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 - Oct. Week 3/2006
you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes,
exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read stories like
'Lake Monsters' - just go into Archives on the lower left side
of this page.
You can search this site for a subject of interest to you
at the bottom of this page. Check out the
of the Day.
Happy Last Day Of October Everyone
guess that means Happy Halloween as well. Not a whole
lot happening here today. It's still cold of course. It
was -10C when I got up this morning but trust me, that
wasn't early. It was -16C or about 4F when I went to bed
last night so it would have gotten much colder at dawn.
There's definitely frost on the pumpkin!
Literally. As usual, the trick or treaters are going to
have to bundle up tonite. In the Chilcotin that
means designing your costume for warmth. One friend
of ours told me that she's going as a whoopee cushion.
That sounds rather nice and cozy doesn't it?
Last night the mist started rising off of Nimpo Lake and
the moon shone eerily through it. It was dead silent and
I could hear the Trumpeter Swans talking out on the lake.
I'm sure there were northern lights last night but with
the mist, it was impossible to see.
Today I've been watching the black headed ducks fly in.
They come in like fighter jets on their side and
land like professional pilots, creating hardly a ripple
in the water. They have to be the smoothest ducks
of any and they always look like they're dressed in tuxes
for a party with their clean black and white coloring.
I haven't heard any loons for a while so I guess they're
gone. I miss them even more than the floatplanes over
winter. But then that's what I like about the Chilcotin.
Every season is drastically different.
I noticed when I went out yesterday that where the
Dean River exits from Nimpo Lake it was frozen over like
thin glass on both sides of the bridge and we've
got ice over in the little bay next us. There's high haze
today and it looks like a system is moving in from over
the mountains so hopefully it will warm up a bit. It's
funny, but we all comment on how unusual the weather is
when it blows in this early. But really, it's not. I can
remember when I was a kid in the Cariboo, you would
often have a blisteringly hot October, and right around
Halloween, it would dump snow and turn cold.
We were never allowed to go trick or treating, mainly
because we lived too far from town. Every year we had
to go to my parents' friend's place where he usually planned
a bonfire. Invariably it would drop a couple feet of snow
and you would stand around the fire for as long as you
could stand cold feet until you were forced inside with
all of the 'boring' adults. The friend would set off fireworks
but it was usually so cold you watched from inside the
house and then it was, "Okay, we've seen it. Can
we go home now?"
But I remember one year when we had glorious weather
leading up to Halloween. We were so thrilled we
could have peed ourselves because my parents were finally
going to allow us to have our own Halloween
party outside with a bonfire, hot chocolate and treats
and we could invite friends from the tiny community a
couple of miles away. Oh, we were some excited, let me
tell you. We gathered wood for days, and all of us baked
and dipped apples, made caramel corn, cut logs for seating.
This was a once in a lifetime thing for us and it
was going to be a party to remember, especially
since the weather was so beautiful. The night before Halloween
it dumped about two feet of snow and then the mercury
plummeted. Cancelled party. You would not believe the
disappointment. Sad to say, I've never been real
thrilled with Halloween since. And yet the newscasters
say that Canadians spend huge amounts of money on Halloween
and only slightly less than what they spend at Christmas.
I wonder if there's such a thing as a Halloween grinch?
That would probably be me.
Kind of feels like Christmas instead. Our Christmas lights
are on now. I know, it's not even November yet, but that's
my way of fighting back against the commercials touting
Christmas that we've been seeing on TV for two weeks now.
If you can't beat them, then beat the folks over at Anahim
Lake. One couple there gets their Christmas lights turned
on by the first of November. You can just hear those
old generators over at Anahim that provide our electricity
draw down with the grunt.
I've got to get back to work. Happy trick or treating
everyone and have a safe Halloween!!
Folks. I realize it's been nearly a week since I last
posted an article but I had some deadlines to meet.
Winter has hit here with some serious fury.
We got a little snow earlier last week that melted. Friday
night it started raining and dropped nearly an inch. On
Saturday night the rain turned into the biggest snowflakes
you have ever seen! It was as though someone tore
up some tissue into silver dollar sized pieces and started
dropping them. They were so big that they just
floated slowly to the ground and it wasn't just us that
saw them. Quite a few people commented on the size of
the snowflakes, especially those that had to drive through
it. We got somewhere between four and five inches that
settled to a little less than three inches of snow by
the next day.
Northern British Columbia made out a lot worse than we
did with Smithers receiving about three feet of
snow that virtually shut the city down. To the
south, the Vancouver area had high winds that knocked
out power to about 24,000 homes. Actually, the electricity
was out all over the province and there were numerous
accidents on the highways because of ice. We actually
got off pretty lucky with no power outages. Unusual
since we got freezing rain before the snow hit. It took
a while for us to get our truck doors open yesterday because
they were frozen shut.
