Tuesday, June 12, 2007


It rained all night as well as I could tell, and it rained through breakfast, finally stopping as I was packing the kayak.

This part of the trip is through the Spirit Bear Wilderness, named for the white bears that are centered on Princess Royal Island. There are supposed to be 40-100 of these white bears as far as anyone can tell. They're actually black bears that have this recessive gene that shows up more than it should in this area.

As I was approaching Butedale this morning, a passing tug pulling a barge of sawdust called on the radio saying that he had seen a spirit bear about a mile ahead of me, and that it may still be on the beach when I get there. But it wasn't. That would have been very cool to see one of those rare beasts.

Tumbledown Butedale used to be a herring cannery and company town. It had plenty of electricity from 2 turbines powered by water from the lake a few hundred feet above town. Town amounted to about 15 buildings from separate dorms for Japanese, Chinese, native Americans and gringos, the factory, managers quarters, kitchen, store, etc. After the cannery closed, the town was abandoned except for a caretaker, and for some years there wasn't even a caretaker. Now the place is beyond repair. It's owned by someone in California, and Lou, the caretaker, has been there for 6 years.

Lou's a talker, by just about anyone's standards. He loves to tell stories. More than once during my overnight stay, I had to cut him short so I could go about my business. But what a kind heart he is. He was out on the dock to welcome me in and helped me lift the kayak onto the dock after I had unloaded it. He said I could pitch a tent anywhere I wanted, but most folks slept on the concrete deck of the pier, next to the work shed, welding station, and his wood stove supply. I loved it--flat and dry. What more could I want?

Lou went about answering questions of a couple from Seward, AK who, with their baby, stopped in about the same time I did. There was also a woman and her son from Seattle who had a nice looking wooden trawler. After they left, Lou busied himself with chores of which he had plenty--probably years worth. I set up camp and went exploring, snooping around the herring factory which for some reason had a couple bowling balls and a set of pins. I got 9 on the ball I threw. Then to the power house, or what's left of it, and a couple cabins Lou rents out for $20/night. The cabins are nothing special, but they have beds and a roof to keep you dry. Then up to the lake about a 20 minute hike up the hill behind Butedale. I'm sure that's the most exercise my quads have had in weeks.

The lake and the cascades into the bay were brimming after the rains we've had and with the snow still on the slopes above. I guessed the snow level in places to be about 1500 feet above sea level. I tried to follow a trail past the lake outlet to get a look across Graham Reach, but the trail was under water and I didn't feel like wading.

The evening I spent in Lou's place. He invited me to share his pasta with tomatoes and canned meat sauce, but I opted for one of my freeze-dried.

Lou has Sirius satellite radio when his friend in Kitimat pays his bills for him, and right now, he hasn't got service. When Lou's talking about people like his friend, he sounds like a character out of Deadwood--curses every 3 words. Lou also has hundreds of DVDs that he picked up at yard sales. It's an impressive collection.

He says he usually stays up til around midnight so I excused myself to go write in my journal and go to bed. Well, Lou needed to go out anyway so he and Bert, his dog, and the 2 cats came with me. I gave up on the journal and finally I was sitting in the tent flossing, brushing, making the bed--he finally said good-night as I was in my sleeping bag and laying my head down.


odd sandbu said...


Interresting article, I spent 5 months at Butedale(June-Oct 1996) we braught the bowling pin's and ball:)

/Odd Sandbu

Stephalicious said...

Butedale is a wonderful place. My family and I spend a week there every summer. Lou is the coolest too!
P.S. Loved the article!