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Wilderness Adventures - July, Week One/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.

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17/07/2009 9:36 PM

BCFA AGM and Other Stuff

Hi Folks. I know it's been awhile. Unfortunately, tonight's post will probably be the last for another few days but I figured everyone would like an update on what's happening and Andy keeps looking sideways at me every morning when he discovers there's no new blog on his computer.
Our weather in the past week has been mixed. We had a few >warm, humid days but a breeze has come up in the past two days so it's not as hot. Our temperature has ranged upward to 20C with it a little cooler today under threatening thunderheads. Still no rain though.
We lost our baby loon in the back bay this past week to some sort of predator. We noticed when he went missing and then Andy found a pile of feathers over by the boat launch a day or two later. While I suppose it's possible for a fox or coyote to get the bird if it swam too close to shore, it's more likely to have been a bald eagle. The feathers were peeled off in a circle the way I've seen in winter when a bird has been killed by another, and that's all there was left of the baby. It's sure a shame. That pair in the back bay just doesn't have good luck with keeping their babies from being killed. I think it's because the bay is so protected and surrounded by high trees. It may be difficult, if not impossible because of the light sometimes, for the loons to see an eagle swooping in.
The BC Floatplane Association Annual General Meeting is happening down at the other end of the lake tomorrow. Andy has been gone most of the week helping down there to get a new 200 foot dock in, ramps built and placed, and tires attached to the side of it. Which is good. It means he's gaining lots of experience for when we finally build our own floatplane dock. :-) Said project having been on the list of projects for quite some time.
The sound of floatplanes has filled the air all day today, coming in for the AGM and dance and the pancake breakfast on Sunday. Then I think quite a few of the pilots go out and do clean up in different areas of Tweedsmuir Park for that day. We've had the pleasure of the good company of a couple of guys up for the meeting over the weekend.
The Lower Mainland and southern BC is enjoying a high pressure system that's bringing lots of sunshine and hot temperatures to those regions. That same high has pushed a low pressure system over the central coast that's brought us a lot of rain clouds overhead and heavy winds the last two days. That has actually helped to push out all that smoke we've had coming in from a fire somewhere.
I don't know what it's supposed to do for weather next week, but I sure would like to see some of these skeeters burned off. On the other hand, cloudy weather cuts back on the watering chores substantially. Most of the snow is gone off the mountains and our lake level is really low, so we could actually use some rain. I'm really surprised at how quickly it has dried out since that last rain.
Have a good week, folks!

10/07/2009 8:42 PM

This Week

This week was definitely an interesting one weather wise. We received about another inch of rain throughout the week and Andy bailed another six and a half gallons of water out of his boat. It rained off and on for most of Wednesday but yesterday was pretty good. Today was a different matter.
While our temperatures were fairly cool during the week, they started heating up a bit yesterday, resulting in one heck of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. The sky was blacker than sin and I figured it was going to dump on us again but it mostly cleared out by late evening. What I didn't realize was how much smoke came in on the new air.
I called Andy down from the bedroom last night to see the moon rising. It was pretty orange but other than to comment on the color, we didn't think much of it. This morning was really, really foggy and after the fog finally lifted, we understood why. There was quite a bit of smoke in the air that just got heavier as the day wore on. By early this afternoon we were blanketed and the mountains were no longer visible. I had so many people ask me where it was coming from that I finally called the Cariboo Fire Center to see if there was any fire in the Chilcotin. I kind of doubted it because we couldn't smell smoke and the smoke covered most of the Chilcotin Plateau from Puntzi on and got progressively worse the farther west you came. Apparently down around Firvale in the Bella Coola Valley, visibility was virtually nil.
The girl at the Fire Center said they didn't have a record of any fire that they knew of but she could only speak for the Cariboo District, so that probably means we're getting smoke from elsewhere and that could be from any large fire from California to Alaska. It looks like we have an inversion layer and that would also hold the smoke down, and with no wind, it probably won't move out any time soon. It's hard to see clouds through it but it does look like thunderheads are starting to build.
I wasn't home for the hottest part of the afternoon but we were up to 24C or 75F before I left. That's warm for us. The worst part was the humidity today which was twice as high as it normally is. That's something else we don't normally get here but we've certainly seen our share in the past week. I can take a lot of heat but I'm not so good when it's humid. You're huffing and puffing just crossing the yard because the air is so heavy and you can't seem to get your breath. Not my favorite thing but it sure is a favorite of the mosquitoes. Yikes! Are they bad!!
I transplanted some small plants today and as usual, my face was near the dirt and I had to water. Boy, did they love that. I'm thinking I should buy shares in Muskoil stock because I'm reasonably sure folks in the Chilcotin can drive up their profits to astronomical heights for three months out of the year, myself included.
I had to meet a friend this afternoon on business and I don't think anything was more welcome than sitting in a cool coffee shop with no mosquitoes sipping on an iced chai. Not normally my thing but man...... it was heaven! I didn't want to leave. You can tell everyone is bothered by them lately. In May and for the most of June everyone commented that, "The bugs aren't nearly as bad as they were this time last year." But in the past ten days or so, most people's comments about the mosquitoes can't be reprinted here. We emptied out our Mosquito Magnet on Wednesday, and it needs emptying out again already. Normally it's emptied every couple of weeks. I think we're going to have to start selling our lunch Baggies full of dead mosquitoes as souvenirs up at the store. How to attract visitors.... well, maybe not. Hopefully the bug situation will improve in the next couple of weeks as it usually does. I keep trying to look on the bright side. The fish in Nimpo will be getting big and fat on all that feed.
It's still pretty warm tonight with a very orange sun going down in the smoke haze. Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer yet so I think we can expect some good thunderstorms by tomorrow evening. At least the woods still seem to be pretty wet so a lightning strike shouldn't do much damage.

