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Wilderness Adventures - August, Week 4/2007

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.

31/08/2007 1:11 PM

The Last Day

Hi everyone. Happy last day of August! Sorry about not getting anything posted yesterday. I was actually working on a web site project that required a little creativity and a long day and late evening. Sometimes I love my job!
I didn't do much besides peek outside on occasion and every time I did the weather didn't look to have improved much. I think it actually got up to 18C or a little over 60F but that was short lived. The clouds were pretty low at times and there was a cold wind roaring around outside. Just one of those days you kind of ignore and hope will go away. Lots of people out fishing on the lake though. Even in with the wind and the chop on the water.
Andy had to start a fire this morning but the fog rolled away and it actually turned out to be a pretty nice day. Big thunderheads keep moving in and out mixed with sun but there's really no wind, which is always a bonus.
This subject is way out to lunch considering the season but I thought I would bring it up before I forgot about it. I don't know how many of you ever watched Northern Exposure when it used to be on television. It was a quirky little show 'set' in Alaska about a small town called Cicily and all the equally quirky characters. It was always a favorite of mine because many of the characters had a remarkable resemblance to people in the Chilcotin.
The odd time I'm able to find a rerun on TV, and the other night I watched an episode that I think is called "The Running of the Bulls." Most of the episode is about how crazy people get just before the ice breaks up on the river near the town and ends with all the townsmen undressing and running up the street of Cicily in subzero temperatures for the benefit of the rest of the townsfolk. I know. You have to see the show to get it. But what I found so remarkable was how well they captured the mood, albeit somewhat exaggerated, of everyone just prior to Breakup.
Everyone starts going a little stir crazy in this region as well and for the same reasons.
Breakup always seems like a bad dream far, far away this time of year, but when you're in it....Winter is all well and good, especially if you enjoy winter recreational sports, but once the pristine snow is gone and everything is dirty and dreary with a spring that drags its feet, you just can't wait until Mother Nature finally gets a fire under her skirts and gets on with the melt.
Our signal of an end to the long winter whether there is snow or mud on the ground, is the ice on Nimpo Lake breaking up. The same for Anahim Lake. You can't wait until ice on in December but by the time five long months has dragged by, you can't wait to see blue water again. You're looking out the windows I don't know how many times a day watching for that first sign. Or cruising the shoreline testing the ice to see if it's candling yet. Everyone's making predictions on the date for ice out and of course no one can ever agree when that has actually occurred because there are so many bays on Nimpo Lake, and it's always hard to determine when everywhere is free of ice. Or if there are still a few ice floes in a bay no one lives on, does it really count?
I can remember when I was a teenager and living near Williams Lake that you didn't have to live near water for a long non-spring to drive you crazy. They used to have a big dance called the Breakup Ball and it was one that everyone attended, from cops to bankers to loggers. Especially loggers because they had usually been shut down by mud and the inability to drive over the logging roads when the frost started coming out of the ground. I remember being deliriously happy when Breakup came and I wasn't the only one. Which is why Northern Exposure's "Running of the Bulls" makes lots of sense to me, if to no one else that has never experienced a multitude of Breakups.
It's funny, but sometimes when you've lived in a type of environment for most of your life, you forget that other people may not even be able to comprehend your experiences. I'm sure few people born and raised in Arizona or Texas have a clue about what I'm talking about. They just think Canada is the Great White North with long winters, long nights, and lots of cold. And boy, are they ever right!

