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Wilderness Adventures - June, Week 3/2007

This is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without the smog!
If you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes, exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read stories like 'Lake Monsters' - just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

Rolling over an image will give you its description.
Check out the Picture of the Day.

29/06/2007 5:05 PM

Three Bears

The neighbour down at other end of Nimpo Lake posted this interesting video on You Tube with bears he ran into at the top of the Bella Coola Hill and has kindly given me permission to post the link Logan and the Three Bears here. It's quite the video and well worth seeing, although I admit I'm not sure I would have put my fingers down to the mouth of a black bear cub.
Logan drives our ambulance at Anahim Lake and on a recent trip at the top of the Bella Coola Hill he caught this great video of a black bear sow and her two cubs, one of which seemed determined to meet the human. Surprisingly, the sow wasn't as protective as I would have expected her to be, although she was keeping a close eye on the proceedings.
If you take a good look at the video, you'll see all the bugs both on the animals and wandering back and forth in front of the camera lens. I feel so sorry for all the wildlife out there suffering under our bug onslaught. I expect all the animals will be looking a bit mangy by the time the mosquitoes and black flies die off.
At least the bears will have an excellent berry crop for dining on this summer. With all this rain we noticed strawberries and raspberries are coming on gangbusters this year.
Because the temperature stayed relatively high through the night Wednesday night, and there was a small rain yesterday morning, the mosquitos were absolutely ferocious first thing in the morning. But we had sun and a good wind later on, making it bearable to work outside all day as long as you were armed with bug spray and mosquito coils. I sure feel for our summer visitors right now, especially if they're not used to bugs.
Today we're back to a mixture of sun and rain and wind, and right now there's some wicked black clouds moving in. For sure we'll see rain, yet again, and possibly thunder and lightning, so I'm going to get this up and posted as soon as possible before I have to shut my computer down if the power goes out.
A new toy came into the yard today, just for that eventuality. We finally got a generator, something I figure that in view of all our red and dead trees, is just as necessary for this country as a fire pump. Now if we get an extended power outage, we can keep our water pump, freezers and fridge running.
Just a reminder to everyone, the British Columbia Floatplane Association AGM is next weekend so if you're coming up, make sure to get your accommodations booked as soon as possible.
Here comes the storm so I'm out of here!

27/06/2007 6:05 PM

Town Day

Yesterday was town day for us. Do the shop for things you can't get here and we had to go up to Springhouse Airpark so Andy could take a spin in a wheeled plane. Although I realize there are a lot of early morning people out there....I'm not one of them. And leaving the Chilcotin to mingle with a bunch of people in Williams Lake is not my favorite thing to do. However, getting out of here by 5:30 in the morning is the only hope you have of driving the 200 miles, getting everything done that needs to be, and returning home at a reasonable time so that you can get everything unloaded and put away before bed time. Remarkably, we did fairly well yesterday and managed to get home by supper time.
We stopped off at the rest area at the top of the hill above Lee's Corner to let the dogs out. There was a tent there and lo and behold, the two red bikes with the trailer behind it that we saw down at Split Rock a full week before. There was no sign of life so we continued on our way and wondered if we would see the bikers on our return trip.
Williams Lake was hot and muggy as usual, and fighting traffic two days before the Stampede starts was not fun. It's funny but when you're talking to people in town, they all get ready to clear out by the weekend when the Stampeders move in. I can remember doing exactly the same thing when I lived in Willy's Puddle. Forget sleep or getting around town during Stampede time. For visitors, it's party time and that's just all.
Coming across the bridge at Sheep Creek just out of Williams Lake the Fraser River is still really high. You could see where it was probably about six feet higher only very recently but even now, the river runs from bank to bank with no shoreline. I think that the Lower Mainland is probably very lucky that the weather turned so cool and slowed the snow melt the last few weeks.
We topped out at Sheep Creek and around Riske Creek the two red bikes we had seen parked at Lee's Corner that morning were headed our way. We pulled over and called to the riders as they rode up, explaining that we had spoken to them down in the Bella Coola Valley the Tuesday before. They were hoping to make it to Williams Lake that evening but we weren't sure they could without having a late ride. We told them when they asked that there were no stores between them and the Puddle and I offered them juice and groceries if they needed it. Nope. They were fine. They sure are a self sufficient and independent couple. I was pleased to see they had made it up the 'Hill' and that the little tyke was still smiling and happy, this time riding up front of his Dad near the handlebars. At least the bears didn't eat them. Although I got the distinct impression that the bugs did!
We actually woke up to some really beautiful weather this morning with some sun and no breeze. That actually wasn't a good thing because I wanted to work outside today. The bugs were downright obnoxious all day so I had three mosquito coils surrounding my work area and I lost count of my bug spray applications. All that and it was still only just bearable. I don't know where all these rotten things are coming from but most locals admit this is about as bad as they've ever seen it. I know that after awhile they can drive you half crazy. I can understand why some of the early explorers and the miners during the goldrush would go stark raving mad, as did many of their mules and horses. No bug spray in those days.
I only got a chance to look at the temperature once today, and that was later this afternoon, but it read 21.5C or a little over 70 degrees Fahrenheit. That may not seem very hot but when you've been registering little over 10C for the past while, it seems like a heat wave. Mind you, we've got nothing on Eastern Canada, where people have been suffering under smog alerts and a heat wave with temperatures well over a 100 degrees. Manitoba has been getting hit with numerous tornados while Saskatchewan has been drowning under several inches of rain at a time. So I guess I'm not going to complain too much about our area.
25/06/2007 5:02 PM

