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Wilderness Adventures - February, Week 2/06

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.
You can search this site for a subject of interest to you at the bottom of this page.

14/02/2006 11:12 PM

Pan and Rich

Disaster strikes. When Pan and Rich left their old foreman and the head of the Frontier Company that comprised investors in the huge ranch discovered by the two men, it was with the knowledge that they were now taking full responsibility for the ranch and the cattle and horses on it. Otherwise, the investors would have demanded all livestock be moved to the railyard at Vanderhoof and on to Vancouver.
Both Pan and Rich were savvy cowmen and more than aware that the war would eventually bring high prices for the cattle on the ranch. They just had to get past the hurdle of abandoned hay crops, no men, and no more money injected into the ranch. They stubbornly took that obligation on and headed for the ranch of an equally stubborn man that always had an abundance of hay taken off nearly 4000 acres of meadowland near his homestead. They struck a deal for him to feed 300 hundred head of their cattle, sealed the deal with some good rum and went to bed. They woke to an early snow with over a foot on the ground and more falling steadily. Not only did their host not have his cattle in off the range, but neither did they. They divided pack horses and went their respective ways. Pan to the Home Ranch to gather cattle and Rich to the Batnuni Ranch to gather cattle both to come to their hayman's place, and others to be farmed out to Nazko Indians that had lots of hay put up. Some cattle would be left at Batnuni where the range herd of horses could keep the snow pawed out for a few hundred cattle for the winter and the little hay that was put up before the war started would supplement them.
The huge enterprise located by Pan Phillips and Rich Hobson as described in "Grass Beyond The Mountains" and controlled by the Frontier Company was so large a tract of land that it had to be divided into several different 'ranches' with corrals, bunkhouses and hayland for each making it a more workable enterprise and with most layups being no more than 40 miles and up to 100 miles apart. But on horseback...that was still a long way.
The first thing Rich came upon on arriving at Batnuni after days of wading through snow were cattle dying and staggering around after eating poison hemlock brought up from the creek bottom by ice. The cattle had eaten their pasture down to nothing and were starving and so ate anything in their path, even if it was killing them. Rich finally managed to get the cattle away from the creek only with the help of surprise visitors, an Indian man and his wife that agreed to stay on and help drive the several hundred head of cattle on to the hayman's place. The drive would be through deep snow with no food for the cattle...and that was only the beginning.
As Rich says "Had I known what that winter would bring and what we were getting into...I would never have done it.."
Hopefully, I can continue these excerpts tomorrow. See you then!

