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Wilderness Adventures - April, Week 4/2007

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' - just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

You can search this site for a subject of interest to you at the bottom of this page. Check out the Picture of the Day.

30/04/2007 3:08 PM

The Stump Farm

Andy used the Bobcat to pull some more stumps today. It took the better part of the afternoon to pull only six, all close together and all with their roots intertwined. One of them had huge roots that were snaking over to the drain field, which would explain why that tree was bigger than the others.
It would be nice if we could still get dynamite these days. It would be a lot easier to blow the stumps than to dig them out, although probably not as safe this close to the house. When I was a kid I was my Dad's powder monkey, helping him to haul around the dynamite, caps and fuses and wire them together according to the size of each stump to be blown. My Mom oversaw my brothers who had the job of drilling deep in under the stumps where we would then tamp in the dynamite. Dad would yell, "Heads up!" so everyone would know when a fuse was going to be lit and we'd all start running. The odd time he would misjudge how difficult a big stump was going to be and tamp in a bit too much dynamite. You would hear a muffled whoomph and that old stump would blow straight up in the air competing with a rocket ship on rails for speed and altitude. Then we'd all laugh ourselves silly when it reached Mother Earth again. I suppose Social Services would have a field day with that nowadays and probably would have come and carted all us kids off to a foster home. But that was just about the most fun I remember having on our ranch.
When you see the rocks and pure clay the roots of our stumps are wrapped around, you have to wonder how the trees even found enough nutrients to grow. There are only a scant few inches of topsoil, if you can call it that, and most of it was produced by the trees themselves from years of dropped needles. But I guess that's why the lodgepole pine does so well in this country. It doesn't need much to grow in although it explains why it can take 15 years just for a pine tree to reach its first three feet or less in poor soil when it's young.
A lot of this country looks much like parkland because little else will grow in this soil and few plants can compete with the pine trees once they get going. Unlike the Prince George area where the bush is so thick I hesitated to even hunt it because coming face to face with a black or grizzly bear at any time was a very real possibility. You couldn't see two feet in front of your face and you were battling a tangle of willow and other bushes among the trees every step of the way.
Andy worked hard for years to get our little tiny hard scrabble lawn over the drain field growing and now half of it is dug up. I think we're definitely going to have to get a line on some manure to improve the soil before we have any hope of putting in a lawn. Although Andy insists the New York Yankees are just waiting for us to get a nice green baseball diamond in, I think they just might have to wait awhile. Since we're not the only ones clearing trees and pulling stumps, manure is going to be at a premium pretty soon but there's really no other source of good soil around. I wonder if there's any way of just leaving the stumps in and calling them art.
Apparently I was just a little too enthusiastic and too quick about congratulating Mother Nature on the weather yesterday. We're back to the inclement spring weather where a cold wind is blowing right in off the ice and you're freezing your butt off one minute, then the sun pops out and you're roasting the next. It got down to -4 or -5C last night, or about 23F and although the thermometer insists it's +7C or around 40 degrees now, it sure doesn't feel like it. I'm about ready to break out my long johns again if I have to go back to work outside.
Our friends from across the lake are back from down south and commented on how lousy the weather is and that the lake ice isn't moving at all. Yep. That's the way it's been for a long, long time. Blame it on global warming. :-)
That reminds me. I've come up with a theory about the high fuel prices we're seeing right now. Both the American and Canadian governments insist that they're undergoing inquiries right now as to why the prices are so high at the pumps this year when crude is lower than it was this time last year, and the oil companies are posting record profits. But I don't think it's in their best interest to press the issue. Right now both countries have seen a surge of interest from the general populace in cleaning up the environment and cutting back on gas emissions. But most people are either unwilling or unable to give up their vehicles and utilize public transit more. It would seem that the only way you can force the car manufacturers to produce a more fuel efficient vehicle, and the general public to drive less, is to allow fuel prices to go through the roof. And I believe the oil companies have twigged onto that. I think they know they can get away with higher prices at the pumps right now and they're going to push their luck to the limit so long as everyone's on the 'green' bandwagon. Just my kick at the cat and probably a cynical one, but it sounds plausible to me. Not that I know much. Remember, I'm just a bush on a stump farm...

