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Wilderness Adventures - Feb, Week 2/2007

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.

14/02/2007 7:37 PM


Happy Valentine's Day everyone! I hope you had as nice a day as we did here in the Chilcotin. The sun was shining and the temperature well above freezing all day, so other than a brisk wind, we had a glorious day. Sun certainly improves the mood!
A lovely lady down at the south end of Nimpo Lake likes to live and celebrate life in her own distinct, happy manner, and one way that she does that is to do nice things for others.
Andy called me today after being up at Nimpo and told me that I should go up and take pictures of the unusual 'art work' lining Highway 20 all through Nimpo Lake. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance but I have a pretty good idea of what it looked like because I saw my friend's artwork last week around her place.
Andy sounded quite surprised at all these different shapes, colors and sizes imbedded in the snow all along the highway, stating that there must have been at least a hundred of them! I'm sure there were at least that many!
Bernice likes to fill any container possible such as plastic glasses, baking sheets, salad molds or anything with an unusual shape with water dyed with food coloring. She sets the containers out to freeze and then pulls the frozen shape out and sets it in or on the snow. Sometimes she decorates her shapes with interesting objects. One such piece of art over at her place had some kid's tiny tonka like toys imbedded in the ice. I'm sure he'll be wondering where the heck his little toy trucks went. The whole effect of these brightly colored objects in fresh white snow reflecting the sunlight is really quite dazzling. In particular, it's fun! Bernice has fun making her objects and it brings a smile to the faces of those that see them because they seem so out of place.
Heaven only knows when she painstakingly placed each and every one, whether late last night or early, early this morning. But it would have been a surprise, a gift from her to everyone else. Just because.
Sadly, we've lost a moose in the area. Mary down at the north end of the lake noticed coyotes milling around on the lake acting strangely and finally took a run down to have a look. There wasn't much left of a moose laying on the ice, only legs and the gut part of the carcass. Impossible to say what killed it but the coyotes have definitely been scavenging it. That explains the presence of the two coyotes I saw out on the ice yesterday at two different times.
I'm really hoping that the dead animal isn't the calf that has been hanging around with its mother along that side of the lake all winter. You have to wonder if there were enough coyotes to run a small moose down, if it was wounded by native hunters and only made it that far, or if wolves actually pulled it down. Mazy insists that she heard two wolves howl the night before last and I know that some people have seen a couple around. The jury is still out on that track I've been seeing but there's certainly no reason why the odd wolf wouldn't have followed the game down out of the mountains. However, this is also the favorite time of year for the aborigines to claim their 'cultural hunting rights' (How their 'ancient cultural heritage' can include rifles and snowmobiles is beyond me.) so it's more than possible that the moose was wounded and was taken down by predators or simply died on the ice.
Surprisingly, it still isn't that easy for a predator to chase game in the woods, especially now with warm temperatures and a melting wind. The snow is extremely soft and I should think the advantage would still go to the game in the deep snow. But if an animal was run for a long time through that deep snow, and then pushed out onto the ice after being exhausted, the advantage would suddenly go to the predator, whether wolves, coyotes or a pack of dogs. The latter is unlikely simply because I haven't heard of any dogs running loose or in packs.
One odd coincidence. Just after I learned of the dead moose and hung up the phone I happened to look out the front window. Walking across the lake to the small island was an adult moose looking either very tired or very dejected. It was moving really, really slowly with its head hanging down. Just a different posture from what you normally see. I'm hoping that is not an indication that the moose are being run in the area to the point of exhaustion.
Actually, I just had a thought. I wonder if that single moose that kept trying to hook up with the cow calf pair was actually the mother of the really small calf Andy saw along the Dean a while back. He was quite surprised at how small the animal was and just suggested that if the carcass on the lake was small, then it might be possible the calf just couldn't make it through the winter, or it was hunted down. But the single moose was trying to hook up with the pair over a week ago, so the kill would have to be at least that old.
In any case, I'm deeply saddened by the loss of the moose. We can ill afford to lose even one but I think we all accept that game losses will be very high this year.
13/02/2007 8:15 PM