07/07/2009 2:35 PM

Hallelujah Rain

We finally got a what can only be termed an Hallelujah Rain. It started sprinkling just before supper time last night and then turned into a good solid rain that alternately increased in tempo, then lightened up again all through the night. In only a little more than 12 hours, my rain gauge says we received over 75mm of rain, or about three inches. It would make me doubt the accuracy of my rain gauge except that I've never seen that much water in it at one time before. All of the dog's dishes were over half full of water and Andy just finished bailing over 27 gallons of water out of his boat. It's a good thing a wind didn't come up or the boat would have sunk right there at the dock.
I don't think there's much to worry about in the way of forest fires after that lightning storm on Sunday now. Most fires will have been drowned in this rain since all of the Cariboo Chilcotin was supposed to get hit with this weather system. While the Protection Branch website shows 10 new lightning caused fire starts for yesterday, that will probably have been before this rain started last night. Right now I think you would have a tough time starting a fire anywhere in the woods. The firefighters have to be breathing a big sigh of relief, as are we. This kind of moisture will keep the woods in good shape for at least a couple of weeks, even in hot, dry weather. We don't normally get a good soaking like this but it couldn't have happened at a better time.
I had great plans for working outside today, especially after the formation of a brand new and very large rock garden. However, walking outside right now is kind of like walking on slippery snot and it's still sprinkling off and on. That means working inside today but it's hard to get motivated after spending the last few weeks outside. The upside of all this rain is that I don't have to worry about watering lawns or gardens for some time now. Just the greenhouses.
The neighbour called this evening asking if we knew of a deer that had been killed because his dog brought home the head of a small doe. The neck had been cut cleanly so he knew it was human caused and not animal. We told him about the bits of deer that I had found on another neighbour's driveway and since it's not far from this guy's place, his dog could easily have found where other parts of the carcass had been disposed of. I still find it to be a damned shame and would very much like to know who's responsible.
Worse yet, Andy was just reading in a magazine that our Conservation Officers have been cut back even more and that the government doesn't want them to respond to any more calls after their shifts are over. It won't take the poachers long to find out that they can shoot game illegally after four in the afternoon without fear of getting caught unless the general public starts policing surrounding lands. Add that to the environmentalists who've won a ban on hunting grizzly and black bears in yet a larger area on the north and central coast. Both are predators that prey heavily on wildlife in BC. and these extremists are advocating a complete ban on hunting grizzly bear in British Columbia. How I would love to see a few of these greenies like Gwen Barlee of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee be eaten by a grizzly bear. In fact, that's exactly what it's going to take is more people's lives down on the Lower Mainland and Island to be endangered by bears before the extremists will back off. Just tonight on the news it showed a woman with a baby and small child in Gibson's Landing threatened in her home by a black bear that walked into her house. These city people just love to see the cute, cuddly little bears out in the wild. They should try living with them as we have to and deal with them as the local ranchers have to. The majority of townies tend to support letting the bears overpopulate the 'wilderness' because they're in cities and towns and know damned well that for the most part, they're in no danger from bears. And selfishly, they could care less about people who don't want to live in the cities and do have to deal with bears. So it won't hurt my feelings at all if a few bears want to move in on the townies. We'll see then how precious they think these bears are. Apparently not very. The one that walked into the woman's home was shot.

