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Wilderness Adventures - August Week 3/2007

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.

Rolling over an image will give you its description.
Check out the Picture of the Day.


23/08/2007 10:58 PM

In Memory Of John Edwards of Lonesome Lake

I only just this moment found out that we've lost a venerable old icon of our area who died of cancer in late July around when we went on holiday. John Edwards was the last surviving son of Ralph Edwards, known as The Crusoe of Lonesome Lake and credited with bringing the Trumpeter Swan back from the edge of extinction. The homestead his father built was razed in the Lonesome Lake Fire of 2004, the largest and most destructive forest fire in British Columbia that year. There was a political firestorm that year when Parks was accused of allowing the fire to burn for a full month after initial discovery, and preventing Forestry Protection from putting the fire out, in the hopes of burning John Edwards out of his beloved homestead. I understand John rebuilt a cabin he could live in after the fire and has been there since.
For years John would walk out on a grizzly infested trail several miles to the Tote Road where he always left his truck parked, and then drive in to Bella Coola for mail and supplies. Concerned years ago about John's isolation at his age, Terry B loaned him a radio set so that he could call out on the Avnorth channel if he ran into trouble. After that, every Sunday and Wednesday at 6:00 you would hear Double 0 Seven calling on the radio to check in and relate his experiences with the wild animals he was taming or how many bears he ran into on the trail to Bella Coola. I don't remember when I last heard his voice on the radio reporting his trip in on the trail as being uneventful and that he had made it home okay. Or even who answered him so that he knew his check-in had been heard. Early this spring or summer perhaps when I happened to be in the truck where I have a radio on all the time.
All I know is that chatty though he could be, there are going to be a whole lot of people that will miss that voice over the radio at supper time on a Sunday night, while guests crowd all around the table and the din of voices and tinkle of glasses are all silenced when that voice comes over the radio.
"Nimpo Lake......This is Double 0 Seven....calling Nimpo Lake........"

Goodbye John.

23/08/2007 7:44 PM

Moving Rocks. Making Garden

This will be just a quick update on what's happening around here. Yesterday afternoon I got to commandeer Andy's Bobcat and his excellent services as an equipment operator and shovel pusher for some garden improvements. There was a massive pile of dirt that came out of the hole dug for our porch last fall that ended up in my 'garden' area. I wanted it piled up on the other side of the garden to provide a berm that I could turn into a rock garden and that would raise the zone a bit in the garden.
It looks like the US/Canada zone map has finally been updated after years of being inaccurate. Our area is in even worse shape than I thought when it comes to growing things as the map puts us in zone zero to zone one. Mind you, global warming will change that yet again.
In any case, I must have struck a rock too hard with the shovel or something because I was having problems with making my left wrist work properly last night. Writing an article was out of the question and although it's still pretty shaky tonight after carting rocks around all day, I can do a short blog. Anyway, I'm sure most folks will be delighted to not have to wade through a book length article tonight.
Yesterday was a nice day and today was a barn burner with clear blue skies and temperatures a little over 20C or around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It took a while to warm up in the shade today because it chilled right down last night. We've had a big yellow harvest half moon at night and I expect we'll see some cooler temperatures or hard frost when she goes full. This evening we've got some high haze moving in, probably the leading edge of a Low coming in off the Pacific that's pushing out that nice High pressure system we've had the last few days.
This time of year you really see a marked contrast between shade temperatures and those in the sun. That sun still carries a lot of heat in it in August, but our air temperatures can be downright chilly now out of the sun. Especially if there's a bit of a cool breeze blowing. The same vast temperature variation between night and day now makes a whole lot of difference to the mosquito population too. Nary a mozzy to be seen today!
We've heard from a few people that the fishing on Nimpo Lake is excellent right now. It should just continue to get better as it usually does in fall when temps begin to fall. There still isn't anything at all in the way of algae on Nimpo yet this year, which is one advantage of a rainy summer. So starts the best part of the year in the Chilcotin. I think if anyone were to ask me when the absolute best time of year is to vacation at Anahim or Nimpo Lake, I would have to say now to mid-September. It's pretty hard to find one single thing wrong with late summer and early fall. Especially when there's little or no worries about forest fires.

