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 - August, Week 2/2006
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.
to that time of year again where we're fighting off beavers.
Nope, not the flying kind, the four legged kind. The fall
is the worst time for beavers looking for a new home and
stashing a feed bed before winter hits. Kits are kicked
out of the lodge at two years of age I believe. Whether
that's in spring, summer, fall or all of those seasons,
I don't know. I think that beaver can have two litters
of young a year, so when they're kicked out may depend
on when they were born. This time of year after young
beaver pair up, they're building their lodge, and they're
looking for food. Finding young, tender aspen, their very
favorite food, is tough for them now because most aspen
have been cleaned out around Nimpo Lake over the years
by beaver past. For the last few years we've been protecting
our older aspen and have lots of new, young trees coming
up. Unfortunately, that makes our peninsula a delicious
looking banquet for every beaver at the south end of Nimpo
The last two years haven't been too bad for fighting off
beaver because two winters ago the folks at the other
end of Nimpo Lake brought in a trapper. The beaver had
so devastated the aspen forest down at that end of the
lake they had changed the entire landscape with hundreds
and hundreds of young and old aspen dropped in a mish
mash along Nimpo Creek. They had so many dams on
Nimpo Creek that the Rainbow Trout were no longer able
to enter the lake for spawning in the spring.
Long discussions with B.C. Fisheries resulted in that
particular agency telling the locals to look after the
problem themselves. Unfortunately, the trapper didn't
wipe the beaver population out by any means. Just slowed
it down a bit. Apparently the beaver are back and just
as bad. They've got dams clear back to Gus's Meadow and
water backed up all along Nimpo Creek to a depth of four
feet. It might well be part of the reason why the
lake has such an incredibly low water level right now.
That many beaver means a larger population of young moving
down Nimpo Lake looking for places to build lodges and
aspen to cut down for a food supply. In the last couple
of nights we've lost two trees and the neighbour lost
Many people not familiar with the devastation beaver can
do to your yard in a few short nights think the
animals are cute, cuddly and industrious. They
are the latter (see devastation) but don't
fit the description for the rest. The beaver is the largest
living rodent left on earth. Or rat, if you prefer. When
cornered they can be vicious. For that matter, they
can be vicious when not cornered, known for taking chunks
out of the family pet if it ventures too close.
I've always had to laugh at Canada using the beaver as
its National Symbol. Great... a rat that is attempting
to turn all of Canada's land into flat, barren farmland.
How ironic. But then again, the Americans treasure the
Bald Eagle, a scavenger second only to the vulture. In
any case, we're doing our best, as are all our neighbours,
to fight off the little horde that's in tree attack mode
right now, and we're not doing a very good job of it.
Since that means being outside sundown to dusk the articles
might come a little later than usual for the next while.
was just about the best Sunday you could ask for and even
better for fishing! I realize I haven't written for a
day but a huge influx of fresh fruit from the Okanagan
Friday evening has resulted in fruit preparation and pie
baking. Besides, the weather has continued to be just
incredible. The plop, plop of jumping fish eventually
got the better of us and yesterday evening, when
I usually write an article, we went fishing. We got bites
and lost some but I did get one beauty for the freezer.
We went out for a couple of hours today but since it was
the hotter part of the day, we didn't do as well as I
had hoped. We both got one on the line but couldn't keep
them. Mine may have been good sized from the feel of it
but I didn't fight him long enough to tire him out so
he flipped off the last time I brought him near the boat.
I should know better than try to yard a Nimpo Rainbow
Trout up to the boat. They're fighters and can
slip off a fly if you don't play them out first. My mistake.
Unfortunate because I want some fish for smoking but it's
not happening as quickly as I had hoped.
It's not often we take time out to treat ourselves to
some fishing and I don't know how much time we'll have
this next week. It is so incredible to glide slowly
around the lake watching the loons, eagles, grebes and
what not floating or flying. Fish of all sizes
jumping all around the lake and the boat. The small ones
can really fly, some going up four feet and jumping from
one spot to another on the lake for up to ten feet.
It's Sunday, so there were lots of floatplanes taking
off and landing on Nimpo Lake today, both charters
taking people up for flightseeing or to go fishing on
a remote lake, and summer residents that come in with
their planes and tool around the mountains and alpine
Even though places like Penticton in the Okanagan have
been under a very heavy layer of forest fire smoke, yesterday
evening was the first time we saw the faint haze of smoke
on the horizon. Today the air was clear as a bell, as
usual. This evening we're finally getting some high, hazy
'normal' clouds so there may be a weather change coming.
Sure didn't look like it on the weather forecast last
night, though. It looks like full sun and high temperatures
for the next ten days.
