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Wilderness Adventures - Jan., 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.

14/01/2009 6:27 PM


We had a bit of a weather surprise this morning. I expected our warm spell to stick around so I was a little surprised to see it at -6C when I went to bed last night. It was still right around that early this morning but by 10:00 it had dropped below -11C or 12F after heavy fog cleared off of the lake and it took its own sweet time warming up, that's for sure! Still, waking up to everything decorated in glittering white lace made it look like a regular winter wonderland outside.
When I left for my walk this afternoon it was still about -4C but had come up to just a couple of degrees below freezing by the time I got home. The plow truck had roughed up our road and dropped a little sand last night or this morning. We had heavy hoarfrost on all of the trees and bushes, and on the road as well. As a result, when walking down our road with the sun just right, the surface was covered in a kaleidoscope of rainbow sparkles from yellow, and green, to blue with quick bursts of orange. As we did today, we often have hard white diamond sparkles on the snow when the sun is shining, but it must have been the sand mixed with snow that allowed for such a wide spectrum of colors on the road and I just about tripped over my own feet watching the shifting colors as I walked. It was just phenomenal and I can't imagine a piece of jewelry in the world that could match those wildly sparkling bits of ice.
I think our guess at an inversion layer yesterday must have been correct and it really was much warmer up in the mountains. On one snow rounded mountain in our view today you could see the sun shining on what was clearly ice. The snow was no longer just a plain old soft white, but so icy looking the glare off it just about hurt your eyes. I took a picture of it, but unfortunately, the iciness just didn't show up in an image as it did for real. I don't think the lower elevation mountains got as warm so our snowmobiling areas shouldn't have been affected. Anywhere up high, though, the conditions will be awful after a melt like that.
The weather forecasters keep promising that we're in a warm spell but it sure seems a lot cooler than it should be considering how ridiculously far north of us the jet stream is going. It's already at -10C or 14F this early in the evening so it's not exactly balmy out there. Then again, I probably shouldn't be complaining too loudly. The rest of Canada has it pretty cold right now and it looks like parts of the US are suffering from some pretty harsh weather as well. Maybe I'll just zipper it and enjoy what we have.

13/01/2009 3:20 PM

Dog Sense

We were blessed with another great day today. It was sunny this morning but we had some high cloud move in this afternoon. It was too warm to go for a ski because the snow was sticky so I would have been doing nothing but face plants out on the lake. It was great for a walk though. Even with the sun peaking through the clouds only periodically, at three degrees above freezing and no wind, it was still bright and I'm sure not complaining. At that temperature, I don't mind a lack of sun at all!
Though many may not agree, and may find the subject pretty boring, I think you can learn a lot from watching dogs on a walk.
River, our Rottweiler, is a good example of an animal that we may attribute human expressions to too much, but in his case it fits. After all, he's pretty certain he's human. The day before yesterday when I stopped at my favorite place at the meadow near the gun range, River acted distinctly uncomfortable. Tail down, ears dragging, and a beseeching look in his eyes that said, "I'm sure there's something bad out there. A giant monster bunny that's going to eat me or something!" Yesterday, nothing. No problem. Today, he had his ears cocked and nose in the air the whole time we were in that vicinity. The other two dogs were acting much the same so there's definitely something there. I just can't figure out what. The most likely thing would be a moose that is hanging around the meadow, but I've seen very little moose sign anywhere lately, and they just don't stick to one spot. Another possibility I suppose is that the grizzly bears may have denned up around the meadow somewhere, but what are the chances? Although I have to admit this is the longest period of time, lasting many weeks, that River has acted strangely. Then again, it's possible that he smelled them once down there this fall and he's just been nervous about it since. The most likely cause of his and the other two dogs' reaction is that there is carrion or a carcass down there somewhere that's been there for awhile. This warm weather may have brought the scent back up again. Or it could be that they all, especially River, have an overactive imagination!
It's always cool watching the dogs run along following their noses, although Cat, being a hound dog, is the one that does it most. She invariably has an ice cream dollop of snow perched precariously on her nose because she's had it stuck in the snow trying to get a scent from a track. You only realize how much we humans have lost when you watch dogs and see how they use all of their senses. While they may rely heavily on their ears to track what's around them and follow their noses to smell what's been there, they also use their eyes, particularly Cat.
Yesterday while walking back on the road from the gun range she was well to my left when she spotted a set of tracks going up the bank well to the right, and covered in snow. I don't think it's possible that she picked up a scent from them. She just saw them, whipped over and started stuffing her nose in the snow to see what had been there.
On the back trail day before yesterday Cat had gone roaring past me at a 100 miles an hour as she usually does when she did a twenty foot skid and twist in the air trying to come down near a small fist sized pine bough that had dropped from a tree onto the trail. She missed of course but came back as soon as she found her brakes. Once she realized what it was she immediately dismissed it and away she went. But it was a great example of using eyesight to spot something, then her nose. Something that not all dogs seem to do. Of course in River's case, he comes along, sees it, and pees on it. That seems to be his solution to just about everything. Of course he isn't the only one. I noticed that after two days it would seem just about every fox and coyote in the vicinity marked that poor little twig in the same way.
There was a spot we came across yesterday where a fox or coyote (sorry, they don't leave signs on their leavings) had left scat in a couple of spots and there were tracks all around it. Whether he was having a constipation moment and those were all his tracks that beat the area down, or the tracks of all the curious creatures that followed it, was impossible to tell. Of course the three dogs showed great interest yesterday when the whole matter was fresh, but there was just as much interest today. You know they can tell it's an old scent, but it's as though they're trying to read a story and that their life depends on deciphering everything about that spot. And perhaps it does. After all, dogs are still much closer to their ancestors as predators than we are.
We may have the rudiments of smell and hearing but not much really. About all we have left that's any good is our eyesight and that's pretty pathetic compared to many animals. While the senses of dogs may not be as keen as their ancestor, the wolf, you would have a hard time convincing me that a wolf could out smell Cat. You can tell she's a hound because she has an incredible sense of smell.
I don't think it takes much for a medium to large sized dog to go back to its ancestry. Two out of three of our dogs are Indian dogs, meaning they were starved and had to fend for themselves for one reason or another. As a result, they're constantly on the search for anything edible and are highly protective of their food. While River taught Cat how to eat rose hips and is keen on scrounging for carrion, Cat is the biggest scrounge of all. I could not believe how quickly as a pup she figured out that wild strawberries and blueberries were food, and how voraciously she grazes on rose hips and grass. She's since proven that all else is considered edible no matter what it is. I have no doubt that she could survive on her own if she had to. I do have one worry though. A friend of ours said she would never have a cat because if you die in your home, cats will eat you while your dog will not. Somehow, I wouldn't want to trust that I would be in one piece by the time people found me dead in my home if Cat were locked in there with me. With her, it's stomach first!
It would seem that there must have been one heck of an inversion layer today. Some of the higher mountains in our view lost a lot of snow today and are looking pretty black, while we've lost little or nothing here. Judging from the speed the snow has been melting up there, it has to be at least five degrees warmer than at our elevation. Our temperature should slowly come up over the next few days though. After a period of time with a warm Pacific flow, it's bound to push those cold highs east. Looking at the weather forecast tonight and where the jet stream is, we're in for several days of warmth while everything east of Alberta is in for some bitterly cold weather. It's estimated that parts of Saskatchewan could go to -60C or 76 degrees below zero Fahrenheit with the wind chill tonight. I feel kind of badly for Saskatchewan because they've been pretty cold all long, but I don't feel one bit bad for Ontario or Quebec and the cold weather forecast for them for the next seven days. I figure it's their turn to be stuck in a deep freeze for awhile.

