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Wilderness Adventures - Feb., Week One/2014

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 some great contributed stories and ongoing blogs, just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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06/02/2014 4:30 AM

Wolf Kill

I have to post a correction in information here.
I said in the blog below that a Rez dog had been killed out on the ice on Nimpo Lake. It turns out it was actually a neighbourís dog from just down the lake and he says it was killed by wolves a couple of days ago. I was talking to him today on my way back from walking my own dogs down to the gun range when I ran into him walking his little Jack Russell and asked him where his big dog was. Apparently the dog wasnít fixed so heís pretty sure that a wolf bitch in heat drew his dog out far enough to where it could be attacked and killed in the bay in front of a neighborís place just down from our place. I guess it was partially eaten as well. It looks like the wolves are getting a little desperate for food and thatís an age old trick of theirs.
I have mentioned this story before so if youíve been reading the blog for a few years you may want to skip this but if youíre new to it, then by all means, enjoy a strange tale.
My sister and brother-in-law had a ranch on a lake well east of Williams Lake and deep in the boonies back in the late 70ís and early 80ís. It was fairly remote and there were lots of moose around at the time as well as wolves.
They had a really big Shepherd cross and then a smaller Australian Blue Heeler. They woke up in the middle of the night to their dogs insanely barking and yelping and to the sound of wolves. They bolted out of bed and my brother-in-law grabbed the rifle while my sister grabbed a flashlight and they ran to the window facing out onto the meadow. My sister said it was just surreal because you could see everything as clear as a bell with a full moon reflecting off the snow and out of the mist came their dogs and the wolves. Both dogs were hauling ass with a big female wolf running right next to the smaller Heeler trying to bowl him over using her shoulder while just behind them was a huge male wolf trying to do the same to the German Shepherd. Had either wolf succeeded in knocking the dogs over they would have had their throats ripped out in seconds and my sister said if you could read any dogís expression you would have read sheer terror on the face of both those dogs.
My brother-in-law hesitated for a moment but my sister yelled at him to take a chance and shoot because the dogs werenít going to make it in. He shot the female in the front and she was going so fast that she somersaulted through the air for about 25 feet and with a last snap at the Shepherd the big male hesitated and then veered off. Even though never allowed into the house the two dogs bolted through the door my sister had run to open for them. She said they both spent the rest of the night curled up on the floor together shaking.
Throughout the remainder of the night they listened to the lone male howling in the moonlight until well after dawn. They recorded him for several hours until they ran out of tape and not only did I get to listen to it but have a copy kicking around somewhere. Itís the eeriest sound that you will ever hear. The sound of a wolf that has lost its mate is completely different from the sound of a wolf pack or one thatís hunting. The wolf hung around for the rest of the winter and throughout the spring and my sister said that often the hair would stand up on the back of her neck when she was outside or near the woods and her husband said the same thing often happened to him. They pelted the female wolf and took her to a taxidermist after weighing her. She was 135 pounds and they said the male was much, much bigger so neither dog would have had a chance against this pair had they not made it in.
The snow is still soft and deep here and wolves canít chase down game that easily in it, probably not until the surface crusts over and they can run on top while the big game animals like moose cut through and have to wade through the snow. The game tends to move into human habitation for protection then, aware that the wolves wonít normally come that close to people. But if they do follow the moose and deer in, then wolves will take full advantage of the fact that we humans have pets wandering around. We have a huge population of wolves and grizzly bear right now that have been wiping out our moose population and hurting the caribou herds substantially as well as making serious inroads into the cattle ranchersí profits. But wolf pelts aren't worth much and the Government doesnít want to pay a bounty on them so the packs will just continue to become unmanageable until they starve to death for lack of game. In the meanwhile, I think weíll make sure to keep our dogs close to hand.
Since I'm writing this then I might as well put in an update on our weather as well.
Surprisingly, rather than colder as was predicted we were actually a degree and a half warmer this morning at –37.6C or –36F and it got up to –13C or 9F in the sun today when I took the dogs for a walk. It was so nice that I actually peeled off my jacket and switched to my lighter gloves for most of the walk, or at least until I rounded one corner back onto the road and hit a breeze blowing. That little bit of wind really drops the temperature in a hurry. Still, it was a gorgeous day again with not a cloud in the sky so when I got back, Andy carried the ice auger down to the lake and we drilled in our back bay and again part way to the Nimpo boat launch to see what kind of ice thickness we had. It was 18 1/2 inches thick closer in and between 16 and 17 inches thick closer to where the Dean River moves under the ice.
Andy had already driven over the ice to the public boat launch today for the first time with his one ton so drilling the ice after was kind of like closing the barn door after the horses have left. It was pretty rough going for his truck because snowmobiles have left packed tracks and when you break through that, there’s sugar snow and rough ice underneath. So the plow truck is plugged in and I guess he'll be plowing a road over to Nimpo tomorrow from our launch to the public one on the far shore and fixing up where he plowed with the Bobcat from the public launch on our shore to our own boat launch.
It’s hard to say how much use we will get out of an ice road now. As soon as this cold snap breaks there’s a low expected to come in off the Pacific and when warm, wet air meets cold dry air, somebody is gonna get dumped on. Hopefully it won’t be us but if it is, a large dump of snow on the ice will just create more overflow that will make an ice road impassible. But I guess we’ll see when we see. Who knows? We might be able to use it until the middle of April. That's the beauty of living in the Chilcotin. You never know what's going to happen next.

