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Wilderness Adventures - Feb. Week 3/2007

This is about a remote area in west central British Columbia, Canada called the West Chilcotin. Surrounded by numerous glacial mountain ranges, alpine lakes teeming with wild Rainbow Trout, and full of wildlife. Living here goes from no running water or electricity to spacious log homes with all the conveniences and without the smog!
If you would like to see pictures of wildlife, mountains, lakes, exciting snowmobiling, events and more, and read stories like 'Lake Monsters' - just go into Archives on the lower left side of this page.

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

19/02/2007 1:11 PM

Ever Wondered?

Have you ever wondered why some things are the way they are?
I am always curious as to where a word came from or why things are built the way they are. This came in an email to me and although I don't know if it's true or not, it sure the heck is interesting! I decided I had to share it with you. Besides, it's Monday. Everyone needs a good one for Monday.
Does the statement, "We've always done it like that" ring any bells? The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads.
Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.
Why did "they" use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.
Okay! Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagonwheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.
So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England ) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since. And the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.
The United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. And bureaucracies live forever. So the next time you are handed a specification and wonder what horse's ass came up with it, you may be exactly right, because the Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses!
Now, the twist to the story
When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory at Utah . The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.
And you thought being a HORSE'S BEHIND wasn't important!
I won't be writing for the next week folks so that's my last word for awhile! Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
18/02/2007 6:48 PM

Another Animal Killed?

I skipped the snowmobiling today and chose to go out cross country skiing instead. The morning started out beautifully with sunshine, no wind and the temperature climbing. By the time I went out this afternoon there was some high cloud here and there and a breeze had kicked up but I really wanted to rebreak my ski trail. We had gotten less than an inch of sloppy sleet last night and it had obscured my trail slightly. With all the snowmobilers around this weekend I wanted my trail to be clearly marked. However, I was too late.
I'm trying to determine how many brain cells it requires to ignore an obvious cross country ski trail and run right over it. I don't have any problem with people crossing my trail and I certainly don't have a problem with animals using it. For one thing, they don't know any better and my skis run right over the tracks and push them in. But some heavyweight moron, actually there was a pair of them, ran the length of my track for some distance, off and on all the way down to Dot Island. There's a whole lake to snowmachine on! I have my track close to the shore just for that reason, because most of the sledders haven't run that close to shore in years past. I figure if a snowmobiler is that afraid to be out on the ice and feels the need to be ten feet from the shoreline the whole way, then they should get the hell off the lake and back to their rocking chair. For that matter, if you can't be bothered to look at what's ahead of your machine, then you have no business being on a snowmobile, either!
Do I sound pissed? Ab-so-Bloody-Lutely! Breaking a ski trail and keeping it broke out is hard won effort. It's not like everyone in the area doesn't know I ski that shoreline every year and after making such a great track this year I actually called the folks on the other side of the lake that usually run down that side on sleds, and let them know my track was there. In fact, that's the main reason I cross the lake before following the length of it is to minimize the chance of my track being run over. Hardly anyone lives over there so you would think that it would be highly unlikely that a ski track tucked in close to shore would be run over consistently every winter. I've even considered taking out some stakes with ribbon and planting them along my trail. But then, for sure, some monumental idiot will think it's an obstacle course laid out just for them.
I think what amazes me most is that I have my dogs trained to stay out of my track. My dogs. So that means that there is some dip out there running a snowmachine that's actually dumber than my dogs! That's just scary.
Partway down along the shoreline I came across lots of hair and blood on the snow and it was trampled down pretty good indicating some kind of donnybrook. There were no remains, which seems really strange. It looked to have happened in only the last couple of days (the drops of blood were still a bright red) so I don't know if an animal was actually killed there or just injured. It would seem that either wolves or coyotes bit at it and only injured it to where it eventually carried on elsewhere or someone shot it and took the whole animal with them. Since there were sled tracks going right to it, the latter would seem very plausible. Especially since everyone saw a guy on a snowmobile carrying a rifle when they came back from sledding today. It's bad enough we have the four legged predators around but unfortunately, it's that time of year again. Slaughter time for that 'cultural heritage'.
On my way back I looked down toward Wilderness Rim Resort and saw a bunch of figures out on the ice in front of the lodge. At first I thought it was all the company down there out ice fishing but even at that great distance, it just didn't look right. For one thing, it didn't make sense that everyone would be fishing so far apart and a couple of figures looked like they were wearing doeskin brown in the sun. I decided I was going to ski in that direction and investigate. If it was people, I know them and I could always just say hello.
The closer I got the more apparent it became that these were probably animals, but what kind? At first I thought horses or cattle because there were a couple of much smaller animals, way too small to be moose calves. The dogs were being good and staying right with me but when I got to within about four hundred yards, the animals suddenly spotted me and took off. As soon as they did I could tell from their color and the way they ran that they were caribou. Except that there weren't four. Suddenly, from behind the small island streamed a whole mess of them and I counted 14, including a couple of calves. What I wouldn't have done for a camera but the big one was at home and the small one still out on loan.
It did cross my mind that I could run home, grab the snow machine and camera and roar back. Although I would probably get pictures it just didn't seem fair to scare the caribou any more than I already had. Even so, they should never have been so spooky at our three small shapes at that distance and normally I don't think they would be. But I think the presence of wolves and coyotes on the lake has got them edgy. I wasn't that unhappy that they headed for the far bay where they would be much harder to spot by the guy with the rifle.
When I got home, there was a message on the answering machine from a woman just across the Short Arm from us. She said there was a herd of caribou in front of her house and could we please make sure our dogs were tied up for the short term. Wouldn't you know it! I've been trying to get close up pictures of the caribou for years now and here they were right in front of us and I've gone skiing. Horseshoes I don't have!
Aside from seeing the caribou today I saw lots of fresh moose sign since last night's snow which pleased me no end. One track that was stepping in my ski track quite a bit was quite small while the other was pretty good sized. It looks like our cow/calf pair are still around and that calf moose is not the one that was killed farther down the lake. That makes me pretty happy.
17/02/2007 4:37 PM

