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Wilderness Adventures - April, Week Two/2012

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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19/04/2012 7:30 PM

The Side Road Parking Lots

Interestingly, we're seeing a sight in this country that we don't normally see and that is parking lots. Just about every side road is one now. Fortunately most households here have at least two vehicles or more as in our case, as well as ATV's. It's coming in handy now. Most folks are leaving one vehicle on the home side of a mud hole and another on the town side. That way anyone that has to work or get to Anahim or Nimpo can walk across mud holes from one vehicle to another. Unfortunately, in the case of the north end of the lake, it's not so easy. There are several mud holes on either end of that road, most of which are impassible. That means a long walk in between or an ATV taxi ride depending on who it is. It also means that transporting large amounts of groceries and other goods is difficult at best and purely miserable at worst if you're walking. I gave a ride to the first mud hole off the highway to a friend and her boy a coupe of days ago and loaned them a rucksack to put their gallon of milk in. Milk might not seem that heavy taking it out of the fridge but if you're a nine year old boy struggling to keep the mud from sucking your gum rubbers right off your feet, and you're walking for three kilometers, a gallon of milk can get awfully heavy in a hurry.
Other friends came in from the Coast with their vehicle loaded with perishables and dry goods not realizing the road was in such poor shape. I think that they spent quite some time ferrying things by hand across the mud holes and carrying it down to their place on the lake.
The head of highways has been doing his best to keep everyone updated by phone and getting loaders and excavators to various holes on the side roads that are keeping people from getting to work and the kids to school. There isn't much he can do with the whole mess though, other than try to ditch off from the mud holes, smooth them off and wait for them to dry out. Unfortunately, there's the odd idiot that insists on continuing to drive through the mud where they can with four wheel drive, tearing the holes up and causing the water to hydraulic to the surface. There is no way the mud has a chance to form a crust and dry out as long as that is happening. There are those that really must get through. And then there are the numbskulls.
I actually really feel sorry for the highways head out here. He's doing his very best and all that he can do but between Mother Nature and the morons, there's only so much that will improve. Most people would never think of complaining about the situation because we all know that nothing can be done about it, but you still have the complainers out there determined to make things miserable for someone else.
Our weather was warm up until yesterday when it clouded over. A wind has finally come up in the past two days which will help to dry things out, but it's cool, even though the temperatures aren't too bad. Not nearly as warm as the past few weeks, but it still got up to a few degrees above freezing today. It has been getting much colder at night now as well with drops to -6C and colder, and that has hardened things up a bit in the morning.
Walking dogs has become more difficult unless you want to stick to the road now. We tried going on the back trail yesterday but kept falling through soft snow and ice into water. Brainiac that I am, I decided we should cut up over a hill and meet up with the trail on the other side, thus missing some of the wet. That didn't work out too well as we got down into a low spot in the trees and there was water everywhere wicking up the tree trunks. Andy was wearing his rubber boots but since I can't walk any distance in the things, I was wearing my good hiking boots and was trying to keep from turning them into a sodden mess. Going anywhere is definitely a challenge, especially for River. For a big dog and Rottweiler cross, he's really prissy when it comes to getting his feet wet or muddy and he's always trying to pick his way through anything messy. He's worse than a cat.
Our neighbour down at the north end of the lake, Kerry Jacox, took some photos of their mud holes on the road going in from the highway and has graciously given permission for me to use them. The mud doesn't look too bad actually, but just try driving through it. :-)
I have to get on the stick and take some photos of ours but I'm going to town tomorrow and probably won't have the chance. Besides, since Henry smoothed it out a bit with the excavator bucket, it doesn't look half as bad as it did after my truck had been dragged through it a couple of times.
We'll use the ATV and trailer to haul coolers and boxes out to the truck and then Andy can pick me and the groceries up on Sunday using the same thing. It might take a couple of trips but it beats carrying everything the distance on our back or in our hands.
I think now to the days when I was a kid and we lived over a mountain north of Williams Lake in what we called, 'The Old Log House'. We still refer to it with reverence.
We couldn't get out for six months of the year but periodically through winter or spring my Dad would walk out the 11 miles to town with an army duffel over his shoulder. If he was really lucky he could get a ride part way there and back to where the neighbour lived a few miles below us. He would usually be back by supper time with his duffel bag full of library books, tobacco, batteries for the radio, mantles for the white gas lantern, chocolate for him and fresh produce like a head of lettuce and tomatoes for us. We could have cared less about his chocolate stash. It was the fresh goodies that we were after!
I still remember that we would play outside all day but always keep an eye cocked for the corner at the top of the hill where the road came out of the trees. My Dad was a tall, lanky man with a long stride. You would keep looking and looking with no one there, and then suddenly, he was. He would hail us from the corner that was probably 1/4 to 1/2 mile away, and we would all go running to greet him. He could cover a lot more ground than we could but it still seemed a long distance to get to him and longer back, all the while fighting for his attention with what I'm sure was just noisy chatter and nonsensical questions. Funny how such small things will stick in your mind until the day you die.
I can still remember the hiss of the white gas lantern in the kitchen after we went to bed in an adjacent room, our kerosene lamps already extinguished. Like white noise people play by their beds at night nowadays, the noise of a gas lantern becomes your world and puts you to sleep at night. I still remember the eagerness with which my parents would park in chairs around the table with fresh tobacco smoke forming lazy hazy ghosts in the air over the table, rifling through the new selection of books from the public library, the lantern freshly pumped glowing above their heads.
Yes, I know, everyone is jerking with shock. Cigarette smoke and children!! Well, this was in the 60's folks, and no one knew then what harm that could cause children, nor in the early 70's for that matter. The 'cool' habit of smoking picked up during the second World War and carried through the 50's and 60's was thought no more dangerous than the four-o'clock Scotch highball after work or letting your kids ride their bikes to school and eat worms while catching frogs. How ever did we survive!
In any case, those memories of not getting out up at the 'Old Log House' are much more pleasant than those I have of this country in 1966 when my parents first immigrated to Canada with the intention of buying a ranch out here in the Chilcotin. That was in June of 1966 and it was an evil, rainy spring and summer. Conditions were not unlike those out here this spring, except much, much worse. But another time for that story. I've got to get ready to go to town tomorrow.
Have a good weekend folks!
15/04/2012 10:45 AM