29/04/2007 2:04 PM

Sunny Sunday

We actually had a sunny, almost calm day and I heard my first loon last night, so all is right with the world. Admittedly, the loon call was a bit tentative, and the one I heard today was downright pathetic, but it still counts as a loon, so spring is here!
This morning started out with no wind at all and lots of glorious sunshine, albeit a bit chilly because it froze again last night. A little later the clouds started moving in and a breeze would kick up now and then, but it still turned out to be a pretty nice day overall and at least we didn't get any hurricane force winds.
We got some more piles of limbs, logs and needles burned down at the end of our driveway today and although the wind kept switching on us, we probably didn't need to pay quite as close attention to the fires as we did. But it was a good excuse to be outside and enjoy the day. I didn't get any work done on the computer but if you can't play hooky and enjoy a bright spring Sunday on occasion, someone might as well just roll you on into your grave.
Today we walked a short way along the back trail in the woods to see if there was still a lot of snow there. There is on the trail but it's dry and easy walking in the trees where we found all kinds of sign of the moose that stayed the winter with us. The 'good fertilizer' kind of sign and more than I've seen back in there since I moved here. We had a good laugh when we discovered how much they've grazed down the tops of the willows along our northern shoreline. They did a good number on the bushes but it will probably just make them grow a little thicker and if it means our ungainly, godawful ugly buddies got enough to eat this winter, then it's okay with me.
Walking back into our yard is always a new experience now that all the beetle killed trees have been cut down. I know I keep repeating myself but you just kind of wander around all the time wondering what the heck you're going to do with a stump farm.
Andy has popped out a few stumps that he's been able to free from the frost but there's lots to go and it'll take time. Since it's going to be too late to burn before long, they're probably going to have to go to the dump. There's certainly no place to store them around here. Although all 99 stumps probably won't be pulled, at least two thirds of them will be, and can you imagine how much room that many hairy old stumps with roots sticking out all over will take up? There's just nothing neat, tidy or organized about pine tree stumps and roots. It's too bad there's no wood carving artist nearby. I'm sure that you could do wondrous things with those spiderlike stumps, besides get grubby.
The ice on Nimpo Lake still isn't doing much. Our 'swimming hole' froze up from a cold night a little while back and hasn't melted since. The sun is really hot when it's out, but the air temperature itself isn't all that high during the day so nothing is melting or moving much, especially since it's freezing at night.
A couple of spider holes opened up in the ice out in front of our place, but froze over again, and we don't have the monster cracks we usually do going over to the eastern shore. We also lost the reeds out in front of our place and over in front of the neighbour's place that draw a lot of sun and really melt the ice out. The lake had frozen up in our bay last fall but not out on the Main Arm when some high winds came in and really pushed the ice around. It's possible that the reeds were sheared off then, or maybe it was just the heavy snow load on the ice this winter. But without those reeds or the big cracks, or high air temperature to rot the ice, we're just not getting enough open water this year. Without open water, the ice sheet can't start moving back and forth and break up so it will probably eventually just rot away to nothing.
We came back from a great Chinese buffet at the Dutchman last night and passed some of the locals fishing off the bridge where the Dean River exits Nimpo Lake. They said there weren't a lot of trout running yet, so the water is just too cold. I was just checking back over the last two years of blogs for this time of year to see if I was just champing at the bit for ice off or if we are late for having this much ice. Last year I think the ice went off about the 4th or 5th of May but it was rotten and black long before that and we were seeing ducks and loons on the water in April. The year before that the ice was out enough on the 22nd of April for us to go fishing and there were water birds all over the place.
You really have to wonder how the migratory birds know when to come back because they don't always come back at the same time. Or if they do, they sure aren't hanging around here much. For example, I know that the loons have come back a couple of weeks earlier than this before, but this year they're late. And we're seeing very few ducks or Canada Geese right around here, although we did have two ducks preening each other in our meadow today.
I know I'm getting impatient and champing at the bit or not, I know the ice will go out sometime because the Law of Nature says so. It's just a matter of which season. I should check to see what the breakup pool is right now. Usually locals bet on the date and time of ice out on Nimpo Lake but I haven't heard a single thing about it this year. It would be interesting to know what the range of dates is that people are betting on. At this point in time, I think I'd put my money on July. :-)

