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Wilderness Adventures - January, 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.

14/01/2007 7:08 PM

Drunken Moose

There were moose tracks on the lake this morning in front of the house. They came across our property and then meandered drunkenly all over the lake and I certainly would have liked a picture of the creature that left them there. It almost looked as though he stopped and pawed a bit here and there, possibly looking for something to eat. I suppose it's possible that this moose is down from the higher elevations and thinks that open expanse of snow is a vast meadow with wild hay underneath, but I can't imagine a moose being that dumb. It would seem more likely that he could scent ours or the dogs' smell under the snow on the ice. In any case, he sure made a lot of detours on his morning jaunt and I don't think he was getting anywhere fast at the rate he was going.
It was time for the big overflow test. Andy ran his new Ski-Doo out over the lake to see how it was for overflow this afternoon. First of all, is there ever a lot of snow on that ice! His snowmobile track looked just like a trough, more like what you see in deep snow up in the mountains. And there is definitely overflow all over Nimpo Lake.
He wanted to beat down a trail from our boat launch to the one on the other side so that it would begin to freeze right down to the ice and harden up any overflow. Once you pack a trail, the snow loses a lot of its insulating value and one or two nights of cold temperature will make that wide trail a super highway. A girl down the way drives her fourwheeler back and forth to work and there's a substantial savings in distance when you can just cross the lake rather than go all the way around by road. She hasn't been able to use the lake for some time and neither has our neighbour who also likes to use his fourwheeler to go get the mail. Hopefully, Andy's pack job will work for everybody because even I would like to go straight across the odd time instead of all the way around. Im sure I'm not the only one to miss the ice road.
I asked Andy to pack our trail through the woods for me that I use for walking and probably will have to use for skiing this winter since the lake is out of commission. He actually got stuck doing it. He said that when he stepped off the machine the snow was so deep that it was nearly to his hips. And that's just behind our place! We talked about what it might be like to break trail up to Trumpeter Mountain. As he said, a lot of people went up Charlotte Main to 24 kilometer after we broke the trail out before Christmas, so there's probably a hard packed base somewhere beneath the snow. What's after that higher up though, is anyone's guess.
I wonder if that huge old bull moose is still hanging around in the woods on the way up to Trumpeter? Or if he's been driven down here by the deep snow.
Maybe that's him leaving tracks on the lake...

13/01/2007 7:46 PM

Just Chugging Along

We're coming out of our deep freeze and most folks have dug out from under all the snow.
Temperatures Thursday night only went down to about -30C or a little colder than 20 below zero F. but last night only got down to -12C and then before going to bed I watched it do a very slow climb again.
There's a large low off the Pacific that's been sliding along the coast, moderating our temperatures by quite a bit. Still though, it's already -15C or about 0F so we're not out of it yet. At -7 today it felt downright balmy and I think a few people were about to break out their summer t-shirts.
The sun has been shining the last few days and everything looks glorious under that heavy, white blanket of snow. I had to go into Anahim today, my first venture out since the snowfall. I was a little surprised to see that our main road to the highway is a little narrow. I'm not sure what would happen if you met another vehicle on the road in some places. I guess you'd manage somehow. And it certainly would be a good opportunity to sharpen up on your 'backing up' skills.
I mentioned before that there's a real benefit to snowbanks, even if they do narrow up the road. You don't have to worry about going into the ditch now. The worse thing you're going to do is smoke a snowbank if you lose control of your vehicle, and what high snowbanks they are! Wider roads such as the highway have quite the wall along the sides now and I can only imagine what it's like at the top of the Hill. It's not likely you'll be seeing over the snowbanks up there. In fact a Cat had to be sent up to Heckman Pass to push the banks back there, at the top of the Hill and back toward Anahim Lake because the road had narrowed up so much and there was no place left to put snow.
Driving back from the other side of Anahim today I was beginning to think we lived in the Yukon or Alaska rather than British Columbia. Curled up in the entrance of one driveway was a red fox. He jumped up and hopped a couple of steps but he wasn't in any hurry to bound off into snow over his head. Right in the middle of the highway at Two Mile there was a pretty little ptarmigan that refused to move. All along the highway there are tracks galore of moose and caribou.
A lot of people have been commenting on how many moose there are around this year. That isn't so much increased numbers as it is snow depth higher up. Many of the animals have been pushed down out of wintering grounds by five to ten feet of snow and although it's up to three feet around here, it's still a lot easier for them to get around in.
The small caribou herd that winters down here has been hanging around Nimpo Lake a lot and has been seen crossing it a few times. Unfortunately, too far away to get a good picture. I sympathize mightily with the wild animals this year. Many won't make it through the winter.
Friends told me that the overflow on Anahim Lake was atrocious before the cold hit. They spent a couple of hours and a whole lot of calories in the exhausting chore of repeatedly getting their snowmobiles unstuck only a few hundred feet from shore. They managed to get the machines home but now that the cold has frozen that slush solidly into their tracks, it might be spring before the snowmobiles move again.
I saw an older snowmobile not far from the boat ramp just across Nimpo Lake from us this morning, lonesome and forlorn in the snow. I don't know if someone tried to make a run through the snow, hit overflow and got stuck, or the machine quit on them. They must have gone and gotten help, though, because it was gone a while later.
The neighbour down at the other end of Nimpo Lake watched someone come through the bay going hell bent for election through the snow. She said it looked like a pretty skilled young rider with the energy and finesse to stay standing on the machine throwing his weight back and forth to keep the snowmobile going, because the track behind it was blue with water. So obviously this last cold spell has not tightened up the overflow at all. I'm not surprised. Considering the tremendous weight on the ice that snowfall represents, there will be cracks all over the lake and water seeping up along the shoreline.
We have a flight instructor coming up that is bringing cross country skis and had hoped to ski the lake. I'm afraid we'll be limited to the roads right now and the back trails once they're opened up by snowmachines, providing it warms up.....

