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Wilderness Adventures - Feb., Week One/2009

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' about the Lakesounds 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.

06/02/2009 7:26 PM

The Pretty Day

We ended up with an extraordinary day, even if it did snow last night. We actually did manage to accumulate about an inch of snow and it didn't take a month after all. The snow picked up a bit yesterday evening with fatter snowflakes and it was coming down a little faster.
It was around -8C or 17F this morning and cleared right off to bright sunshine and a breathtaking blue sky. It warmed up to a couple of degrees above freezing this afternoon with no wind and it was absolutely delightful out!
Yesterday the snow was loaded with snow lice, even the track I was walking on. You would never guess that the tiny black specks are alive if a lot of them weren't bouncing around. I guess it must have been warm enough the last few days to bring them to the surface, although there wasn't one to be seen today. They were all covered with the fresh snow.
Even the dogs have been overheating lately because of the heavy coats they built up over that long cold spell we had. Every time I stop they're rolling in the snow to cool down and eating snowballs like crazy. Or snow lice. I'm not sure which.
The neighbours cleared their skating rink and Andy was over skating awhile. I have too much work to do or I would have gone over as well. Andy got the electric start (Stating it only takes half a line here, actually accomplishing it took several days.) on my snowmobile so now I can go where I please without having to cold start my sled. Pretty much impossible for me. It was great when it was new but has gotten harder and harder to pull over the last couple of years, especially when it's cold.
Hey, I just heard from Locky and Midge over at Batnuni. I don't know if I mentioned it here before but they purchased Rich Hobson's old place and have been living there for about the last eight months and very much enjoying being out of the city. Anyway, Locky just mentioned to me tonight that they had read about starting seeds using hydrogen peroxide. They decided to see if they could make some wheat sheaves in a wall decoration on the wall sprout. (An aside: This is not something that would ever occur to someone living in the city. You don't think about sprouting seeds from a long dried out old flower arrangement when you live where horns are blaring and you can hear sirens far away, where there's light 24 hours a day, even if it's only a street light on your cul-de-sac. Where pizza or Chinese take-out is only a phone call away and you can check the newspaper to see what movie is playing down at the theater. Where you're on the computer or the cell phone all the time, text messaging your buddies or trying to get home through a Friday evening traffic jam so that you can get your kids some supper.
Nope. You only look at a wheat sheaf on the wall in a decoration and recognize it as something that still has the power to grow when you have the time, and the quiet, to imagine such a thing possible. Where when it's dark, it's pitch black. The only sounds after dark outside might be the low rumble of a generator out back, the far off howl of coyotes or wolves, or the lonely hoot of an owl looking for a mate. Inside there might only be the soft hiss of propane lights and the crackle of wood in the stove when you notice those wheat sheaves on the wall and wonder...)

Apparently the seeds sprouted within two days and are now planted and several inches tall. I love plants and growing but have never heard of this. Have any of you folks? All I know is I now I have to try it!
In any case, I look forward to hearing from the new owners of Batnuni in the future and I know when they've got time to get away from choring, we'll hear some interesting stories!
Have a great weekend, folks!