We saw a little bit of sun today, high cloud and actually got to see the mountains for a while today. Since Andy and his instructor were both tired of hitting the books and being cabin bound for the past week or so, and I was tired of the overcast days, we decided we all needed a break.
So we went snowmachining today.
Mazy has ridden little since she was a child but she has ridden motorcycles and did very well, picking up the pace and showing good balance by this afternoon.
We took it really easy and just made it a trail ride today with nothing strenuous, covering only about 45 miles or less. I guess you really can't count playing around practicing turns in Gus's Meadow or playing roller coaster on the banks along Charlotte Main and Hooch as actual miles in trail riding. Since we didn't have a destination in mind, weren't trying to beat the weather to the top of Trumpeter and didn't have a big group of riders to answer to, we just kind of did as we pleased. We all got to play big kid today.
We started off on the right foot this morning with a coyote out on the Main Arm of Nimpo Lake that I circled a couple of times. I wanted to get a closer look at it but they sure can move! There was another coyote at the north end of the lake this evening that deked off the lake and into the woods when I came on it. It was a little bigger than the one I saw this morning and it looked like it had been tracking a rabbit.
Surprisingly, I saw moose tracks going up Charlotte Main on old snowmobile tracks so I guess not all of them have been driven out of the higher elevations. I know there's a big bull that hangs around up there so maybe he finds the deep snow of little consequence and preferable to the company of people.
There's a good hard crust not far beneath the top layer of fluffy white. Conditions are perfect for an amateur because you can go pretty much anywhere you want and mistakes won't cost you a bad stuck. But you could break through the crust if you really worked at it, and then the snow is bottomless!
Andy put his machine over a couple of times doing turns down in Gus's Meadow and once the track breaks through the drifts or crust formed during that melt a few weeks back, you can get a machine stuck. We finally got to try out a device we purchased last year on the advice of our friends from Quesnel. You can hook one end on the ski or front bumper and the other has a handle with a whole lot of stretch in between. Both Andy and I were practicing leaning on it just to see what it would do in terms of moving a heavy sled out of stuck. Seems to work like a hot darn but we'll probably get a refresher course from Bill in March on how to properly use the thing. I can definitely see the value of carrying such a device when there are only a couple of people riding together and you don't have the combined manpower of a big group to help you get a sled out of a bad spot. Even then, this little thingy majiggy gives you a lot better purchase and leverage from a much better position than bent double over a ski trying to pull on it with your hands and scramble out of the way when the machine does start to move.
All in all, it was a nice refreshing start to a week where our weather is predicted to be just as grim as it has been for the past week. Just to show you how bad it's been take a look at the picture up on the top right. That isn't snow on the branches of those trees. That's layer after layer of frost built up from clouds rolling in low over the mountains day after day and full of moisture.
At least we got some fresh air today, (well maybe a lot of gas and oil fumes as well) and a viewpoint different from that of looking out a window all day yearning to be outside.

