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 - Aug., Week 1- 2/2007
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.
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Check out the Picture
of the Day.
Our Adventure Continues
our way back out of Stewart with knowledge of the huge
snow load from the previous winter, we were more observant
of our surroundings. We had not realized just how
easily the small communities of Stewart and Hyder could
be closed off from the rest of the world when
there was one of many of the massive avalanches that thunder
down the mountains on either side of the highway going
in. Just outside of Stewart we could see where an avalanche
in recent past had rolled down one side of the valley
and clear up the other side, snapping off a whole hillside
of trees at snow level. The MilePost describes a delta
of avalanche snow that must accumulate year after year
and is probably nearly as dense as glacier ice. I took
a picture of it up on the right and you can see where
the red arrow points, that a huge chunk of snow
has been chewed out of the delta by the river in front
of it to reveal dense blue ice. Like most of the
rivers in British Columbia this spring, the Nass must
have been raging because there were a lot of fresh stumps
and green trees laying on the gravel bars.
All along the highway the bottom of chutes in the near
vertical mountains was filled with snow and debris from
avalanches. A few people told us that there had been well
over 20 feet of snow this past winter and I know that
it was in the hardest hit region of BC. One young
fellow was loading up his snowmobile the night before
we left Stewart and on questioning, told us he would be
going up snowmobiling the next morning. Apparently,
people snowmobile in the area until the middle of July,
but there had been so much snow that they expected to
snowmobile into the middle of August. All I've got to
Back on the Cassiar Highway, we headed on up the road
taking in the scenery as we went and looking forward to
showing our friends Kinaskin Lake where we expected to
stay for a couple of days and had even brought the canoe
with plans to fish the lake. But what's that saying? "The
best laid plans of mice and men?"
We were stopped by a flag girl at one spot and she told
us we might not be able to get much past Kinaskin Lake
because part of the Cassiar Highway had slid into
Tatogga Lake just a few hours before. She was
a little concerned that she and the rest of her crew might
not be able to get home for a few days.
Shortly after we got into the provincial campground on
the lake we started hearing radio chatter on Highway's
Maintenance channels. It seemed that the major washout
had occurred on the Cassiar Highway just 20 miles ahead
of us and it was beginning to look like the highway might
be shut down for some time. I figured we had planned on
staying here for a couple of days anyway. Might as well
just relax and enjoy our surroundings. But our friends
were concerned that if the road remained closed for a
week or two, they would have lost the time it would take
to go the back around the other way over the Alaska Highway.
The radio chatter eventually revealed that the road
would stay closed until engineers could be brought in
to take a look at it. The next morning our friends
drove on up the highway to take a look and get a feel
for the seriousness of the washout. They didn't return
so we packed up and pulled out on the assumption the road
was open. We met them about 10 miles out coming back.
They had walked up to the slide and said it looked pretty
bad and of course, the flag people were not letting anyone
drive through without the okay of engineers. Understandable
when you've just spent two million dollars to fix a piece
of road that keeps wanting to wash down the mountains
side into the lake, a crack across the pavement that hasn't
fallen away yet, and you can see a massive riffle in the
lake created by water pouring out from under your road
into the lake below. I probably wouldn't want to
take on that liability without consulting engineers either.
Highway's people on site agreed that it could possibly
be weeks before the road opened again.
We figured geotech engineers would be flown in and sure
enough, a helicopter went over us early in the afternoon.
Harold and Melinda had resigned themselves to the fact
that only hours from the Yukon border, they would have
to turn back and spend a week going the long route around
or take a ferry from Prince Rupert to Skagway. Three of
us sat around the picnic table discussing their options
and I knew they were too disappointed in the situation
to want to go fishing or enjoy the beautiful blue, green
lake we were camped on.
Harold had the window to his van open and the radio chatter
started again. The engineers had arrived on site and wanted
some light vehicles to go through so that they could measure
the level of vibration in the road. Or I think that's
what they said, anyway. Suddenly our two friends were
throwing everything back into their van, grabbing their
dog and with quick hugs goodbye and yells of good luck
from me, were flying out of the campground to see if they
could be one of those vehicles put through.
