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/2008
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of the Day.
declared Andy the winner with regards to his prediction
that ice off would be on May 7th. Technically, it isn't
all off yet since there's still a large
floe jammed in on the shore opposite of us on Nimpo Lake,
but who knows, it might still be melted by tomorrow. It's
half the size it was this morning, and although
it was much cooler today at only 6C in the shade and 10C
or 50F in the sun, there is a stiff
breeze to help break that ice up.
You know, it seems funny that even in the face of climate
and environmental change that you hear about every day,
our lake has been freezing up and thawing out pretty much
the same time every fall and spring. We all use
the standard dates of about the 7th of December for freeze
up and the 7th of May for ice out. That doesn't
mean those dates don't move by a week or so each way,
but on average over a long period of time, those are the
days. Looking back over past blogs, it would also seem
that getting a good snow storm right around the first
week of May is common too. So there you go. We may
have 'small' changes but overall in the big picture, nothing
is really that different.
Too many more explosions like that one in Chile could
sure change things in a hurry though. Wow. Talk about
a volcanic eruption! And they didn't even see it coming
from the sound of things. Can you imagine what would happen
to our world if a few volcanos of that magnitude all spewed
ash into the atmosphere at the same time? It would be
a dark, dark world and our climate would most definitely
So I'm really jumping the gun this year on a 'projected'
project. I just got vegetable seeds in the mail
today from McFayden Seeds, several weeks late, I might
add. It's been years since I've ordered seeds since it's
been years since I've lived in a climate where vegetables
would actually grow. My hope this year is that
we'll be able to get a greenhouse up in time to advance
the yet to sprout veggies into a mega producing state
of bliss. Or is it frenzy? Either way, I figure if I start
a bunch of seed on the window sill, I should get something
I can plant. (Yes, yes, I know. Get with the program
and buy grow lights and put a heating pad under the seed
trays. Not on your life! No investment like that until
we've got a greenhouse for sure and even then, I'm too
cheap to spring for the fancy stuff. I think I remember
saving an old waterbed heater from going to the dump.
It should be around here somewhere ....hmm.) I
have until the middle of June until said unsprouted sprouts
have to go into the ground. Or the greenhouse. Somehow
I think that might be rushing the greenhouse date a bit
but I can always use plastic for a cold frame until things
Unfortunately, before ground can be broken for the
foundations for a greenhouse, it has to thaw out.
Then I have to move a big, raised, cold frame box that
we made the effort to build and fill with good soil just
last fall in the warmest part of the garden. Covered with
black plastic, I figured the dirt within would thaw out
and warm up quickly giving me the jump on things like
lettuce. That was the dream anyway. It was also before
we scored all that glass and decided we could build a
greenhouse, and where that box is now, is where the greenhouse
will have to go. More work. One step forward....two steps
Blue, Blue Water!
are finally looking at blue water for as far as the eye
can see, folks. The ice is off!!
There are still a few big ice floes floating around or
jammed into the odd bay here and there but for all intents
and purposes, she's clear.
Last night there was a clear line of water out from
shore in front of our place for a few hundred feet
and then ice in the rest of the bay out to the big island.
There was a widening gap from the point to the big island
and from there to the small island and a good opening
in front of the peninsula across from the small island.
It had opened up from our point to the boat launch across
the way and the Short Arm going down to where the Dean
River exits Nimpo Lake was at least half open, but our
back bay where the docks are stored was still frozen over
I figured for sure the ice in front would be gone
by morning and was disappointed to see it hadn't moved
one iota through the night. Probably because the
temperature dropped quickly last night to -5C or 23F last
night and there was a pretty solid fog bank this morning.
So it was quite a shocker to look out only a short time
later to see that the ice had literally dissolved.
We had a good wind come up first from one direction, and
then another. That, combined with the warm temperatures
and sun today was just exactly what was needed to melt
the ice. Still, it was amazing to see the Main Arm,
which was entirely ice this morning, entirely clear by
late this afternoon.