06/07/2009 7:39 PM

Weather Turnaround

Our weather has finally taken a complete about face. Yesterday's hot, humid temperatures are at a cool, refreshing number today. Yesterday evening it dropped six degrees in less than an hour from 21C to 15C when some cool air rode in on the thunderstorms coming from the east. While I don't think it dropped much below 10C or 50F overnight, it didn't warm up that much today, either. We've had pretty good cloud cover all day and then just before supper time it socked in low and grey and has been sprinkling rain ever since. While we got a bit of a sprinkle yesterday evening, it didn't amount to much. However, most of central BC is under a heavy rainfall warning and the Chilcotin was included in that warning. It looks like a hellacious system is spiraling in from Washington State and it doesn't make me the least bit unhappy to see some rain. We can sure use it!
Andy and I were both working outside all day getting rocks for my rock garden and I was surprised that the mosquitoes were actually not that bad. Certainly not as horrendous as they were on Sunday when we had our steamy jungle conditions. Normally the bugs seem to like the cool, cloudy weather as well but they backed it off a bit for today, which was nice.
First thing today, Andy had me download the pictures off of the camera so I could take a look at what he snapped at about 6:30 this morning. He looked out the front window shortly after getting up this morning at one of the twin deer we've been sure were Whitetail, standing on our shore. I might add that our so called watch dogs didn't make a peep. Probably didn't even know she was there, and certainly she had no fear of all the dog scent around.
The next time Andy looked out the little deer was down by our dock and getting into the water. She swam clear across the lake and hopefully will now stay in the new area. It's far less accessible to people hunting the roads illegally and out of season so perhaps she'll see a little longer life than her sister did. I would still like to know who shot the other little deer this past week. If anyone knows anything, the information would be much appreciated. At least if we knew who shot the deer we could keep an eye out for their vehicle if we ever catch it on our road again.
More fires cropped up today, probably because of that series of thunderstorms that rolled through the entire Cariboo Fire region yesterday afternoon. I think they were reporting on fire 169 around supper time yesterday and were on fire 300 by early this afternoon, so they've seen some action. Reporting on the Cariboo Region's fire starts for Saturday were two lightning started fires and one human started fire. Stats for Sunday showed 26 new fires that were started by lightning and no human starts. That was before the spate of fires noticed since then and I expect those numbers will be on their website by tomorrow morning. Isn't it funny how the statistical data in reality just does not match what the various information officers for Forestry and Protection Branch state to be true when it comes to lightning and human starts in our area. It would seem that holds true for the number of fires reported by the lookouts as well. From what dispatch said to Alex Grahame around noon today, that lookout had just reported yet another smoke. So that's two fires spotted by each lookout in less than 24 hours that I know of. That means that each lookout only has to spot one more fire, if they haven't already, and they've met the criteria for the year as laid out by the Cariboo Fire Center. Which in turn means there is no reason in the world why we shouldn't have a lookout stationed here. Nor any more excuses. It's a shame the other two lookouts in the Chilcotin weren't also manned during that flurry of thunderstorms yesterday, or I'm sure they would have met their criteria for spotting fires as well. They weren't given that opportunity, though.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few days. If we get quite a bit of rain this week, it may put out any fires started by lightning but not noticed by forestry. However, if we only have a small amount of moisture it may only serve to keep a lightning strike fire damped down until it warms up again. That's happened more than once in the past!
I was just sitting here rereading what I had written when I had to laugh to myself. Truly, what a joke it is to push the Canadian Lightning Detection Network on us as being the 'Be All, End All' of technological 'magic'. I wonder if these 'townies' think that everyone that lives in the boondocks is an idiot.
Yesterday, everyone in the Cariboo Chilcotin knew where the storms were and where the lightning was. Just look up. Of course the lookouts were advising the Fire Center when they were seeing thunderstorm activity within their area. And no doubt the Detection Network was doing its job and reporting its 70% of strikes to the Fire Center. But the Fire Center still had to rely on the lookouts, Bird Dogs and other resources in the air, to spot smoke as well as send CIFAC crews here and there to check on reports of fires. One CIFAC crew was on their way to check out a reported smoke when they came across at least one more fire, but I'm pretty sure they said there were two unreported ones, that were near Redstone and Chezecut. In the end, what it comes down to is that their detection network does absolutely no good unless you go check out those locations to see if a fire started. I mentioned this in previous blogs that they were putting way too much weight on the detection service in their media relations. Yesterday's fire starts proved it doesn't mean much. You still have to expend the resources to check it out!