We knew we would no longer be able to accompany
our friends north and would turn around and head home
in the morning. We had just turned on the radio
in our truck to see how our friends made out when Harold's
voice called back to tell us they were going to let him
through. A moment later he called to tell us that the
flag person and his boss had agreed that we could come
through as well, so long as we could make it there within
30 minutes. We looked at our awning and coolers out, dogs
leashed out with their bed, jacks down, stuff on the picnic
table, windows and vents open, nothing secure and a freshly
roaring camp fire. We asked for 35 minutes. I did not
think it possible but we were flying out of the campground
in exactly five minutes and arrived at the washout with
nearly 15 minutes to spare. I'm pretty sure that trailer
touched no rubber to pavement on that run!
The flag person looked at us a little surprised when we
pulled up and though we knew Harold had described our
vehicle and trailer, the guy deadpanned us totally before
he let us through. As we drove by the guy's boss, and
three other guys that were probably the engineers, I
can only say that most of them stared at us as though
we were some apparition. Small wonder. It seems
Harold had told these people that it was a grey pickup
truck with a little trailer and weight well distributed.
It's true that our trailer is very light weight by most
standards, but he had neglected to tell them that
it was 30 feet long and was being pulled by a one ton
dually pickup truck. (That's four tires in the
back instead of two for those of you that don't know.).
No wonder they were having problems picking their jaws
up off the ground. I told Andy to just keep on going in
case they changed their minds. Only after we were on the
other side of the washout did I have him stop so I could
walk back for a picture.
Sixty holdiay rigs had already been turned back
from the other side the day before and I don't
know how many were turned back that day. Stopped by another
flag person a couple of miles down the road, we sat and
talked to a fellow with a small truck and camper pointed
the other way. He was infuriated and wondered how it was
that we had gotten through from the opposite side. We
didn't want to tell him it was on a wing, a prayer, and
a really good fib. It turns out that we were the
last to go through. They closed the road until the next
afternoon and would only open it for two hours a day to
just light vehicles until they could get equipment in
to start clawing a new lane out of the bank.
That was not the only place where the Cassiar Highway
had problems. After the first washout, we passed three
more on the way down to and up the other side from the
Stikine River Bridge, and one of them was pretty darn
serious looking. All along the highway you could see trees
and sod uprooted by banks that were just mud and refused
to remain in place. The whole country was completely saturated
by the huge snowfall over winter and the sodden, rainy
Speaking of rainy summer. Like most of the province, our
Chilcotin temperatures have remained cool and after we
got another 2cm or nearly an inch of rain last night,
the thermometer plummeted. I actually thought we were
going to get frost and we probably would have had we not
been so near the lake and felt the influence of the warmer
water. Today turned out to be a pretty nice day
with lots of sun for a change and 'nary a mozzy in sight!
It looks like we might see a couple of more days of sun
if the weatherman can be believed.
Return To Nimpo Lake
got back to Nimpo late Thursday night but this was the
first chance I've had to update the blog since getting
home. We arrived home to find 3cm or over an inch of rain
in the rain guage, and since I understand it hadn't rained
for a few days before we got back, then some probably
evaporated. We've received an additional two inches
of rain in the last two days and it's started
raining again tonight. We're beginning to look a lot like
Vancouver. Of course most of the province is. Everywhere
we went the grass and trees are lush and green, unlike
the usual browns and golds you would see this time of
year around Williams Lake and Alexis Creek, or even here.
