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 - April, 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.
A Trip To Bella Coola
trip to Bella Coola today brought a little of everything,
including some interesting history.
The day did not start out well. Although we woke up to
bright sunshine, there was also about two inches
of snow on the ground. A quick phone call to the
highways guys confirmed that there was no more snow than
that on Highway 20 west to the top of the hill. Quite
often two inches of snow here can translate into six or
eight inches at the top of the Bella Coola Hill.
That can mean nasty mud going down the hill itself and
make for an unpleasant trip. However, the surrounding
mountains freshly topped with snow made for great pictures
against a bright backdrop of blue, so the trip down was
quite nice. The Chinese food from the little restaurant
in Bella Coola was excellent and way too much as usual.
We met several Anahim Lake folks down there
at the clinic for one reason or another.
One of the people that ended up in hospital and was going
to be medi-vacced out to Vancouver today was Archie, one
of the best snowmobile riders around and someone
I have pictures of from a few months' blogs ago. We talked
with him awhile and I guess he had come down a hill in
'jump' mode on his snowmobile but when he landed, the
snow gave away beneath him with enough force to fracture
his back. That occurred Monday and he finally gave up
with the pain in his back and a couple of Anahim Lake
fellows down in Bella Coola to help Archie pull out his
sea going fishing boat and replace the prop took him to
Snowmobile season might just about be over but fishing
season is just starting and Archie isn't going to be too
happy if he's laid up for awhile. I jokingly told him
he might have to lay flat in a hospital bed for five weeks
and wear a metal backbrace for six months like I did after
breaking my back. He didn't look too happy at that prospect
at all. Somehow, I don't think Vancouver General
will be holding him for long.
A young fellow hanging around town had just come out of
the hospital this morning and was looking for a ride back
up the hill to Anahim Lake. We offered to bring him home
and soon learned that although his father's family was
from the Nazko Indian tribe, his mother's side was Ulgatcho
and his grandfather was Peter Alexis. For those
of you that read "Grass Beyond The Mountain"
written by Rich Hobson about he and Pan Phillip's settlement
of the Blackwater country, you will remember Peter
Alexis. He was one of the first Ulgatcho natives that
Pan and Rich ever met and although they were considered
an extremely warrior like tribe (since their ancestory
is partly Blackfoot) and not friendly to whites,
Peter and his family were instrumental in Pan and Rich's
acceptance into the country by the natives. Peter also
was a huge help to them in many ways over the years and
was known as a fine horseman.
This grandson of his, Erin John, said Peter passed on
last fall and he told many stories about riding to and
around Peter's ranch on the Blackwater. He told of when
he was quite young riding with other members of his family
on half broke horses, along with Peter Alexis who was
in a wagon and driving a quiet team, when their
small dog brought a grizzly beer back to the party.
Erin said the animal charged toward them scattering horses
and riders into the bush, then stopped and stood full
height before the team where Peter calmly shot the animal
before it could do more damage.
Peter Alexis sounded like a very happy go-lucky man in
the three books written by Rich Hobson and as though he
had a very special family. Young Erin talked of many people
in his ancestoral family who's names were mentioned in
the books. He was a very interesting, articulate young
man who not only has a good command of English,
but amazingly, also speaks the Carrier and Chilcotin lanuages.
Very unusual in this day and age when few of the young
people can any longer speak their native language. Erin
said his grandfather insisted he learn Carrier, and that
sounds just like the man in the book!
man winter is just not letting go this spring. Take
a look at the picture on the right. Does that look like
April 20th. to you? I mean, c'mon, that's the
kind of dreary weather you expect to see in the middle
of winter, not this time of year. Well, actually, that
isn't strictly true. We could have 8" or 10"
of snow on the ground not only now but well into May as
has happened many springs before.
We woke up to yet another good skiff of the bright
white stuff this morning and it's been halfheartedly
trying to snow all day. It's gotten a little more serious
about it this evening but the flakes are small and the
ground is warming up so it doesn't start sticking until
after midnight. The moisture is actually good right now,
especially if it's going to be a dry summer. But sometimes
you just kind of get tired of winter and decide it's time
for summer. I want to look out the front windows and see
blue, blue water and hear floatplanes taking off and watch
the ospreys and eagles over Nimpo Lake and go to sleep
listening to the loons call each other. Usually
after a few months of that you start longing for the lake
to become quiet again and start freezing, and suddenly
you look out the window one evening and watch fat, furry
white snowflakes silently blanketing everything.
I'm not sure what it would be like to live in a place
without distinct seasons. Here you always know what time
of year it is. Well, with the exception of late spring
snow falls and early fall snowfalls, the odd rain in winter
(very unusual but becoming more common) and hard frost
in July. We've had snow every month of the year
in this country as well as hard frost, but it's
a generally cooler climate here anyway.
