it out. Slumach's son told my father about it."

But the mine was the main objective and we turned to the creek. We felled a tree across it and clambered to the other shore. We made camp quickly, and took only one pack of supplies and started on the last 1000 feet.

The slope was a 60-degree angle, all snow. The usual route, said the son of Chief Coquitlam Williams, lies to the right, up an easier slope to the crest of the mountain, along the top and then in a circle downward to the bluff and the edge.

Made Footholes - We were able to kick and punch footholes in the snow, however, so we headed straight up. We changed course constantly to avoid fissures in the snow. There were many slips and slides: we literally crawled up 1000 feet on our hands and knees.

Throughout the climb Munro and I repeatedly stopped to catch our wind. Tommy, 59 years, spry by virtue of the centuries that his people have spent in taming the wilderness, plodded on methodically. ceaselessly.

It was bitter cold. We were wet, legs like rubber. Williams casually mentioned that he thought a toe and finger were frozen. Two of his fingers were frozen to almost twice their size.

The roar of water sounded above us, and we reached a spot, below a bluff, where the stream had broken through the snow and cascaded over the bluff. We edged out on a snow bridge, but couldn't reach the stream for fear of falling through the snow and into the rocky canyon below. We chewed on snow.

Williams looked about him frantically, trudged a few paces to the right onto the small ledge, and turned to us with an enigmatic smile.

"This is it - this is Slumach's mine," he said simply.

"I knew the snow would be too deep. But below us is the creek. It runs out of a hole in that rock.

" It was, we agreed, about 4,000 feet up. Below us, across from us, all about us lay silence and the beauty of winter in the mountains.

Up the Bluff - And beneath our feet - if our information was authentic - there might be lode gold.

While Munro and Williams explored below, I worked my way up the bluff and reached a point near the crest of the peak. With a hatchet I blazed a tree, attached out metal staking tag and wrote on the white wood the other necessary information. The stake number is A86075. The claim blankets an area 2300 feet up the side of the mountain, 920 feet to the right of the stream and 400 feet to the left of the stream.

On a whim we called it "Rymu Coquitlam."

The formal papers have gone to the Gold Commissioner's office in New Westminster.

From the walls of the canyon we clawed out moss and a few chips of rock and - wet through and evening winds whipping about us - we headed down. On the way down we staked a second post and corner posts.

Williams, carrying a gold pan filled with moss, slipped. He slid 100 yards down the steep slope but was stopped by a tree. The pan tobogganed another 100 yards down the slope, spewing moss.

We reached camp wet, breathless and worn.

Repeated attempts to start a fire failed. Finally, a few drops of gasoline we had did the trick. The fire was laid on two heavy logs we had chopped so as not to sink into the snow. We stripped what wet clothes we could spare hung them about the fire and dived for the sleeping bags. Supper was cold beans.

That night there was an incident. I awoke to find Williams and Munro thrashing about in their sleeping bag. Williams had awakened to find a small animal - he thought a martin or a fisher - trying to crawl under the sleeping bag. In the pitch darkness, awakened abruptly, our nerves jangled. The animal fled.

Even in the bags our knees and feet were cold, although we were fully clothed. Williams had another bad fall, overbalanced by his pack, on the way out and wrenched his knee. For a moment we thought he had broken his leg. It was like stepping from winter into summer as we passed out of the snow line on Friday.

From our moss samples we panned fine black sand.

Our plane was to rendezvous with us at the lake at 3 p.m. Saturday. It failed to appear.

Food was low and we considered building a raft to pole the ten miles down the lake, in the event a mistake had been made about the rendezvous day. We learned later high winds in Vancouver had prevented our plane from taking off.

While we waited on Sunday a yellow Moth seaplane passed up the other side of the lake.

We fired a red flare to attract him but he passed on. Sunday sharp at 3 p.m. a twin-engine Cessna skimmed over the mountains and dropped to the lake. That is the story, factually as it happened, and factually as it was told to me.

Is it the fabulous Lost Creek Mine of Slumach, who killed to protect his secret? And whether it is the mine or not, is there gold beneath the snows?

