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Wilderness Adventures - Feb., Week Two/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.

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

14/02/2009 6:19 PM

Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. My apologies for no article for the last three days but there's a couple of good reasons for that. For one thing, my ankle knocked me out of being able to go walking the back trails for the past week so I've taken that opportunity to get a bunch of work done. Since I haven't been outside the door or away from the computer much, there isn't a lot of excitement happening in my world. I get to look out the window periodically to see someone landing a plane, walking their dog out on the lake or the odd person snowmobiling by. The birds are still raiding the feeder in a big way and the woodpeckers are attacking the beef fat. That's about it. Oh, and the the odd snowflake sifting down.
Actually, it's been trying to snow for the past couple of days but not succeeding much. That means it's been pretty overcast during the day and you can see it snowing periodically over the mountains. We've had lows of between -10C and -13C or 14F at night, but it's been coming up to about four or five degrees below zero. That's going to change.
There are two high pressure systems coming in. One from out in the Pacific and an arctic high coming down from the north. Both are going to lock in some pure sunshine for nearly all of the province, but will be bringing some cold temperatures as well. Already Williams Lake is three degrees colder than us (we're at -6C or 21F) but Prince George is twice as cold. I expect we'll see the cold by tomorrow morning and predicted lows for the central interior are for around -22C. That means we could be colder since we're so much higher. A nice day tomorrow would be a bonus since we're going snowmobiling, but I'm sure hoping the cold will hang off.
Tonight is the 139 Fundraiser in Anahim Lake that raises money for the Variety Show of Hearts held throughout British Columbia on or around Valentine's Day. There's usually a pretty good turn out for our local event that includes a dinner, raffles and auction and both our communities are extremely generous with their money. This year may be a little bit different though, with the economic downturn in play, but I expect that will be the case everywhere.
Today was also the annual ice cutting over at at Wilderness Rim, something that we missed this year because we had company this morning and I had a short appointment this afternoon. However, since that is where Andy and I had our first (kind of) date (for want of a better word) I will always remember my first ice cutting with a great deal of fondness, particularly today since it is Valentine's.
I've mentioned this before but for those new blog readers that have come on board since last year, ice cutting is something that at least three resorts on this lake still practice. It's an age old tradition and at one time, provided the summer refrigeration for every place on the lake. Everyone had an ice house. Aside from the three resorts, though, I think that only one homeowner still cuts ice, probably because it's really hard work!
I won't go into the detailed explanation that I have written here before but will explain that ice blocks up to two feet long are cut with a chainsaw. The blocks are usually pulled on a sled up to the ice house. The blocks are piled inside as tightly together as possible, and in many cases, sawdust is thrown on top. Sawdust is an excellent insulator and can keep the ice into the next autumn. The better the ice, the longer it will keep, so February or March are usually the ice cutting months. The lake ice is usually two to three feet thick by then and as hard as it's going to get.
Both Anahim and Nimpo Lake were very popular fishing lakes and guys would come in there from all over North America for a week or ten days and they took their fishing seriously! Many of the resorts still have a number of fishermen on the premises at any one time so a place to keep fish and and the ever important refreshments cold was a necessity. This was particularly true of remote resorts that relied on generators for electricity, but found ice to be a much cheaper and more reliable alternative.
I'm sure that all the places would dearly love to get their hands on that beautiful ice up at Goat Lake as seen on the right. But moving ice blocks the size of a truck could present something of a logistics problem.
So..... it wasn't until today that I realized I survived yet another Friday the thirteenth, which is always a surprise to me. This is probably the first time I didn't have any idea it was coming so it actually made for a very nice, relaxing day for me, even though I was up in Nimpo for part of the day and most of the evening. (I know. No one in this day and age should be superstitious, and for the most part, I'm not. However....) In any case, no disaster befell me or mine, so I've escaped yet another year. No, maybe not. It would be just my luck that a Friday the 13th fell in February. Since March mirrors February, then not only does it happen again in a month, but also in November. Geeez.
Just to let you know, since we're going sledding tomorrow and I'm having some of that group over for supper when we get back, I may not get a chance to post another blog until Monday.
I believe that our American friends have a holiday to celebrate on Monday, so here's wishing you a happy long weekend!