12/02/2007 10:36 AM


Did you know that moose are actually fairly new immigrants to the Chilcotin?
Other than fur bearing animals, Mule deer and caribou were the only large game west of the Fraser River known to the early explorers, traders and Indians, and were heavily relied on for food. It's said that large herds of elk were present in the country long before the memory of the oldest Indians but legends have it that the herds disappeared after a particularly harsh winter. Their antlers can still be found buried and preserved in swamps and marshes. I always wondered about that because while hunting a meadow at the base of the Itcha Mountains years ago I found what I was certain were very old, very decayed, half buried elk antlers. They certainly weren't caribou.
According to one of the books written on the history of the Chilcotin: "An Indian named Moleese killed a moose at Indian Meadow in the fall of 1916. He didn't know what this huge beast was but figured it might be good to eat. Afraid to taste the meat, he cut out the tongue and lips and galloped off to his tribe to talk to his friends. The rest of the tribe was excited, too, and a dozen men accompanied him with pack horses back to the kill to bring in the meat, head and horns. But no one knew what the big mowich was, not even the Old One who had lived for over a hundred years."
Frederick Metheun Becher was born in India in 1862. His father was a colonel in the Britsh Army and was transferred from India to Northern Ireland where Fred grew up and was educated. As a young man, Fred came to Canada and in 1880 joined the Hudson's Bay Company where he served as a trader at Fort St. John, hundreds of miles north and east of the Chilcotin. Later he moved down onto the Fraser and got a job packing freight to Hanceville (Lee's Corner). Eventually he set up a trading post and built the first big hotel with a saloon at Riske Creek and ran the Post Office there for better than 30 years. (The rolling grasslands at Riske Creek are still called Becher's Prairie and the dam system he built is on the left along Highway 20 coming west through the hairpin corners just before Riske Creek.) The reason I give some background on Becher is because it's just an example of the varied and colorful characters that moved into and settled the wild, Chilcotin country.
It was Fred Becher that identified the animal that Moleese had killed when the hide and horns were brought to him at the trading post. He was the only person in the area familiar with the ungulate because of his trading background with the Hudson Bay Company.
The first moose killed in the Big Creek country was shot by two cowboys in 1927. By 1930, apparently there were moose everywhere and the country became overrun with them. It's said though, that many died off during the hard winters in the 1950's. In Rich Hobson's books about he and Pan Phillips' adventures when he and Pan first ride over the mountains from Anahim Lake into the Blackwater looking for ranchland, he describes seeing huge herds of moose on the miles of meadows that stretch over that country. I'm not sure everyone believed him because it's said Rich and Pan were prone to exaggeration, but legend seems to back them up.
When I first came into this country in the late 1980's there were moose everywhere! The mill had moved in and opened up logging roads into previously inaccessible areas. Guys that worked at the sawmill up at Morrison Meadows packed rifles in their trucks and numerous moose came back down in the back of pickups or on top of a load of logs in the fall. Word got out and hunters from Vancouver and the Okanagan streamed into the country every hunting season where it became a wholesale slaughter. It got so bad that the RCMP set up check points and in the one day alone that they stopped 72 vehicles on the back roads, they found that only two were local. One pickup loaded with hunters from Kelowna even had a chair in the box on which a hunter was comfortably perched with his rifle as they hunted the logging roads. Natives and locals alike became extremely worried about the depletion of the moose herds and finally, albeit way too late, the area went into limited hunting status.
It has taken years for our moose populations to rebuild somewhat, although I don't think they will ever again be what they were. We are seeing more and more deer move into the area, not just Mule deer but the odd Whitetail. Is that because Mother Nature hates a vaccuum or the natural progression of things? There has to be a reason moose moved into the country only a century ago.
Did predators drive them down from the north? Several consecutive winters with extremely deep snow? Or did their food source change?
Weather change has a significant impact on the movement of species and perhaps there is a reason deer populations in the area are on the rise, while moose populations decline.
This winter we are seeing moose grouped together in larger numbers than ever before but I think that can be attributed to moose being driven out of the higher elevations by deep snow and is not indicative of increased numbers.
Several massive forest fires in the Chilcotin in 2004 and 2005 pushed animals into areas that hadn't been burned over and we saw an increase in the numbers of black bear, grizzly, deer and moose seen in our region. I suspect that the Mountain Beetle infestion will change the makeup of our region even more but I don't know how that will affect game natural to this area. Will it eventually result in more meadows, standing water, aspen stands or rolling grasslands? Any change to the flora is going to result in a change in the fauna. It will be interesting to see by how much.
Today is yet another grim, grim day, as was yesterday. I had to force myself to ski on the lake yesterday. It just seems like work rather than fun when there is no sun and the mountains are cloaked in low, grey cloud. It snowed a bit yesterday and is snowing a little today, so I guess we're at least getting some benefit from those clouds. According to the weatherman it isn't going to improve anytime soon. That means my mood isn't going to either. Talk about winter blahs!