I'll keep this short this evening because I still want
to go for a walk on the back trails this evening, and
I'm gunning for more fishing. We might
run out of daylight, though. See you tomorrow!
It's All About The Roads
with yesterday's topic on vacations, I think the condition
of the road you travel is of primary consideration. With
the big fancy rigs that most tourists drive or pull now
days, a highway in poor condition can be pretty
hard on the motorhome and the driver. Once we
started hitting permafrost in central west and northwestern
Yukon Territory, we started hitting some really brutal
roads. And from there into Tok, Alaska, and from Tok to
Glennallen, it just got worse. Much of the permafrost
in these areas is under black spruce swamp. When a road
is built over permafrost it loses its insulating layer
and the permafrost begins to melt under the road, especially
in the summer when road traffic drives heat down through
the pavement and into the ground. Unfortunately, the ground
does not thaw evenly, hence, frost heaves.
For those of you from the South who have never encountered
a frost heave, you just don't know what you're missing.
Where the pavement has enough give to bend with the movement
of the ground, it bends. Where it doesn't, or where it
bends too much, it simply breaks and collapses. So you
end up with a road that resembles a rollercoaster. Throw
a few twists and bends into the pavement, have a frost
heave higher on one side than the other and put it a little
bit diagonal and you have one bouncy ride.
It's the kind of bounce that can break hitches and a whole
lot of stuff in your motorhome and if you're going to
Alaska, you're going to find several hundred miles of
it. That stretch of the drive is extremely exhausting,
no matter how slow you go, for both the driver and passenger,
because all you can do is hang on and hope nothing important
Besides that stretch of highway, both the Dalton Highway
and the highway to Chena Hot Springs are even worse and
we only went down each for 20 miles before getting fed
up and turning around. Whatever was at the end of
either of those roads didn't seem to be worth seriously
damaging our RV.
The road from Chicken to the Canadian border is gravel
and not in that bad of shape. From the border to Dawson
City is pretty bad with broken pavement and bad, bad chuck
holes. Where they've pulled up the pavement and gone back
to gravel is in excellent condition for the most part.
We all deal with frost heaves, including here in
the Chilcotin, but in a part of the country where
no matter how much they build up the road and repave,
it's going to heave, it would seem that the road builders
would be much better off staying with gravel. At least
with gravel, you can grade the heaves out of it and you
can put calcium on it to keep down the dust and flying
rocks. I realize that most tourists going to Alaska probably
don't want to have anything to do with gravel roads, but
really, properly maintained they can be very good driving
and a far cry from what exists there now. However, I
imagine that Alaska operates under the same constraints
as we do in British Columbia. A government that
won't put money toward the highways.
If you're planning a trip to Alaska, it's definitely going
to be worth your while to invest in a copy of the MilePost.
Although not strictly accurate when describing roads because
the editors have to go by what shape they were in the
fall before publishing, it's still a pretty handy guide
for warning you where to expect construction and poor
roadbed condition. Actually, as an overall trip planner,
I'd say don't leave home without it. It covers everything.
The only downside of it is that it does not list every
RV Park or other accommodation throughout Alaska. It only
lists those outfits that have advertised with them but
it will often mention how many other RV parks, motels,
etc. there are in an area and approximately where you
might find them.
I'm going to sidetrack from the vacation comparison
just to fill you in on what's happening in the Anahim
Lake and Nimpo Lake area today. Our weather for
the past two weeks has been absolutely glorious with lots
of sun and only high, skiffy cloud. Unlike the Okanagan
where they've been under a blanket of smoke drifting up
from forest fires across the American border. Actually,
British Columbia has been hot and dry for the last few
weeks but has surprisingly few forest fires. So few that
many of our firefighters have been loaned to the Americans.
You would think conditions would be perfect for thunderheads
building up and the resulting lightning strikes, but oddly,
that hasn't been the case at all.
Last night was another clear night with just a sliver
of moon and millions of stars so bright and clear you
felt like you could reach out and touch them. We're
fortunate to have such clean, clear air. It was
so quiet that you could hear fish plopping all over the
lake in the dark and every so often the loons would set
up a chorus.
Man, it's good to be home in Paradise!
The West Chilcotin Vacation Paradise
review of the Alaska vacation versus the West Chilcotin.
As we drove north earlier this summer I commented
that northern British Columbia was quite beautiful.
I had never been north of Dawson Creek and was surprised
and pleased to see that the northern part of the province
is just as pretty as the rest but I had my mind set on
seeing Alaska and probably didn't pay as much attention
as I should have.