11/02/2009 7:42 PM

No Story

Hi Folks. No article today as I'm right in the middle of a project. Just a quick update on the weather for those folks with summer residences here....oh, and a new Pic of the Day to show off some more ice.
It was -20.5C or about 4 below zero degrees Fahrenheit this morning but it warmed up to just below freezing this afternoon. As usual, the cold temperatures and lack of use means the sewer at Nimpo Hall has frozen over again and poor Andy was stuck with looking after that all day. That's what he gets for being the Nimpo Lake Community Dictator!
We had bright sunshine for most of the day but it clouded over pretty heavily before dark and it looked like it was trying to snow over the mountains. The cloud cover just might serve to keep some of the heat in tonight so temperatures may not drop much.
The weight of snow on Nimpo must finally have reached the tipping point and has sunk the ice low enough now that we're getting overflow. I was really surprised to see it out front of our place this afternoon because we haven't seen one bit of it all year, but I guess it was due. Okay, gotta go!

10/02/2009 1:07 PM

The Gloom Day

It was clear and cold last night and dropped to -19.3C or -3F but it was really gloomy today with low, gray cloud. It made it up to -4C or 25F though, even if the sun was just a vague outline behind the cloud, and there was no wind so it felt a lot warmer than it was. It has already dropped to -14C and there's a clear sky and cold moon out there this evening, so I guess it will be another chilly night.
Vancouver got hit with a little snow last night and this morning and while watching all of the vehicles playing wheelies and bumper cars you could see that the streets were really slick. You don't often see a semi jackknifed on a city street and city buses parked at the bottom of a hill because they can't get up it. I think their problems are far less than Australia's though. Anyone been watching the news? Wow.
We've been watching the networks carrying the fires in the state of Victoria and I don't know if I've ever seen such an inferno. Reporters said that temperatures were upward of 48C or well over a hundred degrees and fires were jumping 25 miles ahead of the main fire because the flames were climbing so high. I would never have believed that fire could carry that far forward and I guess that's why so many people were caught by surprise. The flames were in their backyard before they were even aware there was a fire nearby. I feel really badly for those people who lost family members to home fires and those killed while trying to flee in their vehicles. Talk about no warning!
I found it to be a pretty good lesson for us, though. I doubt that we need ever expect forest fires of that intensity here but if it even came close, it would be devastating. We were watching a show called 'Daily Planet' for a few moments after the show about the Iditarod tonight, and the host was talking to a bush fire expert in Australia who explained that the conditions that created that fire behaviour have never been that bad before. The state has been in a drought, temperatures were well over a 100 degrees, humidity was in the single digits, which is unbelievable in itself, and there were brutal winds. Put it all together and you have a firestorm.
Andy was telling me tonight about a guy who was in Australia camping in a park once and since it was the off season, a Park's guy stopped by his camp and they got to talking about fire. The Park warden or attendant said that we would never experience the kind of fire that they have in that area of Australia. As a demonstration he went over to a very green eucalyptus tree and cut a branch off of it, then lit it. This fellow said it just exploded, like a dried up Christmas tree set on fire. I suppose that makes sense. I understand that eucalyptus is a very oily tree and if that's one of the main fuels for a bush fire, then things are going to get very hot and the fire move very fast.
Back to what I learned from that bush fire expert on TV tonight:
He was listing some of the things you can do to try and keep your home from catching fire in a firestorm when it's raining down sparks or sparks are being blown sideways by a wind. We all think that if we keep everything wetted down....roof of buildings, yard, siding, etc., we'll be safe. But as he suggested, you have to keep an eye on every nook and cranny where a spark could land. Check your windows and doors. He said if there's a draft, then a spark could also be sucked into the crack between door or window, and the casings or building. And do you know? I've never thought of that before, but it's a darned good thing to know!
We've a whole wood shed of tinder dry firewood. Of course in case of a forest fire heading our way, we would think to wet down the roof and maybe even the sides but probably would never have thought of saturating the wood stacked inside. Nor would we think about making sure the ground is wet under our guest cabin even though we would wet the log walls. But if a spark blew past the bits of skirting we have on there and got under the cabin, it would probably go up in only a matter of minutes. For that matter, even learning about wetting down all the doors and windows where we have drafts is valuable.
We're going to have to put a little more strategy into how we'll prepare for a forest fire in future. While I knew that it was possible for a fire to carry ahead a few miles, I would never have guessed that it could do so for 25 miles if conditions are right. We're lucky, because within a fairly short radius most of the beetle killed pine trees have lost 70 to 90 percent of their needles, lessening the danger for us substantially of an explosive fire now. However, there's certainly still danger to us at 25 miles out from both green and beetle killed trees so I suppose being forewarned is forearmed, particularly since we can't keep having rainy summers forever. We're due for a dry one here at some point in time, and probably sooner rather than later. Unless the bush fire expert was right about something else that he said.
The fellow on Daily Planet claimed that global warming was the cause behind the serious nature of the firestorms in Australia. He said that steadily warming temperatures, lack of rainfall and increasing winds over the last few years have made their forests extremely dangerous and highly susceptible to this type of firestorm. Since we've had wet summers three out of the last four years, does that mean that trend will continue for us as well? It will certainly change the face of the our region since the Chilcotin has always been high and dry in summer with cold, dry, and harsh conditions in winter. But Britain has had a lot of snow for the first time in ages, Europe is being hit with floods and snow, where Australia isn't burning, it's flooding, and in the States, Oklahoma just got hit with a heck of a storm. The radar pictures there look suspiciously like they do during tornado season.
Global warming? Probably, but there's no getting around the fact that prior to the realization that it might be occurring, the human race has been subjected to extremes in weather, sometimes for a period of several years. I keep thinking back to what I heard a group of scientists say a little while back. They've proven that the last 10,000 years has been the most climatically and geologically stable period in Earth's history. You just know that's gotta end sometime!
Oh yeah. Final note. I don't know how many people roll over the images on this site to read their description so I wanted to make sure I described the picture up on the right. That weird sculptured piece of ice sticking up is one of the blocks that exploded out of Goat Lake after an avalanche dropped tons of snow on it. We just haven't figured out whether water did that while it was still a slab covering the lake, or if wind and melt sculpted the ice after it was exposed to the sun. Either way, it's beautiful!

