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Wilderness Adventures - West Chilcotin Blog

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.


29/09/2009 10:10 PM

Finally! Rain!

Last night we got a nice rain, and boy, was it ever welcome! We ended up with a half inch, which is more than has registered in the rain gauge in some time. Even so, when I walked on the back trail today, you could tell it had rained, but the trail wasn't all that wet. That dust just sucked that moisture right up, as did the surrounding mosses, lichens, and soil under the trees. The kinnickinick looked decidedly happier and a brighter green, and other undergrowth a little brighter and less dusty, but it will take a lot more moisture than that for things to be back on track. I expect that's coming though. On my way back from the walk it tried very hard to snow, and although I wasn't up early enough this morning to see it, apparently it was snowing in earnest prior to dawn this morning, but the ground is too warm yet for it to stay for long.
The same can't be said for the mountains. Remember me saying it's very unusual to not have any snow at all on the mountains this time of year? Well, that changed last night. It cleared off on my way out on the walk today enough to see a fresh powder of snow on the mountains, including the close ones. Some of it had melted by late this afternoon, but there's no worry of that happening on the higher mountains. They acquired a thick mantle of snow last night that won't melt before spring now. And even Goat Pass is sporting a thick mantle of white.
At least this probably heralds the end of fire season now unless we get a really unusual blast of hot weather in October. Any fool that thought it was over before this is just exactly that. Mother Nature always has the last say and she showed that in the past week or so with fires that have been blowing up here and there, probably stirred up by our fall winds. That's the problem with a fire center that waits on snow to put the forest fires out. Leave a little fire and it quite probably will bite you on the butt in the long run.
I heard from the good folks at Batnuni today. They took over the ranch homesteaded by Rich Hobson who ranched in conjunction with Pan Phillips, and of course, wrote the three books about it all. They've made great strides in fixing things up and sent me a few pictures and a short catch up on what they've been doing. Busy people that they are, they've embarked on and completed a number of projects with more in the works, one of which was to build a chicken coop which turned out to be much too large for that purpose and so it's now a guest cabin. Of course they still had to build the chicken house, which they did. Now they're asking for input on their idea of starting up a bed and breakfast. Given the interest on this blog in the past about Pan Phillips' and Rich Hobson's great Chilcotin adventures and their determination to build the largest cattle ranch in North America during the Depression years, I think these great folks have a lot of history backing their venture. They have given their permission for me to print their email address here so if you have any thoughts regarding their idea of starting up a B&B on this historical ranch, it would be most appreciated if you could send those thoughts to Locke and Midge at mldownie@hughes.net. And don't hesitate, folks! They're looking for feedback so please let them know what you think about the idea. Personally, for those of you who have expressed an interest in the historical aspect of this country, I think it's a terrific idea!
Also... for those of you that are local to the Chilcotin, the Downies have acquired two horses and are looking for more. They have spoken with the SPCA and discussed the idea of taking in animals as they have the acreage. So if any of you are aware of folks in the area that are looking for a good home, whether for horses, sheep, goats etc., then they may be interested in taking them in.