2007 Water Skipping Races

The annual snowmobile races on the Dean River occurred this past Saturday after being delayed for a week because of high water. They were supposed to start at eleven in the morning but I learned from experience last year that we wouldn't miss much if we arrived after one. And we didn't.
This time I hooked Andy into going with me because he's never seen them before. Two machines had already gone before we got there but neither looked like they made it past the second corner.
The Dean River makes some sharp S turns as it winds its way through the Ulkatcho Reserve in Anahim Lake. Apparently it isn't too hard to learn how to get through the first two turns on the river. What gets everyone is a right angle turn on the river with deep, deep water called the Swimming Hole.
Each snowmobile rider runs his machine down the river negotiating the bends to the Stampede Grounds where there's a spot wide enough on the river to turn around and return. The rider that has the best time in his class (size of snowmachine) wins that class.
Not long after we arrived one of the snow machines that had been pulled out of the river and was sitting in the meadow caught on fire when they tried to get it started again. Eventually it came back in under its own steam after a couple of more contestants sank trying to run the river, and its rider took it through all the corners and clear down to the other end where there's room enough to get turned around and come back up the river. We figured someone was finally going to make the whole run when we heard the sound of the snowmobile as it screamed back up the straight stretch. Unfortunately, the Swimming Hole corner got him coming back and cheers turned to disappointed, "Oh no's!".
We walked along a path through the trees down to the swimming hole hoping we would make it there before the next contestant started his run. They were still trying to pull the snowmobile up onto shore and through the tight grove of trees when we arrived and shortly after you could hear the roar of a machine coming down the river. A yellow skidoo came flying around the corner but seemed to be losing speed fast. The motor died and it just sank, the rider sinking nearly as fast with his heavy boots and helmet dragging him down. The rescue raft came around the corner only just in time because Andy was beginning to think he might have to get wet.
Once out of the extremely cold, extremely deep water, the kid riding the machine said something went in the motor just as he rounded the corner, which explains why the speed dropped so suddenly. Otherwise, he might have made it. The water is so deep in the river this year that they had to use a long piece of rebar, curved on the end, to hook the rope hung over the hood of the snowmobile. Actually, it took them awhile just to find it in 8 to 12 feet of murky water, much less hook it and pull it out using a fourwheeler.
Last year, most of the machines had a rope looped across the hood with a jug attached to it. If the machine went in, it would sink but the jug on the end of the rope would pop to the surface. No one seemed to be using jugs this year. Maybe it was considered bad luck to attach something that you would only need in the event your machine drowned.
We heard another machine coming in the distance as soon as the skidoo was out of the water but it didn't even get past the first bend before the sound died. Because all the machines were going in the drink, it was quite a while between each run because every machine had to be out of the water before the next one ran the river. We finally tired of the mosquitoes, the rain, and the long wait between races and left for home. I had seen the races last year where machine after machine succeeded in running the whole river and best time won for each class, but I don't know if anyone did it this year. I guess in that case the winner is judged on how far he got on the course before sinking.
Needless to say, waterskipping is an extremely interesting sport. Fun to watch but I'm not sure how fun it is to do. I'm assuming you need a real A type personality to risk hypothermia and drowning by running a river on a snowmachine....
If you would like to know more or see lots of pictures on last year's waterskipping, you can find it at May, Week Three 2006 and June, Week One 2006.
24/06/2007 3:51 PM

