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 - May, Week One/2007
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of the Day.
Going, Going .....Just About Gone
Nimpo Lake ice is dissolving rapidly this afternoon. And
you know how I commented below that the fellow who said
a few days ago that the ice would come off May seventh
was going to be wrong? Well, I have to go eat my
shoe, now. It looks like the ice may be cleared
off of most of the lake by late this evening. Or before
I finish writing this article, I'm not sure which will
Only an hour ago I took a picture of the lake out in front
where our swimming hole had been jammed full of moving
ice and there was little open water. You'll see that the
picture of the lake on top that I just took suddenly shows
all kinds of open water in front and brisk winds are moving
the ice around quite a bit.
My Mom just called me from down at the other end of Nimpo
Lake and said the North Arm just cleared right down
to the point where it's actually the Main Arm.
And that's happened only in the space of a few hours.
Funny ice this year. It's simply just dissolving. The
surface looked really black yesterday evening but I thought
sure it would be another couple of days before it really
started to disappear. Wrong again.
Our loon pair is back in the little bay near our meadow
that they occupy every year and I've been hearing loons
call around the lake a little more. Still a lot less than
usual for some reason or other, but at least a few are
here. The Goldeneye ducks have been battling steadily
out on the lake for the last two days. It looks like there
are a lot more males than females around and it's causing
quite a ruckus on the lake.
We watched something huge and brown fly down onto
the ice in front of our cabin this morning, swoop over
the short bit of open water and take off with something
in its claws. I couldn't tell what it was but
I think it must have been an owl, although it seems highly
unlikely. The only other thing might have been an immature
eagle because the coloring was right but it seemed much
larger than one of them. All I know is I had to go around
and do a head count on the cats because it was definitely
big enough to pack one of them off.
though we have a good wind blowing and warm temperatures,
Nimpo Lake still isn't letting go of her ice.
Right now it's 13C or about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and
it didn't freeze hard last night so our little swimming
hole was open this morning and the ice on Nimpo is looking
pretty rotten. Still, not rotten enough yet, I guess.
One fellow estimated the seventh of May for ice out but
unless something tremendous happens before tomorrow, he's
going to be wrong.
I was down at the other end of the lake today, and there's
open water there nearly out to the little island in front
of the resort. They sit on the north end of the Main Arm
and Nimpo Creek flows into the lake there, so it's often
open before we are. The danger of that is that a
good south wind could push the ice sheet right into the
bay and tear out some of the docks as it did a few years
Andy went down with his Bobcat to help clear the metal
debris out of the burned hangar this morning. Terry had
friends and neighbours over looking through the mess for
data plates. We managed to find one for the Cessna 185
and he found a couple more for the Supercubs, but look
as we might, we couldn't find the last Supercub plate,
even though we knew exactly where it should be. We found
army rations thoroughly cooked behind the seat and it
was weird to be able to identify a neat row of sausages
in the foil of one, and beans in another, even though
they lay among melted slag.
I was never aware of the importance of a data plate, but
apparently you can build an entire airplane as long as
you have one and it is not classified as a home built
plane. No data plate, and it's home built. But the challenge
of finding a tiny plate of metal no bigger than a credit
card and not nearly as thick among tons of metal either
blown to bits or melted to slag, insulation, wiring and
who knows what else, is a large one indeed.
Being in that hangar is a sad reminder of all that was
stored there but it's utterly amazing what strange things
you come across. Where the fire was unquestionably
hottest at the back of the hangar, the concrete floor
literally exploded into pieces from the heat,
but where it's the worst behind the truck, there's nothing
there. There was a large tire behind and off to one side,
and the fuel tanks on the truck so the only thing I can
think happened is that the fuel spilled over to the tire
and started burning it, and along with the tires on the
truck, created enough heat to break up the concrete. Oddly,
the canopy melted right into the truck box and concrete
pieces are laying on top of it and the huge steel beam
above it and the snowmobiles sagged considerably. But
there just isn't any sign of what created such tremendous
heat. Near the truck there were several one gallon cans
of paint stored against the wall and stacked one on top
of the other. Although the cans are burned, they didn't
melt and the cardboard under the layers of cans is unburned.
