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Historic References to Yew Lake (Cypress Lake) 

Yew Lake circa 1926 (Eilif Haxthow Collection)

“Frozen Traps” - Pollough Pogue (March 15th, 1925)

In the Cypress Lake country, Eilif and Bill, my companions at the ski camp have their marten line. It rains, snows and freezes alternately; the weather is quite mild or quite cold in a series of quick successional turns.  It is the worst kind of weather for hiking or trapping.  The snow usually is very wet: and when there is a crust it is too thin to carry a man on snowshoes or skis.  The snow depth is now considerable, and the hiker, though he may be expert in the use of snowshoes or skis, as Bill and Eilif are, rolls and flounders in the soft, wet snow, and his snowshoe filling gets as wet as jelly or pulp, and the weight of the snowshoes loaded with watery snow almost pulls his legs out of him, as Bill expresses it.

Skis cut deep into the mushy snow.  But without snowshoes or skis the hikers would have to struggle through the snow waist deep, which would be worse. 

The weak crust does not help much.  It softens almost as soon as it forms.  If we had a week of frost, the crust would get solid.  But a cold night is almost invariably followed by a mild day with rain. 

So the toes of the snowshoes dig under the thin crust which breaks beneath the frames, and if you are not prepared for the toe catching under the rotten crust, you will be tripped and have a tumble.  This is not pleasant when you have a pack on your back.

Our snowshoes are made with almost flat frames.  They should have the frames curved upward at the bow, in a sheer like that of the canoe, or an up-curve like that of a toboggan.  Then they wouldn’t dig under the breaking crest.

A lot of snowshoes are made that way by Indians and white woodsmen who know how to make their own frames and fill them.  Before next winter I want to make a pair of long narrow shoes with upturned toes. 

The snow shoes made in the factories, or “tailor-made,” as woodsmen say, are not made with the  bow bent up. The frames are almost flat.

The alternation of rain and snow by quick turns makes a lot of trouble for the trapper. 

Eilif and Bill set their traps near where they have seen the fresh track of a marten or other fur animal.  They hair-trigger their traps, that is, when they have fixed in its notch the little dog that is operated by the pan to spring the trap, they work at it delicately with a stick until it is just  barely entered.  The slightest pressure on the pan will spring the trap.

They then built over the trap, and in closing that on three sides, a little cabin of brush and bark.  From the roof of this they hang a bluejay by the feet, so that his head dangles above the pan of the trap.

But it is always possible that after such a careful set has been made, that snow will blow and sift in over the trap, that the snow will be followed by rain, and that there will then be a hard frost. 

This freezes the mechanism of the trap.  Then an animal can enter the trap house and devour the bluejay at leisure and without risk.

This has happened a number of times.  Eilif has had the thrill of following a marten track which led him straight towards one of his traps.  The marten had entered the trap house and eaten the blue jay. The animal had stood on the (unsprung?) pan of the trap and (had eaten everything?) but the tail and wing feathers and the feet.

The working parts of the trap were, of course, firmly frozen.

 Eilif Haxthow’ Journal (July 27th, 1925)

Lately we have had a number of good trips: the Peak, Mount Strahan, Cypress Lake. When one gets up high enough one finds a real Norwegian high mountain landscape. Short, scrub timber, and heather, and here and there snowflakes, and small ponds. And the view! To the south and west  one looks over the ocean, beyond the horizon clad in blue, jagged mountains – that’s Vancouver Island. To the north the  “Lions of Vancouver” rise up, two  giant lions. And further to the north and east are the snow capped mountains, one after the other as far as the eyes can see

The lost mine we have looked for in vain but in the dryer valleys we have found good signs of minerals. It looks mostly like copper or iron  but what else might one find? The area around Cypress Lake and  the debris from Mount Strahan seems to be the richest, so there we will go the next trip.

“The Hollyburn Trail” - Pollough Pogue (October 4th, 1925)

Excelling in outdoor beauty of every variety any other mountain in the Vancouver Alpine District, Hollyburn Ridge is easier to climb, its great plateau gorgeously lovely now in rich autumn masquerade, is easier of access than any other mountain playground in the district.

This surpassing beautiful recreation region at an elevation of 4000 feet above the city, may be reached by easy stages. A half-hour trip in one of the West Vancouver ferries, a ten minute ride in a ferry bus, and a fifteen-minute walk takes you to where the mountain trails begin. There are two main trails from West Vancouver. Both are charming sylvan avenues leading to mountain scenery, higher up, which is magnificent beyond power of description.

No fallen timber or other obstructions or places in which an incautious step may mean danger, are to be found on these trails. They are as safe and as easy , except for the slight effort necessary on the steeper side hills, as the trails in Stanley Park, and a hundred times more beautiful and interesting. A trip up Hollyburn trails makes Stanley Park seem commonplace.

Walking at two and a half miles per hour it takes you about an hour and a quarter to reach the ski camp at the old Naismith sawmill, elevation 2500 feet, from the head of Twenty-sixth street, on the Twenty-sixth street trail. From the head of Twenty-second it will take you perhaps a quarter hour longer. The exertion of climbing that far gives you a healthy appetite for lunch, which is served at the ski camp, maintained by two popular Scandinavian sportsmen, known to hikers as Eilif (Haxthow) and Eric (Ahlberg). Both, by the way, are expert ski-runners and specialists on winter sports. Both are splendid woodsmen and familiar with the mountain country for which their camp is a base, and are available as efficient guides for parties who wish to explore the almost untouched field of mountains behind Hollyburn Ridge. During the winter the ski camp which these excellent sportsmen have established is a headquarters for snow sports of all kinds, but chiefly ski-running through the enchanting white forest, and ski jumping on the big slide at the old mill.

From the ski camp the trails penetrate the great green forests of Hollyburn, in which no logs have ever been cut, and which are untouched by fire. Through characteristic  coast range woods, main trails lead the hiker through alpine meadows embellished by mountain lakes glowing like rich emeralds, to Hollyburn peak, the highest elevation on the mountain, or to Cypress Lake, which is not surpassed for solitary beauty by any mountain lake in the Coast Range.

“Snowshoe Tracks” - Pollough Pogue (January 28th, 1926)

There is something about snow in the woods that is singularly enlivening.  It makes life run higher in one. I feel this liveliness when I walk through the white forest. I have known this feeling, a kind of enthusiasm associated with crusted undulations of snow among dark trees, as far back in life as I can remember.

There is a sharp joy about winter, a cheery animation that one does not feel outdoors in summer. I mean real winter, with frost electricity in the air and dry snow on the ground. Nothing in life is better than snowshoes or skis and a frosty morning with the sun bright enough to fill the woods with gray-blue shadows but not warm enough to soften the crust.

The crackle of the snow-crust underneath your snowshoes is the most joyful sound in outdoor sport, particularly when it is the only sound in the silent woods.

The stillness of the winter woods is the greatest hush in nature. The only noise among the snow- cloaked trees is the soft plump of a white mass dropping from an overweighted branch. This plushy sound is almost loud against the background of primeval silence.

There are tracks of a few rabbits on the snow and a deep trail shows where a deer has passed while the snow was soft, plunging belly-deep. This is the Cypress Lake country. There is a marten track, and the track of a common cat. It is unmistakable: the four clawless toes, the narrow sole and the exact register of the track of the hind foot with the track of the fore foot are characteristic. On these mountains trappers catch common cats quite often. Doubtless the house cat, a persistent hunter always, adapts itself easily to a wild life. It can hardly be more destructive of bird life and the smaller mammals on the mountain than it is among the gardens and vacant lots of West Vancouver.

We ran this cat track for some distance, until it dropped into a deep gulch.

Though there is an abundance of wild life in these woods we see or hear nothing alive. The animals that make the snow interesting with their light footmarks walk at night.

“Catching a Live One” - Pollough Pogue (March 3rd, 1926) 

On his last trip over the long trapline which he and Eilif have set out in the lonely Cypress Lake country, Bill was trudging on his snowshoes through the silent, snow-padded hemlocks and cypress, when a thrill swept over him as he came suddenly upon a marten track heading for one of his traps.

He quickened his stride; soon he saw the marten, with the foot in a trap, as far up on the trunk of a hemlock as the trap chain would let it climb.

For a Coast marten the animal had an exceptionally dark and rich coat. It was a rather large one, about the size of a small kitten - not a very small kitten either.

The orange patch on its breast shone like gold in the sunlight; its fierce eyes glittered like yellow crystals.

From its throat came growls as harsh and cold as if its organ of voice had been made of metal.

It was Bill’s intention to keep it alive if possible, for a live marten is worth exactly twice as much as its pelt.

The extraordinary ferocity and startling quickness of the marten makes it very difficult to take it from a trap alive. Bill seized the animal behind the head with iron fingers enclosed in buckskin gloves and with the other hand sprung open the jaws of the trap. The marten, hissing like an angry cat, twisted his head with amazing strength and sank its teeth in the palm of Bill’s hand. Bill’s grip tightened until he was afraid he had choked the animal. The needle-sharp teeth would not let go. At last Bill released his hand with a strong twist.

He brought the savage creature to camp wrapped in a heavy shirt.

The captive, muttering its metallic growls, perfect expressions of it savage nature, was placed in a small wooden box, a part of the top of which was covered by netting made of hay wire.

It ate bread and milk with apparently a good appetite.

Except when eating it was never still, running nervously around the box and biting at the wire.

Trappers say that the marten is the fiercest of the smaller mammals, but that its ferocious spirit does not lead it to kill needlessly when it does not require food, as do the cruel and murderous weasel and mink.

I felt an admiration for the beautiful animal in the box and was glad to see it eat the bread and milk. I admired its strength and quickness and its high spirit, like tempered steel.

The box kept it a prisoner during the night and until afternoon of the next day. Then Bill, returning to the cabin from the cookhouse (it was Sunday and he had been helping Erik serve hotdogs and coffee to a swarm of hikers) found that his marten had torn a part of the haywire netting off the top of the box and escaped.

The cabin looked as if there had been an earthquake. The floor was a litter of dishes and various iktahs1 knocked down from shelves by the marten that had jumped from shelf to shelf in its excited haste to find a hole through which to escape from the room. In a corner of the cabin the animal had ripped the paper loose from the wall and ceiling and had discovered an exit, a crack between two ceiling boards. Through this Bill’s pet had gained the attic.

Bill came in haste to the door of my cabin across the trail, saying: “The devil is loose.” I rushed over with him to help him, And we were lucky. After we had pursued the marten over the ceiling beams for some time, the animal paused for a moment behind the brick chimney and Bill neatly dropped a noose of cord tied to the end of the ski stick over his head. It was like looping a trout.

But getting the snarling, hissing devil back into the box, now made more secure with hammer and nails, was not so easy. When the loop was loosened from its neck, Bill gripped the captives with a gloved hand, but shrieking, the marten twisted and fixed its teeth and Bill’s forefinger. The heavy glove he wore was no protection. The spirited creature would not let go, and again Bill had to wrench his finger out of the locked teeth, a painful business. Again the marten bit Bill’s hand through the buckskin before he dropped, writhing and squalling, into the box.

But the next day Bill packed his handsome devil, still in the box, which he put in the packsack, down the trail., and sold the animal to a man who intends to try to domesticate martens and raise them for their pelts.

1. iktahs - Chinook jargon for goods; merchandise; clothing

Eilif Haxthow’s Journal (April 21st, 1926)

Summer again. Winter was alright despite the lack of snow. Last winter was the mildest in the district for some twenty years. We used the skis for the most part up on the plateau and it is now the end of skiing for the year. At Christmas we owed about $100 to Marine Grocery. That is now cleared up and I have about $50 to the good so I have no grounds to complain. It has been a rather busy winter. We now have five cabins in use and Bill and I have worked to keep them up, especially with the packing of goods.

After that Bill and I have done some trapping by Cypress Lake. We started a little late in the beginning of January to build a small timber cabin amongst the big trees on the north side of Cypress Lake and have a trapline with about 20 traps. The cabin was needed since the trail there was seven miles through difficult  terrain. It took a long time to check the traps, so we had to have a place for overnighting. It was not a wholly unmixed blessing to take those trips in the rain and the wet snow, just before we had our little cabin finished. The take was two live martens, one marten skin, one raccoon, two ermines [weasels] and one skunk skin. The three martens amounted to $75. For my part of this deal I bought myself a good Winchester 38-55. 

On Grouse Mountain, our competitors have started to build  an automobile road  and a hotel. It is supposed to be finished by summer. Don Munday who has been up a couple of years, has a $10,000 interest in the company and a good position. It is a good thing that some one is lucky. The camp here has been sold to Verne and he will take over on May 1st. Hollyburn Ridge has also made some progress. Two years ago almost no one knew about it but last Friday there were about one thousand people here.

In a week’s time I will in reality leave my little kingdom here and head out on the road again. Not much more do I know about the future so will just have to see how  things develop.

P.S. It is true! I have found some scattered iron pyrites from Black Mt. which appear to have gold! Before I leave I will get a mining engineer to follow me up there and look it over. Who knows - maybe I will be a millionaire before I add to this account?

“Cypress Lake” - Pollough Pogue (July 26th, 1926)

The stiff stems, like twisted wires, of the blueberry bushes on the great sidehill of Mt. Strahan were almost shoulder high and tangled closely together to deter an adventuring spirit.