29/08/2007 8:38 PM

Wild, Wooly and Windy

You certainly could not get away with calling today a calm one. The wind blasted out of the southwest for most of the day today bringing some particularly vicious gusts from time to time. At one point I had to sprint outside and recover a huge tarp that was headed for adventure out on Nimpo Lake on the north side of our peninsula, and grab another tarp that had plastered itself onto a stump for the moment but threatened to go for an adventure of its own in the lake on the other side. I stood outside for awhile and watched Sad Sack bend over double taking care not to stand anywhere near him. I don't understand why that tree hasn't uprooted and fallen over yet. The law of physics says it should have gone over long ago. It really should be removed but I think Andy gets a kick out of seeing whether it can make it through yet another wind. I'll get a kick out of it should the tree drop onto the top of the canopy on his truck since he usually parks in its path. It's gonna be one of those great, "I told you so." moments.
Do you know that people were out on Nimpo Lake fishing to beat the band today? At least until the wind got really, really wild. Amazing. Talk about determination! I can only assume that the fishing must have been fabulous.
The rain hit yesterday evening and dropped nearly 2cm or about 3/4 of an inch of rain in short order. It was a bit of a surprise because I didn't think it looked that moody before the sun went down but when it came, it was steady, and though it only lasted a couple of hours, it added up fast.
I was visiting over at Vagabond RV Park yesterday and ended up talking to some of Lora's customers. They sounded a little disappointed in the weather and I certainly cannot blame them. They asked if this was normal for us and of course we countered vehemently with how beautiful our summers normally are. You don't expect to have to be huddled around in a circle trying to have a conversation, shoulders hunched against the cold wind and coats zipped up in August.
I feel bad for anyone traveling through those areas in British Columbia that have had the same lousy summer we've had. It's a real disappointment to plan your holidays and make the investment in time and money, only to be rained on. We're not bad off because we don't have to go to work every day but my heart goes out to those folks that only get weekends off and look forward to their summer vacation.
On top of all that, it's extremely irritating to have to watch those buggers on the news down at the PNE in Vancouver basking in sunshine every day and looking extremely smug about it. It's supposed to be raining in Vancouver. That's what Vancouver is known for. Rain. And the Chilcotin is known for sun. Bugs too admittedly, but more importantly, sun. I don't know what happened to our jet stream this year but it's definitely not where it should be!
At least I'm not the only one complaining about the weather. I think everyone around here is getting a little fed up with it.
May the Vancouverites that stole our weather get sunburns on their....cheeks!!!
28/08/2007 7:32 PM