We walked down to a neighbour's place that is located
on the Main Arm this evening, just to see if the ice truly
was out because while it might be out for us, it
doesn't count as ice off until the Main Arm is clear.
For as far as the eye could see, it was blue water, other
than those bits of ice I mentioned before that were jammed
into a bay here and there. That's the only thing
that will save Andy. He predicted ice out for
the 7th. of May and since it's only a few hours to midnight,
those ice floes might last until then.
My prediction for the 10th. is out the window of course.
Based on how extremely cool it was up until very recently,
it couldn't hold in the face of our sudden warm temps
and glorious sun. That's okay. I don't mind being
wrong one bit if it means seeing waves on Nimpo Lake for
the first time in five months. A real bonus is
seeing those waves for the first time on a nice day and
not on a grungy, overcast, windy, cold day as can often
be the case.
Since the open water has been limited but the loons have
been in for a few days now, there have been some territorial
issues between the mating pairs, each accustomed to being
in their own bay but unable to because of ice. Our back
bay pair were stuck in open water off of our point while
a pair that normally nest in front of Rainbow Lodge were
stuck in our front bay. Between them was one poor,
lone loon who literally got caught in the middle more
Water in front of us finally broke through ice and joined
open water off of our point yesterday so this bachelor
meandered over in that direction, probably by accident
because he was fishing underwater a lot. Or maybe
he was trying to move in on the other guy's girl.
Next thing you know there was a whole lot of carrying
on and this boy did some serious water walking to get
his tail feathers back over to his side!
This morning the Rainbow Lodge pair started making their
way to the front of our place and toward the other pair,
looking pretty purposeful and trapping this poor
single guy in between. I figured there would probably
be some fireworks and there very nearly was except that
when I got my camera and came back out onto the deck,
I think my movements were enough to convince both pairs
that they should back off. There was a lot of caterwauling
going on for awhile though.
By this afternoon, all of the mating pairs were where
they were supposed to be because the ice had cleared out
of their respective nesting areas, and all looked suitably
content. There's a lot less carrying on, anyway. Except
when the eagles are soaring overhead. Looking for eggs
already or just irritating the loons for sport...one or
Speaking of eagles...we watched a strange performance
yesterday. It's been pretty obvious that the bald
eagles are in mating mode, but it would seem they're also
into a little hip hop dance as a part of their ritual.
Perhaps it's because the ice was still on so late this
year, or maybe it's because I have the camera lens now
to record some of these events and so pay more attention
to the what the local birdlife is doing, but I don't recall
seeing this before. A pair of eagles were on the ice just
in front of the big island where some of them nest and
they were doing this little hop scotch thing.
One would jump up and over the other, then they would
do a little peck-and-hug, then hop scotch again. The
equivalent of the guy at the gym showing off his muscles?
Funny to watch, anyway and it just doesn't seem quite
fitting for a bird that's supposed to personify valor
The satellite pictures on the news tonight showed a high
pressure area building in with the jet stream going right
over the top of us from the look of it. Although it may
bring wind, with any luck it will also bring us a nice
day tomorrow. Andy needs to do some dock repairs after
the ice messed up our barrels. I'm torn about the
weather being nice. On the one hand, I still have
stuff to clean up on the computer for clients, but it's
awfully hard to stay inside when the weather is this nice
and the bugs aren't too bad yet.
I managed to make myself work inside on the computer for
part of the day today, but I snuck outside periodically
too. I helped Andy pull over a tree that needed to come
down but that we didn't want to fall on the power line.
Since it was still green, it was a good time to peel it
after Andy cut it into lengths for fencing. Surprisingly,
part of the tree had blue stain and a small length of
bark and cambium layer was dead, even though the
tree was very healthy. Pine beetles had gotten into it
one or two years ago but the few adults I found were dead,
and they only attacked one side of the tree. It had produced
profuse amounts of sap and I don't know if that is what
killed the beetles or if the spray Andy put on it did,
or both. I do know that our other young trees on
the property that have beetle holes in them are still
staying green so far. We won't know until hot
weather hits which ones are going to die, but it would
definitely appear that young trees can fight
off the beetle attack and fungus infection if there are
only small numbers, and especially if the attack is only
on one side of the trunk.
