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Wilderness Adventures - Nov., Week 3/2011

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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21/11/2011 8:30 PM

Iced Over

.... And even that may have frozen over by today.
As I mentioned the other day, we woke up to most of the bay in front being frozen over to the big island. The next couple of days we had wind and it succeeded in beating the ice back slightly. And then we got a -25C or -13F night. That pretty much took care of the rest of the lake for the most part except for steam rising that we could see just around the corner of the point, indicating the Main Arm was still open. Since we haven't seen any fog in the past couple of days, I'm assuming most of the lake is frozen now.
The night that it went down to -25, I fully expected it to reach -30 because the temperature had been dropping so quickly throughout the evening. Surprisingly, though, the temperature started to come up before I went to bed. The same thing happened the next night with a quick drop to -20C and then a slow rise later in the evening. It did that three nights running until yesterday when we finally came out of the deep freeze. Last night it was only -7C or 19F when I went to bed and today we finally topped the freezing mark by a degree or two . It's back down to a couple of degrees below freezing but that's about all.
We didn't go walking the dogs for two days because of the temperature and bone chilling wind but yesterday I finally couldn't stand being inside any longer. The wind was still cold and temps a few degrees below freezing, but at least it was fresh air and there was sun. By contrast, today was wonderful. We had sun this morning and while it got breezy, at least it was warm enough to start softening the snow on the ground a bit and made walking really nice without being bundled up.
We've managed to dodge a couple of major storms that have hit elsewhere in the past few days but our luck may have run out tonight. There's a massive storm moving in from the Pacific that is supposed to dump a lot of snow throughout the province tonight and tomorrow. The weatherman had numerous snow warnings on the news tonight and looking at the radar, it looks like we could be right on the edge of it. At least that's what I'm hoping, even thought it has been peppering down lots of feathery little flakes for that past couple of hours. It hasn't amounted to much so far but we'll see what the morning brings. Hopefully not two feet of snow which is what is being called for in some areas.
I finally put out seed in the bird feeders yesterday. We don't have a lot of snow and until it got cold, I figured the birds are better off hunting for their own food, for a couple of reasons. One is that I don't like to put out food too early or it seems possible that some of the birds that should be heading farther south could end up being stuck here, which I've seen happen before. The other is that we have a half grown cat that looks to be a wicked hunter and I really didn't want the bird feeder to make his life any easier and become his personal snack bar until there was some snow on the ground and it got cold. He doesn't seem to be quite as thrilled about being outside now as much as he was this summer, particularly since the cold came. The snow he seemed to be accepting but he's definitely a real weenie with the chill, especially when there's a wind, not that I blame him. At least when he starts getting out of hand in the house, putting him outside for a little while really seems to change his attitude somewhat.
We've got some monster cracks in the ice out front and even in the back bay, probably caused by wind whipping up waves while the Main Arm was still open, and moving the water under the ice. Surprisingly, though, the ice isn't making a lot of noise freezing up this year and you would think with the variation in temperatures we would be hearing something. I've only heard one funny burble so far and that's about it. There isn't that much snow on the ice so you wouldn't think it would be insulating it that much, although the ice does definitely make more noise when it's clear and more directly exposed to sunlight and air temperature differences. In any case, I miss the alien sounds of freeze up. We didn't get to hear them last time because the lake froze over while we were gone this time last year, so I'm hoping we'll get to hear something this year. Maybe when the ice grows more.....
16/11/2011 2:30 PM

Ice Over or..... maybe not....