Mud Hole to China

Remember on the last blog when I mentioned that our road (main road from the highway that services properties on the north side of Nimpo Lake) was starting to break up pretty badly? Oh, and that we would just have to deal with it? Yep.....
Within two days of that comment I received a call from a neighbour asking if it was safe to walk across the lake because she had nearly gotten stuck in a mud hole on the corner and didn't want to take a chance going through there again. She had also wondered if the highways guys were going to fix it. I didn't think they would because until I tried to drive through it that afternoon, I didn't realize how bad it had suddenly gotten.
When I went out I stopped in front of the hole, dropped the truck in four wheel drive, chose my spot and gunned her. I barely made it through to the other side and if the mud hole had been two feet longer, I wouldn't have. So when I went up to Nimpo I got on the phone to the head of highways maintenance out here and told him about the mud hole and told him that we needed a big dump truck load or two of gravel. He explained to me that if he put a loaded truck on the main road, it would completely ruin what was left of it but he would try to get a loader down in the morning with some mats to put over the mud and stop it wicking water up. I called Andy on the phone from up at Nimpo and asked him to leave the radio on so that if I got stuck coming back, which seemed highly likely, he could pull me through. Sure enough, I buried the truck and had to call him on the radio to come with chains and pull me out.
Early the next morning the head of highways here called Andy to let him know he wouldn't be here right away because the bank above the highway at Pelican Creek had sloughed in and he would need the loader to clear the highway.
That same morning I was supposed to go down to the north end of Nimpo Lake so I figured on trying the mud hole again, but I left the radio on just in case. While I wanted to stay away from the outside shoulder I thought if I tried staying out of the ruts I had made the day before, I might make it through. I didn't make it and sure enough, here came Andy again to drag me out backwards and then he decided to make a run through it much closer to the shoulder than I had. He got the truck through but I think that's the last time anyone is going to get a truck through there anytime soon. I didn't care. All I wanted was a vehicle on the other side in case of emergencies or if we wanted to go up to Nimpo to get mail, etc., then we could with my vehicle. We'll just walk or take the ATV to the mud hole, and walk from there to my truck if we need to.
After Andy got my truck to the other side we could hear a heck of a noise that he was hoping wasn't a universal. I told him it had done it the day before too when I had gone through and I thought it was just rocks caught in everything. He told me to take it straight up to Len's and get all that gravel and mud washed out from the drive shaft, wheels, front end and rear end before I went anywhere. I got about a wheelbarrow load of gravel, clay and silt out but I must have missed some rocks because it sounds like there might be one caught in my brakes yet.
I had already been warned that Nimpo Creek Road was in pretty bad shape too but decided to take a run down there anyway just to spin the last of the mud out of my undercarriage and wheels out on the highway if nothing else. I got part way down Nimpo Creek Road and could see a big mud hole in front of me and another beyond that. It didn't look as bad as ours and I was pretty confident I could make it through but I had no idea what was around the corner or on the rest of the three kilometers of road. Since Andy couldn't get out of our place to come pull me out, that meant finding someone else that could if I got stuck. Not to mention that I would tear up the road even more and have to go back and clean rocks and mud out of my truck again. Not worth it, I decided. I headed back to Nimpo where I found out from one of the highways guys that the head had been down at Cariboo Flats for a good part of the day with a couple of flag girls trying to sandbag the edges of the road and keep the water there from undermining the highway. When he called me that night to apologize for not fixing the road, I told him it was no problem. We're all good now with a vehicle on the other side and I suspected he was up to his butt in alligators anyway. He was. He told me how many side roads had blown out just that day and he didn't expect conditions to improve anytime soon. I don't think his guys are going to have any time for side roads now anyway. If this run off really gets going all hell is going to break loose and it's the highway that's really going to be in trouble. Like last year, there are a lot of streams that are flowing down out of the hills now and straight at the highway. But whereas last year we had a really cool spring and slow melt that didn't start until well into May, this year it's been between two and three weeks now with really warm daytime temperatures. We haven't much wind to carry moisture away, or cold nights to freeze dry the ground, both highly unusual for this time of year. Add to that ground that was already saturated going into winter, rain and wet snow through the winter, and you've got a great big mess. It will be really interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, Andy needs to get out to Bella Coola on Wednesday and I had planned to go to Williams Lake on Thursday, so we'll have to see if we can get the new truck or the dually through our mud hole some time this week. If we get one really good cold night before Wednesday, then we can take one of them through on the frost.
