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Wilderness Adventures - Aug., Week 1- 2/2007

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.

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Check out the Picture of the Day.


13/08/2007 9:56 PM

Our Adventure Continues

On 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 say is...wow.
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. Good point.
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 summer.
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.
12/08/2007 9:22 PM

Return To Nimpo Lake

We 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 Provincial Park.
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 just, well....quirky.

08/08/2007 9:12 AM

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 last year.
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 after dark.
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?
7/22/2007 9:12 PM

On The Road Again!

Hi 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 plans.
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 is.
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 at
July Week Two.
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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!
Pavement sliding down the bank.
 
Washout on the gravel road with excavator.
 
Pile of snow from avalanche.
 
Blue glacier and water.
 
Totem Pole with frogs.
 
Raven on a totem pole.
 
Carved Raven at the top of a heavy totem pole.
 
A hole carved in the wood.
 
RV fire on the Yellowhead Highway.
 
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