12/01/2009 7:16 PM

Start of the Good Weather

It looks like we just might luck out with some good weather after all! I figured it to start last night but just before midnight I turned on the porch light and looked outside to see it just snowing to beat the band. In fact, the way it was pouring down I thought sure we were in trouble. It quit within a half hour though, leaving only about an inch of fluffy stuff behind.
It went down to about -6C or 21F at its coldest last night and made it to a couple of degrees above freezing today. We had blue sky and lots of sunshine with just some odd high cloud. It was kind of strange this morning, though. I looked out over the lake and it looked really hazy as if there was a lot of smoke in the air. Then I realized the smoke from our own chimney was going straight down. That's pretty rare except in extremely cold weather so there must have been some sort of really strange inversion layer because the smoke from every place on the lake was doing the same thing. Apparently, that's what is happening all over the province because the north central part of BC is actually warmer than the south central and Okanagan. Apparently the valleys are going to be colder than higher elevations because that Pineapple Express is sliding right over the top of the cold air layer and is going to hold it down.
I'm not too sure what's happening with us because our temperature was actually warmer this evening than it has been all day but suddenly the wind switched from out of the south to out of the north and it just dropped five degrees in the past hour. Maybe we're experiencing some outflow winds because that's the only thing that would explain the temperature drop. From everything we could see on the weather tonight, the Jet stream is carrying that Pineapple Express way north of us so we should be experiencing a real warm up. At 3600 feet we hardly qualify as a valley.
Today was a glorious day for a walk in the woods. With fresh fluffy snow on the back trail you could see all of the animal tracks made since last night and with no wind, it was dead still in the woods. I grabbed a stump down by the gun range for a few minutes and just listened. The dogs stood still for the longest time and did the same, and I swear I could almost hear something walking through the snow a little way off. I love those kinds of days because you can hear the smallest sound, or no sound at all.
Each day gets better and better because the days are longer, so even if I don't get back from a walk until a little later in the afternoon, it still isn't cooling down really quickly as it does in the middle of December. For the last couple of days now we've noticed that the sun is no longer coming in through the lower windows in front of the house at midday, that's how much it has climbed in the past weeks. And this evening there was an absolutely stunning sunset with clouds coloring up red in the east, and it was actually after 4:30! Too cool!
I talked to my Mom and a friend of mine down in Arizona this morning and both suggested we come down for awhile. It wouldn't be that hard to convince me to do just that in the month of December, but as long as the sun is shining and the days getting longer this time of year, it's hard to convince me that Arizona's a better place to be than here. Although I do have to admit that their high of 72 degrees today did sound a little on the appealing side. But that's okay, because if we hold out we'll see temperatures like that in about five months too!

