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Wilderness Adventures - March, 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.

You can search this site for a subject of interest to you at the bottom of this page. Check out the Picture of the Day.

22/03/2007 3:58 PM

Burn, Baby, Burn

We finally got to set that huge brush pile on fire. For a change there was no wind first thing this morning, the air had a still and humid quality to it and it looked like it was going to snow.
Even better, the pile went up fast and furious but along the length of it in the order we wanted it to so as to preserve the big, green spruces trees standing behind it. We stood around drinking coffee and watching the flames reach for the sky while visiting with a good friend of mine out here on business. That may not have been quite what Darrell expected when he said he would drop over for coffee before returning to Williams Lake this morning, but you've got to admit, it's more interesting than sitting around the kitchen table.
In any case, I got to play around with fire for about five hours today while Andy and Mazy went flying. I ended up smelling much like smoked salmon and looking like a chimney sweep. I also got sore enough heaving half burned logs back onto the pile that this is going to be a really short article tonight.
Andy's flight instructor drove the length of Nimpo Lake from the north end this morning and said she saw a couple of caribou on the way down. We've got good solid ice on the surface now that all the snow has melted, but it isn't of great quality. We drilled a couple of holes last night in the front of our place and found we had 26 inches of ice, but it's not the clear black ice you could normally expect. Heavy snow loads on the thin ice right from the beginning meant overflow throughout the winter. That would freeze, then more snow, more overflow, more freezing. I think that what you get is a crusty white or grey ice, not known for the strength that clear ice has. Perhaps that means it will break up and melt sooner this spring.
The lake was certainly rumbling all yesterday into evening. There were no temperature extremes by any means so that should not have been the cause. By the same token, it was so loud and so constant this morning that I could hear it from daybreak until I got up, not something that you can normally do from our loft. Although there is no longer snow on the lake to muffle the sound it seems odd for it to go on when we have such stable temperatures and not enough sun to make much of a difference to the surface of the ice. The only thing I can think of is perhaps the warmer melt water from the streams entering either end are disrupting the water temperature in the lake. It's nice to hear her grumble again, anyway. We missed the sound of Nimpo all winter.
The bird feeder is being mobbed by the red winged blackbirds now, and we counted five Trumpeter Swans winging over the Dean River last night. It means spring is on the way and it can't be stopped now! Which is why it seems a little late in the year for a snowmobile Poker Run. However, for anyone in the area that would like to participate, starting time is 11:00 a.m. Saturday at the Nimpo Community Hall. Everyone welcome. Hot dogs on the trail and burgers up at the Nimpo Carwash when it's all done.