Last Of The Prairie Saga

Tying up loose ends.
Our friends had a great laugh when we reached East Branch at the top of the Bella Coola Hill, something I meant to mention before. East Branch is the parking lot and jumping off point for those who like to cross country ski or snowmobile in the Rainbow Mountains in winter, or hike in summer. At the parking lot there is an outdoor washroom high in the air with stairs leading up to the door. The girls wondered why in the world you would have a bathroom in the air. I told them there can be so much snow up there in winter that the door of the washroom has to be that high off of the ground or you would never get into it. Check it out on the bottom at the right!
We had a lot of float plane traffic on Nimpo Lake in the last few days that our friends were here from Saskatchewan. It looked like a lot of the pilots were from down at Wilderness Rim but the Dean on Nimpo had a barbeque and old time fiddle playing at the resort one night this week. Tweedsmuir Air has also been doing a lot of flying lately, probably taking fishermen up to some of our great alpine fishing lakes. In any case, our friends got to watch a few planes taking off of the lake. I think they were a little concerned about dodging them at first but the boats on Nimpo Lake are always better off continuing to do what they were doing and let the pilots judge where they need to go.
One thing that we've been seeing on the lake that is most unusual for right now are loons grouping up. I don't ever remember seeing anything but pairs this time of year while the loons are nesting. Just a little while back I saw six together in front of the big island. While fishing on Thursday I was concentrating on trying to get a fish in when four loons bobbed past us on the waves. And Saturday I looked out in front of our place as two pairs warily made their way toward each other. They passed, then circled each other much like dogs would on passing in the street. Then all four put their heads in the water and went about the serious business of fishing for lunch. It absolutely amazed me because all I have ever seen loons do, particularly males, is to battle at this time of year. However, Andy pointed out that all four of these birds were quite small and were probably immatures that were born here last year. We don't know if perhaps they have to reach two or older before mating, if they are all males or all females, or if they are mixed, perhaps there's a shortage of nesting areas on the lakes. Loons are pretty particular about where they nest and it's partly because we have so many small bays and a few islands that we have such a healthy population. It's certainly nice to see that higher population continue to this extent.
I think I've mentioned before that we've had a black bear sow with three tiny cubs hanging around Nimpo Lake on the highway for several weeks now. I was lucky enough to see her last Sunday while on the way back from Anahim Lake with my two friends from Saskatchewan. The one girl was thrilled because she'd never seen a cub in the wild, much less three. The sow crossed the highway long in front of us so I had time to get my camera ready and get the truck slowed right down before I got to where I estimated her to be. We watched for some time as she made her way through a barbed wire fence and slowly up a hill alongside an old log snake fence. She had to go slowly because at least one stubborn cub was more interested in investigating things along the way than it was in following her. Another held back a little but wasn't too bad, and the third stayed right on her heels. She finally went on, ignoring the
Three black bear cubs follow their mother up a hill.
laggard and obviously expecting it to come along eventually. We had heard that some people at Fishtrap got between her and one of her cubs last week but that the sow did nothing. I'm willing to bet that little guy was the loner then too. It seems unusual that a sow would allow her cub to be separated from her but maybe she's just plain fed up with this little runaway and just doesn't care. I expect the black flies are far more on her mind than her straying cub right now.
The picture up above is one of the few in which I could get all four animals in the same frame and I got this one just before the little guy deked off into the woods again. I expect the sow probably came out of a nearby winter den and can't go that far with three small cubs, which explains why she's hanging out in the same area. I just hope someone doesn't decide to panic and dispose of her. She's certainly not hurting anyone and we all know to stay away from her, but sure enough, someone will complain to the Wildlife Branch. I only hope she and her cubs don't get too used to humans until she can move them out of the area.
One picture I would have loved to have gotten but only heard about, was of two grizzlies mating down in the Bella Coola Valley the same day we were down there. A friend of ours was telling us her partner saw the bears along the highway and he and the occupants of three other vehicles watched the activity for about ten minutes. And of course, no camera. I'm sure anyone that studies bears would like to see some video of an event like that. I don't think I've seen any of that sort of footage on the wildlife shows on television so I shouldn't think it's caught on camera that often.
I'll try to get to the waterskipping event in an article tomorrow, but I may have to start a new week fairly quickly to show all of the pictures. Just to remind everyone, the British Columbia Floatplane Association has changed their AGM from the middle of the month to July 6. That's the same weekend that the Anahim Lake Stampede will be happening. For pilots that read this article, Cora, from True North Expediting, can provide shuttle service to and from the Anahim Lake Airport as well as to and from Nimpo Lake and the AGM location. You can contact them at 250-742-3508 or for more information, go to their listing on this site under Business.

