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Wilderness Adventures - June, Week 1/2009

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.


10/06/2009 4:46 PM

Quick Storm Update

We've had a lot of lightning around for the last two days but we've been fortunate in that it rains shortly afterward. Yesterday started out quite sunny but it just got hotter and more and more sultry the later the day got. Some big thunderheads started building early in the afternoon and thunder was rolling all around us. Suddenly the temperature dropped and we ended up with quite a downpour. It didn't last long but it amounted to over half an inch of rain, which was badly needed and much appreciated.
It really cooled off last night but this morning it started heating up again really fast and hit 21C or 70F by noon. Then the clouds started building again and the thunder started rumbling in all directions. We didn't lose our sun until about two and it was easier to see the lightening flashes. The temperature dropped eight degrees in less than an hour and we got another good downpour this afternoon. There was enough rain to leave some pretty major puddles out there so it should have dampened down any fires that might have been started by lightning strikes.
It's really nice to see the rain. We really needed it in the woods and it's going to be nice to back off on watering lawns and flower beds for a few days. I'm sure the mosquitoes will be having a heyday with all this new moisture but they haven't been too bad yet. Besides, I'm always up for a good thunderstorm even if it does bring the bugs out and there's a chance of a fire being started. There's just something about listening to thunder rumbling that can't be matched by anything else!
Someone mentioned up at the store that they saw a fire from a boat while fishing out on the lake yesterday but didn't say where it was, or whether someone was just burning in their yard, which they certainly shouldn't have been, but it depends on whether it was before or after the rain yesterday. They're supposed to be coming back to the store later so I asked Leah to get a description of the location so we can go take a look. It's more than likely that any fire was put out by they rain but if it got down into the duff, it can burn for weeks without being all that noticeable. If you do see a fire and don't want to report it officially, leave the information at one of the stores and ask them to contact us. That way we can at least check it out or know what direction to look for smoke.

08/06/2009 8:04 PM

Weather Change

Our weather has taken a turn. Yesterday was not a bad day but the air was weird and it was pretty smoky out there and the mugginess brought out the mosquitoes in the evening in a big way. Today was similar but twice the weather broke and it rained. The first time it rained, the temperature had already climbed up to 17C by eleven this morning. An hour later it had dropped five degrees and then we ended up with a tiny little downpour. It actually got sunny and hot this afternoon and I decided to grab a walk before the mosquitoes got too bad. Then big thunderheads rolled in, we heard the rumble of thunder a few times, and then we got another downpour. It didn't last for long and it will be dry by morning, but anything that helps to damp down the woods a bit is a big help. It helps to hold down the pine pollen and dust a bit as well. But the sultry air and damp ground are a real boon to the mosquitoes and lots of other bugs. They haven't been unbearable at all, but I expect that to change now.
There's nothing prettier than the bright, spring green of new aspen leaves popping out and the heat this last week has certainly changed the scenery that way. Aspens create an immediate privacy screen all around, along with the willows and wild roses that have finally leafed out.
I can't believe how much my garden plants and the lawn have grown in just the past week. You can pour the water to plants but they still need that sunshine to really take off. Add a little rain full of nitrogen and you get conditions you just can't seem to duplicate with chemicals.
We've had beautiful sunsets in the west for the last few days because of smoke and cloud on the horizon, and last night the rising moon was something to behold! It was a big, fat, red-orange moon and it reflected those colors on the water as it was rising. You could see fish rings on the surface of the water in the moonlight all night. This morning I watched young fish playing and feeding near our shore from the breakfast table, and this evening you can see the fish rising all over a flat calm lake that's pink from the sunset. I have to admit, everything just seems quieter and the air smells fresher after a little rain.
Well, I've written all the news stations I can, contacted the newspaper in Williams Lake, the CO from the local RCMP Detachment, an emergency coordinator from the Regional District, and our MLA, about the lack of lookouts in the Forestry towers. I can't think of much else that I can do to get some attention on the problem and get the ball rolling. However, I was told by one of the above that none of the lookouts are being manned in BC, so it may not be just the Cariboo Fire District dicking us around. We also found out tonight that the Tweedsmuir Park fisheries campground in the Bella Coola Valley is still gated and locked, and this is the first week of June! It seems that suddenly whole swaths of things no longer have money budgeted for them. Andy figures that the BC Government is so deep in debt with the Olympics and now the recession, that if there's anything outside of the Lower Mainland and big city centres in the southern part of BC that requires money, we're out of luck and on our own. In other words, we're screwed because we're rural and our votes don't count so why give us anything? So in return I guess about all I can say is you'll find our gates closed should there ever be an earthquake, weather event, or other natural disaster on the Lower Mainland and people need to move north or into the rural areas. You're more than welcome to sit in your own cesspool. The way I figure it, what goes round comes round and we never particularly needed the government before, so I expect we can do without them now. It's just too bad they continue to suck every penny they can out of us in property taxes, income taxes, and sales taxes, because we sure as hell don't get anything in return. I expect all rural areas in BC would be much farther ahead assessing, collecting, and using all taxes in their own districts. I pretty much guarantee we would get a lot more out of it than we do now. I'm suspect the cities benefit far more from our taxes than we do.
This is the start of a new week and should be start of a new blog, however, I'm not sure how much I can write this week. Because the weather was so nice and I wanted to get things done outside I let computer work slide for a week. As a result, I'm kind of booked to the max so unless something major comes up, it might be a few days to the next blog. Thanks for your patience folks!
Oh, I almost forgot. Marie's students are putting on their end of the year dance recital at 7:00 on Saturday night at the Nimpo Lake Community Hall. Everyone is welcome. If it's anything like it was last year, you'll be really impressed!