20/03/2007 7:33 PM

To Lichen Or Not To Lichen

A walk on the back trails today yielded me an interesting little specimen of something... I'm just not sure what.
I waited around for a good bit of the day hoping the weather would sort itself out. I finally gave up and went for a walk later this afternoon. The sun was shining off and on with squall after squall rushing in on the wind. Yep, the wind was blowing again. In fact, it was blowing at daybreak today so there was no way our monster brush pile could be torched this morning. Maybe tomorrow. As you can see from the picture up on the right, the huge brush pile and some stumps are the only sad reminder of the beautiful grove of big pines on our friend's and neighbour's land that used to guard the entrance to our driveway.
Not far from our place I came across the tracks of a small herd of caribou made sometime after our little snow last night and before the hail squall of this afternoon. They meandered across the trail here and there, and then the tracks disappeared.
Down another trail the tracks showed up again, this time about a day old, meandering for quite a distance down the middle of a snowmobile track I walk on. One set was of a really big animal, presumably a bull. At one point I came across a couple little branchlets near the tracks and on the snow that I assume are pieces of lichen. I looked all over the place and couldn't see any sign that they came off a tree or from what little open ground there is around a few trees. I can only assume they fell out of the sides of a caribou's mouth, or off of his hide somewhere.
They're fat little yellow green things and seem really rubbery. I've had them in the house for awhile now and they're no longer the bright color they were. There are several branchlets on the stem with little nodes along the length of each, ending in a little clump of 'fingers' at the end.
I've looked in my plant book about lichens in British Columbia and discovered two possible candidates. One is called Reindeer lichen and indicates it's the favorite food, especially in winter, of our caribou. The other is called Wolf lichen and is listed as an important source of dye for BC natives because of its bright sulpher yellow color. It's also poisonous and was commonly used in Europe in wolf bait. However, I wasn't satisfied with the pictures at all since neither showed enough of a close-up to be really sure it was the plant and the accompanying drawings just didn't look quite right. So I decided to go on the Internet.
Do not try this at home folks!
Seriously. Not if you value your time anyway.
Seeing some of these pictures in full color on your computer screen is a whole different thing from seeing them in a book. Boy, looking at some of those things kind of went like this. "Yikes!", "Whoa! Look at that thing!" "Holy Cow! Is that ever gross looking!" "Oh cool." "Too weird!" There is also some seriously cool stuff about lichens on the Net besides pictures.
Yeah, I know, everyone's rolling their eyes now going, "Okay, you're really hitting bottom on stuff to write about here." But I really am serious. Even if you aren't particularly interested in lichens, and I never thought I was, it really gets fascinating when you start reading about them. It's also why I'm so late getting this article written tonight.
Right, where was I? Oh, yeah, I never did find a picture of the little thing I picked up today. Either this has just grown and is 'spring green' which seems highly unlikely with about two feet of snow still in the woods, or this is what it looks like all the time. Lichen can survive without water at all, it just dries up. Then when there is moisture, it uncurls, plumps up or whatever each type does. I can only assume I'm seeing a picture of my little specimen, but all dried up, which is why none of the pictures match with what I have. Of course my little prize might not be a lichen at all, in which case, we're back to the question of where it came from.
Or, I've discovered a new lichen, which is about as likely as me shaking Elvis Presley's hand. Not gonna happen, no matter what the National Enquirer says.
Okay, enough of that subject. From the looks of it, the small herd of caribou wandered all over our part of the country for the last couple of days, including walking down the middle of the road for about a mile, which makes them impressively fearless. More to the point, it seems obvious that they are sticking to packed trails and roadways, which must mean the predators can outrun them on the snow now. I watched the dogs closely today to see how they made out on the snow whenever they checked out the tracks. They were able to stay on top in places, but in other spots they sank fast and seemed to be reluctant to go farther. I suspect the crusty snow was cutting up the pads of their feet. Many of the tracks must have been pretty fresh because the dogs were pretty excitable today and for a good distance, River never got his nose out of the air. I'm assuming the caribou were nearby at some point although probably not for long. They don't stand around very much. Oop, I'm out of time. Don't you just hate it when that happens? Not a few of you are probably extremely glad of it tonight, I'll bet.
Admit it, you're not lichen it...!
Oh, I'm sorry. That was really, really bad... :-)

