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Wilderness Adventures - April Week 4/2006

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' - 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 Picture of the Day.

28/04/2006 9:21 AM

Laptop Experience

You know, you can teach old dogs new tricks! I'm having the unusual experience of trying to be a 'techie geek'. The purpose of having a laptop is to keep up on work while on the trip to Alaska this year, however, that means I have to learn stuff. I haven't had a laptop for years and there sure have been a lot of advances! Of course the biggest one is the opportunity to hook up to the Internet from just about anywhere. And that is what I am presently experimenting with.
In my experience, nothing is ever as easy as 'they' say it is, hence the little experiment of hooking up here and there or just testing to see how easy it is to pick up an open wireless connection. Obviously it would be a simple matter if one could hook up to the cell phone. Unfortunately, where we live now as well as places that we go, and many places in Alaska, have poor or no cell phone access. And really, who wants to pay $1.00 a minute in roaming charges? Not me!
As I understand it, there are a lot of RV sites or campgrounds in Alaska that have Wi-Fi access or an Internet hookup, but there may be the odd time that we'll have to search around for an available hookup and it will be interesting to see how difficult that will be up there. Right now, most hotels seem to keep their wireless connections secured so accessibility is out on that score so we'll just have to drive around and see what we can find.
In the meanwhile, the weather on the road has been extremely and unusually warm for this time of year.

26/04/2006 10:49 AM

Eagles!

Wow, the bald eagles are sure here. One was out at the point this morning and was tearing away at something that he'd killed for breakfast. A while later he flew in closer and parked on the ice between us and the island. The spotting scope gave a super close up view of him while he sat and called. Unfortunately, it was too far for me to get a good picture of him with my digital camera. A little way down the ice from him was an immature bald eagle as well. I suspect they're having a hay day because the open water is still very limited and close to shore, not giving the numerous ducks that have arrived much room to manuever in the case of an attack by one of the eagles. As much as I dislike the bald eagles going after the loon babies in summer, I have to admit that they really are a regal bird but I would definitely say they are not endangered! Not here anyway.
There were quite a few ducks crowded in on the little bit of open water in front of our place this morning, and since then a fat duck pair have taken up residence where they've been sleeping on the ice edge most of the day. A green headed mallard just came cruising in to our shore and they moved not at all. I suspect that one reason the ducks are moving in so close, especially in the evening, is for protection from the eagles. There's been a huge grey speckled bird hanging around that they're in far more danger from. I've only caught a glimpse of it as it went zinging past me but it's either a good sized owl or a really big hawk. I couldn't get a close enough look at it to see the head, because I was trying to get a camera focused, so I really don't know what it was. Osprey comes to mind but I think the head was wrong for that.
The ice-off pool is on now. Everyone is betting on the day the ice goes off of Nimpo Lake. It's later this year than it has been the last couple, but there's some really black sections that will be open water by tomorrow. And there may be a loon back so the timing's just about right.
Just to let you know, articles might be intermittent for the next week. Enjoy the last week of April!

25/04/2006 7:03 PM

Working Spring

I know, I missed yesterday. But it's really hard to be inside on the computer when it's nice outside, not that I haven't been on the computer, but only on must do stuff. So I'm sorry. I'll try to keep the articles regular but I just can't guarantee it. The seasons that you can work outside and get things done are short here, so we take advantage of warmer weather all we can.
Today turned out to be another blustery day but that's okay. The wind helps to dry up the mud and is sucking the cold right out of the ice on Nimpo Lake. It's turning really black now and rotten. When you break a chunk out, it is already candling and holds no weight. There's open water on pretty much all of the shores, even on the north side and ripples on the water amongst the reed beds.
This time of year is kind of neat because everything changes so fast and yet every day I go around looking at the garden areas and anything that started growing a couple of weeks ago has been knocked back by those few cold nights so not much of anything is showing green there. Soon, though.
I was finally forced to cover up the bird feeder this morning to stop any more birds from coming for seed. The red winged blackbirds make such a mess and flip so much seed over the side that smaller birds land on the ground to pick up what they've dropped. Unfortunately, it's close to the house and provides too good a cover for the cats. After picking up another poor little casualty in the basement last night brought in through the cat door, I decided enough was enough. It's quite warm out so none of the birds need the energy they would during the winter and all the plants and seed heads are exposed now so no bird should go hungry. They're just going to have to work a little harder for their supper now. I feel badly about cutting off the bird seed so suddenly, especially since three little purple finch arrived at the feeder this morning, but better hungry than dead. The blackbirds have stayed much longer this year at the feeder and are indirectly causing the death of later season birds so it's time they left, but boy, are they peeved! I have to admit though, it's much quieter around here. :-)

