Been a long time... - Fiberglass RV

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Old 01-02-2014, 02:27 PM   #1
cjlindsay's Avatar
Name: Cory
Trailer: Decrepit Canoe
British Columbia
Posts: 69
Been a long time...

Howdy all! Aside from my thread looking to sell my 1970 1300 Boler back in October I haven't been around much. But I have a great excuse!

Here; I'll show you my excuse, rather than just explain it. (Which I will do too, of course.) ;-)

My excuse for being antisocial...

The view from my docks.

The view from my porch. (With Tiger, the "Town Cat".)

My porch is the on the cabin on the right.

That's my bud, Bud keep watch over everything.

Bud and Tiger.

Bud at the lake.

Frosty morning at the lake.

Northern Lights (and a meteor) from the docks

Butedale British Columbia... The reason I sold the Boler. I lived out here summer to summer 2010 / 2011, then had an abscessed tooth mess things up. So, a couple years back in "civilization" and I could afford to return to paradise.

For those who don't know, (and I imagine that's 99.99999 percent of the world) Butedale is an abandoned Salmon cannery town on Princess Royal Island off the coast of British Columbia. It shut down in the late 50's and has moldered away ever since. And now, I am the sole inhabitant of Butedale, and also the sole inhabitant of the 900 sq. mile Princess Royal Island. The nearest towns are a couple of First Nation's villages 35 km (21 miles) to the north (Hartley Bay, pop. 150) and 45 km (28 miles) to the South. (Klemtu, pop. 400) Other than that, the nearest actual city is Kitimat, 100 km to the North-East. And all those distances are by boat. No other access aside from floatplane and helicopter.

So, I finally made it back to paradise early in November, and have just been soaking in the beauty for the last couple months. It would have been nice if it hadn't rained 2 to 8 or 9 inches almost every day except for a half dozen; but hey, it's a rain forest; and it can't rain forever. (Though it sure seems like it right now.) lol!

Anyhoo, I just thought I'd give an update on what happened after I sold the Boler, and well, there ya are!

Righty then, have a fantabulous New Year everyone! And I'll say chow for now.


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Old 01-02-2014, 02:59 PM   #2
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What a beautiful spot Cory. I can see why you love it there.

Life would be a million times better if there were Pinatas strategically placed throughout the day.
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Old 01-02-2014, 03:01 PM   #3
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Wow! Beautiful! Since you are the only inhabitant, are those other houses abandoned?
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Old 01-02-2014, 03:55 PM   #4
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hi cory---welcome back! and i can see why you call it a paradise....absolutely gorgeous...especially the lightshow.

how did you come to be the sole owner/resident? what good fortune brought you to butedale?
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Old 01-02-2014, 08:13 PM   #5
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Name: Cory
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Originally Posted by theresa p View Post
hi cory---welcome back! and i can see why you call it a paradise....absolutely gorgeous...especially the lightshow.

how did you come to be the sole owner/resident? what good fortune brought you to butedale?
Heyo! And thank you! I'm not actually the owner, just the caretaker. But still, being that I'm here all by myself, I consider it "mine". The docks are technically mine since I built 50% of them and rebuilt 250% of them. And the cabin is mine since there's no-one to say differently.

As for the good fortune; it was an incredibly long and tortuous journey to get where I am now.

It all began in 2007, when I finally found a chunk of the BC coast that I wanted for myself. (A small chunk of Surf Inlet on the other side of Princess Royal Island.) I had been searching for honestly about 12 or 13 years through the historic map collections and aerial photograph collections of various libraries and universities in Ottawa, when I found what I though I was searching for.

Now, what I was searching for was strangely specific. Nearly all my life (as far as I can remember, I've always had a dream / daydream / fantasy about a very specific set of features that "my spot" needed. They were: Directly on the BC Coast, a couple hundred feet above high tide, with a river AND a creek running down from a large lake. And not just any lake, but one that was kinda "L" shaped. Told you; VERY specific dreams.