05/07/2009 11:46 PM

Let's Rumble!

There's been lots happening in the past week. I'm sure it's been a mixed up one for folks with the holiday in both Canada and the US. Happy Canada or Dominion Day to the Canadians and Happy Independence Day to you American folks.
We've had quite a mixed bag for weather this past week with it being hot and dry for the most part tossing in some humidity to make the bugs happy, and boy, are they ever!
We had super weather for a little Canada Day celebration at the neighbour's across the lake where a bunch of us enjoyed a fire, great food, super company and a really nice day. Like people from down at the other end of the lake, we attended via boat wearing life jackets. It's just a lot simpler to pop across to a party by boat than endure a half hour drive the long way around. Just make sure to install your life jacket before clambering into a boat after imbibing a few party drinks. Thank heavens Andy doesn't drink!
The day after that, we enjoyed a wonderful meal with a couple from Texas that I met through the blog years ago and who bought a cabin over on Anahim Lake three years or more ago. We had a wonderful pasta dish sporting local morel mushrooms and it's just a sample of what you can do with the wild mushrooms. These folks pick and dry them when they come up, put them in jars and give them as gifts to friends back home because I guess they're pretty expensive to buy. I had no idea they were that pricey and here we just take them for granted and often ignore that culinary delight in our own back yard.
Besides having the vegetative goodies in our woods, we also have animals which can provide food for families during hunting season. Unfortunately, I came across evidence this week that someone had shot and butchered an animal in the driveway of an absent neighbour. When coming across the gut bag and blood from a bleed out of an animal this time of year, I might normally assume it was a bear, coyotes, or wolves that killed an animal. But last time I checked none of the above find it necessary to leave behind blue rubber gloves after bleeding out and gutting an animal, nor do those predators leave tire tracks backing up and turning around at the scene. For that matter, none of the animals would have left behind intestines, etc. intact either. No, this was human work. I'm guessing that those twin deer we saw are no longer twins. I expect to see only one the next time. It's a shame that people find it necessary to kill animals out of season. I guess I wouldn't mind if it was a family that really needed it but I don't think that's the case here. And while natives can get away with 'subsistence' hunting, I've never seen them use rubber gloves to gut an animal. You only do that when you don't want people to see blood on your hands.
We've finally been successful in our push to have Kappan Forestry lookout manned during hot weather. I think we can thank Donna Barnett, the new MLA for that. Once a few of us got to talk to her about the problem, she picked up the ball and ran with it. Aside from contacting the Ministry of Forests, and paying a little visit to the Cariboo Fire Center, I'm not too sure what steps she took to shake things up, but she definitely did. As of Friday we had a Fire Lookout manning Kappan tower, and one at Alex Grahame, which is necessary since it's the only one with a land line to the Fire Center, so it provides a safety net for the other radio-only lookouts. We also had an Initial Attack crew stationed here over the weekend. Cariboo Fire Center will have been only too aware that hot weather was predicted for the area as it was for most of BC. And the Anahim Lake Stampede was on so an IA crew is always handy in case of campers with careless fires. However, campfires were not a worry this weekend so much as dry lightning.
With the hot, sticky weather of the past week, we've been waiting for a major thunderstorm to break out and it finally did today. There has been nothing in the way of moisture for some time and maybe that's why it took so long for thunderheads to build. We've been seeing temperatures to 25C or 77F, which is quite warm for our area, and clouds have built by afternoon every day, but they didn't develop into thunderheads, even with the warm nights.
By yesterday you could see the haze in the air that makes it feel heavy and stifling, but it cooled off yesterday evening and the air cleared. Today a high haze moved in but you could tell the UV index was still high. The air got so thick it was almost hard to get a full breath and going for a walk was hot, sticky, and pure misery. Even the dogs didn't seem all that enthused about the idea and slouched along the whole way with their tongues dragging on the ground, so I cut the walk short. Even so, it didn't seem to me that the clouds were building up for a thunder storm the way they did before, but I was wrong.