13/02/2006 10:53 AM

Snowmobiling to Trumpeter

Yesterday was quite an adventure and there was no hope of getting to Trumpeter mountain.
I realize there was no article yesterday but we were too pooped to pop once we got back home. Our normally small group of experienced riders was joined by a very large group from Wilderness Rim Resort because they had their ice cutting this weekend. Unfortunately, few had been on snowmobiles much and most of their machines were small and old. If you aren't very experienced with riding but are on a snowmobile that is fairly powerful, you can usually rely on the machine to get you where you need to go. If you're an experienced rider, you can push an old or underpowered snowmobile to do mostly what you want it to. But a combination of inexperience and old machines is not a mix that's going anywhere fast.
Three guys in the group were accustomed to snowmobiling in Idaho and looked like they should know what they were doing, but their machines were set for a much lower altitude, so they were pretty boggy and lacked any power.
Although our group of eight went out ahead with the intention of snowmobiling by ourselves, it just didn't stay that way for long. Instead, the better riders like Andy and Logan spent most of the day getting people unstuck while the rest of us tried to break a good trail for the huge group behind us.
Our number in total was nineteen, way too large a group to keep track of. I spent a good part of my time waiting, counting and 'directing' traffic. At one point poor Andy had to drag an undersized Arctic Cat with an oversized rider up a steep hill.
Even trying to break as easy a trail as possible, after four hours it became apparent that we weren't going to get anywhere near the top of Trumpeter Mountain.
By the time we reached the 'Play Bowl' a hard wind from the south and west was blowing snow and with the flat light it was impossible to tell up from down. You felt the hill drop away from you rather than saw it which can make for dangerous conditions no matter how experienced you might be. We decided that even if we could get everyone to the top of Trumpeter, which wasn't very likely, they wouldn't be able to see the magnificent view of surrounding mountains, lakes and the Chilcotin Plateau and I felt that herding everyone back down safely might take nearly as long as going up had.
We did get back down into sunshine and everyone got to play in the surrounding hills a bit before we returned to Charlotte Main.
Two of the machines had suffered broken windshields when their riders flew over the hoods on their snowmobiles trying to go over a drift, and Andy bent the trailing arm on his machine when he hit a stump trying to swing back to help yet another poor soul. I broke the trim on my windshield on a tree branch following Lloyd on the wrong trail and Pete was trailing feathers from a hole in his jacket created by the same branch. Other than that, it was a good day...I think.
We never resent taking new people snowmobiling because we've all been new at it at one time or another, but if they aren't very experienced, it's always best to keep the group to a small number. It's just too difficult to keep track of that many people, especially nineteen of them!
Logan got some awesome pictures of moose in Gus's Meadow on the way down and we watched a herd of Caribou cross Nimpo Lake while we sat on the lake waiting for the rest of our party to come down. I would like to have gotten close enough to get a good picture of them, but none of us wanted to frighten the herd into running in the overflow. And boy, was there overflow!
Yesterday was quite a warm day and spider holes had opened up all over Nimpo Lake while we had been up on the mountain. By the time we got back down, the snow was saturated with water and when one snowmobiler took off to head home, he had a couple of feet of water flowing back into his track when he went near a spider hole. When we headed home, it was at full speed and I wasn't stopping for any reason. You could feel the machine bogging wherever it hit water.
I don't think I'll be skiing on the lake for awhile.
I'll give a short recap of events regarding Rich Hobson and Pan Phillips before we go on with their story. If you go to the Wilderness Adventures Oct 3 page and start from the bottom, you'll get the beginning of their adventures in this area.
Rich and Pan called their old foreman in the States who put together a company to raise money to develop the isolated country they found in the Chilcotin into a huge cattle ranch designed to be larger than either the Gang Ranch in British Columbia or the King Ranch in Texas.
All went fairly well for five years until the war started. Suddenly a shortage of resources, including young cowpokes that went off to join had the shareholders bailing out of the project. Even shorthanded and in debt, Rich and Pan chose to go on with their dream.

11/02/2006 9:54 PM


I haven't made it that easy for people to reach me directly at Nimpo Lake but miraculously, they still manage.
I received a super call last night from a delightful person that had been staying at one of the resorts over Christmas just across from our place on Nimpo, and whom I had taken a picture of skating on our ice road. We talked for a long time and I must say it was one of the best conversations I've ever had with a visitor to the area.
He and his wife explored the Rainbows last year on snowmobile, much of which was on their own, without knowing much about the area or country they were going into. Although this fellow strikes me as being appropriately cautious, he and his wife both sound very independent and self sufficient and I can't wait to meet them when they come up snowmobiling in March. They sound like just the kind of people we all enjoy riding with and getting to know. That they may be interested in getting property and making this a more permanent thing in future is just icing on the cake!
Many people from all over and from many walks of life have found ways to contact me even before I added a contact page. All have, with their enthusiasm, encouraged me to continue with this blog. Some days you just kind of wonder if you really have the time to sit down and dedicate the time to writing an article when you could probably be accomplishing something a little more viable, or something that at least brings in a paycheck. But every once in awhile, that special someone from Bavaria, or Texas, Vernon, Vancouver, Alberta, or in the case of a phone call last night from Quesnel, just brightens your day and makes you want to keep on writing in the hope that one more person will feel what a magical place this is.
So thank you, all of you, that wade through this article every day in the hope of finding something worth reading. Hopefully you do.
On another note, it looks like we're going snowmobiling tomorrow. Snow conditions are wonderful and we have enough firewood in now to relieve the guilt trip temporarily. I'll let you know how it goes. In the meanwhile, I think it's high time to go back to the legends in this country. I will, will, will (remember the little engine that could? Well I'm working on that philosophy) get back to writing about the people of our past such as Rich Hobson and Pan Phillips. So barring an avalanche or some other disaster buckle your seatbelts folks, because there's "Nothing Too Good For A Cowboy"!
10/02/2006 6:41 PM