05/02/2009 4:04 PM

Fly Boys

Floyd Vaughan sent an email to me relating some more flying stories of the past.
The first time I met any of the King family was down on Middle Lake picking up Mt. climbers and taking them to Tellot Lake by Mt. Waddington. While I was loading my second load in the Beaver Harry King came along in a Bell 47, and wanted to know what I was doing. When I told him I don't think he was too pleased, and thought I was cutting in on his traffic. Only a few months later I heard that he was missing on a trip to the coast. He was never found but they found some of the 5 gallon gas cans washed up on shore in Bute Inlet that he was packing on the helicopter.
I had heard that one of Harry's sons had moved to Bluff Lake and was a pilot so I decided to go talk to him as I was looking for a pilot for the summer. When I met Dave I was impressed by his down to earth knowledge and experience with float plane operations.
At the time, Dave had a Cessna 150 so we made a deal that he would work part time, but stay at home and fly to Nimpo with the 150 on the days he was to fly for me. A little while later he brought a Honda 90 motor bike to Nimpo and parked it at the old Nimpo airstrip so that when he flew in with the Cessna 150 he could ride the Honda to the float base.
We usually started flying about 6 o'clock in the morning so even in the summer when he would get there by 5 o'clock he would be just about frozen stiff from riding the bike from the airstrip to the float base.
Dave had done a lot of float flying on the coast and Vancouver Island, and quite a lot in the Beaver so he was right at home with bush flying. He hadn't done much wheel flying so I was checking him out in the 180 on Anahim Airstrip in a dirty cross wind, which can be a real handful for anyone. On about the third landing with tires squeaking and getting kicked all over the runway he said, "You do one and let me watch." I really didn't want to because I knew I wouldn't be able to do any better, but gave it a try anyway.
On the approach we were getting the hell kicked out of us but just over the numbers I hit a sinker and just kissed the runway with two little squeaks and rolled to a stop right down the center. I knew I had just got lucky but told Dave (JUST DO IT LIKE THAT) and got back in the right seat. A little while later he figured out that I had tricked him but it felt good at the time.
One time, Dave was hauling a boat out to Gatcho Lake and returned in about 30 minutes, so I knew that he hadn't had time to get to Gatcho, unload the boat, and return. When I ask him where he left the boat he said that he had lost it. I didn't believe him at first but found out that the rope had broken and the boat fell over a thousand feet and landed in a meadow about half a mile from Rainbow Lake. He said it kind of flew down right side up in a circle and didn't look like it was hurt too much. We took the Stinson, landed in a half lake, half slew, hiked up and dragged the boat back, tied it to the Stinson and brought it back to Nimpo. I took that boat to another lake and used it for years to come as it only had a few small dents in it.
Dave was one of the best pilots I ever had and I never worried when he was late because I knew he would show up eventually. It used to bug me sometimes when he would come in from a trip and insist on having a coffee when it was already getting dark and he had three more trips to do.
When Donn, Wayne, and I started the Rednecks Band, Dave said he played a banjo a little, so when we first started, he played drums and banjo. He said he only knew one tune (The ballad of Jeb Clampet) but after we got an electronic drummer he started playing banjo all the time. I would have to practice for days to learn a new tune, but Dave would be able pick the lead the first time Donn would say, "Take 'R away Dave." We had a lot of good times playing for dances and rodeos over about a 15 year period.
After awhile Dave was flying more and so late he couldn't fly home so I bought a small trailer (8 by 12 feet I think) that he stayed in. He always had his meals with us, and when everyone else was done he would eat everything that was left on the table. Lora never had to throw anything out as long as Dave was there. After I started doing the fire patrols Dave usually did them, and eventually bought the 180 HUY from me and started doing them under White Saddle Air's license.

Two pilots in front of planes
(These are the last three call letters for an airplane, generally painted on the fuselage or tail. In this case, it's JCQ & HUY.)
Dave had an engine failure with HUY one time and landed on a skid trail on the side of a mountain with the cabin filled with smoke, one of the best pieces of flying I ever seen. He even radioed his position on his way down with lat and long so we could find him. We used to talk about this little black cloud that followed Dave around because it seemed that when he was haying or farming his equipment would always break down at the worst possible time. He was always good natured about it but took a lot of ribbing. " -
Thanks Floyd! Your stories are way more interesting than my musings!
I would not have envied Dave his ride from the old Nimpo airstrip. We go down it when we cross the lake and go snowmobiling. But in summer you would have to go around by the highway and it's a long way around. I should think it would probably have taken at least a half hour, even going hell bent for election, to ride over that rough trail in post dawn temperatures.
We had another day of above freezing temps. It was only by a couple of degrees but without a breeze, it was really nice. Some heavy overcast kept moving in and tried to block a watery sun and it looked like it wanted to snow, but it didn't succeed until late this afternoon. Even then, the flakes are so tiny that it will take a couple of months to accumulate an inch.
We seem to be under a pretty stable system right now with temperatures that aren't going that far below freezing at night, and not that much above. I've noticed the same for other parts of the province including the Cariboo Region to our east where there's only a four to seven degree temperature variation at most between night and day.
There is a system coming in from the Pacific that may give us a little cloud and a big one coming up the coast from Washington State that is going to collide with the Pacific system. That looks like it will bring heavy moisture to Vancouver but shouldn't effect us at all.