28/09/2009 7:03 PM

The Freeze

Our weather has been cooling down steadily since Thursday but yesterday morning brought quite a surprise. It dropped to -6C or 20F leaving quite a heavy, frosty rime on everything after a foggy start to the morning. If it was that cold here I can't imagine how cold it got up away from the lake.
The sun was trying to peek through the fog but by the time that burned off, a streamer of cloud kept the sun pretty weak for a couple of hours. I think that was the only thing that saved a lot of my plants. They warmed up quite slowly so that about all I lost in a major way was a bunch of Russian sunflowers, which was okay. They were kind of ugly, anyway. I think the frost may have laid waste to the California poppies as well, but it's kind of hard to tell. I'll know better in a couple of more days. I was hoping that if everything could get through that hard frost, stuff may be able to continue growing for a while yet. It clouded over last night and didn't freeze and we're supposed to have cloudy, rainy weather until the weekend, so we may be okay until then. Hopefully, the veggies in the greenhouse will have ripened up enough by then that I can shut it down.
Even though it's the end of September, it's hard to say good-bye to the flower garden. It's such a short growing season here that you never seem to get enough of the flowers before they're gone. Unlike other places where a lot of gardeners are relieved that winter has finally come and they get to take a rest from gardening for a little while. I have to admit, I'm glad gardening is seasonal here, but it would be nice if it was a little longer season. Four months of growing and eight of snow doesn't seem quite fair, but then again, I wouldn't trade where I live for anything.
Today it tried to spit some rain and the temperature never did make it above 7C or 45F and by this afternoon was already back down to 5C. Still, it was much warmer than it was at the top of the Bella Coola Hill. Andy's hauling gravel for a friend that needed a truck driver so that's where he's working and he said it was miserable up there all day. Rain, sleet and snow squalls went through one after another and it never got more than a couple of degrees above freezing. I expect he'll be driving in snow tomorrow morning.
We've all commented on the lack of snow on the surrounding mountains. For them to still be bare at the end of September seems unheard of, but I don't expect that to last. We should be seeing it in the next couple of days as the temperatures continue to drop. It can rain or snow here. I'm pretty much ready for the snow now with just a few more chores to do and we desperately need the moisture regardless of what form it comes in. The woods are deadly dry and many plants may not make it into next year if we don't get some moisture before winter hits. I have no idea what the bears are doing for food this fall. There are no berries. Where last year the soap berry bushes were just laden with berries, there's not a one to be seen this year. Same with the rose hips and blueberries. Even the kinnickinick is barren. It doesn't bode well for those forest dwellers that depend on that fare to round out their diet. About the only thing that we had for berries this year were strawberries and that's because they're so early and we got moisture at just the right time. This is definitely a drought year and I suspect moisture reserves in the ground from the past few rainy summers have been used up.
Speaking of drought.... we had a fellow from Texas stop in here this summer just before we went to the Yukon. He reads the blog and just wanted to say hi. It was a really great visit and he even left us a beautiful little rainbow trout for our supper that he had caught on the way over to our place. I just received an email from him telling us that the long two year drought his part of Texas had been experiencing seems to be coming to an end because they've finally received some much needed rain. I guess it's been pretty brutal down there from what little we've seen on the TV. Bob emailed me before back when we went to the Yukon a couple of years ago. Apparently we had unknowingly been following each other's path, but it was months before I got his email. I replied, but he never received it. So just in case he doesn't get my email reply this time, I would just like to thank him, the great folks from Charlotte/Vancouver Island that just stopped in a couple of days ago, and everyone else that has stopped in while visiting the area, for coming by. Everyone has just wanted to say they enjoy the blog, and I really appreciate your comments. The same goes for those of you who have emailed me and it's the only reason I keep going on it. It's time consuming and I often wonder what to write about, and often wonder why anyone would want to read what I've just written, but I sure appreciate those of you that do. Thanks, folks!!! Big time!!!