09/02/2009 7:16 PM

Things I Have Learned

I get to post Floyd Vaughan's 'Things I have learned in 70 years' here today. I figure I could learn a little something from them myself. While some advice may only apply to pilots, some of it can apply to all of us.
- " On a warm spring morning when the meadow larks are singing and it looks like another hot day TAKE YOUR COAT AND GLOVES ANYWAY when moving cattle to the mountains.
When leaving the house, tent, or cabin, LAY KINDLING AND WOOD FOR A FIRE because when you get back your hands may be too cold to do it.
Unless you are real hungry, DON'T EAT BOILED WATER RABBIT (beaver) at an Indian camp or boiled squaw fish. YUK!
Never shoot a moose more than 100 yards from the road if you're driving, or the lake if you're flying. It's much preferable if it has at least ONE FOOT IN THE WATER if it's a big bull. The engine always runs rougher AT NIGHT OR OVER WATER IN A SOUTH EASTER.
When doing air drops on a glacier, always come down hill, and lay out the things you're going to drop so the FIRST RUN IS FROM A HIGH ALTITUDE.
On lakes at the end of a glacier, you will have to take off DOWN WIND, AND WITH A HIGH PUCKER FACTOR.
A lake in flat country looks BIGGER THAN IT REALLY IS and a lake in the mountains looks smaller than it really is.
You can get on the step quicker by opening the throttle faster than is usually recommended, especially with a R985 Pratt Whitney because the governor can't keep up and you will get about 200 RPM over red line. IT CAN MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE.
An old pilot is one who can remember WHEN FLYING WAS DANGEROUS AND SEX WAS SAFE.
As a pilot, only two bad things can happen to you
On long flights have full tanks and DON'T DRINK OVER TWO CUPS OF COFFEE.
If you always tell the truth YOU DON'T HAVE TO REMEMBER ANYTHING.
Courage is the mastery of fear, not the absence of fear, BUT DON'T BE STUPID ABOUT IT.
In the history of aviation NO ONE HAS MISSED THE GROUND YET.
Any story worth telling IS WORTH IMPROVING ON A LITTLE BIT.
It's strange that physical courage is so common in the world, and MORAL COURAGE IS SO RARE.
If when you saddle your horse he has a hump in his back, LEAD HIM THE FIRST 200 YARDS then get on and start off in a trot (NEVER A GALLOP)
When in the air you are the Captain and can do any thing you want AS LONG AS IT IS RIGHT, and after you're down you find out if it was right.
The radio is only an electronic suggestion box, and sometimes the only way to clear up a problem is to TURN IT OFF.
One of the best things about single piloted aircraft is the SOCIAL EXPERIENCE.
You will never make a good pilot unless your mother was able to teach you to put things BACK WHERE YOU FOUND THEM.
Always remember how lucky you are to be up there when millions of people can only stare skyward AND WISH.
There is no such thing as a free puppy.
When you're over the hill you pick up speed.
Income tax has made more liars out of people than fishing has. When someone says it's the principle not the money IT'S THE MONEY
The biggest adventure you can take is to live the LIFE OF YOUR DREAMS." -