Timber Wolves

Well, It's been confirmed. We definitely have a pair of wolves working Nimpo Lake.
Mary down at Nimpo Lake Resort spotted a pair of large, dark colored animals on the lake not far from her place so she jumped on her machine and ran down to investigate. The tracks confirmed that they were definitely wolves. There were also the fresh remains of a Mule deer not far from where the moose had been killed.
There are large meadows back in there that lead into a sort of draw down to the lake. We're guessing that the wolves are funneling the animals down that draw onto the lake where they kill them, possibly after exhausting them by running them through the meadows first. There's a lot of snow out there and if you combine that with hummocks and tall grass forming rough uneven ground under the snow, it would be really hard on animals being pushed through the meadows. Once on the lake where there's very little snow, they could be run down fairly quickly. Whether there are just two wolves or more, or if they are letting the coyotes run game to exhaustion for them and then ambushing them is hard to say. Few animals practice teamwork the way wolves do.
Mary said that the moose killed there definitely looks to be last year's calf, which makes sense. It hardly seems likely that wolves could run down a full grown moose through soft snow. Although with our melts and freezes it's more than possible that the predators are running on top of the snow now. In open areas where the sun shines on the snow, melts it, then it freezes, there is quite a hard crust. It's still pretty soft in the woods though.
They watched a moose cross the lake down at that end of the lake this morning, but I didn't see a single fresh moose track while skiing on the lake yesterday anywhere they had been hanging out all winter.
It seems a shame to lose moose to wolves, but I guess that's Mother Nature. At least the killers weren't two legged.
We've got really warm temperatures today with wind to carry the moisture from melting snow away. It started out not a bad day this morning but heavy low cloud has moved in and it's spitting rain. I sure hope it isn't going to last. I really don't want to lose anymore snow. It looks like we're all going to try to go out snowmobiling tomorrow. I guess we better get in all we can before the snow is all gone off the lake. Otherwise we'll have to take the long way around on the trail through the woods just to get to Dot Island as we did when there was bad overflow on the lake. Wish us better weather tomorrow!
16/02/2007 4:44 PM

Its Friday!