06/06/2009 7:20 PM

Forestry Putting Our Lives in Danger

What's happening with Forestry is two paragraphs down. First, a quick weather update, folks. Our temperatures are much cooler but it still made it to 20C or 68F this afternoon and is holding. We are actually slightly warmer than Williams Lake which is pretty unusual, but I think it's because there is a cool air mass moving down from the north through the central interior of BC. We're still on the warm side of the jet stream and that high pressure system that gave us all of the marvelous weather this past week.
Thankfully, that same air movement from the north has pushed the Lillooet smoke out and we were clear and sunny all day. Little or no haze over the mountains so it would be much easier for a lookout to see smoke from a fire. However, it would seem that we are screwed in that regard.
For all the years that I have lived in the Cariboo or Chilcotin, the Forestry lookout towers have been manned. The lookout is on the front line of forest fire detection, although spotters (planes and helicopters) have been used quite extensively in the past few years, but high fuel costs makes them much more expensive for fire detection.
If you look at the picture at the top on the right, that is only a tiny portion of the country that the lookout can see from the Forestry tower, and as you can see, they can see a fire from a long, long way away, even though the day this picture was taken, there was a lot of haze in the air from the fire at Lillooet. There are several lookout towers located strategically throughout the Cariboo and Chilcotin Regions so that what one lookout can't see, another can.
We've all wondered why we had no lookout up in the Forestry tower this year. We've also wondered why we have no IA or Initial Attack crew located at Nimpo Lake as there usually is. That's a three man team trained to go in on a fire as soon as it's spotted, try to contain it, assess it, and prepare landing spots for a helicopter and more crews if the fire warrants it. They're fast and mobile, and we've had a crew posted here every year that the weather warrants it. Apparently no longer.
I called into the Fire Control Officer at the Cariboo Fire Center yesterday evening and asked why no lookout and no IA crew and I pretty much got a run-around from him. He should have been a politician because he certainly did not give satisfactory answers to my questions. First he tried to deny that we normally have IA crews posted out here. That didn't work. Then he said that all IA crews for the Chilcotin are being operated out of Puntzi in the east and they can be here in 20 minutes.
I know that it's more efficient to base tankers, Bird Dogs (spotters), and even helicopters at Puntzi because of the big air base there, but I don't agree with IA crews being based at Puntzi as being efficient for us. First of all, an IA crew at Nimpo can go out 20 minutes from here in any direction and cover most of the West Chilcotin. So if they have to head out west or north of Anahim Lake, that's that much farther that a helicopter has to fly from Puntzi. If the fire is close in, even on the ground those guys can cover a lot of area without losing 20 minutes getting here from Puntzi in the first place.
I also have to question the FCO's insistence that an IA crew can be here in 20 minutes from Puntzi. As I understand it, the maximum speed of a Bell 406 L-4 Long Ranger helicopter is between 137 and 143 miles per hour. Since none of these guys are going to max their machine out, especially loaded with three guys in full gear and a helicopter full of equipment, I think the very best you'll see that helicopter do is about 120 Mph and 100 Mph is far more likely. At 51 air miles from Puntzi, and taking time to fire up the helicopter and get these guys loaded, I think that 30 minutes is a far more realistic figure for the very best possible time to get here. The A-Star is a little faster at 155Mph cruising speed and that makes 20 minutes a more realistic number but that's not taking into account start up and load time and that they aren't all A-Star helicopters.
