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Wilderness Adventures - Dec., Week 2/2008

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.

Rolling over an image will give you its description.
Check out the Picture of the Day.

14/12/2008 7:51 PM


We're in a little deep freeze here, along with the rest of Canada, of course. This is our third cold day now with consistent wind warnings for the Chilcotin to 40 below Fahrenheit. Our wind has been out of the north and has definitely made -25C or -15F feel a lot colder than the temperature would indicate. Right now it's nearly -27C and it's fairly early in the evening so it will drop a lot yet tonight.
The wind on Friday busted up some of the ice out on the Main Arm so it opened up beyond the big island for as far as we could see past the point. Yesterday the steam was just billowing up from the water all day until dark so the water was definitely still open. Not so today. We had a light dusting of snow last night and where there had been open water showed white this morning. Which means it started to freeze up sometime between dark and around 9:00 last night. So, official freeze up in my books is for December 13th!
I was talking to Mary down at the other end of Nimpo Lake today and she said they probably haven't seen open water for nearly a month and they had a full 10" of ice in their bay as of yesterday. That's a lot of ice! I don't think we have that much in our bay because a wind that didn't affect them at the other end kept knocking our ice back for a couple of weeks there. Still, there's lots to walk on right now.
I'm pretty pleased with this cold weather. If we can get good ice on Nimpo during this cold spell, it'll make my winter! We only have to dodge the bullet on Wednesday because the weather forecasters are calling for snow on that day. Otherwise, it looks like the deep freeze is going to last throughout the province until the end of the week. There goes everyone's tulips in Vancouver! Aside from the Lower Mainland's cold weather, the Island really got hit with up to 16 inches of snow in places. That's not something they're used to at all!
The rest of BC has had its trials as well, with a lot of areas getting much more snow than we did. The rest of Canada's not looking so hot either with temperatures estimated to go to 50 below in some parts of Saskatchewan tonight and both that province and Alberta saw some nasty blizzard conditions, something the Midwest seems to be facing now.
I feel kind of sorry for all those people without electricity on the east coast of the US. It looks like up to half a million will remain without power for a full week after their ice storm. They interviewed one lady on television who talked about her and her family having to get by on dry cereal and that they can't even make a cup of coffee. I don't know if I could live any place without the ability to keep my house warm and make a meal, even if it's just a pot of chili or soup. The way I look at it, if you've got all those limbs breaking off of trees because of ice, you bang the ice off, start a campfire in your backyard or your driveway, and make yourself some coffee. But perhaps no one knows how to do that anymore. Scary world if that's the case. What happens if there's a real disaster that's quite widespread? What will the city people do then?
The lake is really booming tonight with these cold temperatures so I want to get out there and record some more of the weird monster sounds, for as long as I can take the cold, anyway. It's dropped another degree and we're nearly at -28C or -18F so I better get out there while the getting is good.

