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
Wilderness Adventures - Mar., Week One/2013
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The Hammer Dropped
you recall that I mentioned something about waiting for
the hammer to drop with regards to weather in the last
blog? Well it did
. In spades!
We were away in Kelowna for a week and got home on Friday
night. The highway was absolutely brutal from Williams
Lake, through Alexis Creek and nearly to Tatla Lake.
East of Tatla Lake we hit the dividing line between the
Alexis Creek highways guys and the Tatla Lake highway
maintenance crew and it was like night and day. Suddenly
we had plowed roads and could see where we were going.
For the two hours prior to that we were often down to
a snow covered single lane or snow so slushy that it wanted
to pull you sideways if you had to move over for oncoming
traffic. Thank heavens Highway 20 is not a busy one!
This side of Tatla we could hear a couple of truckers
talking on the radio about the road and the state of the
Hill and Heckman Pass. It sounded like the Anahim
Lake guys had their hands full trying to keep up but they
had done an admirable job on the roads south of Nimpo
so they were managing very well, somehow. One of the truckers
also mentioned that a foot of snow had fallen at Nimpo
Lake and we both thought, geez, thats quite an exaggeration
because you could see that there was only about four inches
of snow on the tree branches along the highway.
We got to Nimpo and pulled down onto the ice road and
headed into our place. It was evident that someone had
plowed the ice road and most of our driveway at some point
so that there was only about four to six inches on top.
It wasnt until we pulled in front of the
house where it hadnt been plowed and we went to
get out of the truck that we realized that the snow was
way over our boot tops!
Before we started unloading the truck I shoved a ruler
into the snow and it showed 10 and 1/2 inches of snow
there. It wasnt until later that I realized that
it is fairly protected there and that there was probably
more in places not protected by the house. I got to work
putting things away for the next couple of hours while
Andy got the Bobcat going and got a start on clearing
our yard and part of our driveway. Hes spent the
last two days doing that and clearing out driveways for
neighbours because by the next morning we got another
four inches of snow, bringing the grand total to
at least 14 inches in about five days. I think thats
more than weve gotten all winter!
The snow was really heavy and wet so I cant imagine
how much snow we would actually have accumulated had it
been our usual light fluffy stuff. It wasnt easy
to move with a shovel, I can tell you that! It turned
to cement as soon as you tried to push it. It was easier
to lift and throw. But at least it must have been warm
while we were gone and it was warm when we got home. A
lot of snow settled and quite a bit slid off steeper roofs
including the house, the greenhouse, and it even
looks like a lot of snow came off of the cabin roof before
building up a new layer. But Andy still had to spend an
exhausting morning on Saturday shoveling snow off of the
trailer port roof. It's a long, long gently sloping roof
and the snow just won't slide off of it.
Saturday I started up the plow truck and got myself plowed
out from down at the cabin and headed out to do the ice
road. I dropped the plow as I went down off our shoreline
onto the ice and then realized that there was overflow
ahead of me so I speeded up to get through it. I had to
turn onto the main ice road and realized that there was
even more overflow soaking into the heavy snow from the
day before and the additional four inches we had gotten
that morning. I started losing speed and realized
that I was in water and deep slushy overflow and in trouble.
I raised the plow and gunned my poor truck for all she
was worth, saying, C'mon Betsy! Keep going, baby,
keep going!!!! Snow and water were slamming onto
the windshield and I couldnt see a bloody thing.
All I could do was hope I was still on the ice road and
keep going hell bent for election. The poor truck was
in four wheel drive low so the motor was just screaming
even after I slammed it out of second and into drive to
gain a little more. Im trying to do all this at
the same time as Im trying to work the windshield
wipers and of course turned them the wrong way onto intermittent
instead of full. Finally about halfway to the Nimpo
boat ramp I smoked the snowbank on my side because I couldnt
see out the windshield but at least I could tell
that I was out of the overflow and just in snow now. I
backed up while I finally got my wipers going the right
way and could see what was ahead of me, at least until
I got going again.
What was happening then was the plow was up as high as
it would go but the snow was deep enough on the ice road
that I was skimming the top of it and throwing really
fine snow back at the windshield, blinding me in the process.
That happens anyway when you plow but youre usually
not going very fast so the wipers can keep it clear. But
when youre going hell bent for leather scared to
death that your truck is going to be stuck in overflow
and frozen in until spring, then the wipers cant
keep the windshield clear of the snow and water youre
throwing up. Im sure if I had stopped to think about
it for a few seconds I would have realized that the worst
case scenario was that the truck would get stuck, I would
have to walk home in calf or knee deep water, and the
truck would probably freeze in place until all the snow
melted and we could get something out there to break it
free and get it loose. I suppose the worst worst
scenario would be that I would lose the truck into the
lake when the ice thawed if we couldnt get it out
before then, but all I was thinking about then
was getting to the other shore NOW.
Man, I was so happy to get to the boat ramp and up the
hill above it. There I stopped and took a breather and
tried to remember if I had anything in the back of the
truck that I could block the ice road with. Nope, but
I could always come back. I drove around by the highway
to the main road back to our place, got across the bridge
and about that time, my truck start heaving and popping.
I figured I had probably gotten water in the carb/fuel
injection and a five minute drive ended up taking me over
half an hour. I would lose power, pull over, let
the truck breath a little, rev it up and get going again.
A moment later I would have to pull over and repeat it
all again, each time taking care to pull over before a
turn in the road and get it in better shape for moving
so that I wouldnt be caught on a blind corner. Sometimes
it died altogether and I would start it again, give it
some time, and then proceed down the road sputtering and
lurching. I had to take runs at all the hills, back down
and run at them again. Tell you what, I was grateful to
get that truck back because I just did not feel like walking
home three or four miles, getting Andy and another truck
and going back to get the poor old girl.
I got her home, and left her running while
I collected the new truck, some ribbon, and some aspen
trees that we had cut down in the fall, loaded everything
up and headed back out to block off the entrances to the
ice road both on our end and at Nimpo. The last
thing we needed to have was anyone stuck in that mess
out there and if they didnt have four wheel
drive, then they most definitely would be.
I think that if we had gotten the ice road plowed the
night we got home we would have avoided so much overflow
occurring, but with that much snow on the road, and then
all the water coming in from the sides and saturating
the snow, it was finished. Its too bad because we
should have gotten another month out of it but I dont
think anything can be done with it now. Andy thinks he
could take the Bobcat out there and clear some of the
snow and water off the ice road and maybe save it, but
Im not keen on him putting a weight of 5300 pounds
on a 4X5 foot square area out on the ice above 30 feet
of water. Once hes in the Bobcat hes
locked in so if it goes through the ice, he cant
get out and thats that. Besides, someone
rode through the snow next to the ice road today with
a snowmobile and they hit pretty bad overflow so I dont
think any of it can be saved. Nope, everyone will just
have to drive around by road. We had the ice road for
over two months and thats better than nothing.
Last night it dropped to 19C or 2F because
of course it cleared right off in the evening.
It warmed up fast today in full sunshine to a degree above
freezing. Andy finished plowing snow and we went for a
walk with the dogs but could only go down the main road
and back, so when we returned we ran the back trail with
our snowmobiles down to the gun range. That way at least
if it gets cold tonight hopefully it will stiffen those
tracks up for walking for the next while if it doesn't
It looks like we might see a nice sunny day tomorrow.
There is supposed to be colder air coming in and the Cariboo
is forecast to have cooler temperatures but Bella Coola
shows 11C or over 50 degrees Fahrenheit tomorrow so maybe
we'll get a piece of that!
Youll find the last week of last month's blog at
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!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!