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Wilderness Adventures - April, Week 1/2011

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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09/04/2011 11:05 PM

Spring Has Been Cancelled This Year

I decided this morning that before I got started on any other work, I was going to write a blog. That and I don't have a monster backlog of emails to answer this morning. Apparently other people take the weekends off. I've been bogged down in this tourism guide for over three months now putting in long days on the computer. By the time I've had it with working on it each day, I just want away from the computer and out of my office. Since it's usually after nine in the evening before I finish for the day, I'm just not up to writing a blog. I apologize folks. I know that my other half will be heartily glad when this project is done and I can get back to some regular blog writing.
One thing that has been working in my favor since starting on this project is the weather. Every morning when I get up I peer out the loft window to see if there's fresh snow on the ground because there often is. Not much, just a skiff, but some. It's been such a strange spring that last night Andy commented that it looked like we were going to be having a nice winter, as we watched snow come sifting down all evening. I'm sure it's been giving most people a conniption because spring just is not coming, but for me, it keeps me in the office working. Otherwise, grumpy would not begin to describe my mood if it was beautiful, warm, the snow was all gone, and I was still stuck inside. This way, I don't mind.
About two weeks ago we still had about two and a half feet of snow on the ground. A few days ago we were down to about 16 inches. It's definitely going down, but there's still lots of it out there. In fact a client called two days ago and commented that he had just come back from snowmobiling his trap line and there was all kinds of snow to get around in. In his words, “You can go anywhere.” While not unheard of, it's still pretty unusual for the first week of April. It hasn't helped much that we are still getting those sneaky snows. Even just a skiff of bright white snow serves to reflect back the sun's rays and slow the melt. But at least there's some bare patches of ground showing up here and there and around the tree wells, and that makes a big difference.
The Red winged blackbird numbers increased to the usual monster flock raiding the feeder as it does every year. Usually once I get tired of the cacophony of sound I cut off the feed. This year I really haven't been able to do that because there is so much snow, that it makes it difficult for the little guys like the chickadees and juncos to find food. So I put some old seed out in the feeder, then let it stay empty for a day or so, and repeat. It seems to keep the numbers down and while none of the birds particularly care for the old seed, they do eat it when it snows or they get hungry enough, and it keeps the blackbird numbers down.
As usual, our area seems to have borne the brunt of winter. I was in Williams Lake two weeks ago and there was no snow left except on the north sides of the hills. Not that Williams Lakers didn't complain vociferously about their winter, because they actually got one, but they have lawns greening up now. There's no snow around Alexis creek either and Tatla Lake has half as much as we do. But while the snow has melted at lower elevations, it just keeps piling up at higher elevations and I can see that being a problem this year. If our cold spring continues for another month or so, and then it warms up suddenly in late May, there's going to be flooding throughout BC. There's a lot of snow up in those mountains this year and mountains at the Lower Mainland and on the Island have had record amounts of snow this winter. It's meant an extended skiing season but eventually someone will have to pay the piper. The best case scenario would have been a good melt spread over several months, but that isn't happening so far. I think that Bella Coola may see the same problem. While they've been working like crazy down there to shore up bridges and river banks before the melt comes, the snow has been building up in the mountains all winter and the ground is saturated from the rains last fall. It will be interesting to see what transpires once we get a hot spell.
We've been getting nice temperatures during the day, sometimes as high as 6 degrees above freezing, but it's still been dropping at night, averaging around -12C or 10F many nights. We've been getting some sun off and on some days, and we've been getting our spring winds and that helps more than anything to carry the moisture away from the snow.
It will be really interesting to see what happens with the lake ice this year. The other morning was the first time all winter that we heard the ice talking. There isn't as much snow on the ice now as there was all winter and it's been saturated and frozen, so the outside temperature is finally having an effect on the ice without that insulation. We've heard it grumbling a few times since then but it's still not as super noisy as it can be in the spring. There's still only about 12 inches of good, solid, black ice on the lake but another 12 inches on top is terrible stuff. It's that overflow that froze and melted multiple times and is probably very poor quality ice. It shouldn't take much to melt it once things get going. I don't know when that's going to happen though. Right now we don't even have ice melted close to shore and it's as solid as can be everywhere except off the point where the otters are still playing around and keeping it open. I've seen one flock of geese go overhead and we've had a few Trumpeter Swans do some flybys, but if they think they'll find open water here, they'll be sorely disappointed.
We haven't seen a lot of wildlife around this year. We saw a black fox cross the lake the other day but that's about it. Unless you count the three Ptarmigans that have been hanging out along our driveway. While normally shy, these three are fearless. Two weeks ago I had to stop on our driveway because all three Ptarmigan were parked in the middle of the road and were refusing to move. I had to ease over top of them really slowly so they had lots of time to decide whether they were going to stay put or scatter out from under the truck in one direction or another.
A few days ago I happened to look down into the trees just below the house and spotted the biggest, fattest grouse I have ever seen in my life. And no, it wasn't a blue or spruce grouse. It was a regular old skinny grouse that somehow got really, really fat. He could only move really slowly through the trees. It took him about 10 minutes to move a foot. I've seen snails move faster than that. Since he was only about 30 feet from the bird feeder, It didn't take long to figure out how he might have blossomed so. The blackbirds and Whiskey Jacks scatter a lot of bird seed onto the ground when they're at the feeder and there's quite a lot of uneaten seed piled up below. I'm wondering if mister grouse hasn't been bellying up to the all-you-can-eat sunflower seed buffet. If it had been hunting season he just might have ended up in my frying pan. He would have made great hors d' oeuvres.
Logan sent me some photos a couple of weeks back of he and a group that snowmobiled over the mountains to the Pan Phillips Fishing Camp. In his words: "Just got back from a sled trip into the Home Ranch (Pan Phillips old place).
Saturday on the way in we had to break trail through deep snow over the mtns & through the woods, & 7 of us (5 guys, 2 girls) were stuck often, as we kept “missing” the trail through the woods. Not real fun being lost in the dark, but we finally pulled in to Rob & Linda’s place @ 11pm. Steak dinner, beer, and it felt good to hit the sack!!
Sunday on the way out, our guide said “lets take a shortcut” and it was the same performance... Bushwhacking through pine thickets (lots of pulling the sleds sideways around trees) and got back to Duke’s farm in Anahim just after 9pm. It felt even better to get home!! Great adventure, but tired & sore today. Two sleds had to get abandoned in the woods... one stuck bad, no lights, & out’a gas, the other with a broken clutch. Nobody hurt tho, & the wx was great (‘cept for the periods of dark).
(picture up on the right) is where we came over the mtn & through “corkscrew pass” you can maybe see the tracks through the saddle on the left. LOTS of fantastic views!!
This is what crazy Chilcotins deem fun. Actually, it was an awesome trip, lots of laffs & everyone had a great time in spite of all the extra work. It’s only a half hour flight from here but it took 13 hrs to get there through the woods! Even though tired/sore today, I’d do it again in a heartbeat."

Some years that can be a great trip, other years it can be brutal. I've always wanted to take that trip, but I don't want to go in one of the wrong years. That kind of misery I don't need. :-) Andy has my machine fixed and back together again so maybe next year....
You'll find last month's blog at March 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!
Riders stopped for lunch.
Pass between two hills of Itcha Illgatchuz Range.
Snowmobile buried in snow.
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