21/08/2007 7:31 PM

The Seasons

Sorry for no article yesterday folks. I ended up laid up on the couch all evening, thanks to our dog. I was nearly home from a walk yesterday afternoon when I spotted the neighbour's tiny little poodle dog go flitting through the brush in front of us. Unfortunately, Mocha, the lab, has a serious hate on for little dogs. I don't know why, but it's always been the case and she immediately went after the poodle. She had it between her jaws and was making a serious attempt to crush Misty by the time I did the 100 foot sprint to get to her, yelling myself hoarse the whole way. I got her off the poodle but she deked around me and got her again. Although I didn't notice it at the time, in the effort to weave around catching up dogs, I must have pulled a muscle in my back.
I managed to drag the dogs home while Andy went looking for the little poodle to take her back to the neighbour. Our dog managed to cause her some pretty good injury and spent yesterday and today paying for it. She will continue to pay for it by only going out on a leash with me on walks for the next few days until she learns some lessons in minding. I can't abide a dog that won't listen, especially in a case such as what happened yesterday, and trust me, she isn't going to like her retraining one bit.
Fortunately, we have a really wonderful neighbour who was super about receiving his newly punctured dog without getting really, really mad. Thank heavens. In any case, any slight forgiveness I might have had for Mocha last night was wiped out by a whole evening and night sleeping with a hot water bottle under my back. Right now, the only good thing I can see about her is that she makes good bear bait.
It's amazing to me how you can pick up even the most subtle of changes that heralds a new season. It's only the middle of August, and yet already there's a hint of Fall in the air. Nothing obvious, just different. The woods in the back trail are dead silent as though everything is in suspension. The birds around here suddenly sound different and seem to be avid about getting as much seed from plants and trees as they possibly can. The young loons are making their practice flights in the air around and around Nimpo Lake, trilling the whole time, in preparation for their migration south. For such a strong, graceful bird in the water, they certainly are ungainly looking in the air.
None of our leaves are turning color here yet, but coming back from Anahim Lake Saturday, we noticed a few clumps of bushes that had leaves turning yellow. There's probably been quite a bit of frost up away from the lake already. Unnoticed by us since our temperatures are a good deal warmer near the water.
Yesterday wasn't a bad day at all and today was remarkable. The mosquitoes seemed to have been knocked back pretty good because there were none roaming around past morning today. Not even in the back woods. The temperature got up to 18C or about 65 degrees Fahrenheit today. Not super warm by anyone's standards, but a whole lot warmer than it has been throughout the province. Middle of August and the Okanagan is only a little warmer than us. I'll bet there weren't very many people on the beach there yesterday!
The southeastern part of the province has been the only hotspot in British Columbia this summer with some pretty nasty forest fires as a result. Otherwise, the rest of the province has been unusually cool, and of course, wet.
The jet stream is definitely doing some funny things this year, and I'm assuming its weird patterns have not only affected BC's weather but is the reason for such drastic weather in the States. The State of Ohio flooding all over the place after the remnants of tropical storm Erin swept through, and of course the storms in Texas and Oklahoma. Hurricane Dean looks like it might be even nastier if it continues after landfall in Mexico. Just what we need, more excuses for the oil companies to raise the price of fuel.
No matter how you look at it, complain as we might about our strange summer weather this year, we certainly have nothing on the weather elsewhere. I can only imagine what choice words a few of those folks to our south would have to say about our complaints. It probably wouldn't be very nice or polite. With good reason.
19/08/2007 10:58 AM