But I think what blows me away the most is that we are not getting lookouts in the Forestry towers in the Chilcotin. They are our eyes and the first to detect fire. In a country that's extremely dry, full of standing dead beetle killed trees with several inches of dried fuel on the ground, to not have a lookout is like deliberately blinding us. It's insane. Especially if you look on the BC Forestry Protection website where it says in their words: "Fire fighters are most successful when wildfires are discovered and reported while they are still small. Through early detection and aggressive initial attack of wildfires, the Protection Branch is able to keep the cost of fighting wildfires to a minimum."
The FCO that I talked to claimed budget was the reason why we had no lookout. It's budget all right. I know how the Fire Center works. I took their course, worked for them out here during the McClinchy fire and then the Lonesome Lake fire a month later, and I did some dispatching for them. The Fire Center has a set number of positions that their budget allows for every fiscal year. Under the previous Fire Center Manager, Roy Simpson, there was always a forestry presence where needed and there were always lookouts manning the towers throughout the Cariboo Fire District. Now suddenly, under the new manager, Darrell Orosz, there isn't. Apparently he's from the Island, which we all know, gets a tremendous amount of rain. This would lead me to believe that this guy doesn't have a clue just how dangerously volatile those red trees are out there. For that matter, green forest has been burning for millennia without the help of red trees when conditions are right for a forest fire, and those conditions certainly exist throughout British Columbia right now. So where are the lookout people? Well something has to have happened to those positions that the Government budgets to the Forestry Protection branch every year. So where are they? I don't know, but you know something, I'm willing to bet that CTV, CBC or Global TV news journalists can find out. For that matter, maybe a journalist from the WL Tribune newspaper can. And I intend to find out if anyone out there is interested in following up on why we are being screwed. If any of you folks have any ideas on who else we can contact about this, please let me know!

05/06/2009 6:42 PM

Fire Danger

For those of you living in the Chilcotin and that read this blog: We've been informed that there is a high probability of dry lightening strikes in this region tonight. There is no one manning the Little Kappan Forestry lookout station so we're on our own. I realize that it's extremely difficult to see a smoke when the air is already hazy with it, but if you see a plume, report it to the Cariboo Fire Centre immediately. Please let residents in the vicinity know (even if that's 50 or 100 miles away) so that they can prepare their properties. I would suggest that if you own them, that you get your fire pumps and equipment ready to go.
It's 24C right now so it's still pretty warm out there and it's pretty breezy. With no initial attack crew posted in the vicinity as there is most years, the response to a forest fire in the area, especially with this wind, is going to be slow. Keep your eyes peeled, folks!