Anyhoo, I found the perfect match in Surf Inlet in 2007 via Google Earth, and so I contacted the BC government and inquired about the possibility of leasing / buying / tenuring / renting the land in question. Their answer was pretty blunt, and unequivocal. NO! Period. Full stop. So, being that I don't take rudeness too kindly; I contacted back the person who "answered" me, and requested some slightly more detailed information as to WHY the answer was absolutely NO. So, I'm told; NO-ONE is allowed to live on Princess Royal Island. Period. Full stop. (Not very helpful.) So I try again. Asking this time; "Specifically WHY is no-one allowed on PRI? Then I'm told that it is a combination of factors like First Nation's Reserves, wilderness sanctuaries, conservation areas, and just because we don't want anyone there. (Effectively what I was told.) So I did a little research, and found out that there IS someone living on the Island; in an abandoned cannery called Butedale. Naturally, my hackles are way up by now, so I contact my contact again and tell them, "There is sonmeone living on the island, and he's been there 10 years! Waddaya mean no-one is allowed to live on the island!!!" So I finally get the answer i was looking for; No-one UNLESS they have a pre-existing job on the island. Ah-HA!!!

With that out of the way now, my next obstacle was trying to contact the owner of the property. The caretaker has no connection to the outside world aside from Marine VHF radio, so that was a non-starter. I think for a while; then realise that I could most likel contact Canfisco and ask them if they still have the contact info for the man who bought Butedale 22 years earlier. And would you believe it; they did!

Now, my first objective wasn't to ask the owner if I could move to Butedale and work with the other caretaker, but rather, if I could use Butedale as a staging point for a multi-week hiking trip across the island. Because, just as important as Butedale was to me, I couldn't just waltz in there and tell the caretaker of 10 years that I was going to be moving in and taking half his earning from now on.

That's another thing; it's not a paying job. You want money, you got to build rebuild docks and attract boaters, and once they are attracted and moored, then take 'em on tours of the wreckage, take 'em fishin' at the lake, and sell them hot showers, ice cream and handi-crafts. I carve, the other caretaker painted. And that is the only way to make money. It's not a ton, but it's enough.

Anyhoo, in 2008 I had all my plans settled, and in a few months I would be heading out to meet the caretaker and ASK him if he NEEDED any help. Not to TELL him I was movin' in and muscling in on his slice of Heaven. Unfotunately, bad finances got in the way at the last moment and I had to cancel the trip for 2008.

Now here is where things get WEIRD. (As if they weren't already weird enough, eh?) The DAY AFTER I cancel my trip to Princess Royal Island; there is a post on the Backpacker Magazine online forum, (which I'm a member of) and the guy was looking for ...get this... a hiking partner for a multi-week trip across Princess Royal Island. Now, I had NEVER mentioned my plans on Backpacker Magazine ever. So this was one of the most astonishing coincidences imaginable. Of course I piped up and told him I would love to join up with him for the hike, and doubly so since I had JUST cancelled my plans for that EXACT trip. We scheduled the trip for the summer of 2009, and everything worked out perfectly. I was able to get several thousands of dollars worth of sponsorships from companies like Clark Jungle Hammocks, JetBoil Cooking Systems, Snugpack Outdoor Gear, Hormel Foods, Mountain House Foods, and others. Things were GREAT!

On to 2009.

We get to Princess Royal, and start the trip at the top of the island; with plans to hike cross country approximately 100 miles from the Northern tip of the island, to it's Southernmost point. Unfortunately, on the very first day, my lack of an ACL in my left knee made itself known in the worst way when I slipped the knee 3 times in one hour. We had just made it to the first lake of about a dozen, and I had to make the painfull decision to press the "Help!" button on my Spot Messenger and limp back down to where we were dropped off and wait for our water taxi to come back and pick me up. (There were now three of us doing the trip, so I wasn't worried about leaving my hiking partner to do the expedition alone.)

I got picked up by Marven Robinson (Band Council Member at Hartley Bay; one of the best human beings that a person could ever hope to meet.) and we went back to Hartley Bay. I spent a week or so at H-Bay, hoping to thumb a ride South to Butedale so I could meet up with my buddies when they stopped in for a rest and relaxation break there. No-one ever headed South, so Marven, being the awesome guy that he is, decided that it was time for him and one of his business partners to do their Watchmen patrol down that way, and gave me a lift to Butedale.