Newborn on Nimpo

Not one you would expect to see in the West Chilcotin but it happens. I just spent the afternoon working my poor, tired heinie off getting firewood so today's article is going to be short and sweet. Sorry folks.
Mary and Logan of Nimpo Lake Resort are celebrating the birth of their newest baby Rachel, and even I think she's as cute as they get. She has four legs so you folks might not agree with the cute part, but hey, we don't get many babies around here so we appreciate what we do get.
Mary has run the resort for years and over a long period of time accumulated a strange collection of creatures that varies from year to year due to the vagaries of death or adoption. These animals and birds are a never ending source of delight to vacationers to the area, and are particularly fun for children. Mary's birds include peacocks which I admit scared the living bejeeze out of me the first morning one clacked around on the skylight of my cabin and screamed it's superiority to the world. I'm sure I still haven't recovered because whenever I'm down at that end of Nimpo Lake and hear the raucous screech of that male peacock, I jump. If you can get past the sound, they're a really beautiful bird to watch, especially during mating season when they're constantly fanning their tail feathers for the pea hens.
In her menagerie Mary has a pair of Llamas. At least I think that's what they are. They're large and hairy with big eyes and are definitely not natural to the West Chilcotin. This, I know for sure!
Harley is a large animal with a rich brown coat and likes to break out of jail a lot. Nothing can be more shocking to one's system on a sleepy, early morning than coming around a corner on your driveway and seeing this thing crossing in front of you in the mist. The shape just doesn't fit anything that you know is indigenous to the region, and even though we all know Harley, you also don't expect him to be several miles from home. But Harley really likes his 'walkabouts'.
He's hanging around home a lot more closely right now because he's a new daddy. I don't know Rachel's mother's name but this little baby took the colors from both parents in the oddest way. Rachel's first few days of life have been in some pretty cold temperatures but she seems to be taking it all in stride and as Logan says, "Skinny 'lil phart but she's running and frisking around already." Take a look at her on the right, she's just way too cool!
Just to let any of you that would be interested in bringing your kids up and staying at Nimpo Lake Resort know , Mary's season usually begins around May when she can start opening up cabins. However, should you want to sneak up a little earlier or later in the season, she will make every effort to accommodate you.
Besides the great array of animals (did I tell you about the wild bunny rabbits everywhere?) the resort on Nimpo Lake offers great fishing for rainbow trout, beautiful cabins, boating, hiking and some awesome, down home hospitality. Check out the listing on the Resorts page.