Aside from a few things that I need to do in Williams Lake and on the way, I want to stock up on groceries and necessities that will carry us through June if need be. It seems highly unlikely that we need to do that but I sure would feel stupid if we ran short on stuff because of flooding when we didn't need to. Not that we would ever run out of food. I think I've got enough for about three years, but fresh produce and fuel are two thing hard to get out here when the road is closed for any length of time.
I don't think we'll have too much of a problem for a great length of time this year but Bella Coola is already gearing up for major flooding this spring. They've fought for Government money to help them shore up their levees down in the Valley because they expect to get hit. There's a huge amount of snow up on Heckman Pass and if that's any indicator of what's in the mountains surrounding the Valley, then they're definitely in for it!
At least there's one good thing to be had out of such a quick melt this time of year for our area is that it should all be over by the end of April, I would think. Our drainage is from low lying foothills around Nimpo Lake and once the snow is off them, we start drying out and the lake only gets so high. Right now it's at an all time low but should be coming up soon. Otherwise, McClinchey where the highway blew out in September of 2010 is the only other River that drains high mountains in our area. In Anahim Lake Corkscrew Creek drains the Itcha Illgatchuz Range so they may see some flooding but for the most part, unless we get a tremendous amount of snow, it shouldn't be like this for long, because we just didn't get the snow load that we did in winter a year ago. All I do know is that right now people with small cars and without four wheel drive aren't able to go far in many cases.
Yep, things are in the toilet all right. :-)
Are we being affected by climate change? There's probably no question but as the weather experts said on a show I watched the other night, climate change is a long term thing while weather is short term, and it's impossible to judge whether the weather we have been having this year is a result of climate change or not. If you keep up on the temperature records, back in 1947 at this time of year, the temps were twice as high as they are now in BC for April. On the other hand, warm temperature records have been falling day after day across other parts of Canada for both March and April. Although those provinces enjoying the balmy weather in the past month or two did get hit recently with snow and colder temperatures. I'll bet that was a surprise!
Many of the States are also seeing extreme weather right now as most of you probably know. I'll take mud and a little bit of flooding over huge hailstones and tornadoes, that's for sure. There's no question that we have been seeing a general warm up in the past forty years in BC and when I was in Saskatchewan, folks said the same there. That could be a natural cycle or caused by humans, or both. Certainly most Canadians have been enjoying that slow warm up because -20 temperatures in winter beat forty and sixty below for comfort any day! I think the weather guys are right. We may see localized changes year to year but what we're all probably going to see are more extreme weather events. Since Earth has been in a pretty stable climatic and geological state for 10,000 years, we've become spoiled. It has allowed our civilizations to develop to the degree that they have. Even so, advanced civilizations around the world including in South America have been wiped out by what is now judged to be unusual weather events in just the last few thousand years. So who knows? Maybe now the fun starts. I think that if we are going to start seeing more extreme weather it will have a huge impact on the more advanced industrial countries, but it will have the largest impact on the poor countries and those living a marginal life at best, such as in many of the African countries. I'm thinking there's not a whole lot to be done about it now. We could all stop driving our vehicles and close manufacturing and power producing plants, and it might make a difference.... but we all know it's not going to happen. And if we're on Mother Nature's roller coaster, I'm not sure we can stop climate change from continuing down its slippery slope.
The perfect example is in the sinking of the Titanic. She was the largest moving thing at the time and built to the best of human ability.... and Mother Nature took her out like a toy ducky in a bathtub.
But for now and for us, the weather is gorgeous, our temperatures are high, the sun is shining, there's no wind, and you couldn't ask for a nicer Sunday. Except for the mud, of course. :-)
The Annual Canoe Race from Nimpo Lake to Anahim Lake is set for May 19th. And just a reminder that there is a Bingo at the Nimpo Lake Hall this Saturday, starting at 1:00 to raise funds for the Hall. Clint is gearing up for his fourth annual Fishing Derby on Nimpo Lake this year but rather than having it in May, he's thinking around the first week of June. There's a lot of ice on Nimpo this year, over three feet in some places, so rather than risk ice like last year, he may put it on a little later. I'll keep everyone posted.

This is the start of a new week so you'll find last month's posts at April Week One

Anahim Lake Highway cam looking West.

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!
Mud fills a road.
Muddy water filled road.
Grey and white cat in a toilet bowl.
Cat sleeping in toilet.
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