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Wilderness Adventures - April, Week 2/2009

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 stories like 'Lake Monsters' about the Lakesounds just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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12/04/2009 7:37 PM

Easter Sunday 2009

Happy Easter folks! Did you find all your eggs? I woke up to a real chocolate bunny and a lovely card decorated with a whole bunch of Hershey's chocolate kisses, as well as fresh pancakes and bacon. Am I spoiled, or what?!!
Every time I looked out the window this morning to see whether the weather had improved enough to go for a walk, it was either sleeting, snowing sideways, or threatening to. We had really low heavy cloud and you couldn't even see the mountains. On top of that, we had a nasty, blustery wind coming out of the east with the clouds scuttling across the sky from the west at great speed. That's normally never a good sign for us. I finally called Leah and told her we were going to take a shot at a walk at around one anyway.
The timing actually worked out quite well. While the wind was still blowing pretty good, the sun came out for most of the way and it ended up being pretty warm at times. Today was training day for her dog, Pluto. He's a purebred spaniel and actually pretty sharp. He learns fast and he's got the guts of a Bull Mastiff. The size of our three dogs bothers him not at all and he careens into one after another looking for a battle royal without fear and on a regular basis. He's the youngest of the lot at about six or eight months and he definitely could use some training. Leah is pretty firm with him for the most part, but there are a lot of things she doesn't know.
One thing that always bothers me is to see a dog owner being dragged along by their dog. Unfortunately, it happened more than once with Cat when she was younger because she was just so strong. Which is why I finally got a Haltie on the advice of our new neighbours and have been delighted with the results. That, combined with the training collar, pretty much keeps Cat under control. In Leah's case, Pluto is actually quite a small spaniel, is very light, and quite easy to control. I just don't think it occurred to her that there was any other way to have a dog on a leash other than being pulled along by the animal at full speed. Admittedly, it worked to her advantage climbing the hills on the trail in the snow. Since I didn't have the benefit of a dog dragging me along, it was a real struggle to keep up with her at times.
Once we got out on the road today I showed Leah how to heel her dog on a leash. It actually turned out easier to take over him and walk him for a mile or so before turning him back over to her. By that time she had a good idea as to what to do. Amazingly, he did really, really well, considering that three other dogs diving off into the bush, brushing past him, and sniffing the ground around him, was actually a constant distraction. What amazed me most was just how light and easy he was to control on a leash compared to Cat. That bloody hound is just so powerful that controlling her with anything but the Haltie requires brute force, and even with it, leading her isn't that easy. In any case, another walk or two and old Pluto is going to be a heeling pro. Or at least he won't be dragging his owner around quite as badly as he was.
Didn't quite get this finished up yesterday. I have a brother deploying to Iraq for his second stint on Friday that called last night. Since we won't be talking over the phone for about a year, we made up for it last night and it seemed more important to do that than to write a blog.
Andy lit that big, communal burn pile this morning. Usually it goes up like a torch but looking at it from here, about all it's doing is creating a whole lot of smoke. I know there was a lot of green stuff on it but there must have been a bit too much. Prior to this there has been a lot of beetle kill on it and that stuff burns like crazy but there wasn't much on the pile this year and you can tell. That last rain probably didn't help much, either. The whole country is going to be cursing us for the smoke.
The air is pretty heavy out there, and that won't help the fire burn. There's a lot of humidity in the air with all the melting snow in the last few days. For that matter, I'm not even sure it went below freezing last night and it's already four degrees above right now. It got up to 10C or 50F yesterday, even though it couldn't quite make up its mind what it was going to do on the weather front. Today looks like it's going to end up mostly cloudy. I was hoping for a nice afternoon because we're having a wiener roast with friends and neighbours once the bonfire burns down, but I don't think we're expected to see really nice weather until tomorrow when a high pressure system builds in.