A cold front moved in yesterday and we watched the
mercury plummet last night. We registered -18C
or 0F here but up on the highway at Nimpo where you are
away from the warming influence of the lake, it was -22C
or about 5 below Fahrenheit at 4:30 this morning. That's
pretty chilly for this time of year, even in the Chilcotin.
The one side benefit may be that it kills the mountain
pine beetle larvae in the smaller trees.
Eight Trumpeter Swans came ratcheting in this afternoon
and landed on Nimpo Lake. They'll be heading down to their
wintering grounds at Lonesome Lake I expect, provided
John Edwards is still feeding them.
I've got a poor, lonely, redwinged blackbird at
the birdfeeder today. He doesn't have much of
a wing bar so he may be an immature, and I don't know
what the heck he's still doing in the country. He should
have left with his flock long ago and according to my
bird book, they definitely don't overwinter here. If it
were earlier in the fall I would shut off the seed to
encourage him to head south, but I think it's too late
now. If he hasn't gone by now, he probably won't
and I'm afraid he won't make it through the winter.
I think most of us around here were ready to see winter.
I don't mind seeing snow on the ground. Most everything
that needed to be picked up or covered up was. A couple
of the neighbours might have been caught by surprise with
their docks only just getting moved. Ours is still in
and we may put the boat back in if it warms up because
the fishing will be great. Cold, but great. There's a
bunch of ducks out on the water that must think the same.
I don't know how they stand that water with it
only just above freezing, but they often stay
until just before freeze up. I guess that's why we all
like duck and goose down in our jackets. lol.
The Weather Odds
are the chances that it will snow the night before we
have to drive down the 'Hill' to Bella Coola?
Apparently pretty darned good. Even though it hasn't snowed
for over a month! Not that snow this time of year is at
all rare, the fact that we haven't had snow since the
middle of September is what's unusual. But that it has
to snow when we have to go down the 'Hill' does not make
me appreciate Ol' Mother Nature one bit.
Last night the wind was howling, and then went dead quiet
after midnight. It started raining hard but more like
those needle sharp little rain drops that are almost sleet
instead of the big drops you get in summer. I told
myself then that sure as could be it was snowing up on
Heckman Pass. Just before I banked the fire and
went to bed, the wind started howling again. It was actually
so bad and switching from so many directions that I had
to go out and take down the big set of wind chimes that
hang in front of the basement door. You could tell that
there was one fast moving frontal wave after another coming
in from the coast.
Most of the gravel road that comprises Highway 20
West from Anahim Lake to the top of the Hill is actually
in excellent condition this year. They've been
working on small sections every year straightening out
corners and gravelling and it's a vast improvement over
the condition of the road even four years ago.
We hit snow on top and although there was only an inch
or so, the Highways guys had plowed off the top layer
so some of the black of the gravel below would show through.
There were a couple of short, icy sections where the snow
had compacted in the shade but once we started down the
Hill there was less and less snow. You don't have to drop
far before you'll see the influence of that Coastal weather
We hit some fog and the road was muddy so you feel
like you're creeping through a tunnel with a wall of rock
and twisted trees on one side and a long drop-off on the
other as you can see in that foreboding picture
up on the right.
When we hit the pavement at the bottom and started trucking
through the Bella Coola Valley you could see that they're
at least two to three weeks behind us climate wise. Their
aspens are bright yellow but many trees, including the
willows are still green.
It gets down right showy going through Hagensborg and
the closer you get to Bella Coola with all the ornamental
trees planted years ago. That valley is definitely
a feast for the eyes, especially if you're coming down
off the Chilcotin Plateau in early spring or late fall.
The valley is just in a totally different climate zone
and can grow plants that you won't see anywhere in this
part of the country or the Cariboo. I envy those
folks that but I don't envy them their wall of mountains.
As fantastic as those great guardians are, they do a remarkable
job of blocking out the sun to the valley in winter. Even
as we drove back out of the upper end of the valley, at
only shortly after 3:00 in the afternoon the sun was already
dropping behind a peak. The clocks turn back this weekend
and that will translate into 2:00 in the afternoon by
this time next week.
There was still a little snow on the side of the road
and the trees when we climbed back out on top late this
afternoon, our truck covered in the slime created
by gravel road, clay, calcium and melting snow.
We got our kicks out of warning oncoming truckers that
their pretty, white semi trucks were going to look like
ours by the time they hit the pavement at the bottom of
I would have to say that like Valdez in Alaska, the
Bella Coola Valley is one of those 'must see' places in
the Chilcotin, or British Columbia, for that matter.
And since most people don't travel in the 'dirty' seasons
here, the road is usually pretty good. However, if you
do travel in this direction outside of the normal 'tourist'
season, just make sure you check with the Highways maintenance
office right at the beginning of Highway 20 to Bella Coola
for road conditions and pay attention to
the warning signs.
the jay that is. I saw something today that I have
never seen out here before and that is a Stellar Jay.