It just doesn't seem possible that the cardboard
wouldn't burn when in proximity to enough heat to sag
the metal beam above it. But as the fire investigator
told Andy, fire does very strange things and I guess it
Our dog, who has a serious hate on for predatory birds,
just alerted me to the fact that there were bald eagles
around. I just watched a dog fight between two of them
over a third, presumably a female. Unfortunately, by the
time I saw them they were flying so high over the lake
that I couldn't get much of a picture. It looked
like the one eagle took great offense at the invasion
of his territory by another. They battled for
a while until the one gave up and flew off into the distance,
the other keeping a watchful glide behind him for a ways.
We're getting a lot of bald eagles on the lake and territory
is probably getting thin. I always thought they were supposed
to be an endangered bird but you sure wouldn't guess it
around here. I expect the loons would argue the endangered
part as well.
At least the Trumpeter Swans are happy. I just noticed
a pair of them sunning themselves out on the lake and
since they're sitting in slush, they're probably pretty
darn confident that absolutely nothing can make it out
on that ice to get them.
poker game for me tonight, so here I sit brokenhearted,
..... well, you know how the rest of that
ditty goes. As a result, I have no excuse to not post
an article tonight. Not that I don't have lots of other
stuff that should be done, but still, one must blog when
one can. Sounds silly, doesn't it? Trying to sound
somber or poetic like some of our famous Statesmen of
the past is very difficult when a word like 'blog' is
used. It just doesn't have the panache that some
words have like litmus, paradigm or symposium. Now those
are some words that have been beat to death in the past
decade. Especially by politicians.
Okay, it's Friday night, the weekend is here and I promise
I won't get started on politicians. Anyway, I'm wondering
when some smart person is going to come up with a really
classy synonym for 'blog'. I get embarrassed every
time I use the word, but although I sneak the
term 'article' in there every once in awhile just to raise
the bar a bit, its definition doesn't really fit the bill
with regards to what I write here. Not by a long shot.
Strictly defined, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary states
that one of the definitions of article is:
a nonfictional prose composition forming an independent
part of a publication. Did anyone understand that?
Because I didn't. I just know it sounds a whole lot fancier
Anyway, with regards to an alternative to 'blog'.... Apparently
it was derived from the term web log but some computer
nerd probably decided that it sounded too pretentious
and so shortened it up. And it probably worked for
him while he was in university playing video games and
drinking beer with his buddies at the sports bars on the
weekends. But it's got to be terribly embarrassing
for the poor CEO of a top corporation who is forced to
'blog' for his company every day. Can you imagine? He
probably gets laughed right out of the country club every
Every day I hope that another computer nerd will come
up with a better term so that 'blog' can die a slow death
but with my luck, it's a term that will be with us forever.
Kind of like huh or eh.
On to other subjects. It seems like every time I
open my mouth, or more specifically, touch fingers to
keys, Mother Nature bites me in the butt. Here
I talked yesterday about the weatherman calling for higher
temperatures but most important was that it not freeze
at night. So what happens? It dropped to -6C or about
22 degrees Fahrenheit last night which froze all the open
water pretty hard. That meant that even though it got
fairly warm today, it took a good part of the day for
the water to open back up again. So Andy took it upon
himself to go out in the canoe this afternoon and break
up some ice. There's barely a big enough area in the swimming
hole to turn the canoe around, but he enlarged it quite
a bit. Can you tell we're getting a little impatient about
spring here? I think they used to call it cabin
fever in the old days. My Dad just used to call it 'squirrelly'.
Tonight, just before dark, Andy called my attention to
some water rings on the very edge of the swimming hole
and while we watched, we could see something quite large
come up and break the surface of the water. I couldn't
tell if it was the snout of an otter or the front half
of a dark fish, but Andy was pretty sure that what he
saw before he called me over was too large to be a fish.
Then I saw a bunch of little fish, about four inches
long jumping out of the water. Our best guess
is that the otter was cruising the edge of the ice and
came on a school of fish drawn to the light. I'll bet
you those little buggers are looking forward to ice off
I was driving home yesterday from Nimpo and just coming
across the bridge over the Dean River at Fishtrap when
a young Native boy reared back on his fishing pole
and landed a nice rainbow on the bridge deck.
