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Wilderness Adventures - May, Week One/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 some great contributed stories and ongoing blogs, just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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04/05/2010 12:01 PM

Winter in May

Boy, winter just won't go away. We got the first hint at her stubbornness on Sunday.
We had been invited down to what's called Weldon's Park for a wienie roast in the afternoon. This is a gorgeous place in the woods along a fast running creek that drains into Nimpo Lake with a little open spot big enough for a few people in lawn chairs and a small campfire. Normally we would get there after a long run along the highway on the ATV's and then over a nice trail in the woods that Weldon and friends fixed up a couple of years ago.
We kept looking out at the weather and the temperature all Sunday morning thinking, it might be a cold ride over there but it could end up being an even colder ride back. The other problem we have with the whole thing is that in most places you can ride alongside the highway from our main road but in some places you have to cross it or ride on the shoulder for short distances, something neither Andy nor I like to do.
In the end, Andy came up with a great solution. He said, "Why don't I load up the bobcat trailer, throw the two machines on there and we'll drive to the jumping off point, offload and ride the fourwheelers through the woods from there?" I was keen! It didn't take long for him to strap the two machines to the trailer and away we went. Once parked it started hailing but we were less than 10 minutes away from the campfire and the same distance from the truck if the weather got miserable and we wanted to go home. , Believe you me, we were congratulating ourselves on our solution as the mixed hail and sleet came down while we were unloading. I would not have wanted to be running along the highway in that. Nasty weather isn't too bad if you can be on a trail in the woods because you've got some protection, but with the direction we were coming from, we would just be out in the open too much. Still, considering how far everyone else had to come on fourwheelers it was kind of cheating. I don't care. I was warm and dry. And when we came back and reloaded after getting a bit of a chill (too many people and not a big enough campfire) it was nice to climb into the truck and drive home rather than have at least another half hour to forty minutes of cold riding.
It never did warm up much that day and an absent sun didn't help much. Still, it was a wonderful picnic with people and kids and dogs, and lots of laughter. But at least it was too cold for the mosquitoes! I only saw two. That won't be the case in the same place about three weeks from now, although if this weather keeps up, we might never see any....yeah, right. :-) We didn't see any grizzly this time either, which was not the case last year when a few of the guys saw one hanging around in the vicinity a couple of times. It was probably fishing since that creek is full of rainbow.
Sunday night it started snowing in earnest and it peppered it down fairly hard for several hours. Fortunately, the surface of everything, including the ground, was already holding enough heat that a lot of snow melted as it hit. Still, by yesterday morning we had a couple of inches of the white stuff everywhere. Most of it has melted by today but there's still spots here and there in the shade where it's still white.
Yesterday there were birds coming back to the feeder for the first time in a while. I had cut them off of seed some time ago because of the voracious and noisy black birds, but I guess once it snowed, their little programmed minds said there should be seed in that feeder. We put out a handful because we felt sorry for the small birds, but it wasn't long before a red winged blackbird showed up so that's enough of that. The ground is clear enough that the birds shouldn't have any problem finding seeds and the chickadees are the most self sufficient of all when they want to be. Right now a pair of them have taken up nesting in the tree swallow house, which won't please that pair at all.
We put up a hummingbird feeder this morning and already I've watched one visit it outside my office window. Heaven knows how the little buggers keep warm when we have snow and the drops in temperature that we've had the last couple of days.
It was -8C or about 17F this morning and all the water along the shoreline of Nimpo Lake froze up solid. Fortunately, the water farther out stayed open or I think some birds would have been in serious trouble, especially since I saw four mature eagles all at one time cruising over the lake yesterday. It's not warming up very fast today either. As usual, we had bright blue skies and sunshine this morning, but it's already clouded over so it won't warm up much today.
We did see the water on Nimpo Lake advance over the ice quite a bit yesterday. We had really high winds all day long and that helped the water break up the ice. Yesterday alone the water out from the shoreline doubled in size and a large finger of water from over in the reed bed has advanced into our line of vision and grown substantially in size. The lines of open water between the islands have widened considerably as well but we're a far cry from two weeks after Clearwater Lake ice off. So much for May 4th being our ice off. It's just cooled down too much from a couple of weeks ago.
It was awesome to hear the loons calling back and forth yesterday evening, some of them almost cooing the way that they do. That's when it starts to feel like it's spring for real, is when you start hearing them. Not that Mother Nature is agreeing with me, obviously. But hopefully she'll keep her snow to herself from here on in.

02/05/2010 11:46 AM

It's a Waiting Game....

