It was July 12, 2015 at 7:30 a.m. Looking over the dash of my favorite airplane, I cracked the throttle of my PA-18 Super Cub. For some reason, I did NOT have a good feeling. After 30 years of flying for minnows, thousands and thousands of take-offs and landings, I knew sooner or later the time would come when a tree would get in the way. This particular morning was one of the most humid, hot mornings of the summer and here I found myself in a very small lake. When I first landed, I had a little bit of a breeze, but after working for a while, the wind had totally died!
I should have stayed put until conditions improved, but I had been in this size of lake (and smaller) many times before. I made the decision to take off. I chose a path off the end of the lake that seemed to have the shortest trees, and made a loop using every inch of water. I hit the throttle and as I picked up the first float, I knew right away that I was in trouble. I wasn’t able to get any lift! Unfortunately, once you get to this point, on a small lake, there is no stopping. In a moment like this, you have two choices: slam the plane straight into the bush once you run out of lake or take it off the water and give it a shot. I am the kind of guy who is always going to give it a try!
After using up three quarters of the small lake, I jerked it off the water. I had the trees in front of me and no weight on the stick… at this point I knew I was REALLY done! I climbed up 30 feet, clearing the first batch of smaller trees, but of course there had to be one taller one in my path! I struck the tree with my right wing and let go of the stick. I grabbed the two bars in front of me to try and protect my head. I had actually rehearsed this in my mind for many years. After that, all I remember is the roar of the 180 HP engine and that heavy McAuley prop carving up the trees like a big lawn mower as I spiraled to the ground nose first.
Next thing I knew, there was complete silence, and there I was sitting at a bad angle in my bent up airplane in the middle of nowhere. My thinking seemed to be clear (as clear as it ever is), but I felt the blood running down the right side of my head. I could feel two pretty good cuts on the side of my head and I knew I had to get out of the plane and control the bleeding as soon as possible. I then began moving my legs and my back. To my surprise, nothing felt broken, so I started working my way out of the fuselage. I crawled down to the soft, green, mossy bog below me.
I had no bandages to put on my head to protect my wounds, but I remembered a story my Dad had told me about a wounded bear. He was tracking this bear when he was guiding and the bear used moss to make a dressing in it’s wound. The bear actually changed the dressing a couple of times while it was being tracked and they never did get the bear! So I grabbed some nice green moss and held it to my head.
I went back into the plane and grabbed my safety kit, sat phone, GPS, and bug spray. I knew right away I would have to make my way to a larger lake where I could get Chris to land and pick me up. I turned on the GPS and picked out a lake that I knew he could land in. I knew it would be a good hike (at least an hour), but I was sure I could make it. The only problem was that the lake was long and narrow, therefore my target was quite small. I had to hit the end of the lake bang on, because if I missed it I would be walking for a long time to the next one.
I then used my sat phone to call to Karla to tell her what had happened, and gave her my GPS way points. I sort of “made light” of the situation as I didn’t want everyone getting too excited. I told her I did some damage to the Cub on take off and would have to be picked up. I said that I would walk to a bigger lake, which would take a while, but that I would call again with an updated GPS location. I then gathered up my survival equipment, got a rough destination on my GPS, put some fresh moss on my head and started out.
After the first 5 minutes or so, in very thick bush and deep moss, the horse flies and deer flies found me and seemed to really like the bug spray that I had on! To make matters even more difficult, my GPS was going in all different directions. I came to a little opening and my GPS stopped jumping. I got my bearings and turned off the GPS to save the battery. Here I was, making my way through some of the thickest Canadian bush, walking in deep moss, which felt like walking in two feet of snow. My head was bleeding and sore… add on the flies and the heavy humidity… this walk was feeling worse than the crash!
I’d been working in the bush my entire life, but this time I had a weird feeling that something was following me! I would stop and listen, but couldn’t hear anything over the loud hum of bugs. “Oh well”, I thought, “its probably the heat getting to me.” I changed the moss on my head several times. After walking for at least an hour and resetting my course several times with the GPS, I hit my target. I was at the lake and the bleeding had stopped so I felt fairly good at this point! I was a little tired and had a bad headache, but under the circumstances, not terrible!
I made a call to the base and gave them my new location. I told them to bring a couple of sandwiches, some Tylenol, bandages for my head and my other Supercub so I could finish off my day’s work. I knew we were low on minnows and could not afford to miss a day’s catch. I would get Chris to pick me up in the Maule and take me to my base camp on Bertrand Lake. One of the other guys could fly the other Supercub up to meet us. I had more trapping supplies at the cabin and could start out fresh again to finish the job. I didn’t think I had a concussion as my head seemed clear, just needed some fresh bandages and maybe stitches, which I could get later.