In spring it's muddy, in summer it's green, in fall it's
red and gold and in winter it's white. Just that simple.
Or as many describe the four seasons here, start of winter,
lots of winter, less winter and poor sledding. That's
a joke. Honest!
Seriously though, what's it like in a place like the Caribbean
or Hawaii? Even a state like Arizona can have distinct
seasons depending on where you are but it must be quite
different in the warmer climate zones. How different Canada
must seem to people from ever-warm countries. Heck,
I know Americans that think Canada is perpetually buried
I know that my grandmother in the southeastern States
never forgave my parents for moving up to Canada. She
felt it entirely unfair to us kids to have to learn a
totally different language, (no, we still spoke
English even if we did add an 'eh' here and there over
the years) drive a dogsled to school and have
to wear winter jackets and mukluks year round. I think
she watched that old Mountie movie too many times. In
the meanwhile, many of us wish we got more snow in winter.
Especially for the winter sports enthusiasts. And in my
opinion, it wouldn't hurt places like Vancouver and Victoria
one bit to get a lot more snow than they do. Perhaps then
they would consider outfitting their vehicles with winter
tires so that our insurance rates don't go skyrocketing
every time they have a little skiff of snow down there
and start playing bumper cars. There, I've had my beef
for the day! I feel better already.
We're off to Bella Coola again tomorrow. Perhaps I can
get some good pictures of something or other and we'll
get to see some glorious green!
you just have to put up with some inconvenience. Especially
if you happen to live in a community that relies on diesel
generators for its electricity. Mind you, the
generators may not have had anything to do with the four
hour power outage today and the same may have happened
anywhere that there is high wind and a high incidence
of Mountain Pine Beetle killed trees.
We have had some very high winds the last couple of days
and as our infested pine trees along the power
lines grow weaker, especially when the ground is water
sodden from snow melt, more of them blow over.
Fortunately for me, my partner bought me a really good
quality emergency battery backup for my computers for
Christmas. As a result, I had time to save what I was
doing on the computer and shut it down using the backup.
Unfortunately, the power was out for most of my normal
work day and I got absolutely nothing accomplished in
the office today. I did get to read up a little more on
the new laptop and got to go for a great walk today. For
once I didn't have to feel guilty about being away from
While much of the snow in the woods has melted, there
are quite a few large 'potholes' full of water, many
of them with live pine standing in them. Normally
pine can't stand for long in such places or it will kill
them since they don't like wet feet. But now that so many
are dying, they have to be less able to draw water up
through the roots. This begs the question, "What
happens when most of the big trees are gone?"
I find the possiblities fascinating. Though the loss of
entire forests is sad, will it be devastating? Or will
it herald a new ecological era?
It takes a long, long time to grow a fairly small tree
in this country. As a result, there is very little litter
on the forest floor. In fact, most of this area is almost
parklike because there is hardly any undergrowth. There
is the odd bearberry or soap berry bush, an anemic wild
rose here and there, the low growing kinnickinnick, and
some moss growing in most of the pine forests around here.
The only litter on the forest floor is pine needles. It
takes forever for a fallen tree or stumps to rot so the
topsoil layer in this region is quite thin with raw clay
only a few inches down.
This raises the concern of what stops the soil from
washing away once the trees are gone? The protective
canopy provided by the pine trees prevents a hard downpour
from doing much damage, but where there is a trail or
road going through the woods you'll see piles of pine
needles and sand that have been washed up in little dams
by hard rain and runoff. For the short term, erosion on
even gentle hillsides may be a serious concern. However,
over the long term we should see a quick population of
the now 'empty' forest floor with aspen and low bushes
as the water gluttonous pine die off.
It's likely that we will see existing meadows expand and
new ones form with more ground water available and the
surrounding countryside is bound to change drastically.
We joke that we might be growing wheat like the
prairies soon. I really hope that the surrounding
country doesn't change quite that drastically!
But it might.
Will this become grassland country and become a huge boon
to local ranchers? Will the newly increased moisture available
to aspen and willow create monster stands of the same?
Spruce likes wetter ground than our lodgepole pine and
we may end up with lots more of them.
We are on the eastern edge of the huge Coastal Mountain
range and are usually considered an arid region. But fewer
trees are bound to mean more wind. Will higher winds pick
up that extra moisture normally used by large pine forests
and carry it away? Perhaps we would become more
arid, much like the Yakima area east of the mountains
in the State of Washington.
Perhaps there will be little change, but I doubt it. The
pine forests have been and are devastated by the pine
beetle. There will be change. What will be interesting
is, how big will the change be?
