“The half-breed who is with us,” wrote Tuck in his diary, “says that no man ever before went through the mountains the way we came. I believe he is right. No one else would be such a darn fool as to try.”
In 1906 young Tuck was trapping near the Yellowhead Pass, where the “green” English adventurer acquired the experience that eventually saved his life while exploring the unsurveyed, unmapped route into this Peace River country from the South. In 1907 he had taken the job of timber cruising for a big lumbering enterprise. This involved not merely moving from point to point by the easiest route with a guide to show the way. It meant ranging far and wide up mountains and valleys wherever there appeared to be a good stand of forest, assessing the potential board feet and staking the best areas as timber reserves for his employer. At any time it was a rough, arduous and even dangerous job.
Between spring and September, he and a guide and packer covered a large part of the new territory. On August 25 they were in sight of the Wapiti Pass, “in the most awful confusion of mountains he ever saw”. The guide lost and the horses starving, the party camped in “the eternal snows” on a mountaintop. On September 1st they had crossed two more mountain ranges. They camped on the Wapiti River, tired and ragged,
horses and men on the verge of collapse. One of the horses died in the night from sheer exhaustion. Very little grub was left, but the expedition spent a week cruising. During this time Mr. Tuck believed that he got into the Monkman Pass area – the map shows low land between the two valleys. After all, as the crow flies, the Monkman and Wapiti passes are only twenty-five miles apart. In the area Tuck staked off an estimated two hundred and fifty million board feet.
Between September 11th and 15th the party moved down the valley towards Grande Prairie. At Wapiti Lake they were only three or four miles from the headwaters of Fellers Creek. They arrived at Grande Prairie, as Tuck recorded, “not a day too soon.” They had no food at all. The whole camp had to come to their rescue with clothing to hide their hides! But they could claim to be the first to enter and explore the now famous Grande Cache hinterland.
Tuck continued to explore and cruise in the area until 1911, freighting for Hector Tremblay and trapping until the Peace River Block was surveyed in 1911-12. Then he took up a homestead south and east of Pouce Coupe in the general direction of Kelly Lake, the other terminus of the new “circle road.”
During this time, Tuck and five or six others made another of those incredible journeys. Lost and storm-stayed, they made it only as far as Pouce Coupe’s present day site. They were on their way “out” but were forced to camp for the winter in a little cabin, not at Tremblay’s, but on the river flat area of the townsite today. The winter of 1910-1911 is remembered as the “worst winter in the country”.
Tuck continued to live and explore the area until World War I. He served during the war, then returned with his British bride, Esme, as truly a pioneer as her husband. They lived out their lives here, contributing to the last to all phases of community welfare.