11/01/2009 4:44 PM

Good Day

Have you ever had one of those days that's just so great you're plain glad to be alive? Today was one of those days for us.
We finally got out to Hotnarko Falls today with our neighbours. Iris has never ridden a snowmobile before but she picked up an old 440 fan cooled up and her husband did a bunch of fixing on it. For someone who has never ridden any way but double, she did a great job and went 60 miles like an old pro today, although I think she's a little tired tonight. Small wonder!
We didn't do any mountain climbing of course, but the trail through the trees to the other end of the lake does a lot of winding and requires attention. We ended up out on Charlotte Main, took it down to the Beef Trail and then followed that down to where you turn off to go into Hotnarko Falls. It might have been a really nice smooth ride had someone not tried driving on some of those roads. The deeper the snow, the deeper the old ruts so negotiating those with a machine could bounce you around a bit. The farther along we went the deeper the snow got and once we turned off to the falls, the trail was beautiful with lots of deep powder and no vehicle tracks. Just moose tracks crossing here and there.
We walked into the falls with high hopes of seeing the ice build up from water going over, and it was there....just covered with that recent snow so very little ice showed through. You could still hear a little water running underneath, though. I think we'll try again about March. By then the sun will be higher and hotter and will probably melt any snow off of the ice, without melting the ice itself. Then it should make for a great picture.
It was still beautiful being there. The sun was shining and that canyon and surrounding rock is just amazing. There's something really magical about that spot. We walked (or waded snow) back to our machines and had our lunch before heading back. We were only out for four hours but it was wonderful! Although some cloud did move in so I didn't get as nice a pictures as I would have liked and should have stopped and taken them on the way out. All in all, it was a nice change from going up on the mountain where invariably there are lots of stucks or you have to watch the person in front of you very carefully in case they have to stop suddenly because of a stuck ahead. Nor was there any wind down where we were as there often is up on the mountain.
I expect today would have been a brutal ride up to Trumpeter since there's been so much drifting snow and lots of fresh snow. Lots of stucks that I don't mind missing at all! Besides, the view was pretty darn nice from different vantage points along our trail today. In places you could see Kappan, the Rainbows, Monarch Mountain and the Coast Range and in one spot you could see the Little Rainbows on one side and the Itcha Illgatchuz on the other. It was really pretty and nice to see new country.
We've gotten a couple more light skiffs of snow since Friday morning but it hasn't amounted to much. It warmed up Friday and really hasn't gotten that cold since, maybe down to -8C at night and up to freezing or a degree above during the day. I don't know what it got up to today during the warmest part because we weren't here but we got home at around three in time for me to go for a short walk, and it was still a couple of degrees above freezing then. That sun being up longer, if only for a few minutes a day, sure makes a difference! Last night was remarkable after the sun went down and the moon came up. We came home from supper at our neighbours' and it wasn't long afterward when we looked outside and you could see long shadows from the trees on the snow. It was so bright with the full moon that I'm quite sure you could have read a book under its light.
I see the Lower Mainland still isn't faring very well with their flooding from snow melt with more rain predicted. Although I think some parts got a little snow last night. I'll bet that made folks happy. Not!
Provincial emergency services has kicked in in some areas but that's sure a scam in many cases. Apparently emergency services can only provide financial assistance to homeowners for things that you can't get insurance coverage for. For example, if you are able to get snow load coverage for your home, then if your roof caves in, emergency services can't help you because you should have had insurance. Who the hell in Vancouver would ever put snow load insurance on their house? Normally the thought of having so much snow on the roof of your home that it might cave in would be unthinkable because Vancouver just doesn't get that much snow in an average year. Even I can't blame a Vancouverite for not having that kind of insurance. So as I said....provincial emergency services is a scam. It would seem the province is going as cheap as it can, as usual!
From the looks of the weather forecasts and satellite pictures, we just might be in for a warming trend for the next week. I'm actually really looking forward to that. It will be a really nice change from the long stretch of cold we've had. I know the winter enthusiasts don't like the idea of a melt, but it wouldn't break my heart at all to see it go a little above freezing for a few days. We've got some pretty fluffy snow out there and it would help to settle it both on the lake and the back trails. It looks like the Lower Mainland might dry out too for a few days midweek and I'm sure folks down there will be happy to see that!
I've finally started a new week so you'll find last week's articles at January 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!
Hoarfrost covers a vase shaped bush.
Frozen fog on a red willow bush.
Frozen falls under snow.
Flat topped mesas in the Chilcotin.
Two people stand in edge of cliff.
Monarch Mountain beyond a small pond.
Range of Rainbow Mountains from the Beef trail.
Veiw of mountains from the Beeftrail.
Yellow glow to the snow on the lake.
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