24/09/2009 8:47 PM

The Likely Trip

We were out in Likely for a few days this past week, and yes folks, there is a place called Likely. For anyone that doesn't know, it was actually the site of quite a large settlement and was all about gold. In fact, it has a very interesting gold rush history, and was once known as Quesnelle Dam. Nearby Quesnel Forks, where the Quesnel and Caribou Rivers meet, was once purported to be the largest settlement in BC north of Kamloops and boomed on until the Barkerville gold rush just to the north took everyone away. Nearby Bullion Pit is also pretty famous for having been the largest hydraulic mining operation on the Continent during its period of operation, and the third largest in the world.
We actually joined our friends that have the store in Nimpo at her Mom's place out in Likely for the Paddlefest weekend. They had a rafting trip down the Quesnel River to the Forks rigged up for us but I opted out early. Sorry. Don't like water and especially don't like it when it's going over rocks that create nasty rapids Chicken. I'm the first to admit it. I know life vests are supposed to help those of us that never learned to swim, but I see small percentage in tempting fate so I opted to stay behind and be the driver that would pick the other three up at the Forks. However, the guide had a run to make with a bunch of kids and their parents first and their ride went way late in the afternoon, so no rafting trip. A disappointment to the others, I'm sure, but I didn't mind a bit. It just meant we had a few spare hours to stack wood for our host.
While some rafts go down the Quesnel River during Paddlefest, there are loads of kayaks that do and I can certainly see why. Likely is a quaint little place right on the river and that was the jumping off point for all the rafts and kayaks. Not being that familiar with the latter, I was fascinated to see that the small, one man craft were unlike anything I had seen before. Where our neighbours have long sleek kayaks that they use, as do visitors to Nimpo Lake, these guys had short, stubby little plastic kayaks that came in every color of the rainbow and looked like toy boats. While they look strange on land, they certainly seem highly maneuverable in rough water.
We watched some of the people as they got ready to go kayaking and the preparation certainly seemed like quite a ritual, as well as a pain in the derriere. All donned wet suits, funny little footgear, and what seemed to be a special jacket that was pretty tight going on. Then they would peel up this gasket on the jacket, put on this kind of rubber thing on around their waists, and then pulled the gasket down over top of it. This rubber thing that they wear on their waists must give the watertight seal to the top that is snapped in to cover the opening on the kayak. Then they put on funny little life jackets, and then many put on a type of skull cap before putting on their helmet. It was quite the process, and that was before they even got into their boats.
There were some rapids a few hundred feet down river from the town and several kayaks congregated there, then took turns practicing coming back up the rapids in their little boats. It looked like quite a process and most flipped over doing it. That too seemed deliberate though, and looked pretty neat.
Aside from the little one man kayaks there was a two man kayak and several rafts that went down the river as we waited there. There was also a home made raft with a couch strapped to it that was apparently launched that morning before we got to the river. I don't know if it went all the way down to Quesnel Forks or not, and although it looked somewhat worse for wear, I can't see it making it all the way. There's a lot of really rough rapids going down to the Forks so if the awkward bit of wood, Styrofoam, and living room furniture actually made it, then the paddlers would have had to have been highly skilled! Oh, and in case you're wondering about the picture of the rafts going down the river, yes, that really is a stop sign in the middle of the river!

Two rafts full of people floating down the river
If you ever go to Likely, there's a pretty cool pub there. It's old, but there's a lot of museum quality pieces in there and you could take a month of Sunday's going through them all. There's also a real museum and visitor information center up the road a bit that has a lot of great stuff and good info on the history of the area. On top of that is some fabulous river and lake fishing that includes some whopping big salmon, so you may find it worth the hour's drive east of Williams Lake to visit the area. The only downfall is that it's at a very low elevation with rain forest, and it rains a lot there. Or it did while we were there, but that could be just us. Who knows?
Naturally, it was sunny and hot here the entire time we were gone and it's been gorgeous since we got back other than wickedly high winds all day yesterday that clocked up to 30mph, which is pretty harsh for us. I spent part of the day trying to catch stuff that was trying to make its way into the lake, and the rest of it trying to get our driveway and my garden area watered down to keep down the dust. It looked like a windstorm in the Sahara for a while there, and the thick layer of dust now on every surface in my house is testament to it. We had some unbelievable rollers on Nimpo Lake all day yesterday that completely obliterated any algae that had just started to build up this fall. The lake turned over so badly that I was cleaning filters on the sprinklers every few minutes, but today the water was as clean and clear as could be.
We didn't get back until late Monday night but Tuesday and yesterday were hot and sunny. Today it was still sunny but that wind brought in a cold front that dropped temperatures from 25C or 77F the previous two days to less than 15C or 59F today and I expect we're in for a frost tonight. The cooling trend is supposed to continue as well so I've started cleaning up my garden. It's time. We sure got a run for our money with the summer we had this year! Now if the next few summers could be as nice as this one was, I would be one happy camper, forest fires or not.
You'll find the previous entries for September at September 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!
Kayak heads into uphill rapids.
 
A kayak's front points into the air.
 
Green kayak goes over sideways in the water.
 
Orange kayak goes into rapids nose down.
 
Kayaking into river rapids.
 
Pink kayak in whitewater.
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