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Wilderness Adventures - Jan., Week 3/2012

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 some great contributed stories and ongoing blogs, just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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Check out the Picture of the Day.


21/01/2012 4:45 PM

Our Cold Spell Has Broken


The cold spell we've been under for the past week has finally broken.
It started a slow warm up a day or so ago although it was still around -16C or 3F but it had stabilized to around that temperature during the day and just didn't drop much through the night, so that's always a good sign.
We went for a walk down to the gun range shortly after 1:00 with some faded sun behind haze, no breeze, and a temperature of -7C or 20F. By the time we got back little more than an hour later, it was only a degree and a half below freezing and a 12mph wind had come up, so it must be a warm one. Although it felt damp to me when I was just down to the cabin. Our phone has gone out so I was just checking to see if it had gone off the hook down there.
It was wonderful to finally go for a long walk again after a week of being holed up in the house. The other animals in the woods must have felt the same. We had gotten that inch of snow I mentioned in the past blog which has set up perfectly on top of the ice that was everywhere, so it's reasonably safe walking now. The dogs have been residing in the garage all week out of the cold so the local fauna has gotten much braver about coming in close to the house. The other day there were all kinds of fresh moose tracks all over our driveway and our neighbours', traipsing back and forth through the properties, down our boat launch and out on the lake. There looks to be at least two and possibly three of them hanging around so the buck brush in our meadows and along the shore must be looking good to them.
An otter crossed our driveway on his way from the back bay to the front bay last night or early this morning because Andy said his tracks weren't there last night. He must have still been travelling while we were out walking because we crossed his tracks on the back trail and again on the main road on the way back from the gun range a couple of miles away. Or maybe it was a different one. We have never figured out why they travel such long distances overland in winter but they are some travelling fools. They really seem to enjoy walking or running and then sliding on their bellies wherever they can. On the edge of the main road the otter found a particularly good hill and it looks like he went up and slid down it at least twice.
Besides the usual fox/coyote tracks there were loads of rabbit tracks. I couldn't believe how many there were so obviously they have not been cleaned out in any way, shape, or form, as I previously thought. There were squirrel tracks and lots of mice tracks and several different sizes in between so we had no idea if they were chipmunk, voles, or what, but the fresh snow was the perfect canvas and all the tracks were within the past day or today. It seems obvious that the little animals holed up and hibernated during that cold weather and then everybody came out at once when it warmed up. I don't know that I've seen that many tracks in an entire month of walking before. But maybe after that cold spell it seemed like spring to everyone, because that's when you usually see wildlife moving around most is when it warms up and just before the snow melts.
We're kind of looking forward to a little warm up here for the next few days. I think that everyone is. The weather forecast is all over the place for BC. On the weather channel the jet stream definitely moves up toward us, hence the warm up. But there's a lot of garbage coming in off the Pacific that will certainly bring rain to the Lower Mainland for most of the week. We just don't know if it's going to get us in the form of rain or snow depending on the temperature. It sure looks like it on the radar maps. On the other hand, it's cleared right off now after sunset, so we might be in our blue hole out here in the Chilcotin. At least that means we might be able to see the Northern Lights tonight that Canadians are supposed to be able to observe. I hope so. I've missed my Northern Lights.
18/01/2012 3:05 PM