In Memory Of Jack Madsen

Yesterday we attended a Remembrance, something probably better known as a Memorial elsewhere, for Jack Madsen at Anahim Lake Resort. Jack and Anita have been running the resort and RV Park on Anahim Lake for nearly 30 years after leaving successful careers in Hawaii in the 70's.
I've never been to Hawaii but from everything I've ever heard about it, it must have been a bit of a shock to go from a tropical paradise to 40 below winters in the Chilcotin. But raised with a hunting and fishing background, Jack was a bit of an adventurer I suspect.
Although not everyone always saw eye to eye with Jack, probably because it requires a degree of independence and bull headed stubbornness on the part of everyone to live here, there were a lot of people at the resort yesterday to remember Jack. This is a pretty small community so Jack knew everyone, and everyone knew him.
I certainly found Jack helpful back during the 2004 Lonesome Lake Fire when John Edwards got burned out.
I was handling accommodations here for the Cariboo Fire Center out of Williams Lake when fire fighters, pilots, engineers and CFC staff invaded the country in droves, the numbers increasing day by day. Housing the huge influx was a logistical nightmare, and required me to be on the phone with every lodge, resort and motel owner in the country every day, often several times a day, trying to take care of people rotating in and out of the Anahim Lake area. It didn't help that I was often not told of people coming in that day until they arrived at my desk in fire camp, sometimes as late as 10:00 at night, fully expecting to go straight to their accommodations. Like many other resort and motel owners, Jack was always there prepared to find a bed for the night on very short notice, often shuffling his own paying guests around in order to accommodate my people.
Goodbye....and thanks, Jack.


17/08/2007 11:11 PM

Back To Normal

After our two days of summer with our shocking little hot spell, we're now back to normal. If normal means rain and cooler temperatures. Last night we got 3 1/2 cm or well over an inch of rain in one night! That used to be unheard of in this country. The Chilcotin Plateau sits in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains and has always been considered a reasonably arid region. Up until the last three years or so anyway. One of the reasons why there are such huge stands of Lodgepole Pine in the region is because the species likes it high and dry. But looking out there right now at the lush green undergrowth that you would normally expect to see in June, arid is definitely not the word you would use to describe the area.
I went for a walk on the back trail again today. There were little lakes in the middle of the trail from the rain last night. And even though a lot of the large pine are gone that might have utilized all that water, there are still many small stands of young trees back there. I think the ground is just saturated and the water has no place to go.
One thing I noticed today was that the needles on the old beetle killed pine trees still have not dropped. A couple of years ago I wrapped ribbons around the trunks of big trees along the trail that had been hit with the mountain pine beetle and with needles that had already turned red. That means the trees have been dead for at least three years, yet surprisingly, they still hold most of their needles. We had hoped that the needles on trees would drop fairly quickly after they die, minimizing the fire danger, but that doesn't seem to be the case.
We noticed a couple of days ago that some of the smaller pines on our property that hadn't been attacked before got hit recently by pine beetles. Not many, which is a good sign, and the trees put out a lot of sap in an effort to drown the beetles, but it remains to be seen whether that blue fungus the beetles carry will still overcome the trees.
We got a nice surprise today. Some folks that bought a cabin down the road a ways have now become full time residents after unexpectedly selling their other home down south. Other than the two of them making the rest of us in the area look bad because they work so hard and accomplish so much, they're great neighbours. In fact, we're very fortunate here because all our neighbours, whether a couple of acres away, or miles down the lake, are fine folks. Maybe it's because it takes a special personality to really love it here but we all get on great. Mind you, Andy and I are hermits and don't get out much so maybe we just don't know any better.
Before I forget, I should mention the picture up on the top right. We keep seeing Bald Eagles and an Osprey flying over us with fish in their claws, but by the time I dive inside and grab the camera, they're way out over the lake. I've tried posting the image anyway because you can still kind of tell what it is. Cool, eh?
15/08/2007 8:38 PM