I finally make it to Butedale.

I meet Lou, (the caretaker) and spend a couple weeks at Butedale getting to know him. After a couple days there, my hiking bud's show up and and they get to dry out for a couple days and we just putter about in the packrafts exploring the area and messing about in the falls. Once my friends leave, and after I've gotten to know Lou; I ask him if he would like some permanent help around town sometime in the future. And thankfully, he was desperate for help. So, I tell him; DONE. I spend another week at Butedale, then I was able to catch a ride with a boat headed to Hartley Bay and I tell Lou; "See you in a year." (He doesn't believe it of course, since in the 10 years that he'd been there, he's had dozens of people tell him they'd be back to help him for a summer, or a winter, or whenever. (And none ever did.) Anyways, I get to Hartley Bay, thank everyone there for all THEIR help, ( and they helped out a lot, not just Marven. Amazing people there!) and then I hop in the ferry to Prince Rupert where I meet my pards for the last time at the hostel, and a couple days later, I'm back in Ottawa planning for a permanent move to Butedale.



After a year of preparations (selling everything not needed, ie: The Pine Cone) I am ready to collect my earnings that a part time employer of mine is holding for me, when she decides that I didn't do enough of "The List" to deserve ANY of my money. (A list 12 items long, that had around 300 "little extras" added to over the year.) So, there I am, I sold everything I own except the Pine Cone by that point, and I don't even have a place to live since I gave my landlord my notice long ago and he already has a new tenant waiting for my room. What am I going to do! Well, I moved my Boler to the Bush, and lived in it trying to find some way to recoup the money that was stolen from me, and spending more and more of my other saving every day on candles and fuel, and batteries, and, and, and... It was an unpleasant couple months.

Here comes more weirdness.

While I was in Hartley Bay, the manager of the fish hatchery took a liking to me, and we became great friends. (Along with a whole bunch of other Hartley Bay'ns.) Anyways, before I left, he gave me a most astonishing gift. It was an antique Muella Bowie knife that he had found in a burned stump in the middle of the bush ages ago. It had been sitting above his window in the hatchery for years, and when I expressed my admiration for it, he just gave it to me. Like, wow! (I'm telling ya's; the folks at Hartley Bay are unlike any I have ever met in my life. Bar none. There is no meanness in any person there. I don't think they actually have the "gene" for cruelty or hatred, or meanness... They are without exception the kindest people that you couldn't possibly imagine.

Anyhoo, back to Ottawa.

Here I am in the middle of the bush, living in my Boler, and wondering how I could possibly extricate myself from this situation when a guy drives past on in his little Samurai and then stops, and backs up to the entrance of my campsite. Just as he's coming around his 4x4 I pop out of the Pine Cone and scare the bejesus out of him. lol! He has his dogs with him so he's not worried, but it was a bit of a start. we get to talking about me camping there and why, and he comes over to take a look at the inside of the Pine Cone, and there he sees the Bowie that I got from Hartley Bay. He fall in love with it instantly. To say that he was obsessed may be a little extreme, but not by much. S, he right there, up and offers to let me stay at his farm, use his power, use his internet, his phone, and he'd even buy me that last materials to finish the Pine Cone if he could possibly have that knife. Ummmm.... OKAY!!! Done deal! He got the knife that was given to me from Hartley Bay, and my dreams of Butedale were breathed new life into. But for that knife, and but for the innate awesomeness of the people at Hartley bay, the dream would have died aborning. During the next 2 months I get the Pine Cone to the point that it's as pretty and functional as I can make her; and finally I sold it to lespnd from the forum here; who has taken what I started, and turned it into something astonishingly beautiful.