No sluggish fish, that one! It was bouncing around on
the end of the line like it was warming up for a marathon
rather than having just come out of the near freezing
water that it had been living in for months. Lots of color
on it so I couldn't tell if it was a spawner or not, but
the boy looked pretty pleased with himself. Word must
have gotten around because the bridge railing was lined
with young Native people today, some with rods and some
with just some fishing line wrapped around a pop or beer
can. It's illegal for non-Natives to fish the Dean River
right now so I can't wait until we can start fishing in
the lake. When it warms up, that is.
Wet, Dry and Frozen
are in that unique period during breakup where you get
the odd tiny rain or snowstorm yet the dust is flying
on the road, and the lake is still frozen. We
had reasonably warm temperatures on Tuesday and it didn't
freeze that night, so it actually gave us a bit of a head
start on thawing out the 'swimming hole' in front of the
house. The ducks paddling around in it helped to that
end as well. Unfortunately, it did freeze again last night
so it was slower to thaw out today. Still, slowly but
surely, the open water expands from shore a few inches
I played hooky outside on Tuesday and worked a little
out there yesterday, so like it or not, I was glued to
the computer today. The odd nice day ends up putting me
farther and farther behind which means the blog gets sacrificed,
which is why there was none yesterday.
Andy continues to pull stumps so that it's beginning
to look like we've been surrounded by a herd of octopus,
and he's used the Bobcat the last couple of days to build
a retaining wall for the garden out of some of the big
beetle killed logs. We're killing two birds with one stone.
We've got a huge pile of dirt in the future garden, piled
there last fall when the porch was built, and we've got
a lot of big logs laying around now. A retaining wall
gets rid of some of both. It also provides the garden
with a heat sink of sorts.
Since we're in growing zone one or less, (we can't
grow stuff that a lot of Alaska can,) you kind
of need to create a false zone for perennials here. A
few years back I went back to my old farm in Saskatchewan
and got some divisions of plants that I brought back and
put into a 'holding' pen made up of heavy black felt to
see what would make it here and what wouldn't. Most have
survived the last few winters but the 'pen' is getting
pretty crowded. Apparently the plants like it quite well
in that environment and have thanked me by outgrowing
their area. Apparently it's become so overgrown that the
mice think it makes the perfect winter home under all
the snow with a built in supply of food and I lost a few
plants and bulbs to them this winter.
In most exposed places where I have plants, very
little green is showing yet, but in the 'pen'
where plants have been protected under a good layer of
snow and their own leaves and stalks from the year before,
there are already a few coming right along, even this
early in the year. I figure if we can get a retaining
wall built and lined with rocks that hold the heat, then
the garden area is protected on all sides except the lake
side. Unfortunately, that's also where the cool breezes
come from so I'll have to build a protective wall there
eventually. The garden area sits in a bit of hole down
below the L shape created by the house, driveway and garage
and with a retaining wall on the east side, the temperature
is considerably higher there than elsewhere in the summer.
That gives the plants a boost during the short growing
season here and extends the season on both ends. That
doesn't mean I'll be growing bananas or figs any time
soon, but I'll be able to push the growing zone
to two or three, and at least I can have some flowers.
I've already got my eye on a spot down by our flags that
seems to be the hot spot in the yard, judging from the
number of ants in the hill there anyway. I think I can
put some raised beds in there for a few vegetables. We
can't grow much in the way of those either but a few fast
growers will make it in the right spot. Since I don't
like greenhouses, that's about the only other choice.
Our temperature is around 5C or 40 degrees right now and
got as high as 10C or about 50F in the sun today. The
weatherman is calling for higher temperatures for the
next few days, but even if it doesn't freeze at
night it'll make all the difference in the world. The
prairies have been enjoying really high temperatures for
the last few weeks with it being as high as 28C or up
to 85F during the day. Boy, would I like to see a little
of that! Mind you, the way the snow melt is being absorbed
into the ground, it would only bring on the forest fires.
There's surprisingly little water laying around except
in the real low spots. We went for a walk in the woods
for a couple of evenings and couldn't believe how well
the melt is being absorbed. We don't know if it's because
there was so little frost in the ground so it's soaking
in, or if it's the stiff breezes we've had all spring
carrying a lot of the moisture away, or both. This
time last year you were swimming more than walking on
the back trail. Still, the Highways crew have
their share of problems. There's a few roads flooding
out locally. I think they're lucky though. Because it's
been so cool it's been a very slow melt so they're not
getting nearly the flooding they might have with a fast
Nimpo Lake has surprised more than one person with
its steadfast determination to hang onto its ice cap.