Thanks Floyd!
You know what? I don't know about you guys but I can definitely learn from a few of these! Since you know it's the voice of experience behind every one of them, you have to wonder about the story behind each as well. It would probably be a humdinger in more than one case!
While the temperature climbed up to just below freezing from a cold start this morning, it's dropping fast tonight and is already at -12C or 10F. But it was beautiful today with the sun shining nearly all day. There's a clear, cold moon out there that reached full this afternoon and the lake is starting to groan. It's been a while since we've heard it but I expect the moon might have as much to do with it as the cold temperatures. We got a couple of inches of snow last night but unless it warms up, I expect that's the last we'll see for awhile. Although Vancouver is supposed to get some. I'm sure folks down there will be pleased. Not!
Andy and the guys went snowmobiling up to Trumpeter yesterday. He got some terrific pictures of those giant ice blocks that were blasted out of Goat Lake by an avalanche. The other pictures from Ted that I posted don't give the perspective or show how huge those slabs really are, so Andy had one of the guys pose with the blocks. I'll post them on pic of the day for the next while. The color of the ice is an unearthly blue.

08/02/2009 2:04 PM

Secrets Of An Old Bush Pilot

Floyd Vaughan sent me some musings that he set to paper some time ago. He also sent me a great list of 'Things I have learned' pertaining to those valuable lessons that he has learned over many years of living and flying in the Chilcotin, but I'll save those for another day. The excerpt below is hilarious and well worth the read!