Now, with the money I got from selling the Pine Cone, and with a little help from family I finally can get back to the dream. By the first of September I head off to the West Coast and Prince Rupert where I pick up 4 months worth of food, catch the ferry to Hartley Bay, wait around a day or two for a ride South, and on the 4th of September 2010 I made it to Butedale. When I show up, Lou is cutting and splitting some wood on the rocks near the docks and I give him a holler. "Lou!" I called. He looks up and says with great surprise, "You made it!" "I did, I did!" I call back. "And you can stop what you're doing right now, 'cause that's MY job!" "From now on, I'm your cutter, splitter, hauler and stacker! Hands off the wood!" "I can't believe it!" he cries. "Believe it Lou, believe it."

And so for the next year, I helped Lou take care of whatever needed doing around town that required and extra set of hands, and while not working on building or rebuilding decks and docks (or working on the wood supply) I was busy roaming the most gloriously beautiful land that I could never have imagined existed outside of fairy tales.

And then... The tooth. Abscessed. Painful. Tried everything to deal with it without having to go to a dentist, but to no avail. It finally had to come out. So, I thumb a ride to Hartley Bay, catch the ferry to Rupert, and wait, and wait, and wait for an emergency opening at one of the 3 dental offices in town. (There are 6 dentists, but 3 were on vacation, so I was buggered.) I spent two weeks in town getting poorer and poorer, until finally, it was time to acknowledge defeat. I never did get the tooth fixed, but I returned to Butedale, packed up all my stuff, and moved myself to Lou's camper in his backyard in Kitimat.

New weirdness coming up!

While I was at Butedale, during the winter a pair of guys were sent to butedale to remove some toxic nasties that were at risk of falling into the ocean if the old decrepit warehouse collapsed. I got to know one of the guys very well, and he told me that if ever I was in town to give him a call. So I did. I call him and leave a voice mail saying that I was in Kitimat after being forced to leave Butedale due to no money for my winter supplies, and did he know anyone renting a room or was aware of any work in the area. I need ed work, and I needed a place to live that wasn't a black mold infested camper. Now here's the weird part. He was in town for the first time in FOUR months; exclusively to try and find someone willing to come out and live in the bush to help him clear trail to his placer gold claims. (Like, really! What are the odds of that!?! I can't calculate them!) Anyhoo, we spent the rest of that season, and the beginning of the next clearing around 4 miles of abandoned logging road of the 4 to 6 inch Alder growing on average 6 to 18 inches apart, covering the entire 10 foot width of the road for 4 miles. (One HECK of a job.) Well, we got to the claims, and there's gold there. Unfortunately, there's no way to get our equipment past the first bend of the stream due to the creek being in a valley so steep it could almost be called a canyon. So, as the saying goes; things didn't pan out. (Pun intended!) We packed it up, and I spent the next year and a half working as a general handyman for friends and friends of friends, until this October when I get a call from Lou.

3 months ago.

I get this call from Lou, and he asks if I would still like to come back to Butedale. (Well, duh.) Of course I say yes; and he asks if I could be ready by the beginning of November. It's the end of the first week of October, which gives me 3 weeks to buy around $7000 worth of food (for 6 months) and gear like chainsaws, splitting mauls, outboard motor, chimney pipe, you name it. (I even bought a kitchen sink!) lol! It was without exception, the most frantic 3 weeks of my life. But, it all got bought. However, not all that got bought, got brought. Too much of a rush, too many people involved, and too many important things got left behind. (Outboard 2-stroke oil, gear oil, work gloves, baking supplies, and other stuff.) Anyways, I chartered a friend to bring me out to Butedale in November, and after 2 trips (Over a ton and a half of food and gear) I was back in Paradise, and as happy as a person could ever be.

Last Month.

While I get settled in; Lou is making sure that all is set for my winter alone, and he spends a month helping get things organized. Good man, that Lou!) When all is to his satisfaction he heads out on his 28 foot cruiser to return to Kitimat.

He didn't make it.

