Friday, September 5, 2014

To the Pithouse!

Remember back in July when we tried to go to the pithouse/beaver lodge? Well that hike was canceled due to a large bear that crashed away in the bush as we arrived. But we thought we would try again later, when the bears are down by the rivers, glutting themselves on the spawning salmon. So yesterday, we drove up the North road again and headed into the bush. Armed with bear spray and a plan, we set out, two women, four children, and a dog. Ears and eyes peeled. The dog went ahead to flush out any possible ursine loiterers. 

 We made it to the location of the pithouse without incident. Pithouses are dwellings made partly underground that were used by the people of this area in the past. This one is a recreation of a typical pithouse.

 The pithouse has a log frame and the roof is filled in with mud. It looks very similar to a beaver lodge, one of which is visible through the trees in the picture below (now uninhabited). Perhaps beaver lodges were the original inspiration for the pithouse.
 The inside is dug into the ground, with a firepit in the centre and ledges around the outer walls. People would sleep on the ledges.
 The boys soon got to work filling up the fire pit with all the stacked logs. They pretended to light fires and cook food.
 A glimpse of green through the smoke hole.
 While I was in there, I tried to imagine what it would be like to spend winter in a pithouse. Especially during a cold winter that used to be the norm. I'm sure you would burn through a lot of trees as the temperature dipped below -50c!
 A hole in the mud roof allowed some sunlight in to nurture some opportunistic plants.
 There would normally be a ladder to go in and out of the hole in the centre of the roof. The cover for the hole is to the right of the photo.
 A food cache is built in the nearby trees.

 After spending close to two hours, playing in and around the pithouse, we finally convinced our reluctant boys to head back along the trail, preceded (of course) by the dog. An old beaver-felled tree lay alongside the path. We made it back to our vehicles without any run-ins with bears.
 And, as we pulled up onto our street, a black bear darted across and into a yard to eat berries. Go figure.

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