I had about an hour to wait before I’d be picked up. The ground around this lake was higher and dry. I took a bunch grass and made a spot to put my head back and had a little rest. You wouldn’t think it was possible, but I actually fell asleep for a short time. Long enough for the blow flies to start laying eggs in my wounds! I was woken up after a few minutes by a large “crash” in the bush about a hundred feet from me in the thick bush line surrounding the lake. I didn’t think too much of it, probably just a moose stepping on a dead tree. A couple minutes later it started again, very loud like someone was deliberately smashing the bushes. It then struck me that I had just left a blood trail leading from the crash site to where I was sitting. I thought, shit, if this is a bear, and he comes out, I’ll have to jump in the lake and start swimming! This was something I did not feel up to, but was prepared to do if need be! There was one more crash and then silence. I thought about how badly it would suck to get eaten by a bear after surviving a plane crash and that long, terrible walk.
The next 40 minutes I spent facing the bush and listening, but didn’t heard another sound until that beautiful sound of the airplane! Chris and my daughter, Meagan parked the Maule on the shoreline. When they jumped out, I think they were a little surprised to see my wounds. They could tell that something more serious had happened than what I had first reported. I took a couple of Tylenol and we all got in the Maule for Bertrand Lake.
I had crashed at 7:30 a.m. and by 11:00 a.m. I was cleaned up, taped up and into my other Cub to finish off the day. I arrived back at home around 6 p.m. with minnows! The bandages held my wounds together well, so I figured that stitches were not necessary, but a couple of rum and Pepsi were just what I needed!
The next day, I got busy searching for another Super Cub, and within a week I was back in action. About a month later, I bought the wreck from the insurance company and made arrangements to haul it out by chopper to the closest road. We figured a gravel pit on the road to Slate Falls Community, would be a good place to fly it out to, take apart and trailer it home. A few days before the extraction, Chris and I flew into the crash lake with my two Cubs (when the conditions were good) and cut a heli-pad.
On the day of the extraction, Chris and I flew up in the Cessna with plans to take pictures of the recovery. We got word that the chopper was going to be late so we decided to land on a lake and wait for an update. Near where we landed was an abandoned cabin so we thought we’d check it out. The cabin looked like a trappers’ cabin that hadn’t been used in years. After a bit, we heard the chopper, so back in the air we went. Things went well, and we were very surprised to see how well the beat up Cub glided in the air while hanging from the chopper. The chopper pilot did a very good job and set the plane in the pit right alongside our truck… he was a true professional!
We then began taking apart the plane to load it into the trailer. With the wings off, we attempted to lift the fuselage with the motor attached, but it was a lot heavier than we had expected. I was hoping not to have to remove the engine if possible. We were just about to make the decision to remove the engine when a truck pulled up. The occupants rolled their windows down. They were residents of Slate Falls. The lady asked “did you crash your plane here?” I told her that I crashed a few miles from here… that I’d hit a tree on take off. She said “oh, the sasquatch probably held up the tree that caught your plane”. I thought she was joking and I laughed. I then asked if they would help us lift the plane into the trailer. They said they would be glad to! Out of the truck comes a younger couple and an elderly couple probably in their 80’s or 90’s. The elders didn’t speak very good English, but were ready and willing to help with the plane. We all grabbed onto the plane, and even the elderly couple lifted their share of the weight… pretty soon the plane was loaded onto the trailer.
We stood around and had a little visit with our new friends. I asked them if they ever use that old trapper’s cabin that we landed at. They said that they haven’t been there in years, because of the Sasquatch. I asked them to elaborate. They said the last time they were there, a Sasquatch threw large rocks at the cabin all night long, and they couldn’t get out until morning. They never went back. I thought “wow, what a story” but the strange thing was, they were actually quite serious! As they were leaving I offered them some money for their help, but they would not take anything. They were very nice people, and I wish I had gotten their names.
A few days later, I was telling the Sasquatch story to a friend of mine. He laughed and said, “you mean you’ve never heard about the Sasquatch of Snelgrove Lake?” Apparently there has been a documentary made about it, and some Youtube videos posted by fishermen of Snelgrove Lake Outpost of encounters with the Sasquatch. I had crashed just a few miles from Snelgrove Lake, and at that time I didn’t know anything of the Sasquatch stories! It’s funny how things turn out… one year later, we purchased 3 Outposts from True North Outposts, and one of them was SNELGROVE LAKE OUTPOST!! I will do my best to catch that Sasquatch of Snelgrove, as long as I don’t get hit in the head first!!
To find out more about the Sasquatch of Snelgrove Lake, check out these links: