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Wilderness Adventures - April, Week 3/2008

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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Check out the Picture of the Day.

29/04/2008 10:54 AM

Winter Returns

Old Man Winter seems to be one of those 'Never Say Die' kind of guys. Or is that a politically correct statement nowadays? Should it be Old Woman Winter? Old Person Winter? Nah, that just doesn't sound right.
Anyway, Old Man Winter took a last kick at the cat last night with snow starting before midnight and still going at 8:00 this morning. It took a long time for the tiny fluffy flakes to amount to much but there's a good four inches of snow out there right now and it's become pretty soggy. Probably because it's sitting just above freezing right now. I know that every time a wack of snow slides off of the roof it hits the deck pretty hard.
There's a huge number of birds of every shape, size and kind, including some I haven't seen before, mobbing the feeder this morning. There's one bunch that are pretty good sized but all striped that I can only assume have been around but were getting seeds out in the yard. The snow probably drove them into the feeder for the first time. It kind of makes you wonder how a bird goes from picking up seed off of the ground or hanging from plants to going to a bird feeder. Do they look up from their cold, shivery little posts and notice the party going on around the bird feeder on the deck? "Hey Joe, what do you think's happening up there?"
"Geez, must be some kind of party, Marty, everyone's there, even those little red guys, and the little Jewish kinda know, the ones with the little black caps. Hey, you wanna go check it out?"
"I don't know Joe, anyone that would invite those arrogant military types that go around sporting their bars on their wings, and noisy! Sheesh!"
"Aw, C'mon Marty, there might be free food....."
"Yeah, well I gotta admit Joe, I am a little tired of wading around ass deep in snow here. What's with that?"
"Hey Marty, you're the one that wanted to get to the Chilcotin early because travel wouldn't be nearly as crowded and we would have our pick of the chicks!"
"Yeah....yeah, let's go check out the party."

I don't know, is that how birds think? I like to think so. I realize that humans have a habit of .... well....humanizing other creatures, and why not? I figure if my dog knows what the word 'walk' and 'treat' and 'get the heck off the deck!' means, then an animal or bird facing the edge of survival every day of its life is probably going to figure out where to find easy grub in a hurry and tell his buddies while he's at it. In the end, whether birds have any human attributes or not, I choose to think they do and treat them with humor. Otherwise, this would be a pretty tough world.
Snow isn't really something we needed right now since it will make everything soggy as hell once it melts, including our freshly graded road. On the other hand, there were places where it was getting pretty dusty and I'm sure we can use the moisture. I guess we don't have to worry about a fire danger anytime soon anyway.
I figured a four inch layer of snow on the lake ice would slow down melting considerably, but surprisingly, the snow isn't really sitting on top. I'm not sure what happened there, actually. The lake ice is still grey and there's very little white on top. Andy figures that the snow was heavy enough that it pushed the ice down to the extent that the snow absorbed water. Which is probably a good thing because had it stayed white and reflected the sun's rays back, it might have slowed down the the melt considerably. As it is, if the sun comes out it probably won't take long and the ice will be black again. However, I'm not too sure what the weather is supposed to do for the next few days. I haven't seen the news so we'll take it as it comes, I guess.
It's a little later in the afternoon and our temperature still hasn't crept much above freezing. I got sidetracked when I tried to make a phone call and discovered our line was dead. Andy radioed around and discovered everyone in the Nimpo Lake and Morrison Meadow area was out of phone and had been since early this morning. Most likely this heavy snow had pushed a tree or branch onto the line.
The neighbour came over to visit on his fourwheeler this afternoon but said he had seriously considered bringing his snowmachine over instead. I can see why. It's funny snow and packs right down so you actually could sled on it. He was talking about a huge thunderclap that occurred here while I was on my way to Anahim Lake last night that not only made him jump but his dog did a flying leap under the bed. Andy was chuckling because he had just stepped outside to get some wood and he said he jumped because the thunderclap was so close and he figures our cat took a 20' leap and dive into the house without even touching the ground. I guess they both looked around expecting to see a tree smoking somewhere but didn't find anything. At least it didn't knock our power out, although there was a blip yesterday on the battery backup. Maybe that lightning flash I saw on the way to Anahim was behind me. All I know is there was a bright pink flash and I just assumed it was over the mountains in front of me somewhere. Kind of early and weird to get lightning this time of year. But then again, four inches of the white stuff at the end of April isn't exactly the norm. Not impossible, since we're good for snow all months of the year, but not common either.
I was just talking to someone on the phone (which is finally back) and they said the mill manager saw lightning hit the Telus transfer station at Nimpo last night just about the time I saw that flash on the road, so I guess that's what it was all about.
At least we're much luckier than Virginia, which got hit with unheard of tornados and eastern Canada where they're already evacuating people because of flooding waters expected to reach a thirty year high according to the news tonight. Yeah, I know, this blog has taken all day to write. That's what happens when business interferes with the fun stuff. Speaking of which, I have to get back at it since it's 10:30 at night now.
Just to add some details though, it's still around freezing, the north end of Nimpo got over five inches of snow and for the first time ever, we've had a red crossbill come to our feeder. A couple, in fact. Female and male from the looks of it. It's funny because we were just talking about it at dinner down at the other end of the lake on Saturday and when the bird was described to me I said I knew it from our bird book but we had never had it at our end of the lake. Open your mouth and you're guaranteed to be proven wrong every time!
28/04/2008 8:31 PM

Sudden Weather Change

As is common for the Chilcotin, we had an about face in our weather today.
Today was an amazing day in more ways than one. The temperature climbed to well above 10C or 50F today and I was shocked to see the state of the lake this afternoon when I actually had time to come out of my office. The surface was looking pretty black with open water everywhere including a long stretch along the crack off of our point, ponds in the reed beds, and it was open for about 30 feet out from our shoreline.
Quite an amazing change when you consider that Andy was cutting through at least four inches of ice with the chainsaw close to shore only Saturday.
At this rate, my forecast of ice out around May 10th is going to be completely out to lunch! Geez, that demotes me to the rank of a BC television weatherman.
Suddenly the bit of open water we have has drawn numerous ducks of all colors and sizes and one even landed quite near me when I was down by the water and began paddling around. Suddenly he realized I wasn't a tree after all and took off again, but at least there's some bird life around. Still no loons, though.
I had to go into Anahim Lake for a meeting around supper time and just as I was leaving it got really black and a combination of hail and sleet came down, even though it was 9C when I left the house. It did that all the way to Anahim and I even saw a flash from lightning over the Itcha Mountains, but then the sleet turned to rain. It must have been a lot warmer in Anahim than Nimpo because on returning home it was pretty white with over an inch of hail on the ground that hadn't melted yet and sitting right around freezing. That's a nine degree drop in two hours! The colder temperatures are probably the result of our lake opening up and that nearly freezing water will bring our temps down a good five degrees this time of year compared to up on the highway or in Anahim.
This is the dirty time of year when you don't know what to expect in the way of weather from one moment to the next. But at least we did get some moisture and although it's really not welcome right now, we actually need it. From mud to dust in no time....that's us!
I was seriously thinking of letting the birdfeeder run out of seed today because the red winged blackbirds are starting to get to me. It's nice to hear them sing after a long winter but after a few weeks of sheer bedlam in the trees around the deck, it gets difficult to even hear yourself think. The only reason why it's hard to shut off the food for a couple of weeks is that many other little birds have shown up now and when the weather is cold and nasty, the feeder offers easy access to seeds and they don't have to use up as much energy searching out last year's seed heads. One new addition today was a purple finch. He actually sat on the back of a chair on our deck right against the window, with a houseplant inside and the Christmas lights tied to it outside. He seemed perfectly happy and content to sit there for awhile and study the view so I posted a picture of him up on the right.
27/04/2008 10:36 AM

Successful Bingo

'Happy Last Sunday in April' everyone! You see? You can use just about any reason for a celebration. I woke up to a special treat of pancakes and bacon fixed for me by my sweetie so that's as good a reason as any for me to celebrate the day. That, and the fact that it's already at 9.2C or nearly 50 degrees Fahrenheit this morning and it didn't go much below freezing last night. There's some high overcast and the wind is out of the east which doesn't bode well for the bonfire wine and cheese party this afternoon, but at least it's warm.
Actually, the weather forecast is for a nasty little front to catch most of the province and dump some rain, but it may already have passed us by. I certainly hope so. We really need that lake ice to melt back from the docks and stop pushing up ridges.
Yesterday we checked on our neighbour's dock and you could see that it had been pushed up even higher by the ice growing beneath it. We took a chainsaw over there and Andy began cutting a long block on the outside of our dock, hoping to take the pressure off of both docks. He got most of it cut out but the piece of 'solid' ice he was standing on decided to cave in just as he was finishing his cut. He went into the water and I'm trying to grab him by the collar while he's trying to save the saw from a dunking. I didn't know how deep the water was there but Andy's pretty quick and was out of the water before his wallet even got wet. Once he got all the ice cut into smaller blocks we were able to push them under the ice 'reef' to get them out of the way. Almost immediately, our neighbour's dock bounced up in the water when Andy pushed it away from the bank and actually straightened out, which really surprised me. I thought it would take some serious force to get it back into square again. One corner of the dock is still frozen in and it looks like the ice has broken the straps off most of the barrels underneath, but it'll make it otherwise. As long as the ice quits building, anyway. Just one or two more warm days and the ice should start rotting on the whole lake.
Nimpo Creek is open where it enters the lake on the north end and while at supper down at Mary's last night, we watched an otter cross the lake doing the run, hump, and slide. They're such a funny creature. In many cases they would probably cover more ground just by running (which for them involves humping up their back because they do have a really funny gait) but they just have to throw a glide and slide in there. I don't know if it's because that's how they have their fun or it's just a part of their nature, but it sure is a hoot to watch. One of our snowmobiling cronies living down there who's birthday we were celebrating last night has noticed what we have. That there are more hawks than usual this year and one of them is definitely the sharp shinned. So there you go. The higher hawk numbers isn't our imagination after all.
Actually, I saw one of them at the T intersection on our road yesterday just circling over a small patch of dead pine and very obviously hunting. It's not that far from our place as the crow flies so it could be the one hanging around our neighbour's property or a different one, but after seeing the hawks hunting the ditches on the way to town, I had wondered if they would be doing the same along our road.
The Natives are starting to fish off the bridge where the Dean River exits Nimpo Lake, which is a good sign of spring. They've only just started catching anything the last couple of days and the fish are almost all black and ready to spawn, but it should mean ice off soon. Oddly, there are no loons back yet, and they're almost always here two weeks before ice off. You'll see them paddling around in whatever tiny puddle of open water they can find on the lake, but nothing so far this year, which is odd. Then again, we don't exactly have a lot of open water. There are three ducks that took up residence this morning on some water that bubbled up through the huge crack off our point and is laying on either side of the ice ridge pushed up there, but they're the first.
Our Bingo at the hall yesterday was a success. We did nicely and would have done much better if we'd had more bingo cards to sell. Unfortunately, we have to borrow the school's set which a couple of our community members recalled playing on when they were kids, that's how old these cards are. You know...the pressed cardboard ones with the plastic colored windows that you push open or closed over the numbers? Yeah, those are the ones....older than Moses. Anyway, most people would liked to have played more than two or three cards but that's all we could sell to each person. In fact, I had to give up two that I was playing so that someone from Anahim Lake could play. As a result, we lost some money there and we sure need it for the improvements. The floor needs several new coats of paint but that's just labour and a little paint and easy enough to take care of. It's the chairs and tables that will be the big bill. Right now all we have are the old metal and and bentwood chairs very similar to the old school house chairs that also predate Moses. Trust me, it doesn't matter how much padding you have on your butt, you are guaranteed to be a cripple after sitting in them for a just a few hours, which may explain why our aging population is leaving our functions much earlier than they used to. I can't blame them because those chairs are a back killer for me personally and heaven help anyone that wears a skirt to any of our functions because the splinters on our old tables will ruin nylons in seconds. So I think replacing tables and chairs are our next order of business, it's just a matter of finding something affordable. However, nearly every Director has been contacted and agreed that we should spend money getting a Feller Buncher in to take down all of the beetle killed trees dangerously close to the hall, so that's a priority right now.
In any case, thanks to everyone that participated in the Bingo to help us raise money and special thanks to those businesses that contributed prizes, which were awesome! I'm going to put a list of the businesses over on the Newsletter page to give them a little coverage, because the Williams Lake Tribune wants almost as much money as we made to run a small thank you in their classifieds, and we just can't afford that. So please, go check out the list on the Newsletter page and keep their kind support of our community in mind when next you go shopping either locally or in Williams Lake.
Uh oh. I see the wind has come up and it's trying to rain out there so I guess that system is going to get us after all. We watched the weather channel a few minutes ago and there's a big purple splotch in the middle of the red and green on their radar which indicates high cloud tops and lots of moisture. There is blue behind it though so hopefully we'll get a couple of nice days with warm temperatures. We should. The east is going to cool down substantially and get some rain and our weather is usually the opposite of theirs. I know, I know...predicting our weather based on what the east is getting falls into the witchcraft category, but you know, it's based on observation over the years and my predictions certainly aren't any worse than those of the weathermen who's forecasts seem to be guesses at best.
Have a good Sunday, folks!

25/04/2008 7:08 PM

Town Days

Sorry about no blog for the last couple of days. We had to do the Williams Lake thing Wednesday and Thursday and by the time we got back and unloaded the truck last night, it was too late to write much. Turning on my computer this morning was no fun. Nothing like being inundated with emails, some of it business that had to be attended to, especially when it turned out to be the first really nice day in a long, long time. It was up to 10C or 50F in the shade today and since the sun shone all day, it was much warmer than that in the sun. In fact, it was an extraordinary day and I think everyone really enjoyed it. Certainly that was the first thing remarked on by everyone I spoke to today. No surprise since the last few days have been marked by quick snowstorms and a cold north wind.
It only got down to about -3C or 27F last night so it didn't take as long for it to get started warming things up and thawing them out this morning. We need a few days like that to get rid of the rest of our snow but alas, we're only supposed to get one more nice day and then the weather is going to deteriorate. Figures. The annual canoe race has already been put off because no one can be sure the ice will be off of Nimpo Lake by May 10. I've already privately predicted ice off from the 7th to the 10th but I thought I was just being pessimistic. Apparently I'm not the only one.
We decided to take a little walk about this morning and discovered that the barrels under our dock have been damaged further. The ice ridge continued to push upward and has now kinked the barrels almost in half and I doubt they'll be good for much of anything now. I happened to glance over to the little bay where we keep the other half of our dock and the next door neighbour keeps his, to see that his dock was reared half out of the ice. We went around to take a closer look at it and although it's probably not damaged beyond repair, it has been twisted, kinked up, the long supporting beam bent and the straps have been busted off of at least one barrel. It was a brand new dock and a real beauty, but it definitely might need to be pushed back into square again. An ice ridge formed underneath of it lengthwise instead of crosswise as it did under our dock, and forced one corner of the dock into the bank. There doesn't look to be any damage to the barrels yet and hopefully this warmer weather will stop the ice ridge from building any higher. Surprisingly, our dock was outside of his and it doesn't seem to have sustained any damage at all. I guess it's just the luck of the draw and all depends on where a ridge pushes up. The ridge that came up next to and under his dock is well over two feet high and came up after we checked the docks on Tuesday and left for town Wednesday. The power of that ice is just amazing. I guess there's good reason why most people on this end of the lake put their docks in the back bay where the ice doesn't move.
It was really interesting going into town Wednesday morning. We came across three hawks identical to the ones we have here cruising only a few feet above the ditches on the way into Williams Lake in search for mice. We watched one do some pretty amazing acrobatics and we were able to follow all of them for quite a ways while I tried to get pictures with the little camera through the windshield. We saw another three of the hawks on the way home doing the same thing as well as one sitting on a fence post. We saw several other types as well, including what we're pretty sure was a Harrier Hawk. It just confirmed our speculation that our hawk has only about a 20 to 23 inch wing span at most. I did get some response from readers on the hawk question and I really appreciate you taking the time out to write.