It doesn't look like much has changed around here since
we left other than the mosquitoes have let up, making
it much more pleasant to be outside. And I think we can
safely say that our forest fire danger is pretty much
over for the year. So I'll go back to our road trip
of the past few weeks in northern British Columbia and
head for Stewart after our little bear adventure in Meziadin
None of us had been to either Stewart, B.C. or Hyder,
Alaska, so we turned at the junction that would take us
to that destination, and fortunately, both our parties
were reading our travel bible, the MilePost. As a result,
we knew to look for Bear Glacier along the way
where it calves its icebergs into a lake. There
are actually several glaciers in the mountains rearing
up above the highway, many of them that spectacular blue
of melted Styrofoam. But Bear Glacier really is a beauty
winding its way into the water at the edge of the lake
with a roaring spout of meltwater pouring out through
a hole melted in the ice. Surprisingly, it wasn't all
that many years ago that the glacier actually filled the
valley wall to wall and you can see the old roadway that
ran along the edge of the glacier in the hillside above
the existing highway.
Stewart turned out to be a pretty neat little town and
we managed to find a wonderful camping spot when we bypassed
the first RV Park (gravel parking lot) we came to and
ended up in Rainey Creek Municipal Campgrgound instead.
By the name, one would assume you would be stuck
in the middle of town in some sorry excuse for an RV Park.
Instead, we ended up with wide, spacious sites, each heavily
protected by huge, old growth trees with a brook babbling
happy past each site. We had our firepit and loads of
space for walking the dogs and a secure spot to leave
the trailer and van while we crossed the border into Hyder.
Now that part was a bit funny. All four of us pile into
Andy's truck with passports, dog papers and other paperwork
in hand. We passed a dour looking young man in uniform
on the Canadian side of the border but darned if
we could find any kind of Customs building on the Alaska
side. We stopped at the first business to inquire
about US border patrol, but apparently no such thing exists.
However, we had to go past sour puss on the way back into
Canada a few hours later and of course got the grill as
usual. We all thought that maybe the reason he looked
like such a grumpy little sucker was because he was embarassed.
The Americans have no Customs Station but he has to stop
everyone coming back into Canada from Hyder. Really, you've
just gone into Hyder, and you come back out of Hyder.
Where else are you going to go? What? Meet
some boat at the harbor that's just brought in a bunch
of BC bud brought the whole way up the coast of British
Columbia, into Hyder so that you can take it across the
border into British Columbia? Doesn't exactly make a lot
of sense does it? But the Canadian officials take themselves
pretty seriously, so I guess they figure if there's a
border crossing, there has to be some officious little
weiner manning it.
Anyway, we get into Hyder and take a look around a bit.
Actually, first we ended up at the garbage dump. By accident,
of course. But then we ran into this really cool
guy running a really cool saw cutting lumber next to the
garbage dump in which there were several bears.
Eventually we head out on the only road that exits Hyder
and it ends at the foot of the Salmon Glacier. We never
made it that far because we were looking for an area just
a couple of miles out of Hyder called the Fish Creek Wildlife
Viewing Area run by the US Forest Service, where
apparently it was easy to photograph and view black bear
and grizzly fishing for salmon in the creek below a boardwalk.
We could tell that we were back in the US because the
guys in uniform wanted to charge each of us to go onto
the boardwalk to view bears. But, "Oh, by the way,
there aren't any bears there right now." Yeah, I'm
gonna shell out money to go on a boardwalk, and I'm not
allowed to go anywhere except the boardwalk,
to watch or photograph a creature neither
invented nor created by the said Forest
Service. What did I say last year? Both palms up and out!
We didn't tell them that we had just been watching a bunch
of bears at the garbage dump and it didn't cost a dime!
Of course the background wasn't exactly fit for a photographer
for National Geographic, but who cares?
Back at Hyder we investigated some of the shops and passed
the time of day with one owner who told us of the tremendous
snowfall this past winter and how many of the roofs on
buildings in both Hyder and Steward collapsed under the
weight. We had wondered about that....
Our friends were determined to get 'Hyderized' at
the pub famous for it. Every vertical surface
inside the building, including all upright beams and columns,
is covered in one, two, and five dollar bills, many of
them signed and many very, very old. It was very unique
wall paper to to say the least but the fellow behind the
bar was even more so. Interesting to talk to with a quirky
sense of humor and one of the most deadpan expressions
I've ever seen on anyone telling tall tales.
