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
Wilderness Adventures - April, Week 4/2009
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of the Day.
we had to go into Willy's Puddle for the day.
It's not my favorite thing to do because I would much
rather be out here, especially when the weather is nice.
But, sometimes you just have to go in and jostle elbows
with the masses, like it or not. Mind you, the masses
aren't quite so thick now. We noticed that in several
places where we normally have to wait in line or have
a hard time finding a parking spot, it was no problem
yesterday. You can definitely sense that people are pulling
in their horns and not spending money as much now. Probably
the fact that the sawmills and mine in Williams Lake are
shut down and a lot of people are out of work has a lot
to do with it.
It was really warm in the Puddle yesterday and we actually
had to turn on the air conditioning in the truck a few
times. It looked like it was a really nice day out
here as well, although I think the wind was still
out of the north so not quite as warm as farther east.
When we drove past Alexis Creek we noticed that there
were a bunch of vehicles parked at the Forestry building
there and we wondered what was going on. We passed loads
of forestry vehicles going to and from Williams Lake and
we finally saw what was up when we hit Beecher's Prairie
around Riske Creek. There was a fire burning on
the north side all along the highway right up to the Loran
C tower. Most of the country around there is grasslands
with some timber and the fire had gone right into the
trees. We talked to a trucker on the road that said it
was really burning last Friday but by yesterday, it was
mostly just a lot of smoke, although we did see some flames
on the way back out from town. There was a fire fighting
crew on the ground there moving hoses around and mopping
up. They'll have a job to do cleaning up some of those
big old fir stumps that are smoking because they could
potentially flare up months down the road. It added a
little interest to our trip in, anyway. That and the deer
along the road and seeing bits of green grass here and
there was about as exciting as it got. I like the view
better the other way.... coming home to the mountains.
We were just crossing the bridge on our road after
turning off the highway last night when we saw a pair
of loons on the river. That's the first that we've
seen this year and today I saw my first hummingbird so
it's time to put up the feeders. The tree swallows also
showed up today and were battling with the chickadees
over the nesting house, at least until that white hawk
cruised through. Then everyone cleared out for awhile.
Today was a real knockout. Blue sky and warm temperatures
with only a bit of a breeze. I know that it got
up to at least 12C or 54F in the shade today and may have
gone higher but I was outside most of the day and wasn't
watching the temperature. I know that I worked in a tee
shirt in the sun while painting all afternoon and it was
The ice has pulled away from the shore now and we've a
huge crack in the ice off our point where it usually breaks
at this time of year. Our only problem is that cold nights
are freezing the water between the shore and the lake
ice and then when the ice moves toward shore, it crushes
that newer ice into whatever is in its way, including
docks. Ours is out of the water completely this year because
Andy was going to fix barrels damaged by that very thing
last spring, so we're okay, but it might not be so good
for others with docks in the water.
that's what it means. The ruddy wind still hasn't stopped!!
I actually rolled out at 6:30 this morning much to everyone,
including the neighbour's shock. It was breathtaking
outside with the sun just up and clear blue skies, even
though it was just -7C or 19F, but the temperature
was moving up fairly quickly. I thought, "This is
great! I'm up so early that I can get in four hours outside
before the wind kicks up." Yeah, right. I hadn't
even sat down to breakfast and the first breeze stirred
the flags. It's been blowing ever since.
I think what's most annoying is that the wind howled around
here all yesterday into the evening and then completely
died. It cleared right off and was gorgeous out as long
as it was dark. As soon as it hits daylight, it kicks
Yes, I know, you don't have to explain why to me, I know
how weather works. That doesn't change the fact that it
tees me off, any more than it tees off the people that
work five days a week in summer during beautiful weather
but then it rains every weekend during their time off.
We're allowed to get mad at Mother Nature. It's what makes
There was the odd moment when it got calm today. Then
it was really warm and pleasant, but it usually didn't
last long and we were back into bluster again. We've
had a north wind since yesterday so it's not exactly balmy
out there either. As a result, I got lots done
on my computer today. I think it's supposed to be really
nice tomorrow but since we're going to town, I don't really
care what it does. It would be nice if the wind howled
all day while we were gone and that was the end of it.
But, hey, I can still hope for a nice Thursday and Friday!
Two blue birds flew back and forth in front of the windows
today before disappearing. That was pretty cool. I've
seen them out by the highway on occasion but I have never
seen them right here. I see the chickadees are going in
and out of the bird house a lot too. I don't know if that's
because they're getting ready to nest in there, or if
they're picking away at all the sunflower seeds they stored
in there over winter. One of them seems to be a
pretty sharp dude and knows that food is going to be cut
off once the black birds become unbearable. I've
watched it fly back and forth steadily all winter from
the feeder to the bird house, dropping seed in for cold
storage over the winter. Others stash seeds in the trees
surrounding the house. I guess it comes in useful when
your normally reliable food supply that's around for ten
months out of the year suddenly gets cut off. It can't
be helped though and I only do it after it warms up. Besides,
I know that the chickadees have no problem foraging for
seed in the numerous cones hanging off trees around here.
