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Wilderness Adventures - March, Week 3/2010

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.

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Check out the Picture of the Day.

20/03/2010 7:41 PM

The Migrants

We're starting to see the migratory birds come in now. The other evening a big flock of Trumpeter Swans flew over while we were at the dinner table but they were moving fast. By the time I got out the back door with a camera they were already far out over the back bay. On the way into Anahim Lake today I saw a sand piper go scooting across the highway.
We've had a few redwinged blackbirds for a while, but now there's a whole bunch of them and they've mobbed the feeder the last couple of days. I've gone through a gallon of seed just since yesterday and it's getting tough for the grosbeaks, redpolls and chickadees to get their share. So I guess it's time to either cut off the seed or just put a small amount in each morning and keep chasing blackbirds away until the other guys have had their fill. I wouldn't mind the blackbirds but as I've mentioned before, once you get 40 or 50 in the trees surrounding the deck, you can't even hear yourself think for all the trilling. I would cut off the see completely but it's just a little tough on all the birds right now. We've still got a lot of snow and finding wild seeds is a little hard for any of them. And it's still getting pretty cold at night ranging anywhere from -10C or 14F and -14C or 7F. That's pretty chilly for birds that need the fuel to keep warm.
A robin arrived on the deck yesterday. I have no idea what that poor sucker is eating! There are definitely no worms or bugs out nor much in the way of bare ground for him to even search for such a thing. He must be wondering what the heck he's doing in this neck of the woods right now.
Andy drilled the ice road over to the boat ramp yesterday and we've still got two feet of ice so we shouldn't lose that avenue for a while yet. It's just as well. The frost is coming out of the gravel road and it's pretty messy in places and there's not just a few frost heaves. Mind you, the highway is even worse right now because of the variance in frozen and thawed base under the pavement. Going anywhere is like riding a roller coaster and probably won't stabilize for a couple of months yet. At least the restrictions on trucks is on now so the pavement won't get beat up any worse than it already is.
The lake ice was groaning and thumping last night, probably because we're still seeing some pretty warm days. I think it got up to 10C or 50F yesterday and while I wasn't around to see what the temperature got up to today, it's still 5C or nearly 40F right now, and that's warm for evening. Our days are a mix of sun and high haze filtering the sun or the snow would be melting way faster than it is. It looks like it's going to cool off and we'll either see cloud and possibly some moisture over the next few days, but who knows. As long as it's not snowing when we go down the Hill Monday, I'll be happy. I have no idea what the Hill or Heckman Pass will be like. Supposedly there's a couple of feet of fresh snow up in the Rainbows that Richard and Leah were going to go do their best to mark up with sleds today, so I'll find out from them tomorrow what it's like up there.