Town Trip - Lunar Eclipse

Yesterday was town day which meant the whole day was shot. I'm sure there are lots of people living out here that quite look forward to going to Williams Lake for the day. I haven't met any yet, though, and I'm definitely not one of them. I like where I live. I even like the 200 mile drive in. I just don't look forward to getting there and can't wait to leave. However, yesterday we had to drag the trailer in so that we could bring back rafter material for a new building, (yes, yet another one), make a bunch of stops here and there, go to an appointment and do the bulk shop.
The usual town day.
When you're gone for at least twelve hours you can pretty much write your day off. Which is why I tried my very, very best but could not make it past the first third of the lunar eclipse last night. Where it would normally be a breeze for me to stay up most of the night, I could only force myself to stay awake until 2:20 a.m. and then I couldn't wait to fall into a bed I had left 20 hours before. Andy set his alarm and got up a few minutes later to watch the eclipse but unfortunately, some high haze had moved in so nothing was as clear and sharp as it should have been. He gave up within an hour and came back to bed. We'll see how the eclipse looks when it occurs again in February.
It was pretty foggy and nearly at freezing when we pulled out of the driveway yesterday morning and it wasn't until we were well out of Nimpo that the mountains appeared. And upon those mountains lay not a dusting, but rather a pretty good little dump of fresh snow. It looked like it was down as far as between 4000 and 5000 feet and although some had melted by the time we came home, it was still there at higher elevations.
There was one squall after another rolling in over the mountains all day Sunday, and although none ever came quite as far east as us, they brought a chill to the air. Apparently they were dropping snow rather than rain. That's okay. We usually have snow on the mountains in August.
Today it's felt as though it should be dropping snow here. It's been really quite chilly and overcast with a cold breeze. Now it's socked right in and trying to rain. Judging from the satellite picture on the weather tonight, there's a nasty system spiraling off the coast of Alaska and funneling straight onto the north and central coast. That's us. Yech!
It's always interesting where your mind goes on a 200 mile drive to Williams Lake over road that you're very familiar with. I was noticing that the pine trees are already a foot tall in the Tatla Lake burn. That occurred in 2003 and it's amazing that there's been such a terrific regeneration in such a short period of time. The trees are as thick as hair on a dog's back and it's apparent that this rainy summer has been nothing but good for them.
Also in the burn is a lot of highway mix and that is a great source of ire for me. If you don't want to read the rant of the day, stop here!
Highway mix is seed which is put together and broadcast on the fresh scars created along the side of a newly built highway or road. Mixed in the seed is what I would call weeds, and in some cases, noxious weeds. They're popular because they're fast growing, fast spreading, deep rooted, need little water, and are excellent as a quick erosion preventative. Those same qualities often cause the plants to grow quite tall as well as spread past their allotted spot along the highway and into surrounding terrain where they choke out native growth. Look a few hundred yards away from the highway in this region and you'll rarely see thick ground covers growing much above six or eight inches in height except where it's very wet.
As a result of these unnatural plantings of tall plants along the highway, highways maintenance must come along at least once a year and mow the edge of the highway. Makes a lot of sense to plant something that you have to pay to have mowed annually, doesn't it? Also in the highway mix is clover and alfalfa. Now that plant does not grow naturally in this area at all but the deer love it! So now you have how many hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars, paid out in insurance claims for accidents or damage caused by deer? And we plant something they absolutely cannot resist along our roads and highways. It really makes you wonder how much thought people and companies actually put into the long term ramifications of their actions. Or at least I wonder about it....maybe no one else does....
On the other hand, whether by putting some thought into it or by lucky accident, the snake fence is an ingenious invention. Really, it is. If you don't know what a snake fence is, it's a fence made of logs that can be built without nails or wire, although some often use one or the other nowadays. It's difficult to explain a snake fence so I can only suggest you look at the pictures up on the right. Like the Buck fence and the Russell fence, it's a common sight in the Chilcotin and was around long before the wire fence entered the country.
The bottom row of logs in a snake fence sit on a short log laid crosswise on the ground. Each row of log sits on top of the log from the length next to it until the fence is between four and five feet high, or high enough to contain cattle or horses. The top log on each row protects the ones under it from rain and snow, and eventually rots and sags in the middle. But the beauty of this fence is that it's as easy as pie to simply cut another log and lay it in place of the rotten one as needed. Occasionally a fence builder will peel off one strip of bark on the log so that the rest falls off in short order, but rarely will a builder ever bother to peel the entire log.
Eventually whole lengths of a barbed wire fence needs to be replaced because the wire rusts, stretches or is broken by fallen trees and the posts rot off. It's true that the base forming a snake fence will simply rot slowly into the ground, but it doesn't matter because you just keep adding logs to the top. Forever. Or until the whole lot rots and falls over which has happened to some snake fences that could be anywhere from fifty to a hundred years old and haven't been maintained. But although the initial fence is work intensive, if kept up with, it could last many lifetimes. Now is that thinking ahead, or what?
That fence was invented by someone that didn't have manufactured materials to work with, and by someone that didn't want to have to keep doing the same job over and over again. Somehow I don't think that was the same person that had the bright idea of making up a seed mix unnatural to an area that has to be mowed and left in the ditch year after year, after year, after year......
See what strange things you think about on a 200 mile trip to town?.
26/08/2007 12:02 PM

