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Wilderness Adventures - April, Week 4/2009

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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30/04/2009 7:31 PM

Town Day

Yesterday 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 some nice!
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.

28/04/2009 7:42 PM

Still Wind'in

Yep, 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 up again.
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 us human.
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.

27/04/2009 10:36 AM

The Break

I 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 been nice!
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 about fires.
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.

23/04/2009 6:29 PM

Mother Nature's Kick

Mother 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 that much.
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.

22/04/2009 7:05 PM

Trip Down The Hill

Today 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 yet.
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 weighs.
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 Week Three.

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!
Mountain bluebird perches in a tree top.
Mountain covered in snow above Hagensborg.
Winding road on cliff above Atnarko River and Young Creek.
Falling rock warning sign on the Hill.
Winding corners on the Bella Coola Hill.
Snow covered mountain range.
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