Two thirds of the way there, in and area called Devastation Channel, his main engine died. It was blowing 70 km/h (43 mp/h), the temps were -18 C, (0 F), and the waves were 10 feet tall. He got blown onto rocks near the shore of an island while he was trying to free the boat he got knocked overboard. This was at 3:30 in the afternoon. He had already sent out a distress call immediately after losing the engine, and the Coast Guard were on their way. Unfortunately, he lost all his lights and signalling gear when he went overboard, so even when he saw a helicopter shining a light near him while he was huddled in the forest out of the wind, he couldn't signal back, or get to the open beach fast enough. He spent the ENTIRE night in the woods in super cold conditions, and by the time sunrise came along his feet were so painful that he could only crawl. He made it to the beach where he wrung out his clothing as much as possible, and while trying to get some warmth from the morning sun on a sub freezing morning a RCAF Buffalo search plane flew over, but he thought they didn't see him. they turned around on the other side of the channel and flew over again. (According to the reports from CFB Comox they did see him on their first overflight, but though he was a gas can beside a log.) Lou, in the meantime crawled onto a huge boulder and when they went past again he was waving frantically and this time they waggled the planes wings at him; and Lou later told me "I was the happiest waver in the whole world!" (I don't doubt.) A half hour later and he was in a warm Coast Guard ship, the Gordon Reid, and was being treated for mild hypothermia, and moderate frostbite to his feet and fingers. After a few weeks, he's still a little tender in the fingers, and his feet get a bit sore in the evenings, but aside from that, he's okay. (And we're planning a salvage operation for his boat which is still sitting under about 30 feet of water.) He's one tough hombre! That would have killed me, and 99% of anyone in the same situation. Kudos for you Lou, Kudos to you.

So there ya have it. Quite possibly the longest post in the history of; but ya DID ask! lol!

I'll leave ya's with a couple more shots of the area.

Good ol' Lou!

Me in front of Butedale Falls. I'm that tiny blue dot at the bottom left of the picture.

Sunset on the Channel Mountains

Bud's first snow.

Butedale in the 40's

That's my cabin in the center of the picture.

Butedale in the 20's

Butedale now.

Thanks everyone! I hope you had as good a time reading the post as I did making it!

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Old 01-02-2014, 09:08 PM   #6
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WOWSER Cory, that's quite a story. Glad to hear your friend Lou is doing okay after crashing the boat. You're right, most wouldn't have made it.

Thanks very much for sharing. I enjoyed reading every single line

Donna D.
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Old 01-03-2014, 08:20 AM   #7
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What an interesting and exciting summary, thank you.
I can see why you want to reside there.
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Old 01-03-2014, 10:14 AM   #8
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Talk about a travel / life blog--wow. Thank you for sharing your adventure and your story of making your dream a reality. You and Lou...You are the MEN!!
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Old 01-03-2014, 10:37 AM   #9
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tell me about electricity and internet

I have head that there was a large pelton wheel there is that still working and are you using satellite for your internet.

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Old 01-03-2014, 12:08 PM   #10
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Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story! Love the part about the bowie knife gift, and how it kept on giving!
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Old 01-03-2014, 12:41 PM   #11
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I'm jealous.
Quite the story, glad it is working out good for you.
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Old 01-03-2014, 01:21 PM   #12
Name: Sharon
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I think you should host an egg rally up there. A ittle income for you and a glimpse of paradise for the rest of us.
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Old 01-03-2014, 02:36 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by RichardinBC View Post
I have head that there was a large pelton wheel there is that still working and are you using satellite for your internet.


Hi all! Thanx a mill for the kind words!

Yup, we have a humongous Pelton Wheel here. (Two, actually) During the heyday of Butedale they were producing 800 kilowatts. (Over 3/4 of a megawatt!)

Here's the powerhouse.

That bridge scares the heck out of me!

Here's the turbine; and our alternator, battery bank, inverter set-up.

Makes me chuckle; a system designed to produce 350 kilowatts, (that's the "smaller" of the two turbines) and it's now putting out 14.2 volts at ~16 Amps!

And yup again, we have high speed satellite internet thanks to the new owner of the town.

