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Wilderness Adventures - Oct., Week Two/2009

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.

Rolling over an image will give you its description.
Check out the Picture of the Day.

14/10/2009 9:52 AM

October Surprise

We haven't even made it to the middle of the month yet and we woke up to an inch of snow on the ground yesterday morning. That was surprise enough, but then it peppered down snow all day to a total of about three inches. Then when I got up this morning and went out to feed dogs, it looks like it dropped another half to an inch of snow overnight. While it's a little unusual to get snow like this in early October in the past decade, it's not rare by any means and certainly not by comparison of two decades ago.
I think I've mentioned in the past one snowfall in the middle of October 1991 that caught everyone off guard. It was right about this time of year because it was during cow season (There was a short period of only a few days in mid October when moose were in the rut and you could shoot either a cow moose or bull.) When we got a two foot dump overnight and it wasn't nice snow. It was heavy and wet. My Mother was out visiting this way because we had been hunting together when the owner of a resort across the lake asked us to help out. He knew I had just purchased a new 4X4 that sat quite high above the ground, because I'd been caught flat footed the fall before when it dropped four feet of snow in less than 24 hours and I couldn't get home in the two wheel drive I had at the time.
Supposedly, nine European hunters had been dropped off at a remote lake for ten days by a guide outfitter with pick-up not due for several more days. They weren't equipped to deal with two feet of snow (much more up where they were located) and couldn't get around. They were also running out of food. I don't know who heard their call for help but someone told this resort owner and he decided to go in and fly them out. Not that it wasn't to his advantage. He was still going to be charging them for lodging and food for the remainder of their stay, and if he could help them get a moose near the lodge, that's worth a quite a lot as well. Which is why he called on me. He needed my truck to take them around in the deep snow, and he needed a lodge cook because his wife had already returned to their winter home. So, Mom and I drove over there, I handed him the keys to my new truck with dire warnings of the consequences if he so much as scratched it, and we set to work cooking.
I took a pair of the hunters out later in the day just walking, (since obviously my truck couldn't fit that many guys) and it was rugged going in the snow. I took them in to a meadow not far from the lodge but it was still rough wading through that heavy, wet, stuff and we gave up fairly quickly. That snow never did melt before spring. We've had other dumps like that in the past but we've been spoiled by our long, warm falls the last couple of years so that this comes as a bit of a surprise.
So, I just got an email from at friend over at Charlotte Lake with a link to the BC Wildfire web site saying that the Cariboo Fire Center finally took the open fire ban off for the Chilcotin yesterday. Well, duh. There was several inches of snow on the ground and it was still snowing yesterday so I should definitely think they would take the ban off. I guess we should be thankful that they at least thought about doing so now instead of waiting until Christmas or so before remembering to do it.
There is no question that the woods have been very dry, but we've had extremely cold temperatures that have led to heavy, heavy frost in the mornings as well as a lot of fog. That means everything has stayed pretty damp throughout the day. As a result, to maintain a camp fire ban in the face of those conditions for the past couple of weeks has seemed ridiculous to say the least. I can see not permitting open slash burning, but camp fires? I would chalk it up to the Cariboo Fire Center being overly concerned about our well being out here by maintaining a camp fire ban this late into the fall, had we not had to fight so hard to get our lookout manned during one of the hottest, driest springs and early summers ever. But we won't go into the childishness displayed there.
Needless to say, many have been ignoring the Fire Center's edict for the last couple of weeks or so anyway when they've deemed it safe to burn, and the powers to be haven't known the difference. That's the beauty of living in the Chilcotin!
The air mass over us seems to be quite large and stable. It dumped snow on a lot of places in the province yesterday and is expected to do so today as well. But most telling is that our temperature hasn't changed much. It got up to -2C yesterday and then dropped to -4C or 25F yesterday evening and stayed there until I went to bed. It was exactly the same this morning when I got up and still hasn't changed. So warm air from the south must be mixing with that Arctic cold we had and it's maintaining the temperature right now. We are supposed to see a significant warm up over the next few days which will probably melt this snow. And that will probably make a mess since the ground is frozen wherever there's been moisture, but so be it. At least a warm up will make the wild fowl happy. Some ducks flew over the lake yesterday and it looked like they couldn't quite make up their mind whether to land or keep on going in the snow storm. They were probably thinking, "Middle of October, What the Duck????!!!"

