August 9, 2012 by Rokman61
(Previously presented as email on August 9, reposted here in Oct. This was the 4th instalment of a 5-part journal featuring Atlassing adventures of 2012).
Following our session at the Schaft Creek exploration camp, we were flown back to Dease Lake and from there headed to Watson Lake to embark on a second stint of Atlassing. Whilst driving north I got this photograph of a Ruffed Grouse, taken through the windshield of the car.
Predictably, this begs the age-old question, “Why did the . . . . ?”
Here is the Google Map showing the general location of our destination, Scoop Lake. As you can see, Watson Lake is in Yukon Territory, and Scoop Lake is in BC to the southeast.
The only practical access to Scoop Lake is by air. We were flown there in a little Cessna aircraft. Heading southwest out of Watson Lake and looking eastward, I was surprised to see such an extensive area of low-relief, plateau topography. As it happens, this region is beyond the northernmost end of the true Rocky Mountain Ranges (which ‘end’ at Termination Mountain, a short distance south of Scoop Lake – photo follows later). This relatively low area allows some species of birds whose normal range is on the eastern side of the mountains to trickle into the area we are headed for. The two images below are looking east, with a section of the Alaska Highway and the Liard River visible in the first photo.
Looking west, the snowy Cassiar Mountains are visible in the distance, with more broad, low-relief terrain in the foreground.
Numerous small lakes were observed all the way along our route. Interestingly, most showed the most strikingly vivid blueish-green colours in the shallows around their margins. This feature is obvious only from the air – barely noticeable at shore level.
Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that not all the lakes show the same intensity of blue-green tone.
In places adjacent lakes/ponds had markedly contrasting hues. I don’t know what causes this.
The entire valley floor is covered with thick deposits of glacial origin. This long narrow feature is an esker, a ridge of sand and/or gravel deposited along the course of a sub-glacial stream.
Here some esker sands have been blown around to form a small dune field (lower right). A tributary stream entering from the west has carved steep banks on the glacial deposits (middle right).
Approaching Scoop Lake. Again note the blue-green tint along the edges. The high snowy peak is part of the Cassiar Mountains to the west. The landing strip is the narrow slot in the trees on the right side of the photo.
Scoop Lake lies in the northern end of the Rocky Mountain Trench, a major linear valley that runs continuously from the southern Yukon right through to Montana. This view looks south along the Trench, with Termination Mountain on the left, and the western peaks of the Cassiar Mountains on the right. The little Piper floatplane is owned and flown by the Scoop Lake business.
The venue for our second Atlassing session was markedly different from that of Schaft Creek, but every bit as interesting. This rustic sign succinctly describes the nature of the Scoop Lake enterprise.
Scoop Lake Outfitters is a family-owned and operated business, but not exactly a mom-and-pop mini-shop. Along with the main camp we were visiting, their assets include 3 aircraft, landing strip, several boats, quad ATVs, a tractor, miles of drivable tracks, about 40 horses, and more than twenty smaller wilderness camps. The cleared areas are remnants of a failed homestead. The various buildings are of log construction of different vintages, many of them built for the Department of Forestry when the site was used as a major base. Plumbing is supplied by clean water from the lake, electricity is derived from solar collectors and a small wind turbine, and a good-sized garden provides fresh vegetables. Despite being one of the most remote areas in the province, there certainly is no shortage of amenities.
Hosts Darwin and Wendy and their contingent of employees were all friendly and most accommodating. Their main busy season does not start until August, so we were afforded first-class treatment. Our flight into the camp and our lodging were complimentary, as well as access to a vehicle as needed.
This cozy little cabin was our lodging during the visit.
Here some of the wranglers/guides are waiting for the dinner bell on the deck of the kitchen/dining unit. Many a tall tale were told here. The pink-topped round coffee tables are both functional and interesting – made on-site from hundreds of styrofoam egg cartons held together with duct tape. This shot is somewhat atypical – the dog most often sleeps on the pink rug in front of the door.
As expected in such a social setting, we were prime targets for some good-natured ribbing about our outlook on wildlife and our interest in the little ‘dickey birds’. But there was also considerable genuine interest in what we were doing. Being up and out at work two hours before breakfast time probably enhanced our status somewhat.
The boys were eager to show us their prize ‘Great Furry Owl’, which was proudly mounted on the wall in the lounge off the dining area. Unfortunately they were not able to show us a live one, as apparently we were there at the wrong time of year.
Coming in the next instalment, a few examples of living things we did manage to observe.