The bartender poured a water chaser and a shot each for
our friends that I presume was the EverClear that Hyder
is so famous for. I didn't need a shot. I took one whiff
of Harold's drink and it reminded me exactly of the stuff
brewed in stills by most of my Saskatchewn neighbours
before being quietly mixed with store bought liquor. The
stuff formed the basis for many celebrations, receptions,
weddings, and parties for which no excuse was needed,
but you had to go easy on it. Must have been the same
kind of stuff in Hyder because Harold and Melinda both
reported that warm, burning sensation after tossing their
drinks down that I remember so well. I think that's
why they called it Rotgut in the old days.
It was a pretty neat place to be in because it would take
you a month of Sundays to actually see everything hanging
on the walls and from the ceiling of the Glacier Inn,
and Hyder itself is a pretty cool whistle stop. I think
that Stewart and Hyder take turns at dying and reviving
and Stewart is on the upswing now with lots of signage,
fresh paint, and a fascinating museum, while Hyder is
The First Night Out
I know it's been awhile since I posted an article and
it might be a while yet. I'm not at a place where it would
be simple to access the Internet with this computer, although
our hosts do have access via a satellite on their computer.
Right now I'm sitting in a lawn chair only a few
feet away from the shore of Little Atlin Lake with mountains
raring up on the far shore and a canoe drifting
past me at this very moment.
It's not quite as peaceful as one might envision since
behind me there's the sound of a generator and skill saws
running while Andy and our hosts work on building the
door frame in the basement of their new house. Well, soon
to be new house. It might be a year or so before it's
finished. I'm sure that having no electricity and running
tools off a generator slows things down a tad as does
the long list of other projects they've been completing.
Our trip started out uneventfully back in July where
lucky timing allowed us to meet up with our friends, Harold
and Melinda, in Williams Lake just as we completed
the shopping for our trip. Since Harold and Melinda had
already been driving all day, we headed north and decided
to plant at Ten Mile Lake Provincial Park just outside
of Quesnel. I would recommend this campsite to anyone
that wants a quiet site in a beautiful setting.
The camp sites are level, well treed, and private with
a fire pit and picnic table at each. There was lots of
space for taking our dogs for a walk and there were next
to no bugs. Can you believe that? Right smack dab
in the middle of old growth forest and no bugs.
I wanted to stay there for the rest of the trip simply
because it was such a nice break to get away from the
overwhelming blood sucking creatures at home, but no one
else would got for it. Onward ho!
The next day saw us in Prince George. Harold and Melinda
waited patiently at a pullout while I trundled into the
Citizenship and Immigration office downtown to pick up
the silly card proving I'm a landed immigrant. I've only
been in Canada since 1966 and I know I don't look much
like a terrorist, but apparently it's a requirement now
to show I've lived here for some time. As if I didn't
have forty years of documentation to prove it.
We finally got away from the mundane business and headed
up Highway 16 after a short fuel and shop stop. We had
all been over this highway before but it's still nice
to see the country again and make observations to one
another over the radio. One nice thing about having Harold
and Melinda in the lead with their van was that they could
let me know when there was something interesting on the
road ahead of us, such as bears. It gave me time to get
my camera ready but, alas, they were often gone by the
time we got to where our leaders saw them.
Between Vanderhoof and Burns Lake we could all see a huge
column of black smoke ahead of us some distance away.
We didn't have to get that close before realizing
it had to be a large vehicle on fire. A woman
in a car stopped us a little way back from the smoking
blaze and told us a large motorhome was on fire on the
highway before us. The old highway paralleled the new
at this point and we waited for a few minutes to see how
difficult it was for traffic to pass on the old goat trail.