11/01/2007 12:58 PM

A New Mountain.

We've been in the process of poring over maps this morning after discovering a new mountain. No, we didn't actually 'discover' it, but it did just show up on our
First, the weather. The temperature this morning was just a hairbreadth under 40 below. That's -40C which is the same as 40 degrees below Fahrenheit. I think the exact figure was -39.7 on my weather center. A little over -37 down at the other end of the lake and -40 was recorded at Anahim Lake. Nothing new. We often get a much wider variation in temperature than that throughout the communities but there'll be less variation when it's this cold. You could tell it's a huge system slowly blanketing the whole province just by how slowly the mercury moved down all yesterday and last night. Only one power outage so far, and that for just a half hour this morning.
The beauty of cold temperatures is that you almost always get clear, blue, blue skies. Almost a cobalt blue in some cases. Today it's clear but because of all the fresh snow and slight breeze off and on, there's a lot of haze on the horizon from ice crystals, obscuring the mountains to the south. Not so to the southwest. Which brings us back to the new mountain.
We have a lot of jackpine in the yard, many in front of the house. Now I'm not a tree hugger as such, but I always hesitate to see trees cut down, especially in the yard, because in this country it takes a hundred years just to grow a six inch diameter tree. You realize that the trees are obscuring the view and shutting out sunlight in some cases, but you don't cut them down. Then the Mountain Pine Beetle comes along and by infesting all the pine trees, pretty much makes that 'cut down trees' decision for you.
Until the snow and cold hit, Andy was plugging away at knocking a couple of beetle killed pine down every few days and we would pile the limbs out on the lake and burn it. Most of the trees he's knocked down have been the ones most likely to damage the house in a windstorm so those at the front and sides went first.
This morning we were sitting in the living room enjoying the frosty cold view outside when I noticed some very large mountains as big as life poking above the trees along the shore line to our southwest. "Holy moly, where'd those come from?"
First we played the guessing game and then out came the maps and then the more detailed flight charts. As best as we can tell by plotting on the maps and with an old compass, we are looking at Monarch Mountain and an unnamed mountain in front of it along the Atnarko River Valley. There's another long, rugged ridge to the west of these mountains that shows on the map but is also unnamed.
At over 10,300 feet, Monarch Mountain and the Monarch Icefields should be easy to identify. Unfortunately, the two mountains in front of it on the map are at over 8,000 and 9,000 feet so there's no way of knowing what we're looking at for sure. At least not until we fly over it some time in the future. I have to hunt down my pictures from snowmobiling that I've taken in the past at the head of Charlotte Lake and the beginning of the Atnarko River Valley. I'm pretty sure I recognize the closer mountain as being one just across that valley, but looking at it from an entirely different direction up on Charlotte Main at 24 km from here is bound to change how the mountian looks. I'll have to replace one of the pictures on the right so I can post a picture of our new mountain. The closer, snowcovered mountain nearly obscures the high peak at the back that we think is Monarch Mountain and the Icefields made infamous by the young couple that died up there a few years ago.

10/01/2007 10:10 PM

Here Comes The Cold

Slowly but surely the cold front has been creeping down from the north. The temperatures have very slowly been dropping ever since this morning, even though the sun was shining today.
It's down to -30C or about 20 degrees below Fahrenheit right now and I expect it could drop to as low as 40 below by tomorrow morning. We'll see in the morning.
The house has started creaking and another ten degrees and the trees will start to make snapping sounds as the wood cools. No power outages for us yet but surprisingly, we've gotten very little wind so far. Either the prediction missed us or it's still coming. Our tree boughs are still heavily laden with snow so I'm kind of hoping the wind circled around us.
The lower mainland was not so lucky. Between wind yesterday and a lot bigger dump of snow than they were expecting, roads in both the city and the Fraser Valley were in very poor shape. It looked like there were lots of accidents, vehicles off the roads and traffic was moving very slowly, when it was moving. But then when the journalist interviewed one woman who slid off the road while the cameraman panned the completely bald tires on her car, you could see why. People will never learn.
Saskatchewan has been getting pounded by one hellacious blizzard all day. The same one that hit us got them and added some high winds, effectively shutting down every highway in or out of Saskatoon, many of the bridges and city streets, the airport, most schools and many businesses. I used to live there. The roads have got to be the worst thing you've ever seen in your life before highways shuts them down so they must be bad today.
It's pretty quiet around Nimpo Lake. Our road from the highway was plowed today, much sooner than I expected. I know those guys had their hands full with keeping up on the highway so I'm pretty impressed that they got many of the side roads opened up today. I'm sure none of us would have been in too dire a straits if we couldn't get out for mail today, but I know that some people complained vociferously about their driveways being plowed in. They're lucky their side road was even plowed out by today. The highways guys most certainly didn't have time to worry about driveway entrances. That's what they make shovels for.
Looks like this cold spell is going to be around for a few days and since it'll be hitting most of Canada, I don't expect the weather will be doing anything too drastic besides temperature changes. I'll keep you posted.