My advance, with a heavy pack, through this jungle was slow, but the song, rich and wild, of the Alaska hermit thrush, made me think of the pure notes of flutes silent, in the hemlock gloom, since I had abandoned the forest.

Only a dusky twilight was left of the day when I emerged on the familiar meadows through which Cypress Creek descends, a narrow and creeping stream. The great bulk of Black Mountain, wrapped in hemlocks, darkened the meadows; at the lake, still and somber with the mountain’s shadow, I dropped my pack, unrolled my blankets in the heather and I found some dry bark for a small fire. Black Mountain seemed, as I kindled the fire, to darken, to increase in bulk; its mien was suddenly threatening.

Cypress Lake lies in the bottom of a cup of withdrawn mountains. Here after twilight has fallen, you feel the solitude of primeval nature. There is, to the man camping alone there, a strange profundity in the silence.

But the further one penetrated into wild nature, I told myself, dropping tea into the boiling water, the safer, in a physical sense, one was; on a city street, or in a roofed house, there was always danger to life; here, in the fragrant heather, nothing, not physiological; there was no possibility of casualty.

Tea with sugar, and canned corned beef and bread, then, in my blankets, tobacco, with the grey smoke from a battered pipe drifting into the clear sky; nighthawks whirring and whistling. But soon the pipe was laid down, and the huge frown of Black Mountain on the farther side of the lake, the indefinite mass of Strahan and Hollyburn, and the icy stars suddenly were blurred as sleep seized me.

Cold, a sharp chill swept over the meadows toward morning. I awoke shivering. Day began as I attempted, with stiffened fingers, to start a fire. The timbered heights that enclosed the meadows were indigo; the sky, over the eastward-flowing ridges, was blue-white. My fire of cypress bark, crimson without smoke, increased, humming. Soon the water seethed in the blackened pail, the coffee eddied, tawny foam; bacon hissed in the pan; breakfast was devoured.

“Combat Meadows” - Pollough Pogue (November 11th, 1926)

The truth of this tale can be confirmed, if anybody demands verification, by two persons. But in the interest of the deer we will not disclose the location
of the meadow; its isolation from Vancouver is inconsiderable and we do not wish rifleman to be common in these hills. We had one hunter in this part of the mountains lately and we felt immense relief when he left, packing a seventy-five pound (drawn) black-tail buck.

Traveling on steep sidehills through heavy blueberry brush and struggling in and out of gullies with a big pack never had to me the aspect of a pleasure (you would think it agony): yet I do it so I don’t have to; it keeps me lean.

This is the only way to get to the meadow. It is the headwaters of a creek. Here is a big bowl with mountain ridges sloping sharply down to make the sides. The bottom of the natural amphitheatre is the meadow and a small lake which rises in the rainy season and floods a part of the meadow. There is just room enough between the mountains for the creek to run out of the lake. This is the circus maximus of a number of blacktails in the season of mating. About a dozen bucks, I think, use it as a combat stadium, a dueling ground, while many does watch the pushing-bouts with some interest, I suppose, for often the contests decide the question of whether the brown does will have an old buck, veteran of many conflicts, for a mate or some strong young blacktail sheik just starting his career as a gay Lothario, for a lover.

• • •

The meadow is a withdrawn, private place. Day was sending when we arrived there; the end came more quickly owing to the great dark shadowing mountains that enclosed the lake and meadow. We camped in an old trapper’s cabin not far from the meadow, in the darkness of big hemlocks.

After supper we could hear big animals coming down the mountainsides through the brush; the night was charcoal-black among the trees; the sky was clear with many stars, and over the meadow and lake there was a great shadow of the huge mountain bulk that rose sharply on the west side of the meadow.

We heard all at once (it was very still) a chorus of gruff squalling and guttural squeals and bleatings and bellowings and snufflings and snarling coughs from the deep shadow on the far side of the meadow. Then we heard a sudden clicking and clashing and rattling of horns as antlered heads pushed and shoved, and the pronged tines grated together. As quickly as the brush would allow, we got down on the meadow. From the two bucks on the far side came what I might call shrill sneezes and sharp explosive whistling.

• • •

As we approached the meadow to deer forms blotted themselves against the vagueness of the level to which we were descending. They disappeared in a moment as we stared through the darkness, but before we had reached the level of the meadow, we heard angry bugling and the sharp rasping of antlers to our left and on our side of the meadow. We moved as quietly as possible in that direction, but the belligerents heard us coming and bounded away.

An acetylene lamp showed us the fresh tracks. The ground underneath the heather was torn and ripped up by the edged hooves, indicating the fighting stances taken by the bellicose animals, and the manner in which they pushed and butted until one gave way.