I keep wondering what caused a lush tropical forest covering
most of central Canada and the US to disappear? Well,
the inland sea it surrounded disappeared so that might
be the reason. But why was it eventually replaced by thousands
and thousands of square miles of prairie grasses? Why
not drought tolerant trees? Maybe someone knows
the answer and I just haven't read it. But I bet no one
knows exactly what is going to happen to this region or
the rest of British Columbia affected by the pine
And that's what I find fascinating! All that conjecturing
we get to do for the next few years!
had to make a quick trip down the hill to Bella Coola
today. The weather was actually pretty good and the road
to the top of the hill wasn't in nearly as rough a shape
as it was last year. They still have to continue the road
improvements after breakup is over, of course.
It was a real breath of fresh air to hit the valley
floor and see the willow and poplar trees just budding
out this morning. There was some green grass and
lots of bushes were greening up. The forsythia was a bright
splash of yellow everywhere, and early as it is, we saw
one azalea in bloom as well as some crab trees. By the
time we headed back up the hill this evening, the
green had just popped out! The trees that had
just a flush of green buds had in one warm day gone all
out in leaf. Even weeping willows, one of my favorite
trees, probably because it won't grow up here, were draped
in graceful new green leaves. Just amazing.
As I mentioned before, it's a habit of many Anahim
Lake and Nimpo Lake residents to pop down the hill into
the Valley at about this time of year just to get away
from the snow and mud of breakup and see what
green looks like again. Tulips and daffodils, decidous
trees and bushes, and bright blooms on trees is a real
change for us up on the plateau. It's only about a two
hour drive to get clear down to the harbour at Bella Coola
and well worth the time and effort just to get a change
Many of the lower mountains looming over the valley are
clear of snow but the massive peaks behind are still draped
in heavy snow cover. The Atnarko and Bella Coola
Rivers are still quite low and many of the creeks
are barely running so spring runoff hasn't started yet.
Nor do you see much in the way of the massive waterfalls
all along the valley wall this early.
Didn't see too much in the way of wildlife down in the
park today, probably because it's a bit early for bears
to be out. We did see one small red fox though. We
also saw the first osprey of the year fishing down on
the Dean River at the outlet of Nimpo Lake when
we returned home this evening. And a whole bunch of ducks
were lined up on the edge of the ice there just like they
would be in a shooting gallery at the fair.
It was a good day but didn't leave me a lot of time to
write today. See you tomorrow!
Rock, Rumble And Roll
Lake has its own special sound this time of year. We woke
up this morning to the sound of the lake rumbling steadily,
and you could even hear it over the sound of those
Do you remember blowing over the top of a coke bottle
when you were a kid? That's about as close as I can get
to the sound the lake makes in the spring. The nights
have been below freezing this past week so where the lake
was opening up close to shore it has frozen over again
with a thin layer of ice and the thawing of the ice in
general has slowed considerably. But you get more
drastic temperature differences as a result. Now
when the sun starts warming the top layer of ice it seems
to cause the ice to crack in hundreds of places with the
resulting rumbling sound. The wind also seems to be moving
whatever open water there is so that standing near the
shore you can see the water slosh up under the ice. Ice
cracking and settling is probably also the cause of considerable
wave movement underneath. Just think, how many tons
does a large sheet of ice weigh and what a wave it must
cause when it suddenly drops an inch?
Last night we heard a mighty 'woomph!' and suspected that
it might be the ice cracking just off of our point. Sure
enough, today you could see a wide crack running from
our point to the eastern shore where there's stress between
the lake main and the narrower part of the bay.
The water in the creeks running into Nimpo Lake
is very high and probably much warmer than the
lake water. This must also cause quite a turmoil under
the ice. I find the whole dynamic with a lake freezing
and thawing completely fascinating and wish I knew more
about it. Many biologists or scientists in some field
have probably done studies and have an answer somewhere
in some dry scientific tome. Where to find it and do I
have the time to wade through the thing to find my answers?
Naw. It's way more fun to speculate on what's actually
happening with lake ice when it's rumbling like some giant
underwater monster that's been awakened from a deep sleep.
It's nice to hear Nimpo Lake sing anyway.
It's been awfully quiet this year and it seems more alive
when it's making noise. I just wish I could do a better
job of describing the sounds to you folks so that you
would feel like you were here, but I must have been asleep
in Creative Writing class in school.
Anyway, it sure doesn't look like we're going to break
any records for early ice out this year! It might easily
be the first week of May now and that's more the norm
of years past. It's only been the last couple of years
that we've had an unusually early breakup. I wonder how
you can judge whether there really is global warming over
our very short life span?
As you will probably have noticed, this is the start of
a new week so if you missed any articles from last week
you can find them at Wilderness
Adventure April Week Two .
I've been having a lot of fun with the new Picture
of the Day page as well
but the pictures do change nearly every
day and there is no past record of them so if you don't
catch them, they're gone forever! Not that it's a big
deal but it does give me an opportunity to show
off the West Chilcotin with pictures I have taken
or that have been kindly donated by others in a larger
format than the space to the right allows.
I really hope you've been enjoying them.
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!