11/12/2008 8:29 PM

Nimpo Freeze Up

I finally got some of the sounds up for the Lake Monster for 2008. (Just a note. You will probably not be able to access them if you are using the Firefox browser. For some reason it will not allow my Quicktime software to work. I'm afraid that you will have to use the Windows Explorer browser.) You can find the link to the sounds here: Freeze Up! Don't forget, you will need to turn up your speakers or use headphones for best effect. I hope you enjoy them. They aren't quite as loud as we've heard them but I only get out there and record when I've got the time to do so and it's not too cold as it is tonight. The lake was sounding off quite a bit all day but it's bitter cold out there and set to get colder yet. That will make quite a difference to the lake noise as well.
I ran out of time to finish a story last night and frankly, couldn't get in the mood anyway. Yesterday wasn't the best of days for me, most particularly because my Christmas shopping went wrong, as usual.
Naturally our distance from the nearest stores makes it difficult to go Christmas shopping in person, so I utilize the online stores a lot, sometimes with success and sometimes with abject failure. I've been waiting for some time for a package from Cabelas, which has opened a store in Winnipeg. Let me tell you, I was pretty darned excited about that because both Andy and I have spent a lot of our shopping dollars on Cabelas in the US over the past few years. We've always had good service in the US, at least until this year. Apparently they screwed up Andy's order there as well.
Every time I thought the delivery guy was going to be in with my merchandise from the Canadian Cabelas store, I would roar up to Nimpo. Nothing. Finally I called them yesterday to find out the status of my order. After being held at bay with a recording for some time I finally got a help person and inquired as to the status of my order. "It hasn't been shipped yet," she says. And why not, I inquire? "I don't know," she replies. And away we went from there with me getting more and more teed off as we continued.
First, one item had been discontinued. I had been called a couple of days after putting my order in by someone from Cabelas that said they would have to charge me more because of the weight of one of the items. I told her that I had no problem with the extra charge. At no time did she bother to say, "Oh, by the way, one of the items that you ordered has been discontinued."
Incidentally, all three items that I ordered were listed as IN STOCK in their online catalogue.
So I asked this help person why I wasn't told that the item was discontinued and her answer was, "I don't know. You should have been told." Fine. Why hasn't the rest of the order been shipped? "Well, one of the items is on backorder." She says. "What the hell do you mean by one of the items is on backorder? So how come I wasn't told this? I've been waiting for this shipment for several weeks now on the assumption that it's coming, and no one can be bothered to email me or call me and let me know that it's not???" "I don't know." Was her answer yet again. I pointed out to her that she had my phone and email information so there's no reason in the world why someone couldn't be bothered to inform me that I might not get my shipment in time for Christmas, or would I at least like the one item and wait for the other on back order? (I realize you're all asking why I wasn't tracking my order online. That's because the Cabelas online tracking doesn't work. I gave them leeway on the assumption that it was a new site and there are often glitches. I should have known better.)
It became blatantly obvious that this girl with a strong accent only knew what was on the computer screen in front of her. My suspicions raised I asked for her manager. They're all in a meeting. Oh, I've heard that one before! "Am I talking to someone at Cabelas or am I talking to a call center?" I asked. "A call center." She admitted. Now I was really mad. Not at her because she didn't know anything but what she's paid a minimum wage to repeat to me from off of her computer screen. What made me mad was that a North American icon that has been in business for years and who has always been known for their excellent service has sold out. Why in heaven's name would you risk your business to a call center? And what happened to service??? I would be hard put to risk my business on someone in a call center located several provinces, states, or countries away with no personal vested interest in my business. With no way of calling Joe down at the warehouse or in the back storeroom to help customers find what they're looking for. To me, it seems that you're committing your business to suicide. Especially in these rough economic times where no business can afford to make a single serious misstep.
Anyway, all I know is that I think we're going to have to start celebrating Christmas in January, or something. This is the second year running that poor Andy is going to be getting his Christmas presents after Christmas!
On the other end of the scale, many hours spent on Craig's list at the suggestion of Mike Owen resulted in a winner for chairs for the Community Hall. Amazingly, Mike, whom I have met in person, but know mostly through this blog and the exchange of emails, has made invaluable suggestions to help us through the buying aspect of these chairs, and has generously offered to lend his trailer for the purpose of picking up the chairs in Surrey. His friend, and a part time neighbour of ours on Nimpo Lake, has agreed to go over to the warehouse, look at the chairs for us, measure them in stacks to see how much it's going to cost us to have them shipped up here, and pay for them. We would then reimburse him.
Which is why it is so frustrating to see the lousy service that we have all come to accept from stores nowadays. I can't get anything but extremely poor or nonexistent service when I pay for it, and yet the generosity of people that are not getting paid for their time is overwhelming.
Our cold weather seems to have been delayed, or interrupted anyway, in favor of a snowfall. Temperatures started dropping yesterday evening, and then promptly started climbing again. I think it was only around -4C this morning and is around -3C right now. (11:00 a.m.) We're getting just very fine flurries so I don't know how long it's going to last but I think Vancouver is getting hammered. Then we're supposed to see very cold temperatures over the weekend. Right now, looking out over the lake, it looks like there's still a small portion of the Main Arm not frozen yet because it's not turning white with the snow. That's actually a great thing. Much better to get this snow before it freezes, and then get a long cold spell afterwards. That will help to form excellent ice on the Main Arm both for vehicles, cross country skiing, and snowmobiling without worry of overflow or spider holes.