09/02/2006 12:02 PM

Evening Grosbeak

A long, cold night brought in an unusual visitor this morning. After a balmy day yesterday temperatures dropped to -24C or about -13F below last night and the air has taken its own sweet time warming up this morning. An Evening Grosbeak arrived at the bird feeder at about 8:00 this morning and hasn't been in any hurry to leave since. For the first half hour he was pretty shy about our movements in the windows of the house but he started taking one sunflower seed at a time, turned around and sat at the feeder watching us as he ate his seed. The funny thing about it though, is that he chewed on each seed for what seemed about a hundred times. You know the old saying, 'Chew each bite at least 40 times'? Well, he was doing that and then some, which is unusual to my mind. I'm used to flocks of Grosbeaks coming in on a feeder in Saskatchewan and eating so fast that empty shells are just flying!
This Grosbeak is unusual in a lot of ways. For me, it's rare to even see them here, especially midwinter, and even more unusual, this guy is all by himself. He looks a little scruffy and when he finally finished eating he sat on the railing overlooking Nimpo Lake for nearly half an hour looking for all the world like a little old man sitting in the sun and studying the view. He finally flew up into a tree and sat there for awhile, but I just noticed him back at the feeder again after I heard him making some loud, demanding chirps.
Although I realize many people aren't that interested in birds, I sometimes have to wonder at the story behind one like this. This species normally travels in flocks. I've seen males come in to check out a feeder before the females and immatures arrive, but not singly and almost never here. Did this one get lost? Did he fall far behind the flock on the way south? He's pretty ratty looking and after four hours is still hitting the feeder pretty hard so he must be hungry. Is his beak worn out and is that why he chews each black oil sunflower seed so slowly? I sure don't know the answer but he is fun to watch and the Chickadees that are regulars at the feeder are finally getting used to this big bird raiding their larder.
Aside from the Rose breasted Grosbeak, the Evening is the most striking for markings. The males are a deep yellow-gold with bright white bars and black markings. They have a band of yellow over their eyes that give them a big browed Neanderthal appearance. I liken it to a fat headband you'd see on a tennis player or tinted yellow ski goggles pulled up on their forehead. I know, I know, I have way too vivid an imagination and like most people, I overlay human thought and actions on animals and birds. So fire me.
Anyway, he's been fun to see and I heartily hope he hangs around for awhile. As long as he stays alert and can dodge three fat and lazy cats, he's welcome to all the seeds he can eat!

08/02/2006 9:35 PM

Comparing Pictographs

Just one more reference to the Arizona trip. On the last story I did on pictographs in the West Chilcotin, the page Wilderness Adventures Aug1 I refer to some of the pictographs found painted on rock near Nimpo Lake and wondered how authentic they might be. The symbolism varies from country to country, tribe to tribe, and probably from individual to individual so it's very difficult to compare pictographs and state with any certainty that this one is authentic, but that one isn't because....
However, I did have the distinct pleasure of seeing pictographs in the Arizona desert, some of which are without question ancient, and some probably more recent 'hoaxes'. These pictures are painted or scratched into a huge outcropping standing over a large dry wash with a thick gravel bed. There is no question that water has run here on a regular basis for thousands of years. Across the wash was another rocky ridge that no doubt made a great vantage point for hunters and had some protection at it's feet with trees and rocks. On this ridge are holes that have been ground into the rock over a long period of time, probably Native Americans grinding corn, roots or berries using rock against rock much like a mortar and pestle while camped in this spot. Probably even in the worst heat, there may still have been water to be found in the bottom of the wash and wild animals would have come here part of the year to drink.
If you open the Wilderness Adventures Aug1 page, and compare the pictographs from the huge rock outcropping near Nimpo Lake and the symbols on the same in Arizona, there really isn't any resemblance at all. In Arizona, there's still the same red hue on the symbols that you see here, but the color is nearly worn away by time. The freshness of the color at Nimpo tells me that many of the symbols there were done fairly recently in comparison. Now whether that means 20 years ago, or 100 years ago, who's to tell? I have no idea how old the pictographs in Arizona are. I do know that they were far more exposed to a harsh sun, wind and even water on occasion, while the pictographs here are hidden in the woods on the least exposed sides of the rock. Fake ... or not? Open up the other page for comparison and you be the judge. For me, it's all fascinating, regardless.
For those of you looking for last week's articles, you will find them at Wilderness Adventures Feb1

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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!
One snowmobile pulling another
Moose running
Llama mother and baby
Yellow Grosbeak
An Evening Grosbeak sits on railing
A pictograph on a rock
Winding lines of a  petryglyph
Petraglyph in the Southwest
Holes ground into rock
Mortar and Pestle depression in rock
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