We haven't seen any sign of our chimney duck since his
release on Sunday. I'm really hoping he made it okay.
Interestingly, I've heard a few stories since, from other
people that ran into the same problem, although not always
with such a happy outcome. Many thanks to those of you
that emailed your own duck story!
The Yucked Up Duck
had a very interesting day yesterday and today.
One of our 'Bad Hair Day Ducks' had a very
bad day. Actually, he had a few. About three days ago
I heard some rustling in the house over by our fireplace
chimney. I walked over and checked because I figured one
of our cats had snuck upstairs and was in his favorite
hiding spot under a fern. I didn't see anything and dismissed
it. I heard it a few times more as did Andy but we figured
it had to be one of the cats downstairs.
Then yesterday I heard the rustling sound very clearly
a couple of times. Again I walked over to the
chimney. No cat. I started looking up at the top because
more than once we've had bats in the plastic and insulation
in the ceiling but since the ceiling was finished this
winter, there shouldn't be any way a bat could get in.
I mentioned the noise to Andy and the only thing we could
think of was that there was a bat near the top of the
chimney or Squeaks, one of our cats, had found a new hidey
hole next to the chimney in the basement and was rustling
Last night after half our dinner company had left and
as we sat visiting with a pair of old friends, you
could distinctly hear the rustling again, and this time
it was quite loud. Andy opened up the fireplace
and took a look as he had before and still didn't see
anything. Conversation stopped and started as we listened
to the sound every time it started up again. We
agreed that it sounded like the fluttering of wings and
it absolutely had to be in the fireplace.
Andy grabbed a flashlight, crawled part way in, and finally
saw a bit of something moving. Black from soot, the creature
was almost impossible to identify and at first Andy thought
it might be a Flicker. Not a favorite bird with any of
us for the holes it will drill into your house or garage,
but Andy finally saw the beak and realized it was a duck.
I like ducks.... It had to come out. But
since Andy has experienced them in the chimney before
in the Okanagan, he stated unequivocally that getting
it out was going to make one hell of a mess! Yeah... I
kinda guessed that seeing as how you were dealing with
soot and all.
We waited until after our company left and then Andy took
a closer look at the situation. The fireplace insert is
much like the old heatilators with baffles and what's
called a 'smoke ledge'. There was no way you could
reach up through those baffles, get above the ledge, and
reach the duck. Since we knew the bird had been
in there for two or three days, thirst was probably its
biggest emergency. Andy got a spray bottle and sprayed
water up through the baffle onto the duck in the hopes
that maybe it could at least get some moisture off of
its own feathers. And indeed, it didn't seem to mind the
spraying at all. That's when I finally saw the duck, or
at least its breast and part of its wing. The water
had washed away enough of the soot so that you could see
a white breast with red speckles.
I thought if we put an aluminum bowl of water and some
lettuce on newspaper on the grate, perhaps the duck would
come down on its own, so we installed those items, closed
the glass doors, and waited. Nothing. And it was so dry
in there that when I checked on the lettuce a short time
later it had wilted to nothing. I decided to cut a big
California orange in half because the smell is so rich
and powerful and put that in next to the water. Andy tired
and went to bed and a few hours later I checked
on the duck. He had moved slightly so that you could hardly
see him and he definitely wasn't coming any closer
to the opening that would lead him down. I filled up the
spray bottle and wetted down as much of him as I could
see and then put a piece of the orange up on the ledge
near the hole through which he had to come to get down.
Andy gets up at 4:00 a.m. and decides to turn on a floor
lamp near the fireplace thinking that instead of trying
to reach the daylight showing through the top of the chimney,
perhaps the bird would be drawn to the light showing through
the fireplace doors. Back to bed.
When Andy got up later he came downstairs and looked at
the fireplace wondering how the heck he was going to get
that yucked up duck out of the chimney. Then he noticed
smear marks in the soot on the glass doors. He opened
up the doors and sitting in the little aluminum
bowl of sooty water is this sorry duck with its
head and neck curled around on its back, half asleep.