04/06/2009 8:04 PM

Heat

Our remarkable little heat wave is a lot like the Energizer Bunny. It just keeps on going and going. That's not something I mind at all since I love blue skies, and sunshine, and having been born in Arizona, I'm definitely not afraid of the heat.
It's been heating up through the week with today being the hottest day so far. Yesterday evening it got up to 25C or 77F in the shade and this evening it's at 26C or 79F in the shade. The sun won't go down until 9:30 so we've a little heat for a while yet. By the time we've had this kind of heat for a week, it starts getting pretty warm for sleeping, but having a heat wave this early in the year means it still cools down decently by early morning.
I know there are a few people, especially folks down in the southern States, that are laughing at what we call a heat wave here. Down there 77F is considered wintertime temperatures but here, 80F is on the high end for us. We rarely see temperatures much higher than that. Temps are definitely way above normal. The environment Canada spokesman said last night that this is the hottest first week of June in British Columbia since they started keeping records over 70 years ago. This, compared to last June, when we had the wettest and coldest June in 50 years. That's quite a marked contrast. I think that about 18 temperature records were broken around the province yesterday and I'm sure several records fell today.
We're pretty lucky right now because we only got that smoke from Lilloet for one day. It's still hazy over the mountains but we're not getting nearly as much smoke as Vancouver is. Their air quality is pretty nasty right now with an inversion layer, smoke from the Lilloet forest fire, and smog from too many cars on the road.
Speaking of fires, the Lilloet fire has now grown to nearly 5000 acres in size and is still less than 15% contained. A new fire broke out in BC on Monday at the junction of Smith and Liard River and has grown to 25,000 acres. There have been evacuation orders issued for three communities and the highway is closed between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake. Right now, firefighters are mostly concentrating on keeping the fire away from the Alaska Highway and protecting homes in the area because the fire is 0% contained.
Initially the weather forecasters on BC news stations were saying the Lower Mainland would see rain by Saturday which would bring relief from the fire danger, but they've changed that to a couple of days later. I wondered about that because if you watched the high pressure system on the weather channel, it wasn't moving anytime soon and it looked like we were going to be in straight sunshine at least until Monday. The news station weathermen have finally revised their forecast, so it looks like we'll continue with sunshine for a few more days. There is supposed to be a cool down coming in from the east but I'm not sure that it will make it as far west as where we are for a few days yet. But who knows? Good luck with trying to follow all of the colorful graphics and pretty little pictures the weather people have up on their screens because they cover such large areas of BC that the information they give is often just not reliable. Sometimes they remind me of kids with crayons.
For me, I'm just happy if this great weather continues. Yes it's hot and you start getting exhausted enough working in the heat that you start walking slower and slower. But we've lots of water so we can keep things nice and green, and keep things damp around here to reduce the chance of fire. Our fire pump is all ready to go, and while the mosquitoes have gotten downright ferocious in the evening, as long as it's this hot during the day the heat keeps them at bay for the most part.
I'm not sure that there will be an article tomorrow night as I have to go babysit a house, and I'm certainly not going to waste a gorgeous day that I can work outside, to on the computer inside! :-)