23/06/2007 1:10 PM

The Prairies Come West

I delight in showing off our part of the Chilcotin to visitors and I always hope that conditions are going to be just right. Unfortunately, as I mentioned in yesterday's article, sometimes you just can't win for losing. However, bugs and bad weather aside, I did get to show our friends from Saskatchewan around Anahim and Nimpo Lake a bit. The general stores in both communities are unique and interesting, in that they try to provide the necessities to community members that include a good selection of groceries, fishing gear, hardware, tack and gifts.
Our weather wasn't really clear enough to take them up to some of the viewpoints where you can see all of the mountain ranges and many of the lakes in the area but I'm hoping that will give them a good excuse to come back. I was really hoping to take them to the waterskipping races because everyone needs to see a little insanity once in awhile, but it was postponed until today and they had to leave yesterday.
We did get to take our friends down the "Hill" to Bella Coola and the view along the way can be pretty breathtaking. Aside from deer we also saw eight bears that day. They were all black bears and I was hoping for a grizzly but the rivers are really high and I don't think the salmon are running much yet. Judging from the direction all the bears were moving though, I expect they had fish on their minds.
We stopped off at the Fisheries Pool on the Atnarko River to show the girls everyone's favorite salmon fishing river. We had hoped they could try a little trout fishing but the river was way too high and the water was just boiling.
We did a little shopping in Hagensborg and then went down past the marina in Bella Coola to Clayton Falls where there's a hydro electric generating plant that provides electricity to the entire Bella Coola Valley. There's a recreation site there that sits out on a little point of land right on the salt water inlet where mountains rare up on the other side and you can see a number of waterfalls fed by higher elevation snow melt. We enjoyed a picnic there and then continued on to the Falls. There's a short walking trail to a viewing platform that extends out over the Falls.
That is one breathtaking view, let me tell you. The river at Clayton Falls roars down over huge boulders that have been smoothed by the massive volume of water, shooting a fine mist into the air. A huge tree had been uprooted at the base of the Falls this spring from the look of it, and it was apparent that the water had been much higher and wilder only a short time ago.
We came back past the marina to a small grotto where I wanted to show our friends a beautiful waterfall tucked in the trees just off the highway. In fact, Andy and I never knew they were there. Other friends of ours from Saskatchewan spotted them as we drove by a couple of years ago and I still think it's one of the prettiest spots I've ever seen.
Back in the Bella Coola townsite the girls wandered around checking out the stores, one of which is an excellent gift shop with just about everything under the sun, including a vast array of oversized rods and fishing gear.
On the way back to the bottom of the "Hill', we stopped off at Split Rock, the beginning of a really beautiful hiking trail inside Tweedsmuir Park. I swear, every time I pass that rock, the split is wider. If it weren't for a tree holding up the one piece, I think it would have fallen over. Never mind that it's bigger than a truck.
We spoke to a young couple from Germany on mountain bikes, one of which was rigged with a trailer/buggy in which sat a small, smiling boy. They were going to try to pedal to the bottom of the "Hill" by the evening and then take it on the next day. We asked how they bike up grades varying between 9% and 18% such as those on the Bella Coola Hill. The girl asked if it was pavement because then they can tack back and forth across the road. When we told her it was gravel she said they would have to push the bikes loaded with all their camping gear up the hill. I wondered how they were going to push a bike up a hill that steep that was pulling a trailer and she said she would have to ride up a ways, and then return to push the trailer from behind while her husband pushed the bike. I looked at our truck trying to gauge whether we could fit their rigs and them in it but they seemed content to do it on their own. Since we had just passed three bears behind them I was a little concerned about their safety and their ability to make the hill, but they seemed to know what they were doing. We all thought about them as we drove up the hill, trying to figure out how far up they could get before they would have to camp each day. It's a good thing they looked really fit because I don't think they had a clue what was before them.
Andy was following the space shuttle Atlantis throughout the week on the computer and we were fortunate enough to have clear weather the one night when they were going over us while the shuttle was attached to the space station. Although the moving point of light looked a lot smaller because of course, it was much farther away, it took a full five minutes to cross the night sky, giving us all time to study it and congratulate one another on our good fortune. I'm glad to see the Atlantis got down safely.
Today's weather has been the usual. There was actually mist on Nimpo Lake this morning because the temperature dropped low enough last night. The morning started out to be a really pretty one but as usual, it deteriorated into mixed sun and cloud with some wind and quick rain showers. The Jet Stream has really dipped to the south of us, which is why I think we have such cool weather right now. Add to that a low pressure system spiraling out off our coast, being fed by another off the coast of Alaska, and it all means inclement weather.
Today's the waterskipping races down at the reserve so I think I'll quit now and go take some pictures of some very creative snowmobile riding.