23/04/2006 8:02 PM

Short Sunday

This is going to be very short today folks! It was an absolutely magnificent day out today and way too nice to be inside. Worked most of the day outside, or down at the cabin because it was warm enough to get stuff done down there without having the heat on. Did some raking, we got chairs into the RV and there was another cleanup party today where community members have been brush cutting and burning along the highway and entrance to Nimpo Lake.
The morning didn't start off too well because after I realized the bird twittering I was hearing was inside the house and not outside, I had to try to haze the bird (a golden-crowned swallow) out of the basement while dodging three cats, one of which obviously had brought it in. That would be 'Pickup', who's favorite pastime is to bring live animals such as bats, mice, chipmunks and birds into the basement through the cat door. I got the basement door open and we tried to quietly get the bird to fly out the door but it flew into the basement window and broke its neck. That was really disappointing and I hate seeing something like that happen. Most of the time we're successful at getting creatures back out of the house when they get in.
The really cool thing to offset that though, were the small group of Evening Grosbeaks that showed up at the feeder this morning. There were only three that I could see, a male, female and what looked to be an immature male but that's two more than we've ever had before. The only other one we've had was that poor roughed up one that came midwinter and ate at the feeder all day. These didn't stay long today, again, probably because of all the blackbirds, but it sure was nice to see them. It would be interesting to know whether the male from this morning was the one from this winter.
The tree swallows just came back today so we rushed to empty out the bird house. It actually wasn't full of sunflower seeds put there by the chickadees as I suspected it would be. Just grass and feathers put there by the tree swallows the years before but it still needed cleaning out. So I'm really not sure what the chickadees were doing with the birdhouse unless they were just curious or were keeping it mind for their own nesting.
The pair of swallows came back to investigate but every time they started getting serious about setting up house, another blackbird would zing by. I think the noise and movement from all those crazy blackbirds was really making them nervous.
This evening during supper we watched an otter cross Nimpo Lake from the point to the big island, doing a little run, hump up and slide across the ice at a great rate. He was very close to where we saw those tracks the other evening so he's sure to be one of that family of otters.
In any case, it sure was a wonder to have the kind of day we had today with warm temperatures and sunshine, offering an opportunity to get outside comfortably and get some work done. With any luck, it'll be the same tomorrow!
Oh, and you've gotta check out the
Picture of the Day. It might even stay there for a day or two, it's that good!
22/04/2006 4:31 PM

Sunshine, Finally! Avalanche Too.

At least the snow from the day before yesterday is melting. The sun is shining, it's warming up and there's lots of bird life. The redwinged blackbirds are singing like crazy, robins are hopping around here and there and I can hear a determined woodpecker hammering away over in the woods. This is much more like spring should be!
It dropped to -9C or about 18 degrees Fahrenheit last night so open water near the shores iced over again last night. It was only about three quarters of an inch of poor, clear ice though and will melt out quickly. We found a couple of places where otter had busted a hole through the ice.
Speaking of otters, we had a very strange experience when we went for a walk last night. While driving out toward Bella Coola yesterday we could see a pair of tracks cross our road in a couple of places with dragging tail marks between. While walking in the woods yesterday evening, we came across the same type of tracks and followed them for what was probably two miles. It looked like at least two and possibly up to four otters trekked all over the country yesterday. We would lose the tracks where the snow melted and then came on them again where they walked down the driveway belonging to a summer resident, followed the banks along Nimpo Lake, down to the lake, back up again and went from cabin to cabin along the lake. The tracks even went up on one person's deck. Back they went, into the woods, along the road and eventually back in the direction they came from by a different route.
Since I'm not familiar with otter tracks in deep woods quite a ways from water, I finally had to pull out my old tracking book given to me by my parents. I remember as children we pored over every page in the book for hours, memorizing tracks. As a result, we were all pretty good trackers for the animals in our area while growing up.
The shape of the tracks indicate fisher, mink or otter, but the size was too big for mink although the tail drag marks according to the book are perfect. That leaves fisher or otter. The book doesn't show tail drag marks for the fisher but it does show a swishing tail mark for the otter while the tracks we followed showed a clear, straight tail drag between the footprints. However, the way the snow melted everything out, it was hard to say. We did come across some very fresh tracks backtracking the trail we were following that did show a swishing tail. The book also says that otter will travel through the woods for miles in search of open water and it was pretty apparent that this is what these animals were doing. I also know that they are more inclined to travel as families and I see no indication that a fisher does that.
Conclusion ... we were following otter tracks. And it's funny because I learned something new. I would never have guessed that such a clumsy animal on land would take such a long walk leaving them vulnerable to predators even if they are quite a large animal and can be meaner than a cut cat.
One last thing of note. I guess shortly after we left the Bella Coola hospital, a fellow was brought in after being buried in an avalanche while heli-snowboarding. Last we heard, his partner had still not been found. This is a very dangerous time of year for that kind of venture up into the backcountry because warmer temperatures are causing snow layers to slide on one another. It makes for the perfect recipe for an avalanche. So for those of you that are still die hard, winter backcountry enthusiasts, be careful out there!
You'll probably notice several pictures on the right of the Bella Coola Valley taken yesterday. I just had to show the rich green of newly budded out poplar trees contrasting with the brooding mountains that guard the valley. That green is one reason Bella Coola is such a popular place in the spring for us bushed Chilcotin Plateau types.
This is the start of a new week so if you would like to know what was happening last week you'll find it at Wilderness Adventure April Week Three.

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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!
Two ducks on Nimpo Lake.
 
Several ducks.
 
Dark ice on Nimpo Lake.
 
Otter in water.
 
Tree swallow.
 
Granite face.
 
Snowy mountain.
 
River in Tweedsmuir.
 
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