11:00 a.m. - Bugger, it's starting to snow again.....
12/10/2009 7:02 PM

Thanksgiving Cold

We've gotten a little Arctic blast over the last couple of days that brought our temperatures down to -13C or 8.6F by this morning and they never did make it much higher than a degree above freezing this afternoon before they started dropping again. But at least we weren't as cold as Williams Lake and Prince George which saw overnight temperatures of -16C or 3 degrees Fahrenheit.
We woke up to clear blue skies this morning and a very heavy fog on the lake. It took a long time for it to burn off because it was just so chilly out. By this afternoon high cloud started moving in and a little breeze rustled up, which kind of knocked the stuffing out of my idea of going out on the lake for some fish. I didn't relish stiffening up like an old board out there in that frigid air hanging over the water. By this evening it has socked in completely and looks like it's snowing off and on over the mountains. I fully expect to see snow on the ground by morning.
My flowers have taken a pretty good kicking and they've finally given up on the growing season. We were down at the other end of the lake last night for Thanksgiving dinner and I offered to bring some Swiss Chard from the other greenhouse down to friends if it had made it through. It hadn't. It survived -8 temps the other night but two nights in a row of -12 and -13 was just too much for it. It's toast.
I had hoped to get a bunch of plants in flower beds cut and cleaned up before it snows, but I think I'll be too late by morning and if it snows on them overnight, they'll be too laid over for me to do much with them. I've also been waiting for a little warmer weather to finish watering in some plants for winter, but I may have to wait a couple of more days for that. It is supposed to warm up, but I don't know if it's going to warm up enough to thaw out the ground, which is already frozen down a couple of inches or so.
I've received some marvelous pictures from a neighbour down the lake and Heidy over at Charlotte Lake of the fantastic sunsets we've been enjoying for the last few days, with the exception of tonight, that is. So I'll be sure to show case the pictures both here and on Picture of the Day.