04/02/2009 2:15 PM

Still Springlike

Our temperature came up again today, even though it went down to -8C or 17F last night. It's up to 3.5C or 38F right now and I expect it will climb a little more yet. We've got mixed sun and cloud but even so, the thermometer that's on the front deck and in the sun is reading over 43 degrees Fahrenheit. I like the warmth but I'm not sure our new lawn will. I noticed coming down the stairs this morning that a portion of our lawn has been exposed now, which is not a good thing if really cold temperatures were to hit any time soon. I doubt the roots grew down deep enough in the first summer to keep the grass from dying out without the insulating protection of snow. It was supposed to snow today according to the weather forecasters but it doesn't look very likely, although Anahim got a little this morning.
I just came back from a great walk in the back woods today with pleasant temperatures and not a breath of wind. I came across some tracks today where our local moose usually crosses about every other day. Either the moose, or moose and calf wandered around on the trail a bit, or it was caribou. I suspect it was the latter because the tracks looked more rounded and were of varying sizes. If that's what they were, it was a much smaller herd than the nine to twelve that usually start hanging around about this time every year.
I've come to the conclusion that if you want to find the buried carcass of every little critter that's been killed by predators in the woods this year, you should get a hound. I never suspected before that so many small animals were slaughtered every winter because my other two walking partners either never had the nose, or didn't care that there were bodies under the snow. Not so Cat. She spends all of her time with her nose to the ground, or buried in the snow and she finds a prize nearly every day. Parts of rabbit carcasses, strips of fur, bird wings, desiccated squirrels, and today, the hind end of a muskrat with little meat left on it but well preserved under the snow. I have no idea what a muskrat was doing that far from a water source but it got caught out by something, that's for sure.
Walks on the trail no longer involve the meandering enjoyment of the surrounding woods. Nor a way of thinking through a problem to do with my business while breathing in fresh air and the scent of pine. At least not since last June when Cat, a.k.a. the monster, appeared on the scene.
I guess I always knew somewhere in the back of my little pea brain that hound dogs had incredible noses. Somehow I never put two and two together to realize that the animal we agreed to adopt was a hound dog. I knew of course that the Catahoula had been bred a couple of centuries ago to hunt wild hogs, but since we guessed she was an Indian dog, and so probably had something else in her, I just naturally assumed she would be like River. Too lazy to be much of anything but a waste of groceries. In other words, lovable but useless.
The jury is still out on Cat's lovability, but her abilities are definitely useless to us since we don't need a hound dog to hunt anything. In fact, it's a pain in the butt. Now, whether in the back woods or on the road, I have to be ever vigilant every step of the way to make sure she isn't gnawing on something found. Fortunately, in winter, anything she finds is reasonably preserved under snow but summer finds are pretty disgusting and of course, leaves her wide open to worms and disease. Not that she cares.
Thankfully, Andy's gift to me of a training collar for Cat at Christmas has reduced my frustrations at the dog a lot, to Andy's considerable relief, I'm sure. I think he learned a new swear word every time I came home from a walk with her. You have no idea how annoying it is to fall flat on your face in the snow several times while chasing a dog around in the woods that is determined to keep her found carcass from you. (I'm pretty sure Andy was laughing his butt off when I told him about it but for the sake of his continued good health, he did it quietly.) At least now when Cat has something, I can get her to drop it using the collar. But I still have to catch her finding something and she's getting pretty crafty at hiding it now.
I actually wish I had the ability or knowledge to properly train Cat because it's pretty evident that she could be a remarkable working dog and used for tracking lost people. I think she would be a lot easier to put up with if she actually had work to do. Then again, I have to remember that as a one year old, she's still a pup and will probably settle down by the time she's two. Or at least that's what the research says. I sincerely hope the authors of material on Louisiana Catahoulas are a lot more accurate in their predictions than our weather forecasters are.
I've gotten another great email from Floyd Vaughan about flying but received it too late to put it in today. I'll post it tomorrow!