Close the doors! Quick!
The rest of the operation was carried out with military
precision. Andy filled up a Rubbermaid tub with
warm water adding only a slight touch of dish soap and
carried it down to the chopping block outside. He propped
open the basement door and donned a pair of rubber gloves.
He had to chase away a couple of cats who were
watching this entire operation with great interest.
Obviously something very fun was going to happen and they
wanted to be in on it. This time when Andy opened the
fireplace doors the duck was still in the water but facing
him so Andy had to move pretty quickly to grab the bird.
He figured the last thing our white walls needed
was a freaked out, soot covered duck flying all over the
room. He got hold of the duck and tries to get
down the stairs as quickly as possible because this thing
is dripping black all over the floor, out the door and
sits the duck into the warm water. Where the duck was
noticeably upset before, he said it just calmed right
down as soon as it hit that water so he tried to gently
wash and rinse the soot out of its feathers. He didn't
want to do too much because he didn't want to hurt it
or wash away too much of the natural oils water birds
rely on, but he said he hardly even had to hold the bird
when he poured warm water over its back. It actually seemed
to like it. And it even let Andy wipe its beak off.
That done, Andy picked the bird back up and carried him
down to the shore where there's a grassy little ledge
just above the waterline and set the duck down. It hopped
straight into the water and started swimming away. He
said it did try to flap its wings but he thinks
he got the duck's wings too wet for it to be able to fly.
Or they may have been damaged from the flapping in the
chimney. In any case, he said the duck moved out so quickly
he had to run back in to get the camera and back down
along the shoreline so that he could get a picture of
it. I guess it went over and visited with a couple
of ducks not of his type, circled around a few times and
then away he went. Andy lost track of him around
the neighbour's point so later this afternoon he took
the canoe out to see if it was still around, but there
was no sign of it. Hopefully the little guy is okay. Andy
figured so with the strength he showed while swimming,
and he wasn't having any problem keeping his head up,
or anything. Even if he isn't able to fly right now, as
long as he's able to swim and eat he should be fine until
he heals up. Poor little guy.
We did look him up and thought him to be a merganser of
some sort, but it's kind of hard to tell from the
pictures in the book because none of their ducks are sooty
or that bedraggled looking after his little dish
water scrubbing. One thing you could see clearly though
was the red eye and I finally found a wood duck in the
book that looked just like him, minus the leftover soot
and scrub. Crest, iridescent blue green feathers on the
back, short bill and rosy speckled breast. Oh, and did
I mention that they nest in natural tree cavities? And,
Our company arrived for supper last night complaining
that they had no loons at the other end of the lake yet.
By yesterday, we had several pairs. Where before the few
we had were ominously quiet, yesterday morning Andy got
up to them steadily calling all over the lake and they
continued doing that for most of the day. Each 'pond'
in the ice had its own mating pair and I counted
up to six pairs spread between our bay, Short Arm, and
off the point and small island. There is just nothing
like the first call of the loons in the spring. But we
did all agree that they are definitely late this year
and I really don't know why.
I had to go over to Anahim Lake for a meeting today and
was surprised to see that there's more ice and it's whiter
there than on Nimpo. Usually their ice is out before ours,
but ours is looking pretty thin and it's just more or
less dissolving. Andy said when he went out in the canoe
today and paddled near the ice it just undulated on the
water, so it's pretty thin. I don't think it's going
to make it another six days to the 10th as I predicted
for ice out. I think that Andy's prediction for
the 7th is more likely to be correct.