18/03/2010 6:59 PM

The American Medical System

I have to comment on the American Medical System simply because of my exposure to it recently.
If you recall, back in January when I went to Arizona I ended up in emergency on a Sunday because I got a cactus spine in my eye. I had insurance through TIC Claims & Travel Insurance and for anyone considering going to the States, I would highly recommend this outfit. They were wonderful all the way through. Once I got home and sent in the claim forms, I received a cheque for the eye gel and antibiotics that I paid for at the pharmacy. I also got an invoice in the mail showing that they had paid for my treatment at the hospital to the tune of $812.
Now being used to the Canadian health care system, I consider that a pretty large amount, but I thought, well, they did do some stuff.
When I arrived at the emergency room in Blythe, California I was given a clipboard and forms to fill out. The form didn't require that much info so lets say it took the receptionist 15 minutes to enter the information on the form on a computer. At most. That's how long it would take for someone that didn't know how to type.
After cooling my heels for quite a while, I was called in through the door into the receptionist's office. There a nurse, (I presume) took my blood pressure, pulse, made notes after asking me some questions and gave me a Tetanus shot. That was about another 10 to 15 minutes. At most. And back to the waiting room I went where eventually a lady with a very obviously, very badly, broken ankle arrived after slipping down an embankment at Quartzsite. A young lady, also from Quartzsite, had arrived before me that morning with what she suspected was a broken arm. A few others were there as well but those were the two that I spoke to while I waited.
Eventually the nurse called me and took me into the emergency room where she had me do a vision test. You know, read the eye chart first with one eye, then the other and then sat me down on Bed 5. Or maybe it was Bed 6. I don't know but it was the last one so there weren't a lot of beds.
Eventually a Doctor came along, asked me some questions, and looked at my eye with a light. Then he flushed it with some kind of florescent stuff and looked at it again, then he flushed the florescent stuff out and away he went after saying I needed a vision acuity test. 15 minutes max. Seriously.
So I'm still sitting on the bed and he's tending other patients and then I see him go by and out the side door. He's gone for about 15 minutes and then cruises back through the emergency room with what's very obviously his lunch. He looks at me as he goes by and the nurse tries to catch him and say that he needs to finish with me and Patient on Bed 1. He tells her I need a vision acuity test and she tells him I've already had one! Didn't matter. He's going to have his lunch and that's just all there is to it. He disappears for about 45 minutes and then finally reappears. In the meanwhile, I'm getting really pissed. So at one point when he's standing still talking to another Doctor in front of me, I get up and ask him if I can leave now. He says no and looks at me like I'm crazy. He says I can leave if I want but then I am not considered discharged. Since I didn't know what the stipulations were for my insurance plan, it pretty much meant I couldn't leave. That exchange took about 30 seconds so I'm not even going to count that on the time card.
I felt really badly for at least two ladies that I know are out in that waiting room in much worse condition than I. I say as much to one of the nurses that goes by and she says everyone has to take their turn waiting even though I know that they're in pain and I am not. In the meanwhile a vehicle accident victim comes in with an ambulance and the nurses excitedly report that a gunshot victim will be coming in soon. Great, I think to myself.
I glared at the Doctor every time he goes by me after that and finally he comes over and tells me that because the cactus spine was too small to see that I should go to Phoenix to an ophthalmologist because of the risk of infection. Apparently with infection comes the risk of the loss of the eye. I told him I did not want to ask my Mother to drive me over two hours back to Phoenix for us to sit several hours in an emergency room there and probably have to stay overnight. Could I not monitor it? He said he would call Phoenix and then proceeds to tell a nurse to call Phoenix. Whole exchange took about five minutes, or less. He talks to Phoenix hospital mutters in the phone for a minute and then hangs up. I wait.
Then an ophthalmologist from Phoenix hospital (presumably) calls him and he talks to that person for a couple of minutes explaining my case. He's at a desk only a few feet away from me and I can hear most of the conversation. He gets off the phone, comes over and tells me to come back the next morning and calls over a nurse to look at my eye so she can compare it to how it looks then to how it looks the next day. Total time, including his conversation on the phone and with me, 10 minutes or less. So I ask him if I can leave now. No, I have to wait to be discharged. So I cool my heels sitting on an emergency room bed that I don't need for another 45 minutes or so. I'm relieved to see that the girl with the broken arm has finally, after many hours, been brought into the emergency room for assessment, but the Doctor has to bend over and look at her while she is seated in a chair. Not enough beds. Gee.... I wonder why?
A nurse goes by me, looks puzzled, and says, "You're still here?" I nod and away she goes. A little while later I overhear her giving the Doctor grief about not putting people's discharge cards in the right slot so that the nurses know to discharge them. I took that to mean me because shortly after she arrived with forms for me to sign off on and away I went. Gladly.