10/12/2008 7:36 PM

A Little Cold Front

It looks like that projected cold front is moving in. With it came clear blue skies and sunshine. It dropped to -10C or around 14F last night and actually made it up to the freezing mark today. The sun made all of the difference in the world because if you were out in it, it was very pleasant. However, get into the shade as I did on our walk today and you'll chill down in a real hurry.
We had a tiny breeze out of the north today so the chill was real, but the sun reflecting off of the snow on the mountains was just brilliant. It was just an all round typical, old fashioned winter day in the Chilcotin. The reason we all live here and something not as common as it used to be!
Mary down at the other end of Nimpo Lake called this morning to tell us about a rainbow on the lake. I'm not sure how that can be and she certainly insisted that she had never seen such a thing before either, but it seemed to be a rainbow or arc with one end at her end of the lake, and the other end down toward our end. I'm not sure what could possibly have created such a thing with temperatures as cold as ours unless it's the sun shining off a combination of ice crystals and fog coming up off the lake. I'm hoping that she got a picture of it. I would very much like to see it.
We still can't determine whether the Main Arm is frozen over or not. We can still see a piece of it that doesn't have snow on it but it's at such a distance now that we can't tell if there's clear ice on it or if it's still open water. If open water, it's definitely late freezing over this year! With any luck that few days of cold weather being predicted will finally do the job.
I didn't get the time to play around with those lake sounds today as I had hoped so I can't post them yet. But I do have another query from an email I received some time ago from Mike Owens regarding antler identification. I don't remember why I didn't post it then but I think we had all the damage from that windstorm right around that time, so that may be why.
I had a similar experience to Mike's when I first came into this country 20 years ago so I'm curious too as to whether anyone has some ideas on the matter.

- "I'd like to open some debate or information on what has been puzzling me since 2000.
First week hunting in this new area to me, as having been invited to Nimpo for my first time hunting there. Well I was about 50 kilometers up the Morrison Meadow Road and on a branch line about 3 kilometers to the north. I had left the Sammi and had walked to the top of a high ridge overlooking the other watershed off below. The day was calm and the view spectacular. I was looking towards Jorgenson Creek watershed. I heard a very distinct sound of a bull elk bugling. But far off in the distance. I listened and listened and could not decide that was what I was hearing. Some locals when asked told me there is no Elk in this area.
Jump forward a few weeks and I met a BC Forest Service helicopter pilot on another road. I told him what I had heard. He said there were some elk over by Puntzi Mountain but he had not seen any in this area. Puntzi was about 50 miles east of where we were. Little did I know what I was about to find the next day.
I was walking up an old logging road about 5 kilometers west and north of Dave and Debbie Brace's ranch. This area had been logged several years prior. There are still sections of old growth there. While walking in one of these old growth areas, I spotted a small beam of sunlight. I presumed this was some sort of opening or meadow? I checked the wind direction and slowly advanced to where I could see a 10 acre meadow. There laying in the meadow was a large animal. I paused. Now I had been hunting in the region for two weeks and had covered by Sammi, walking and boat, most of the roads and trails and lakes in this area. A Nimpo Resident once referred to me as Seismic Mike. You go everywhere over the country.
It took me about 10 mins of watching this animal to realize it wasn't moving, its full rack pointing upwards. Was this animal asleep, dead? So I raised my gun and slowly stepped out into the opening of the meadow. This was one big deer! The closer I got to it the more I realized that this animal was dead. It was a large rack but the body was all gone. It was "laying" in a small hollow. All that was left were a few bones and this top part of the skull and this large rack.
Well nothing here for Chef Joe to cook, so I kept hunting the rest of that day. But when I returned to the camp that night and discussed what I had found and looked into the antler identification book the more puzzled I became. So the next day Joe and I returned to the same meadow to see what this was. Well it was still there, and neither of us could identify this rack. Too large for a deer but the tines were not all from one beam like an Elk. So we decided to pack it back to the Sammi and return to camp and use others to assist in this identification. As we tied this to the back of the Sammi only then did we realize just how wide this rack was. I could see the antlers sticking out in the mirrors on the Sammi. When we returned to camp our third friend had already broken camp and was headed back to Nimpo. Joe and I Decided to place the rack on the ground and load the Sammi onto the trailer and then load the rack on the trailer, leave this rack by the lake and load our Sammi on the car hauling trailer and only drive one vehicle back to Nimpo.
When we returned to Nimpo we realized the rack was back at camp on the ground. We will go back tomorrow and get it, we said. When we returned it was gone. This rack was over 54" in width. How do we know? We measured the width of our little Sammi. When we looked at different antler identification books our issue was still not resolved. If this was a mule deer the rack was one for the Boone and Crocket book. We have gone back to the original meadow and there isn't one bone or one bit of fur or anything to identify this animal. This was not Caribou and was not moose. Anyone else seen Elk in the vicinity?" -