- "Most everyone expects pilots to have thinning, graying hair, to move slowly and be kind of unresponsive with all the time in the world to sit and BS. These are some of the tips on maximizing the respect to be gained by being an old pilot.
There are two ways of doing this: The right way, and the wrong way. You could say, "Hey, do you know that I am a pilot from the old days?" That's the wrong way, and they will just nod knowingly and walk away. Instead say, "That reminds me of the time I was flying overloaded on one engine in the dark with nowhere to land except on the water." You should say this in a low raspy voice with a couple of pauses in the right places. Usually someone will say. "WOW! Are you a pilot?" You don't have to lie because you are describing the time you were sneaking back home in the 180 on floats with a Moose on board after dark.
Not saying anything works too, especially if you look old and stay quiet. People will think you're a well seasoned pilot thinking about your vast experiences. Sometimes that's better than opening your mouth and proving you're just another old guy trying to remember something. The keep quiet trick also covers for poor eyesight and bad hearing. When some younger pilot says, "Hey, do you see that?" Don't lean forward, squint and say, "No. What? Where?" That's a dead give away to your degraded eyesight and other things. Instead don't react or respond in any way, and he will think his observation is too trivial to divert your attention from something important, like remembering the date or his name. This is not a good idea if it is someone pointing out a tree in your way or conflicting traffic.
Thousands of hours behind a R985 Pratt Whitney has deadened your hearing, but you can still hear it in your sleep or when more than one person is talking, so when you see someone's lips moving and they are facing you, you just smile and nod your head. This will impress people much more than cupping your hand behind your ear, and yelling, "EH?"
My voice has also changed, but that's a good thing. It's now kind of raspy and low from years of yelling over the engine noise. Women think it's sexy and love it until they see who is speaking. It makes you wonder why respect is so fleeting.
Old age can bring you respect at the doctors office when you are getting your pilot medical. Try booking your next medical for mid afternoon when the waiting room is filled with ailing old people and wailing kids. By then the doctor is wanting to go home, and get away from tales of woe, and poking around in festering diseases. Try standing near the reception area with a big smile on your face so when the doctor spots you he will check his schedule and have the nurse tell you to go right in. He will be glad to see you because he knows you are the only patient who is there to declare that you're in perfect health.
" So you're here for another pilot medical," he says, looking at the information the nurse has filled out. When he asks if there are any problems, you answer brightly, "NO SIR! NEVER FELT BETTER IN MY LIFE." "I see you have gained a little weight again." Then after you explain how you're going to start running and eating less you spend the next ten minutes talking flying. After he looks at your tonsils from both ends he says, "See if you can lose a little weight," and he signs your license. You stand up straight, smile and thank him, and walk out with a spring in your step until you're out of sight.
Older pilots flying into the US have an easier time because the border guards are looking for the young and twitchy, not the old and wrinkled. They know that when you have made it to this age you're not about to throw it all away on a suicide mission. They also know that questioning you would be a waste of time because you can't hear, and have trouble remembering. Besides, a few days in jail with free meals and sheets on your bed would be a welcome change. Canada customs agents are easier yet because when they ask you where you live, and you say Nimpo Lake, they know that if it wasn't true no one would admit to being from there.
Youngsters might think that aviation is leaving us older pilots behind because of the complexities of avionics, and airspace and air regulations are too hard for us to follow. They might be right except that we know that you can't follow all the regulations anyway so why pay any attention to any of them? If you want to keep your sense of pilot dignity, leave the new stuff to the young aviators, the ones that can't fly unless they have GPS's checklists ILS's , and someone to load the baggage, and clean the windscreen.
You should stick to flying Cessna's or rag aircraft, or something on floats, even though it is hard to pay $40,000 for an aircraft that you only paid $12 an hour for when you were training. Antique aircraft have become expensive because they're popular with old pilots, and there are lots of us. The reason is, they fly slowly, are hard to pick up on radar, don't need airports, and don't have all them hard to read instruments. Ultra lights are popular for the same reason, as well as floatplanes, and home built copies of the old fabric airplanes.
One of the hardest things for an old pilot is when he has to take a check ride with some young whipper snapper. If you screw up a maneuver, you must get the jump on the kid; before he can say anything. Say, "THAT'S THE WORST DEMONSTRATION OF A TURN I'VE EVER SEEN! If you're going to show me something you'll have to do better than that."
One thing I would like to have learned is to be more tolerant of stupid people but so far I haven't been able to. It's OK to be stupid if you are on the government payroll because everyone has to have a job, but if you are a pilot you put too many people in danger.
Over the years I have had 8 or 10 premonitions of a terrible disaster when the weather or wind are especially bad. You have to ignore these and do the trip anyway or your flying career is over. Every time this happened I did the trip and nothing happened, but it's a really great feeling when the trip is done. I have never had much use for churches because it always seemed to me most all the misery in the world was caused by religion. The church always wants people to join the church to teach them to believe, then kicks them out for what they know.
An expert pilot never THINKS he can do a trip. He KNOWS he can do it."

Two floatplanes on Ape Lake
Thank you, Floyd!
I don't know about you guys but I sure admire a person that can poke a little fun at themselves!
I also received a note from wonderful friends Bill and Anita Miller out of Quesnel and some great pictures from when they come out into this part of the country that they've kindly given me permission to use. You can check those out on the right. The spectacular lake picture is of the north end of Chilko Lake going in from Tatla. Oh, and check out their amazing picture of a grouse on pic of the day. It looks like a carving!
Our temperatures are still dropping pretty good at night (I think it was -10C yesterday morning.) but warming up to well above zero during the day. It's 4.5C or 40 degrees Fahrenheit out there right now. We've had a lot of cloud moving in and out but still enough sun to really warm things up. We had a heck of a wind yesterday, though and it played hell with the ice road. I had to run over it a couple of times before going out last night just so I could get home later. As it was, I barely made it through the new drifts and I think Logan opted to go home by the road last night because he barely made it down the Main Arm to Nimpo earlier in the evening. At least it was a nice day for the guys going up on the mountain today with snowmobiles.
It's the start of a new week so you'll find last week's stories at February 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!
An upended blue slab of ice has been sculpted.
Henry hangs onto an aqua blue ice slab.
Aqua blue Chilko Lake wraps around a mountain.
Two brown grizzly bears near a river.
Two grizzlies with their noses in water.
Two grizzlies perch on a log.
Two hikers sit on a cairn.
Gold colored fox checks out a goody.
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