So, we're still waiting impatiently for the ice to come off of Nimpo Lake. I don't know why we're impatient. It's the same every year. We know it's going to take a certain amount of time, heat and movement in the ice before it will come off the lake. And since this has been such a cold winter with some cool temperatures off and on throughout the spring, we know it's going to be a while before that ice is going to go. But still, you hope by some hope that a wondrous miracle will happen and that ice will suddenly just disappear and there will be nothing but open water blue as blue can be. Which is exactly what will happen. Just not today.....
It's trying. It really is. The lake ice is going through all the moves we've seen over the years with it opening up first in this place and then in that, although admittedly, there are some strange differences here and there. The slush that froze in the whole Short Arm and formed our ice for the winter is definitely reacting differently this spring than good, hard lake ice normally would. As Andy pointed out, this ice has a lot of air bubbles in it and that could be making quite a difference.
There's been a wide swath of open water between the point and the big island and widening since Friday. Today there's clear water between the big island and small island that started to open up yesterday evening. The open pond over in the reed bed just gets bigger and bigger and will meet up soon with the open water over in front of our neighbours, as it does every year. The line of open water from the shoreline out is still not very wide, but it is getting wider every day.
It all just requires patience, or that's what I keep telling myself, anyway. Not that it makes any difference. I can talk to myself until I'm blue in the face but that isn't going to make me any more patient.
It would help if our weather would smarten up. With the exception of this morning, most mornings start out with glorious sunshine determined to bring those temperatures to above freezing. About the time it makes it to about 5C the clouds roll in and you're either experiencing hail spitting at you or a snow storm by afternoon. That's what happened on Friday. The temperatures had climbed up to a lovely, balmy 10C or 50F by shortly after noon, when they started falling again. By four it was only barely above freezing and we had a full blown blizzard that lasted for quite a little while. Fortunately the ground was warm enough that most of the snow melted by yesterday, but those cold temperatures did set the lake back a bit.
This is not boding well for the long, hot summer I've been hoping for. While forecasters have been predicting a warmer, dryer spring for most of Canada, just ask Albertan residents how they feel about that after digging themselves out of ditches because they've skidded off of icy snow covered roads recently. I think it was Regina's turn yesterday where temperatures were going to be barely above freezing and they were expecting blizzard conditions. I would sympathize but it hasn't been much better here. The warm temperatures that cleared the snow out of my garden a week or so ago have been scarce of late.
Heaven only knows why I would even want the lake open. That's one reason why it's been colder and damper in the past week. The wind howling over what open water there is picks up a lot of cold air on its way to my house. It's amazing but you get away from the lake or the point we live on and the air temperature goes up about five degrees. But that's okay. In the fall we'll be five degrees warmer than anyone else.
The snow melted off of the back trail and with little frost in the ground, Andy was able to go in with his Bobcat and bury that moose carcass Friday for which I'm thankful. A few people have been seeing black bear or grizzly here and there and though we haven't seen any sign around here yet, it was only a matter of time. I was not looking forward to coming on a bear on the carcass by surprise. I doubt the reaction would have been a happy one.
Yesterday evening we went for a walk to see if there was any sign around where the carcass was buried and on our return we stopped to check the state of the lake ice from a neighbour's place that sits much higher than we do. There was a whole flock of white birds nestled on the ice and we couldn't figure out what they were from that distance. When we got home they were still there so we eyed them up through a spotting scope and I took some pictures. They were snow geese. 105 of them! Actually, 104 snow geese with one Canada Goose tucked in among them. While I've seen huge flocks fly over the prairies, I don't recall ever seeing a flock here on its way north before. And it was funny because some folks that are new to the area were asking everyone at dinner last Sunday about an oddly colored goose she saw among some Canada Geese. We all assured her that it must be a Trumpeter Swan but she was sure it was a goose. Well, she was right and we were all wrong. Apparently, we are now on a snow goose fly way. Weird.
You know, a lot of people are talking about global warming as though it's a bad thing. If it's caused by humans, then it certainly is but its effects on the bird population so far seems favorable. Just in the past eight years that I've been back in this part of the country, I've seen a marked increase in the numbers of Trumpeter Swans, Bald Eagles, hawks, woodpeckers, song birds of all kinds, and now we're seeing snow geese. And not just a small flock of them. Are they being pushed farther west on their northerly migration than they normally would be? Changing air currents? Adapting to a new set of circumstance? Why not?
Yesterday they showed a news item on television showing how hungry polar bears forced into new areas because of melting ice are raiding guillemot and puffin nests. Polar bears were around long before the last ice age so it has to be assumed that they are a highly adaptable species because they have also coped with a series of global warmings periods in the past that were pretty severe according to ice core records. If there is a noticeable shift in the movements of large species such as polar bears, it follows that we will be seeing a shift in all species, birds included. But, since I'm not an ornithologist, or a scientist in any other field, I can only conjecture.
I was just watching the loons out in the puddle of water in front of our place. It must finally have gotten big enough for them to take it over. Earlier this morning, they were swimming around in the water that just opened up between the big island and the small one, studiously avoiding the pair that were occupying the open water between the point and the big island. A slow ice off must be tough on the loons because they're so territorial and each pair needs to be almost out of sight of the other. In any case, we noticed that they arrived in this newly enlarged pond only a couple of hours ago, but I have no idea how they got there. I don't think they flew so I wonder if they came under the ice. That would be a long trip underwater but they are amazing creatures for their ability to swim for long periods under the surface.
This is the start of a new week, (And new month, for that matter. Hallelujah! It's about time!) so you'll find last week's tidbits at April Week Four.

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!
A surprise snowfall in May.
An early May snow covers trees and greenhouse.
A loon beats his wings on Nimpo Lake.
A single early spring loon.
105 geese fly over Nimpo Lake.
A flock of snow geese flying.
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