22/06/2007 11:09 AM

The Party's Over!

The holiday with our friends from Saskatchewan is over and it's time to get back to work. I know there were a few of you wondering where the stories were and it's true, I felt guilty. Honest! But sometimes it's nice to get away from feeling obligated to write an article every day and just take a break. Especially when friends are out visiting.
I managed to sneak some time in here and there to work on web pages when our friends were out fishing, but frankly, I didn't miss this computer one little bit!
Since our friends are avid fisherwomen, we figured around the first to middle part of June would give them some excellent fishing, and we hoped for good weather and few bugs. Unfortunately, things don't always work out the way you want them to. If we weren't dealing with driving rain, we were fighting high winds that didn't slow down the bugs a bit. I think that the really warm spell we had a while back and then extremely cool weather slowed down the hatch. As a result, we had ferocious black flies and swarms of mosquitoes all at once. It couldn't have been worse.
In view of the wild weather, shortly after arriving the one girl asked if we ever had bad hail storms. "Nah," I replied, "We get hail but just little stuff." Less than a day later I was outside scrambling to protect plants on the deck being shredded by giant hail stones while trying to keep from being brained by these things. They hurt! I had to accuse my friends of bringing their Saskatchewan weather with them.
In addition to that, our friends have never fished a high altitude lake for rainbow trout before. Accustomed to fishing for pickerel, walleye and jackfish, they spent a lot of time changing rigging trying to figure out what our fish would like. They didn't get skunked by any means, but rather than pulling in their limit each day, they often only had one-fish days. I was extremely disappointed for them, but they did mention a friend that could have fun in a mud puddle. I would have to say the same for them. They seemed quite happy with the situation and took the rain, wind, bugs, and tough fishing in stride. Amazing.
I look forward to the day they can come back and see the Chilcotin the way it should be seen. Beautiful mountains, gorgeous days with flat, calm water and great fishing. Oh yeah, and late enough in the season that all those flying little buggers are gone!
Trying to find a good location on Nimpo Lake to fish was also a bit touchy. We usually fish the bay in front of our place and advised our friends to do the same. But when we went out we found the first fish we caught was, unusually, the same as the one they caught. Very slim and the meat was very pale. Andy suggested that they were probably fish that had finished spawning and were coming in from the Dean River, since that flow goes past our point. I suspect he may be right because once we all fished farther out, the trout were their usual plump, red selves.
We finally put the big boat in and Andy and I decided to go out and see what was happening with the fishing. We did okay with five brought in, so I suspect the equipment was the key. Ever since Andy got me onto using a sinking fly line and rod with only a fly trolling behind us, I have never gone back to a casting rod. I can feel a strike much better and I love the action you have on a fly rod. I'm a far cry from being an expert fisherman, but I don't think you have to be with a fly rod. One of our friends got to check that out on the last day and I'm hoping we have her convinced to buy one and check it out on their Saskatchewan lakes.
The downside of all the bugs is that the rainbow trout in Nimpo Lake had an all day buffet and convincing them to take a lure or fly was tougher than usual. The upside was that you couldn't work outside in any comfort. That meant we were left to enjoy good food, good drink, good company, some card playing and some guitar music. Oh yeah. The card playing. Don't ever teach two aggressive Saskatchewan card players Texas Holdem' unless you want to lose all your toothpicks and matchsticks!
The East meets West saga continues in the next article.
As you will see, this is the start of a new week so you can find the second week of June at June, Week Two.

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The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip of the iceberg, so join me!

Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Waterskipping with a snowmobile on the river.
Yellow skidoo riding the river around a corner.
Snowmachine sinking into the river.
Split Rock marks a trail head.
Black bear in the Bella Coola Valley.
A small hidden set of falls along Highway 20.
High volume of water falling over smoothed rocks.
Red bear at the foot of the Bella Coola Hill.
A building in the air at the top of the Bella Coola Hill.
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