10/02/2007 12:22 PM

Grumpy Bears

And no, I don't mean the four legged kind. Several low, cloudy days in a row with no sun have resulted in area residents being somewhat grumpy, myself included. At least today high cloud is allowing a glimmer of sun through and has resulted in an improved mood for all.
One of the keen benefits of living in the Chilcotin in winter is the normally clear, sunny days. The sullen overcast of this past week is unusual in February, a month that is normally one of the best winter months for getting outside and picking up a little sun. Even though often cold, clear skies are usually the order of the day. Cold, dreary overcast and snow flurries are not. As one that suffers from lack of sun, I can't imagine living in a place like Vancouver, the Okanagan or even Prince George, where overcast for weeks and months on end is the norm in winter. The trade off is the temperature, I guess. But I'll take the cold as long as I can see that yellow orb in the sky.
I traded grumpiness for some wings and a few beer with Andy's instructor over at The Dean on Nimpo last night, which helped. The food, company and atmosphere make Pilot's a great pick me up for the winter blues and I highly recommend it to summer or winter visitors.
It looks like that cow moose and calf have allowed the single to hook up with their little group, albeit grudgingly. Andy saw all three running across Nimpo Lake yesterday and a friend down at the south end of the lake saw the three together as well. The group of four are still around as is the big single bull that hangs out down by the gun range.
The same friend down on the south end thought she saw two wolves crossing the lake the other day. She said they were large enough and dark enough to be wolves but once they started howling in the woods they sounded more like coyotes so it's hard to say. It's mating season so they could be either/or.
I went out for a ski this afternoon and finally made it to Dot Island. Only a six mile round trip but not made easy by the complete destruction of my ski track in places, this time not by snowmobilers but animals. Apparently both the moose and coyotes decided this was Highway 101 and especially the coyotes must have found the track a perfect fit. Where the moose followed it or crossed it periodically, the pack of coyotes followed it for a good mile or so. The only thing saving the track was the fresh snow we had two days ago that served to fill in the tracks a bit under my skis.
I estimated somewhere between four and eight in the pack and it turned out it was just ahead of me. When I rounded the corner on the last leg to Dot Island, with a low peninsula between me and the shore across the bay, the pack must have spotted me. They set up quite a yippy ruckus, totally freaked the bigger dog out (he's a bit of a chicken liver), and judging by the noise there were quite a number of them. The coyotes quieted down once I rounded the corner into the bay and though I never saw them, I assume they were just inside the tree line across the little bay, because the dogs kept a sharp eye on the shoreline the whole time I was there. They threw cautious glances down our back trail quite a while after we left and I got the impression that River wasn't the least bit happy with the whole episode. I suspect from his attitude that he's had a run in with them before.
The arrival of coyotes in those numbers explains why that single moose was so desperate to hook up with another group. Whether they have any hope of taking one down or not, coyotes in those numbers will probably be putting the moose on the move, and I suppose it's possible that they may target the calf although probably without any success. That's more likely to be the job of wolves with coyotes scavenging the leftovers. Hopefully, if the scat and tracks I've seen indicate wolf, it's only one or two at most, and our moose and caribou can winter in peace. Still lots of fresh moose tracks on the other side of the lake so nothing has moved them out yet!
In any case, a little sunshine, a long ski run and lots of tracks to make things interesting does a great deal to raise the spirit.
As you have probably noticed, I've been a little slow starting a new week. If you would like to see all the moose pictures or read the articles for last week, you'll find them at February, Week One .

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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!
Food colored ice shaped objects.
Young pine trees blanketed in frost.
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A moose stands in a meadow in winter.
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