05/02/2014 10:30 AM

Still Cold and Dropping

We’re still cold here and getting colder, it would seem.
This morning it was –39C or –38F before it started to warm up in the sunshine.
Temperatures have been dropping slowly over the past few days and not warming up as quickly in the afternoon. In fact, yesterday it only got up to –15C at the warmest and that was accompanied by a breeze that brought the temperature down to –20C or –4F when it was blowing. I don’t expect it to get much warmer today.
Temperatures are forecast to be the same or colder tomorrow morning so I spent this morning cancelling appointments that I had scheduled in Williams Lake for the day. Fortunately, most places in town understand and respect the need to cancel on short notice due to weather. We have 200 miles of lonely highway to navigate between here and there and it’s no place to be stuck in 40 below temperatures. Hit a deer, go off the road, have a breakdown, or a myriad of other things, and you’re done. And since breakdowns are a lot more likely at those temperatures, taking a chance seems kind of pointless to me. Besides, cold puts a lot of stress on metal so that it’s hard on the vehicle is the big issue for me.
Working in the mills most of my life brought that home pretty clearly. From about 35 below Fahrenheit and on, (-37C) we would get a lot of breakdowns and our hydraulics would start moving really, really slowly. It seemed ludicrous to have your employees standing around because of the constant breakdowns and no lumber produced just because the bosses were too stubborn to send us home. What a waste of money both in terms of loss in production but more importantly, in broken machinery that had to be fixed or replaced once it warmed up and it was all totally unnecessary. Stupid.
So I kind of keep that in mind when planning a trip out. If those sort of temperatures were hard on tough old mill machinery then it’s got to be a whole lot tougher on new trucks, which admit it everyone, just aren’t nearly so tough as all the manufacturers like to advertise on TV. Neither am I, for that matter.
The long walk I wrote of in the post below was my last of the week. Andy and I took a walk a couple of days ago but it had clouded over with a cold wind so we kept it down to our short mile and a half walk and kept to the woods. I did venture outside yesterday in –17C, which isn’t really super cold unless you’ve got a nasty wind chill from a breeze out of the north. I bundled up and kept my back to the wind where I could and stayed in the woods where I could, again keeping the walk to the short mile and a half, and it actually turned out to be really nice as long as you could stay out of the wind. It’s a lot colder today so I’m still trying to decide if I want to venture out.
That has been the only real downside of this cold spell, is the wind. We have been under an arctic outflow wind warning for five days now, which is highly unusual for us. Normally if it’s cold it’s as calm as could be, so you can stand to be out in a lot colder temperatures. Not this time. Even in the sun it’s nasty if even the slightest breeze raises our flags. Thankfully we have had full sun every day but one.
It’s funny how you pay more attention to your routine when you’re trying to preserve heat. I open blinds according to when the sun is hitting them to maximize heat from that source, and close them as soon as it no longer is, and I close other blinds throughout the house that normally never get closed unless it’s over 80 outside in summer. We have the fireplace going in the living room now which normally only ever has to be lit after it drops below –30C and we’ll keep it going until it warms up next week. We have a huge brick chimney that once warmed up radiates a lot of heat back into the house. We have a little ceramic heater that trades time in my office during the day and out in the porch at night and wood gets brought into the house in a big batch all at once at night with one person on the door to minimize the cold that comes in. We even up the temperature at which the propane furnace is set for the night. It rarely comes on except when it’s really cold out but the secret is to never let the house get really chilled down because once it does, like any home, it takes a lot to warm it back up again.
Well look at that. It's made it up to -17.6C and it doesn't look like there's any wind out there at the moment. I just might make it out for a walk today after all!