19/03/2007 6:37 PM

Our Federal Budget

The Feds sent down the annual budget today and disappointingly, it was a bit of a joke. First of all, the Finance Minister sang on about what a great country Canada is from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.
Excuse me?
It seems he forgot the province of British Columbia, which happens to be on the west side of the Rockies. It might not be a hard mistake to make if it weren't that BC is a reasonably well off province with a booming economy, a fairly large city well known throughout North America, or even the world, and has a significant percentage of Canada's population. It would be akin to the Americans forgetting California. You can imagine how old Arnie would like that!
Needless to say, it offended one or two British Columbians. More offensive is the Fed Government's need to buy off Quebec...again. I think that everyone in the western provinces saw Stephen Harper as a champion of the west, a nice change from Prime Ministers of the last hundred years or so, and we were all looking forward to having an equal voice with the rest of Canada. Why not? British Columbia and Alberta are the two fastest growing provinces in Canada both in terms of economy and population, drawing people from all over the country trying to get in on the boom. The 2006 Census showed both provinces as being significantly underrepresented in both the House and Senate, but both the sitting Government and Opposition have tidily swept that little fact under the rug.
It would seem that regardless of whether the sitting Government is Conservative or Liberal (equiv. of Republican or Democrat if you're American) it always feels the need to pander to the province of Quebec. In the case of Stephen Harper's minority Government, I guess he figured the only way he could continue to stay in power was to hand all the goodies over to the French.
One thing that really upset British Columbians is that absolutely no mention was made in the budget about the Mountain Pine Beetle. This epidemic is devastating the BC economy and is going to have a huge environmental impact on the province, both short term and long term. In the short term, massive flooding is expected this spring because of the large snow pack in the mountains and no trees to absorb the meltwater as would normally have been the case. Add to that the loss of such a large forest with the same environmental benefit provided by the Amazon Rain Forest, and you have a serious problem. Am I cynical in thinking that if we were Quebec it would be a whole different matter? Perhaps, if it weren't for the fact that most western Canadians agree with my opinion that they're getting the short end of the stick.
Ontario and Quebec need some Mountain Pine beetles over in their forests, just to even up the playing field.
The only good thing about the budget that I've seen so far are the incentives put in place to encourage people to buy fuel efficient vehicles. You get a $2,000 dollar rebate on your taxes if you do so. On the other side of the coin, you can be penalized up to $4,000 if you buy a 'gas guzzler'. I wouldn't have an argument with that if it weren't fact that the Finance Minister doesn't seem to have made allowance for those people that require large pickups, etc. for their business. Whether an oversight on the part of the 'planning committee' or simply that no one has been able to find that information in the budget papers yet, is unknown. If an oversight, it needs to be addressed. A large percentage of the Canadian rural population require pickup trucks whether to haul machinery, feed to animals, equipment to a job site, going to job sites that can only be accessed by a pickup, or any number of other legitimate reasons. If you are a contractor or own a business, that's going to show up on your income tax return anyway, so it should be an easy matter to determine those people that require pickups for their jobs.
It isn't going to help people at all that don't own a business but still need a pickup. There's a whole lot of rural Canada that is inaccessible to people without four wheel drive and not a few of us rely on our trucks for hauling in firewood for the winter, soil, building materials, groceries from town, etc. So where do you draw the line? Penalize the person that lives in the country and requires four wheel drive and a vehicle that has more than a six inch clearance from the bumper to the road? That's hardly fair.
So perhaps the penalty should be based on address. Really, you don't need a Hummer to drive in the city. I would be all for that as well, if it weren't for the fact that many people live in the city but like to pull a trailer or fifth wheel with their pickup when they go traveling. While going by address would work far better than having a blanket policy, I think the Feds' ideas on encouraging people to purchase a more environmentally friendly vehicle needs some more work. However, I don't expect some moron in Ottawa who has never been off a paved street or highway, (most of the self-centered twits don't even know life exists beyond the borders of Ontario) to come up with a realistic solution. That is far beyond the scope of most Canadian Federal politicians.
It would seem that some things just never change.
To more important matters.
The winds continue to start up in the morning and howl until supper and our snow continues to melt. The sun did shine for a good part of the day, and we got some flurries, some rain and some hail. Just a little bit of everything to keep things interesting. Tomorrow at around five in the evening is supposed to be the first day of spring. Hmmmm.
We cut down some more beetle killed trees out at the entrance of our drive today and moved more brush onto the burn pile. Tomorrow morning early, provided the wind isn't blowing, that little beauty gets torched! Andy will take the fire pump and hose with him tomorrow and get a hole cut in the ice on the lake before he sets the fire, just as a precaution. It should not be a problem at all, because there's still up to a couple feet of snow surrounding the burn pile, but much better to be safe than sorry.

18/03/2007 6:27 PM

Do You Want To Be A Rancher?