There is no question that many parts of Alaska are
breathtaking. The mountains in particular, skipped
the foothills and seemed to sweep right up from the ground
and towered around us everywhere. Denali, or Mt. Mckinley
is exceptional...if you see it. While on
the riverboat in Talkeetna the Captain turned the boat
and stopped on the river for awhile so we could see Denali.
All you could see was a sliver poking through the clouds
and the tour guide told us we were very fortunate because
less than 30% of the people that go to Alaska to
see the mountain actually get to see all or part of it.
Check out the Picture
of the Day.
It wouldn't show up on the right of this page because
the air wasn't clear and there's not much to see. There
is no question that it's a fantastic mountain and we honestly
have nothing to compare it to here other than Mt. Waddington,
the highest mountain entirely inside British Columbia's
borders. It can be seen from many vantage points
around Nimpo Lake on most days.
We did travel several of Alaska's highways in the hope
of seeing Denali again but never did succeed in seeing
it in its entirety. I would imagine that the best time
to see that mountain is in the winter when the skies are
cold and clear.
Alaska's coast is very pretty and Anchorage, Seward and
Valdez all sit in valleys surrounded by mountains. Homer
is a little more open but it too has mountains. Most
are reminiscent of our own Bella Coola valley
that sits on a sixty mile long inlet making it a highly
protected harbour while huge mountains and glaciers loom
over the valley on all sides.
On the Chilcotin Plateau you will find all kinds of country
from rolling ranching country to forested foothills protecting
the base of several of our mountain ranges. I found Alaska
a bit disappointing because when the country was spectacular,
it was spectacular but the rest of it seemed
to be made up of black spruce swamp on permafrost and
muskeg. Many of you that followed this blog on our travels
probably noticed that I complained of the black spruce
many times. Called Dr. Seuss trees by one Alaskan
fellow, I can't think of a more apt description
for the stunted, twisted floppy black trees. I have a
personal dislike for black spruce because I've had to
hunt in it and not only do I find it ugly, but it's downright
creepy. I know, I'm weird, but I can't help it. Anyway,
it was a huge disappointment to see mile after mile after
mile of the stuff. Finally, one day as we were driving
along I was reading an Alaskan travel guide that we had
picked up at one visitor centre or another and came across
this little tip box called Black Spruce 101
and here's what it said. "Few movies about
Alaska are actually filmed here. So when you see an 'Alaskan'
scene, you're often viewing the huge trees of British
Columbia. Visitors are frequently surprised when they
see black spruce for the first time. Gnarled and twisted,
the exact opposite of the perfect Christmas tree, (see
British Columbia) the black spruce is a tough little tree.
They grow in swampy permafrost soil, and are relatively
old for their size. They have a symbiotic relationship
with forest fires. Only after a wildfire do their conses
open to drop seeds on the ground." I looked
over at my partner and said, "For Pete's sake, what
are we doing here?" Hollywood's been lying to us
all these years and what I thought was going to be the
magnificent Alaskan country as seen in so many movies
during my life is actually the magnificent country of
my home province! Ironic to say the least.
I guess my other surprise in Alaska was to learn that
most of the State is at a very low elevation, mountains
being the obvious exception. The second highest
pass on a highway in Alaska was actually 300 feet lower
than where we live on Nimpo Lake. It wasn't what
I was expecting at all and it's no surprise that so much
of it is swampy. Still though, there were some exceptionally
beautiful places in Alaska and we really enjoyed them.
Hatcher Pass is extraordinary and the Denali Highway (which
crosses over from the Richardson Highway to the Parks
Highway) was gorgeous alpine country. However, those two
roads are closed in the winter because both areas receive
a huge amount of snow. Alaska and the Yukon also have
the Yukon River and that's a hard waterway to beat in
anyone's books! It's a beautiful river, especially when
it's still that beautiful, clean green around Whitehorse
and before it picks up all the silt and becomes muddy
by the time it reaches Dawson City. But we're pretty lucky
here because we have the mighty Fraser River and
numerous glacier fed rivers including the pale green Chilko,
Atnarko, and Bella Coola Rivers.
When we arrived home back in the Chilcotin I could only
look around in awe of my own part of the country. It's
beautiful country and in my opinion, competes easily with
Alaska but we live here and so we take it for granted.
It isn't until you come back and look at it with fresh
eyes, and try to look at it from a visitor's perspective,
that you realize how much we undersell our area. If
we promoted it half as well as the Alaskans promote their
state, we could enjoy the company of quite a few
We spoke to a lot of fellow travelers in Alaska and discovered
that most Americans reach Alaska following the Alaskan
highway out of Alberta and almost completely bypass British
Columbia. In fact, it would seem that few Americans ever
get an opportunity to see our province because many are
from the southern or eastern States and rather than cut
clear west and come up through B.C. they cross kitty corner
into Alberta, a small part of British Columbia and then
into the Yukon Territories. And of course, for the few
that do come through British Columbia, very few
venture out into the West Chilcotin where the really big
mountains are! (I'm sure there are some Rocky
Mountain fans that will disagree with me on that point.)