I think I mentioned before that the lake has not really not frozen over to any extent because the wind has beat back any ice that has tried to form. The exception was in the back bay where the wind broke up the ice back to the dock bay but that inner part remained frozen.
In fact only about three days ago we were coming back along our driveway from taking the dogs for a walk when I saw a bird. It was bobbing along the edge of that ice and was too far away to identify with any certainty, but we could still see the white breast and fawn color that looked suspiciously like a young loon. That was the last thing I wanted to see.
I grabbed the binoculars from inside the house and went back along the driveway with Andy saying behind me, “Don't look. You don't want to know!” But of course I had to. Sure enough, even through the binoculars I had to look hard, but there were the just developing spots on the body of the bird, which although of good size, was definitely still pretty young. Great. Another young loon that is not going to make it out before ice up and that the eagles will eat alive. All I could hope was that as the lake froze over in that bay he would be pushed down toward the river, which is actually a reasonably safe place for a loon to overwinter because there's almost always just a little bit of open water even in the coldest temperatures.
What seemed strange is I had absolutely not seen a loon there in the previous days and they're pretty territorial. We had seen a lone grebe, the black and white ducks with the funny flat head, and a few other ducks back there in the last week or so, but no loon. It's highly unlikely that a loon born elsewhere on the lake would move from his nesting area, so it seems almost certain that this loon came in from somewhere else and that would be a hallelujah!
It probably means he was big enough to start south flying from lake to lake, but not strong enough to go any distance, which if the case, was a huge relief because hopefully he's still leapfrogging lakes because yesterday, it froze. When I got up yesterday morning there was a smooth sheet of glass nearly to the island in front, and the entire back bay was frozen. I looked really carefully coming back from our walk yesterday to see if anything was frozen into the ice or if there were any eagles on the ice. Nothing that I could see. Nor could I see anything in the front. Big sigh of relief. I know it happens and it's survival of the fittest, but I don't like to see live loons trapped in the ice and be able to do nothing about it. That just leaves the Main Arm now which hasn't frozen up. Hopefully if any young loons are caught this year, we won't be able to see them.
In any case, if that young loon was actually headed south on his own, waterway by waterway, then it's the first I've seen and I wonder if they're finally figuring it out.
I wondered to Andy why the young of a bird that has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years and seem reasonably intelligent, haven't figured out that they have to go south, whether they can fly very far or not. There are a lot of lakes and potholes in this country that a young bird could hopscotch to until they got into warmer climes. I have to wonder whether loons have developed to the edge of their efficiency as a species. They are a very tough, heavy bird and awkward fliers. While they have developed tremendous power in and under the water, they are almost too weighty to fly, need a lot of water to take off, and if the young are born late, they often don't get strong enough, fast enough, to fly south with their parents. That probably works fine for a species that sticks to waterways that don't freeze over, but in fact, the loons need pretty specialized locations and can be found as far north as in the arctic. So why would a species accustomed to being first on barely thawed lakes in spring have young that can't fly south until very late in the fall? Mother Nature doesn't seem to be at her best here, although she certainly got everything else right about the loon. They are still my favorite waterfowl, although everyone has noticed that those on Nimpo Lake have gotten much quieter than in the past. I don't if it's because there are more eagles or what. Or maybe the mosquitoes have gotten so bad in the past couple of years and as in the case of this year, lasted so late into the summer, that we're not outside where we can hear the loons when they're at their noisiest. They were really quiet this fall so it was hard to determine when they left, but most of the adults seemed to have left earlier than usual.
Last night the temperature did its usual plummet and was again nearly -13C or 9F by early evening. By the time I went to bed it had climbed to -6C or 21F, clouded over, and a breeze had sprung up. I figured for sure we would have snow this morning but although the skies were pretty low and grey, and it was snowing over the mountains, it missed us. Not that it didn't try for a while, but it's gotten really breezy, and the sun is shining at present.
The wind has pushed avenues through the ice in front between us and the Main Arm, and is and piling it up in places. You can hear the klinkers out there whenever the wind dies down. The entire back bay and everything to the east of us is frozen now and will probably stay that way until spring unless we get a north wind in the next couple of days. Even though the wind is pushing fingers of water through the ice in front I expect most of it will stay as well.
It's always interesting to take note where the lake freezes early and where it freezes late, because if there's quite a difference in time, then there will be quite a difference in thickness or weakness of ice. The lake never freezes exactly the same every year, but there are similarities year to year. Right now there's a big pile of klinkers that are NOT going to be fun to snowmobile or ski over this winter, but I'm trusting that the waves pushing them up will clear them right out. Though I'm not a fan of wind, this time of year I actually like it. It's the only thing that can keep the lake from freezing up and I like it when Mother Nature and Old Man Winter have a war. It's nice when Winter has to work for his biscuits.
I'm sure he's going to come back and bite me in the butt later this winter for that comment.
West Branch Valley south of Tatla Lake had snow coming thick and fast this morning and Williams Lake was getting it by noon. I just talked to our friends from down in Ashcroft and they were seeing light snow as well so it looks like that big storm coming in got pretty much everyone but us. I'm pleased about that! The longer the snow holds off the easier it is to walk dogs and for Andy to get wood without wading through snow and over ice.
High winds and possibly some snow was supposed to be hitting the Lower Mainland so I guess we'll see what happened with them on the news tonight. Tomorrow isn't supposed to be much better with snow levels accumulating at lower elevations, but hey, maybe we'll get lucky and it'll all go around us again. I'm not ready for snowmobiling yet!
Last week's blog and the Retro Boat can be found at
November 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!
Whole front bay frozen over in one night.
 
Nimpo Lake frozen over to the south of us.
 
Everything east and north froze over in one night.
 
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