One of the nicest ranches in the area is now listed on the Commercial Properties for Sale page. You cannot help but notice the Kleena Kleene Ranch along Highway 20 West about halfway between Tatla Lake and Nimpo Lake with its lush, green hayfields and sassy looking cattle.
In existence since 1933, this ranch has been an important part of West Chilcotin heritage for years. I remember seeing a Canada Post outlet sign there from the day I first hit this country (it may still be one) and a payphone, which was kind of handy. I think a lot of tow trucks have been called from that phone over the years.
The ranch straddles the Kliniklini River and sits down in a protected valley, with the Coast Mountain Range rearing above it. Although it does seem to pick up some moisture tunneling through the mountains from the ocean, that same air flow combined with the river seems also to have a moderating influence on temperatures in the little valley. It seems to 'spring' up there long before we see green at Nimpo and the glorious colors of fall often stay long after we've lost our leaves.
The toes of the rolling foothills that sneak into the valley look like they provide protected areas for feeding cattle and we often admire newborn calves when we drive by on our way to town.
This ranch can also be subdivided so there's a whole lot of potential there for an investor. Check it out on the For Sale page and from there you will find a link to the website giving all the information you need and a little bit of fun history.
Today dawned still with some pretty low clouds that moved out before noon. We cut down and burned the branches of a few more beetle killed pine. Thirty-five stumps in the yard now and a whole lot more trees than that to come down yet.
Some of our still green trees were attacked by mountain pine beetle last summer so we'll probably have to get those cut down and burned as soon as possible since many have live larvae in them. Besides our trees we're also taking down the neighbour's that are at the entrance to our driveway. He cut a lot of trees down on his property last summer and disposed of the branches in a pile up there for burning this spring. We need to get that bonfire over with before the snow melts because it's going to be a doozy, but we can't set the fire until the trees nearby are cut down. Everything in order I guess....
The wind started kicking up again just before noon so while Andy took off to to go flying, I decided to stick around outside to watch our fire, continue to add dead branches loaded with pinecones and red needles, and do a little raking. There's something positively Zen-like about having a fire out in the yard while doing cleanup. I don't know if it's poking around in the coals with a pitchfork or getting to dump more stuff on a fire that makes you feel like you're accomplishing something, but it seems a lot like a 'purification' thing, if that makes any sense. Don't anyone start looking at me funny now, and no, you don't need to call the guys in white suits yet.
I suppose the pollution police would have a fit if they knew we were burning branches and pine needles and felt we were polluting the atmosphere
but since forest fires have been doing the same for millennia, I don't think I'm going to worry about it too much. It seems a lot better to do that than throw truck loads of such stuff into the landfill. I would dearly love to have one of those huge shredders that reduce even big branches into sawdust because it's wonderful stuff to put on a garden path or mulch around plants with. Unfortunately, I think they're pretty expensive to buy and I haven't figured out how to build one yet.
One last note; Highway One through the Fraser Canyon has opened one lane to alternating traffic from Spence's Bridge to Lytton but I don't know if you can make it all the way through the Canyon yet or not. I haven't heard anything about the other closure on that section of highway. I think there was yet another closure around Golden to the east, but those slides get cleared fairly quickly. I think because they consist more of either snow or rock rather than mud and you don't tend to lose a whole mountain over there as much.