Yesterday was a magnificent day and contributed
a lot to the ice melting on Nimpo Lake. It got
up to 20C or 70F on the deck in the sun but just for the
day. It went to about -3C last night and was up to 10C
or 50F long before noon this morning. I think that at
one point I noticed the temperature was at 14C or nearly
60F in the shade but I don't know if that's as high as
it got. We didn't really get much sun today and what there
was of it was pretty watery looking through the cloud,
but there was no wind which made it very pleasant! However,
the mozzies are already out. The snow isn't even all melted
and the ice isn't even off, and already
our neighbour has been bitten and we've all seen at least
The Beaver is Back
found evidence that our nemesis is back. The other
day our neighbour told us that he ran into a beaver on
the trail coming from the back bay on Nimpo Lake to a
swamp on the other side of the trail. He called his dog
back from it simply because a beaver can cause some serious
injury to an unwary pup. He said that the beaver wasn't
that big and it turned around and set off back to the
Today when we went for a walk, we kept an eye out for
any sign of the critter and sure enough,
near the end of the trail, the beaver's tracks crossed
to the swamp. There you could see fresh chips on
the ground and the freshly cut stump of an aspen tree.
A little farther down the trail were his tracks and the
drag marks from the tree. We found the hole in the ice
where he had entered the lake with his prize and over
where the docks are all parked, we found signs of freshly
stripped limbs floating on the water. I think the
little rotter spent the winter under the docks
after we tore up his lodge. Or it may be a new beaver
that has moved up from the river and is setting up a new
feed bin. The ice isn't even off yet the lake yet and
already we're at war to save our trees from the little
It got up to 10C or 50F again today but was cloudy with
heavy overcast. It's still above freezing out there now
but there's been a soft rain for the last few hours. Not
a rain actually but more a mist. It may help to melt some
of the lake ice. That's opened up a bit more and there
are lots of ducks. Many seem to be mating right now because
there's all kinds of dancing and chasing and head bobbing
going on among the different species. Check out the Mohawk
duck up on the right. Those kind always look like they're
having a bad hair day.
Our single loon is still sitting low in the water out
among the reeds and looks more like a half sunk
submarine than a bird. He dives every once in
awhile for fish and either he's really hungry and more
intent on grubbing up and keeping down the sound or he's
just not interested in mating. He calls, but only every
once in awhile. He must be keeping a low profile for a
reason. Maybe it's the number of bald eagles around now.
I hope that's not a sign of things to come.
The flooding in the eastern provinces is starting now
and it looks like the States got hit with a humdinger
of a weather system again last night with several tornados
touching down. I know it's the season but it sure
seems to be shaping up to be a bad year for those folks
living in Tornado Alley. Boy I'm glad we don't
get anything like that around here. Although one contributor
did talk about a swath of trees that were
knocked down for quite a distance in this area many years
ago. It sounds like it was a plow wind and
although they're rare, I think that they can happen anywhere.
It looks like our province is actually going to be blessed
with a couple of nice days this weekend since a high pressure
system is building off of the coast. We just have to get
past this little low that's going over now but it should
be cleared out by tomorrow morning. Unless it stalls,
I guess. We sure could use with a warm spell. Although
there wasn't much in the way of frost in the ground this
winter, after that snow melted and then we got hit with
that cold a week or so ago, the ground has frozen up solid.
It looks like a lot of my perennials took a bad
hit after that happened too. They were looking
pretty good there for awhile but that is definitely not
the case now. Sad doesn't begin to describe
how decrepit a couple of them look.
I've got a few things to try and get done for the next
couple of days so unless something comes up, like the
ice going out by some miracle, I probably won't be writing
for a day or so.
Have a great weekend folks!
The Loons Are Back!
wouldn't know it though. They're sure keeping a low profile
so far this year. I finally heard one down
on the river today but he only called once. Mary down
at the other end of the lake said she saw one a couple
of days ago but he wasn't sticking around. He was
strictly passing through! I guess you can't blame
him after that little dump of snow.
Andy spotted a loon sitting low in the water out at
the point yesterday but he wasn't around long either.
I had to go down to Clearwater Lake today and on the
way back there was a loon fishing in the Dean River
as it exits Nimpo Lake, our first official spotting
of the year. So they're here, but being awfully
cloak and dagger about it.
