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Wilderness Adventures - West Chilcotin Blog

This is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without the smog!
If you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes, exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read some great contributed stories and ongoing blogs, just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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30/05/2015 11:30 AM

Warm April, Warmer May

It’s been a long haul since the last blog and I’ve had questions regarding my health from the part time residents that come up this time of year. My health is fine and thank you to all of you that have worried, but I think I’ve mentioned on the Facebook updates (more regular than the blog) that my hip is still preventing me from sitting very long at the computer. Of course, as Andy says, if I just shortened up the blog to a few lines a day that wouldn’t be an issue but as we all know, If I write a blog…. I write a book! :-)
There’s lots to catch up on in the past two months. April was a pretty darned nice month but May has been just as stunning. I considered our ice to be off of Nimpo Lake on about the 22nd but there was still a little bit in our back bay until the 26th, so officially that makes it the second earliest ice off ever since I’ve been around the country. To the best of my knowledge, the last time the ice went out on April 22 was when I lived here 25 years ago and that was considered a record then. This was also about 15 days earlier than the norm which is fair enough because the lake froze up a little earlier than usual last fall.
While we had a few small snowfalls in April, overall it was a pretty warm month with the odd day even hitting 25C or 77F which is why the ice went punky so fast on the lake. One day it was there, and a few hours later we were looking at blue water in front of the house. The ice had just kind of faded away.
Most of the winter we had pretty low snow loads in the mountains and in fact, they looked whiter in late April and May than they had all winter and that’s when quite a few of the locals and out-of-towners hit the Rainbows for snowmobiling. We could see a lot of localized storms dropping snow over the mountains and they were a great shining white up until about two weeks ago when temperatures and rain over the mountains took the snow down to levels we usually see around the end of June and into July. The Coast Mountains have a whole lot of black and the Itcha Ilgatchuz Ranges are pretty much bare now. The lake levels everywhere reflect that, with the level in Nimpo Lake at about where it would be in September, not April or May. In fact, the Dean River was so low that the canoe racers were having a little problem making it down the river in places. Speaking of which, the annual Anahim Lake Nimpo Lake Canoe race was a huge success!
This year’s event was in honor of young Riley Sager who died last spring, and I was stunned at the turnout. There were 14 entries, the highest by far that I have ever seen and more than twice the norm, with a women’s and youngster’s class as well as the men’s class. Even though the canoe race was early this year, it was a hot, sunny day and I commented to Andy that it was a far cry from just a few short years ago when Johnny was out with a motorboat breaking up ice on the lake from the boat launch down to the river so that the paddlers could get through.
Also a tremendous success this year was the annual fishing derby put on by Clint Fraser over at Wilderness Rim Resort. This year it was in memory of Oscar, a good friend to us all, and drew numbers I have never seen before. There were 64 entrants with well over 600 fish taken out of the lake for weigh in, which is marvellous because this lake is in desperate need of fishermen. There are way too many fish in the lake and with not enough food these last few dry years, the fish are getting smaller and skinnier. They are still pretty respectable as far as rainbow trout go but not the big, fat fish we are used to. I guess the only advantage of there being so many hungry fish is that not only could you catch them on a jelly bean if you wanted, but you can just about catch them by dipping your finger in the water, which makes it great fun for children and inexperienced fishermen.
It sure was a pleasure to look out over the water for two days and see it full of boats. It’s been a long while since that has happened as demographics change and the visitors to our area now are more into the eco adventure vacation than fishing. It also helped that the long weekend was quite warm and sunny for the most part, although it was less so than it had been all week leading up to the event.
We have also seen quite a few 23 to 25C or mid to high 70’sF days throughout May and up until last night, we haven’t been close to freezing in probably six weeks or more. We were only a couple of degrees above freezing last night which doesn’t bode well for veggies already planted in my garden. With the incredibly warm spring we’ve had it has been difficult to resist the urge to plant early, but by this time of year it’s usually reasonably safe, or should be. It’s ironic that it’s nearly June and we’re closer to freezing at night now than we have been since March.
We were able to get back to working on the gazebo this past month and after working in high temperatures and hot sun with wonderful neighbours that contributed days of their time, we got the rafters up, the tongue and groove on, and the tin on over that. Next stop, windows and doors. But I got so far behind in my garden working on the gazebo that I’ve had to quit that now and get out there and work in the dirt. The season has started so early this year that the weeds have gotten a good jump on me and I am still trying to transplant jumpers into pots and give them away. If you don’t know what a jumper is, well it’s any perennial that has reseeded and there are little seedlings outside of where they are supposed to be. I have hundreds of them all over the place of every kind but don’t have the heart to kill them because I figure anything that can grow in this country that isn’t a weed deserves to live. It’s usually not hard to find neighbours to take them. It’s just hard to find the time to dig them up and pot them and find a place to put them until neighbours have beds ready at their own houses for them.
Plant sharing is a good thing. I benefited greatly from it when I put in my first flower garden 27 years ago in Prince George when a kind hearted butcher’s wife gave me little seedlings from her garden so I could start my own. When we sold our house two years later, I potted up small pieces of the plants and planted them in their pots in the ground at the place we rented because our house had sold a year before we were to move to Saskatchewan. There I planted my poor bedraggled perennials where they flourished for another seven years before another move brought pieces back here where they have been moved willy nilly until I have developed more permanent beds for them. Every year while patiently waiting for their forever home they have come up faithfully to brighten the whole yard up with their color and form. I don’t think there’s anything better than a flower garden. Veggies might keep you alive, but a perennial garden feeds the soul.