10/10/2009 11:59 AM

Hunting a moose

Many people complained of their lack of success hunting this year. As usual, I suspect that the extremely warm temperatures in September was the reason there was so little sign of moose around. Although the grizzly bear and wolf pack depredation probably hasn't helped the moose population much. I didn't get a draw this year and in view of the weather, it was probably just as well. I got to miss out on the frustration of looking and not seeing. However, as I mentioned before, Mike Owen, a frequent visitor to the area, finally scored at the end of his Limited Entry Hunting season by the skin of his teeth. He ended up getting a real beauty of a bull, but his story of how he got it is more than interesting. Enjoy:
"When I first saw him I thought, because of the angle, trees, distance etc. that he was a rancher's black cow. I had started just east of a large meadow on the Morrison Meadow side of Highway 20. I had done some walking this year and had been nicknamed "Seismic Mike" several years ago, for my going cross country so much. I followed this animal for about two, maybe three kilometers, before I was able to get a good look at him. Previously all I was seeing was sign and his body stepping into the next forest or brush. Lucky I had a strong wind in my favor the whole time.
He was never in a hurry.... just always ahead of me. Plus, I never got too excited until the last 30 mins when I thought he was gone forever. I watched him leave this meadow about 1000 meters in front of me. Then while I was standing by the NW corner of this meadow, in some small brush to hide me, he reappeared about 1200 meters away. I watched him walk with the wind, back towards me, till he was about 1,000 meters away. He stopped and for no apparent reason, just walked slowly back along the edge of this meadow where he had come from. He stepped back into the small trees and brush that he had exited from some 10 mins earlier. It took me about 10 minutes to reposition myself behind an "island" of small piles of debris and trees and tall grasses. The wind was still in my favor as I stood by the corner posts of a fence. Again I had tall uncut grasses and some minor brush giving me cover. I made one pathetic cow moose call. I am not good at this, and with the wind I doubt he ever heard me. I stood there for 15 mins. He reappeared and again walked along this meadow, got to the almost same location and stopped and again sauntered back upwind to the same little clump of trees etc. where he had originally walked to and from. He was almost like on a conveyor belt, Back and forth. Again I stood for 7 to 8 mins. to see if he would reappear.
My laser sight was inoperable, so I had no real idea of distances. I had left it along with my heavy jacket on a fence post about 75 meters away from where I was positioned. I called once again. Still into the wind. After waiting what seemed like an eternity, I decided it was getting late, and Chef Joe would never believe me, as this was the third time in as many years I have seen a nice bull while alone, and no way to verify yet another sighting to Joe. I decided to leave this meadow and seek Joe out whom I had left a couple of hours earlier and see where our Sammi was. These shooting distances for me, too great for me to even consider. But I thought maybe if I found Joe and repositioned Joe down near some large spruce trees, Joe may have a chance.
Chef Joe is a good shot. If not, Joe could always make me a nice lunch. The heat of the day was increasing but still around 7 to 9C. I started to walk around the front of another island of brush debris etc. from this meadow and, when about 100 meters from my "stand" realized I'd forgotten my heavy jacket and defunct binoculars. Back I went to fetch them. Grabbed them, and went back the way I had started, around the open end of the "island". I was in the open in part of this meadow and there was no cover. All the while I would be out in the open but what did it matter. The moose was long gone and too far for me to guess a shot. I looked up and he was stepping out into a different part of the meadow about 600 or 700 meters away and broadside to me. Again the heavy wind was in my favor. I froze. I was completely out in the open, gun shouldered, jacket over my arm. Sore knee, I was tired. Binoculars around my neck. He just kept walking east almost parallel to me. I somehow managed to raise my scope to my eye and see his lovely broadside profile for the third time. I think the glint of my gun or my motion made him stop walking. He looked directly at me. We were a good 600 meters apart. Both in open meadow. He turned his body 90 degrees, but with my normal eye sight I could not tell if towards me or away. He stood perfectly still. So did I. How to get my scope up to see him? Is he towards me or away from me? I had on brown pants, brown inner sweater, and a brown hat. My gun was now covered by my brown jacket. I saw the animal take a few steps but the distance was too great for me to see whether towards or away. So I slowly, without really exposing my white face in the sunlight, just "calmly" walked towards the fence behind me. The fence might give me some minor cover. The sun was directly into my face. I looked over my right shoulder once and he was definitely coming towards me. I stopped, he stopped! I guessed he was 500 to 600 meters away. But his antlers were glistening in the sunlight and I could start to see with my own eyes their size. I took a few more steps towards this fence. Now this fence runs on an angle and as I got closer to it, I realized it would, when I was standing beside it, give me some cover. He would not see past the slight corner of the fence line. I looked again at him and the fence. He was 500 meters away and I only 100 from the fence. Man this jacket is heavy! I took a few more steps and while doing so I realized this moose was now about 400 meters away and trotting towards me! He was trotting! His body swaying in the sunshine. My immediate thought was those antlers were getting larger and larger. I can't kneel and take a shot? My knee is too sore. Stand? Take a shot? A front shot? At what distance 400, 300, 200, 100 meters? Those antlers looked larger with every step he took.
I decided to move to the fence, put the fence between him and me. With me walking quickly, but not running, and by going some 30 to 40 meters, the fence line had done just what I thought it would do, block him and I from viewing each other. I now had to find a way to cross this fence with sore knee and rest, to gather myself.
I went up along the fence line putting some distance between me and the moose. I found another sort of corner place on the fence where there was wooden cross posts to assist me over the fence. I threw my heavy jacket on the ground ,dropped my binos too, and tried to kneel. Too sore. Too painful. I realized I had no idea now as to the distance to the moose. Was he even still coming? I decided to stoop and walk along the fence to a place where I could sit on my butt and gather my thoughts and still be able to fire if he was within my range. I had not walked 20 meters when I saw his antlers above the brush and fence line walking towards me not 100 meters away. I realized for the first time I might have my first moose since 1968. I rested my barrel on the barbed wire and sat and waited. He did not come out for what seemed an eternity. In reality maybe 2 to 3 minutes? But when he did, I had had lots of time to gather my breath, adjust my scope to 3, check my safety, and wait. He stepped out of the fence line not more than 80 meters from me and about 75 meters from the fence line. He too had paused, I presumed when he lost sight of me. The wind was still in my favor and now I had the tall grasses and fence line brush to partly hide me. I fired one time and he fell like a stone. He never moved from that spot. I said a small thank you. My second thought was of my son, whom I had put on a plane to Vancouver two weeks earlier. That he could not be here this morning. Tim had had an exciting morning on his first day here in the Chilcotin, and hopefully there will be many more exciting times for us together, in the Chilcotin.