What was so strange was seeing so many of these white hawks on the way in and out of town just at a time when we're seeing them out here. Andy and I discussed whether they had been there all along and we are just noticing them now because of our present experience with them out here. But I don't think so. When you see one of those little beauties cruising the ditch on first one side and then the other side of the highway, it is some sight to see. One that I know I would have taken note of. While we may have seen the odd one before, and I'm pretty sure I have somewhere, to see six is definitely out of the ordinary and I know for sure that we haven't seen them out here around our property before last fall. As a result, I really do believe we're seeing a change here. I think I've mentioned before that the one conservation Officer that was also a biologist told us that one of the first signs of a change in environment is a change in bird life. He seems to be proven correct yet again. I don't think that there's any doubt there is an increase in the numbers and varieties of hawks we're seeing in the Chilcotin.
We pondered that perhaps one reason we might be seeing more hawks, especially the smaller ones, is that the country is opening up considerably since our mountain pine beetle epidemic. Where before the pine forests with their dense boughs might have interfered with the ability of a predatory bird to see prey, now they can probably spot mice and small birds much more easily. I'm accustomed to seeing a hawk on nearly every second fence post on the prairies for obvious reasons. But perhaps our conditions are, and will continue to, become more meadow or 'prairie' like in places where we've lost pine forest.
Today we watched four bald eagles soaring around the back bay before I started out on a walk today and it looks like it must be mating season. Their numbers also seem to be on the rise which doesn't bode well for the loon babies this year. Walking on the back trail is a little more difficult this time of year because the snow is mushy or where it's melted, you need flippers. Still, it's a good workout and on a day like today just getting out there is marvelous and well worth the effort.
Just to let everyone know, that property on Nimpo Lake that can only be accessed from the lake has been sold through the listing on the web site, which is kind of nice. I don't know who bought it but welcome to Nimpo!
On another note, the reaction to the lakesounds page is starting to come in and seems pretty positive so I'm putting it as a link on the introduction to the blog for now. Which means, I guess, that I really need to get in there and change some pictures around when I can. Thanks for your feedback folks!
A final reminder about the Bingo tomorrow. There's some really awesome prizes up including three very expensive snowmobile jackets, a barbecue, gift certificates from various stores here and in Williams Lake, and lots of other great stuff. We'll have pizza and hot dogs donated by the Nimpo Lake General Store, chips, soft drinks and coffee. We need to fix up the hall so bring your wallet, your appetite and your bingo luck!
Although it's tentative at this point in time, we may be putting together a work party to tidy up along the Highway into Nimpo next weekend. If you're local, read this, and would like to participate, I expect Cora or Andy will have some posters up sometime next week giving a day and time for everyone to meet.
I've started a new week, and you can find last week's articles at April Week Two

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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!
Lots of birds on birdfeeder after April snowfall.
Fresh April snow blankets everything.
A purple finch in front of houseplant.
A pair of bald eagles soar in a blue sky.
A bald eagle lands in a treetop.
A two or three foot high ice ridge.
A dock is twisted up above ice.
Small hawk hovering above a ditch.
White hawk with brown checking flying overhead.
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