I also don't think it hurts the birds to maintain those
skills rather than them, and all generations following,
relying on a bird feeder all their lives.
The lake ice still looks exactly the same as it did although
Andy said he could hear it making all kinds of noise when
he was outside this morning. About the only sign of change
is that the Dean where it exits Nimpo is completely thawed
out on the north side now. For the last couple of days
the natives have lined both sides of the bridge fishing
for rainbow trout, most of which will be spawners, so
I can only hope they're smoking them, otherwise.... yuk.
hope no one minds, but I took a little break from writing
to be outside for the last couple of days. I won't say
the weather has been absolutely perfect, but it sure has
Friday was a little windy but warm while Saturday was
just a great day for getting things done outside. There
was lots of sun, very little breeze, and I was actually
raking the lawn in a tee shirt. You know, I forgot
about lawns. After we took out our little forest of beetle
killed trees, putting in a lawn seemed the easiest solution
for keeping down the dust left after pulling stumps. And
it looks great! But after a few windstorms, what trees
we have left have done a good job of scattering broken
branches and pine cones on the lawn and I forgot just
how much work it is to clean all of that up. Three days
and several blisters later I only have one small patch
of lawn left but it will have to wait until the blisters
and my back heals up. :-) It didn't help that I also took
on the job of peeling a tree that we took down yesterday.
I've been looking at this poor pine outside my office
window for three years now that has ever so slowly lost
its bright green cast in favor of a more yellow,
orange, and pale green rainbow hue. We knew it had been
hit by the pine beetle but it looked like it was actually
hanging in there and might be able to survive the attack.
That is until our wind storm in October last year that
took out so many of the green trees around Nimpo. It uprooted
several of ours including a beauty that fell against the
poor, sorry one. It managed throughout that windstorm
to carry the weight of the green one although it tore
up several of its roots and bent it right over the woodshed.
I was pretty sure a lot of the cells on the one side had
been stretched or damaged. Once Andy got the green tree
cut off of it, he winched it back until the roots settled
back into the ground. Even after all its trials
and tribulations that crazy tree still looked like it
was determined to survive but after every wind
storm it would take on a little more of a tilt and one
root was still exposed. We looked at it Saturday and finally
decided it had to come down. Better it come down in the
direction we wanted it to by me pulling on it while Andy
cut it, than for it to come down on the wood shed and
damage the roof in the next storm.
We decided we wanted one more long log for the fence beside
our lawn and I decided I would peel this one. I knew it
might be a little tough for a portion since some of the
tree was bound to have died in the beetle attack, but
frankly, I have no idea how that tree hung on for as long
as it did. There was very little left alive except near
the top. If you have never tried peeling a beetle
killed log, don't. On a nice green tree with the
sap up you can peel long, wide strips of bark off with
ease. With a beetle killed tree you can spend a lifetime
wrenching away at dried bark and skinning off pieces no
bigger than a dime. I had the experience of being hired
as a young teenager to peel huge cedar logs for a guy's
house to be built but the logs had been sitting for a
couple of years. After that experience, and one of the
few jobs in my life that I have ever quit, (I was living
in a tent and getting paid $15 a day) I swore I would
never peel a dry log again.
I assumed I would run into a little dry bark and made
the mistake of starting at the top of this tree where
it was still green and still had sap. "That's
not bad," I thought. As I worked my way down
toward the butt and ran into dry bark I figured it might
be just on the one side and that surely the other side
would have to be green. I rolled the log
over and started on that side and it was just as miserably
dry. In addition to that, the log wasn't stable and rolled
under me, screwing up my back. Needless to say, I wasn't
pleased but since I had already done that much work on
it I finished the job. Then Andy decides to pull a green
tree out of the bush behind our house that had been knocked
down in that wind storm and was crushing a lot of small
growth beneath it. It was delightfully green, much
straighter and would have been much easier to peel, I'm
sure. But as usual, I'm always a day late and
a dollar short and not particularly organized outside
of my office, not that it's all that great either.
It got up to 10C or about 50F yesterday and was a pretty
decent day with a bit of a breeze but it degraded to cloud
by afternoon. Today started out as a really beautiful
day and has gone downhill fairly quickly. It's about 5C
but there's some pretty big clouds moving in from the
east so we're not getting a lot of steady sunshine and
there's a wicked little wind out of the northwest that's
darned cold. Which is why I'm sitting in my cozy office
instead of working outside.