I guess the question now is...how better to promote British
Columbia to those folks heading to Alaska on vacation?
Heck, folks, it's way cheaper and just as nice to spend
your holiday in this province and you don't have
to fight your way over those brutal roads on the way to,
and in, Alaska. Oh yeah...gotta cover the subject
of the roads...
More on that tomorrow.
British Columbia/Alaska Vacation Comparison
realize I'm probably going to ruffle a few feathers with
this comparison. Probably because it's going to look like
I'm bashing the States and after all, Canadians
bashing Americans does seem to be a favorite past time
of the Canucks. However, I'm American, I've just
been to Alaska, and I figure I can state my opinion with
an open mind.
Since I have just had the experience of driving 8000 miles
through the Yukon and Alaska I think I can do a pretty
thorough comparison. However, since it's a big State and
we covered a lot of ground in the two months that we were
gone, this will probably end up being a series of articles.
My first statement is really going to ruffle
feathers, but here goes. If you are going to vacation
in Alaska, you had better have deep pockets.
Really deep pockets! We found travelling the State to
be an extremely expensive venture. In many large centers
we found the price of a gallon of milk ranged between
six and seven dollars USD and the price of fuel, after
you took into account the smaller American gallon and
the exchange rate, to be only a little less than the price
of fuel in Canada. Vegetables were outrageously
expensive as were most dry goods and although
I realize that transportation of goods to Alaska is expensive,
the milk was locally produced in the Mat-Su Valley as
was some of the veggies. The only thing we found to be
reasonably priced was eggs. Meat wasn't even affordable
except in the very large cities and even there, we bought
little. I'm glad we took some with us.
I realize that Alaska is probably extremely dependant
on tourism but if they call Florida the 'palm' State for
everyone having their hand out, they haven't met the 'two-palmers'
in Alaska. We were shocked to discover that a tourist
gets charged for everything! Even to walk out to a glacier!
The State Parks people acted as though they had
created the glaciers rather than nature and had the right
to charge for it. There was an interpretive center
and a trail of sorts overlooking the glacier but I found
the former unnecessary and the latter would have been
formed naturally by people walking to see the glacier,
just as we have trails in this country created by people
and horses going to check something out.
When we got into Dawson City just inside the Yukon border
we drove up onto Midnight Dome where you have a fantastic
360 view going for miles. I mentioned to my partner that
with that kind of view, had we been in Alaska there would
have been a gate at the bottom with a toll booth. Laughter.
"Yep, you're right!"
There are many things in Alaska we chose not to
see because of the expense and many other things
we did or saw only because we had the Tour Saver Coupon
booklet that allowed one of us to go in for free. We considered
ourselves to be very fortunate because we could actually
afford to go where we wished or see what we wanted to.
That we chose not to in some cases was more a resentment
out of being gouged than anything.
When we got back to our little piece of the Chilcotin
I thought, "Wow, we're just not charging the tourists
enough here!" However, we would like to keep our
tourists rather than shoot ourselves in the foot
with overinflated prices as I suspect Alaska is
doing. One RV Park operator expressed concern that visitors
were down 30% this year and he was really worried about
how much those numbers might fall off next year with the
higher cost of fuel. You can't control the price of fuel
but I think you can control the pricing
on attractions that bring visitors to Alaska. Like Alaska,
Anahim Lake and Nimpo Lake have very high food and fuel
costs due in part to the transportation distance and the
small population. But the rest of our vacation costs are
very reasonable in comparison. Accommodation is
way cheaper, as is camping and the use of boats
and motors. I'm not sure what British Columbia's non-resident
fishing licenses cost but I do know that it cost us less
than $50 for annual licenses for both of us in the Yukon
while Alaska wanted $300.
RV parking in sardine can 'gravel pits' averaged us around
$30 a day in Alaska while I know for a fact that you can
stay at the Vagabond right on Nimpo Lake on lovely green
lawns or park among the trees for $22 a night with full
hookups. Oh, and the showers are free!
If you take into account the exchange on the dollar, an
American can visit here for even less than what it would
cost a Canadian.
On the downside? We don't have a Denali or Mt. McKinley
but what we do have more than makes up for it!
Tomorrow I'll do a scenery comparison.
Check out last week's articles at Aug
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!