02/06/2009 8:42 PM

The New Radio Repeater

Nimpo has a new amateur radio repeater in the area, open to all licensed amateur radio operators. Andy and Bill went with our new neighbour, Ed, up onto TV Hill on fourwheelers to install the new antenna today. Ed suggests it could even be the first 'ham' radio repeater here, but that is hard to confirm. We do know that it is the only one here now.
Ed says it should provide radio coverage over an hour driving each side of Nimpo Lake and fill in a lot of the gap between Williams Lake and Bella Coola. He gives the following info: "The repeater is on UHF, as to not interfere with other existing equipment at the repeater site. The frequency is 444.825 MHZ within the usual plus 5.000 MHZ split and requires a tone of 88.5 Hz. Thanks to Andy and Bill for their help with the installation! Ed."
Thanks to Ed from all the amateur radio operators out there. I'm sure they'll appreciate the holes being filled.
The guys noticed that there is no one in the fire lookout up on TV Hill yet. That seems extremely odd in view of how dry the country is and the increased danger from forest fires. Either Cariboo Fire Center has been caught flat footed with the sudden warm weather and hasn't hired anyone yet, or the Liberal Government has cut back their funding and it's a budget matter. I can't see that happening though. As far as I know, the TV Hill or Little Kappan lookout station is part of a fairly important triangle of lookout stations for the Chilcotin. Although today it would not have been all that easy for a lookout to spot smoke. Our sky has gotten pretty hazy as the day progressed. Our wind has been out of the north for the last few days and our skies have been really clear, but today it switched and was blowing from the south. My guess is it's our turn to get smoke from the Lillooet forest fire, which incidentally, is still only 20% under control. They've had a real problem with winds down that way just as we have, and of course, that just fans the fire.
We had yet another magnificent day today with very little breeze. That did increase the bug count somewhat, especially when working around damp dirt, but it wasn't too bad at all. This evening was another matter! It was such an incredibly warm evening and the lake nearly flat calm, that we decided to go fishing after supper. We should have taken the bug spray because I don't know if we kept going through fresh mosquito hatches on the water or if the rotten things were just keeping up with us from shore, but we were inundated with those little light colored mosquitoes. They're fast as hell and hard to smack, and they were driving me half crazy. We caught one fish and then came on in because I just couldn't deal with the bugs. They weren't bothering Andy much, but if I don't have bug spray on, they drive me around the bend. I know, I know ..... I'm living in the wrong country if I can't stand mosquitoes! I don't have a problem with a few mosquitoes. I just don't like them when they come in hordes.
It was bound to happen that we would start getting a lot of the little buggers because it's just been too warm for too long. Our temperature in the shade got up to nearly 22C or around 71F, which is pretty warm for the first few days of June. A few temperature records were broken around the province today. It's still holding at 21C here and it's after nine in the evening, so it's going to be a muggy night. The bugs oughta enjoy that. No frost tonight!
We're finally getting enough sun and heat that you can watch the lawn green up while you water it. Today was a busy day just running around trying to catch up on watering. With this dry weather, it's suddenly all gotten away on me, mainly because I haven't hooked up my little irrigation systems up yet. I'm right at the stage where I need water on stuff, but it's still been freezing at night and you risk splitting the fittings on the system if it freezes too hard. Sadly, I already did that with the neighbours' sprinkler who's lawn I was watering. I didn't unhook the hoses a couple of evenings ago because there was no way I thought it would freeze. Sure enough, it froze hard enough to split the brass fitting on the sprinkler stand, rendering it useless. And I was the smart ass that was telling them a couple of weeks ago that they should be disconnecting the hoses for just that very reason. Apparently I'm no good at taking my own advice.
This beautiful weather is still supposed to hang in there through Friday. Tomorrow is supposed to be the hottest day for the coast while Thursday is set to be the hottest day for inland sections. By Saturday there's supposed to be a cool down and possibly rain for the Lower Mainland but the long range on the weather channel looks to be good through Saturday for us. I have to congratulate the weather forecasters because they all seem to be right for a change.... so far. Long range forecast from Environment Canada for the next three months is calling for unusually warm, dry weather for the western provinces and Yukon, while cool, wet weather is predicted for the eastern provinces. It's about time! I was getting tired of the rainy summers. Even one dry summer could make all the difference in the world to next year's mosquito crop. It's too bad we couldn't market those things. We'd all be rich!
I couldn't resist putting a picture up on the right under that of the antenna array on Little Kappan, of the rainbow trout we caught tonight. I've mentioned to people that the trout in Nimpo Lake has flesh the color of salmon, and many have not believed me, so aftern filleting the rainbow, I decided I was going to take a picture of the meat before we have it for supper tomorrow night. The proof is in the pudding! Or in this case, image.
I don't know if anyone cares out there, but last night my Sister-in-law expressed an interest in knowing where I was getting the information on active forest fires and fire situation maps. I'll post the link for all of Canada which has fire maps and gives maps for the same month last year so that the fire hazard can be compared: http://fire.cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/firereport/report-rapport-eng.php while the BC link is http://www.bcwildfire.ca/Situation/. and is a good source of information for the status of active fires.
01/06/2009 8:17 PM