Our Two Days Of Summer

We've certainly had summer in the Chilcotin in the last two days. Our temperature today hit over 24C or about 80 degrees in the shade this afternoon. It's still chilling down pretty good at night but the warmth from yesterday carried over enough so that it didn't hit freezing last night. I covered my tomatoes on the deck just in case though. It's getting to that time of year where you can get a hard enough frost at any time to knock off annuals. Sometimes though, if you get past that first frost, you can have as much as a month following without it, but it's not really something you want to bet your plants' lives on. :-)
There was nary a cloud in the sky today and it sure was nice to see lots of that blue! No wind either, although a little breeze would have been welcome. I went for a walk in the woods today where it's a little shady because it was too hot to work outside in the sun. We came across a day old bear track on the trail a couple of days ago but I haven't seen anything more recent since then. I expect a furry old bear is laid up in the bushes in this heat and doesn't come out to eat until evening or later. The track was a good sized one and you could see the bear had been eating berries along the side of the trail. There's certainly lots of those this year with all the rain. The wild strawberries are just ripening now in places which makes them a month late, probably because of the lack of sun.
Today would have been an awesome day to be out fishing. There were fish jumping all over the lake this afternoon and Nimpo was as flat calm as bathtub water. I knew there was a reason why we rushed home from up north! We were surprised when we got home to see that's there's still a lot more snow than usual up in the mountains, again probably because it just hasn't been all that hot this summer. And two days ago there was fresh snow on the Ilgatchuz/Itcha Mountains. At this rate we might even have a base for snowmobiling before winter even gets here! Lol.
I'm keeping this article short because I'm about blogged out. As you've probably noticed, the story below was book sized and I expect it'll take most folks awhile to wade through it. The same goes for the Picture of the Day. It'll stay the same for one more day.