Frigid


Our little cold spell continues. On Monday night my prediction that it might go to -30C or -22F was wrong. It actually went to -36C or -32.8F and only warmed up to -26C or nearly -15F during the day. It might have gotten warmer but it looked like fine snow was blowing off the Coast Range and it built up some ice particle clouds which in
turn did a fine job of filtering the sun, so we didn't get the benefit of full sunlight throughout the day. Today was a little better with less haze and you could tell because our low was -38.2C or -37F last night yet it actually warmed up to a balmy -23C or -9F today. Not that it stayed that way for long. The temperature started dropping again by 2:30 this afternoon so I have no idea what it will be tonight other than cold.
Tonight is supposed to be the coldest night according to the weather people, so who knows? It looks like the southern half of BC gets a warm up by Saturday but that doesn't look to be the case for us or the rest of north central BC. This might just be a long cold spell!
At least we dodged the weather bullet that nailed Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, all of southern BC and Washington State. Yech, what a mess. Blizzards, whiteout conditions, slick roads, accidents, semis and other vehicles in ditches and quite a bit of snow in some places. It's not often you see snowmobiles and ATV's zipping around on roads and highways down there but hey, if that's the only way you can get around.... I feel sorry for police. That one poor officer on Sumas Prairie attending an accident going back to his car in a whiteout sure looked miserable. The tow truck drivers looked pretty happy, though.
The news hour has actually been well worth watching for the last few days. The newscasters out in the field sure look cute all bundled up with bright red noses and cheeks and trying very hard to not shiver while standing in front of the camera. There was one girl that was definitely not appropriately dressed for super cold temperatures and a high wind who couldn't help but shiver while she gave the weather news for the area she was in. They're probably all stuck at their desks for most of the year wishing they could be out in the field more but I'll bet they all dread being sent out in that kind of weather to do their reporting.
I have been very selfish at home here doing no more than grab some wood from under the deck occasionally to stuff in the wood stove and fireplace while my partner has graciously braved the chill outside to take the dogs for their walks, a necessity since they're lounging in the garage the rest of the time. Other than that wood, I haven't stuck my head outside the door since Monday nor do I plan to until it warms up. I was almost tempted today because it looked so pleasant in the sunshine but the flags were snapping and Andy said there was a pretty cold breeze out there.
The last couple of nights ice has built up around some of our sliding windows. They're really good ones but we've got the humidifier steaming away and when you get that warm, warm air in the house hitting the frigid air on the other side of that glass, there's not a lot that you can do about it. At least they're vinyl and not wood so we don't have to worry about the melting ice wetting wood.
You can tell when it's really dropping outside at night because the wood in the house starts snapping and creaking. You don't have to look at the thermometer to know that suddenly, the air has reached that point in cold that wood doesn't like. We may not have been cold enough but I expect there was still the odd tree out in the woods that was cracking. 40 to 50 below is when that's really prevalent. You can stand outside and listen to trees going off like gunshots. I haven't heard that in a while. What we did hear was the lake last night. We have fans going in the house to distribute the heat to all the rooms so it's a bit noisy in here, but even over that I could hear the booming of the lake. I asked Andy if that's what it was when he came back from a late night walk with the dogs and he said it was just crashing and banging out there. I wouldn't normally have expected that with temperatures not warming up to zero during the day, but still, there was some sun and a ten degree difference between yesterday's night and day temperature so that could easily have been enough to get the lake rocking and rolling. That ice will be just shrinking up like crazy and I'll bet you could find some pretty big cracks crossing the ice out here now. Imagine ice cubes in your drink and the sound they make when they first go in the glass and the little cracks that suddenly split them, then increase that in size a thousand fold and you've got our lake with sounds varying from subsonic booms to ultrasonic whines and the snap of ice cracking.
We had a pretty sunset tonight although the clouds were really strange. It's nice to see it light a little bit later now, although our sun doesn't set nearly as late as it does in Vancouver, that will change and we'll be neck and neck by late spring. The extra daylight time is really noticeable now but then it should be. We're over a month from the shortest day and it's only 53 days to when we change our clocks to Daylight Savings Time. Woo Hoo!!!
16/01/2012 4:05 PM

We're in the Deep Freeze Now!