There was an osprey cruising the same stretch of water
on the way out, blue herons, an immature eagle sitting
in our tree when we got home and another sharp shinned
hawk cruising the yard as well so we saw lots of bird
life today, much of it predatory.
We've got even more song birds showing up at the feeder
including a newcomer, the yellow and black grosbeak.
After spotting that hawk Andy said when he researched
it on the Internet, that it was often described as the
'feeder hawk'. So I decided to cut off
the bird seed today, but after it ran out I felt sorry
for all the birds that came for supper this evening
and so I put out a small amount. Start weaning them
all off of the feeder and back onto natural
food sources, I guess. If nothing else, it should make
it a little harder on the hawk but then again, I figure
it's a lot easier for birds to keep an eye out for him
when food is regularly available than when they're having
to scrounge for enough to eat.
Those birds keep a pretty sharp look out for that
hawk anyway, I think. We were down looking at
ice off of our point to see how much open water there
was when all of a sudden the bird din went silent....and
I mean silent. Not a peep. Suddenly that white hawk
went wheeling over us a couple of times and then moved
off. The bird song started up almost immediately (or
cacophony is what I prefer to call it when that many
blackbirds are involved) and all was well. Only a few
minutes later and everything suddenly went dead
quiet again. This time we knew to look up and
sure enough, that little white hawk was making another
pass. For every bird to quit making noise that abruptly
must mean they're all always on the look out for predators.
Except for bald eagles, that is.
We had just arrived back home when River let out a bellow
and you could immediately recognize his, "There's
a big bad Eagle close to the property!!!!"
Andy came in and told me to grab the camera and look
up through our upper front window. Sitting in the top
of a spruce only a few feet from the house was an immature
bald eagle and I noticed when I stepped out onto the
deck that the blackbirds in the tree below him were
still singing. Maybe they know that unlike a small hawk,
he's too big and clumsy to pick one of them out of a
The lake opened up quite a bit today along the shoreline,
wherever there had been pressure ridges or cracks, and
in the reed beds. Andy went out in the canoe today to
see if he could break up even more ice and although
it was thin on the edges, it was still work. Might as
well let Mother Nature do it. She finally seems to be
on the ball when it comes to ringing in spring.
Temperatures dipped to -7C or 19F last night but
warmed quickly in the full sunshine today to around
10C or 50F and finally melted most of that last
snowfall. There's still evidence of it in shady spots
and there's still lots of old snow in the woods as well,
but we should lose it fast now. Or it's wishful thinking,
One thing we did today that we've wanted to for some
time is stop off at a hill near Clearwater Lake on
which two unmarked graves protected by Native style
cribs stand. One was very, very old with weather
beaten logs nearly melted into the ground and any identification
long since gone, decorated only by bits of bright green
moss here and there.
The other crib, also old, had been formed from posts
and lumber, with a cross in front and a good sized pine
growing up in the middle. The old white paint was ancient
and peeling and any name on the cross was long since
faded away. Local legend has it that a member
of an outlaw gang, of Hole in the Wall fame or from
Jesse Jame's gang, is buried on top of that hill.
I've heard bits and pieces over the years that the outlaw
lived there for some time before dying as an old man.
Whether of old age or gone out with guns blazing because
someone caught up to him, I have no idea. I don't even
know if the legend is true but often when a story endures
for that long there's some tiny grain of truth that
formed it originally. It makes for a fun little walk
anyway and whoever is buried there has one heck of a
There are going to be a couple of new listings coming
up on the property for sale pages soon. I'm hoping to
have the one up by tomorrow at the latest. It will be
listed on both the residential and commercial pages
since it is zoned for the former as well as 'tourist
commercial' and is presently owned by and located next
to Stewart's Lodge. It's a wonderful piece of
property with a large house and loads of privacy with
stunning views on five acres so if you're interested
in property out here, take a look at those pages tomorrow.
The only problem is that we don't have pictures yet
so although we stopped over and took some of the view
and outside of the house, they probably don't show the
property at it's optimum. New pictures will be coming
in the near future though.
Since it's the beginning of a new month and a new week,
you'll have to 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!