June Arrives

We've finally made it to June, and if the Environment Canada was right about most of the last three months being unusually wet and cool, they were wrong about the last week of May. Although admittedly, we did get several inches of snow last week, it's actually been quite pleasant and the last two days have been absolutely magnificent!
Temperatures got up to 17C yesterday but today they've been holding steady at 20C or 67F all afternoon. Yesterday was fantastic with not a cloud in the sky and very little wind. Although the wind kicked up a bit more today, still not a cloud in the sky and you couldn't ask for a nicer day to be working outside. The bugs haven't even been all that noticeable except at certain times. It was such a beautiful evening that I decided to sneak outside and put some solar lights together. Everything was okay for a few minutes until I tried to put stakes out in the grass. Then I got swarmed by mosquitoes and I decided to call it quits. The bugs won. Still, if you're not on land, you're okay. There were a few fishing boats out on Nimpo Lake today and I see there are more out there this evening.
This warm weather will definitely bring a hatch on fairly quickly and working outside will become unbearable except during the hottest time of day, but at least we got a few excellent days in without having to pull out the bug repellent.
Andy and a few of the snowmachine bunch went quadding yesterday to clean up some old trails. I almost went but I couldn't imagine missing such a wonderful opportunity to work outside in my own yard. I certainly would have gone had it been really windy and miserable here because wind here means wind on the trail, which helps to keep the bugs down. Andy said they were just atrocious out there in the bush. No kidding, Sherlock! The guys never, ever tried to go out to clean trails until late fall when most of the bugs have been frozen out because there's nothing worse than clearing brush and stirring up mosquitoes on a closed in trail. The mosquitoes and black flies will just eat you alive.
Our newest additions to the quadding bunch found that out to their dismay last summer when they talked the guys into going quadding and clearing trail during bug season. Andy refused to go because he knew how bad it would be. Sure enough, the mosquitoes were so bad that when they stopped for lunch, they couldn't stop for lunch. They had to drive up and down the trail and in circles on their quads while eating their lunch because if they stopped long enough for the bugs to find them, they would be absolutely swarmed.
Bug season this year is already two weeks later than it has been for the last two years, testament to our cold spring, but it just might not get all that bad this year. (I'm hoping.) We hadn't had much for moisture before that snow last week, and we certainly haven't had any since. It's been warm and dry with high winds up to yesterday, and only breezy since. Still, it's all the right conditions for a forest fire.
Several forest fires have broken out all over British Columbia and there's a particularly nasty one down around Lillooet that has grown to some size. There's an evacuation alert in place because some homes are threatened. Two homes have been burned at Buffalo Creek northeast of 100 Mile House, and of course several homes were burned a few weeks ago at 70 Mile House. I was just looking at the fire situation report for BC online and was surprised to see how many fires have been out west here in the Chilcotin. Of 20 notable fires in the Cariboo fire district, nearly half have been on our side of the river. I guess we're a lot drier than I thought. If you look at the national map, western Canada is definitely in trouble with large parts of Alberta, Saskatchewan and central Yukon showing extreme, British Columbia next in line ranging from high to very high fire danger, with a small area in the south central interior showing extreme fire danger. There's no moisture in the forecast so things might get interesting this month.
As you can see this is the start of a new week. Last week's articles can be found at This is the start of a new week so you'll find last week's articles at May Week Four.






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!
Satellite dishes overlook lakes and forest.
 
Trout fillets on a plate.
 
Fisherman with sunset behind.
 
Three ducks along shore.
 
Quads among dead black trees.
 
Mountain view down the Atnarko Valley.
 
Quads in the middle of a burn.
 
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