Wow Wee! It is chilly on the willy out there, folks!
At present it is -23C or -9.4F and it has only gotten about one degree warmer than that all day. That was when the sun chose to poke its head out for about 3.2 seconds this afternoon. There's been heavy cloud all day with fine, fine snow sifting down, although it has only accumulated a little more than an inch. Right now as I look out my office window I can see a distinct front line moving to the north and right on the edge of it is a Sun Dog that has been there for about 20 minutes now. I've got a picture up on the right but like sunsets, photos never show how pretty the real thing is. I suppose you might call it a rainbow since it's refraction after all, but it's pretty neat. It must be just the way the sun is hitting the cloud along the front line as it goes down. In any case, it looks like it's going to try to clear off just in time for nightfall, which means the temperature could easily hit -30C or -22F tonight. Oh, there you go. It has already dropped another degree since I started this paragraph.
As my other half pointed out just a few minutes ago, that's really not all that cold by the old Fahrenheit scale, and it wouldn't be if we didn't also have a windchill to factor in. Just a little 5 mile an hour wind can really suck the heat away and drops -24C to -31C immediately. We're not getting high winds, just little breezes, but they can be deadly for people or animals not protected from it. When it gets that cold, I don't go walking in the back woods, but Andy does take the dogs for short walks quite a bit because we take them off their lines when it's this cold and they get to go into the garage, which makes them very, very happy. We used to put them in the porch but after only a few days they start shedding like crazy which is not good when they have to go back outside. We discovered that in this weather the garage still stays around freezing or just below, which is much better for them and their coats. That doesn't stop them from bounding back from their walk and huddling around the porch door in the hopes that they get to come into the house, of course. That doesn't happen anymore, but they keep hoping.
The weather guys are calling for -40 with the windchill in the central interior tonight (that's us) and as you all probably know, -40C and 40 below Fahrenheit are one and the same no matter what temperature system you use. That's cold in anyone's book! It's supposed to be -45C with the windchill in the Peace country tonight and there are Arctic Outflow warnings for the Central Coast of BC which means Bella Coola will be nasty with a wind and the damp from the ocean.
It has been cooling down for a couple of days now and since the weather people were calling for this last week to really hit by today, we got a bunch of wood in under the deck and started a fire in the upstairs fireplace yesterday, so it's nice and cozy in here. I don't even have to go outside this week if I don't want to except to grab firewood just outside the basement door. I miss my walks but on the other hand, a person can get a lot done inside the house when you aren't lured outside by sunshine. I can't do much computer work because of my back but I can cook!
I don't think anyone really even minds this weather. Well actually that's not true. My sister in town sounded a little bitter on the phone last night but that could be because she and her husband forgot to dig up their carrots over the weekend so they'll have to hope they're well insulated and the cold doesn't drive down into the ground. But for the most part, out here we all recognize that we've dodged the winter bullet for the past three months so we're kind of due to get whacked. At least we're not alone for a change. The whole province is getting snow and cold and misery loves company. :-) The Lower Mainland has actually gotten a lot more snow in the past couple of days than we have. They even closed schools down there today. For that matter, even Williams Lake got a lot more snow than we've seen, but there's supposed to be a major weather event on Wednesday. Not only are temperatures supposed to be extreme for everyone north of Vancouver, there's a huge system coming in carrying a lot of moisture and it's expected to hit this arctic front head on. I don't know if it will be far enough north to get us but the Lower Mainland is bracing for a lot of snow. That's okay with me. Watching bumper cars on the television gives us great joy, especially when close up shots show that most of the people skidding all over the road have summer tires or bare All Seasons on their vehicles. Am I mean? Well, I suppose.....
The same system that brought snow to the Fraser Valley also nailed Washington State and even Oregon and this arctic system has also pushed into the Prairies across Canada, so I guess everyone gets to share Canada's weather. But just think, we only have three more months of winter at most! I'm pretty excited about that, although a top long range forecaster just predicted that the next few months were going to be very cold and snowy.
The lake has been rocking and rolling for days now, especially at night. The sun shining on it during the day and then big temperature drops means it's really wild throughout the evening. It was growling and thumping all night last night and you could hear it throughout the house, even though it's well insulated. It grumbled a tiny bit today but not much and I'm not hearing anything tonight. That's probably the first time in weeks but it didn't warm up today, we didn't have sun and now there's a bit of an insulating layer of snow on the ice. I seriously considered recording the sound last night to post but then I looked at the temperature and thought, nah...... I don't think so, Tim.
It's 8:00 PM now and the temperature seems to have stablilized at -26C or almost -15F but I can't see any stars outside so I wonder if some cloud moved in. That would explain why the temperature isn't dropping anymore right now. Although I'm sure it will later on in the night. Doesn't matter. I can hear the fireplace crackling out in the living room and it's calling my name. I'll get some pictures up, post this puppy and go enjoy the fire. We don't normally start a fire in the fireplace unless it's really cold or it would roast us out of here, so this is a rare treat.
Ted Hlokoff sent me some photos of a spectacular sunset we had the other night so I'll post them up on the right.
This is the start of a new week so you'll find last week's posts at January Week Two.


Anahim Lake Highway cam looking West.




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!
Pink over the mountain.
 
Heavy rime of frost on window.
 
Winter rainbow.
 
Snowmobile on lake ice with sunset behind.
 
Purples, blues, yellows and reds of a winter sunset.
 
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