Andy just came back from up at the Post Office and was talking to friends there. Apparently one of our neighbours found an Indian dog on the lake that had been killed by what he thought might be a wolverine. That's more than possible since we have lots of them around here but I wonder if it had anything to do with that wolf track I saw. I'll have to find out if any of it was eaten because it sounds like the predators might be getting a little hungry and desperate in this cold weather.
Hey, I think I talked about the arctic and mammoths and such in one of last month’s blogs. Just for your information, I was reading an interesting little article that came out today about the plants that they have discovered were growing in the arctic during the time of woolly mammoths, woolly rhinos and horses about 10,000 years ago and before their extinction. Previously scientists thought the arctic was covered in scant grass and couldn’t figure out how such large animals survived on that. If you’re interested in the article it’s at
Woolly Mammoth Diet Mystery Solved.
Okay, I'm off to brave the elements!
In the meanwhile, if you live in BC, stay warm. If you live where it's warm, please stop laughing at us. :-)
01/02/2014 11:30 AM

Our Turn To Freeze

Apparently Mother Nature has decided that it’s finally our turn to freeze and it’s true, I guess it is our turn. No one can have such a long, sunny, warm January and not expect to get whacked at some point. The world just doesn’t work that way. Besides, the east needed a break and I have always contended that when they are having cold weather we will have warm and when we're cold, they'll be mild.
To give them their due, the weathermen have actually been predicting this cold spell for some time so it’s not like we didn’t know it was coming. Even though we were expecting the cold, it’s still a bit of a shock to go from 9C or 48 degrees Fahrenheit earlier in the week to -30.6C or -23F yesterday morning. I was up late the evening before and listened to the timber in the house cracking and popping as the temperature dropped through the night. That always happens when everything has warmed up over a period of days and then suddenly cools down. The ice on the lake was doing the same thing throughout the night.
It made it up to –5C or 23F in the shade yesterday while in full sun snow was very slightly melting on the deck, so that actually made it nice for walking, unlike the day before when we had a chilly little wind bringing this arctic front down out of the north. And today it might be a little slow to warm up because we’ve got just a thin line of cloud coming out of the northwest right over the arc of the sun while the rest of the sky is as blue as blue gets. It figures…. :-) It just means that it will take that much longer for the air to warm up. It’s still –17.8C out there when by this time yesterday it was already up to –11C and warming fast. I guess we’ll see if I can go skiing or take the dogs for a walk today. I don’t mind –10C but I’m not a fan of being out for over an hour in anything colder. Yep, call me a wimp, but I worked in the mills for years in temperatures down to –38C or –37F because I had no choice. Now I do and I’m not going out there if I don’t want to.
We’re very lucky that we’re at the time of year when the sun is really starting to put off a lot of heat now and it makes a huge difference. Even if it’s quite a ways below freezing if you’re in the sun it can be quite pleasant but pass into the shade of some trees and you feel it immediately. No joke, it’s cold! That’s why I really, really want to go for a ski on the lake today, because you’re always in the sun and we got a little skiff of snow the other day and I have a great eight mile long circle track set out there. It’s just that since this arctic front moved in it’s brought with it just the slightest wisp of breeze which is not terribly noticeable on the back trail but it would be out on the lake. Today, however, is perfect. It’s dead still. It just needs to warm up….
I should go for a walk again today though instead and this time take a camera with me. Yesterday I saw a huge set of tracks that came off the bank and down onto the road that were either made by a huge St. Bernard sized dog or made by a wolf. Since I haven’t seen a dog that size wandering around without an owner then I have to assume it’s a wolf track. I fit my whole hand inside one of the tracks and I want to take a picture of that. When I first saw the tracks I thought that it was a really big dog running with the toes splayed and the palm flattened which is what would seem to make the track so large, but as I followed them backwards, I realized that the animal was walking in most places, or at most doing a slow trot. Since he passed by between the time I walked down the road on Thursday and when I walked there Friday, it was way too cold for the tracks to have melted out, even in the sun, so that was the actual size of the prints. I expect he was on the trail of some moose that passed through but he’ll have a hard job taking anything down. Fortunately the snow is deep enough and lots soft enough that there is no way he can outmaneuver the animals at this time of year. It’s just too bad people with rifles and snowmobiles can or we would sure as heck have more moose than we do now.