We went down to Bella Coola at the end of April for lunch one day and our green fix that everyone from up here on the plateau seems to need once a spring as the Valley is often up to a month ahead of us up here. They’ll have flowering shrubs and bulbs and sometimes azaleas and rhodos, green lawns and full leaves on the trees when we’re still under snow up here. This time they had some of that but their lilacs still weren’t out and we actually had bare ground and tattered lawn up here although still no green on the trees. We saw a wonderful bear on our way back up with a huge head and the kindest eyes I have ever seen on a bear. It was quite close to the edge of the road and when we stopped, it just kind of looked at us and then lay down right next to the road, something I have never seen before. A couple of other people have gotten photos of the same bear and noted the very thing we did, that it had kind, honest eyes, not the evil looking little pig eyes most bears have.
We have also been enjoying the addition of a fox family to the neighbourhood which all the neighbours discovered soon after arriving in country and like us, have been out taking photos ever since the kits have exited the den and been playing on a hill nearby day after day. If you would like to see an expanded photo album of the kits playing you'll find it on Facebook/TheChilcotin.
While a large family of foxes may not be great for the health of our cat, they are definitely taking down the squirrel and hopefully the vole population in the area. The latter has become a real pest in my gardens and lawn since we’ve lost all our cats to old age and the one we have now didn’t get the memo on his duties in life, which are supposed to be something other than eating, sleeping, and whining about the quality of his meals. He’s a huge cat so he should be able to hold his own against a single fox. I’m just not sure how he’ll fare against more than one but at this point in time, I have far more admiration for the fox family’s hunting abilities than I do for his, so he’s on his own.
There have been lots of people out fishing every day since the fishing derby two weeks ago, which is kind of unusual this time of year. Perhaps folks have heard how good the fishing is here or maybe we have a new generation of fisherfolk coming in. No matter what, it’s nice to see people besides neighbours out there on the water. Not that neighbours don’t form a large part of that. We went from zero neighbours to just about every residence being full from here to our nearest full time residents a half mile away in the past three weeks. Everyone came in at nearly the same time so that meant lots of noise from folks doing spring work on their places as well as campfires and shared meals. It has gotten pretty quiet now though as many have left again until fall or a few that return periodically throughout the summer. We don’t usually get much of a chance to visit with everyone in the spring because we are often on a dead run ourselves, but we’ll catch up in the fall.
At least we have been able to have campfires! I was a little concerned that the fire center was going to slam down a campfire ban on the region right after the long weekend but in the past two weeks we’ve gotten over a half inch of rain which has helped things considerably and we even have puddles on the back trail. With the periodic showers and sudden downpours have come thunderstorms and lightning which has sparked a number of fires around the province. We were under a heavy pall of smoke from the Little Bobtail Lake forest fire north of us near Prince George and from a fire Pelican Lake near Quesnel for several days. In fact, the smoke was so bad over the long weekend that I couldn’t see any boats beyond the island during the fishing derby one day and we couldn’t see the mountains for days. However, a good downpour and a wind cleared the smoke out and it’s been really good since. There’s the odd day when it’s gotten really hot that you can see a little haze on the horizon but for the most part, these little showers have kept the air clear. However, these little showers have been a boon to the mozzie population or all bugs for that matter. We haven't had the black flies so much but we had to re-shift a load of roofing tin at Riske Creek on our way back from town and the bugs were brutal. People around here have complained of the black flies in places and more than a few neighbours have complained of the mosquitoes. It’s true the mozzies are bad just before a storm or in the evening when the winds have died down but they aren’t unbearable by any means. For the three years up to last year when we had virtually no bugs at all, the mosquitoes haven’t come until late in June which is highly unusual for this country. This year they are finally here when they’re supposed to be, which means any frost or heat we get will knock them back and we should be nearly done with them by mid July or much sooner if it’s another hot summer, something forecasters are already calling for. I’m not sure what will happen with our lake level if we do get another dry year. Lake levels are already as low as they get in late summer and fall, so we might end up with an unexpected amount of beach this year and it will knock back the mosquito population yet again. I’m already watering lawns and gardens and have been for a couple of weeks now so I can’t imagine how much stress wild vegetation will take again this year. On the other hand, weather forecasters are notorious for being wrong.
Well, work outside isn’t going to do itself and with mixed cloud and sun, it might be another good day for transplanting little runaway perennial seedlings again.
Have an awesome month, folks!

The last blog is at March Week One.

Don't forget that you can find regular updates on the Facebook page at Facebook/TheChilcotin.

Anahim Lake Highway cam looking West.

The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip of the iceberg, so join me!

Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
A huge brown bear with a white collar on the Bella Coola Hill.
Orange filtered sun gleams off a red fishing boat, the lake, and mountains fast losing their snow.
One of the fox parents is black and stands watch.
A fox kit watches the watchers from a hill.
Fox kits playing on a hill.
Racers carrying their canoes run to the water.
Two competitors with bright life jackets paddle their canoe in the race.
Timber frame gazebo is slowly being finished.
Button leading to The Chilcotin Facebook Page.
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