Okay, if anyone has any thoughts, give us a write!
09/12/2008 2:51 PM

The Great Kayak Trip

The final installment of Floyd's Rescue stories involves a hairy kayak trip.
- "The great kayak trip down the Kleena Kleene wasn't supposed to turn into a search but it kind of turned out that way.
These four guys showed up at Nimpo wanting me to pick them up at the head of Knight Inlet after they had kayaked from One Eye Lake to the salt chuck. I told them I thought it was impossible because of the extremely rough water on the lower end of the Kleena Kleene. They insisted they could do it, but I talked them into flying the route and having a look at the bad places.
The canyon at the lower end just west of Mt. Waddington narrows up to 40 or 50 feet with vertical walls up to 300 feet high. The river is quite big by then with right angle turns, creating giant waves, thick spray so you can't see, and whirl pools that look to me like they would sink anything.
After they saw this they agreed they couldn't go through the canyon, but said as it was only about three miles around it. They would portage around and pack all their gear to the lower end. I had my doubts but agreed to pick them up at the head of Knight's in ten days. They paid me in advance which was good because I never expected to see any of them again.
After the ten days I went to Knight's, and sure enough they weren't there, and I couldn't spot them anywhere on the way back. I waited three days and tried again, searching the river all the way, and still they weren't there. I waited five more days then went again with no luck, so was just about to call Air Sea Rescue when I got a call from the logging camp there that they had arrived, and were in pretty bad shape but wanted me to pick them up. When we got back to Nimpo I got the whole story of the disastrous trip while they stayed for a week in a cabin trying to heal their blistered feet.
On the way down the river they wrecked one kayak before they got to the canyon which slowed them up one day. Then when they went to portage around the canyon they found they couldn't cross the side canyons without climbing three to four thousand feet up the mountain. After three days trying to cross the side canyons they abandoned their kayaks and all the gear that wasn't absolutely necessary so they could try to walk out.
They were seven days going the three miles around the canyon, but lucky to run into some loggers only about three miles below the canyon. They got a ride the last twenty miles to the logging camp where they were fed, and got their feet doctored up.
Years later lots of people kayak the same river, but they have a helicopter come along to carry them over the canyon.
One of the things that used to help us when I was flying on the coast was the people on the light houses. We could talk to them on the H.F. Radio and get actual weather as they looked out the window. Later they took the people off the light houses, and turned them into automated weather stations which were almost useless to us. Even in the weather briefing office at the airports the briefer used to explain the coded readout from the teletype so even a bush pilot could understand it. In later years they weren't allowed to interpret the weather and give us advice even though they knew more about it than we did. They said it was because of liability that they were told never give advice to pilots. The only advice they ever gave was not to fly if there was any weather at all, so you had to ignore them if you was to get your job done." -

Geez. I don't know about you guys but I wish Floyd was writing this blog. His stories are way more interesting than mine! Thanks Floyd. Your stories are much appreciated!
Okay, so what's been happening in the Chilcotin. Lets see.... yesterday was nothing to write home about. It was pretty chilly with temperatures staying at least three degrees below freezing and it was just a ho hum kind of day. Last night it started to snow like crazy about the time the meeting at the Hall ended and we figured we might be in for a good amount. They were tiny little flakes but the kind that build up fast. Alas, we only got an inch and it had quit snowing by shortly after 10:00.
Today we started out with a brisk wind, above freezing temps and rain which eventually turned to snow by this afternoon. (Which makes no sense at all. It should start out with snow in the morning and rain in the afternoon if temperatures were normal, but they're not.) It has now stopped snowing, there's beautiful blue sky and the sun is shining. It's still warm but the wind has settled down some. Strange weather!
For a couple of days now the lake has been absolutely wild, making the famous 'alien' noises that it does when freezing and the ice starts contracting and breaking. I won't have time to load them up today because I've company coming for dinner, but I'm hoping to have a couple of recordings ready to load up tomorrow. I just have to remember how I did it last year.