By supper time the thunder and lightning was rocking and rolling all around us. We were having supper when we saw a smoke to the south on the Hooch, a spotter circling above it, and a bomber dropping a load on it shortly after. You can see the two planes in the picture up on the right. Kappan lookout had just called in a second smoke up Morrison Meadows way that the spotters in the air couldn't see. This is unusual as I did receive a letter from someone that spots and carries IA crews for the Cariboo Fire Center who pointed out that the spotters often see fires that the lookouts cannot, usually because of geography. I concur completely, which would indicate that a combination of spotters or Bird Dogs and lookouts are most effective for proactive prevention of widespread forest fires in this area. And both have been used effectively together in the past. However, the fire on the east side of the highway above Morrison Meadow does indicate that the lookouts can spot fires that even the planes can't.
In about a two hour period tonight I knew of two fires that the Kappan lookout reported and one that Alex Grahame lookout reported. That's exactly half the number of fires that are required to be reported by lookouts in one year to meet the Cariboo Fire Center's criteria. Remember their 'criteria' I wrote about before? Well, two hours...... and half that criteria has been met already. I expect the other half got met this evening or will by daylight tomorrow because it's a major rumble out there, even now after midnight I can still hear the thunder rolling, and only an hour ago there was steady sheet lightning on our southern horizon. Prior to that Andy and I sat outside and watched lightning bolts hit the ground all to the south of us and played the kid's game of counting the seconds. Andy was cutting cantaloupe inside the house while I counted the storm down from 35 miles away to five and eight miles away by the time he got out on the deck with his dessert.
I'm really, really glad we got the lookout manned but I'm sorry we weren't able to get the rest manned throughout the Cariboo. Forestry personnel that was out this weekend told us to take down our signs warning the public that we had no lookouts as our tower was manned as of July 3rd. but did say it would only be manned during hot weather this weekend and probably not if it rained. That's okay with me and everyone else, I'm sure. I have no problem with a lookout being pulled if it's raining. I'm sure ours were bored to death if they were up there during our dreadfully rainy spring and summer of the last two years. But I expected them to be manned throughout the last of May and first couple of weeks of June when we had that hot spell, and I expect them to be manned any time in the future when those conditions occur. I'm also happy to see the IA crew here. No, I don't expect them to be based here if the weather doesn't warrant it, but I do expect to see them here when it does. So I guess we'll just see how all this plays out.
In the meanwhile, we did get a little rain shower with that thunderstorm this evening. It wasn't a lot of moisture but if it helps to dampen down the woods at all, then it's appreciated. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, we aren't the only ones appreciating the recent humidity and I'm sure the mosquitoes will be dancing in the grass at the most recent moisture. While the bugs have been quite bearable for most of this spring and summer, they've been absolutely rotten for the past few days. This hot weather brought hatches on and the mosquitoes, black flies, and horse flies are wicked! Particularly the mosquitoes. They're just plain nasty, and especially if you have your face anywhere near dirt (transplanting) or if you're anywhere near water, which is all the time for me because I water lawns and flowers here constantly, and change water over at the neighbours' everyday.
I wanted to be outside the other evening but the bugs were so bad you couldn't stand still out there, so we decided to go fishing on Nimpo to get away from them. Poor Andy must have been bitten a hundred times just trying to get the electric motor hooked up on the boat prior to going out. But once we got out on the water, it was great and we even caught a couple of nice trout for last night's supper. By all reports, fishing is terrific on all the local lakes right now, but it's really going to town on this lake and the trout are definitely getting fat on all those mozzy's. One rainbow trout pulled out just a week or so ago weighed in at four pounds. That's a lot of mosquitoes!
This is the start of a new week so June's articles can be found at June Week Two. Like this past month, blogs may be few and far between. It depends on the weather but for the most part when it's nice, I'm outside working and most definitely not on the computer, so unless I deem something critical that needs to be written about, you'll find me a lot less consistent with blogs in the summer. For example, I scored some asparagus seedlings from a neighbour so I need to kick some plants out of the greenhouse into an outside bed to make room. But that's not quite as simple as it sounds, so..... a wasted day doing that means no blog. Besides, everyone should be outside enjoying their own gardens or preferred summer recreation now, not sitting inside reading a blog! That's what I tell my husband, anyway. Mainly because he gives me grief every day for not having one written so that he can go on his computer and read it. Do we need a life, or what?
Have a good week, everyone!

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!
A deer's head is reflected in water as it swims.
Tanker and spotter plane above a fire.
Tanker plane dumps over a smoky forest fire.
Red eyed loon in green water.
Blue boat on Nimpo Lake with a mountain backdrop.
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