The weather forecasters have been smugly beating
their chests and showing perfect little sun icons and
warm temperatures for every day of their seven day long
range forecast for the past several days. I sure
don't know where the heck they're getting their info from.
There's supposed to be a big high pressure system building
off the coast that is supposed to be bringing
us really nice weather. I'm still waiting. We have to
go to town on Wednesday so with our luck, that's when
we'll get the nice day.
When I went for a walk yesterday it occurred to me that
it had only been about a week or so before and there was
still a lot of snow on the ground in the woods. This country
is amazing when it does start thawing out. First you'll
have snow, then if you're in the woods where there's duff
and pine needles, the snow is gone and it's immediately
dry except in the really low spots. If we don't get moisture
in the next couple of weeks, we'll be dry enough to worry
I actually wouldn't mind seeing a dry spring for
a change, fires or not. It would sure cut back
on the bug population. That's the other reason for getting
outside as much as possible now and getting things done
before the pests arrive in droves. Andy has done a good
job the last couple of winters trying to get dead trees
cut down on our neighbours' places and on some of the
crown land adjoining our properties, just to create a
buffer between us and any forest fire that might be threatening
the area. Although we certainly haven't had to worry about
that for the last three wet summers, there's still bound
to come a time when we get a dry summer and forest fires
will become a threat again. Unless climate change is going
to permanently bring us wet weather every summer, that
is. Boy, I sure hope not.
Mother Nature's Kick
Nature got another chuckle at our expense this morning
when we woke up to snow on the ground. Actually,
it landed last night. I went outside to grab wood to bank
the fire down before midnight and kind of went, "What
the heck!" There on the ground was a nice new, layer
of snow. I hadn't even noticed it snowing yesterday evening.
We ended up with less than half an inch all told but it
was certainly bright white this morning!
We had a terrific day today. Every once in awhile a wind
would kick up, but for the most part there was just a
bit of a breeze. It was pretty cool this morning since
it went down to -12C or 10F last night and took a while
to warm up today. But the snow melted fairly quickly in
the sun and by this afternoon you wouldn't even
know there had been snow on the ground if it wasn't still
white out on the ice.
I think that the temperature still managed to get up to
7C today, although the thermometer may have been in the
sun a bit by then. This cool spell is supposed to hang
around for another day and then presumably, it will warm
up, although the high pressure system is supposed to be
around for a week, so I don't know that it will warm up
I hope it doesn't get too cold. I just spent the day cleaning
out all of my flower beds. I usually leave all of the
foliage on my perennials over winter to help insulate
the roots from the cold. I noticed that when I cleared
away the debris a few plants were already starting to
poke a little green up, even those that are still in frozen
ground. Without the protection now, -20C would not be
a good thing. I would probably lose a quite a few plants.
However, I decided that doing it now beats doing it mid-May
when I will get a face full of mosquitoes every time I
put my head down near the dirt.
Andy was busy today as well getting some slash piles
burned up before the ground dries out. He's still
trying to get some more beetle killed trees down too before
things warm up in order to create more of a fire break
between our place and crown land. We've only one neighbour
left about three lots over that still has a huge amount
of beetle kill on his property. Andy's been working all
winter to take some of that out as well but there's still
loads. That place is probably the biggest danger to us
all at this point in time because otherwise, most of us
have our dead trees down, but the folks that own it are
elderly and live a long way away, so it isn't that easy
for them to come look after the trees.
The lake finally made some noise today.
There was a lot of muffled thumping while I was working
outside this morning and it took me a while to figure
out what it was. I'm assuming after a cold night that
the sun shining on the snow on the ice was creating some
contrasting temperature differences. There were a few
'shuff's' from ice settling as well, but overall, the
lake is being pretty quiet. It's still coming up though.
It has probably risen another inch since we last checked
it against that framework on the base of the dock. The
Dean is finally starting to open up where
it widens out on the other side of the bridge and where
it flows under the highway you can see that there's a
lot more water flowing now than there was. There's still
a surprising amount of ice on the river, though. There's
also only a small amount of open water off the point that
we see before the Main Arm, and I noticed today
that a bald eagle is still hogging it to himself.
But with the river opened up now there's lots of room
the length of it for little ducks like the Hooded Mergansers
that we get so many of this time of year.
Trip Down The Hill
was Bella Coola Day. This occurs at least once a year
for our annual medical check ups and April is usually
a great month to go. Bella Coola used to be our
way of escaping a long, cold winter and grungy, grey spring.