A big loaded semi turned onto the trail and made it through,
although oncoming traffic had to pull over for him so
we decided to go that way as well. There was some
concern at first that the propane tanks might explode
as we drew adjacent to the burning motorhome but
that happened as we stood talking about going around,
so there seemed to be no further danger. We picked our
way over the rutted trail past the flames and smoke and
came back onto the highway just as the cops finally arrived
to stop traffic. We were extremely fortunate there happened
to be a way around the conflagration right at that point
or we would have been held up for some time. There wasn't
much left of the motorhome. Just the frame and wheels
and flames eating at what was left of the melted slag
on the highway. I felt deeply for the owners of
the motorhome. What is the old saying? "But for the
grace of God go I?" The very same thing could have
happened to us when the fridge in our trailer chose to
catch on fire several times in one day on our way to Alaska
We decided to camp at a place called Silverthorne in Houston
that was a mixture of RV park and trailer park. It wasn't
bad but although there were fields all around us, we couldn't
access them for the dogs because of fences, leaving very
little area to walk them. It worked though and the firewood
was free, which is always a bonus.
After turning off at Kitwanga onto the Cassiar Highway
we did a quick run into Gitanyow to see what is
termed in the MilePost as having 'One of the largest concentrations
of standing totem poles in northwestern British Columbia'.
I think that I read somewhere that they are also supposed
to be the oldest. The MilePost also mentions that a museum,
interpretive trail and information kiosk are under development.
It looks like that the 'development' part may be the key
word for a long, long time. Funded by government grants,
(Taxpayers' money) the museum has been built but it certainly
isn't open. From what I could see in notices plastered
on the back door, it's being utilized by the band, for
the band, and the band chief. Not much else happening.
Nor was there an information kiosk that we could find
and the interpretive trail is very overgrown. All very
disappointing. However, the totem poles themselves
were definitely an attraction.
I don't know a lot about totem poles and I'm sure most
other travelers don't either. I would love to have known
more about what I was seeing at Gitanyow. It was very
apparent that many of the totem poles there were ancient
and some were so old they were actually laying down and
protected under plastic. I would like to have known the
symbolism intended in the figures carved on the poles
because there were marked differences from pole to pole.
The same for what looked like Indian graves along the
interpretive trail as viewed from the hill above. However,
without some sort of signage or explanation from a guide,
one could only guess what the village was all about.
It seems a shame that this particular Indian Reserve has
missed out on a chance to not just benefit financially
from visitors but on the wonderful opportunity to
show off their culture and the tremendous artifacts that
have survived how many years of 'progress' and
rainy weather? We've all heard the various bands throughout
BC espouse their desire to live their culture and complain
that we, the invaders, won't allow them to do that. As
with so many other projects financed by government grants
for the native 'visionaries' in our province, a lackadaisical
attitude, if not complete inertia, wins the day yet again.
Our next spot to stopover was at Meziadin Provincial
Park located on a stunning lake. All of the camp
spots were taken along the lakeshore by the time we got
in but we were happy to grab a double spot that's normally
utilized by tenters and large enough to be used for boat
trailer overflow parking.
We were very happy with our little gravel area but unfortunately,
so were the black flies. Because there were two raised
tent spots filled with sand, which was now wet from recent
rains, we were sitting in the middle of a blacklfly's
favorite environment, breeding ground and all. They were
a little pesky until it cooled down a bit but we sat up
by a fire until quite late and the bugs were no problem
We had a bit of excitement at about two in the morning.
Our friends had cooked quite a late supper on their stove
out on the picnic table and were careful to burn off their
griddle and clean up their camp. However, none of us thought
much of the grocery bag of empty beer and pop cans tucked
under our friend's van. Andy woke up to snuffling sounds
and on lifting the blind in our trailer, looked
out at a black bear only a few feet away trying
to snag the white grocery bag from under the van. Andy
yelled at the bear a few times and it finally made off
with its prize while we dove outside the trailer to bring
our cooler in. We normally keep our cooler inside the
trailer if the area is isolated or there are bear warnings
out. But since it had been so hot all evening and in the
absence of any warnings, we figured it would be cooler
sitting outside on the ground than inside the trailer.
I figure that the smell of cooking food so long
after dark may have drawn the bear near our camp.
Once everything was cleaned up and burned off it didn't
leave much for the bear to go after. But after this little
late night lesson we made sure that we didn't leave our
aluminum cans outside either.
