Yahk River Area
Yahk is about 40 km east of Creston on #3 highway. We have ridden on two separate occassions, 1994 & 1999, in an area a few kilometers east of Yahk, just north of the international border. Several decades ago the timber in the area was harvested, largely for railway ties. Millions of ties were cut prior to 1929 and transported by rail on spur lines built in the valleys; hence, the names: Yahk Tie Reserve, Ryan Tie Reserve, etc.. Many of these "roadbeds" are still visible and some have been upgraded as gravel access roads. A roadgrader operator working for Crestbrook Lumber Co. reported finding railway spikes, axe heads, and harness buckles. Logging continues but the area is also used as a communal summer pasture by several local ranchers. In general, this use is declining as conditions for land use in B.C. forests become ever more restrictive.
In 1994, Barry Yuill, from Cardston, Alta. was the range rider looking after 600 cows grazing on 85,000 acres. In fact, the acreage was somewhat smaller than that because the cows tend to stay in the valley bottoms. On our first introduction to the Freeman Creek area we moved a bull, cows and calves from one pasture to another with Barry, Lougheeds and Aylwards. Everything went smoothly until we started sorting cows and calves in a corral before they were released into the new pasture. Barry, a stereotypical cowboy, is a man of few words and for awhile nobody really knew what he was up to. He was hoping the cows would "mother-up"; i.e., each mother would get together with her calf. Most of them did pair up after some confusion and a lot of time and effort. A handful of calves woke us that night as they bawled and pushed through fences to get back to Mom! Barry and his wife, Colleen, were generous hosts. The four of us crammed ourselves into Barry's pickup to do an orientation tour of the area one evening. That really helped us decide where we might ride. In 1999, Barry had retired from his summers riding the range at Yahk; he was at home in Cardston, Alta.
Few tourists visit this area so the wildlife is generally unafraid of horses and riders especially if it's a lone rider. I saw many deer on a ride north on Branch 17, across the ridge and south on Branch 18. Three muley does and a fawn were in a "burn" on Branch 17; the fawn dashed six feet in front of Joe - that woke him up! Later, Joe and I paused to watch a cow moose jog up to a salt lick at the intersection of Branch 18 and Freeman Cr. Rd. Then she laid down! We moved closer and she got up but didn't go far - 30 yds. maybe; then walked alongside us (on the edge of the bush) until she lost interest. Less than a half kilometer further on a muley doe came within 10 ft. of sniffing noses with Joe! One Sunday morning 3 or 4 deer ambled by within a few feet of the camper. Stan and I watched an elk on the international border east of camp; elk hunting is popular in the area. We never did see any bears. In 1994, Barry said that the bears here had not yet figured out that humans often provide a food source. In 1999, Stan said hunters had experienced some trouble with grizzlies raiding camps. The rumour was that U.S. state officials had dumped some problem bears at the international border. It certainly was exciting to get so close to the deer and moose.
Conveying a description of the scenery is a major challenge; it was superb! These mountains in the McGillivray Range of the Purcell Mountains are up to about 2000 m (+/- 6500 ft.)in elevation; Yahk Mtn. is 2180 m. Fllowing are comments from the diary. "July 5, 1994 ... went west ... toward Cold Creek. Climbed to the top of the ridge - nearly 6000 ft. Magnificent views to the south and east (adjectives are not enough), some snow patches on the mountains. ... Comanche and Skip had excellent gazing at lunch break. Most trails have gentle slopes and beautiful views." "July 6, 1994 Headed for the clearcut that we've nicknamed the Pacman about 4 km south of camp as the crow flies. We probably rode 2 or 3 times that on switchbacks to get there but very gentle slopes until the last 200 or 300 ft. The change in elevation from camp to our destination was 1300 ft. (5150- 3850). ...from camp the destination looks okay but not fantastic - a wrong impression! We could see for miles! Mountains in the west with snow were probably in the area of the Kokanee Glacier on the other side of Kootenay L. ... WHAT A VIEW!" The pictures don't come close to doing it justice.