Whoo Hoo! Now isn't that a good hunt! As I told Mike, because he was dressed in brown and had called into the wind and the call a faint one, I suspect the bull moose thought that he was a cow. Since Mike kept moving away from him and was often obscured by bushes and grass, and moose are known for their notoriously poor eye sight, that bull probably figured he was on the trail of the female variety. That's some good hunting!!
This morning has dawned clear and beautiful, not to mention cold. It never made it any higher than four degrees above freezing yesterday and by dawn this morning it had dropped to -8C or 17F as was forecast. I have to go check greenhouses today. I don't expect anything made it through the night after those kind of temperatures.
Happy Thanksgiving to all you Canadians out there. Enjoy your weekend!

09/10/2009 11:04 AM

The Fishing Adventure

Wow, I didn't realize how long it had been since I had written until I looked at the date of the last post. Time has kind of run away on me this fall.
We managed to sneak out Monday of this week after supper for an hour or so for some fishing. I had a big batch of chow cooking on the stove for an event on Tuesday, but the fish were plopping all over the lake and I just couldn't take it any more. I shut off the heat from under the pans of food and grabbed fishing rods while Andy got a battery into the boat.
It was really nice and warm at first and we were really enjoying just being out on the water even without much in the way of action. Then we started getting a lot of good, strong strikes, but we were losing fish. That doesn't normally happen that much, but their mouths must be really soft right now. I got a small fish out in front of our place, but it wasn't until we went into the back bay that we really started catching and keeping fish. When we cleaned them, you could tell a real difference in the color of the flesh between the dark salmon colored fish I caught at first, and the next three that we caught where the lake starts to exit into the Dean River. The flesh of those fish was much paler. Still, they all look good as fillets in my freezer and they'll look even better on a plate in the dead of winter. Now if we could just get back out there....
Mike Owen, the fellow that emailed me the sow grizzly story also related his experience fishing Nimpo Lake this fall.

"I was fishing one day two weeks ago on Nimpo and had a real run in with a very large fish.
It's the first time I have experienced that size of trout on Nimpo. Joe and I had just left our dock, my fly was in the water and Joe was busy with his wedding band Ford fender system. I always tease him about using that heavy equipment on Nimpo Lake. All of a sudden, bang! His reel screamed and then nothing. "Ha, Ha!" I laughed, "You hit or snagged bottom. Told you not to put out yet." "No way," he said, but all he had was a line. No gear, nothing. All gone. "Told you to use flies here." He was busying himself, muttering about making another such hook up, and the cost of fishing, when bang! My reel sounded. This was the first time this fall that I had a trout on. I was surprised at how rapidly the trout swan with my fly.
I troll a fly, on a sinking tip, sinking line. This was a good sized fish. Almost to my backing when wham, the fish got a whole lot more powerful. My backing quickly departed my reel and it was all I could do to stop this fish from separating my line from my reel. Something had to give. Man, he/she was running left and right about 50 feet behind my boat. Still had not broken the surface. What a monster I thought. "This is like a 10 pound salmon." I said to Joe. "Are we ever going to have a nice smoker here!" Joe's face was not a happy one. All of a sudden the line went slack. My heart dropped. GONE! "What the heck?" I said. Joe said, "Might be the same fish that was on my line moments earlier. I heard they were hungry this time of the year."
I was about to respond to him when I realized that this fish was still there and must be running towards the boat, as my line again tightened and reel sang once more. By now I had the motor off and was drifting with the slight wind. Well this went on for three times when finally I got the fish, still under the water, closer to the boat.
There was a Loon holding onto the tail of my TROUT! He was not the least bit concerned about the net or our yelling at him. He had his fish at one end, and I had my fish at the other end. This fish turned out to be a 19" Rainbow Trout and we each had a hold of either end. The loon ran again with his powerful wings and feet and again the drag on my reel could not stop him. Using my index finger to provide drag on my reel was the only way. My backing was almost depleted. Again I brought him and the fish closer to the boat. Two more times he ran with my fish! Then as he swam under the boat with the fish in his mouth, he either let it go or lost his grip. Quick draw Joe, with the net, netted my fish.
Other than some good heavy marks on his tail the fish was fine. Except he was in my trout basket. That Loon followed us for 45 mins trying to take every fish we hooked that day. Oars banging on the water, yelling, banging on the side of the boat never fazed him. He was within 3 to 6 feet of us each time we had a fish on. With one fish, the loon almost swam into the net. Boy, that could have been trouble, but at the last instance the Loon turned away and only his wing brushed the net. We caught our limit that day despite his best efforts to eat a few himself. Just another day on Nimpo.