Gold has been taken out of the area, but no one can honestly answer these questions at this time. But when the snows melt this summer, you may be sure, two Province newsmen and the 59-year-old-son of an Indian chief will go back to that bleak, remote bluff and ledge.

When I finished the article, I compared the article's map with a more detailed topographic map of the area and drew a circle similar to the one in the Province newspaper article and sure enough the circle overlapped the Debeck creek area, but it is such a vast area that there was not much to go on but other evidence would present itself to me over time.

School was coming to an end and summer loomed on the horizon, so once again I nagged my father into taking Rick and I back up to Pitt Lake. For this second trip up the lake we launched the boat at the lower Pitt marina near poor old Louis Bee was killed by Slumach. It also started to rain on us that day as we headed back up the Pitt River and into the lake. This time we missed the sandbar and cruised up the lake avoiding several deadheads on the way. My father is never one for making the same mistake twice. My destination this time was Debeck Creek. In my naivete, I thought that I could get some samples from the creek that would support what the old Indian said about there being gold in the Debeck Creek area on a day trip. As we cruised up the lake and passed Goose Island I was lost in amazement at the ruggedness and vastness of the mountains in the area, the wind was blowing down on us from the top of the lake as we got closer to the mouth of Debeck Creek, and the boat started to pound on top of the water sending waves of water cascading over the top of the boat.

"I don't know how long we can spend up here today," my father explained, as the waves pounded down on us "It's really rough and it's only getting rougher."

What I found, as my trips to Pitt Lake increased over the years, that this was to become a familiar theme. Once you would get close to where you wanted to be, some weather factor would always get in your way and crush your plans. It really makes you wonder if what they say about a curse on this place is true.

Within moments I could see the top of the lake and the mountains behind where many prospectors had died searching for the mine. Why I was not obsessed with that area at the time I do not know, I was too busy following the instincts inside me and they were steering a clear course towards Debeck Creek.

We slowly pulled the boat up towards the mouth of Debeck Creek, but it didn't look like there was any place to land the boat. The beach that was supposed to be there was covered in water and there was all kinds of drift wood floating in the water and they weren't small pieces ether, large ones like stumps and huge logs which pounded against the side of the boat as the waves thrashed us around when we tried to get onto shore. I watched in envy as my father guided the boat through the drift wood towards a large hollow tree that had fell on it side into the water.

:"We can't get the boat to shore, but I'll get the ropes ready and tie it to one of the branches of the tree once we get close," he said.

Rick and I sat ready as we closed in the on the hollow tree waiting to snag a branch with the rope.

"Got it!" I yelled up to my father who came running over and tied one of his expert knots which secured the boat to the tree.

"I have to stay with the boat," my father said. "You two can climb up the tree to shore and do some exploring, but we can't stay long. Do what you have to do and be back in no longer than half-hour. It's getting rougher and we have to get out of here soon," he explained.

Rick and I both nodded our heads in agreement and picked up our packs and scrambled up the slippery log and onto shore. The rain was pouring down on us as we entered the forest and headed over towards the river whose roar we could hear in the distance. Just before we got to the rivers edge we hit what looked like a old trail that followed along the shore of the creek.

"Let's follow it," I said to Rick as we headed up the trail, which got denser as it wound its way up the side of the river. As we walked up the trail, it started to turn into a little creek. We splashed our way through the water as we got deeper and deeper into the forest. The rain stopped as a natural roof top formed from the twisting branches of the trees above us. We almost had to crouch down when we walked because it was so close to our heads like we were in a tunnel.

The little creek we were following soon made a sharp turn to the left and took us right out onto the edges of Debeck creek where the river's roar was so loud we could not hear each other talk. We walked up the river a little ways till I spotted an area that looked like we could pan. I had been avidly studying the guide to gold panning buy Garnet Basque and it helped me pick an area where maybe we could find a little colour.

"Rick, let's try panning over here," I said pointing to the river.

He came over and took the two black gold pans we had bought from the army surplus store a couple of days before. We panned and panned till our backs were aching, but we found not a trace of colour. I took some interesting looking rocks with quartz in them from the river to take back with me.

"Isn't it time to go back?" Rick asked as the rain once again pounded down us and a very powerful wind blew through the valley.