27/04/2007 8:30 PM

Taking The Blame

I'm in deep trouble now because I mentioned yesterday that things were drying out pretty well around here and that it should stay that way unless it snowed or rained. Which, of course, is exactly what it did today. Murphy's Law rides again!
It started out being a beautiful day this morning and then deteriorated from there on. First the wind started, then it tried to spit snow until this afternoon, when it changed to rain. By this evening it was snowing heavily for quite a while. It's now clear, and the wind has settled down. Pretty much every kind of weather. Just take your pick.
I had to go into Anahim Lake today and noticed that there's a spot by the mill that is probably going to become a problem for the highway in the near future. Two springs ago it kept flooding across the highway because snow melt on the mill side has nowhere to go. Last year there wasn't as much snow but this year the backed up water in the trees is only a few inches below the top of the road and there's still some snow to melt there. There should be water across the highway within the next couple of days.
I got to see an interesting piece of work in Anahim today. Oh, for a camera! I was at the Dutchman when down the highway comes a pickup truck towing a flat deck with the front of a huge building perched on the deck, while the back of the building was held up off the pavement on the forks of a front end loader. The big parade had to negotiate a three-way corner from the direction of the airport to 'downtown' Anahim and right past the restaurant where we all either stood or were parked, incredulous, with mouths agape.
Now, I've seen big buildings moved in Saskatchewan, but never here. And I know that's not how it's done. As the parade eased around the corner the building began to shift and tip. We all stood there, most of us repeating, "She's gonna go!" Sure enough, she tipped slowly onto the pavement by her foundation with the front of the building still hanging onto a small piece of flat deck by only a hair. Cool. Now traffic is blocked from all three directions. Nope! Not for long! The loader driver dove back in under the back of the building and lifted it up again, while pieces of this and that, and blocks of wood fell out from under it. They made it a few more feet and all the while you could hear the loud groaning and crunching of wood and the squealing of metal. Then with a mighty crash, the big supporting beam they had sitting crosswise on the deck under the building fell out. Stop again. The loader lifts the back of the building high in the air while a fellow grabs the beam and slips it back under the front and away they motor as fast as they can go. For good reason, I'm guessing.
I don't imagine they had the blessing of the local constabulary. They had to have known exactly where the RCMP Members were, that they definitely weren't in the vicinity, and probably only had a very short window of opportunity. Which is why I won't describe either the vehicles or people involved. Suffice to say they wallowed on down the road while quite a few of us stood in the parking lot laughing our butts off. Only in Anahim....
I deked by the building's new home a little while later where it had made it to its destination only a little worse for wear, the new owner looking pleased as a pumpkin over his acquisition. I'm not sure why the building didn't split in half with only support on the front and back and none along its long length underneath while they moved it. It must have been pretty well built to survive that little foray out on the highway.
I realize that there are laws to govern us and that we are so tightly bound in a suffocating web of restrictions to protect us from ourselves as well as others. But the beauty of living in the Chilcotin as that sometimes you see people throw off those chains and say, "Hey, we can move this! Who needs proper equipment, flag people, flag trucks, permits, tie downs and all that other stuff? We just have to move fast. Everyone'll get out of the way if she falls over." And so they did.
You gotta love it.

