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Wilderness Adventures - Mar., Week One/2013

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

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


03/03/2013 7:30 PM

The Hammer Dropped

Do 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, that’s 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 wasn’t until we pulled in front of the house where it hadn’t 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 wasn’t 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. He’s 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 that’s more than we’ve gotten all winter!
The snow was really heavy and wet so I can’t imagine how much snow we would actually have accumulated had it been our usual light fluffy stuff. It wasn’t 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.
HOLY CRAP!!!!

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 couldn’t 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. I’m trying to do all this at the same time as I’m 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 couldn’t 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 you’re usually not going very fast so the wipers can keep it clear. But when you’re 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 can’t keep the windshield clear of the snow and water you’re throwing up. I’m 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 couldn’t 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 wouldn’t 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 didn’t 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. It’s too bad because we should have gotten another month out of it but I don’t 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 I’m 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 he’s in the Bobcat he’s locked in so if it goes through the ice, he can’t get out and that’s that. Besides, someone rode through the snow next to the ice road today with a snowmobile and they hit pretty bad overflow so I don’t 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 that’s 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 snow anymore.
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!
You’ll find the last week of last month's blog at February Week Four.

Anahim Lake Highway cam looking West.




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


Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
New snow lies on the lake and mountains lit by sun.
 
Bright white heavy snow covers trees and propane tank inside the fence.
 
Cabin with lots of snow in front.
 
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