The next day I arrived at the emergency early to make sure I didn't have to wait the entire day just for someone to assess my eye for comparison to the day before. I walked up to the glass window and waved to the nurse that the Doctor had had look at my eye the day before. She pulled me in through the door, looked for a moment and said, "Well, it doesn't seem much worse than yesterday." I agreed. Even though a little more blood had pooled around the iris, there wasn't enough white left for them to do a comparison anyway and I was counting on them not remembering over a 24 hour period. She hauls the Doctor out to look at my eye. Same Doctor! Apparently they work 24 hours shifts and he was still there. Oh goody. He looks at it then pulls me back into emergency to stand next to his desk. He agrees I don't have to go to Phoenix but to monitor it and if it gets any worse I'm to come back to emergency there or go to Phoenix. I ask him what I'm looking for. Well, any more blood in the eye. Since the eye was pretty much as red as it could possibly get, no worries there. Look for increased pain or vision loss. Okay, fine. I'll do that.
I asked him how long I needed to put the gel in my eye that he had given me a little tube of the previous day and he said he was writing out a prescription for a big tube of antibiotic gel and for oral antibiotics. I'm all in favor of the latter. He writes the prescription while I stand over his shoulder and I'm out of there. Total time in his august presence, about seven minutes or less. Standing over his shoulder obviously helped. Total time with the nurse prior to that, about 30 seconds.
So with the free bottle of eye wash they gave me as well as the little tiny tube of gel, the cotton pads they used to swab my eye, testing for the vital signs, vision acuity and the tetanus shot, and data entry for my information, I could see that being worth a little money and the hospital charging for it. The total time spent by the Doctor on me, about 37 minutes give or take..... No, lets give him 40 minutes because he probably made notes somewhere. I don't know where. I never saw him with a clipboard or anything, but just in case, we'll give him 3 minutes for that.
So I see that $812 invoice in US funds and I'm thinking, "Wow, expensive down there, that's for sure!" And I'm just thankful that I had insurance and a great insurance company.
Then, this week, I get a bill for $479! It's from some Physicia place in Philadelphia which to me has no relation to Blythe, California but it had the Doctor's name on it and the name of the hospital. I'm thinking, What the (???). It's too late to call back east so I have to wait until the next business day to call the insurance company. I read the bill information off to the adjuster at TIC and he says, "Yeah, that's the Doctor's billing service." I'm like, what!!!??? You mean $800 wasn't enough? "Nope," he says, "That's just the hospital's bill. The Doctors bill separately. Just send us the bill and we'll pay it.." Since I sounded so shocked he explained that the US medical system was a multi billion dollar business. I guess that's why we lost all our Doctors and nurses to the States a few years back. They'll be making a killing down there.
I still can't believe their billing system. You're kidding me, right? $800 wasn't enough to cover both the hospital and Doctor?
If all that Doctor spent on me for time was 40 minutes then that means he's charging about $12 bucks a minute, or $700 an hour. Sorry, but I don't know anyone worth that kind of money and certainly not his sorry ass. I can only assume that the SOB saw an insured Canadian and decided to get all the money he could out of my visit. Never mind that I spent several hours sitting on an emergency room bed without reason, including during his lunch time when he did not treat me. That or else he wrote down the total time I was there and that's what he charged for.
So if the American Medical System is that much of a rip off, maybe it does need to be changed. I realize that our health care system is damned expensive for the Canadian Taxpayer. We pay about a $100 a month for our medical premiums but that doesn't do much for the system. I'm personally all in favor of a user fee for seeing Doctor visits and emergency room visits. And there's no question that our medical system is in dire need of some fixing. I would even be in favor of a two tiered system if it meant improving wait times. But at least I know for sure that there's a hell of a lot more oversight and a lot less greed in our system. There is no way our Doctors are pulling off that kind of money, and in fact I consider most of their salaries to be quite reasonable. So in view of what I see as outright greed, I'm surprised that so many Americans seem to be so dead set against having their health care system changed. Perhaps they don't realize that their GP's aren't worth $12 a minute?? I guess if you're accustomed to being charged ridiculous amounts of money for your Doctor's care and don't know any better it's excusable, but really, do you know anyone worth $700 an hour??? Because I sure don't! And please don't give me the excuse that insuring themselves against suits is why they have to charge so much. Insurance companies are as greedy as they come, but even they aren't charging that much! And if they are? Then maybe the present US president needs to take a long look at the medical insurers and the tendencies of the American people to sue at the drop of a hat with obnoxiously huge pay outs guaranteed to set them for them up for life.
In the meanwhile, the American people need to know that they're being ripped off. Or maybe it's just us Canadians that come to visit? Either way, even if I have to spend several hours cooling my heels in an emergency room and the waiting room, I shouldn't have to pay for taking up space because I'm not being treated and sent on my way due to what.... Greed? Incompetence?
Yesterday was another nice day, although a bit blustery. We had a cold night last night and much cooler day, today. There was little to no wind but it only got a couple of degrees above freezing at most. It was sunny for a good part of the day but by this afternoon high haze moved in and pretty much obscured the sun. I think we're supposed to have a nice day tomorrow but I guess we'll see when it comes.