Thanks, Mike!
(Mike also has a hunting story that I will print here in the next day or so.)
I have never had this experience with loons on this lake, nor have I heard of anyone else having a problem, but I have heard of it happening on many lakes in the Okanagan and it can be a real problem. I can only hope that this was a migrating loon that was just passing through and that he will take his bad habit with him. The last thing we need is for our local loons to learn this behavior.
We had some pretty decent weather this week considering the time of year. Most of the aspen and many of the willows still have their leaves, and in sheltered spots, those leaves are still green, which is amazing.
There was quite a bit of snow that was dropped on the mountains in the past week or so, but surprisingly, a lot of it melted, probably because it got warm enough during the day, even at higher elevations. Our temperatures at night have dropped below freezing for the most part this week, and they're expected to drop even more in the next few days. There's a cold front moving down from the north carried by a jet stream that has swung clear up to the Alaska Panhandle and nearly straight back down again. The weather forecasters were predicting that temperatures would be seven degrees warmer in the morning in the Cariboo yesterday than they would be in the afternoon and that it would drop to -10C overnight. While it got a little raw here yesterday and tried to spit rain, it only dropped to a couple of degrees below freezing last night, probably because we have heavy cloud cover. We fully expected to see snow on the ground this morning, and there is, but it's just a skiff.
Because temperatures were expected to plummet, I cleared pretty much everything out of the greenhouse here except for some zucchini that's still trying to mature. I pulled the heater out so it's do or die for that plant now. Andy added a support post in the middle of the greenhouse in case we get a good snow load this winter so now all that's left to do is figure out what I'm going to spray that dirt with to control mold next year. Any ideas would be welcome.
I still have to finish clearing the Swiss Chard out of the other greenhouse so kindly loaned to me by the neighbours for the summer. I've already put quite a bit if chard down in the freezer but there's still a whole whack of it over there that I need to get to. Other than that, I think we're pretty much ready for winter. There's quite a bit of firewood in the yard and Andy will work at getting more through the winter, but I think we're set!
It looks like everyone else is thinking winter as well. The docks are starting to build up over in the back bay. Stewart's Lodge moored their docks over there a couple of days ago and Duncan has all his planes put to bed. Probably with good reason. I just looked outside to see snow flakes sifting down. Before you know it, it'll be time to pull out the sleds .
You'll find last week's articles, including Mike's story about the grizzly sow and wolf, at October Week One.

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!
Dark blue, pink and orange streaks across the sky above the lake.
Bright yellow lights the water surrounded by pink and purple sky and water.
Sunset colors the water of Charlotte Lake like a molten river moving toward the mountains.
Dark orange streaks the water and sky from the sunset.
Man with moose antlers.
Sun setting over Nimpo Lake colors the sky and water pink.
High mountain behind Nimpo Lake is pink in a sunset.
Fast boat on Nimpo Lake.
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