He was at the bird feeder when I first saw him and thought
it was a Starling or something until I got closer because
he was such a dark color. He was quite a large bird with
a big, dark, gunmetal colored crest, and dark, dark smoky
blue body. In fact he had to fly into the light just right
before you could see what a bright blue he actually was
when his wings were spread. Even then you could barely
see the striping and speckling you would normally see
on these birds.
The jay didn't just come to feed at the bird feeder. He
raided it! Many times in fact. He'd fill his beak
full as fast as he could and then fly to a nearby tree.
I don't know if he was eating his bounty then or stashing
it but you could literally watch the seed level drop.
He won't stick around for long because I won't add any
more seed to the feeder until after he leaves. Those
big boys can clean you out of seed in no time
and I prefer everyone migrate to wherever they're supposed
to for the winter rather than rely on a birdfeeder being
full all the time.
My bird book lists the Steller Jay as being a common bird
in the Rockies and west but they certainly aren't
common in Nimpo Lake! This is the first one I
have ever seen in this part of the country and although
very common to the Okanagan and considered a pest, Andy
has never seen one here before either. He's sure a cocky
looking bird with that big crest on his head. He looks
like he just fell out of bed and forgot to run a comb
through his 'fro.
We joked that perhaps the bird was pushed in on the breeze
since we've had a wild and wooly wind all day.
We even had whitecaps on the lake right in front of the
house which is unusual. We've all commented on what a
calm summer and fall it's been and since I dislike the
wind, I've enjoyed it thoroughly. I haven't even had to
break out the ear muffs until recently. But everyone else
seems to have been missing the wind and it's true that
it will freshen up the lake and mix in some much needed
oxygen. The water turning over like that chills
it down as well so that the lake will freeze much sooner
in winter. Yay, iceroad!
This wind is widespread over much of the province so the
low coming in is a big one but fast moving. Looks like
we'll see a little sunshine after that. Everyone's praying
for rain but I figure we'll wake up to snow one morning
soon enough. Just not tomorrow, preferably since we have
to make a trip down to Bella Coola. It's a great drive
most of the time but the Bella Coola 'Hill'
is never my favorite in nasty weather.
I'm back to work but as you'll see, I finally got around
to switching to a new week, ('bout time, eh?!) so you
can find last week's articles at October
The Retirement Party
attended a retirement party for an old friend at the Anahim
Lake Community Center last night.
Chuck has been working for the road service or Highways
forever out in this part of the Chilcotin. He has helped
every single person in this country one way or the other
over the years, including myself. Evidence of that was
the number of people to show up at the potluck dinner
and surprise party thrown in his honor yesterday evening.
I was wondering how his wife Wendy was going to
get him to come to the Hall without telling him
the truth. One friend suggested she tell him that they
were throwing a surprise party for his co-worker's anniversary.
The ruse worked well. When Chuck and Wendy pulled up in
their pickup and everyone waited inside the hall doors,
I know Chuck suspected nothing. He came
in the door loaded down with a big coffee pot and looked
positively stunned and confused when everyone yelled,
"Surprise!" It was definitely a Kodak moment.
The really unfortunate part of the whole thing is
that Chuck even has to retire in the first place.
He was told by the privatized Highways maintenance company
that he works for that when he turned 70, he would have
to retire because Workman's Compensation will not cover
anyone over that age. Chuck has always liked his job,
enjoys working, is willing to be called in at all hours
of the day or night when bad weather hits, and needs the
paycheck. He definitely did not want to
retire! And really, why should he have to?
The Highways company that he works for can't find people
to work for them that will move out here so they're perpetually
shorthanded as it is. And yet they can't keep a guy that
wants to work for them.
The province of British Columbia is notoriously short
on people to fill jobs, both in skilled and unskilled
labor. Right now it's estimated that there are 100,000
job openings and employers are literally walking
the streets of downtown Vancouver trying to hire homeless
people. Unless the predicted downturn in the US
economy occurs, the problem is only going to get worse.
In January of this year, the first of the 'baby boomers'
turned 60 and there will be another 13 years before the
last of them turn that age.
I'm sure you all realize that means a huge influx
of retirees and some pretty big holes to fill in the work
force. I'me not sure what the States are doing
in this regard, but I think that Canada needs to change
her outdated liability laws and make allowance for the
older folks to work should they wish to. I think it abominable
that Canada wants to loosen up the Immigration laws and
allow between 100,000 to 250,000 more immigrants into
the country to fill jobs, and yet they refuse to allow
resident Canadians to continue working past a certain
age. Like the States, we have enough issues with many
new immigrants as it is. Nothing like making the problem
Yesterday was an absolutely fantastic Fall day. I think
we're all waiting for the shoe to drop. Today was cloudy,
cool and breezy and the weather much more like what you
would expect this time of year. People are still
fishing Nimpo Lake, even though the water is getting
really, really cool.
Well, gotta keep it short again, folks because I have
to get back to work. Thank you for being patient even
though articles are several days apart now. Things will
get better once Fall is over!
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!