Butedale was bought by the new owner about a year and a half ago, and he's literally 6 days away from retrieving the leases for the entire bay, and the far shore of the harbor. (Previous owner let the leases lapse.) The previous owner had had big plans for Butedale, but absolutely no ambition or idea of how to do anything. So, it rotted away. The most difficult part for me is that all he needed to do was put tin roofing on the buildings that had cedar shaked roofs, and all the structures that are gone now would still be pristine. (And 90% of the town is gone.) It truly makes me grind my teeth in frustration knowing what COULD have been here if only he had cared enough to spend a few thousand dollars on tin. He shot himself in the foot, though. If he had maintained the buildings, then he could have sold the property for millions. Instead, he had to settle for less than two hundred thousand. (A shame.)

To put that into a bit of perspective; Canfisco (makers of Gold Seal Tuna, Chicken of the Sea, etc) closed their operations here in 59. They kept true caretakers here to run the general store and the fuel barge until the mid eighties when they sold the property. At that time, even though the town was completely abandoned, EVERYTHING still ran. After the sale, and the departure of the caretakers, Butedale became a true ghost town. And a mighty spooky one at that. NO-ONE lived here for years, but ALL the power was left on because the turbines were still running. So when boats would pass Butedale at night they would see a completely empty town fully lit up. All the street lights were left on, the houses were lit up and heated, the giant bunkhouse was still powered and heated, and you could even take a hot shower here years after the caretakers left because the boilers were electrically heated. It was the ghost town of ghost towns.

Finally though, we have a new owner who not only has big (huge) plans for Butedale, but has the drive and ability to follow through. Butedale is the only safe moorage between the two First Nations villages 23 and 28 miles north and south of us; and as such is a vital location for boats caught out in bad weather, and for those that can't travel at night. The plans are for 2000 feet of dock eventually, and to turn the place into a modern marina facility with all the amenities. Including fuel, repairs, groceries, shore power, an art gallery with an extraordinarily talented Native artist living here during the tourist Season, and more. Moorage and eco tourism is going to be the mainstay during the tourist season, but the plans also include using Butedale as a staging point for any emergencies that might occur when the LNG tankers start plying the Douglass channel nearby. The plans are big; but it's the right time for them to be proposed to the govt with all the LNG industry coming to Kitimat soon.

The next few years here are going to be very exciting as I get to be part of the "rebirth" of Butedale from the rotting corpse it is now. (It's a very pretty corpse, but it's still dead.) So yeah, I'm pretty excited about the future, and can't wait for the first barge to show up with a pile driver on board; and I'll giggle with happiness when the first piling is driven into the seafloor. It's gonna be amazing!

Originally Posted by Sharon D View Post
I think you should host an egg rally up there. A little income for you and a glimpse of paradise for the rest of us.
Kitimat would be a fantastic place for a rally! There are several maintained parks that are absolutely free to camp at with a trailer; and you can pretty much stay from the day they open the gates in the spring, until they shut them again in the fall. (Really!) And the parks are all on the Kitimat River, which is one of the greatest salmon and steelhead rivers in BC. Yeah, a Rally would be sweet. I'm sure I could take a week off for something like that! (Darn sure!) And know the best part of that? I technically still have that baby blue Boler that I sold, because I sold it to my best friend. So I would even still be able to join ya's with a proper fb trailer!

Anyhoo, it's one of the first nice days in a while, and I gotta do some wood cutting and splitting. Oh! And speaking of wood splitting; here's a cute little vid I made a month or so ago. If ya gotta split wood, I can think of worse places to do it. lol!

Splitting Wood - YouTube

I have a bunch more vids of Butedale on my YouTube Channel. A couple of black bear videos. (One of the bears is the biggest black I have ever seen in life or in pictures. He's HUGE.) Then I have a slideshow video of a couple hundred pictures of the area, a video of the lake and its 400 foot tall waterfall at the back, and one of me just doing "stuff" around town. (That one is kinda cute.)

Righty then, thanks again all! And I'll chat at ya's later.

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Old 01-03-2014, 07:23 PM   #14
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That is truly an incredible tale, and some great pictures. I can see why you like it there! But... 2 to 8 inches of rain most days?? Is there a dry season?

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven... --Ecclesiastes 3
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