We’ve had a pretty precocious fox crossing back and forth on the lake nearly every day in broad daylight or early evening. It’s a really pretty orange one and big, so I think it might be the one that was hanging out at the neighbour’s last year. We haven’t seen the Trumpeter Swan other than on that one day so I’m hoping it went somewhere there was open water and where it would be less likely to become someone’s happy meal.
All that black is finally gone from our mountains now. We got a couple of skiffs of snow down here and the mountains were suddenly bright white by the next morning so no weather inversion this time around, sadly. That’s what gave us all our wonderful sunny, warm weather when most valleys in BC were under a grey mantle of fog. I don’t know how much snow landed up on the mountains but I guess any would be a good thing. Newscasters were showing on the news the other night just how desperate the water situation is in California and showed the difference in snow pack on the mountains in satellite photos between last year and this year. I suspect our mountains would have looked the same. We are very lucky that the drainage for Nimpo Lake doesn’t rely on the Coast Mountain range or we would probably have to be concerned about low lake levels this coming summer.
I went for my ski this afternoon after waiting for the warmest possible temperature, which turned out to be a mistake. All was good until I got to the Main Arm and ran into a nasty wind coming down the whole length of the lake. I stuck it out for another quarter mile and then had to give up. I turned around, came home and dressed up to take the dogs for a walk on the back trail and then on out to the road. At least I got to take photos of those possible wolf tracks, although they were blurry compared to yesterday because vehicles passing by had sifted fine snow into them. They were such amazingly clear tracks I kick myself now for not going back out yesterday and getting photos then.
My hand is fairly large at about six and a half inches from the tip of my middle finger to the base of my palm and the handle of my walking stick is very nearly the same. So you can see from the photos up on the right that it’s a pretty large track. If anyone thinks its anything but a wolf track, by all means, drop me a line. Since it’s definitely not the largest track we’ve seen near here I suppose it’s questionable as to whether it’s a dog at least twice the size of our Rottweiler, or a wolf. Someone mentioned seeing a pair of wolves along the highway just outside of Nimpo not that long ago so they’re certainly around, but this guy was definitely on his own, probably a young lone male just kicked out of the pack and just passing through.
I spoke to friends of ours out for a ride on the back trail on their snowmobiles and saw someone flying around just after I came out onto the road, so no one is letting the cold weather interfere with having a little winter fun. That’s probably a good thing because this weather is supposed to hold in for about two weeks. This morning it was only -28.6C or –19 so slightly warmer than yesterday morning but it looks like it’s going to get much, much colder over the next week. Yech! I hope it doesn’t get so cold I can’t go out for a while during the day. Recipe for cabin fever that is, especially when it’s sunny out and can hit 92F in here with the sun shining in the windows and feels spring like, from in here, anyway. What’s especially noticeable is how much longer the days are and the sun is up until nearly five now. Woo Hoo! Spring is only about three months away! Or maybe four, but who’s counting?
Oh, and there's a photo up on the right that might not make a lot of sense unless you look really closely. We've had some glorious sunsets lately but the other night we had a jet leave a pink contrail as the sun was going down. It's hard to see here but it was very cool in real life! Actually, today I saw something that you don't see very often either. I tried to take a photo but I had Andy’s pocket camera with me and it just didn’t show up. As I was walking back home today there was a little cloud next to the sun that was every color of the rainbow. I can’t remember what it’s called but I think that it's the sun reflecting off of water droplets at a very high altitude. I've put a photo up on the right taken by our friend, Frank Cherne that is far more spectacular than what I saw today but it will give you a bit of an idea of what I'm talking about.

Last week's blog is at January Week Three.

Anahim Lake Highway cam looking West.

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!
Red streak below the clouds and above the mountains.
Wolf track in the snow.
A hand next to a wolf like track in the snow.
Rich blue and yellow sunset with a pink contrail.
Red fox running on snow covered ice.
Rainbow cloud.
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