03/02/2009 8:28 PM

Amazing Melt

We still have amazingly warm temperatures. Late last night the temperature started rising again after a wind came up and it was up to 3C after midnight but warmer than that by a couple of degrees by daylight. I know that it was nearly 8C or 46 degrees Fahrenheit by ten this morning and just kept on going up. I was in Anahim Lake for most of the afternoon and I think it got up to 10C there at one point.
The wind was wild and wooly all day reaching upwards of 30 miles per hour. I was keeping an eye on some of our trees on the property fully expecting us to lose a few. None went down as far as I know, though. Although I think it played hell with the ice road, especially down the Main Arm. There were some drifts on our road going over to the boat launch, however, nothing you couldn't drive over. But most of the our little road goes through the back bay where it's more protected from the wind.
These warm temperatures and wild wind have finally helped to clear our highway a bit. You can actually see black pavement for most of the way to Anahim Lake, and as the ice and snow melts, the wind is carrying away the moisture. Probably a good thing or the highway would be really icy at night when road temperatures hit below freezing.
The only downside of a thaw like this, (other than snowmobile enthusiasts like Andy being down in the mouth about losing snow) is that everything tends to get icy in a hurry. The warm temps thaw the surface of the snow slightly and the wind glazes it over, especially where it's packed. From here on in, we'll be slipping and sliding our way to spring unless we get a snow that sticks and freezes as it lands or a substantial snow that buries the ice. If that's as bad as it gets, I'll be happy. We're still better off than those crazy dog sledders up north.
For the past few weeks, every Tuesday night, there's been a documentary about last year's Iditarod. For those of you that don't know what that is, at a 1000 miles, it's the longest, most grueling sled dog race on earth. I guess in the flurry of all the 'reality' shows so popular on television for the last few years, someone decided they ought to take cameras up and do a show on the 2008 Iditarod. Unlike most of the sludge they call reality TV, this is one show that's actually pretty good. Especially if you've followed it over the years and know of some of the racers.
Aside from the tremendous belief, trust, and care the mushers have for their dogs, I have to admire the unbelievable stamina and stupidity required to run that race. Stupidity is not a polite word but I really can't think of another, even though I deeply admire every person with the guts to enter and finish that race. Any grueling dog race for that matter.
Andy sponsors a racer that we met when in the Yukon a couple of summers ago and she's terrific about keeping sponsors up to date on the races and what's been happening in them. She completed one called the Gin Gin a while back going over the pass from Paxton to Denali in Alaska in temperatures hovering between -40 and -50 degrees. Throw in a wind so strong that it was actually blowing the dogs and sleds off the roads, and I can only assume that the temperature was closer to -70 or -80 with the windchill We watched a short video where they were in this wide open pass, not a tree in sight, and no protection from a wind that was just howling across the pass pushing streamers of snow along the ground in front of it.
Watching that video, I can only state that those mushers have to be genuinely, certifiably, insane. Much can be said for the Iditarod and Yukon Quest racers as well as for those that compete in other races nearly as grueling. Why would you do it? No idea. I guess you just have to have a deep love of the country and your dogs, an unbelievably competitive spirit, an A-type personality, and an amazing counterfeit copy of a day pass from the local psychiatric unit.
Seriously, I don't mean to insult dog mushers, but I think you really do have to be crazy! Racing dogs around here or in a kinder locale would be fun, I think. But facing harsh winds, blowing snow, extreme temperatures, overflow, rivers and lakes that open up under your sled, sure frostbite, snow blindness, sleep deprivation, rough and dangerous trails, risk of injury, charging moose, stalking wolves, and who knows what else? I just have to ask, "Why?"
It's a costly hobby, there's little money in it even if you do win a race, and nearly every racer I've seen a picture of seems to have had their nose frostbitten at least once and all suffer from windburn. How to get old fast! Then again, I suppose they'll all live longer than the armchair jockeys. Still, I don't think that's one sport I'll be taking up anytime soon, although I know that Andy would love to. There are few things I would say no to my partner on, but that one's a resounding no! Three useless dogs in this yard are quite enough, thank you!
Speaking of dogs. My Sister-in-law emailed me the link to an amazing video today. A dog had been crossing a freeway and was hit by a car. Another dog crossed through traffic to reach the injured one lying in the middle. He pulled the injured dog across several lanes of the freeway not with his teeth, but by using his front legs on either side of the other dog's neck. That dog was prostrate the whole time and certainly wasn't able to help his rescuer. All this with traffic zooming on all sides. The rescue dog had nearly reached the edge of the freeway when some service workers stopped to help. What was cool was that the wounded dog lived.
Dogs are certainly amazing creatures but I'm not going to tell my own pets that. They already think far too highly of themselves thanks to all of the friends and neighbours that spoil them.