26/04/2007 7:26 PM

Doing The Check

I apologize for no article yesterday. As I warned before, they may be a little irregular in the near future because I'm a bit backlogged right now. But that didn't stop us for going out for a few minutes this evening after supper to 'do the check'.
Spring has always been my favorite time of year and though spring comes very slowly to the Chilcotin, it's still a time of great changes and you've just gotta check it out. We had to take a walk down to the shoreline and see what was happening there. The ice on Nimpo Lake just does not want to loosen its grip this year so there's still very little open water. But where we had our burn pile out on the ice in front of the house, we now have open water with little riffling waves from the wind. It's not much, but it's a pleasant start. Personally, I'm all in favor of launching the canoe into the whole five feet of open water we have, or donning waders and going out there and start pounding on the ice. I'm sure we could chip away a couple more feet of it. Not that it will make that much difference. There's still lots of thickness there and we're certainly not going to break the record for early ice out this year. However, we may break the record for the latest date yet for ice out.
We watched a coyote do the dash across the lake this morning, cutting diagonally from near our shore over to the eastern shore. Either he found a still frozen patch to get onto the water or had to do a leap over open water. Friends of ours down at the other end of the lake said they watched a coyote coming full bore at them down the lake. They thought he would stop when he hit open water near their shoreline but obviously he didn't realize it was there until too late. Kerplunk, and in he went. Must have been a bit of a shock to the system. Here we always give animals credit for having good instincts, but apparently, that isn't always the case.
The water in the lake has risen substantially in the last couple of days. I expect the creeks coming into the lake are going full bore and there'll be runoff from the melting snow around the shoreline. We looked for little critters in the open water along the shore tonight, but surprisingly, there still aren't any. Usually there are all types of little bugs and beetles and water creatures zipping around in the water warmed by the banks along the shoreline as soon as the ice melts back. Nothing at all this year. I can only assume that the rapid rise in water level and melting snow is keeping the water temperature too cool right now.
Doing 'the check' gives us the opportunity to see what's coming up around the yard. Little tufts of grass here and there are starting to flush green and a few of the hardiest perennials in my 'holding' garden are just starting to poke up some new growth. Several of the wild little pine and spruce trees are still bent over from the weight of the snow from which they've just emerged and I'm going to have to go out and do a little pruning on some of my small trees and shrubs that have had tips broken off from the snow.
Thankfully, we're just about past the muddy stage of breakup but that can change quickly with a new snowfall or rain, so it would be a great time to get outside and do some cleanup. Unfortunately, I've got work inside and it still isn't particularly pleasant outside with the wind, which still hasn't stopped blowing. That's the other thing that would normally get the ice moving on Nimpo and start breaking it up, is the wind. But there just isn't enough open water yet.
I spoke briefly to good friends of mine living in Saskatchewan last night. The conversation was brief because they were in the process of vacuuming water out of their basement, just as they had been for the past week. Saskatchewan has been enjoying extremely high temperatures for the last week or so. Not a good thing when the shortest snow bank in your yard is five feet high and your house is parked on pretty flat land. These folks have never had this problem in all the years they've lived on the farm, nor the parents before them, but it looks like a lot of people in that province are going to be under water for a while.
We saw on the news tonight that many communities on rivers, including those in the Lower Mainland, are on flood watch and at a heightened state of readiness with some trying to get their dikes upgraded before the floods come. The news focused on one small community that is made up of a series of floating houses on the Fraser River. Many of the residents are aware of the danger the Fraser can present to them but seem to think that their houses will just ride the rising water. They probably will but as one emergency fellow mentioned, the debris being carried on the river will be much worse than it has ever been before. Since the Cariboo Chilcotin straddles the Fraser River I've lived near it or driven over it most of my life and they call it the Mighty Fraser for a reason. The stuff that river can rip up and carry down river in a normal year is amazing. I most definitely would not want to be in the path of what it can carry in what's predicted to be the worst flood year since 1948.
The folks around the Kamloops area are also getting ready for one of the worst flood years on record. Oops, the wind just got me. A limb or something must have just touched a line somewhere and the power just surged for a split second. Unfortunately, that sets off my battery backup and everything has to be shut down and restarted. That'll slow things up a bit.
Anyway, Kamloops and area are threatened by the North Thompson River, another river that I've seen lots before at flood stage. It's a really nasty beasty, capable of ripping out whole groves of huge cottonwoods at a time and it seems to be a river on the move. Every time I drive along it a substantial amount of real estate seems to be eaten up each spring. In our part of the country, the Fraser River sits way below between steep banks until it gets close to the Fraser Valley. In contrast, the North Thompson is at road, farm and residential elevation in most places so all it can do is spread out.
Many of the creeks feeding the major rivers in British Columbia will also be reaching flash flood stage at varying times this spring, evidenced already by a washout on Highway 97 north of Quesnel. That will become the norm.
Out here, we just continue to bumble along. We've got some creeks that run under the highway here and there, but there's probably little danger of the road being washed out with the possible exception of Young Creek on the 'Hill', so I sympathize with those people facing that threat this spring.
24/04/2007 7:51 PM

Listings and Activities

Just a quick note on weather and what's happening in the Chilcotin. Unfortunately, those red trees have put me way behind on the computer work and right now new and continued listings on this site are coming in faster than I can keep up to them.
I would like to point out to those folks that would like to come to the Chilcotin for a vacation that you will find all kinds of information on places to stay and things to do on the site.
Your first stop for accommodations is up on your left on the navigation system where you'll find lots of wonderful resorts and lodges to choose from under the heading of Resorts. The same goes for B&B and Motels, and if you're looking for an RV site or camping spot, you'll find both of those at Vagabond RV Park and Resort and at the Chilcotin Waterfront Resort and Motel.
Check out Summer Recreation to get an idea of the activities available in the area and Tweedsmuir Park will give you an idea of what a fantastic park we have nearby that offers miles of trails for hiking, wildlife viewing, photography, canoeing and every other possible thing you can think of to do.
Our weather was a little undecided today. The sun was shining quite a bit and temperatures quite warm, but we've got a wind blowing again. The wind is definitely good for picking up moisture from melting snow and drying things out but a calm day would be nice for sitting outside. Not that there's much chance of that. I'm chained to the computer for the next few days or I'm going to have clients breathing down my neck soon, with good reason.
In addition to that, the contact form on this site doesn't seem to be working properly right now and I'm darned if I can figure out why. I worked on it for a few hours yesterday and didn't get anywhere so until I can figure out what's up with it, you can contact me at for now.
I just caught a quick glimpse of a hawk flying around our property this evening that may be the same one that tried to take down that robin the other day. It definitely flies like a hawk but oddly enough, it seems to be pure white. I wouldn't mind getting a closer look at it so I can look it up in the bird book. We are most definitely seeing more hawks than we ever did before.
The tree swallows are back and were waiting around impatiently for their nesting box to go up. As soon as it did the chickadees were prompt about checking it out. I still haven't figured out what they do in there.
I'll keep this short tonight because I really do have to get back to work.