11/04/2009 2:02 PM

Windy Easter

This morning started out being really pretty, after the clouds cleared away, anyway. Friend Leah wanted to go for a walk with the dogs this morning early on, because the Canucks were playing hockey at noon and she didn't want to miss the game. Going early turned out to be a really fortunate decision, because it was just gorgeous out. The sun was warm on our backs but the ground hadn't softened up too much yet, and it was already just above freezing.
We had to stick to the road today because the back trail is just too mushy and I went through into water under the snow again yesterday about three times. I've finally decided I'm tired of wet feet so the critters can have the trail until it dries up a bit. We popped down to a neighbour's place on the Main Arm so that I could check on his place and so we could have a look at the ice down there. It's starting to darken up near shore and there was a spider hole a little way out. A white hawk went cruising past us while we were there, no doubt on the hunt for some unfortunate bird or little creature. We could hear snow machines across the lake so one of our snowmobiling buddies undoubtedly went sledding this morning. It seems awfully warm for that and hard on the machine, but I know he had family up so that's probably why he's going.
Just about the time Leah and I arrived back in the yard, the sun disappeared and the wind started up and it hasn't improved much since. The sun rolls out off and on but that next system is definitely on its way in. The benefit of the slower melt and high wind is that things dry out just that much faster, still, I like nice weather a lot better than I like wind. The only time you pray for wind around here is for mosquito season. So many of our trees have a permanent bend in the tops since that full day of wild wind we had back in October. They all look like Dr. Suess trees now. They look pretty sorry, and we've more than one propped up or cabled to another to try to straighten them up or keep them from going over. I guess we'll know once the frost is out of the ground and the roots are freed up which trees are going to stay standing, and which are going to keel over in the next good wind.
I think we're going to have to look at planting some seedlings this spring. It's possible that the wind generated by our Pacific weather systems is going to become more and more forceful. The beetle killed forests no longer slow wind down the way the green pine forests did and in losing that protection, our trees are more vulnerable to extreme winds. It's my thought that new trees growing up in those conditions may be stronger, develop deeper roots, and be less likely to topple in wind. Like anything, though, it's a matter of finding the time during that small window between frost out of the ground and weather too warm to transplant wild trees. We'll just add that project to the 6483 on the list. :-)
I know one thing. Obviously the wind is bothering the local pilots in the least. Two of them have been out playing in the sky this afternoon while the wind blusters around here. Maybe it's only a ground level wind but I doubt it. Sometimes those guys remind me of the eagles or ravens that seem to get a kick out of flying in the wind. To me, there's quite a difference between relying on your wings and relying on an engine to keep you in the air on a windy day, but maybe I'm just chicken.
Just a couple of small bits here and there. Friend Heidy tells me that I misspelled Bayet's name. (He was the one flying the red and white plane around when the guys went snowmobiling last week.) Apparently his name is spelled Beat but we pronounce it Bay-et. So Beat, if you read this, I'm sorry about that!!!
The price on a property in Bella Coola on the Property for sale page has been lowered so check it out if you're in the market. Okay, that's it. If I don't write tomorrow, have a great Easter Sunday folks and don't forget.... eggs roll...!

10/04/2009 2:57 PM

April Surprise

Nothing like looking out the window in the morning and seeing snow on the ground going into the second week of April. It wasn't much but it was a surprise since it had been sprinkling rain yesterday evening and the temperature was still above freezing. It made everything nice, fresh, and white, but it sure does add to the mess the melt makes.
The walk in the woods was fantastic this morning. The clouds cleared away, the sun was out, it was just above freezing and all was silent. Everything was so wet that sound was muffled and there was no wind, and because the snow has melted off in so many places, all you could smell was the deep, rich scent of earth covered by layers of pine needles and a few decomposing leaves. Nothing smells more like spring!
I saw my first chipmunk since last fall in the woods today and then a second one near our burn pile coming home. The squirrels are sure keeping a low profile though. The robins have been out for a couple of days now, and I've even seen two flies outside this week so I guess things are warming up.
I finally had to cut the birds off from seed at the feeder. I feel terrible when chickadees and grosbeaks show up for seed and look longingly through the window at me. (Okay, that's probably my imagination. Still....) But I just could not handle the blackbirds any more. The flock of males was huge and noisy, and then the immatures and females started moving in. They sit in the trees around the house and trill all day long and because it's so warm this time of year, we have the door and window open. It gets to the point where you can't even hear yourself think! I love them dearly and if they just sang occasionally, I could handle it. But once the all day cacophony starts, that's it, they're cut off, so they just moved over to the neighbour's. Fortunately, he's a long way away and though I can still hear them, it's at just the right level.
Andy's having a heck of a time getting good, hard ice from the lake now so that he can make his homemade ice-cream. There's still clear ice underneath but on top it's so slushy that the ice melts too fast in the bucket that he mixes it in. The snow on the ice is really saturated with water and I was thinking the other day about how uncomfortably cold it must be for the swans to be standing in it when they land on the lake. For that matter, it can't be that comfortable for sleeping either.
We haven't seen any swans today. I'm wondering if it's because it cleared off this morning. Maybe they couldn't navigate anywhere for a couple of days because it was socked in so badly there for awhile. Or is that possible? In any case, they're not around.
Our beautiful day has deteriorated a bit with cloud moving in and a wind started up around noon. It's nearly 8C or 46F out there though and the sun is making its appearance now and again. It all helps to dry things up!
09/04/2009 7:19 PM

The Big Yech!!