14/08/2007 7:47 PM

The Telegraph Creek Road

We missed a sightseeing trip last year that we wanted to take in but we were headed south back to Nimpo Lake. I think we're worse than migratory birds. Head us in the direction of home after a trip out and we're gone! No stopping for anything. However, this time going up the Cassiar, our friends wanted to take a run down the Telegraph Creek Road and so did we. It's about 70 miles and trailers are not recommended on the road. With grades up to %20 percent, that strong recommendation was understandable. However, I really didn't see that it was that much different than the hill to Bella Coola and most of the steep spots were actually quite short.
We dropped our trailer at a camp ground at Dease Lake and headed to Telegraph, noticing that there really wasn't much at all to see the first 40 miles or so. Trees. That's about it. The country changes dramatically though once you start losing elevation and coming down into the Stikine River Canyon. The rock formations on the canyon wall are fascinating and beautiful, even if you didn't want to be a geologist as a kid.
At one point, the road runs through lava beds on what's described in the MilePost as a narrow promontory about 150 wide that drops 400 feet on one side to the Stikine River and to the Tahltan river on the other side. It's really interesting to see and a cool place to stop and walk around.
Eventually we wound up and down narrow the narrow road to reach Telegraph Creek. From there you go on to Historic Telegraph Creek and that's interesting! Old, old buildings cling to the side of a hill above the river while a well preserved church is still in use and the Stikine River Song, a small restaurant, accommodations and gift shop, are housed in the original Hudson Bay's Trading Store. Unfortunately, there really isn't much information in the little town about any of the buildings although there is an informal museum of old items that it looks like someone has attached to the front of their garage. In fact, most of the information we found on historic Telegraph Creek was in the MilePost. Still well worth the trip. I would like to have made the trip in the fall. I suspect it would be spectacular with all the fall colors on the rivers.
We continued our sightseeing trip up the Cassiar from Dease Lake and stopped at Jade City so that Harold and Melinda could see it. It looks like the store on the northbound side of the highway couldn't make it and had to shut its doors sometime after we came through last year. We noticed all the way north that several places, whether restaurants, gas stations, stores or campgrounds, were closed for good. We could only surmise that between the high Canadian dollar and the high cost of fuel, not as many people are traveling that far north. We certainly didn't see nearly as many rigs on the road that we did last year.
We stopped off at a couple of cool places along the way to Watson Lake and stayed overnight there because a visit to the Signpost forest there was a must, as well as a taking in a show at the Northern Lights Centre.
On our way west after leaving Watson Lake we took in the George Johnston Museum & Heritage Park. This is an absolute must stop for anyone. Really well done, very interesting and I learned a lot about the Tlingit Indians. Some of the museum was centered around George Johnston who lived between 1884 and 1972, and his 1928 Chevrolet Coup. Between 1910 and 1940 George used his camera extensively to capture the life of the inland Tlingit people of Teslin. He decided at a very young age that he wanted to buy a car and once he'd acquired it, the first native to do so, had it shipped up by barge to Teslin, then built 3 miles of road so that he could drive it. In winter, he drove it on the ice on the 78 mile long lake to hunt wolves. He would paint it with white house paint in winter so that it blended in better with the snow, and then often repainted it a dark color for summer.
George traded the car in for a pickup over 30 years later without a dent and the car was in immaculate condition (as described by the Chevrolet dealer that acquired it.) 18 coats of house paint were removed from the car and the CEO of Chevrolet at the time ordered the car restored. It is on permanent loan to the museum. While he had the car, George would dress up two of his prettiest relatives in uniforms and used the car as a paying taxi or chauffeur service. Known as a great trapper, he later became a store owner. His three miles of road eventually became a portion of the Alaska Highway. From everything you see and read about him, George was a very innovative, progressive thinking man for his time. And one heck of a character! Don't miss seeing this museum.
On the other hand, don't bother paying the entrance fee to the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Center just to the north of that. Judging from the design of the building, it's another one of those that were built on government grants. Most of it is filled with chairs and whether they use it for cultural stuff or not wasn't obvious to me. What was obvious was that there was very little to see for your fee to get in. Some carved masks, a few sweatshirts and some very, very, very expensive pieces of moosehide work such as moccasins. Other than a leather jacket in a glass case with a letter from a girl talking about how her grandmother made her the jacket, there was absolutely nothing historic that I could see about this place. The whole place had a very commercial air and seemed a pretty smooth ripoff.
We holed up at Johnson's Crossing Campground Services for the day because both Harold and Andy knew the fellow running it from their hometown. My advice. Make this place an overnight stop but even if you can't, buy a cinnamon bun. They're just about as good as you can get, and fresh baked every morning.
We took off from there to Jake's Corner and turned off the Alaska Highway to go back in to British Columbia down to Atlin Lake. Atlin is still one of my favorite stops of all the country we covered last year, which included northern BC, Yukon, and Alaska. While we had been plagued with rain our entire trip north, as soon as we hit Atlin, everything changed. The weather was so beautiful we stayed an extra day at the Norseman RV Park right out on the water. The hosts of the Park have leased the outer portion or the breakwater to Atlin Air this year, which meant we got to look at one of the prettiest DeHavilland Beaver floatplanes I have ever seen in my life! It felt just like being on Nimpo Lake. Well, almost. I love our lake and I think it's one of the prettiest around, but that incredible blue green water with monster mountains rearing up on the far shore of Atlin is a tough act to beat.