Summer Wind Down

Summer seems to be winding down fairly suddenly here. Mind you, the term 'winding' might indicate a nice slowness to the ending of summer. Not so. Our wonderful clear, warm days turned cool in a hurry. It's still quite warm in the sun, but since the sun has been covered in fast moving storm clouds off and on for the last few days, you get to feel the full effects of that chilly fall air.
I shouldn't really complain too loudly. Although it looks to have been raining periodically over the mountains and threatens to here, we really haven't gotten much in the way of moisture lately. I think that everyone is a little disgruntled because they feel we've been cheated out of summer. And it's true. You can probably count on both hands the number of really nice, sunny days we've had since the beginning of June. And now it looks like fall is arriving fairly quickly and we haven't even had a summer yet! I guess all we can hope for is a long, long gorgeous fall like the one we had last year. I wouldn't want to hold my breath though.
Actually, our lousy weather and cooler temperatures are only supposed to be here for another day and then a high pressure system is supposed to move into the south coast and bring lots of sun. Now whether it moves far north enough to give us nice weather or not is another matter. The weathermen on television don't really concern themselves too much with predicting weather for any area but the lower mainland. We're pretty much left to figure that out for ourselves up here.
The upside is that with such a lousy rainy summer, next summer has to be a beauty! After all, a rainy summer is very unusual for this part of the country so to have two in three years, we're bound to get a nice one next year. The law of averages says so. At least that's what I'm counting on. However, you never know what global warming might throw into the mix or how it may upset the balance of things.
Another upside of a cool, rainy summer is the lack of forest fires in our area and that is always a good thing! Complain as though we might, we're really far better off to have rainy summers for the next few years until the mountain pine beetle epidemic has slowed. Oh, and what did I mention before? Nimpo Lake is as clean as a whistle with little or no algae to be seen. So, see? It's true. You can find a silver lining in every cloud.....And there's certainly lots of clouds out there to choose
I just did the calculations on the amount of rain I recorded from the first part of June to last weekend. I'm not sure how much moisture may have been lost to evaporation in my rain guage while we were gone up north this summer, but in two and a half months we have seen 12.5 inches or 32cm of rain. That's a pile of moisture for this area! Small wonder everything is so green and lush looking!
I think that temperatures got up to 16C or about 60F yesterday but I don't think they're going to get anywhere near that today. You never know though. It got down to 5C last night which means it was probably freezing away from the lake. We've been covering the little cherry tomatoes on the deck every night now because you just know that one night.....
I spoke to friends that were down fishing on the Atnarko River in the Bella Coola Valley last weekend. They had a wonderful time fishing for Pinks (Salmon) saying they were easy to catch and there were loads of them in the river. As for us? We had good Nimpo Lake rainbow trout off the barbecue for supper last night. Andy went out and got a couple, one being good sized and really nice and fat. There have been five or six boats out on the lake the last couple of days, more than usual, and I think the fishing continues to be really good.
Although I can't speak for Anahim Lake, although I imagine the situation is the same, Nimpo Lake is not seeing the pressure from fishermen as it did in years past so going out for an hour and getting fish for supper just isn't that hard to do.
Most people that come here for vacation now come for relaxation, to get away from the sensory overload of cell phones, computers, their blackberries and day timers. To get a break from driving several hours in city traffic to and from work every day and just get a break from the grind and noise of the city and a whole lot of people. Getting fish isn't necessarily their top priority anymore. Peace and quiet is.
This area can certainly offer that. Point at any lake on a map in the Chilcotin that you can be flown into, and your chances of seeing another person during your stay are slim to none. Even most lakes that you can drive to in this region are sparsely populated. A far cry from the city. But then again, I doubt you hear very many loons in the city. I was just reading that loons are an important telltale sign of the health of a lake as well as the tranquillity. We have loads of loons but I'm not sure they're following all of the rules since it's not terribly tranquil when one of the floatplanes is getting ready to take off. The loons let everyone know of their disapproval but it certainly doesn't discourage them from being here. Speaking of which, they're grouping up quite a bit now. The adults will be preparing to migrate soon while the younger ones will be much longer in going.
I've added a few more pictures up on the right of our trip to northern British Columbia. Extraordinary emerald colored Muncho Lake always deserves mention. I put up a picture of a caribou along the Alaska Highway that was not bothered by us at all compared to ones we saw before it. I mention it because we noticed that the color of their hides up there is very dark and looks like grey velvet. Their coloring is completely different from our caribou here. We didn't know if it's because they evolved to blend in better with the rock and alpine landscape in their part of the country or if there was a different reason for their amazing coloring. They seem much smaller too, although it's hard to say. We may have just been seeing the younger animals eating road salt along the shoulder of the road.
You'll see that I finally started a new week. I just realized that I had a pile of pictures on the other page so I hope it didn't slow load time down for too many people. You can find last week's articles, including the last of our trip up north, at August Week Three.

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The purpose of this web site is to draw attention to a remote area of west central British Columbia. It is a beautiful area that relies heavily on tourism. The search engines don't know much about the West Chilcotin, Anahim Lake, Nimpo Lake or any of the other small communities in the region and I hope to change that! Even as large as this site will eventually be, there just isn't enough room or time in the day to fully describe this incredible country but I am going to try scraping away at the tip of the iceberg, so join me!

Follow the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really like!
Closeup of a snake fence.
Log fence crosses ranch land.
Late summer sunset over Nimpo Lake.
Dark, antlered caribou.
Muncho Lake is an odd emerald green color.
Looking at mountains along the Alaska Highway.
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