08/12/2008 2:45 PM

Finding Lost People And Planes in the Chilcotin

Floyd relates more Search and Rescue stories, both with good endings and bad.
- "After I bought the camp at Cow Lake we started taking fishermen in to the cabin there. I got it all fixed up real good, and people liked the experience of being on a lake all by themselves. I had these three people from California that were staying there for seven days. There was a man and his brother and his son that was about 17 years old.
At that time we had radio contact with Nimpo Lake through the north repeater that Terry Brandt had installed so after the second day they called us and said that the boy was lost, and hadn't came back to the cabin after a walk.
The country there is mostly jack pine forest with not much open country so I had a bad feeling about finding the boy. I kind of knew that the boy didn't have much bush sense because they said he didn't have a lighter or matches.
After flying most of the day and finding nothing I flew down to Gene Jack's place which was only about three miles away, and asked him if he would help look for the kid. Gene got a couple of horses and headed out, so we went back to the cabin for the night as it was getting dark by now.
That night the boy's dad was thinking we would never find him and I heard him say, "GOD, I HATE TO GO HOME AND TELL HIS MOTHER THAT I LOST HIM IN CANADA." The next morning Gene Jack came riding in at about ten O'clock with the most dejected 17 year old kid I had ever seen. He looked like the last rose of summer but wouldn't talk about how he got lost or where he had spent the last two nights.
Years later, after we sold Avnorth, Jim and I bought a little 7GC Champ with 1900 PK floats. The guy that owned it had ground looped it two times in less than one hour of flying. The first time he had it rebuilt, then on his first landing after the rebuild he ground looped it again. We bought it in Kamloops in pieces.
I rebuilt the wings, replacing the old, broken wood spars with aluminum spars. It had a 0.290 D engine, 135 HP so it made it a good float plane.
I was using it on the search for Duncan Stewart's Cessna 185 BUO when it went missing on a trip from Utchaneko Lake to Nimpo with the pilot and one passenger. Duncan called and wanted me to help look as they had been looking for over three hours with out finding anything. The weather had been too bad for them to look in the Itchas which was in a direct line between Utchaneko and Nimpo. Duncan didn't think they would have come that way because of the weather, but I decided to fly that route anyway if I could get through the mountains.
I called Wayne Escott and ask him to take Jim's PA 11 and look between the Ilkatchos and Itchas,
(mountain ranges) and I would look east of the Itchas.
When I got up by Punkey Lake the weather was deteriorating with low clouds, and fierce winds out of the west. After I got up above timberline I was above the first layer, and could see the lens shaped clouds that always told of severe turbulence and down drafts. Just before reaching Itcha Flats I got about three seconds of an ELT on 122.5, but when I turned around I couldn't pick it up again. I kept circling for about five minutes then heard it again for about one minute.
I radioed back to Nimpo that I had heard the ELT, and for them to call Mike King to launch his helicopter because I was going to find the airplane within the next 30 minutes. The ELT signal was hard to track because it would come on real strong for about one minute then go off for maybe five minutes. After about 30 minutes I had tracked it only about five miles to about half way between timberline and the top of the mountain.
I got Wayne on the radio and told him where I was, and that I thought I was going to find the aircraft, and for him to work his way towards me. About then I seen the aircraft right under me and the ELT was still cutting in and out, but I could see that there could be no survivors as the airplane looked like a tangled mess of barbed wire, and was scattered over about 100 yards. The down drafts were so bad I couldn't get very close, and didn't want to look any closer anyway, so I radioed the position to air sea rescue, and Mike King and headed home.
Later, the MOT found a video camera with the whole wreck on it shot by the passenger. They were trying to video some mountain goats and the pilot turned towards the mountain to get closer when the down draft caught him and slammed them into the ground. In 40 years of flying, every airplane wreck I've seen was caused by stupidity, or just a lack of knowledge. Most were just kids that weren't trained for that kind of flying in the first place." -

Thanks Floyd!
The last wreck that Floyd is referring to only happened here a couple of years ago and had a severe impact on our community and the owner of the plane.
As you can see, we're at the beginning of a new week. You'll find last weeks articles and several of Floyd's Search & Rescue stories at December Week One.

The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip of the iceberg, so join me!

Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Bright orange sunset over Monarch Mountain.
Black and white cessna takes off in fall colors.
Orange cessna parked in front of a cabin on a lake.
Orange plane with mountain behind.
Small blue and white plane just taking off of Nimpo Lake.
Blue and white plane heading for the mountains.
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