I really do not know how else to describe our sorry weather and resulting melt. The rain picked up and It drizzled all yesterday evening and throughout most of the night with heavier showers here and there. It stayed cloudy for most of today and it sprinkled rain off and on throughout the day, although it was sleet by supper time. A watery sun kept trying to peek through the clouds, and did manage momentarily a time or two, but for the most part it was just cloudy, wet, socked in, and we never did see the mountains today.
The warm temperatures and now rain have taken the snow down a tremendous amount! The evening before last, Andy jokingly walked in the snow across the lawn to show how saturated it was. There was probably a foot on the lawn then, and by this morning, only one tiny, thin patch of snow left on the entire thing, that is how quickly it has melted.
Today I tried to go for a walk on the section of back trail down by the gun range. I won't be doing that again for awhile. There might be a bit of a puddle in a low spot on the trail that I tried to go around. The snow would collapse beneath my feet and I would be doing the JC walkin' on water thing to try to keep from getting too wet. It didn't work. In other places it was just snow but it was so saturated that by the time I got back out onto the road my boots were soaked and I was wet halfway to my knees. I think the trail will have to look after itself for the next little while until the snow in the woods is gone and the ground dry. Then I can walk alongside the trail until the snowmobile tracks that we've packed all winter melt out and dry up.
Our Trumpeter Swans stayed the night in the spot they chose for themselves yesterday afternoon, and a few of the break break-aways even rejoined them. They weren't there this morning when I got up but a whole Wack of them returned at around lunch time and settled down between us and the big island. About fifteen left that lot a couple of hours later and flew down toward the Dean River end of the lake, probably to feed for awhile. Between them and the ones still left on the ice, there were 49 swans all told so the numbers are growing. Interestingly, a huge flock of Canada Geese wheeled in at the same time as the swans and while a good number landed and settled in with the swans, the rest landed a little farther out on the Main Arm. We've definitely never had Trumpeter Swans arrive in these numbers and stay this long before so I don't know what's up, but it may have something to do with Andy's observation yesterday.
As I mentioned before, Andy went to Williams Lake and then on to 100 Mile House to drop his broken snowmobile off with the dealer there. On the way back he noticed that neither Lac La Hache or Williams Lake had any open water on them. Both were still frozen over. That's really unusual and doesn't bode well for us. They normally have ice off several weeks before we're clear so that probably means we'll be a long, long time to blue water. Still, there were some pretty big black spots in the ice that showed up late yesterday afternoon after it started raining in earnest. Andy rode the quad over the ice road to Nimpo again today to get the mail and there's loads of water on it. It's definitely too messy to be driven by a vehicle now. Too bad. Sure would like to have gotten another week out of it.
I just realized tonight that tomorrow is a holiday. That's the problem with working at home and living in the Chilcotin. You just have no idea when a long weekend is coming around. So I'll wish you all a Good Friday and in the meanwhile, I've some seeds soaking in peroxide on the counter and I'm eager to get planting this weekend. It's time to get some veggies started. I don't care how many snowstorms we get between now and June, spring is here!

08/04/2009 5:04 PM

Flock of Trumpeter Swans

We're normally only used to seeing small numbers of Trumpeter Swans arrive at Nimpo Lake in the spring. Six, sometimes up to nine, settle on the lake for a few days before moving on, but this spring has brought a huge flock here.
Last night when I mentioned I could hear Trumpeter Swans flying by the house, I just assumed it was a small number circling the lake looking for open water. But it was nearly dark when I went outside and could see one small flock after another land just on the other side of the big island. They all bunched up and a few settled on the ice for a sleep while eight Canada Geese settled in next to them. We've noticed before that the geese will hang around with the swans this time of year, probably for the protection, since the swans are so much bigger.
Andy said he could tell they were still out there this morning before dawn but since he left for town before it lightened up completely, he couldn't get a picture. By the time I got up they were long gone, of course.
I just heard swans a little while ago and decided to go out and see if they were doing fly bys again. Nope. There's a whole bunch of them standing out on the ice midway between our point and the eastern shore and I noticed now when I just checked that most of them have curled up on the ice and settled in again.
It seems strange that they would wait here on Nimpo Lake rather than on Lonesome Lake. The only thing I can figure out is that they think they're more secure near human habitation. Which is probably true, when you think about it. There will be far fewer coyotes or wolves for them to worry about out on the ice here than elsewhere. All they have to worry about is dogs, and around here there's only the one annoying beast that scared them off before because his owner refuses to contain him. They're certainly an amazing bird.
Today was pretty dreary. The sun kept trying to shine but just couldn't quite break its way through heavy, low level cloud. Instead, it's been trying to rain off and on all day. Not really enough to be called a drizzle. More like multiple sprinkles. It looks like the mountains have been getting more than we have.
It made it up to 12C or 53F today while the sun was still trying to make an appearance but settled back down around 8C or 46F for most of the rest of the day.
I just checked on the swans once again because they're making a lot of noise when they usually don't. A small flock broke away from the main one and started flying off. Two left that flock as it continued on and started making rounds of the bay. They finally landed over in front of the big island. Maybe they don't like being so close to a house or it's too noisy for them. The others were all standing up watching them as they flew and keep honking even now, maybe trying to get them to come back? As usual, my overactive imagination gets going and I wonder what's up. Did the pair out in the middle of the bay just decide it was too dangerous near land? Did the Jones decide they didn't want to sit next to the Smith's because Mr. Jones tried to put the make on Mrs. Smith? You really have to wonder.
I can't spend a lot of time on this today because something's up with my web site and darned if I can figure out what it is unless Explorer browser did an update that has skewed my html. It still works fine in Firefox so I'm stymied.
This is the start of a new week and as usual, last week's articles can be found at April Week One

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!
Pile of branches burning.
Swans fly over the house.
Three Trumpeter Swans site on Nimpo Lake.
Swans fly over Nimpo Lake in the evening.
Trumpeter swans against the mountains.
Trumpeter swans on other side of trees.
Red and white plane against a mountain backdrop.
Rider jumps snowmobile down cornice.
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