23/04/2007 11:20 AM

The Last One

Our last red tree went down this afternoon. Finally! The limbs are burned, the wood's cut up and other than a few decked logs that we can get to at a later date and a humungous pile of firewood that has to be split, it's done!
It took this long for the last few because the holiday trailer had to be moved out for one, the bobcat trailer with the antique car on it and a camper for another, and finally a small shed had to be moved for today's very last red beast and it couldn't be shifted until enough frost came out of the ground for the skids to move. For such a large number of trees to be dropped with all the stuff in our yard as well as all of the structures, and no damage, is amazing. Unfortunately, we did lose the top off of a really pretty Christmas tree on our driveway that we hoped wouldn't get damaged, but if that's the worst of it, then we got off lucky.
We put about an hour in helping the neighbour limb and burn some of his red trees yesterday afternoon and while walking back it was a real pleasure to see only two red tree tops among the green on our property. It will be even better now. With 99 trees down on our property there is only one weenie tree left to be dropped and since it died of natural causes years ago, there's no red.
We've missed out on a lot more snowmobiling this year than we wanted to because of the 'red and dead', but still, it's almost enough for a celebration! A really big, nasty job that we actually got accomplished sooner than I had hoped and long before the forest fire season hits. It's a real shocker to see how much standing water there is all over the country with all the snow we had and no pines to absorb the moisture, so even fire season may be delayed somewhat this year.
There's a good four or five feet of open water around the shoreline in many places on Nimpo Lake and we can see the water level coming up slowly from the runoff. In the last couple of days the temperature has been between 11C and 15C or 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, so the lake has finally begun to really mush up as has the snow. Yesterday there was quite a bit of sun and water was running everywhere. A few more days like this will make all the difference in the world.
I saw something pretty cool yesterday when I had to drive down to a neighbour's place. Or you could term it cruel, I guess. Andy had mentioned seeing a small hawk hanging around yesterday as had the neighbour. As I drove out our driveway, right in front of me flies this hawk with a robin in his claws, with it screeching and flapping its wings, scattering feathers all over the place. The truck must have scared the hawk because he let the robin go and it kind of fell/flew into the big spreading limbs at the base of a spruce tree. I'm hoping he wasn't so injured that he couldn't recover and he was smart enough to stay where the hawk couldn't reach him. I didn't see enough of the hawk to see what kind it was but it wasn't that much bigger than the robin and looked like it was having a real struggle hanging on to its prey as long as it did. That robin wasn't going easy!
I have a new property for sale listing that at $107,700, will put you in the Nimpo Lake area for a very affordable price. Located at Dean River Place at the other end of the lake, this cozy little home has easy access to the highway and lots of good neighbours. Although it does not have waterfront, the 2.77 acre property is located only a few hundred yards from a public boat launch so it won't be a problem to grab your rod and go fishing.
The cottage is 864 square feet with a large covered porch, post and beam construction and vaulted ceilings that give a spacious feel. Lots of windows and skylights provide light and a wood stove in the living room makes it cozy and warm in the winter.
There are two bedrooms, one bath, a laundry room and an attached porch at the back gives lots of storage. There is also a large workshop on the treed property with electricity, phone jack, lots of built in shelving and a small attached carport. There are some photos up on the right but for more information and photos, you can check it out on the Properties for Sale page.
I have started a new week so you'll find last week's articles at April, Week Three.

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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!
Welcome to our stump farm on Nimpo Lake.
Nimpo Lake in evening sunset.
Four swans standing on ice.
A large overhang protects the front porch.
A wood stove in the living room.
Green and white outbuilding.
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