The owner of our air charter service came back up to ready
his lodge and cabins in expectation of beginning his season
soon. Not so. No floatplanes going out yet!
Not even close. Although in the right light the lake is
looking blacker, there's still no room for the ice sheet
to move and start to break up. Although it doesn't normally
happen that way, I suppose one morning we could wake up
and it'll all be gone. Still, even with Nimpo Lake frozen
there's still lots of life out there. The dog just sounded
off at an otter on our back shore and the quackers are
still at the front. Another harbinger of spring, a hummingbird,
Andy just came in from checking the ice and said it's
not even candling, it's just turning to mush.
As far out as he could reach from the dock with an oar,
it just disintegrated when he touched it. I noticed that
our 'swimming hole' already has ice crystals forming on
its surface even though it's well above freezing. It makes
sense that if the ice is actually dissolving it must be
bringing that water temperature right down.
So here we sit on our sack of seeds...waiting and waiting....
Happy First Day Of May
I'm saying this very quietly and knocking on wood while
I do. We actually had another nice day today.
Nothing spectacular but there was some sun, warm temperatures
and only a breeze.
We've suddenly been inundated with birds of all
kinds. Our tree swallows are back and hopping
mad because the chickadees are setting up house in their
nesting box. Of course, the tree swallows are always hopping
mad when they first arrive because it seems there's always
a threesome and I'm assuming that's not considered entirely
appropriate in the avian world. Two of the three spend
day after day doing aerial battle until one finally seems
to win the girl. Often there are six that come in and
the same thing goes on, with the skies out in front of
our house looking like it's in the middle of a dog
fight between the Allied and German Air Forces in the
Second World War. It can last for weeks going
from battling for the girl to battling for the nest. Why
not put up more nesting boxes you ask? Well, I've already
seen what happens when a single red winged blackbird finds
the feeder. I figure half a dozen tree swallows fighting
over one nesting box is plenty. And now that the chickadees
have joined in the fun....
Speaking of which...they were kind of fun to watch last
night. We're blessed with large windows overlooking our
view and our dining room table sits right in front of
them, so we get to see lots happening outside. I was watching
a pair of chickadees sitting on the railing doing a funny
little 'shake your feathers' kind of dance that I had
never seen them do before. We had decided it must be some
kind of mating ritual when suddenly, YEP!! It was! Gotta
Shortly after that we watched an otter do a fast
hump and bump dash across the ice on Nimpo Lake from the
point over to the big island where he dove into
a thin line of water along the shore. It must be pretty
tough on them right now having to be out in the open so
much because there still isn't that much open water. Although
it definitely opened up a bit more today. A pair of big
Goldeneye ducks arrived in front of the house and have
been diving for chow all day. A muskrat just went
cruising past this evening so he'll help to keep the water
open along the shore too.
I bought a finch feeder the last time I was in town in
the hopes of making it more difficult for the blackbirds
to clean out the seed while still providing some for the
chickadees. Apparently it appeals greatly to the bird
it was meant for because the purple finches arrived just
today and they're having a high old time with the feeder.
While the chickadees have finally figured out how to use
it, the white throated sparrows and some of the juncos
are too fat to fit comfortably on the perch and spend
all their time sitting on the railing looking disgruntled.
I've never seen these white throated sparrows here before
so something must have changed on their path of migration.
The cool spring, perhaps. The one thing I would
really like to see around our place are bluebirds,
but for some reason we don't get them. I saw a couple
several weeks ago down at the other end of the lake while
we were clearing beetle kill for my Mom, and saw them
many times over the course of four days. I can only assume
that we're too close to the water.
Last night we were standing out on our dock trying to
determine how much the water has come up when I heard
a bunch of wing beats. Right over the house flew this
huge flock of geese in a loose horseshoe formation, but
they never made a sound. We would never have known they
went over had they not been so low and you could hear
the sound from their wings. We still don't know what kind
of geese they were. They didn't look at all like Canada
Geese and were way quieter obviously, but we were in such
shock with the lack of noise we didn't get a good look
at markings. They were just a nondescript color. Or as
Andy put it, looked like faded out Canada Geese.
However, of all the birds coming in now, the best thing
we've seen so far is the loon riding low in the water
down on the point tonight. He's not making much noise,
but he's there.
I've switched to a new week so you'll find last week's
articles at April,
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!