We started to walk out on the meadow. We could hear heavy grunts and whistling snorts in the darkness on the far side. We were slipping around a bunch of dwarfed and deformed Alpine cypress when, with a rushing and scuffling, a little band of deer, three or four, we thought, crossed the meadow in front of us, in flying bounds.

• • •

The darkness ahead of us, in which were enveloped, we thought, at least seven or eight deer, probably more, was in penetrable to our eyesight. It seemed that the blacktails used the meadow as a meeting place in which to pursue the affairs of the mating season.

We did not wish to intrude our presence into their business, but we were acutely interested. We listened for some time to the challenges and struggles, but we had to depend on our ears; our eyes were useless in the darkness. As we returned to camp we could hear still more deer coming down the mountain sidehills to the meadow.

But next day we could read, in the fresh tracks and sign, more than enough to verify what our ears had told us the night before.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Pogue’s description of “Combat Meadows” fits that of Cypress Bowl near Yew Lake, (referred to as Cypress Lake in Pogue’s articles).

“Western Hemlock” - Pollough Pogue (May 10, 1927) 

The commonest tree on Hollyburn mountain is western hemlock. Next to Douglas fir it is the most familiar tree in the Coast Range mountains, in which over 30,000,000,000 feet board measure of virgin hemlock are standing, of which about 40,000,000 feet are cut annually, including about 100,000 cords of pulpwood.

When you start up the Hollyburn trail you will see western hemlock growing mixed with Douglas fir, western red cedar, Sitka spruce and, of course, many broad-leaved trees such as British Columbia maple, western alder and several willow species. (You will not see many spruce above the 500 feet elevation, though there are widely scattered individuals up to 2500 feet elevation, probably from seeds dropped by birds.)

If you can not identify the hemlock, the tip of the tree will help you to distinguish it in a group of conifers. The tree terminates in a slender tip that bends over, generally, woodsmen say, towards the south, drooping like a whip.

Hemlock cones are much smaller than those of other evergreen trees. The small, very dark hemlock cones, usually less than an inch long, are scattered thickly over the tail.

Hemlock suffers greater injury from bushfires than other evergreens, because its bark is very thin. On young trees it is very dark and covered with minute scales. On larger trees it is grey and channelled into flat ridges.

The branches of the hemlock are small and hang down. The crown of the tree is often steeple-like. The foliage is soft and aromatic and makes a good bed for camper or bushman. The botany books will tell you that the leaves are flat in cross-section, distinctly grooved, have blunt rounded ends; they appear to grow from opposite sides of the twig in two ranks; the twig is minutely hairy.

Mature trees generally are not less than 100 or more than 180 feet tall, and usually are from two to four feet in diameter. Usually in the forest the trunk is limbless for fifty feet or more from the ground. The butt of the tree is often thickened as a base, but there is little taper. Mature trees are often, as shown by the annual rings, or radial layers indicating the secondary growth for one year nearly two hundred years old.

If you wish to see western hemlock at its best, a forest tree of great beauty and dignity go back on the Hollyburn trail to the big sidehills of Hollyburn, Strahan and Black, that slope down to the wide meadows and lake at the headwaters of Cypress Creek. These mountain sides are covered with magnificent green forests, thick and matted like fur on the flanks of mighty animals. Here in the gloomy colonnades of the primeval woods you will see western hemlocks 200 feet tall or more, and five or six feet in diameter. These are very old forests, and many of the splendid trees are infirm and stricken with the affections of old age. Western hemlock is the most frequent tree here, and is mixed with western red cedar, western cypress, amabilis fir and western white pine.

All are fine trees in a grand forest, and you can not be among them without having a profound sense of their grandeur. Hikers should be thoughtfully careful in handling fire in these green woods that have so far escaped destruction by fire. These great timbered slopes are on the farther side of Hollyburn, and most hikers have never been in them. No travelled trails lead through them.

Western hemlock is a tree of slow growth in the swarthy shadows of the deep woods in which its seedling has to struggle for life. The mature tree is often affected with fungus diseases and attacked by many insects. Foresters say that it is the most unhealthy tree species in the Coast forest. Owing to its shallow roots the aged hemlock is often blown down.

The western hemlock does not grow on the top of Hollyburn. At about 3000 feet elevation it stops, and the mountain hemlock, or black hemlock, begins. This is a small tree of alpine character, never more than fifty feet high and with branches, strong as wire ropes, growing right down to the ground. Its cones are larger and its leaves thicker than those of the western hemlock. Mountain hemlock associated with amabilis fir, western cypress and western white pine on the top of Hollyburn.