"Let's just go up a little further and try panning again," I explained so very badly wanting to find a trace of colour. We made our way along the sides of the river and up and around a large log jam. I was about to put my pan in the water when Rick tapped me on the shoulder and pointed up ahead in the distance. I looked up and we found ourselves staring at a tent leaning on the side of the river where we could see the backs of two people rummaging around their camp.

"What the hell are they doing up here?" I said to Rick.

"Do you think they are looking for gold?" Rick asked.

"Why else would anyone be camping up here? on a day like this" I explained, "let's see if we can get a closer look."

Rick and I walked along the sides of the river using logs for cover trying to get a better look at these strange people camped on the side of the creek on such a miserable day. Suddenly as we got closer, a dog who we had not seen started to bark very loudly.

"They have a dog!" Rick said sounding scared crouching lower behind a log as one of the men in the camp started yelling at his dog.

"What is it boy? You smell something? What's the problem?" he asked while patting the dog on the head

The man started walking in our direction and he quickly spotted us

"Hello," I said raising my hand in a peaceful way.

"Who the hell are you? Get out of here! Sick 'em boy!" he yelled at his dog who came running at us as soon as he gave the order with his mouth foaming and ready to kill.

We did what anyone would do in such a situation, turned around and started running like hell back down the river as fast as we could back in the direction of the boat. I was so scared I never looked back, but you could hear the dog barking as we splashed through the river trying not to slip on the slippery boulders and fall into the cascading creek as we ran. Within minutes we found the opening in the forest where we followed the little creek on the way in, we ducked inside. I saw the dog making its way over the boulders in the river still out for blood and the man was close behind. Rick and I splashed through the little creek and ran through the forest and back towards the place where my dad was waiting for us in the boat. When we finally broke out of the forest, my father was not there. He was cruising back and forth among the driftwood with the boat thrashing in the waves which had picked up since we left.

"Dad!" I yelled, hearing the bark of the dog of f in the distance closing in He could see us, but could not hear us as he navigated through the driftwood. He pointed to us to climb out onto the fallen tree where we had gotten off the boat and we started to as he crashed through the waves towards us. Just as he got close the dog broke out of the forest and saw us standing on the fallen tree and barked madly at us and started making his way to where we were, determined to kill. My father brought the boat along side the old tree with the waves smashed the boat against the old tree as he signaled us to jump onto the front of the boat.

Rick was ahead of me and jumped first. The dog was now right on my heals. As the boat pounced up and down in the lake my dad handed him a paddle which he passed to me to swat at the dog who was inches from me growling and showing his teeth. When the time was right, I jumped onto the front of the boat as well and my dad started to pull away as I climbed inside the boat. We saw the man come out of the forest and the dog made a daring leap and landed on the front of the boat.

"Jesus Christ!" my dad yelled as he found himself face to face with the ferocious animal. My dad grabbed the paddle from me and reached out through the window to swat at enraged dog which he hit it on the side of the head and the dog lost its footing and fell into the swallow icy waters of the Pitt. My dad then put the throttle on full reverse and we backed away from the Pitt Lake shores as Rick and I collapsed on the boat's comfortable seats, stunned at what had just happened.

"What the hell was that all about?" my dad yelled as the waves pounded the boat as we cruised once again back down the lake.

"You wouldn't believe it! There was two men camping up there and the spotted us and sicked their dog on us!" Rick explained.

My dad shook his head in disbelief at what had happened and he never asked any more questions, he was obviously not in a good mood having spent his Sunday being pounded by the waves of the Pitt .

What the two men were doing up at Debeck Creek was never answered and is still not to this day When I returned there in the summer we found the remains of their camp, but nothing that would indicate who they were or what they were doing. If they were campers why would sick a dog on us unless thee where trying to hide something. Rick and I were convinced they were prospectors in the area on a quest for gold. The samples I took out proved to be nothing but granite and quartz of course. Back in those days I had no idea just how much it would take to get even close to a place where gold could be found in their area. In time I would learn just how much work it takes to find the yellow metal and it would turn out to be more than I could ever imagine.

Read Chapter Three

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