I won't go into a description of all the attractions of Atlin because I did that extensively last year. Our friends went off for a couple of days and did the same sightseeing as we did last year walking through the town of Atlin, visiting the museum, the graveyard and driving down Discovery Road and to Warm Bay. I, in the meanwhile got to sleep in instead of having to pack everything up and hit the road as we had every morning since we left, and sat blissfully in the sun all day watching the blue water ripple against the rocks a few feet away. The sun was up fully an hour later than it was here in the evening and dusk lasted almost 'til dawn so I sat out late around a campfire reading and watching that big floatplane do a gentle bob on the water with a midnight lemon yellow sky behind it. Life was good!
Andy and I moved on, regretfully I might add, to Little Atlin Lake so that Andy could help friends for a couple of days on their home. Don't get me wrong. Little Atlin is a very beautiful lake and the weather was absolutely spectacular! There's just something about Big Atlin Lake that really appeals to me. The color of the water maybe. Who knows?
Our kind hosts at Little Atlin took us back into Carcross on the last day of our stay and we discovered a great gift shop that we had never been to before in Carcross itself, and one at Caribou Crossing, just up the road from Carcross. Sadly, most of the items we saw in the gift shops we had been to through the Yukon and Alaska last year all began to look the same and a remarkable number said 'Made in China' somewhere on them. I got to take a good long look around the shop at Caribou Crossing because a sled dog owner that has run the Yukon Quest came in while we were there and not only did she know our hosts, but Andy has followed her closely on the computer during the famous sled dog race and told me lots about her. So while he was occupied with talking, I finally got to take a good look at some really spectacular items that if not produced locally, seemed certainly to have been produced in British Columbia or the Yukon. Quilts, hides, jewelry, carvings, awesome turned birch bowls, leatherwork, hand painted silk scarves, and my favorite, Raku pottery. Cool stuff anyway if you would like to pick up something besides those little jade bears with little jade salmons in their mouths carved in China that you see in every gift shop from Vancouver to Anchorage.
This brings me back around to the article that started this whole trip off and you can find that in last week's blog at August Week Two.
The rest of our trip was backtracking our trip of last year, going south on the Alaska Highway rather than north. It was kind of fun actually, because although we remembered many spots along the way, lots of the country looks quite different seeing it from the opposite direction. Once we left Atlin country, we were plagued by rain again so the clouds were a little low on the mountains in some places. That was certainly the case at Muncho Lake, one of the places I had really wanted to stay last year. A long day's driving got us there in late evening and since we both desperately wanted showers we decided to stay at Northern Rockies Lodge rather than at an unserviced site. That was a mistake. You may not want to do that yourself if you don't want to empty your wallet. It cost $44 for a site, the most expensive by $10 of any we had ever stayed in. Had we been able to get one of five treed sites down close to the lake it might have been worthwhile but those were all taken first. And who knows what they cost? That left several sites all crammed in together in what was literally, a gravel parking lot with an airplane hangar on one end. In it was a generator which provides electricity for the lodge that ran all night. I can only assume that since they needed a gravel area large enough to pull planes in and out of the hangar, they chose to turn the same area into cramped RV sites when not in use in summer. I felt especially sorry for the folks with their campers and rigs lined up side by side with only about two or three feet of space between them and their backs to the lake. I don't know how much those people were charged for their meager spots but anything would have been too much. I just know that the use of the word "Spacious" in this outfit's advertisement in the MilePost was stretching the truth about as far as I have ever seen it stretched.
You would kind of think that for that much money, you should at least get free showers. Nah. While nice and clean, they were still the most expensive of any on our trip by far. There's no question that the whole lodge is fancy and well done but its pricing and the atmosphere inside would indicate to me that most of their guests must be European. They needn't worry about me being a future guest, anyway.
Since we were making a pretty good run with long driving days to the south, (There you go. Migratory birds. It's that homing instinct!) there's not much else to report. The weather was pretty low and grey and I didn't realize how much black spruce swamp there is along the BC part of the Alaska Highway once you get close to Dawson Creek. The fine folks near Dawson Creek that gave us a camp spot for a week last year after our fridge burned up were just as fine a hosts this year. And although the area had some pretty good weather earlier this summer, it poured the rain down like cats and dogs while we were there.
Our weather on Nimpo Lake today was just glorious! Clear blue skies, no wind, and really hot, even though it was only a couple of degrees above freezing last night. Which means it probably froze up away from the lake. We're getting our heavy morning fogs that we often get this time of year when there's such a contrast between air temperature and water temperature. We're supposed to get one more day of it before a big low moves in from the Pacific and I plan to take full advantage of it! Oh, and did I tell you? No bugs.

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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!
Eagle carries a fish from Nimpo Lake.
 
Little Atlin Lake is surrounded by mountains.
 
Red and white floatplane on Atlin Lake.
 
Sun on the water.
 
Restored 1928 Chevrolet in the museum.
 
Museum display of a grizzly and canoe.
 
A brown church sits at the bottom of the hill.
 
Deep gorge.
 
Stikine River as seen from the Telegraph Creek Road.
 
Narrow and steep Telegraph Creek Road.
 
Narrow canyon with Stikine River.
 
A sign warns of a 20 percent grade ahead.
 
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