Bet that makes a lot of people that have to work all week awfully happy! I guess I'm pretty darn lucky because I'm not stuck with a nine to five job although some days I work in my office a lot more than eight hours!
This morning started out being a glorious day with hardly a cloud in the sky and although it dropped to about -12C or 15F last night, which was a bit of a surprise, it warmed up fast this morning. Then high cloud started moving in watering the sun down a little. By this afternoon you could still see the mountains but it had that grey dreary look again.
The light was so flat that I couldn't even see my ski trail across the lake today when I went out. I had to actually go by feel and even though it had about an inch or so of frozen sleet in it, I could still tell when I left the track. Once I got across the lake to the far shore where my trail is a lot deeper, the going was really good. I still had to re-break trail going out but coming back in was awesome! It's a nice, fast trail now. I just have to break out the rest of it to Dot Island tomorrow providing the weather will let me.
Andy and Mazy had high hopes of being able to fly the plane into Springhouse at Williams Lake today for its annual since today was the one and only decent weather day expected for the next while. No chance though, so hopefully it will happen next week. Instead, Andy came out on the snowmobile to meet me on the lake and scared up a caribou just around the corner from where I was skiing. Obviously it had no fear whatsoever that I was going to be able to catch it and didn't move until it saw the snowmobile.
Tomorrow is icecutting for Wilderness Rim, an annual event that's actually a fairly necessary one. Some of the resorts and a few cabin owners still rely on the ice blocks they cut out of the lake to put in their icehouses with sawdust. For cabin owners without electricity, it provides refrigeration throughout the summer. For the resort owners, it gives a large refrigeration area for clients' fish, extra groceries, etc.
At Wilderness Rim cutting the huge ice blocks with a jig, hauling them out, putting them on a stoneboat pulled by a sled, and stacking them in the icehouse is hard, heavy work. But they make a party out of it and there's usually a lot of willing hands. Most years everyone gets to prove their engineering skills by building an igloo out of the leftover ice blocks. Due to the alcoholic refreshments consumed in the building, I'm not sure the igloo would receive the eskimo stamp of approval but it looks nice at night when lit up from within. The photo of people carrying ice up on the right is taken at icecutting at Escott Bay Resort.
The Children's 139 Fund will be held this weekend as well at the Anahim Lake Community Hall. Folks in the area are well known for their generosity and aside from the auction and cash donations, there's usually a big potluck supper and lots of laughs. I'm really hoping the fact that the mill is now shut down for a couple of months isn't going to hurt donations. It has certainly hurt the businesses in the area. Although we see good traffic in the summer, businesses and restaurants rely heavily on locals to carry them through the winter. With only the planer mill running up until now, and a very uncertain future, it's been pretty slow going for everyone.
Okay, gotta get this posted. It's poker night tonite!

15/02/2007 4:56 PM

A Gloopy Day

Yes, you heard right. I really don't know how else to describe it.
Our weather today has been a unique combination of sloppy sleet and goopy snow. It alternates between wind driven snow, wind driven rain with periodic sunny periods. Sometimes all three are happening at once. Hence, gloopy. You can actually add a rhyming word in there if you want but this is, after all, a family oriented publication. Sort of...
Our temperatures are well above freezing and things are going to be a mess soon. I expect there will be bad black ice on the highway again tonight. That happened a week or so ago and a resort owner's daughter ended up turning her truck on its lid on her way to work early in the morning. She hit the snowbank on the side of the highway and it rolled her truck over end for end in the ditch. No injuries but that kind of thing is never fun for anyone. Well, other than for her young son who apparently was getting quite a giggle out of hanging upside down in his carseat.
We really can't complain about our weather even if it isn't exactly what we would prefer. When you see reports coming out of the east both in Canada and the United States, of eight and twelve foot snowfalls in a one week period, you really have to feel for those folks. That, and I congratulate myself continually on my choice of location. Those places not getting blasted by snow are getting blasted by cold and high wind chill.
I actually meant to post a picture from a month ago sent to me by close friends in Saskatchewan of a drift in front of their quonset where they park their vehicle. I'll put it up on the right. Like the rest of the country, they got hit pretty hard with a nasty blizzard that shut a lot of people in their yards for a few days.
The unique thing about Saskatchewan is that you never know how much snow you actually get in a winter because it keeps on moving. You can have a ten foot drift in front of your door one day and a four foot one the next.
I remember when I was going to move there a few years back I kept asking my friends how much snow they had. They would say, "How much do you want? If you look at the back of the house where there's not as much wind there's about four feet, and if you look out front, the ground is bare."
It kind of makes you wonder how prairie meteorologists can ever accurately report the annual snowfall. Where do you find a place in Saskatchewan that doesn't have wind, thus constantly and completely changing the depth of snow?
It looks like the folks in New York got another two feet of snow while those in Ontario and Quebec were slated for another three feet of the white stuff. I'll bet you now that the Ontario people are sorry they were complaining about golfing in December. Don't diss Mother Nature or she'll diss you back!
It looks like our warm weather spell is going to continue but I think I see a glimmer of sunshine for us on the satellite photos for tomorrow. Man, I hope so! I would really like to see temperatures just below freezing tomorrow because it would make a great ski trip on the lake rather than a sticky run in fresh snow but I'll take whatever we get handed, I guess!
In case you haven't noticed, this is the start of a new week. Last week's articles can be found at February, Week Two .

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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!

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Igloo from leftover blocks icecutting at Wilderness Rim Resort.
Two people carrying heavy ice blocks.
Snowdrift after a winter storm.
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