Often, by late April, the grass in the Valley is green,
tulips and daffodils are in full bloom, sand cherries
and fruit trees have tiny blossoms, and the aspen, birch,
and willow have a halo of new green buds at the very least.
Last year when we went down on May 8th, everything was
in full green dress, even though they had a lot of snow
down in the Valley that hung around for a long time.
The long winter was evident in the Bella Coola Valley
today. Even starting at the top of the Hill you
can see evidence that spring is just getting into full
swing. The road is pretty muddy and there's been a lot
of rock fall. Surprisingly, there are few mini waterfalls
on the Hill the way there should be this time of year.
But we noticed even once we hit the Valley that the Atnarko
and Bella Coola Rivers are at normal levels and don't
seem to have come up at all yet. Nor are there the numerous
huge waterfalls thundering down the sheer cliffs above
the Valley that there normally should be. There
was lots of fresh snow on the crags surrounding the Valley
and we just don't think that it has started melting much
There were a few catkins on some deciduous trees in the
upper end of the Valley near Tweedsmuir Park and Firvale.
The more we dropped toward Bella Coola and that end of
the valley, the more we saw the odd bush here and there
starting to sprout green buds. Actually, before Hagensborg,
the greenest thing we saw were the fronds on some old
weeping willows that overhang the highway. Some farm fields
were just starting to green up and I did see one lonely
row of bright yellow daffodils in front of a quaint house,
but that was it for flowers.
So much for my green fix!
Still, it was a great day. The weather was really pleasant
and warm with temperatures up to 10C or 50F in the Valley.
It was the kind of day where you would much rather be
sitting out on a step in front of a store soaking up some
sunshine than inside. We got our things done and headed
back up valley. I got to stop at my favorite greenhouse
for some tomato plants that I can't get seed for. They're
kind of pathetic looking at only about two inches high
with one set of true leaves on them. She did explain that
the plants were so small because the seed company was
so slow sending her seed out this year. I had the same
experience last year so I can sympathize. Still,
I actually thought the lady that sold them to me would
be embarassed to sell them for what she did, but apparently
not. At a price so dear I think I'll have to start
collecting seed myself.
As we headed back up the Valley there were some nasty
snowstorms swirling around the tops of the mountains and
we finally ran into fine snow going up the Hill. It didn't
amount to much, it just cut down on visibility. I was
looking around pretty carefully both on the way to Bella
Coola and back and never did see any sign of a bear. As
Andy pointed out, there was no sign of droppings along
the highway so that must mean the bears simply aren't
out yet. That really surprises me but on the other hand,
it's kind of nice too. If they're not out yet in the Bella
Coola Valley, then it may be a couple of more weeks before
they're out up here on the plateau.
The only other wild creatures we saw was a large flock
of ptarmigan flying at the top of the Hill when we were
going down, and a couple on the side of the road coming
back. It was kind of thin pickings for pictures today.
Yesterday evening the wind switched around and started
blowing from the north, bringing that cold front in.
It's supposed to stick around for a couple of days bringing
cool temps and unsettled weather. It was down to -8C or
17F this morning and it doesn't look like it got much
above freezing all day. It also looks like it snowed up
here today while we were gone. We started noticing fresh
snow around Anahim Lake and though melted off the road,
the ice on the lake now has a new white coat. That's good!
It'll delay the melting of the ice until my date in the
Ice Off Pool.
We had been thinking that the ice was still pretty solid
and wasn't moving much. Where Andy had checked it out
close to shore the day before, the ice was still frozen
solidly to the lake bed, and there have been no
cracks and no sound from the lake, which is kind of weird.
Then he asked me to go down to the dock yesterday evening
to look at something. That something was the whole sheet
of lake ice moving slowly up and down, almost like someone's
chest when they are breathing. In fact, that's exactly
what it looked like it was doing..... breathing. Where
there was a small amount of open water, around the edges
of the ice, you could see the water rise up higher onto
the ice, and then run off the edges as the ice rose again.
It was probably rising at least an inch with the movement
of the water underneath. Fantastic when you consider
how much a massive ice sheet on a seven mile long lake
The other thing that Andy pointed out was how much the
lake level has risen in the last couple of days. He needed
to raise the cement ramp to the dock by jacking it up
and pouring cement under it. I remember mentioning a few
days ago that he might want to do it pretty quickly because
that spot was dry then. He made his frame and got it poured,
but when he checked it yesterday, the lake water had come
about half way up the side of the frame. It just goes
to show how much melt water is flowing into Nimpo Lake
from three inlets right now. Since that water will be
reasonably warm in comparison, it will also be melting
the ice from underneath. Blue water soon!
As you can see this is the start of a new week. You'll
find last week's articles at April
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!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!