17/03/2007 10:13 AM

All Dawns Bright And Beautiful

We had a ferocious wind that kicked up late last night bringing well above freezing temperatures but this morning dawned with one of those still after-the-storm mornings and very warm. It's wonderful to see a day without wind, although how long that will last is anyone's guess.
My apologies for no article yesterday. Every time I change to a new week there is a whole lot of things that have to be done to archive the past week, change title and description for the archived page, add the old week's link to every page for the year and change the links on the rss feed among other things. Unfortunately, this isn't set up like your standard blog where all that is done for you because I wanted this blog to look like the rest of the pages in the website and have control over the images I add, etc. I suspect 'control' is the operative word here and my ultimate downfall, in time management anyway. I'm sure there's a better, easier way to do this. I just haven't found it yet. Nor do I have the time to look for a better way. As a result, unless I have a little time I can't start a new week, and yesterday I didn't have time.
We have not been able to ride with our friends down from Quesnel the entire week they have been here, so the least we could do was have them over for supper and find out how their snowmobiling went for them. However, we also had Andy's flight instructor over so most of the conversation centered on flying. A wonderful neighbour of ours made the mistake of stopping over for a visit so he got pulled in for supper as well. We had a super evening with good friends and great conversation, but the long and the short of it is...I never did get to find out in detail how the snowmobiling was for the Millers.
They managed to get up to Wilderness Lake this week, a place that I have always wanted to go... just haven't gotten there. Inaccessible except by plane or a very long hike over from Chris Czajkowski's cabin (She wrote Diary of a Wilderness Dweller and other books.) in summer, or by snowmobile in winter, this remote lake high in the Coast Mountain range features some of the most beautiful scenery around. In fact, many of the stunning pictures in the Alpine Flower Gallery are from the valley above Wilderness Lake and were kindly provided by Mary, the owner of Nimpo Lake Resort, who built a cabin there. That was done with the help of many pilot friends who hauled all of the building materials up in floatplanes, strapped onto floats, and hanging from a helicopter.
Bill and Anita also made it into Fish Lake, which is more or less on the way to Wilderness, another beautiful spot. Although I haven't snowmobiled into there, I have landed there. My Mom and I were flown in to go hunting back in the early 90's and we were way overloaded with gear. The lake is very small and very high, sitting up in a little bowl between peaks and unless the wind is just right, you can't get off the water. I still remember bouncing up and down on the seat of the plane praying with all my might that it was going to be able to lift off of the water before hitting the rocks on the other end. It did after a couple of taxis back and forth but it was a bit hairy. Especially since that was probably only my second trip ever in floatplane. But, I digress. As usual.
Bill and Anita have promised to send me down some photos of their adventures this week while snowmobiling in the Chilcotin and I look forward to seeing them. It seems to be Murphy's Law that we finally have a really gorgeous day for snowmobiling and they had to return home this morning. About all we can hope is that we have better weather for them the next time they come down to do some riding.
For some reason or other, our weather has been really, really terrible this year. We can usually expect sunny calm days here, compensating for the fact that we do have long winters. An unusual amount of wind has really put a damper on outdoor activities, whether that's flying, snowmobiling or even cutting down trees. I'm sure hoping that isn't going to become the norm. However, I think that our lousy weather, as well as that all over the west coast of North America can probably be attributed to it being an El Nino year. According to climatologists, that was only supposed to affect us for the first part of the winter and we would return to seasonal temperatures for the latter part. As usual, they're wrong.
I think it's a fair bet that spring is here for us. It's also sudden. When you look out and see only pine needles and bare ground under at least one snowmobile, it's kind of a, "Oops, should have gotten that moved!"
Until yesterday, we kept getting little overnight snowfalls that lull you into thinking you might have some winter left, but last night we had a moth trying to get into the house and today there are flies buzzing around on the deck where it's warm. While most people might not think much of seeing insects, for us it's the first sign of spring. Although who knows, they may have been here for some time but the wind hasn't let up enough for them to stay in one place for any length of time! :-)
Ah, I see the wind is starting to roar again. So much for our reprieve. Feels just like Saskatchewan!
Last week's articles can be found at March, Week Two and just a reminder about the Hangar Fire Photos on the separate page that was set up for friends and family of the owners of the hangar. That is now a dead link and will remain so. If you have a reason to see it, you can contact my Mom for the new link.
Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

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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!
Beetle kill brush.
Burn pile and stumps.
Green valley surrounded by hills and mountains.
Still lake surrounded by mountains.
Peak overlooks a valley.
Purple lupins.
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