09/01/2007 2:55 PM

You Want Snow?

We've got snow. And lots of it!
You know how I talked about the weather yesterday? Well...I probably shouldn't have done that. I think I teed off the weather gods or something. It was like they said, "Oh, you want snow? Well here you go, SweetPea!"
It started peppering it down pretty good yesterday afternoon and didn't stop all night although it has finally slowed somewhat. Using a yardstick in different places that had no snow before, we got somewhere between 14 and 16 inches. It's hard to say because there was a wind as well so it drifted to much deeper than that in unprotected places such as against the front of the house on the deck.
I figured something might be up when I watched the weather last night. Doppler radar showed us in the yellow with red just skimming by us and we're not in the 'yellow' very often. Either the weather guys were wrong or I dread to think what happened to the rest of the province.
I did hear through the grapevine that Highway 20 was closed. Whether that's east of us toward Williams Lake or west toward the Bella Coola Hill, I don't know. I do know that if we got over a foot of snow, then Heckman Pass probably got two or three feet and that's hard to keep up on. However, Tatla Lake and Kleena Kleene to the east of us often get nailed pretty hard too because they sit at an entrance to the mountains that leads clear to Knight's Inlet and the Pacific Ocean. Lots of moisture comes up that pass.
In any case, it took awhile to shovel all the snow off of the deck, the holiday trailer and the vehicles, while Andy spent the morning on the wrong end of a shovel and most of the afternoon pushing snow with the Bobcat. Not only did our yard have to be cleared out but our drive and our neighbour's as well.
Another neighbour took a couple of passes through our drive early this morning with his plow truck which helped tremendously, but even he admitted he was having trouble pushing snow by the second time through. Thank heavens for heavy equipment. That favor got returned this evening when Andy went down with the truck to help pull him out of a bad driveway he was trying to plow for another neighbour.
The wind has kicked up periodically, making it for a wet day out there, but nothing serious yet. That won't happen until the arctic high moves down tonight. Then, we can probably expect to be without power tonight or tomorrow. The trees are really heavily laden with snow. Throw a high wind in there and you can bet something's going to give.
There are three huge high pressure systmes coming in from the north. The one coming off the coast of Alaska is sliding down the coast while the two most likely to affect us and the prairie provinces are coming down through the Territories. It's expected that they will bring us some seriously cold arctic outflow winds. I'm really looking forward to that! lol. Actually, that's the main reason we wanted to get everything we could cleaned of snow, so that we weren't out there trying to do it in high winds or really cold temperatures.
I see a little hole in the sky and a glimmer of sun so I guess this messy system is moving out and our high moving in. Temps are starting to drop so it'll be a good night to keep the fire stoked up.
I'll post some pictures on the right but first I have to load the software for the new camera onto my computer and figure out how to use it. On second thought .... maybe I'll just use pictures from the old camera for now or you could be waiting awhile.
It's evening now and this blog has taken quite awhile to upload because I was trying to figure out how to download pics off of the new camera and I wanted to check on the status of Highway 20. It's definitely closed from the top of the Bella Coola Hill to the bottom, supposedly because of avalanche danger. But it's more likely to be because the guys couldn't keep up on the big dump of snow and just haven't gotten it cleaned up enough to open the road. We noticed when we went down last week that there is a section of road before you even drop down the 'Hill' that is extremely narrow. The snowbanks hadn't been pushed back and now there will be even more of a problem. Where do you put the new snow?
With the cold, clear weather coming the highways guys will have lots of opportunity to get it all cleaned up. It just means no one's going in or out of the Valley until then. I suspect that means doctor day at the clinic at Anahim Lake will be cancelled and none of the grocery trucks will be going through. Oh shoot, I suppose that means we won't get our mail tomorrow, either, if there's much snow to the east of us. Oh well...
Welcome to a Chilcotin winter!
As you've probably noticed, I've finally gotten around to starting a new week so you can find yesterday's article as well as the rest of last weeks at January, 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!
New view of mountains shows up on the other side of Nimpo Lake.
Dawn tinges the mountains orange in winter.
Snow banks on a roadway.
Snowbanks alond driveway.
Snow covered vehicles.
Heavily snow covered snow machines.
Snow on birdhouse and trees.
Heavy winter snows obscure the cabin.
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