16/03/2010 4:35 PM

Spring's Back.... So Far!

We're really up and down with our weather right now. It's hilarious. No one knows whether it's coming or going.
It's been warming up steadily since that -22C we had the other night and been quite pleasant during the day. We got up to 8C yesterday and nearly 10C or 50F today.
Yesterday was a marvelous day and I did everything I could to stay outside, even though there wasn't much to do. Most of the yard is still under at least a foot of snow, and more in my garden, but the sun was shining, it was really warm, and gale force winds that we had in the morning had settled right down by afternoon just in time for a walk in the back woods.
Andy is building the big plane dock down on the ice in the back bay so the dogs and I watched for awhile. Then we ran back and forth on the driveway in front of the house with the fourwheeler in an attempt to break up some of the ice there. Andy pulled out the Bobcat to see what he could do with an icy smooth patch on the driveway but didn't make much headway. You pretty much have to let Mother Nature take its course. The ice build up from all this warm weather will melt when it melts. Of course then you're dealing with mud but that's all a part of break up.
Yesterday evening it started snowing like crazy and everything was white this morning. It didn't amount to much but was still enough to add to the mud and water laying around when it melted today. This morning started out gorgeous once it cleared off but by this afternoon a blustery wind had started up and from one moment to the next you have no idea what it's going to do. First it's sunny, then big, black clouds roll in and it starts spitting rain, then back to sun, with a howling wind all the while. At least that will help to pick up and carry some of the moisture away from the melting snow. It's definitely a mixed bag with no idea what the weather will do next!
So it's that time of year again when I try to showcase some of the resort and other operators in the area to those of you that may be interested in visiting the region this summer. And I guess the best way to do that is to start out following the alphabet!
Atnarko Retreat is located on Charlotte Lake and is classed as a B&B although most of their accommodations are now in a brand spanking new cabin. Actually, not new. It was the first cabin on Charlotte Lake besides those at Rimarko Ranch built in the early 1950's. But Daniel and Heidy did a remarkable job of renovating it last summer and it is stunning. The huge cabin is divided into three very comfortable suites, one of which has a fully equipped kitchen. All three units face out over Charlotte Lake with a spectacular view of the Coast Mountain Range.
Heidy and Daniel also built a beautiful lodge with small, private rooms. In all cases, Heidy will provide meals from breakfast to dinner if you like and I can tell you from personal experience, her specialty breads and desserts are absolutely delicious. She often brings by a loaf of her bread or dessert cake and it's a real battle to not eat it all in just a couple of sittings.
Heidy and Daniel offer a number of activities at the lodge or can arrange for activities such as flightseeing, trail riding, or alpine hiking. Some of their site pages are still under construction as I haven't finished building it but it's certainly complete enough to get a really good idea of what they have to offer. So go have a boo at if you think this is a place you would like to stay on a visit out in this country.
In the meanwhile, this is the start of a new week so you'll find last week's couple of articles at March Week Two .

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!
Three geese fly overhead.
Charlotte Lake with blue Coastal Range.
Oranges over Charlotte at sunset.
Large log Lodge.
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