Earlier in the afternoon I had heard a lot of snapping
of twigs in the thick brush on the bank above my head
at one point, but assumed it might be one of our dogs
that Andy had taken for a walk. As it turned out, Andy
never went on the trail up above our camp spot so I have
no idea what was up there. But the berries in the area
were dripping off the branches and we saw a number of
bears along the highway on our way up the Cassiar. Apparently,
there had also been a wolf in the park some time during
the night and it left a lot of sign that the park
host was tracking all over the place. At least it fit.
Andy was sure he'd heard a wolf howl sometime during the
night after the bear left but it didn't seem possible
with all the people in the camp sites. However, Meziadin
Provincial Park isn't really located anywhere near a town
and sits in some pretty wild country so why shouldn't
the wild animals feel right at home?
On The Road Again!
Everyone. As I mentioned last week, we'll be heading up
north for a couple of weeks so I'm actually posting this
from the laptop, just to make sure everything's A Okay.
Our day did not start out well at all. I
was expecting to be able to meet up with some folks I
haven't seen in a long, long while that were motorbiking
out this way and would be stopping in Anahim Lake on their
way back from Bella Coola. However, our power went out
early this morning and was out for a good bit of the day,
which threw a complete monkey wrench into our packing
No matter how organized you might be, there's still stuff
that gets left for the last day. I considered myself fortunate
that I had done a lot of watering yesterday but I still
expected to have a few hours to do today. Not possible
until the power came back on. No power, no water.
Which also delayed laundry, watering inside plants, cleaning,
and I couldn't even start loading the trailer fridge up
with food because I didn't want to be opening up our house
fridges until the power came back on. For that matter,
even trying to find stuff without lights in the darker
rooms and closets was a challenge. As a result, we were
both thrown off balance and getting ready to pull out
tomorrow has turned out to be a lot harder than it normally
A big old beetle killed tree went down on the power
lines near the mill between Nimpo Lake and Anahim Lake.
Although there wasn't much wind this morning, Andy came
through a horrendous downpour from Anahim yesterday and
he figures it saturated the ground enough that the tree
was easily uprooted. As we're all aware in this area,
that's going to become more and more common the longer
those dead trees are left standing.
We got some petitions made up after our community meeting
last week and placed them in all the stores calling attention
to the fact that Hydro was supposed to knock down all
the dead pine that were a hazard to the power lines by
now. That was good timing in view of our day long power
outage today. Don't know if a petition will do any good
but something has to be done. Many homeowners such as
ourselves have already done BC Hydro's job for them, but
many are unable or not skilled enough to take down trees
next to power lines, and shouldn't have to. There's also
a lot of line on Crown Land that only BC
Hydro is responsible for.
Our good, heavy rain from the other day came at
a fortunate time. The ground is still pretty wet
but a big high is due to move in next week, bringing clear
skies and higher temperatures for at least a week. Still,
we should be in pretty good shape with regards to forest
fire danger because I don't think our area is even registering
anything but low on the forestry sign.
The friends we will be traveling with got rain down in
the Okanagan at the same time as we did. Two and
a half inches of rain fell in two hours and broke all
previous records. Now that's a rain! I'm surprised
that places didn't float away down there or that there
weren't literally flash floods since it's such an arid
region and they've just gone through a long hot spell.
Our weather the last few days has been fairly cool
and often cloudy, with it dropping down to just above
freezing last night. It hasn't been that windy
until early this afternoon. Andy took a picture of a huge
gull hanging onto the tiny tip of a whip like spruce tree
in our yard and said there's no way the bird could have
hung on if there had been any kind of wind. We usually
don't get gulls coming onto the property like that, probably
because our dog goes absolutely haywire over big birds
being in his airspace. He was watching the gull very closely
the whole time it sat in the tree, never taking his eyes
off it. I don't know what his beef is with big birds
but he's had it since he was a pup.
We're on the road tomorrow and I don't know when I'll
be able to post next but you'll find last week's articles
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!