02/02/2009 6:22 PM

Groundhog Day 2009

Apparently every groundhog in the country has agreed that there will be six more weeks of winter in Canada. I've always thought that was kind of cute considering that we will always have six more weeks of winter regardless of whether a groundhog sees his shadow or not. Unfortunately, there's small hope of spring coming by the middle of March here, and if it does, Mother Nature generally fixes that little misconception in a hurry with arctic temperatures and snow in April.
Today was an absolutely spectacular day! It actually got up to 7C or 45 degrees Fahrenheit today which is utterly amazing! The sun was shining for most of the day and I ended up getting way too hot on my walk, mainly because I overdressed as usual. It wasn't just me though, the dogs were panting like it was a hot summer day and River was dragging his lazy behind the whole way. Well, except when he took off after something in the woods with Cat close on his heels. Obviously no amount of calling was going to bring them back and I didn't see them again until after I arrived back home. They don't do that very often but punishment was still swift. Not that yelling and shaking my finger in River's face, or telling him to get to his doghouse does much good. He already knew he was in trouble when he spotted me as he was trotting down the driveway. His pace got slower and slower until he was almost going backwards and he had that look on his face. "Who, me??? I've been here all along...."
I'll never understand how it is an animal like that can drag his sorry butt on an entire walk almost to the point that I figure I'm going to have to carry him home, and then be gone like he's been shot out of a cannon when he catches scent of something.
Just to let everyone in this area know, CBC is up and running again. Andy spent time on the phone this morning with the people elsewhere that flip the switch, or whatever it is they do to activate a new card, but the station still would not work. Finally he rode back up to TV Hill this afternoon on his machine and fixed the problem. I'm not sure how else to get the word out that it's working, although Andy had to go to a community meeting at Anahim Lake tonight so maybe he can spread the word there.
We're supposed to have one more day of high temperatures and then I think it's supposed to chill down a bit. I look forward to tomorrow when it's supposed to hit a high of 7C. Since it already did that today, it will be interesting to see how high it actually goes tomorrow. Even now, we're at 3C, two degrees warmer than Williams Lake or Prince George and it doesn't look like it will go that much below freezing tonight, anymore than it did last night.
It looked like it was trying to snow over the mountains again just before sundown today, but so far none of the snow forecast for the central interior has manifested itself here.

01/02/2009 1:57 PM

Long Month Done

Most years, January always seems to be the longest month and just seems to drag on forever. Not so this year and that's a really nice change.
I don't know if it's because we enjoyed a lot of sunshine in January or what, but it flew by at a pretty reasonable rate, even if the weather was wild and varied.
On Friday I was walking on the back trails through a blinding snowstorm that only slowed enough at one point for me to see a hawk eyeing us up from the top of a tree. Yesterday was perfect, with warm temperatures and sunshine and nary a breeze in the woods. The first day of February is another matter. It's wild and blustery out there with the sun making a watery appearance through high haze that just won't move out. I keep watching the trees bent over in the wind and can't quite decide whether I want to risk a walk in the woods. I know that it'll be too raw out on the road in the open so that's out. Still, it's sitting a degree or so above freezing so it would be relatively warm if I could get out of the wind. Of course my other option is to just stay inside and work on the computer all day. Yech!
It looks like it's trying to snow over the mountains but nothing like that has reached here yet. Watching the news last night the weather forecasters were issuing snowfall warnings for the Cariboo today and judging from the radar picture, we should have gotten a piece of that, but there's no snow so far. That's why it's so hard to judge what it's going to do here. Because we're so close to the mountains and in their rain shadow, what might be forecast for elsewhere is just a guessing game in the Chilcotin. While they might be wallowing in all kinds of snow east of us, we'll be as dry as could be.
Andy has gone up with Logan to TV hill (top of Little Kappan) to try and install a new card for CBC television in the receiver. I guess those in Anahim and Nimpo Lake that rely on television through antenna have been without one of three channels for a few months now. I'm not sure how many people still use antenna to get their television in the area, but I shouldn't think it would be that many. Still, it's free, and that makes it a lot less expensive than satellite! It would be nice to do without that bill but programming on the free channels are Canadian only and so bad that they're just not worth watching for the most part and very limited for world and business news.
Late Afternoon:
The wind never did tone down enough for a walk but at least I got lots of work done. Andy came in after four on the snowmachine. He and Logan spent the day up at TV Hill and then went for a short ride to a little lake that the guys discovered a year or so ago. Since it sits down in a valley and doesn't seem to have any outlet or inlet, they circled around the edge of it just off shore to see if they could find a creek. They definitely found overflow in one spot and had to go hell bent for leather for a moment to get out of it before they got stuck. Andy figures there's either a spring there causing the overflow or a spider hole they came across.
Last summer the guys watched the lake carefully to see if there was any sign of fish or loons and there wasn't, so it may be one of those rarities in this country..... a landlocked lake that may just be fed by runoff only.
Andy took some pictures today while they were up on TV Hill, and while most days you get an incredible panoramic view from up there, today was just too overcast for anything to show up well.
A new month means a new week so you can find last week's stories and some pictures about Lonesome Lake contributed by Floyd Vaughan at January Week Four

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!
Four dog team crosses Nimpo Lake.
View of Nimpo Lake from above.
Satellite dishes.
Two snowmachines and rider on a lake.
Small lake with snow on the ice.
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